Danny Watkins Headlines Cuts as Eagles Get Down to 53 Players

Danny Watkins Headlines Cuts as Eagles Get Down to 53 Players

Nothing cements a player’s bust status quite like the moment he’s released. The time came for Danny Watkins on Saturday as the Eagles trimmed their roster to 53 players in preparation for the regular season.

We knew going in to training camp that Watkins had virtually no opportunity to start. Birds head coach Chip Kelly kept nine offensive linemen on the roster altogether though, which means the 23rd-overall pick of the 2011 draft was beaten out by four others – all far less heralded players.

What’s probably most telling is the fact that Watkins’ base salary for this season – just north of $1 million – was fully guaranteed. In addition to paying him for nothing, the Eagles also have to pay the guy who’s taking his place.

Watkins showed signs of struggling almost immediately as a 26-year-old rookie. The Baylor product wasn’t ready to start until five games into his first professional season. Last year he lost his job at right guard around seven games into the campaign, though Andy Reid claimed Watkins’ absence in the lineup was due to a mysterious injury.

Just to give you an indication of the kind of company Watkins is in, Reuben Frank tells us the Baylor product became the first Eagles’ first-round pick to be released after just two seasons since defensive lineman Jon Harris in 1997.

With Watkins gone, that leaves Curtis Marsh, Casey Matthews, Alex Henery, Julian Vandervelde, and Jason Kelce on the roster from the ’11 draft – the Eagles made 11 picks that year. The only remaining players who have made meaningful contributions during their time in Philly are Henery and Kelce.

The Birds’ second-round pick in ‘11 was Jaiquawn Jarrett, who was cut after one week last season. Epic draft that was.

Of course, the subtraction of Watkins takes us one step further from the Reid era, while the Eagles getting down to 53 players puts us one step closer to the beginning of Chip’s time, which is a great thing. Cut-down day always feels like an unofficial starting point for the regular season, as the teams are finally getting close to their finished form.

Here’s a rundown of Kelly’s roster, but be warned: the Eagles likely aren’t finished making moves yet. Howie Roseman will scour the waiver wire after cut-down day for any upgrades to the back end of the roster. Other than that, this is pretty close to a final product.

Quarterback: Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley (3)

No surprises here, unless you thought the Eagles were going to trade Foles. Given Vick’s extensive medical history and typically erratic performance from week-to-week, it makes sense to have a capable backup, and Barkley didn’t look ready. Dennis Dixon or G.J. Kinne could make for decent scout team quarterbacks.

Running back: LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk (3)

Again, nothing earth-shattering. Matthew Tucker was one of the last to get the axe, and the undrafted rookie out of TCU had a good summer, so he could land on the practice squad should he clear waivers.

Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Jeff Maehl (5)

Most of the spotlight was on Greg Salas and Russell Shepard competing for the fifth spot, but Maehl pulled out the upset. Or did he? The 24 year old seemed like an afterthought given he was signed two weeks into camp – not to mention lacks great size or athleticism – but coming from Oregon he does know Chip’s system. That said, the position could be a candidate for an immediate upgrade once teams are finished with their cuts. As for Salas, Shepard, and Ifeanyi Momah, all possibilities for the practice squad.

Tight end: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Emil Igwenagu (4)

Can’t believe Igwenagu made the team, beating out Clay Harbor at that. The converted fullback does contribute on special teams though, which may have given him the edge.

Offensive line: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin (9)

Barbre acquitted himself okay at left tackle while Peters was nursing a hamstring, and he can play guard, too. Vandervelde is the backup center almost by default. Tobin is the guy to keep an eye on here. The 6’6”-303 lb. rookie tackle out of Iowa drew the praise of his head coach after the fourth preseason game, and in carrying him the Eagles risk Michael Bamiro not clearing waivers so they can stash him on the scout team. They must really like Tobin a lot.

Defensive line: Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Clifton Geathers, Damion Square, Vinny Curry (7)

Very solid bunch with a lot of interchangeable parts. Didn’t have to cut anybody loose, which is nice. Next thing here that will be interesting is how long Sopoaga can hold on to his job. He’s been invisible in games so far.

Outside linebacker: Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham (3)

Chris McCoy didn’t make the cut (possible practice squad material?), which is surprising given two of these guys aren’t really linebackers. Can’t see the Eagles being able to get by with just three, and that’s with Cole’s and Graham’s limitations in mind, so expect another move to come.

Inside linebacker: DeMeco Ryans, Mychael Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Emmanuel Acho, Jake Knott (5)

Acho and Knott played too well during the preseason to let go, and Matthews was fine while also pitching in on special teams. Could be a very deep group.

Cornerback: Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Curtis Marsh, Jordan Poyer (6)

Hughes and Marsh stuck despite the both of them being out with a fractured hand, not to mention demonstrating little to be confident about – wouldn’t be surprised if one gets their walking papers once an outside linebacker becomes available. At least the top three are healthy and seem reasonably reliable.

Safety: Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson (5)

David Sims was the odd man out here. Would feel a lot more comfortable if Kenny Phillips had been able to beat the injury bug, but looks like the Birds will have to make do with Allen, Coleman, and Wolff opposite Chung. Anderson is still a tremendous special teamer.

Specialists: Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos (3)

Speaking of special teamers, there they are. Hey, look at these guys.

Injured reserve: WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Arrelious Benn, LB Jason Phillips, OLB Phillip Hunt, DE Joe Kruger (5)

The Eagles managed to slip Kruger, a seventh rounder, on their IR with a shoulder injury that he had previously played through. The big name here is Maclin obviously. He sure would make this squad look a lot better, wouldn’t he?

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

Phillies likely to carry rookie backup catcher in 2017

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The likelihood of the Phillies going with a rookie backup catcher in 2017 increased dramatically when the Miami Marlins signed free agent A.J. Ellis on Wednesday.

Ellis spent the final month of the 2016 season with the Phillies after coming over from the Dodgers in the Carlos Ruiz trade. Ellis, 35, got high marks for his work with the Phillies’ young pitching staff and the Phils had some interest in bringing him back. The interest, however, was complicated by a tight 40-man roster, which already includes three catchers — starter Cameron Rupp and minor-league prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp.

With Ellis out of the picture, the Phillies will likely use either Alfaro or Knapp as the backup catcher in 2017. Knapp spent a full year at Triple A in 2016 and could end up being the guy as Alfaro moves to Triple A for another year of seasoning.

General manager Matt Klentak spoke earlier this week of the possibility of going with a rookie at backup catcher.

“Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A,” Klentak said. “He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

It’s not all that surprising that Ellis ended up with the Marlins on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. He played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly during the latter’s time as manager of the Dodgers.

Wired to win, Carson Wentz growing frustrated with Eagles' losing

Wired to win, Carson Wentz growing frustrated with Eagles' losing

He’s already lost more games as an NFL quarterback than as a college quarterback, and Carson Wentz says he’ll never get used to all the losing.
 
Wentz, who went 20-3 as a college starter, is 5-7 a dozen games into his rookie year.
 
The Eagles have lost five of their last six games and are 2-7 in their last nine.
 
From Seattle through Cincinnati, Wentz lost as many games in a 15-day span as he lost in his entire career as a starter at North Dakota State.
 
“It’s frustrating,” Wentz said Wednesday. “No one likes losing, especially in this business as a quarterback. 
 
“I’m wired to be a winner. I hate losing. But at the same time it doesn’t affect us going forward. I know it doesn’t affect me and I can probably say the same thing for the guys in that locker room. 
 
“We’re going to come in and prepare and be the same win or lose, because I think that’s what it takes to be great and you can’t waver. You can’t change how you approach things. You can’t change how you go about your business, win, lose or draw. 
 
“But at the same time, yeah, without a doubt. We don’t like losing around here.”
 
The Eagles have the third-worst record in the NFL since Week 4, ahead of only the hapless Browns and 49ers. 

They haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention yet, but it sure seems like only a matter of time.
 
Since building a 3-0 record, the Eagles’ only wins have come on Oct. 23 over the Viking and Nov. 13 over the Falcons, both at the Linc.
 
No NFL quarterback has lost more games than Wentz since Week 4. Wentz and Blake Bortles are both 2-7 during that stretch and Sam Bradford is 3-6.
 
North Dakota State went 71-5 with five national championships during Wentz’s five years in Bismarck, North Dakota. As a starter, he was 15-1 as a junior, including the postseason, then went 5-2 during an injury-marred senior year, although for a second straight year he led the Bison to the FCS national title.
 
So he’s not used to losing. Not at all. Not like this.
 
“You get in the locker room and it’s kind of a down feeling,” he said. “A lot of you guys are in the locker room after the game. They’re tough. You don’t like losing, no one does. Especially on the road having to get on the plane or the bus or whatever and come back home. 
 
“But you get over it. You turn on the tape and you learn from it. But right after you watch that tape, it’s on to the next. That’s kind of the nature of this league and that’s how you have to approach it.”

Fortunately, the Eagles have an expert on just this subject in the NovaCare Complex. 
 
Doug Pederson pointed out Wednesday he was a part of some really bad teams, and he said that gives him an ability to relate to Wentz on how to endure all the losing.
 
“In Cleveland we were 3-and-13 (in 2000), and then Philadelphia, my first year, being 5-and-11,” said Pederson, who was also an assistant coach on a 4-12 Eagles team in 2012. 
 
“Just kind of leaning back on those experiences and how we fought through. How we fought through adversity. How people try to divide the team or say negative things about players or whatever. We just kind of kept that thing nice and tight. 
 
“So those are things that I can lean back, when you talk about the experience factor. I lean back on those experiences to relay to Carson how we went about our business during those following weeks to come and kept that team together. 
 
“We had great leadership on the team, like we do now. With him, it's just a matter of keeping him grounded, keeping him level headed. He's a leader of this football team, and he doesn't have to do it all himself. That's the beauty of it. There are 10 other guys on offense, and 11 on defense, and special teams that have a big part in this whole process.”
 
Wentz has been going non-stop for almost a year now. From the FCS title game to combine prep to draft prep to OTAs and minicamps to training camp and now heading into Week 14 of the regular season.
 
But he said he doesn’t feel any signs of burn-out or fatigue. Although his numbers have dipped over the past couple months, he said he feels fresh and upbeat going into the final quarter of the season, which begins with the Redskins at the Linc on Sunday.
 
“I feel good,” he said. “I think it comes down to: Do you love it enough? I think if you love the game and you’re around it, you enjoy the grind. You attack it and it’s part of the process. 
 
“For me, there’s no more school to go to during the day. It’s just football all day every day and I love that. It’s been a lot of fun and by no means is it wearing on me in a negative way.”
 
What about his numbers? The stats are not pretty. 
 
Games 1 through 4: 67 percent completion, 7 TDs, 1 INT, 103.5 passer rating, 3-1 record.
 
Games 5 through 8: 61 percent completion, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 72.4 passer rating, 1-3 record.
 
Games 9 through 12: 61 percent completion, 3 TDs, 6 INTs, 68.3 passer rating, 1-3 record.
 
Wentz shrugs it all off. 
 
“We’re all a work in progress. every quarterback in this league I think would say that,” Wentz said.
 
“You’re never a finished product, myself included. So you’re always analyzing different things you can do, from pocket movement to footwork. You’re always analyzing those things. So we talk about those things but we don’t harp on it. 
 
“Myself and really just everybody, we’ve just got to be better disciplined to things. Whether that’s alignment or pre-snap things, from recognition, from reads, you name it. We just all have to be disciplined. Really just execute better. It starts with me. Control our mistakes and that goes for everybody, myself first and foremost.
 
“We now what we’re capable of, I think everyone in the building does. We just have to get over the hump a little bit here.”