Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

One word that doesn't quite describe the Eagles in the first round of the NFL Draft under Andy Reid is predictable -- yet, somehow, that's also exactly what they are.

They've traded into the top 20 four times since 2003, while moving out of the first round entirely in back-to-back drafts in '08 and '09. Since 2006, they have only stuck with their original pick once -- last year with Danny Watkins -- and just three times in the last nine drafts. You can never be sure when they're coming or going, or who it is they might be targeting.

Then again, when you look back on all of those recent drafts, they have dropped a fairly big hint as to what they might be targeting in the first round. Some Eagles draft trivia, and perhaps insight, after the jump.

Six of the Eagles' last seven first-round draft picks were linemen -- two offensive, and four defensive linemen. The only exception was Jeremy Maclin in '09, who wound up tumbling out of the top 10, and all the way down to 19, where the Eagles traded up two spots to land him.

If you include top selections that were not made in round one, the addition of Trevor Laws in 2008 bumps the Birds up to seven linemen -- five on defense -- chosen first over the last 10 drafts.

Unfortunately, one reason they've had to draft so many linemen is because quite a few of them have not panned out, particularly over the long haul.

Jerome McDougle (15h in '03) and Shawn Andrews (16th in '04) are both out of the league, though for vastly different reasons. McDougle is the epitome of a bust, a defensive end who achieved no measurable success in the NFL. Andrews at one point may have been the best guard in the NFL, but injuries, and perhaps off-field issues, shortened his career.

Mike Patterson (31st in '05) and Brodrick Bunkley (14th in '06) formed the starting combination at defensive tackle for three seasons. Together they dug a deep trench against the run, but were not so much a factor rushing the quarterback. Patt obviously remains a steady hand for the club, but Bunk was moved last summer to make room for the more versatile Cullen Jenkins.

The jury is still out on their two most recent picks, Brandon Graham (13th in '10) and Watkins (23rd). Graham tore his ACL and required microfracture surgery toward the end of a promising rookie season, and basically missed all of last year while recovering. Watkins wasn't able to crack the starting lineup right away in 2011, but eventually moved in to his spot at right guard, and played well enough there is reason for optimism.

The 47th pick and top choice for Philadelphia after trading their first rounder to the Carolina Panthers in '08, Trevor Laws never amounted to much at all, and remains an unsigned free agent as of this writing.

Even before Andy Reid controlled the Eagles personnel universe, the Birds used the sixth overall selection on Corey Simon in 2000. For five seasons, Simon was a force in the middle, a Pro Bowler even -- the kind of talent that's a bit easier to locate in the top 10, where the team has not chosen since -- but his weight was an issue, which played into contract negotiations that went awry. Simon was allowed to walk, and he would appear in 17 more NFL games over three seasons before calling it quits.

The odds could be in favor of the Eagles taking yet another lineman this month. Clearly they believe that's where the value is, staying true to the timeless philosophy that football games are won up front.

Even after adding Demetress Bell to replace an injured Jason Peters, the front office might try to play it safe on the offensive line in Achilles's aftermath.

Defensive line is even more likely. Patterson is still a questionable fit in Jim Washburn's wide nine, and the backup tackles are all signed through this season only. At end, Graham making a full recovery is no guarantee, and the rest of the talent behind Jason Babin and Trent Cole is questionable.

Even if it's not a lineman, there still could be clues as to the direction the Eagles are headed. The only other positions where first rounders have been used during the Andy Reid era are cornerback, wide receiver, and quarterback.

Lito Sheppard was selected 26th in '02, followed immediately by safety Michael Lewis and corner Sheldon Brown in the second round. There aren't many other examples of the Eagles taking corners high, but they've spent big money in free agency on Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, so it's been a consistent focus.

Besides using a first on Maclin in '09, Freddie Mitchell was chosen 25th in '01. The Eagles also took DeSean Jackson two picks after Laws in '08, and have used seconds on Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, and tight end L.J. Smith in the recent past.

Finally, besides using the second overall selection in the '99 draft on Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb was the club's first choice in '07, trading out of the first round to scoop him up at 36.

Running back, linebacker, and safety are the only prevalent areas where a first round pick has not been utilized -- though all three have been given the attention of multiple second and third round picks.

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.