Eagles Draft a Winner for Its Simplicity

Eagles Draft a Winner for Its Simplicity

Every year we try to rationalize or critique the NFL Draft in
the days that follow as if some of us had a crystal ball. Sure, the grades
sportswriters hand out almost always come with the disclaimer that we won’t
really know which picks will pan out for 3-5 years, but that doesn’t stop
anybody from guessing.

Having said that, it’s difficult not to feel good about what
the Eagles accomplished over the weekend – and I don’t necessarily mean
specific players. Don’t get me wrong, I liked their choices, from an incredibly
athletic offensive tackle at No. 4, to a fourth-round quarterback who might
have been taken in the top five had he entered the draft a year ago. Even the
guys in the seventh seemed to be good values.

There’s no need for a sales pitch though. The Eagles did
simple things in this draft that fans have been clamoring for, if not begging
for them do for years.

For starters, Howie Roseman didn’t do a lot of maneuvering
up and down the draft board, which has been a staple of theirs for years.
Coming into this year, the Eagles had either moved up in the first round or out
of it entirely in five of the past six drafts, and seven out of 10. Again, that’s
in the first round alone.

This year Howie made one swap, sending a lone seventh
rounder to Jacksonville to jump up three spots into the first pick on day three,
where they got USC quarterback Matt Barkley. Every other time, they stood pat
and made their selections with conviction.

That’s not to say trading in the draft is intrinsically bad,
but sometimes it’s best to do the easy thing. Just stay put and take the best player
available when it’s Lane Johnson, a left tackle who could anchor your offensive
line for the next decade

Maybe it’s a little more effortless to be patient when the
war room is picking at the top of every round, but here’s another aspect of the
draft that should delight. Every single player chosen went to a school in a
major conference. All of ‘em.

There was no Matt McCoy, linebacker from San Diego St. in
round two, nor a Bryan Smith, defensive end/linebacker out of McNeese St. in the
third. Not surprisingly, Clay Harbor’s alma mater of Southwest Missouri St. did
not produce a player taken in the fourth round this year, while the Eagles didn’t
“steal” any talent from Delaware, North Dakota St., or Wheaton in the later
rounds, either.

That’s not to say good players never come from small
schools. Todd Herremans came from Saginaw Valley St., while one of the best
running backs in franchise history was Brian Westbrook out of Villanova. More
often than not though, they don’t.

In fact, we didn’t see a lot of weirdness in general. There
wasn’t that one terribly obvious reach like Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second.
They didn’t draft a defensive end and immediately announce they were going to
move him to linebacker as the Eagles once did with Chris Gocong. They didn’t go
after any players with career threatening injuries such as a Jack Ikegwuonu,

Every selection was a sound football player from a good
program, tremendous athletes without lengthy medical histories who already fit
their defined roles. Imagine that.

And here’s one more: most of these are kids Chip Kelly had first-hand
experience coaching against. He didn’t just scout these players from a draft standpoint.
Kelly actually had to figure out how to stop several of these players or
minimize their impact on a game as a head coach. In some cases, such as Stanford
tight end Zach Ertz, he couldn’t stop them.

It gave the Eagles a different perspective on players like
Ertz, Barkley, LSU defensive lineman Bennie Logan, and Oregon St. corner Jordan
Poyer. Somehow that little bit of extra knowledge just makes me more
comfortable about those picks.

Obviously how history ultimately views this group of players
will be based on what they do on football field, not day-after grades, what
schools they went to, or how many picks were dealt or stockpiled while making
the selections. Still you get the sense though that Roseman and Kelly were content to
allow the draft to come to them instead of looking for every angle. There’s no
doubt that was a welcome change.

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

USA Today Images

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation for indecent assault

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A former Penn State football player will serve five years' probation and register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault.

Twenty-two-year-old Brent Wilkerson was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in connection with a February outing to several bars with a young woman and others.

Police say Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was sober when he insisted on making sure she got home safe.

The woman tells police Wilkerson pushed her upstairs to her bedroom where he fell asleep. The woman says she went to bed later and woke up to find Wilkerson kissing and fondling her and fondling himself. He later apologized in a text message.

Wilkerson was kicked off the team in March. Court records say he lives in Clinton, Maryland.

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union-Toronto FC 5 things: Embracing the playoff underdog role

Union vs. Toronto FC
7:30 p.m. on ESPN2

Riding a seven-game winless run entering their first playoff match since 2011, the No. 6 Union (11-14-9) will attempt to hit the reset button and unseat the third-ranked and heavily favored Toronto FC (14-9-11) on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) at BMO Field.

Here are five things to know:

1. Playing underdog
The struggling Union are happily accepting the role as underdogs against MLS Cup-hungry Toronto FC.

"It's a difficult task but it’s not impossible,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. "Not many people are giving us a chance. We've been a good team when we're considered the underdog and my guys have responded well in that situation. This is no different."

To fully embrace that underdog role, and in an attempt to wash away the stink of how they ended the regular season, the Union are treating Wednesday as a hard reset. For them, the playoffs will be a fresh chance to prove themselves.

“It’s a new season now,” said Union center back Ken Tribbett, who helped his club draw Toronto FC at BMO Field on Sept. 24. “In the playoffs, anything can happen. We go up to Toronto and it’ll be a good test. We have to stay sharp for 90 minutes and hopefully we can come back here with a win.”

And there is a reason to be slightly optimistic about the Union’s chance. Despite a 1-0-1 record against the Canadian side this season, the Union, who lost 3-1 in the first match, played much better on Sept. 24 at BMO Field. They clogged the midfield and ground the Sebastian Giovinco-less club into a 1-1 draw.

“It’s encouraging that we have gone there recently and played well,” Curtin said. “I think we have a group that has a belief, and one that is pissed a bit about how things have ended. They are motivated.”

2. Leaning on experience
While the 2016 Union will ultimately be known for their reliance on youth — a group that included Keegan Rosenberry, who has played every minute this season, Fabian Herbers, Josh Yaro and Ken Tribbett — it’s the veterans that will lead them on Wednesday.

“This is a pressure game for everybody,” Curtin said. “We have a good balance of guys who have played in big spots, like (Chris) Pontius, Tranquillo (Barnetta), (Alejandro) Bedoya. (C.J.) Sapong has played in big games, you can go through the list.”

Yet despite Curtin’s need for his veterans to lead, his reliance on youth means the younger players need to be reliable. The manager admitted that pressure can change how people play, and he is making sure the Union youth movement remains steady on Wednesday.

“We have young guys, there’s no question about it,” Curtin said. “These guys will play in their first playoff game and a lot of the guys on our roster have never been in a playoff game. You hope they rise to the occasion and I’m confident they will.”

3. Pressure on Toronto
Making their second-ever postseason appearance, high-priced Toronto FC has its sights set on bigger things than the Union in the play-in playoff round. That’s why Curtin believes the pressure is squarely on his opposition.

“I’d say the pressure is on them, they are the home team,” the manager said. “My guys should be loose, they have nothing to lose. It’s fair to say, they are the home team and they want to make a deep playoff run. We want to make some noise.”

Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney knows his team will be excited, so he’s trying to instill a high intensity but controlled start for his club.

“We expect a little of the unexpected at the start,” he said. “The game settles down eventually, but at the start, there’s a lot of emotion into it and you want to play with the right kind of caution but the right kind of intensity to put the opposing team on their back foot.

“The guys are ready to go, ready to go after Philadelphia.”

4. Keep an eye on
Jozy Altidore: It would be easy to go with Giovinco here, but Altidore has a recent history of crushing the Union. He has two goals in his last three games against the Union and buried 10 in 23 games this season.

“Jozy is a guy who can stretch the field and is dangerous,” Curtin said. “He’s not a guy you can shut down, it’s not possible. He’ll have his moments, you just have to make those looks as predictable for (goalkeeper Andre Blake) as you can. You hope he’s a little off on the night.”

Tranquillo Barnetta: Without added inspiration, the Union offensive catalyst has been one of the club’s best players all season. On Wednesday, Curtin expects a little extra from Barnetta, who is not returning to the Union in 2017.

“I’ve talked a ton about how special he is, he’s been a great attribute for the Union and a guy we want to prolong the season for,” Curtin said. “He’s played in the big spots, the big games and there’s something extra there for him.” 

5. This and that
• On the injury front, Union center back Yaro sprained his MCL while returning from a concussion. “It’s a two-week injury,” Curtin said, “so it will be unfortunate he won’t be part of the Toronto game.”

Warren Creavalle is also fighting injury. The defensive midfielder left Sunday’s match with a rib injury but could be available for Wednesday. “It’s painful for him,” Curtin said. “He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a part of this game.”

• The Union and Toronto FC are deadlocked all time, with a 6-6-5 record against each other. 

• The Union are 2-4-3 at BMO Field.

• Both clubs enter Wednesday limping. Since August 27 (the Union’s last win), Toronto FC is 2-1-4, while the Union are 0-5-2.