Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

This has been the most exciting Eagles preseason in recent memory, probably since at least 2004, but it doesn’t take very long to grow weary of games that don’t count toward the standings. I think I speak for everybody – fans, players, even the coaching staff – when I say I’m ready to get to September 9, ready for Washington.

Unfortunately that’s just not the way things work, and we still have a couple exhibitions to go. The good news is tonight’s is the big one. Week three is traditionally the “dress rehearsal” so to speak. The starters will play for the entirety of the first half, likely into the third quarter, which means among other things that we’ll get out first extended look at newly-named starting quarterback Michael Vick, not to mention more Chip ball in general.

Plus, the perception that these games don’t mean anything is false. It will be good for Vick to get the reps for sure. Jason Peters will be in action for the first time since rupturing his Achilles as well. Mainly this stacks up as a big game for Philly’s defense though. There are still jobs to be won or lost all over the field, and the night-and-day performances versus the Patriots and Panthers has everybody wondering which tape is closer to the truth.

Chances are we won’t really find out how good or bad the Birds’ defense is on Saturday night, as the Jaguars simply don’t provide much in the way of a test. Still, if they can take care of business again – this time against a Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne-led Jaguar offense – that would be a lot more reassuring than the inverse.

Here’s a quick look at some of the individual battles taking place on D:

Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan to start?

The two guys who have probably made the most surprising impacts thus far. Curry is widely presumed to be playing out of position as a defensive end in a 3-4, but he’s been more than offensive linemen could handle through the first two games. Logan has been moving all over the line, doing a fantastic job at disrupting plays in the backfield and getting his hands up to bat down passes.

Fletcher Cox obviously has one spot on the defensive line locked down, but Curry and Logan are making bids for playing time at the others. Cedric Thornton is doing all he can to stave off both of them at the other end, and he’s been fantastic in doing so, so he’ll definitely be in the rotation. Isaac Sopoaga has been invisible at nose tackle however, and he’s considered a two-down player anyway, so we’ll see if Logan begins to get more looks there than on third down, although they like the third rounder at end as well.

Brandon Graham vs. … the trade block?

It’s out there, so I’ll address it, but I simply don’t agree with Geoff Mosher’s line of thinking on CSNPhilly today that this might be Graham’s “last chance.” Actually, aside from one mental lapse where he failed to contain the backside and allowed a huge cutback run, he’s been one of their most disruptive defenders at the point of attack. According to metrics by Pro Football Focus, Graham has been the best against the run, and only Curry grades higher overall. I'd say he's passed the eye test, too.

When you also consider the Eagles are thin at outside linebacker, I don’t see any way they are trading him as some have suggested, even if he's not the smoothest in coverage. Never say never, but Graham has shown me enough that he can be useful to the Eagles this season.

Who’s at safety?

Despite a very bad outing in Week 1, Nate Allen has managed to remain in the hunt for the second safety spot opposite of Patrick Chung. Earl Wolff made some noise last week when he was taking first-team reps at practice, but defensive coordinator Billy Davis seems hesitant to go with the rookie. Kenny Phillips didn’t play in the last game and has hardly practiced, so he might have trouble making the roster. And we haven’t seen anything from Kurt Coleman or David Sims that screams they are in line for the job.

We’ll be watching whether or not anyone gets in there with the starters besides Nate, but he might be in the lineup come September by default. Big night for this group.

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 4 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."