Eagles Opposition Report: 49ers Offense

Eagles Opposition Report: 49ers Offense

Through three weeks, the San Francisco 49ers offense ranks dead last in the NFL in total yardage, averaging just 213.7 despite not playing a particularly tough slate of defenses so far (Seattle, Dallas, and Cincinnati). They're neither running nor passing well, ranking very close to the bottom of the league in both categories. The Niners have picked up only 209 yards on the ground and 432 through the air.

Here's a look at their key skill position players on offense, and click here for a look at the Frisco defense.

QB Alex Smith
Each year lately, we wonder why the 49ers don't get in on the offseason QB shuffle. Their division is usually up for grabs and poorly contended, and they've had a good running game and a solid defense. And yet, they were barely on the radar when the Eagles were shopping Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb before him, instead settling on a former first overall pick who wasn't good enough to get them over the hump in previous seasons and started only 10 games in 2010. Smith now has some in-house competition after the team selected Colin Kaepernick out of Nevada with the 36th overall pick, but the veteran held off the rookie to keep his starting job. Week 3 was pretty indicative of Smith's ability to impact an NFL game most weeks—200 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. If he follows in Eli Manning's footsteps and beats the Eagles to the tune of an NFC Offensive Player of the Week, we're in huge, huge trouble.

ESPN's Mike Sando put together a nice piece on how Smith has fared against various types of pass rushes so far this season, as well as a look at his game against the Eagles in 2010, which may not have much bearing on what he'll see this Sunday. Here's why. Still, even with all of the above considered, Smith did manage a 300-yard game with 3 TDs against the Eagles last year.

RB Frank Gore
San Fran's top running back is listed as questionable this week, which isn't all that unfamiliar for him. Heading into the season, most thought it was more a question of when than if he would get hurt. His current ankle injury isn't expected to keep him completely out of action on Sunday, though it's not for certain it will matter either way. Gore has been largely ineffective so far this season even before getting nicked up last week, in large part due to his line's inability to open up holes for him. Gore can still churn out yards when healthy and in the right situation, but this week we'll more than likely see a good bit of the guy below. [UPDATE: Gore will play, but Kendall Hunter will start.]

RB Kendall Hunter
Hunter, a fourth round pick out of Oklahoma State, ran effectively enough in relief of Gore last week in Cincinnati. While a sub-3.0 YPC is nothing to get too excited over, Hunter did find the end zone on one of his nine carries. He also caught a pair of passes for 12 yards. He's no giant at 5'7, but he's stout enough at 200 lbs, and he has what it takes to test the Eagles' shaky run defense. In all likelihood, Hunter will get more carries than Gore, and given Gore's ankle, that's not necessarily a good thing for the Birds. Hunter is one of the 49ers' two most dangerous weapons this week.

Anthony Dixon should also get some carries and grab a few yards.

FBs Moran Norris and Bruce Miller
Fullback Moran Norris is expected to miss the game as well, leaving rookie Bruce Miller as the lead blocker out of the backfield. Rotoworld says Miller got the bulk of the first-team snaps in camp and could actually be an upgrade to Norris.

TE Vernon Davis
We all know the Eagles have trouble neutralizing tight ends, and this guy can be as dangerous as any in the league. The Niners had trouble getting Davis going in the first two weeks, hitting him with only 7 passes for 65 total yards and no scores. However, he hauled in 8 catches for 114 yards last week, leading the team in receiving. Expect San Fran to try to replicate that success against the Eagles. In last season's matchup between the two teams, Davis had one of his two 100-yard games of 2010 and also hauled in a TD. He's a big target at 6-3, 250, athletic, and a matchup problem for even some of the better linebackers and safeties in the league. Davis is the most dangerous man on the field for Frisco, and Juan Castillo will have to be creative if he wants to keep him from torching a group he generally outclasses, perhaps rolling one of his corners inside.

Establishing the pass rush early will be key too. If Davis needs to stay home and block, he's obviously a lot less dangerous. Also watch for TE2 Delanie Walker, who could sneak a catch or two from under the radar.

WR Braylon Edwards
Out with a torn meniscus, probably for a few weeks. An already poor receiving corps and passing attack gets even worse.

WR Josh Morgan
Morgan shouldn't be a coverage problem for the Eagles, but then again, neither should have Victor Cruz. Of course, Morgan won't have the benefit of lining up opposite Hakeem Nicks. He hasn't had more than three catches in any of his three games this year, nor topped 35 yards.

WR Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is listed as probable for this week, limited in practice this week by a foot injury. Like Morgan, he's done nothing of note so far in 2011. The foot kept him out of action in week 2, and he has only 4 catches for 28 yards a pair of games. John Hansen of FantasyGuru.com points out that Crabtree did have a nice TD negated by an offensive penalty, so he was close to breaking through last week.

WR/KR Ted Ginn Jr
Not a factor as a receiver through 3 weeks. Just 4 catches for 38 yards, all coming in week 2 with Crabtree out of action. However, he has already returned two kicks for touchdowns, taking a kickoff the full length in week 1 and returning a punt 55 yards for paydirt in the same game. Alex Henery better be aiming between the uprights every time he lines up, and Chas Henry should be thinking sideline when possible. Alex Smith did like him in week 2, targeting him a team-high 7 times.  

K David Akers
This guy's gonna get some applause, as well deserved as any returning player in Eagles history. But dear god let him not be lining up for a potential game winner in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Photo by Jason O. Watson-US Presswire

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies (46-55) at Marlins (53-46)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

Another impressive start by Jeremy Hellickson and some timely late offense led the Phillies to a series-opening win in Miami Monday. Now they go for the quick series win, which would be their first in four tries since the All-Star break.

Let's take a closer look at Tuesday's matchup:

1. One donut shy of a dozen
The Phillies' 4-0 win last night was their 11th shutout victory of the season, the most in baseball. The Mets and Dodgers are tied for second with nine.

The Phils' pitching staff was obviously at its best in April, when it set the MLB record for strikeouts per nine innings in the month at 10.4. The Phillies had five shutouts in April, two in May, two in June and now two in July. 

And it's not like the Phils have just taken advantage of bad teams here, shutting out the Braves or Padres repeatedly. They've shut out the Nationals twice, the Mets, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins and Diamondbacks. All of those teams except Arizona (which has a good offense) is above .500 and in the playoff hunt.

It's been written here many times that the most important short-term decision the Phillies made this past offseason was to raise the floor of the starting rotation. They've done it, and more importantly they've done it with youth. The Phillies' mediocre, veteran-laden 2015 staff had just seven shutouts all season.

2. Walk this way
Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp both had productive nights Monday in their returns to the starting lineup. Franco went 1 for 2 with a double and three walks, scoring the Phillies' first and ultimately game-winning run in the eighth. Rupp went 0 for 2 but also walked three times and saw 26 pitches.

How rare is it for two Phillies to walk three times in the same game? It hadn't happened since Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz did it on April 5, 2010 at Nationals Park in Roy Halladay's Phillies debut.

Franco and Rupp may have been the two most unlikely Phillies to walk three times. Franco is an aggressive swinger, and Rupp walked just three times in the season's first two months. Rupp had just 11 in 248 plate appearances this season before Monday.

The Phillies averted disaster with two of their productive, young hitters after Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist (again) in Pittsburgh and Rupp was hit on the helmet. 

3. Eickhoff's turn
Two of Jerad Eickhoff's last three starts have seen him start strong and fall apart in the middle innings. He allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits over five innings against the Marlins last week after beginning the game with three scoreless innings.

Right before the All-Star break, Eickhoff was cruising at Coors Field with four shutout innings before the umpire's strike zone shrunk and Eickhoff's control disappeared. He allowed two runs in the fifth and six in the sixth.

In between those two outings was a well-pitched game in which Eickhoff allowed two runs in six innings to the Mets for yet another quality start.

So even though the results lately have been ugly for Eickhoff, even though his ERA has risen from 3.30 to 3.98 in the span of three weeks, he hasn't been all that bad. He just needs to avoid that one big inning.

Eickhoff, who is 6-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 20 starts this season, is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA against the Marlins this season. He pitched six shutout innings against them in their lone meeting last year.

Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have caused the most problems for him, going a combined 6 for 15 with three doubles and two homers.

4. Time to hit Koehler
The Phillies have had three looks at mediocre Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler this season and failed to hit him all three times. 

On May 7, Koehler allowed one run on two hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a game the Phillies eventually won. 

On May 18, he allowed two runs to them in seven innings and induced 16 groundballs.

And then last week, matched up against Eickhoff, Koehler again gave up just two hits, this time over eight innings. He allowed two homers but only one of the Phils' three runs was earned.

It's hard to explain why, all the sudden, the Phils have stopped hitting the 6-3 righty. Last season, a worse Phillies team scored 15 runs against him in 21 innings. 

The Phillies are familiar with Koehler's repertoire, which includes a fastball in the 93 to 95 mph range, a curveball, slider and changeup. In the first two meetings this season he threw them a ton of fastballs, 115 in all. But last week he threw just 38 fastballs among 110 pitches. He threw 34 curveballs in that game, by far the most he's thrown this season. Don't be surprised to see a similar gameplan tonight given how well it worked last week.

Current Phillies have hit just .201 against Koehler with three homers (Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Freddy Galvis) in 144 at-bats.

5. Marlins notes
• Ichiro has gone 0 for 4 as a pinch-hitter in the Marlins' last four games. He's sitting on 2,996 career hits, meaning he could get his historic 3,000th against the Phillies this week with a big game or two. It would require one of Ozuna, Yelich or Giancarlo Stanton sitting out a game, though.

• Stanton this season against the Phillies: 3 for 33 (.091), one extra-base hit (a homer), two RBIs, 14 strikeouts. 

Against everyone else, Stanton has hit .257/.350/.524 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs. If you remove the Phillies from the equation, Stanton's OPS this season would be 52 points higher, .874 instead of .822. 

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Still not a ton of exciting stuff going on at training camp yet. 

With just 38 players on the field again Tuesday — the rest of the team reports Wednesday and practices Thursday — a bunch of mostly rookies practiced in shorts again. Really, not many of these players have a shot to make the roster. 

It’s still football, though, and we love football. 

So here are 10 observations from today’s practice: 

• A ton of drops today during the 7-on-7 portion of practice. They came from a few different players; Hunter Sharp, Byron Marshall, Xavier Rush, to name a few. It wasn’t pretty, but remember this: most of these players aren’t going to make the final 53-man roster.

• One receiver who had a pretty good day was Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound rookie isn’t very physically imposing but showed off some impressive hands and worked in the slot for a while. 

• Turner was on the receiving end of the best play of the day. Sam Bradford hit him on a 25-yard pass down the right sideline, hitting him in stride over his shoulder. JaCorey Shepherd had tight coverage, but the throw was better. 

Bradford had a very good day. 

• Another tough day for quarterback-turned-tight end McLeod Bethel-Thompson. (Bethel-Thompson is a camp arm, but thanks to a lack of numbers right now, has been playing tight end.) Bradford tried to hit him with a pass in 11-on-11s, but overthrew him. Bethel-Thompson got a hand on the ball, but just tipped it to former CFL cornerback Aaron Grymes, who picked it off and went the other way. Quarterback-on-quarterback crime. 

• Not long after that play, Bethel-Thompson settled into a route and was wide open. Carson Wentz fired a ball to him, but linebacker Travis Long made an impressive diving pass breakup. 

A note about Long: It’s hard to believe, but this is Long’s fourth straight training camp with the Eagles. In 2013, he ended up on the practice squad. He tore his left ACL during training camp in 2014. He tore his left ACL again during the preseason finale last year. Now, he’s back again, although he probably isn’t a fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

• Here’s a Wentz note because we know you care. He might not be the sharpest quarterback on the roster just yet, but he’s clearly the most athletic. On one play during 11-on-11, the pocket collapsed and Wentz didn’t hesitate to take off downfield. He did it again during goal line work. That’s one aspect of his game that Bradford clearly doesn’t have. 

Aside from that, saw some inaccuracy from Wentz today. That’s probably the area of his game that needs the most work. 

• An up-and-down day for Marshall, the undrafted running back out of Oregon. During 7-on-7s, he had a ball from Wentz tipped away by corner C.J. Smith, then on the next play, dropped a ball on an out pattern. Later in the morning, he did redeem himself by catching a ball in traffic during 11-on-11s. Marshall’s hands are what make him stand out. He caught 97 passes for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in 46 games at Oregon. 

Marshall played running back and receiver for the Ducks, but said the Eagles haven’t asked him to play wideout in Philly. They want him to strictly focus on being a running back. 

• Jalen Mills, of green hair fame, made another big play today. This time he broke up a deep pass down the sideline from Chase Daniels. Mills can definitely play in shorts. Now, I want to see him do the same when the pads come out on Saturday. 

• It’s fun getting to watch offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coach up close. It might just be the beginning of training camp, but he’s in mid-season form. Today, he got on rookie OG Darrell Greene a little bit. 

• I watched rookie long snapper John DePalma snap the ball into an orange-padded goal post for about five minutes. Training camp must be lonely for a long-snapper with no one to snap the ball to. 

NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

usa-danny-dekeyser-red-wings.jpg
USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Red Wings sign Danny DeKeyser to 6-year contract

DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings have avoided arbitration and signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a $30 million, six-year contract.

DeKeyser will count $5 million against the salary cap throughout the length of the deal. Agent Don Meehan confirmed the terms of the contract Tuesday, including modified no-trade protection beginning in the 2017-18 season.

The restricted free agent and the club were scheduled to have their arbitration hearing on Thursday in Toronto.

Instead, the 26-year-old has a long-term deal. The Western Michigan product has 14 goals and 61 assists in 234 regular-season NHL games and has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time.

Rangers: Zborovskiy inked to entry-level contract
NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy on an entry-level contract.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the signing of the team's third-round draft pick in 2015 on Tuesday.

Zborovskiy skated in 64 games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League this past season, collecting eight goals and 17 assists along with a plus-15 rating. The 19-year-old established WHL career-highs in goals, assists, points, and power play goals (two), and he tied his WHL career-high in plus/minus rating.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder skated in 12 playoff games and had five assists this past season.

Zborovskiy has skated in 135 career WHL games over two seasons with Regina, registering 11 goals and 33 assists.