Eagles Trade Up, Draft QB Matt Barkley: Scouting Report and Quick Thoughts

Eagles Trade Up, Draft QB Matt Barkley: Scouting Report and Quick Thoughts

Everyone knew the Birds were evaluating quarterbacks in this
year’s draft. Eagles brass visited with a enough of them. Hell, Jeffrey Lurie trekked
to West Virginia to look at Geno Smith. Then again, not many people had Matt
Barkley as one of their targets.

The Eagles gave Jacksonville one their seventh-round picks
so they could jump up three spots to snag the USC quarterback with the first
pick of the fourth round in a move I’m not sure anybody saw coming. We’ll get
into why in just a moment, but first the NFL.com scouting report:

Strengths

Experienced running a pro-style
system. Makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage (including the run game) and
unloads the ball quickly when seeing a favorable matchup before the snap.
Usually accurate when he is able to set his base and stride into his throws.
Offense was designed to move the pocket to account for his height, and, while
he isn't overly athletic, he showed the mobility to throw accurately on
bootlegs and half rolls. Looks off and pump-fake safeties and communicate with
receivers pre-snap on the opposite side of the field from which he intends to
throw. Three-time team captain also possesses intangibles NFL teams desire at
the position, taking hits and bouncing back, displaying intelligence with his
multiple academic all-conference accolades, and earning a spot on the 2011
Allstate AFCA Good Works team.

Weaknesses

Lacks ideal height for the
position. Does not have a plus arm, though it's enough to run a movement-based
NFL offense. Allows defenders into plays when he is unable to step into throws,
especially when going across the field. Inconsistent making throws against
pressure. Does have have physical tools to make throws when he's not set, but
has progressed in his ability to find space and get the ball of with awkward
release platforms. Ball comes out of his hand poorly at times, though it
usually reaches its intended target. Confident enough in his pre-snap read that
he'll stare down his initial target. Sails passes over his receivers' heads
when feeling pressure or in the three-step game. No threat to pick up large
chunks of yardage with his feet. Improved completion percentage in 2011 came
partially due to quick east-west throws to his talented wideouts. While he had
a lot of attempts, there are questions as to what degree structure of the
offense featured him or masked his physical limitations. Other than a hot
stretch over the second half of his junior season, his production has been
almost entirely tied to the strength of his surrounding cast.

Obviously Barkley doesn’t fit the pre-conceived notions that
many held for quarterbacks in Chip Kelly’s offense. Let’s examine that, and
what Barkley’s presence on the roster means for the future of the position.

1. So much for the
requirement that a quarterback be mobile in a Chip Kelly offense. Fans and
analysts that have been writing off Nick Foles in Philly since Chip’s arrival received
a wake-up call on Saturday afternoon when the team tagged Barkley.

It means Kelly is not tethered to an exact replica of the system
he ran at Oregon – not that it should come as some big surprise. It seemed more
than a little insane to pick up a college offense and drop it in the NFL.

More importantly, it renders these attempts to label Chip
before he’s ever coached a game at this level as frivolous. He wants the best
players on the field, and will coach to the strengths of the personnel he has –
which is what the Eagles have been saying all along.

2. Let’s not get
ahead of ourselves with calling Barkley the quarterback of the future, either.
He’s a fourth-round pick. Teams don’t often draft a quarterback on day 3 with
the idea that player is going to be the face of the franchise.

Obviously there is something the Eagles like about Barkley.
There is plenty to like about him. At
one point Barkley was viewed as one of the top prospects in college football.
He’s USC’s all-time leading passer. He is accurate and has a quick release.

Maybe they believe Barkley can eventually take the reins –
Chip told reporters he was rated as one of their top 50 players in this draft –
but the Eagles are not simply going to hand them over. Top 50 or not,
fourth-round pick says a lot more at this point than anything else. Try to take
it in stride.

3. This may be
hard to see right now, but the selection of Barkley means Foles has a
legitimate shot to be the starting quarterback – this year and beyond.

Again, organizations generally don’t use fourth rounders on
quarterbacks they expect to start immediately (or ever necessarily). That goes
for most positions for that matter. I suspect while Barkley may get a look, the
true competition this summer will still be between Foles and Michael Vick.

Assuming Foles can out-duel Vick – not a given by any means –
he would be the Eagles’ quarterback this year. And if he plays well, continues
to improve every week as he did at the end of last season – also not a given –
he could very conceivably hold off Barkley later on as well.

Again, can’t stress this enough, we’re talking about a
fourth-round pick. The Redskins used a fourth-round pick on Kirk Cousins last
year in the same draft they took Robert Griffin III number two overall. They
were choosing a backup quarterback, and they knew it. A lot of fourth-round
picks would be happy just to become backups in the NFL.

That’s not necessarily the case with Barkley, but let’s not
go overboard on what it indicates about the future under center. If Foles flops,
the Eagles could very easily be drafting another quarterback even higher next year
regardless of how much Barkley has played or whether they still like him or not.

That’s what it means to be a fourth-round pick.

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Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

usa-dan-raudabaugh-soul.jpg
USA Today Images

Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

The Soul (13-3) defeated the Orlando Predators (12-4)  67-59 at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday night.  

With the win, the Soul will have home field advantage throughout the American Conference Championship game.

Reigning league MVP Dan Raudabaugh completed 21 of 29 passes for 335 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Four of those scores were to receiver Chris Duvalt, who led all receivers with nine receptions and 155 yards.

The Soul will host the Tampa Bay Storm (2-14) next Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m. With a win, the Soul will return to PPL Center for the conference championship on August 14. 
 

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – Though he wasn’t happy with the way he pitched in what might have been his last start with the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson still helped the ballclub win on Saturday night.
 
He just did it more with his bat than his arm.
 
Hellickson’s two-run double – the first extra-base hit of his career – gave the Phillies the lead in the fifth inning of what eventually became a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay).

“The big hit for me was Hellickson’s double,” manager Pete Mackanin said after the game.
 
Mackanin was so happy with Hellickson’s double down the leftfield line that he absolved the pitcher for not being able to get a bunt down earlier in the at-bat.
 
Well, sort of.
 
“We’re going to have to do extra work with all the pitchers because we’re not getting bunts down,” said Mackanin, who was happy to get the win but a little exasperated by the sloppiness of the three-hour, 40-minute dull toothache of a game.
 
“At least we won,” he said. “A win’s a win.”
 
Hellickson's at-bat in the fifth was actually a little more adventurous than anyone would have liked, particularly with the pitcher being on the trading block. Before stroking the double to left, Hellickson got jammed while hitting a foul ball to the right side. The jam shot caused some soreness and bruising on the palm of his right hand and prevented him from getting through the sixth inning. He left after 5 2/3 innings with a 5-3 lead that he helped build.
 
“I’m still not really sure what it is, a bruise or I popped something in there,” Hellickson said after the game. “But I felt fine, though, after I did it. It was just a little tough to grip -- just the curveball.”

Mackanin sent pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound to check on Hellickson in the sixth. The pitcher told McClure his palm was sore so Mackanin got him out of there.
 
“It jarred him,” Mackanin said. “But he’s OK now. In the end, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like his elbow was hurting, you know what I mean?
 
“Anyway, his hit was the big hit of the game. It turned it around for us.”
 
It remains to be seen whether Hellickson’s sore hand will affect his trade status. The issue seemed minor enough that it shouldn’t, but one never knows.
 
The Phillies, according to sources, have received significant interest in Hellickson and he could be on the move by Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. A number of teams including the Orioles, Pirates, Blue Jays and Cardinals have been monitoring him. The Dodgers and Tigers, both in the market for a starter, had scouts at Saturday night’s game. The Tigers scout parachuted in specifically to see Hellickson.
 
Hellickson finished the month of July with a 2.34 ERA in six starts and gave up just four runs in his last three starts. So if someone trades for him, they will be getting a hot hand. He is 8-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts with the Phillies.
 
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Hellickson said. “I'll find out Monday. 
 
“I can't control any of it. So I've just been focused on every start and in between starts. Whatever happens happens. Hopefully I'm still here on Tuesday.”
 
Mackanin echoed that thought.
 
“He’s been an outstanding guy, a real likable person,” Mackanin said. “He’s got a good work ethic. He’s focused and poised on the mound. He’s a true pitcher. He knows how to change speeds. I’d like to keep him.”
 
Atlanta out-hit the Phils, 14-9, but the Braves made two errors and their pitchers walked eight, including four in the eighth innings when the Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored four times without getting a hit.
 
“When you score four runs without a hit you better win the game,” Mackanin said.
 
The Phillies were able to do that because Cameron Rupp had three hits and scored two runs and reliever Edubray Ramos got four big outs, three via strikeout. Trade candidate Jeanmar Gomez closed out the game in a non-save situation.

“I wanted to win the game,” Mackanin said of his decision to use Gomez. “I didn’t want to take any chances with anyone else. I just wanted one of my best guys knowing that he’s well rested and we have a day off Monday.”
 
Not everyone will be off Monday. The front office will be working the phones as the minutes tick away until the 4 p.m. deadline. Vince Velasquez is in play (see story). Gomez could go. David Hernandez could go. And so could Hellickson. If this was his last start with the Phillies, he finished up with a win.

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

TORONTO -- With one big inning and another strong start from J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays moved into the AL East lead.

Happ won his eighth straight decision, Devon Travis homered and Toronto used a seven-run fifth to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 Saturday, taking sole possession of first place for the first time since early April.

"There's still a lot of baseball left, but I feel we're starting to play good ball," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said.

Toronto, which won for the 16th time in 22 games, had not been alone atop its division since a 2-0 start. The Blue Jays have scored seven or more runs in an inning three times this season.

Kevin Pillar had two hits and drove in four runs to match his career high. Major league RBIs leader Edwin Encarnacion drove in his 89th run (see full recap).

Giants find just enough offense for rare win since break
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence is healthy at last. Joe Panik has been back a few days from a concussion and is driving in runs again. The San Francisco Giants sure are starting to look like themselves again.

Oh, with that new face in the infield of Eduardo Nunez.

Panik hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, Nunez had a two-run double in his first start with San Francisco and the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Saturday.

Pence was activated from the disabled list after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

"It's huge, just his presence in the lineup," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of our guys. In addition to the talent, he brings energy and all those intangibles. He charged up the troops being out there (see full recap)."

De La Rosa, Rockies win 5th straight, Mets lose 4th in row
NEW YORK -- Jorge De La Rosa earned his 100th career victory and the Colorado Rockies eventually caught up with Bartolo Colon, beating the New York Mets 7-2 on a rainy Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The Rockies improved to 12-4 since the All-Star break and won despite losing NL home run leader Trevor Story to a jammed left thumb. He seemed to get hurt on a scrambling slide in the fourth, exited early and X-rays on the rookie shortstop were negative.

On the day the Mets retired Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza's No. 31, the Mets lost their fourth in row. The 43-year-old Colon (9-6) faltered in his first start on three days' rest since 2005, and slugger Yoenis Cespedes left in midgame because of a nagging quad injury (see full recap).

Rea injured in Miami debut, Marlins win 11-0
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' big win might have come with a price.

Newly acquired Colin Rea left early with an elbow injury in his Miami debut in the Marlins' 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

"We obviously needed the win, but it's not at that cost," Marlins reliever David Phelps said. "Hopefully, it's nothing, but you never like to see a starter come out of the game when you're strapped for starters to begin with."

Rea, acquired in a trade with San Diego, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

"I kind of felt something in my elbow and it gradually got worse throughout the game," Rea said. "I don't know if I could have thrown another pitch, but we'll see. We don't know anything yet."

Rea initially felt a pain in his arm during warm-ups before the game, but tried to pitch through it (see full recap).