Eagles-Giants Injury Updates: King Dunlap, Hakeem Nicks OUT

Eagles-Giants Injury Updates: King Dunlap, Hakeem Nicks OUT

Today marks the five-year anniversary of Winston Justice's first NFL start. Eagles fans can only pray the Giants don't observe the occasion.

With Tra Thomas ruled out for Sunday Night Football in New York in 2007, Justice was plugged in at left tackle. Nobody could have predicted exactly what happened next. Donovan McNabb would get sacked 12 times in one game -- six of those by Osi Umenyiora alone -- as the second-year offensive lineman turned out to be as effective at protecting the quarterback as a drive thru. Philadelphia lost 16-3.

Back to 2012. With Jason Peters already on the shelf, and King Dunlap nursing a hamstring injury for the second week in a row, the Eagles are down to their third left tackle heading into tonight's tilt with the G-men. Jason Pierre-Paul must be licking his chops.

Demetress Bell is making his second start for the Birds, and while he was initially brought in to take over for Peters, his performance has done little to instill confidence. Bell lost the job to Dunlap during training camp, and did not look worlds better last week in Arizona.

Enter the vaunted Giants pass rush, and there is a chance it could get ugly again. Pierre-Paul is one of the most dangerous defenders in the league, he of the 16.5 sacks a season ago, and the ghost of Umenyiora is still hanging around as well. The Eagles have had noted problems in protection, and as we mentioned on Saturday, New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has had success pressuring Michael Vick.

Also of note, Jamar Chaney will get the start at weakside linebacker for Akeem Jordan, who is also out with a hamstring. Long snapper Jon Dorenbos is questionable.

The Eagles are also catching a few breaks, namely the absence of Hakeem Nicks. Nicks has been battling a foot injury, which has led to Eli Manning throwing a lot of passes to special teamers like Ramses Barden. That may fly against the Carolina Panthers, but the Bardens and Domenik Hixons of the world might find there's less room to work against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.

Also out for New York are cornerback Corey Webster and right tackle David Diehl. Webster's absence is further bad news for a depleted secondary that could also be missing Antrel Rolle and Michael Coe, both of whom are questionable. Backup Sean Locklear will fill in for Diehl, and he'll be tasked with keeping Jason Babin from crawling all over Eli's back.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.