Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Chances are we will never learn all of the facts behind what led to Joe Banner's departure -- especially not as long as you're searching for sinister plots. Now that we are through picking over the remains of Banner's tenure with the Eagles though, two prominent figures remain. No matter what really happened, the effects of this shift on the head coach and the general manager are permanent.

First we have Andy Reid, who supposedly is the man with everything to gain from Banner's exile. Legend has it Reid's job is on the line in 2012, so he convinced his employer to remove a practical figurehead. Some guy -- not Reid -- was promoted to Banner's post. Reid gains super powers... Reid smash.

Then there is Howie Roseman, not seated at the table for the Smolenski-Lurie-Banner-Reid press conference/brunch last week. On the heels of a pair of oft-scrutinized drafts, a KoP shopping spree where he maxed out your father's credit cards on junk, and inviting most of the 8-8 kids back to his next four or five parties, somehow he comes out smelling like... bacon. Why, Roseman is more popular than the Priceline Negotiator these days.

The "Good Cop"

Many players spoke out in opposition to Banner's negotiating tactics since the news broke on Thursday, and some acted out while they were members of the team. For as many great deals as the team struck under Joe's watch, there were hurt feelings and mistakes along the way.

There always are.

Roseman is the toast of the town at the moment because this offseason's batch of contract negotiations never became contentious. He made it so Cullen Jenkins is able to retire here. He was not to be outbid for the services of Evan Mathis. He achieved the impossible, making DeSean Jackson happy. He kept LeSean McCoy enthusiastic, under lock and key.

In reality, these were all easy deals. The Eagles want Cullen Jenkins, they need Evan Mathis, and LeSean McCoy earned it. The only discrepancy at all with any of the players the club signed or acquired this year was Djacc, and some folks just can't give the decorated athlete his due -- perhaps Banner included. Still, if Reid wanted Jackson, and truly is the head of personnel (he is), I believe it could have happened one way or another.

But make no mistake, Roseman's job will not always be so simple. In the future, even less than a year from now, the Eagles will be presented with difficult decisions on current players. Mike Vick's contract is not as concrete as some people think, Jason Peters is coming off of a "non-football related" injury, and Jason Babin could outperform his contract. Meanwhile, young players such as Jeremy Maclin, Nate Allen, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie want extensions. Does anybody really imagine all of that will go swimmingly?

The idea that the Eagles will never be split with a player over money again is amusing. To be fair, nobody actually said that either, but can we stop this nonsense about Roseman being a more pleasant negotiator than Banner? When the time comes, he will draw the ire of the players or agents who are seated across the table, and depending on who we're dealing with, rest assured Roseman will be painted as the bad guy.

Coach for life?

Jumping back to Reid for a bit, the conclusion folks have reached is the head coach seized unprecedented power from the Eagles, and it sounds like that was as easy as a grabbing a fistful of Snickers bars. Now the fear is with no one left to rein him in, a contract extension for Reid is already on the way, and he will be in place for many years to come.

Let's start with problem number one, Reid's ascension to the top of the food chain. It seems true, in theory at least, he gains rank with Banner out of the picture. There is one less dissenting voice in the conversation, so yeah, Reid's words naturally hold more weight. How much more though? Would you say his power increased tenfold or twofold?

How about less?

With Roseman negotiating contracts and managing the cap, it lends the appearance Reid didn't gain much at all. It's not his direct superior making those calls any longer, but it's not like Reid took the checkbook, either. We heard he sat in on McCoy's extension, which is interesting, and speaks to a potentially greater involvement in this aspect of the business going forward. Still, there is a salary cap to navigate, and there have been no suggestions its management will be turned over to Reid.

In short, his job is to pick the players -- same as always -- and Roseman's is to keep him fiscally responsible, as Banner had done before. So on the surface, Reid's role hasn't changed at all. Sure he has more influence, but he's stuck in the same position with the same responsibilities. That's not typically how you would define an increase in one's power.

Respect whose authority?

The man who seems to be sitting pretty as the tornado twists around him is Roseman. While he's taken a few lumps since becoming general manager, I can't remember the last time a member of the front office was so well received in Philly. He's been pegged as the players' negotiator, and quite possibly the new public face of the Eagles. Roseman is unassuming, and if he performs at his job, fans are going to like him.

It's a good thing, too, because he might be running the show on his own soon enough.

Oh, right, except there's that coach for life thing. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out for Reid, as it begs the question who is ultimately responsible for making the decision on his future? After all, this isn't Congress, where officials vote on a pay raises for themselves -- Reid answers to somebody, and it's a short list.

Jeffrey Lurie, obviously, and he is probably the one who will have to pull the plug finally if the team continues spinning its wheels or moving in the wrong direction, or choose to grant an extension if Reid pulls off a great season in 2012. But the real question might be who is responsible for tabbing Reid's successor? I think if you can answer that, you might get a better sense for what's going on here.

Until last week, that would have been Banner. Don Smolenski is the incoming president, but seems to have little or nothing to do with the on-field product. I'm sure Lurie will be involved, but I don't envision him handling the entire interview/negotiation process on his own.

Which only leaves Roseman. As Banner's protege, he climbed the corporate ladder, absorbing tremendous power along the way -- first taking over as GM when Tom Heckert left, now performing his mentor's tasks on the football side of the business, amazingly without stepping on any toes (that we know of) on his way up. Is it so unreasonable to speculate his next move could be Lurie's new right-hand man in football operations?

From that perspective, it kind of looks like Roseman is holding a better hand than Reid at the moment, doesn't it?

With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

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With rotation gone, Mychal Kendricks preparing for comeback season

Getting in a rhythm, getting in a flow, is important for Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks. 

Really important. 

“That’s everything,” Kendricks said after Tuesday’s OTA practice. “It truly is.”

That’s why last season was so tough on the veteran linebacker. Under former defensive coordinator Bill Davis and head coach Chip Kelly, Kendricks was forced into a rotation with DeMeco Ryans, Kiko Alonso, and later Jordan Hicks. 

In a year when he did nurse a hamstring injury for a few weeks, Kendricks played just 52 percent of defensive snaps in 2015. After playing all 77 snaps in the opener, Kendricks never got above 90 percent again and didn’t play more than 70 percent of snaps in any of the last five games of the season. 

That’s quite a departure for someone who is widely considered to be a three-down linebacker. In 2014, Kendricks played 100 percent of his team’s defensive snaps in seven games. 

“I just feel like it was too much hot and cold, with all the players rotating in and out and whatnot,” Kendricks said about his 2015 season. “No one was able to get in the flow. It was odd. But I didn’t feel like I played as good or as much. For the time that I was in, I feel that my numbers were OK. But it’s hard to be a force or something to reckon with when you’re not on the field.”

Kendricks admitted the rotation was tough on him, but did what he was told. 

This season, he’s not expected to be in a rotation. For now, he’s the team’s starting weakside linebacker, while Jordan Hicks is in the middle with Nigel Bradham on the strongside. All three, however, are versatile and could be moved around. 

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “And you have to be now.”

Aside from the rotation at inside linebacker a year ago, Kendricks also dealt with another injury. He basically missed a total of four weeks in 2015 with a lingering hamstring injury. In 2014, Kendricks missed four games with a calf injury. 

While Kendricks has never made a Pro Bowl, before last season, when healthy, he has played to that level. In fact, making the Pro Bowl is a personal goal for Kendricks this season. 

“I feel like if I stay healthy, you’ll see me in the Pro Bowl,” he said. “Those are things that you can’t control. Unfortunately, a couple times, I’ve fallen short of my personal goal because of an injury. No one wants that. I’m not making any excuses or anything, that’s just what it is. 

“I used to beat myself up over that, but as you get older and you start understanding the game, you know that there’s some things that you just literally do not control. You can’t beat yourself up over it.”

If Kendricks does get named to the Pro Bowl this season, his production will match the four-year, $29 million contract extension he signed before the 2015 season began. 

From the outside, it seems possible that Kendricks’ new contract might have been a factor in his decline last season, but the linebacker doesn’t seem to think it played much of a role. 

“Have I thought about it? Yeah,” Kendricks said. “But then I look back at all the scenarios that could have played an effect. I got paid and I didn’t play as much as I’d like to. It could have went both ways. Who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have played at all. I don’t know. Sometimes the grass is greener; sometimes the grass isn’t greener. I’m not a fortune teller or a future teller, I just go with my gut.”

Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

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Sixers draft target: F Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons

Position: Forward

Height/Weight: 6-foot-10/239 pounds

School: LSU

The 19-year-old Australia native was the favorite to be the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft before he ever took the court for LSU. Here we are less than a month from the draft and that still may very well be the case.

It's hard to ignore Simmons' production in his only season with the Tigers: 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and two steals per game. The 6-foot-10 forward with guard skills was named SEC Freshman of the Year and was named to the conference's first team. But for all his personal accolades, Simmons' team failed to make the NCAA Tournament after taking a 71-38 whooping at the hands of Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. He's been criticized from everything to his lack of maturity to his inability to shoot consistently from the outside.

Strengths
It's so rare to see a player of Simmons' stature with the ability to handle and see the court so well. Watching Simmons grab the ball off the rim and then go the length of the floor to either finish or find the open man is a thing of beauty. I love how smooth he is. It looks effortless for him. You almost forget he's 6-foot-10. His basketball IQ is excellent. He forces contact down low with his big body and draws fouls. His rebounding ability should translate very well to the next level.

He has the ability to guard multiple positions with his length and athleticism... if he's motivated. His size is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. A traditional four will struggle with his quickness. He'll be able to take a lot of wings down low and punish them in the post.

Weaknesses
The biggest thing is his shot. It's been well-documented. His three-point output in college: 33 percent. As much as that number reflects a weakness, he's at least self-aware. He knows his weaknesses. His free-throw percentage (67 percent) is just OK. The good news is, if you actually watched him shoot, this isn't a total rebuild.

Are the maturity and competitiveness concerns legitimate? I don't know. It's a 19-year-old kid we're talking about. The Sixers will have to decide if those concerns are something he'll outgrow or a serious red flag going forward. Playing under Brett Brown, who coached Simmons' father in Australia, would hopefully mitigate some of the concern.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
This is a really interesting question that I'm not sure anyone has the answer to yet. At 6-foot-10, he almost has to play the four, but where does that leave Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and possibly Joel Embiid and Dario Saric? There could be nights where Brown could get away with playing Simmons on the wing given his ball skills. But it might be a struggle for Simmons defensively depending on the matchup. In any case, Simmons will need a shooter/scorer or two in the lineup to complement his skill set.

NBA comparison
This is next to impossible. How many players have there been that are built like power forwards but handle like point guards? Magic Johnson is a lofty comparison, but Lamar Odom may not be quite strong enough. Much like Simmons, Magic was not a shooter (19 percent from three in his first nine years in the NBA), but at 6-foot-9, Johnson was one of the greatest facilitators in league history. If Simmons is somewhere between Johnson and Odom, the Sixers will be just fine.

Draft projection
I'd be shocked if the Sixers don't take Simmons at No. 1. It's the right call.

Union-Orlando City SC 5 things: First-place test for Jim Curtin's club

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Union-Orlando City SC 5 things: First-place test for Jim Curtin's club

Union at Orlando City SC
7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet

The Union’s roll continued last weekend with a win over D.C. United in extra time, giving Jim Curtin’s club nine points in its last five games and a spot atop the Eastern Conference standings. But that momentum will be tested starting Wednesday night when the Union (5-3-3) make a quick turnaround to take on Orlando City SC (3-3-5) at the Camping World Stadium.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Defending first place
At first it was a fluke, then a random hot streak. But at the near quarter mark of the 2016 season, the Union are riding high in first place in the Eastern Conference entering Wednesday’s match against Orlando City SC.

“I’ve always believed that you start to get an assessment of your group after about a third of the games,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “That’s a good barometer. We are starting to form an identity as a team that’s very tough to break down defensively and is a very good home team. Now, we need to carry that mentality on to the road.”

That mentality, the one that’s helped the Union to a 5-3-3 record, is about consistency on the defensive side of the ball. The Union have given up only 11 goals in 11 games, good for second in MLS.

“We’re a team that’s going to be tough to score against,” Curtin said. “One goal against per game is good — that’s good goalkeeping and that’s good defending. There’s some things you’re starting to see that maybe define us and give us a little bit of identity.”

With nine points in their last five games, the Union take their hot run on the road, where they haven’t been good. First up, Orlando City SC on Wednesday and then the Western Conference-leading Colorado Rapids on Saturday. The Union are 1-3-1 away from Talen Energy Stadium.

“Two very hostile places, two very good teams,” Curtin said. “We’ll take every player on our roster on the trip, which is unique. We haven’t done that before. We are a deep team and everyone is going to contribute.”

2. Blake’s availability
The big question for the Union entering their two-game road swing was would star goalkeeper Andre Blake play after being called up to the Jamaican national team for the Copa America tournament? And if so, would he make both games?

Curtin had the answer on Wednesday, stating that Blake will play in both road matches (see story).

“Jamaica’s been excellent with us,” he said. “What is best for both parties is that he is with us up until [June 1]. The Columbus game is the only game he’ll miss.”

And that’s good news for the Union. Blake has been stellar this season, often making game-saving stops a habit on the road to three shutouts and a 76.1 save percentage — placing him among the best in MLS.

“He’s a big part of us getting points,” Curtin said. “Going into two hostile environments knowing that he’s going to be in there is very valuable.”

3. Orlando’s momentum
Despite just one win in their last seven games — a run that includes a 2-1 loss to the Union — Orlando City is still keeping pace in the East by way of three draws over that same span.

But coming off a win over the Montreal Impact, and in the midst of four home games of five matches, the Florida club wants to go from staying afloat to rocketing up the standings.

“Any time we step on the field, we’re looking to get three points,” Orlando’s Kevin Alston said. “For us, we want to build off of last game and move forward.”

But they have to go through the Union first to get that momentum rolling.

“They are a confident team,” Orlando coach Adrian Heath said. “You can see it’s a happy camp. They keep working hard, they don’t give in, it’s gonna be tough because they are coming here with confidence.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: The Union are a better team with Vincent Nogueira in the midfield. Which made it even more concerning when the Frenchman went out with an oblique injury prior to the match against D.C. United last Friday. And though Nogueira isn’t believed to be seriously injured, he, along with Ilsinho, will be a question on Wednesday. “I honestly don’t know whether they’ll be available by Wednesday,” Curtin said. “We’ll assess after Wednesday’s game and see what it looks like for Colorado.” If Nogueira can’t go, the Union will likely go with the same midfield lineup as they did against United, with Warren Creavalle in Nogueira’s spot and Brian Carroll sitting deeper as defensive mid.

Orlando: At 21 years old, Cyle Larin is already one of the most dangerous strikers in the league. He scored 17 goals in 24 starts in his rookie campaign and is continuing his ridiculous pace with six goals in nine starts this season. And the Union have taken notice. “He’s a great striker, one I rate very highly,” Curtin said. “We dodged a bullet because he wasn’t in the last time we played, so it’ll be a real challenge to shut him down, especially in their building.”

5. This and that
• The Union are undefeated against Orlando City all-time with a 2-0-1 record.

• Orlando City’s star midfielder Kaka came alive last weekend, notching two assists in his club’s 2-1 win over the Impact. Heath noted that as Kaka goes, Orlando goes, leaving Curtin to wish the legendary player was invited to the Brazilian national team for the Copa America tournament, missing the match. “Yeah, I’d rather play them without Kaka, for sure,” Curtin laughed.

• Dating back to Aug. 1, 2015, Orlando City is unbeaten at Camping World Stadium. The club is 6-0-6 in its last 12 matches at the venue.