Five Reasons the Eagles Might Be Successful in 2013

Five Reasons the Eagles Might Be Successful in 2013

For the first time since Chip Kelly came to Philadelphia, we were provided an actual glimpse into what the Eagles will be like under a new head coach on Monday. It will be a few months yet before we can get a read on what direction the team is heading – and as long as we’re being honest, probably longer – but excitement seems to be on the rise.

Expectations on the other hand, well… not quite so much.

We’re only a handful of practices deep, not to mention a few short months removed from a 4-12 campaign, so I suppose it’s only natural. That said, a lot of people might be underselling the Birds already at this juncture. I don’t mean to suggest they are a legitimate contender or anything like that at the moment, but somewhere in the broad spectrum of 6 to 10 wins is a possibility in the season ahead.

10 wins? Yes, I have been told that sounds steep. Frankly it’s not a prediction, which I would not even attempt to make before knowing who the starting quarterback is going to be at the very least.

There are several reasons to believe the Eagles might be heading for a nice rebound season of sorts under Kelly – despite the uncertainty under center. With the squad in the news a bunch over the past 24 hours, here are my strongest five.

1. Improved offensive line

Some might say the Eagles’ season was over before it ever began in 2012. When left tackle Jason Peters went down with a ruptured Achilles that March, the club lost arguably the most dominant offensive lineman in the NFL. Center Jason Kelce followed suit with a torn ACL in Week 2, and right tackle Todd Herremans completed the trifecta with a broken foot around the midway point.

Good news: two of the three were full participants at OTAs on Monday. Peters is back where he belongs, anchoring the left side of the line. Herremans was in his new home at right guard – no worries, he played well there (albeit on the left side) for the better part of six seasons.

Kelce was only a limited participant, although he is expected to be a full go for training camp. Evan Mathis recently underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee and was absent, but should also be ready by July.

Just having those four players healthy alone would have been an upgrade over last season, and that doesn’t even include rookie Lane Johnson. The fourth-overall pick was getting his feet wet with the second stringers at practice, however he figures as the opening day starter at right tackle come September.

Regardless of which quarterback is at the helm, that person stands a far better chance behind this group than they did the likes of Demetress Bell, King Dunlap, Dallas Reynolds, Danny Watkins, etc.

2. Unpredictable schemes

We think we have some inkling as to what the Eagles might look like under Chip. By now we’re all familiar on some level with the spread offense/read option his offenses ran at Oregon. We know defensive coordinator Billy Davis has experience with hybrid defenses that utilize aspects of both the 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.

What we don’t know – and more importantly, what the rest of the league does not know yet – is precisely how all of these different philosophies will be incorporated into the Eagles.

For at least the first few weeks of the season, perhaps longer, Chip Kelly will hold the element of surprise against his opponents. Heck, it’s entirely possible we may not even have an official announcement about who the quarterback is until the weeks leading up to the first game of the season.

Do opposing defenses prepare for the read option similar to what Kelly used at Oregon, or should they ready themselves for elements of the west coast attack that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is versed in? And how are Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Robert Griffin going to react to the varying fronts Davis will throw at them when those passers have had a general idea as to where exactly the Birds’ pass rush was coming from over the past two seasons?

Add the anticipated no-huddle offense into the equation, and Kelly should have the opposing sidelines on their toes. The advantages might be slight – might not – and the coaching staff won’t necessarily reinvent the game, but after 14 years of Andy Reid, any deviation from the norm should have an impact.

3. Culture change

Speaking of Andy, as good of a run he had, there is no denying how completely the wheels fell of over the last two seasons. It began at the very top with an alleged power struggle. How much of that was with former club president Joe Banner is unclear, but Reid and general manager Howie Roseman almost certainly did not see eye to eye on some players.

That dysfunction trickled down to the coaching staff, particularly on the defense end beginning when Reid promoted offensive line coach Juan Castillo to coordinator. The hire was intently scrutinized, and Castillo was undermined at every turn – directly by Jim Washburn, indirectly through the presence of Todd Bowles, and a bit of both by some players – until he was fired six weeks into his second season on the job.

Then there were those very players, guys Reid himself brought in. Whether it was Nnamdi Asomugha, Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, or Jason Babin, several of the franchise’s biggest additions over the last two seasons came from losing organizations and brought attitudes with them to boot.

Turning over a new leaf was just what this franchise needed. A fresh start with a different coaching staff can only be a positive for the remaining players. Bringing in free agents such as Connor Barwin, Cary Williams, Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and Isaac Sopoaga from winning programs should affect change on the mindset in the locker room. Add a smart, impressionable draft class into the mix, and this is suddenly a very different organization.

4. Usual playoff turnover

12 clubs earn a berth into the NFL playoffs. History portends that roughly half of the past season’s entrants will not return next January.

Since 1996 between five and seven new qualifiers have emerged in all but three postseasons. One year – 2008 – there was actually eight. So in 15 of the last 17 seasons there have been at least five substitutes in the tournament, and on average it’s roughly half the field.

Those factoids are far from some kind of assurance the Eagles will land a spot after the dust settles in ‘13, but they certainly don’t hurt Philly’s chances, either. The NFL is unpredictable, so although inter-conference opponents such as the 49ers, Falcons, and Packers appear to be locks in May, a lot can change between now and December.

And even though the Eagles finished 4-12 last season, having one of the worst records in the league doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making the jump. The Colts, Vikings, and Redskins all finished with five wins or less in ‘11, and each followed up with widely unexpected runs in ‘12.

Playoff turnover is the norm in pro football. There will very likely be a minimum of two, and possibly as many as three or four new challengers in the NFC next season. With everything going on at the NovaCare Complex these days, why can’t one of them be the Birds?

5. The talent is there

Nobody is suggesting this team as currently constructed is Super Bowl bound. This may have been mentioned once or twice before, but we can’t even be sure who the quarterback is.

The Eagles have three talented quarterbacks though. They have an All-Pro running back, a Pro-Bowl wide receiver (maybe two), along with a healthy group of prospects and veterans on offense. The defense is more a work in progress, but there is some flexibility in terms of scheme, plus a fair mix of young players from recent drafts and quality free agent competition from this offseason.

While they only won four games last season, does that tell the whole story of the current Eagles? How many games were lost before the opening kickoff without a competitive O-line, or because some folks in the organization just weren’t buying in? How hard is it to believe with a little shake-up some of these players can produce more, or what they were before everything apart?

The Birds could win six games this upcoming season, they could win 10 – let’s be real, that’s just about every team in the NFL. But if all went well, they could win 10.

Just a little something to tide you over until training camp.

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

BOX SCORE

DETROIT – The Phillies beat the Detroit Tigers at their own game in picking up an 8-5 win to salvage one game in the interleague series on Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron Nola pitched well and earned the win. Odubel Herrera had a big hit and Hector Neris was clutch out of the bullpen.

The Tigers are one of the best hitting teams in baseball and the Phillies are one of the worst. But the Phils out-hit the Tigers, 12-10. Two of the Phils’ hits were home runs.

The Phillies entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game, ranking them second-to-last in the majors. The Phils had scored just 11 runs in their previous five games; four of them were losses.

The win left the Phils at 26-21 heading into Chicago for three games with the rugged Cubs.

Starting pitching report
Aaron Nola gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings of work. He walked one and struck out six.

Four of the hits and three of the runs Nola gave up came in the fifth. All the hits were singles and one could have been ruled an error. So Nola was not supported by completely clean defense.

The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 10 starts. He has 70 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 66 innings.

He is 6-1 in 13 road starts during his young career.

Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez took the loss. He gave up eight hits and six runs in six-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned. The Tigers committed three errors.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez inherited a 7-4 lead in the seventh. He allowed two hits, a walk and a run with one out and was removed from the game. Hector Neris came on and struck out Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos to clean up Hernandez’s mess. Neris stayed on for a scoreless eighth.

Jeanmar Gomez earned his majors-leading 17th save.

At the plate
Peter Bourjos drove in two runs. He singled home one in the second and belted his first homer of the season in the seventh. The homer gave the Phils a 6-4 lead. Tommy Joseph increased the lead to 7-4 with sacrifice fly later in that inning.

Herrera had the big hit for the Phillies, a three-run homer in the fourth. He hit a 2-1 slider from Sanchez far over the right-field wall and scored Jose Bautista points with a big bat flip.

The Phillies scored their second run of the day when Bourjos and Andres Blanco executed a double steal. Blanco became the first Phillie to steal home since Chase Utley in 2009.

Cameron Rupp and Blanco had back-to-back doubles in the eighth to give the Phils some cushion.

Ryan Howard laced a hard, line-drive single to right his first time up then struck out in his next two at-bats. He finished 1 for 5 and is now hitting .160.

Every player in the Tigers’ lineup had a hit except Castellanos.

Health check
Maikel Franco limped off the field and out of the game before the start of the bottom of the seventh inning. He jammed his right foot sliding into second base in the top of the inning and was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. It was said to be mild.

Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. The Cubs are the first team in the majors to reach 30 wins. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday afternoon – LHP Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61)

Saturday afternoon – RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30) vs. RHP Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86)

Sunday afternoon – RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38) vs. RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75)

Watch: Odubel Herrera with a ridiculously awesome bat flip after big home run

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Watch: Odubel Herrera with a ridiculously awesome bat flip after big home run

In case you were working this afternoon and weren't able to tune in for the Phillies game in Detroit, Odubel Herrera absolutely killed a baseball off of Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez to put Philadelphia up 5-1 in the top of the 4th.

The ball was crushed and Odubel knew it immediately. He displayed one of the best bat flips a Phillie has flipped in recent memory.

Franzke and L.A. seemingly enjoyed it greatly.

You can watch the wonderful bat flip below. And how about the fantastic photo of it above courtesy of Associated Press photographer Carlos Osorio.

Odubel Herrera just wants to Make Baseball Fun Again.

The Phillies maintain a 8-5 lead in the top of the 8th at the time of this posting.

Flyers Stay or Go Part 4: Matt Read to Mark Streit

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 4: Matt Read to Mark Streit

In the fourth of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 can be seen by clicking the links. Today, we begin with Matt Read.

Matt Read
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 11 G, 15 A; Contract: Signed through 2018-19, $3.975 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Read is a two-time 20-goal scorer but is coming off his second straight disappointing season. Simply put, he’s not that player anymore. But he’s not as bad as you would think if you were to search his name on Twitter. He can play on both special teams, which is valuable. He’s not a terrible ninth forward or fourth liner. Read is signed for two more seasons, but the Flyers desperately need goal scoring and I think Hextall finds a taker for Read this summer.

Verdict: GO

Hall: You wonder if a role change will help Read rediscover himself (see story). Maybe a change of scenery does the trick. Or, perhaps Read is simply the player we’ve seen over the past two seasons. He’s a third- or-fourth-liner in the NHL, and that’s OK. But he’s making $14.5 million over four seasons with the Flyers through 2017-18, which doesn’t help. Read will be back but fighting his tail off for playing time. Ultimately, though, Ron Hextall will start looking at all avenues to part ways with Read — it’s just a matter of when.
 
Verdict
: STAY

Paone: No Flyer’s game has fallen off more over the past few seasons than Read’s. After a 22-goal campaign in 2013-14, the 29-year-old forward has scored just 19 goals in the past two seasons combined. That’s a span of 159 games. He struggled so much this past season that he was a healthy scratch at one point. This just screams of a situation where a change of scenery could benefit both parties. The question is how that gets done. Will someone take a chance on Read via trade? Or is a buyout with a projected cap hit at $875,000 next season before going up to $1.375 million in 2017-18 an option? Time will tell. But Read’s time in Philadelphia seems to be up.

Verdict: GO

Brayden Schenn
2015-16 stats: 80 GP, 26 G, 33 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Schenn became a go-to guy this past season for the Flyers, which is exactly what you wanted to see from him in his fifth NHL season. He found a consistency in his game that has been lacking and showed he can play at wing. He scored a career-high 59 points and 26 goals and you have to think he’s still not done growing. He’ll be here for a while.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Schenn, a pending restricted free agent coming off a career season, is hoping for a long-term deal with the Flyers. Ron Hextall and company, of course, want him back. Schenn will be re-signed. As Hextall said, the Flyers will “get it done.” (see story)
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: No way Ron Hextall and the Flyers give up on a 24-year-old winger (yeah, Schenn’s found a home on the wing) who’s coming off a career-high 26-goal season and showed profound chemistry with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on the top line. That’s especially true with the way the Flyers crave goal-scoring. No question Schenn will be back with a not-so-little raise.

Verdict: STAY

Nick Schultz
2015-16 stats: 81 GP, 1 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $2.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Schultz is basically the Jason Smith to this Flyers team. He’s respected in the locker room, a guy the team looks to lead and blocks a ton of shots. There’s always room for a guy like Schultz on a roster and it’s good to have him around with the young guns on their way. Ideally, his role decreases next season, but nonetheless, he should stick around.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Dave Hakstol and the Flyers’ locker room routinely extolled Schultz last season for his presence on and off the ice. He’s under contract and will be here for one more year, a season in which he can continue leading by example. And, who knows, maybe a contending team in need of an experienced blueliner will pursue the Flyers at the trade deadline.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Schultz is what he is at this stage of his career. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman who blocks a ton of shots. He’s also a leader in the locker room, and that can’t be undervalued. With just a year left on his contract, Schultz isn’t in the Flyers’ long-term plans. Think of Schultz as a veteran placeholder until a prospect is ready to join the big club. In the meantime, he can fill his veteran leader role on the blue line for the upcoming season and then the Flyers can reassess the defensive situation after the season.

Verdict: STAY

Wayne Simmonds
2015-16 stats: 81 GP, 32 G, 28 A; Contract: Signed through 2018-19, $3.975 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Simmonds is the Flyers’ first 30-goal scorer since Scott Hartnell in 2011. The Flyers need goals. Simmonds scores goals. This is easy. He’s not going anywhere any time soon.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Simmonds, the emotional heartbeat of the Flyers, is locked up and fresh off a career-best 32-goal campaign. He’s getting better and going nowhere.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: Power forwards who create havoc in front of the net and continue to increase their production year after year don’t grow on trees. Therefore, the Flyers wouldn’t even think of getting rid of Simmonds, who scored a career-high 32 goals and tied another career-high with 60 points. Plus, it’s probably not a good idea to mess with the chemistry Simmonds, Schenn and Giroux had on the top line at the end of the season.

Verdict: STAY

Mark Streit
2015-16 stats: 62 GP, 6 G, 17 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $5.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: Streit is two years shy of turning 40, but he’s still an above-average puck mover. He didn’t seem to have the same step in his game after returning from his pubic plate dislocation and lost his job as the Flyers’ power-play quarterback to Shayne Gostisbehere, but he still has value. He’s on the last year of his deal. He’s a candidate to be moved to free up a spot for one of the defensive prospects. Plus, I think they could get something of value for him.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Streit said he takes a lot of pride in training and preparing for the NHL grind at 38 years old. He wants to keep playing until his body says no. The Flyers have an ideal trade chip here in Streit. In 2016-17, he’ll be on the final year of his contract, making him an attractive second-half rental for a win-now team. I think he stays but the Flyers find a suitor and complete a deal before the trade deadline.
 
Verdict: STAY

Paone: To me, Streit is the most difficult player on the entire roster to answer this question about. On one hand, the Flyers probably would like to move his salary and free up a spot for a younger player or prospect. But, to me, that just seems like it will be easier to do closer to the trade deadline when teams get desperate and will bite on a defenseman who’ll be 39 this coming December but can still produce and can help out tremendously on the power play. I just feel it will be too difficult for the Flyers to move Streit in the offseason. If they do, they’ll have to add something or someone to entice another team into taking him. The chances of having to do that at the trade deadline are much less. For that reason, Streit stays for now.. Plus, it can’t hurt having Sam Morin or Travis Sanheim play a half-season in the AHL until then.

Verdict: STAY (for now)