Freefalling: Eagles Competitive, Lose to Dallas Anyway

Freefalling: Eagles Competitive, Lose to Dallas Anyway

The Eagles set a season high on Sunday with 33 points. Nick
Foles played the best game of his young, professional career, finishing with a
96.6 passer rating. Bryce Brown scored two touchdowns and eclipsed 160 yards
rushing for the second week in a row. Brandon Graham had 1.5 sacks, four QB
hits, and two tackles for loss. Heck, Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards for
a touchdown!

In the end, Tony Romo was still taking a knee, as the Birds
lost a game to the Dallas Cowboys anyway by a 38-33 final.

Despite the sad state of the Eagles’ organization, which
dropped to 3-9 on the year – solidifying their first losing season since 2005 –
they actually gave us an entertaining game on a national stage, never trailing until
late in the fourth quarter. They finally surrendered the advantage with 5:35
remaining on Romo’s third touchdown pass of the night, his second to Dez Bryant.

Then, as things tend to do this season, disaster struck.
Brown’s magnificent effort was once again marred by a turnover, this of the
most costly variety. The rookie back was stripped by Josh Brent on his way to
the ground, the loose ball being scooped up by Morris Claiborne, who returned
it 50 yards for the decisive score.

Brown finished with 24 carries for 169 yards – good for 7.0
yards per carry – plus the two scores, and added four receptions for 14 yards.
The kid clearly has a ton of talent, but it turns out ball security is kind of
important. Let’s hold our horses before we anoint the guy.

That being said, Brown is not on the hook for the loss here.
Once again, Philly’s defense was completely ineffective.

Here is a sampling of the raw numbers. Dallas converted on 9
of 14 third downs – in fact they punted a total of three times. Dallas committed
zero turnovers. Romo completed 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards. He was sacked
twice. Jason Witten had six catches for 108 receiving yards, Bryant had six for
98. Dallas won the time of possession battle by an estimated 33 to 27.

The Eagles’ secondary in particular was embarrassed. I hardly
remember a ball hitting the turf in the second half. Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie especially wanted no part of tackling the Cowboys receivers,
giving a questionable effort on Miles Austin’s 27-yard catch and run in the
third quarter, then later letting Bryant carry him across the goal line for the
go-ahead score in the fourth.

The Cowboys’ running game was more effective than the
numbers indicate as well. Dallas backs carried 30 times for 109 yards, though
DeMarco Murray ran backwards for 11 on his last touch. He finished with 23
rushes for 83 and a score.

If there was a silver lining here, it was Foles, who gave
the Philly faithful some hope the quarterback of the future may be on the
roster after all. Foles completed 22 of 34 attempts for 251 yards and a
touchdown, and perhaps most important, zero picks and just one sack. The scoring play went to Riley
Cooper, a perfect 15-yard strike on a go route to the end zone, which the
third-year receiver hauled in with one hand.

The stats probably don’t do the performance justice. Behind
a patchwork offensive line, with his two most dangerous weapons out of the
lineup, Foles made smart decisions, was mechanically sound, faced the pressure,
and threw good balls. The Eagles were also more efficient in the red zone overall, converting for six on all three trips. It was one game, and the Cowboys’ D have been hammered by
injuries, too, but it was definitely progress.

We can’t say the same for the Eagles as a whole, now losers
of their eighth in a row, which is an amazing number even for one of the worst
clubs in the NFL. Then again, we weren’t really expecting much, were we?

It hurt a little more to lose this game to Dallas, one in
which it looked like the Birds were primed to steal from the opening kickoff.
Yet at the end of the day, they remain on the path toward one of the top picks
in April’s draft. A win would have been nice, but nobody is going to care a
month from now, let alone in a few days.

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Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Flyers and Brayden Schenn to go to arbitration

Barring an 11th-hour settlement, the Flyers will go to arbitration on Monday against swing forward Brayden Schenn.
 
The hearing is slated for 9 a.m.
 
The two sides are more than $1 million apart with no progress having been made over this past weekend.
 
“We will probably go to arbitration,” Don Meehan, the agent for Schenn, said Sunday.
 
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall seemed to concur.
 
“I’m not overly optimistic,” he said about avoiding arbitration.
 
Defenseman Michael Del Zotto filed last summer but signed without going to a hearing.
 
The 24-year-old Schenn is the highest-profile Flyer to get this far without signing since John LeClair back in 2000. He received $7 million — the highest one-year award ever.
 
By filing on July 5, Meehan assured his client will get a contract. The Flyers’ qualified Schenn, who earned $2.75 million last season, on June 30.
 
He is a restricted free agent, who could earn close to $5 million a season on his next deal. And that’s the sticky part.
 
Sources said the Flyers offered a two-year deal that would pay Schenn $4.25 million this coming season and $4.369 million in 2017-18 (see story). That’s an AAV of $4.30 million.
 
Meehan wants $5.50 million, which is excessively high given Schenn’s seven-year career thus far.
 
At the same time, if you look at the some of the RFA signings this summer, as Meehan surely has, the comparable numbers would suggest Schenn is worth slightly more than what the Flyers have offered.
 
Two examples here: New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, a 25-year-old right wing, signed a five-year deal earlier this month worth $23.25 million. His AAV is $4.65 million. That’s the correct ballpark for Schenn.
 
Schenn had his most productive year last season with career-highs in goals (26), assists (33) and points (59) while proving he can play the wing on Claude Giroux’s line with Wayne Simmonds on the right side.
 
Palmieri had career-highs as well in goals (30), assists (27) and points (57).
 
Problem is, the other end of the spectrum, where Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues sits.
 
The 24-year-old center recently signed a five-year, $26.5 million deal as an RFA with an AAV of $5.35 million. That’s far higher than Hextall wants to go with Schenn at this point.
 
A fractured ankle and subsequent surgery ruined Schwartz’ past season (33 games played), but Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong looked at what Schwartz accomplished two years ago — career-highs with 28 goals, 35 assists and 63 points – and used that as a barometer for the future.
 
That deal hurts the Flyers here with Schenn.
 
Hextall’s offer suggests the Flyers want Schenn to prove he’s a $5 million player, which means show the Flyers 30 goals and 70 points this season.
 
Schenn finished second in goals to Simmonds (32) and third in points behind Giroux (67) and Simmonds (60) last season.
 
The arbitrator should be able to locate a fair medium. Expect Meehan to ask for a one-year award only.

The 38 Eagles who will take the field Monday at training camp

The 38 Eagles who will take the field Monday at training camp

As training camp kicks off Monday morning, 38 Eagles will be in attendance: quarterbacks, rookies and select vets. 

All four quarterbacks will be on the field when practice kicks off at 8:40 a.m., but most of those 38 are rookies. The rest of the team will report to camp on Wednesday, followed by Thursday's full-team practice in the afternoon. 

It's not hard to figure out why some of the select vets are in camp early. Cody Parkey, Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd are all veterans coming off of injuries. 

This is also the first time we will see rookies Isaac Seumalo, Aziz Shittu and Byron Marshall, who were all at rookie camp, but missed OTAs because of the NCAA graduation rule. 

Here's the full list of 38 who will be on the field Monday morning: 

K Cody Parkey
QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson
QB Sam Bradford
QB Chase Daniel
QB Carson Wentz
WR Hunter Sharp
CB Nolan Carroll
S Nick Perry
RB Wendell Smallwood
S Blake Countess
CB Jalen Mills
RB Cedric O'Neal
CB JaCorey Shepherd
CB C.J. Smith
CB Aaron Grymes
RB Byron Marshall
CB Randall Evans
LB Myke Tavarres
LB Don Cherry
LS John DePalma
LB Quentin Gause
DE Alex McCalister
LB Travis Long
LB Joe Walker
DT Aziz Shittu
C Bruce Johnson
G Dillon Gordon
T Halapoulivaati Vaitai
G Isaac Seumalo
G Malcolm Bunche
DT Connor Wujciak
DT Destiny Vaeao
G Darrell Greene
WR Paul Turner
TE M.J. McFarland
WR Marcus Johnson
WR Cayleb Jones
WR Xavier Rush

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.