Key matchups to watch in Eagles-Broncos tilt

Key matchups to watch in Eagles-Broncos tilt

DeSean Jackson vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

John Gonzalez had a nice story some days back about these two flashy stars renewing their rivalry. Not only were they going at each other in practice every day over the previous two seasons, they actually have some history on the field.

DeSean Jackson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie crossed paths twice as rookies in 2008 when DRC was with the Arizona Cardinals. In the Eagles’ Week 13 win, DJacc hauled in six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Then in the NFC Championship, Jackson pulled down six more balls for 92 yards, including a 62-yarder where he beat Cromartie.

DRC seems to be rejuvenated in Denver, and when he’s in the right frame of mind he has the ability to be a top corner. He also still has a propensity for giving up the big play though, as seen last Monday when Raiders WR Denarius Moore shook Rodgers-Cromartie for a huge 73 yard score.

Jackson has looked better so far this season than he has since he made All-Pro in '09, entering Week 4 second only to Atlanta's Julio Jones in receiving yards. The Eagles are going to need big plays to keep up with the Broncos, so expect Michael Vick to look for those big plays down the field.

Lane Johnson vs. Shaun Phillips

The rookie right tackle had the worst game of his young NFL career in Week 3, playing his part in allowing Kansas City’s Justin Houston to rack up 3.5 sacks of Vick. Lane Johnson looks like a strong run blocker already, but veteran pass rushers have been able to give him trouble.

Meanwhile, Denver may be without their best pure rusher in Von Miller (suspension), but the Broncos do have a presence at outside linebacker Shaun Phillips. Phillips notched 2.5 sacks working against Baltimore’s right tackles in Week 1, and is averaging 7.7 sacks over nine seasons in the league. He's not somebody to take lightly.

Phillips is a guy that could give Johnson problems if the rookie is left to handle him one-on-one for much of the contest. Considering we’re talking about Vick’s blind side, the Eagles may want to roll backs and tight ends to the right side to either help with or at least slow down the tackle’s assignment. Otherwise it could be a long day.

Trent Cole/Brandon Graham vs. Chris Clark

At least the Eagles are catching something of a break this week, as Denver as a Mile High injury report. A lot of the key players on the report were game-time decisions, particularly in the secondary, but one absence we can confirm is that of Ryan Clady, left tackle for Peyton Manning.

I watched Clady's replacement Chris Clark a little bit on Monday night against the Raiders, and he looked fine. Then again, Peyton was getting the ball out so quickly, often times it didn’t matter – that’s how a good quarterback can protect his offensive line instead of the other way around (hint hint).

Also, Oakland doesn’t necessarily have any pass rushers as good as Trent Cole or Brandon Graham coming off the edge either. True, Cole has looked a tad lost out there when trying to get after the QB both in the 3-4 this season and going back to last. Graham on the other hand has been very effective in rush situations – according to Pro Football Focus, his score is second on the team only to Fletcher Cox despite the fact that linebacker hasn’t played more than 19 snaps in a game yet.

If the Eagles can get Manning into obvious passing situations, I’d like to see what Graham can do against this Clark at left tackle. They need to throw the kitchen sink at this offense today.

Peyton Manning vs. Earl Wolff

Patrick Chung made the trip to Denver and is a game-time decision, but is listed as doubtful on the injury report. That means in all likelihood rookie Earl Wolff will get the start at safety opposite Nate Allen. I expect Peyton Manning to walk out on to the field with kitchen utensils and wearing a bib.

There is no place where Philly defensive coordinator Bill Davis can hide Wolff that Manning won’t find him. If the fifth-round pick is out of position, that’s where the ball is going. If he takes a bad angle against the Broncos’ fleet of 1,000-yard receivers, they will pop off for big gains. As far as first career starts go, this is not the ideal situation to make one.

Of course, Peyton is in such a zone and the Birds’ defense – especially the safeties – so questionable that I’m not sure he really needs to go out of his way to pick on Wolff. The plays may be there to be made all over the place regardless. That said, keep an eye out for how many balls go in the rookie’s direction, as Manning isn't usually one to let a good matchup go to waste.

Prediction

I really think the Eagles have a shot to win today if only based on some of the circumstances surrounding this encounter, but am much to lame to actually call it myself. I’ll put them down to cover the 11-point spread though, and make the game much closer than a lot of folks believe it has any right to be.

Broncos 41, Eagles 38 in a very entertaining back-and-forth battle.

Nigel Bradham will report, practice; Doug Pederson doesn’t see him getting cut

Nigel Bradham will report, practice; Doug Pederson doesn’t see him getting cut

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham will report to training camp on Wednesday and will be allowed to participate in the team’s first full practice on Thursday, head coach Doug Pederson said.

Bradham, 26, was reportedly arrested recently for his involvement in an assault of a hotel worker in Miami. An arrest report obtained by NBC6 in Miami alleges Bradham punched the worker in the face.

Pederson had a “great conversation” with Bradham on Tuesday night, laid out his expectations, and said until the team gets more information, the Eagles have decided to let Bradham participate in training camp.

“I’m not going to get into a bunch of detail on that,” Pederson said. “He’s obviously humbled by it and understands the situation and the magnitude, but until we get further details from the authorities, I can’t speculate any further.”

Is it possible Bradham gets released because of this incident?

“I don’t foresee anything like that, no,” Pederson said.

While Pederson spoke to Bradham soon after the incident in question, he didn’t do the same when Nelson Agholor was accused of sexual assault in June. On Wednesday, Pederson cited timing as the reason; Agholor’s incident happened after OTAs, while Bradham’s happened just before training camp.

Eventually, Philadelphia’s district attorney decided to not charge Agholor, citing insufficient evidence, but Bradham’s run-in with the law is the second in the last couple of months for the Eagles.

Pederson, when asked, said he talked about his expectations for players on and off the field during his first team meeting in April.

“You always lay out your expectations, what to expect on the football field and off the football field,” the head coach said. “You gotta make smart decisions. We’re in a high-profile business and being in the city of Philadelphia, things get magnified a little bit. And you just gotta be smart and careful and make good choices. Obviously, we all suffer from our bad choices, our bad decisions, the consequences of that. I address the team quite often, actually, on making those. I addressed the rookies just the other night. And then tonight’s meeting will have the same similar message.”

While Bradham is a veteran and Agholor a second-year player, the Eagles did draft and sign several rookies with checkered pasts, starting with running back Wendell Smallwood and corner Jalen Mills.

Pederson said the team handles each situation individually, but he expects the same thing from all his players.

“I just know this: When they come to the Philadelphia Eagles, there’s an expectation level that needs to be upheld and that starts with me,” Pederson said. “And I have to be very clear from where I stand with the players and the coaches, for that matter. And make sure they understand. Again, once they leave the facility, they’re citizens, but at the same time, understand that the players represent their families, the Philadelphia Eagles and the entire organization.”

Eagles rookie DB Blake Countess dishes on hidden talent

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Eagles rookie DB Blake Countess dishes on hidden talent

We're three days into training camp, so we can't pretend to be able to project how good of an NFL player rookie defensive back Blake Countess is going to be. We don't really know much about the 22-year-old at all. What we can report, however, is the sixth-round draft pick might be a half decent bowler.

Countess was asked about his previously hidden talent after Wednesday's practice, and it turns out bowling is not only a serious hobby for the Auburn product, but another outlet for his competitive streak.

"It actually started my last spring in Michigan (before transferring to Auburn)," Countess detailed. "Me and a bunch of the guys went one Thursday and it was two dollar games, and we had such a good time. We started going every Thursday during that spring, and it kind of just carried on."

"Everybody really got a lot better throughout that spring. We were going every week, we would get three or four games and it would be like eight dollars. That's a deal you can't beat, right after Thursday practice."

"It starts getting competitive, then we start doing teams, four-on-four, whoever has the highest total score wins. It got really competitive, and it's just fun."

"Now I've got my own ball, got shoes, everything."

Countess certainly talks a good game, adding that his personal high score is 249 — not bad at all, especially considering he only picked up the sport about a year ago. It sure sounds like he knows what he's doing anyway when explaining the finer points to a complete amateur such as myself.

"It's really your setup, because if the ball leaves your hand the same way every time, you kind of know where it's going to spin, you know where it's going to hit," lectured Countess. "But if you maybe take a step too far to the left or you let go a little too late, you might get a split, you might even get a gutter ball depending on how aggressive you're spinning it. It's really about your setup and where the ball is leaving."

Where Countess eventually falls on the spectrum of sports bowlers remains to be seen. There's long-time Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, who is both in the Pro Football and Celebrities Bowling Hall of Fame. Then there's former Sixers center Andrew Bynum of the NBA, who notoriously aggravated an injury while bowling and never even played for the team after a blockbuster trade.

As of right now, Countess could share the same fate as either Bettis or Bynum, though a path in between is probably more likely. He's currently battling for a roster spot as a backup safety, and notes that he's lined up at nickel cornerback as well.

Watch: Jon Dorenbos performs glass-shattering magic trick on America's Got Talent

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Watch: Jon Dorenbos performs glass-shattering magic trick on America's Got Talent

Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos was back on America's Got Talent on Tuesday night to continue his magical run on the popular show judged by Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and their pals.

Dorenbos went with card tricks on his first two appearances on the show (trick 1, trick 2) but mixed things up last night with an interesting trick involving some homemade art.

Each of the judges were told to quickly draw something on a piece of paper and Dorenbos easily guessed who drew what. But that wasn't the crazy part. Dorenbos started the performance by walking out with a glass bottle with a prediction on it. At the end of the drawing exibit, Dorenbos broke the bottle and there was an envelope with the exact drawings labeled with each corresponding artists' name.

To move on, Dorenbos will need to earn the fans vote. The voting has closed but will be announced in the coming days. Watch the wild performance below.

He certainly has Doug Pederson's vote: