Offensive Line Shake-up!

Offensive Line Shake-up!

When people describe the offensive line situation as "scary," and honestly believe the quarterback is "gonna get killed," that's never a good sign. That was the lasting impression for many folks after Thursday night's preseason game, even if the blood was mostly on the hands of a pair of rookies.

Not surprisingly, the unit's performance has prompted a change, but not necessarily where you might think. Todd Herremans, who has started full time at left guard since 2006, will kick out to right tackle, where the Eagles have been searching for answers all summer. Evan Mathis, yet another of the team's less heralded free agent additions, will plug into Herremans' old spot.

Meanwhile, Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins will retain their positions as the club's center and right guard respectively.

Several scribes felt the Eagles' best possible line at this juncture would have Herremans outside, where King Dunlap started the past two weeks, and Mathis take over at left guard. Dunlap didn't appear to be a liability in either game, but the coaches are obviously more comfortable with the more experienced Herremans protecting Mike Vick's blindside.

Ryan Harris, who started week one, has been struggling with back issues, and denied a rumor he was headed for surgery. Winston Justice, who started the previous two seasons, remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Part of me doesn't like the decision, if only because it will break up a proven left side that looked dominant at times last season. It took Jason Peters and Herremans a year to develop that rapport, but they eventually formed the one area of the line that wasn't a question mark.

Having the veteran Mathis makes the move a little easier to swallow. A third round pick out of Alabama in 2005, Mathis has played for three teams, making 22 starts. He spent the last three seasons in Cincinnati, where although he was not a starter, some observers felt he measured better than the competition.

It's possible this is all makeshift until Justice is able to return, but if he begins the season on the PUP, that wouldn't be until Week 8 at the earliest. The Eagles' bye falls in Week 7.

As for the rest of the group, sticking with Kelce at center will be up for heavy scrutiny. We think he settled down nicely as Thursday's contest went on, and he looked like an absolute beast in the running game. However, they can't afford the kinds of lapses in protection that turned Vick into a tackling a dummy during the first quarter.

Kelce and Watkins did not appear to be on the same page at all. The front office is counting on Watkins, their first round pick, to step up his game and be ready for the regular season. There wouldn't appear to be a serious rush for Kelce though, with Jamaal Jackson healthy and still on the roster--for now.

The Eagles begin the season on the road, in loud domes at St. Louis and Atlanta. The Falcons have been almost unbeatable in their own building in recent years.

If Kelce can hold the line together, and build on his second quarter against the Browns, they should be fine, but that is admittedly a big if. If the team moves on from Jackson, McGlynn could still be an option there.

Otherwise, moving Herremans outside seems like it should do nothing but solidify a unit that has the potential to be vastly improved over last season. Of course, so far that's all it is--potential. The young players need to prove they can handle the NFL, while Herremans and Mathis will have to show us the tinkering was worthwhile.

>> Herremans to RT; Mathis to LG [Birds' Eye View]
>> Solution At Left Guard: Bring Back Mathis And Start Him [Cincy Jungle]

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left it in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

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