Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

Smooth Criminals: Asante to Atlanta Done

The Eagles got bilked, fleeced, hustled, swindled, shortchanged, and flimflammed, but reporting the crime won't change the fact that Asante Samuel is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
On Wednesday, the Birds agreed to send their four-time Pro-Bowl cornerback, a potential future Hall of Famer, to a conference rival in exchange for a lowly seventh-round pick. The Inq's Jeff McLane, who earlier broke the news Samuel agreed to a restructured contract with Atlanta, reported the Eagles had a deal in place with the Detroit Lions last August that would have netted second- and third-round picks.
Samuel had been on the trade block ever since the team traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Nnamdi Asomugha.

How We Got HereThe 31-year-old Samuel signed a six-year, $59 million dollar deal with Philadelphia in 2008. He intercepted 25 passes in 61 regular season and playoff games over four seasons -- nearly one every two games -- returning three for touchdowns. Despite having a down year in 2011 production-wise with just three picks, Samuel still charted as one of the best corners in the league according to sites like Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus.
A secondary featuring Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC was surprisingly ineffective though. All three are more comfortable lining up outside, so there was no way to get them all on the field at the same time without having at least one of them play out of position. Plus, the coaching staff wants to utilize more bump and run coverage on receivers, but Asante prefers an off-man style that allows him to sit back and read the quarterback.
His value plummeted in part because the Eagles lost whatever leverage they had when it became painfully obvious they needed to subtract a corner from the equation. Even though Samuel had the best season of the three, Asomugha is entering the second year of a $60-million deal that makes him difficult to move, and Rodgers-Cromartie is five years younger.
However, Samuel's contract was said to be the primary hang-up. He was scheduled to collect $21.4 million in base salary over the final two seasons. As part of the trade, Asante first had to agree to restructure. He'll receive $18.5 over three years from Atlanta -- roughly $3 million less than he was slated to earn over the next two.
To summarize, the Falcons obtain an elite playmaker at cornerback, with an additional year on his contract and a discount rate, in exchange for a low draft pick that has precious little chance of panning out, let alone turning into an All-Pro. The Eagles free up a large chunk of cap space, and simplify their depth chart.
How Bad Is the Damage?
While Samuel may be a textbook example of addition by subtraction, the Eagles are clearly getting robbed.
To some extent, they backed themselves against a wall. It would appear there really is no way for Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC to co-exist. Rodgers-Cromartie can also become a free agent next season, and the front office needs to get a better look at him before they decide whether or not he'll be part of their long-term plans. He was a major piece in the Kevin Kolb trade last summer.
Perhaps it would have been wise to hold on to Samuel for now anyway. While there is plenty the Eagles can do with the nearly $10 million they freed up -- extend LeSean McCoy, for instance -- they were by no means up against the cap. With 10 selections now in this year's draft, they weren't exactly hurting for the pick either. Had they held on to Samuel, maybe they could have got more out of a team that missed out on a corner in the draft, or even wait for a team to suffer a serious injury during training camp.
Because no matter how you slice it, management messed up by giving away a great player for next to nothing. Don't get me wrong, I thought a secondary with Samuel, Asomugha, and DRC would be practically impenetrable, too. The Eagles should have trusted their instincts last summer though, and unloaded Asante while the getting was good. Instead, they've been made to look like fools.
We know we'll being seeing Asante Samuel again when the Eagles host the Falcons in Week 8. We'll just have to hope we won't see him again somewhere down the road, maybe in January.

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”