The Evster: So We’re Really Goin’ with Riley Cooper as our #2 WR, Huh?

The Evster: So We’re Really Goin’ with Riley Cooper as our #2 WR, Huh?

So what you’re telling me is that the Philadelphia Eagles – the organization who once employed Jerome Brown – is starting Riley Cooper at wide receiver. Riley Cooper. The 5th round draft pick and extremely mediocre wide receiver who also happens to have a really shafty haircut (and tends to be somewhat of a racist). That Riley Cooper. I just want us to all understand what’s going on here, because the season starts Monday. This Monday. And yet, as of now, Riley Cooper, yep, Riley Cooper, the same Riley Cooper I was just referring to -- a guy who has 46 catches in 3 NFL seasons and heckles concert security guards by calling them the N word -- is one of our starting wide receivers. Just so we’re all on the same page here. This is actually happening.

But for now, let’s forget about the fact that Riley Cooper used racial slurs at a Kenny Chesney concert and simply focus on the fact that he WENT to a Kenny Chesney concert. Because in order to do so, a few things must have taken place, it’s not like you’re just walking down the street one day and suddenly stumble into a Kenny Chesney concert. This was a premeditated event, something Riley actually wanted to do. Riley must’ve heard that Kenny Chesney was coming to town, taken interest in getting tickets to the show, found a way to get tickets (either through purchasing them himself or receiving freebies like athletes often do), then, on the night of the show, he still had to say to himself, “Yeah, this is a good idea. I’m gonna go check this Chesney guy out. I like Kenny Chesney,” then put on clothes for the concert, find a way to get himself to Lincoln Financial Field, enjoy the concert so much that he wanted to go BACKSTAGE to possibly meet Mr. Chesney and join in on the Chesney festivities, and then finally call that black dude the N word and end up as the Eagles most (publicly) racist wide receiver ever. I don’t know about you, but that’s not really the type of starting wide receiver I want on my football team. Granted, our other starting wideout (WHO I LOVE) is a bit of clown who made a rap video this offseason with Snoop Lion (WHICH IS AWESOME), but I’ll take that over a racist, country music fan with Goldilocks hair any day.

Then there’s the whole part about Riley Cooper sucking at football. In Riley’s 3-year NFL career, his most famous play has been when he LAID DOWN ON HIS BELLY on a kickoff return. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t really remember AJ Green or Roddy White ever practicing tummy time during any point of their NFL careers. Even if Riley showed great promise, was a late bloomer and had potential to break out like many unknown wide receivers tend to do, wouldn’t he have shown SOME of those signs throughout the last few years? Or preseason games? Or ever? And would an Eagles starting cornerback take a swing at a guy in practice just days before the season opener if he thought his teammate was worth anything to the squad? That might not be a good question, because Cary Williams seems like a total lunatic, but still, why would anyone want to go through life with such a stupid haircut?!?!

But he’s a starter! A starter for our favorite professional football team. So this year, the Eagles will have a dog-killing quarterback (WHO I ALSO LOVE) throwing touchdowns to a redneck idiot. Seems like a double standard, I know, that we can love Vick but still hate Riley, but Michael Vick is GOOD and Riley Cooper is BAD. (Err, I guess you could argue that Michael Vick sucks too, but at least he’s fun to watch, while Cooper is embarrassing to look at, especially when he takes off his helmet and shakes his long locks like my 13-year-old cousin, Leah.) Vick can throw a football through a linebacker’s face or leap over a whole guy at any moment, so we support him. And yes, that’s probably unfair to Riley, but this is THE GRIDIRON, and at every level from Pop Warner to high school to the THA ARENA BOWL, the best players have always received special treatment. This is nothing new. The bottom line is that Michael Vick has a rocket arm and jackrabbit legs and that Riley Cooper has a dumb name and a dumb face.

(Plus, for all intents and purposes, Vick has been a pretty good guy since he got to town. His teammates love him, he has done charity work in the community (The Vick Foundation recently donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new football field in Fairmount Park) and as far as I know, he has not killed one single dog since he’s been here.)

All right, I could go on and on about Riley sucking and being a racist and doing commercials for Vidal Sassoon, but at some point you have to stop complaining and start asking, “What can the Eagles do about it?”

Well I feel like they could still do a few things:

1. They could cut Riley and start Jason Avant at WR2, Demaris Johnson at WR3, Vince Papale at WR4 and my Aunt Maxine at WR5. I guess that’s probably not the best plan, but with the number of tight ends on this roster, it just might work, and my Aunt Maxine is a WARRIOR who smokes A LOT of cigarettes.

2. Find someone else. I know, I know, I know, how could a new receiver possibly learn Chip Kelly’s before Monday Night? (And to make things even more difficult, the game has an early start time.) But after the latest round of NFL cuts, there are some decent dudes out there: Robert Meachem, Mohamed Massequoi, CHAD HALL, some dude I saw walking down the street the other day in a Michael Crabtree jersey … now, I understand that these guys got cut for a reason, they probably suck too, but I’d rather have them on the squad than a racist, no-talent butthead who wanted to go backstage to meet Kenny Chezzy Chezz.

3. They could just get rid of him and figure it out.

#SecretSnapper

But who cares what I think? I’m just a fan, just like you, and we have no say regarding what the Eagles do with their roster. So what can we really do? I guess we could boo Riley every time he runs out on the field, gets targeted, drops a pass, scores a touchdown, takes off his helmet and whips his hair in the breeze, anything to tell the organization that we don’t approve of their personnel decisions or Riley’s lousy play. Unfortunately, many Eagles fans tend to be degenerate racists, so I can’t imagine anyone actually going for that.

Personally, I hope the guy breaks his leg week 1. That’s not true, I don’t really wish that, but I hope something happens to prevent him from playing for our team. But I doubt anything will. Riley’s here, he’s in the starting lineup and we’re just gonna have to suck it up.

So when Vick (or Foles or Barkley or David Duke) throws up a fade to Riley in the end zone and he comes down with it and that stupid fight song starts playing and the guy next to you holds up both palms for a double high five, I guess we’ll just have to take a deep breath and go along with it. Maybe deep down we can celebrate Vick and the state of Virginia’s rehabilitation program. Or maybe we'll be reminded that football is the ultimate team game and it’s not necessarily Riley’s touchdown, but one shared by everyone on the roster. Or maybe we can just log onto Twitter to see that stripper who takes off her clothes every time the Eagles score.

Seriously, @AnnaPHCPhilly. Check her out. She’s a dancer at Cheerleaders and takes an article of clothing off every time the Birds score. It’s called “Pics for Points” and it’s honestly amazing / really, really, really weird and I CANNOT WAIT for our first score.

Seriously, I will compromise everything I’m about for one picture of a woman’s bare butt.

Follow the Evster @TVMWW.

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

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Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.