The Linc Is Open For Business! Eagles Host Ravens

The Linc Is Open For Business! Eagles Host Ravens

Feels like 2004 in this joint.

That's the last time I can remember there being any serious excitement for a preseason opener. The Eagles were coming off of a huge off-season, not so very different from this summer in fact. They signed the most coveted free agent on the market (Jevon Kearse), brought back a former member of the team (Jeremiah Trotter), sought additional defensive help (Dhani Jones), upgraded their offensive line through the draft (Shawn Andrews), and pulled off one major trade (Terrell Owens).

And that team certainly delivered, at least on its promise to finally get off the NFC Championship doorstep, and bust through the front door of the Super Bowl. We all know how that story ends, but this year we are once again reminded how August feels when it's full of promise.

The promise of a legit contender that's jam packed with all star talent.

However tempting as it may be to get super-duper excited about tonight's action, I'm not about to do that, and advise you don't either. Once the game kicks off, you'll more than likely be treated to vanilla offensive schemes that make everybody look bad, and defensive mix-ups that show just how far this is from the final product we will see in September.

Then after 15 minutes of lousy football--and probably lousier than usual given these guys will be shaking the rust off from their vacations/the lockout--it will be time for the reserves to get theirs. By the fourth quarter, you won't recognize a soul.

Hey, at least it's football. Am I right? On to who we'll be watching tonight.

The Offensive Line
Particularly, we want to see what the Eagles are working with from center to right. Jamaal Jackson has returned from last season's triceps tear, but camp reports have sixth round rookie Jason Kelce getting more than his share of snaps with the first team. Of course, first round pick Danny Watkins will be making his debut at guard, while free agent signee Ryan Harris will make the start at tackle.

The Ravens are very stout up front, with Pro Bowlers Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs among the loads that will be bringing the heat, so this will be a good test for the revamped O-line.

Dion Lewis
Lewis could be in line for a decent number of carries tonight, as the coaches try to guage what he can bring to the table this season. The rookie out of Pitt appeared to be in line for a backup role, but the Eagles signed Ronnie Brown, which puts Lewis's role in question. The veteran Brown probably doesn't need a ton of work, so hopefully they give the fifth rounder a chance to shine.

Cullen Jenkins
One of the least discussed, but biggest free agent acquisitions this off-season, it will be interesting to see in exactly what capacity he is utilized. He is currently listed as a second stringer on the depth chart, which could indicate he'll primarily see action on passing downs, or it could mean they are simply working him into the system as well. The Eagles aren't likely to tip their hand too much in this first contest, but maybe we'll get a taste of what his role will be in Juan Castillo's defense.

Casey Matthews
The time for talk is already over. Can a rookie handle the middle linebacker job? Is Casey Matthews strong enough to shed blocks and wade through the traffic around the line of scrimmage? Of course, even if he has a solid outing tonight, that doesn't mean he won't be another Joe Mays, the original Kulp/700Level camp darling.

The Secondary
We just want to see if a quarterback can complete a pass against this group.

In all seriousness, don't get your expectations too high for tonight, but this unit is going to be fun to watch. Also, let's not forget this year's second and third round picks, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh. Our own Nick Menta is attending the game tonight, and will more than likely provide some kind of write-up on his self-proclaimed man-crush of Jarrett afterwards.

Alex Henery
Because we're all very, very curious. You've got some big shoes to fill, kid, and if you miss a field goal tonight, you seriously might not ever hear the end of it. Unless you kick a game winner in February. Then it's all good.

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.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.