The Return of Mike Vick

The Return of Mike Vick

After missing three games with a rib injury for the second consecutive season, Michael Vick returns to the lineup on Sunday to lead the suckiest bunch of sucks who ever sucked against the Miami Dolphins. Although it's doubtful he can save their season, the next four weeks are very important for the Eagles quarterback anyway.

As Always, Your Postseason Update
Wouldn't it be funny if, after everything that's happened, the Eagles wind up making the playoffs? No? You've seen that one before? Well technically it is still possible. Here goes...

If the Birds win out, and neither the 7-5 Cowboys or 6-6 Giants finish better than 8-8, Philadelphia miraculously becomes division champs.

Sounds like a fairy tale in contrast with how they played all season, but you never know when Vick will capture lightning in a bottle. After Miami, the Eagles have the Jets (7-5), Dallas, and Washington (4-8) -- not a real imposing slate, so they'll play these out and hope for some help.

Vince Young, You're Fired
Regardless of whatever is left to play for, it doesn't seem like too many people will be sad to see VY back on the bench. There may not be a more unlikeable player on this team, and he bottomed out last week in Seattle, heaving four picks.

His stretch of relief probably wasn't as bad as how it will be remembered. All the same, we've seen enough.

Get What You Paid For
Even if the season were mathematically over -- and once it officially is -- Vick is the franchise quarterback. He doesn't get to hide on the shelf inside the trainer's room until the nightmare is over, pretending his 14 turnovers never happened.

Win or lose, Vick can still put on a show with the best of them. It's a show the fans have already paid their hard-earned money to see, and a show the Eagles are handing over sacks with dollar signs on them to Vick to perform.

Not that we're accusing Vick of ducking games. The man has a competitive spirit to rival the best, and if he can play, he wants on that field. This is just in case there is any notion out there the Eagles should shield him from further injury, and get ready for next year.

What Do We Have Here?
Last and perhaps most important, these final four games it's critical to evaluate Vick. There is no denying the sharp decline in the quarterback's play since he's taken over the job. He's gone from MVP-caliber to puzzling remarkably fast.

Vick is 3-8 over his last 11 starts, committing 19 turnovers during that span. By comparison, he's thrown or rushed for 15 touchdowns over the same stretch. On the whole, his passer rating has plummeted to 79.8 in 2011, only a few points better than what he posted for his career in Atlanta.

Obviously, Vick is coming back next season. His salary is fully guaranteed, and the very soonest they could even consider getting out from under his contract is 2013.

That scenario isn't out of the question though. If Vick doesn't elevate his play over these final four games, the Eagles have to give serious consideration to what the future at their quarterback position is. Given the prospect of a top 10 pick in April, they should even consider drafting somebody right away.

Which guy is he -- the one who energized the Eagles' record-setting offense for the first three-quarters of last season, or the guy who hasn't been able to get out of his own way ever since? The ball is back in Vick's hands now.

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

Want to play corner for Jim Schwartz? Must worry about more than deep ball

The Eagles might not have any top-flight cornerbacks, but they certainly have a lot of guys with some talent.

Many of them are young, and all of them are battling for just several roster spots.

That hodgepodge of talent has made the corner position one of the more intriguing spots at this year's training camp. We're not sure how it'll all shake out, who will be the starters, who will be the depth players.

But one thing's for certain: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants all of them to be aggressive.

"It's going to be fun to watch the corners compete," Schwartz said after practice Tuesday. "We have some guys that can cover. We have some guys that have a great opportunity here. If they'll get up and they'll challenge receivers, like I said before, if you can cover — you can't cover many people if you don't want to challenge guys. That's God's honest truth. I could play the deep ball. I'd get my ass 50 yards deep and you couldn't get one over the top of me, but I couldn't cover anything else.

"There's a fine line in there. And the fine line is you obviously have to play the deep ball in this league, but if that's the only thing you're worried about, you're not going to cover anything else."

Schwartz said he's happy with the blend of veteran and young players on the roster, before rattling off five names: Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, JaCorey Shepherd and rookie Jalen Mills.

The one notable omission from that list of names is second-year player Eric Rowe, who finished last year as a starter, but has been somewhat of a forgotten man this spring and summer. On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson mentioned some "hiccups" Rowe encountered learning the new defensive scheme (see story).

Even with Rowe buried on the depth chart for now, there are still plenty of talented, young corners fighting for jobs.

Carroll, on the other hand, isn't young. He's 29 and a returning starter from last year. Schwartz praised Carroll's smarts and said he's been a resource for younger players. But Carroll is also coming off of a fibula fracture and subsequent surgery. That's why he's one of the select vets that reported to camp early.

"This is important for him now," Schwartz said. "It's a good opportunity for him to come back before the full club gets here, just to sort of test it out and see how he's feeling. You don't want to judge too much. He might need a day here or there. It helps that he's a veteran player."

It seems Carroll, on a one-year deal, has a decent shot of being a starter opposite McKelvin. During the spring, Brooks worked outside in the base package and moved inside to the slot. At times, the rookie Mills also played in the slot.

Schwartz said corners in the slot need a different set of skills than the ones outside. They need to have the "courage" to take on big-bodied running backs and the occasional pulling guard. They also need to cover differently.

"It's very rare that you're getting the same routes," he said. "You're not getting the same routes from the slot as you are from the outside. So there's a different skill set. Some guys can play both, some guys can't. So it's our job to determine over the next six weeks where all the guys fit in that."

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Tonight's lineup: Ryan Howard starts; Ichiro in CF, 4 hits away from 3,000

Ryan Howard is in the Phillies' lineup Tuesday night, batting fourth against Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler. 

It's the second start in three games for Howard, who has actually been productive lately when he's gotten a chance to start. He went 2 for 3 on Saturday and had a homer in three of his previous five starts. Over that span he's gone 6 for 21 with three home runs and five RBIs as the Phillies' starting first baseman.

One of those homers was against Koehler last week at Citizens Bank Park, a two-run shot.

Howard's struggles this season have been well-documented and he's still hitting just .165, but he and Tommy Joseph have produced from a power standpoint. The only team in the majors that has more home runs from its first basemen than the Phillies (24) is the Cubs (26).

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

And for the Marlins:

1. Ichiro, CF (four hits away from 3,000)
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Chris Johnson, 1B
6. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
7. Jeff Mathis, C
8. Miguel Rojas, 2B
9. Tom Koehler, P

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Wayne, Pa. -- Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q+A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime.