Tonight Is the Preseason Opener, So Let's Talk About Vince Young

Tonight Is the Preseason Opener, So Let's Talk About Vince Young

Amid the free agent frenzy two weeks ago, we didn't have a chance to go in-depth and under the hood of every signing, and the reality is we probably won't. There was one guy in particular I wanted to talk about though, and since his name is already in the headline, let's proceed.

A little more than five years ago, like many of you probably, I was watching one of the most incredible Rose Bowls college football has ever seen. Texas QB Vince Young, who was already no stranger to huge games on the grandest of stages, was delivering one of the hands-down, most impressive individual performances ever seen on a college football field, throwing for 267 yards and rushing for another 200 in a 41-38 win over USC to secure a National Championship.

Young was obviously an incredible athlete, as evidenced by his being able to run for 200 yards at 6-5, 232 lbs. I also marveled at his ability as a passer though. He was accurate, completing 75% of his passes; he protected the ball, committing zero turnovers; and he showed incredible pocket presence, taking off when absolutely necessary, but also occasionally sliding one step away from the rush to deliver a perfect pass.

I remember remarking he was like Tom Brady on wheels.

Vince Young's stock has certainly plummeted since that night. He was the third overall pick in the draft that April, with a bright future seemingly assured as Tennessee's franchise quarterback. Then two weeks ago, the team released him, and now he's a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. What the heck happened?

Well, a lot of things, and we'll get in to some of that. However, we don't want to rehash VY's life story, but instead examine the football side of the equation. Is he a good football player? Can he improve? Is he the right fit for the Birds? If you haven't familiarized yourself with his intriguing up-and-down career, some of the answers might surprise you.

This Guy Is No Bum...
... as some observers would have you believe. Looking at Vince Young from a pure numbers standpoint, I'm not sure how anybody could conclude that. And yes, statistics can be deceiving, but what about that 30-17 won-loss record as the starter?

Like many inexperienced quarterbacks, Young's NFL career got off to a slow start. Though he was the Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 2006, Young's passing stats didn't exactly set the world on fire, and he showed modest improvement at best the following season. 2008 is when everything changed for the worse for the promising signal caller though.

Young suffered a knee injury in Week 1, and was supplanted by veteran and former Nittany Lion Kerry Collins. Head coach Jeff Fisher decided early on that Collins gave them the best chance to win now, and he was probably right. While Young moped and go involved in some strange drama, the fifth overall pick of the '95 draft led Tennessee to a 13-3 record, and earned a post-season bye. That would have been a tough act to top.

Yet this is where VY gets a tough shake. Even though Collins' ability was fading fast, and Young should have had every opportunity to pick up where he left off as the QB of the future the next year, Fisher let the Titans begin the '09 campaign 0-6 before he finally reinserted Young into the lineup. The amazing part is with Young at the helm, the Titans won eight of their final 10 games.

Young had seemingly become a different quarterback after his time on the bench, and here are the numbers to prove it:

He was in the midst of taking his game to a higher level. Major improvements in yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio, sacks taken, and passer rating, along with minor strides in completion and win percentages.

However, after suffering a thumb injury during a game last season, the rift between Young and Fisher became irreparable. Young wanted to go back into the game, but Fisher would not allow him to reenter. After the game, the quarterback walked out of the locker room, never to play for the team again. So in other words, it's not like he was dismissed for poor play.

That Was Tennessee, This Is Philadelphia
Let's also keep in mind how different the situation was with the Titans compared to here. When Vince Young was struggling to find his way as a young NFL quarterback, he wasn't exactly surrounded by talent.

His top receivers consisted of Justin Gage, Roydell Williams, Drew Bennett, and Bobby Wade--nobody memorable. They even gave a washed up Eric Moulds a try. Likewise, the running game came to be headlined by LenDale White, he of the constant weight problems. Young's only consistent target through the years was tight end Bo Scaife, and he's not exactly a superstar.

Today they have Chris Johnson, and Kenny Britt is emerging as a dangerous wide receiver (both on and off the field), but that's still far from being loaded with talent. Compare that to the faces that would be looking back at him in the Eagles huddle: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek, Jason Avant, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith...

Night and day.

Even the coaching staff here presents Young with a greater chance to succeed. Rather than the defensive minded Fisher, who at one time had farmed the offensive coordinator job out to a college coach, VY will be surrounded by Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, in a system that has made practically every quarterback not named Mike McMahon look good.

And coming to work with Vick, who Young no doubt greatly respects, and who also had to learn how to put in the extra effort to be great, should be just another bonus. More weapons. Better coaching. Greater resolve. What do you think those statistics from above would look like after spending a few seasons in midnight green?

West Coast Quarterback?
My only major concern with VY in an Eagles uniform has nothing to do with numbers or ability, work ethic or attitude. It's fit. In five pro seasons and three in college, Young has never run a west coast style offense, and as we always make sure to note in any lengthy diatribe about quarterbacks, the system is regarded as complex and takes time to learn.

All questions about his intelligence aside, it would be fair to wonder if any QB could pick this up over such a short period of time and be ready to step into action if needed. Since we're talking about a guy who it was at one time rumored scored a six on the Wonderlic--a test NFL prospects take at the combine (and six being, ahem, not good)--naturally we're more than a little curious how quickly he can be versed enough to perform. By the way, it was later revealed he actually scored a 16 out of a possible 50.

I'm not so sure in a certain scenario, Mike Kafka is not still their guy. That may sound crazy, in part because we don't really know anything about him, but he may be more prepared for this role from the mental aspect. He's got a year in the system, and based on his college career at Northwestern, just seems like a gamer.

Of course, all these questions about Young's IQ are a little ridiculous. Until I sit down and speak to the guy, I don't pretend to know how intelligent he is, and even if we deduce based on some of his life decisions that he doesn't have the most common sense in the world, one doesn't necessarily need to be real world-smart in order to be football-smart.

But the fact is, I would worry about any younger, free agent quarterback arriving in late July and having the offense down in time to be a proper backup.

Look How That Vick Thing Turned Out Though
Overall, I still think it's a great signing, even if Vince Young never plays a down for the Eagles. If nothing else, it shows their continued willingness to
assemble as much talent as possible, year in, year out.

More importantly, I think it's great for their reputation around the NFL, particularly among the players. We've already witnessed the long list of guys clamoring to play in Philadelphia, and as we expressed previously, some of that has to do with how they helped Vick when he was in just the most miserable situation possible.

Young's situation is nothing like that at all, but he does have an image badly in need of rehabilitation. Look no further than all the words we needed to convince people that this guy--a two-time Pro Bowler with a 30-17 won-loss record, the former third overall pick in the draft-- that he can really play. Something is wrong here.

Maybe he will never get in back on track to the point where he is leading a team to the Super Bowl as you might have imagined in 2006, but honestly, he might not have too far to go. And here's hoping we don't have to find out this year, as the Eagles poise themselves to make their own run at the big stage. Still, I have to admit... I like the insurance policy.

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Pros, cons and likely prospects of a Vince Velasquez trade with Rangers

Vince Velasquez just turned 24 in June.

He's under team control for the next five years and won't start making a lot of money (in baseball terms) until about 2020.

He has a big fastball that averages 93.7 mph, the 10th-best velocity of any NL starting pitcher.

He can be really, really good at times — the 16-strikeout shutout of the Padres, the 10-strikeout game against the Marlins, scoreless performances against the Mets, Indians and Diamondbacks.

And even when he's not at his best, like Friday night in Atlanta, Velasquez can succeed because his stuff is that good. He's made 18 starts this season and allowed two runs or fewer 11 times.

All of these things make him valuable to the Phillies. And all of these things make him attractive to every other team in the majors.

It doesn't seem likely that the Phils will ultimately pull the trigger and trade Velasquez to the Rangers, who are in "deep discussions" with the Phils on a deal, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury (see story). But Texas has such an intriguing group of prospects that it makes sense for the Phillies to listen.

Velasquez, for all of his strengths, has not proven yet that he can be a durable, 180- to 200-inning starting pitcher. He's never even reached 125 innings at any level in the minors. There have been numerous games this season in which his pitch count has soared — either because of a lack of control, nibbling around the plate or a lot of foul balls. The result has been some early exits. That was a knock on Velasquez when he was in Houston and he hasn't yet fully outgrown it.

That's why it could make sense for the Phils to trade him. Perhaps they believe they'd be selling high on a guy who's shown so much talent and promise but not the type of consistency of a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.

Obviously, it makes sense to move him only if the return is strong. And the Rangers could certainly offer a strong package if they decide Velasquez is their guy.

The names you'll see thrown around a lot as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches are power hitting third baseman Joey Gallo, infielder Jurickson Profar and outfielders Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara.

Mazara is a pipe dream. The Rangers refused to include him in last summer's Cole Hamels trade, and he's only increased his worth to them this season by hitting .282/.334/.417 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for a first-place team. He'll be a top-three finisher for AL Rookie of the Year. It's almost impossible to envision the Rangers trading away a valuable piece of their major-league roster for Velasquez. It would be a wash, at best.

Gallo and Profar are more realistic targets for the Phillies in a Velasquez trade. Gallo, 22, has some of the best raw power in the minors, true grade-80 power. The 6-foot-5, left-handed hitter bashed 23 homers in the minors last season, 42 the year before and 40 the year before that. Initially, that power translated to the majors when Gallo was called up last June. He hit homers in each of his first two games and had five in his first 50 at-bats before pitchers adjusted. So far in 136 big-league plate appearances, he's hit .192/.287/.408 with seven homers and 63 strikeouts.

The whiffs will always be a part of Gallo's game. To me, he has Brewers' first baseman Chris Carter written all over him — a lot of homers, a lot of strikeouts, low batting average. Gallo could be better than Carter because he plays a more important position and will hopefully be more than a .217 career hitter like Carter, but you also have to keep in mind that the Phillies already have Maikel Franco at third base. If Gallo was traded here, he'd likely play either first base or left field.

It's hard to say right now whether or not Gallo is more valuable or a better fit for the Phils than Velasquez. Usually, it makes sense to go with the everyday player over the pitcher who can make an impact at most twice a week. But, as stated above, Velasquez can give you six quality innings even when he's not "on." He has the most upside of any of the Phillies' young starting pitchers, including Aaron Nola.

Profar, who is somehow still just 23 after years atop prospect lists and a few injuries, would seem to be a better fit. He's a multi-dimensional player who has impressed scouts for years for a reason. He can play every infield position in addition to left field, he has the look of a .300 hitter, and his power is developing.

A switch-hitter, Profar has hit .301/.356/.440 for the Rangers in 181 plate appearances this season with four doubles, two triples and five homers. It's been a while since his last full season in the minors, but in 2012 he hit .281 with an .820 OPS, 14 homers and 62 RBIs as a 19-year-old everyday shortstop at Double A.

The opinion here is that Profar will be a better major-league hitter than Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford.

There is, however, a vast financial difference between Profar and Gallo. Profar will go to salary arbitration in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before becoming a free agent. Gallo, like Velasquez, won't start making meaningful baseball money until around 2020.

But a team like the Phillies that has deep pockets and so much open payroll space moving forward should be more concerned with receiving the right player than playing the cost benefit game.

Another thing to consider here is that the Rangers need Profar. He's been playing every day for them and playing well at second base, third base and shortstop. He played Friday night in left field. He's started a bunch of games at first base, too, and figures to get some more reps there with Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland having just an OK year.

Brinson is another name to keep in mind. A right-handed centerfielder, he was Texas' first-round pick in 2012. He had a terrific year at three different levels in 2015, hitting a combined .332/.403/.601 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 20 homers. He's struggled this season at Double A Frisco, hitting .227 with a .692 OPS in a hitter-friendly environment.

The Rangers also have some other pieces who could help the Phillies, but you'd figure any deal for Velasquez would have to include one of these three. Otherwise, it just makes no sense to even entertain the idea of a trade.

And really, if the Rangers are willing to include one or more of those three young players, they could get any team in the majors to listen to an offer for a starting pitcher. A package centered around two of them might be enough for Chris Sale. Maybe one of them could net Atlanta's Julio Teheran. Velasquez is really good, but so are the combinations of trade packages the Rangers can put together.

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

Eagles Injury Update: Nolan Carroll, Rueben Randle leave practice early

The Eagles' first day of training camp in pads wasn’t without some minor casualties.

Cornerback Nolan Caroll left early with a sore ankle and wideout Rueben Randle left early with cramps. Both are considered day-to-day.

After Carroll left the field, Eric Rowe got some first-team reps with the defense. Randle was having a very good day, standing out with a one-handed grab, before going inside.

Undrafted wide receiver Marcus Johnson, from Texas, went inside early with a quad injury. Corner Ron Brooks (cramps) also went in early.

The Eagles started the day without starting right guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and starting running back Ryan Mathews (ankle). Neither have practiced since the whole team got together for the first full-squad on Thursday.

Darren Sproles continues to get most of the first-team reps at running back, with Kenjon Barner filling in. Veteran Stefen Wisniewksi has been taking Brooks’ spot at right guard.

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies-Braves 5 things: Trade rumors swirl around starters Jeremy Hellickson, Julio Teheran

Phillies (47-58) at Braves (36-67)
7:10 p.m. on NBC10

Two starters with uncertain futures take the mound in Atlanta on Saturday evening . Will either Phillies righty Jeremy Hellickson or Braves ace Julio Teheran be traded before, during or shortly after Saturday's first pitch? Time will tell.

Here are five things to know before Saturday night's contest at Turner Field:

1. Hellickson on the trading block
When the Phillies acquired Hellickson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-November, there was always a strong possibility the veteran righty would be flipped before this year's non-waiver trade deadline. 

With Charlie Morton going down with an injury early in the year, it appeared that Hellickson would be the only member of the Phillies' improved rotation likely to be gone on Aug. 1 (maybe not true, but more on that later). So after the Marlins already shored up their rotation with the acquisition of Andrew Cashner, who is still interested in the righty?

Teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, among others, come to mind. After all, many top starters are far from free agency or locked up by their teams, making a middle-of-the-road starter like Hellickson a hot commodity at this year's deadline.

Face it: There are always teams that need starting pitching. Pitchers can go down in an instant (like Morton did) or begin to struggle out of nowhere (look at Aaron Nola). With Hellickson's early career resume and his recent resurgence, plenty of teams could make use of him (see full story)

In 21 starts this season, he has thrown 125 2/3 innings and has a 3.65 ERA, nearly a full run lower than his final ERA from 2015. He's regained his trademark command and upped his strikeout rate. However, he is still a fly ball pitcher who can be burned playing in a small ballpark (Citizens Bank park, for instance). A team like the Blue Jays that plays in the home run-friendly Rogers Centre may think twice before acquiring him.

If Hellickson is traded, it would continue a youth movement for the Phillies, and not just with the prospects they would acquire in a potential deal. Top pitching prospect Jake Thompson is on turn to start Sunday in Triple A and with the Phillies' day off on Monday, he could easily slide into Hellickson's rotation spot. 

2. Teheran could be gone as well
The Braves' scheduled starter for Saturday could also be in another uniform when the calendar flips to August. However, an injury has thrown his status into flux.

Atlanta currently has the worst record in baseball, so any and every player could be considered a trade chip at this point in the year. That includes a player like Teheran, who is signed through 2019 to a team-friendly deal that includes a team option for 2020. 

And Teheran has been easily the best pitcher for the Braves. In 20 starts this year, he has a 2.71 ERA while averaging just shy of 6.5 innings per start. He earned his second All-Star Game appearance with a career-best walk rate, not to mention a 4.11 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also only allows 6.7 hits per nine innings, contributing to a career-best 0.956 WHIP. 

But the righty left his last start on July 22 with a tight lat muscle in his back. There was talk he may need to go on the DL, but he avoided it with a few extra days between starts. 

Teheran has been healthy in the past. He's made at least 30 starts each of the last three years and has thrown at least 200 innings each of the last two. He led baseball with 33 starts last season. 

However, the lat injury may scare teams hoping to acquire him before this deadline, making this start crucial. If there's no one willing to meet the price for Teheran, the Braves can simply retain him and see if anyone wants him in the offseason.

3. Hug watch on Velasquez?
In case you missed it, the Phillies are in deep discussions with the Texas Rangers on a deal involving 24-year-old starter Vince Velasquez (see full story)

Wow. It's certainly a shocker. Velasquez has been the Phillies' best starter in his first season with the club and has made Matt Klentak look like a genius for trading Ken Giles to the Houston Astros for him in the offseason. His fastball has electrified Philadelphia at times, especially during a 16-strikeout gem in his first start at Citizens Bank Park.

So could that really be coming to an end so soon? The Rangers, as mentioned above, are in the market for a starting pitcher. Their only consistent pitcher in the last month has been a certain familiar name acquired from the Phillies last year: Cole Hamels. 

Beyond Hamels, the Rangers' rotation has been battered by injuries this year. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are both on the 60-day disabled list and Yu Darvish has been off and on the DL in his first season after Tommy John surgery. Furthermore, Velasquez isn't eligible to become a free agent until 2022, giving value beyond any normal deadline acquisition.

But if Velasquez is under team control for so long, why would the Phillies trade him? Two possible reasons: First, a team knows its pitchers better than anyone and may be concerned with something in his health record or they simply don't value him as highly as other teams. 2. The Phillies know they can extract a tremendous haul for the flamethrowing righty.

The Rangers have some exciting prospects and young pieces that could make the Phillies jump. Slugging prospect Joey Gallo, starting outfielder Nomar Mazara and infielder Jurickson Profar intrigue teams and have been mostly deemed untouchable by Texas. But if Velasquez is in discussion, it's easy to speculate that one of those could be the headliner in a package coming back to Philadelphia. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: No one may be seeing Teheran on the mound than Freddy Galvis. The Phillies' shortstop is 6 for 14 against him with two walks. He could use a multiple-hit evening after piling up just five hits in the last week.

Braves: After tonight, Nick Markakis will have faced Hellickson more than any other hitter. Markakis has made 46 plate appearances against Hellickson and has just nine hits in those appearances. Two of the hits, though, have been home runs.

5. This and that
• Teheran has not allowed a run in his last 14 innings, dating back to July 9. 

• The Phillies and Braves have identical .240 batting averages this season. The Phils have a big advantage in home runs, however, outpacing the Braves, 101-64. 

• Ryan Howard has two career home runs off Teheran in 24 at-bats. Cody Asche has one homer in 21 at-bats against him. 

• A.J Pierzynski has nine at-bats against Hellickson and just one hit. However, the one hit is a home run.