What to Make of Babins Abrupt Departure

What to Make of Babins Abrupt Departure

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Just when you think the Eagles’ rapidly-decomposing season
couldn’t take any more unexpected turns, the team announces on Tuesday they’ve
parted ways with a high-profile veteran with five games remaining. That Jason
Babin will not be in Philadelphia in 2013 was not the surprise here though. Actually,
that much was probably inevitable.

Babin was signed last summer for two reasons and two reasons
only.

First, Brandon Graham tore his ACL toward the end of his
rookie season, which it turned out required microfracture surgery to repair. He
was predictably limited in ‘11, able to appear in only three games. Babin was the
insurance policy. Even if Graham never fully recovered, never met the
expectations placed on a defensive end taken with the 13th overall
pick in the draft, the Eagles could squeeze some production out of Babin for
awhile.

Along the way, Babin happened to have an 18-sack season. Sure,
he was a liability against the run, but coaches will look the other way on a
lot with totals like those.

One year later, the gaudy numbers haven’t been replicated,
and we still don’t really know if Graham can play. However, that’s not
necessarily why Babin wouldn’t have returned for a third season with the Birds
in all likelihood. The reason he wasn’t coming back is the same as the second
reason that brought him here in the first place.

When Andy Reid goes, Jim Washburn goes with him. And when
Wash goes, the wide-9 goes with him.

And when the wide-9 goes, Babin’s usefulness goes with it.

In nine years in the NFL, Babin has only ever achieved
success in the wide-9. He played in a 3-4 alignment, he played in a standard 4-3.
He played for Houston, for Seattle, for Kansas City, he even played here for a year.
Through the first six seasons of Babin’s career before his breakout campaign in
Tennessee, he accumulated a combined 16.5 sacks – one-and-a-half fewer than he managed
over 16 games one year ago.

It’s highly improbable the next head coach of the Eagles is
going to employ a wide-9, as few teams do. And there is almost zero chance whoever
it is would retain Washburn, the defensive line coach for whom Babin has a
great affinity for, a man whose reputation is stained in Philly. For that
matter, I seem to recall Washburn promising to quit if his unit didn’t top
their 46 sacks from last season, so it’s a non-issue.

Once the front office, whoever they're comprised of, started pouring over the roster this
offseason, they were going to see a 33-year-old defensive end coming off of a
down season, earning $5 million per year, no longer a scheme fit. As you can
see, it was elementary.

Of course, that still does not entirely explain Babin’s
mid-season termination. It’s highly unusual for any team to release a two-time
Pro Bowler, a player who is at least minimally productive, with any number of
games left on the slate.

There is undoubtedly some element of truth to the statement
Andy Reid gave along with Babin’s release, that it would give their young players
more opportunities to get on the field. Graham is certainly one of them, as is
second-round pick Vinny Curry, who was finally activated for the first time on
Monday night.

That being said, obviously there was a sense Babin would
serve as a disruption if he was moved to the bench or deactivated altogether.
And assuming that is in fact the case, it speaks to a broader problem there. We
can’t speak to what exactly, but rest assured this story is not over yet. More
will come out. Tidbits have already begun to leak.

Not that many Eagles fans are really shedding tears over
Babin’s departure. His one-trick-pony style of play never endeared him to this
town, he’s had a colossal bust of a season – which by the way, he’s spent the
better part of the year defending – plus his eccentric personality never took,
either. And it’s not like this team is going anywhere anyway.

In case you were concerned though, you don’t have to worry
that Babin was the one that got away. He already had one foot out the door.

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On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).