What to Make of Babins Abrupt Departure

What to Make of Babins Abrupt Departure




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

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

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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Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Eagles-Vikings Week 7: What they're saying

Riding a two-game losing streak, the Eagles (3-2) return home Sunday for the first time in nearly a month and welcome a familiar face to the confines of Lincoln Financial Field. 

Sam Bradford and the Vikings (5-0) will come to Philadelphia fresh off a Week 6 bye and, most notably, as the league's lone unbeaten team. Minnesota boasts one of the league's top defenses, ranking first in points allowed (12.6 per game) and second in yards allowed (287.6 per game), and is looking to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2009.

The last time these two franchises met was back in December 2013, when Matt Cassell and the Vikings put up 48 points in a win over Chip Kelly's Eagles.

To get a better handle on this year's Vikings, here's what they're saying about the Eagles' Week 7 opponent.

Brian Robison poses yet another challenge for Big V
Making his NFL debut in a start against the Redskins last week, Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled mightily. Ryan Kerrigan beat Vaitai and got to Carson Wentz for 2½ sacks, all of which came in the first half.

It won't get any easier for the rookie right tackle this week either, as he'll likely be lined up against Brian Robison for most of the afternoon. Robison has four sacks and two forced fumbles on the season and, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, the versatile 10-year defensive end could be difference maker on the defensive side of the ball Sunday.

"Whether his hand is in the turf at left end or he’s standing over a guard or center as the defensive tackle, Robison could be dropping back to cover a tight end or running back," Krammer wrote. "At the line, he’s given responsibilities to call stunts or twists depending on their own play call. Sometimes he’s setting the pick to free another teammate. ... And on Sunday against the Eagles and their rookie right tackle, keep an eye on Robison when he lines up at his traditional spot of left end. All four of his sacks this season, including two strip-sacks, have come from there."

Makeshift offensive line remains a question mark
The Vikings may be undefeated, but by no means are they made up of perfect parts. As the midway point of the NFL season approaches, Minnesota's injury-battered offensive line is still a work in progress. 

Starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith are both sidelined with season-ending injuries. Starting guard Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion Week 5 against the Texans, but is expected to return against the Eagles. Center is the only position on the line the Vikings haven't had to replace because of an injury at some point this season.

But despite the constant changes up front, Minnesota has been stout overall in protecting the quarterback, allowing eight sacks and 27 quarterback hits across five games. According to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, the performance of that makeshift offensive line is going to be key in the Vikings' potential success down the road. 

"What’s best for Bradford and the Vikings’ standing as the NFC’s top dog is better pass protection," Murphy wrote. "He was sacked twice when Houston defenders turnstiled Clemmings and hit hard in the pocket other times. ... Offensive line intrigue never is a sexy storyline, but how well the Vikings manage the unit week to week figures to be an underlying factor to their continued success."

Strong away from home
The Vikings are a just a few years removed from going winless on the road, finishing 0-7-1 away from home in the 2013 season. Minnesota secured wins in only two of its first 10 away games under the tutelage of Mike Zimmer, but have since gone on a tear.

Minnesota has won seven of its last eight road games dating back to last season and, in their most recent game away from U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings took down the Panthers, 22-10, in Week 3. A testament of a true contender is having the ability to win consistently on the road, which holds true with the Vikings.

According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Vikings' vast improvement over the past two-plus seasons has contributed to them becoming a stronger team away from home.

"Facing a tough opposing crowd once was a tall order for the Vikings, but it’s much less of one now. After being one of the worse road teams in the NFL earlier this decade, they’re now one of the best," Tomasson wrote. "Overall, the Vikings have improved, having gone from 7-9 in 2014 to 11-5 last season to 5-0 this year. That’s the main reason the road record has gotten so much better. Still, players say the continuity the team has had has especially helped when entering rugged road environments."

While Vegas has the Vikings as light favorites on the road, national experts have them heavily favored straight up to hand the Eagles their third straight loss.

ESPN: All nine experts picked the Vikings

CBS Sports: Seven of eight experts picked the Vikings

FOX Sports: Three of five experts picked the Vikings