What's the Deal With Curtis Marsh?

What's the Deal With Curtis Marsh?

As we mentioned in our earlier "Scenes From Training Camp," second-year cornerback Curtis Marsh reportedly has been seeing action with the ones up at Lehigh, apparently in preperation for his new role as the immediate backup behind Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. Some followers might describe this as a surprising development given the fact that Marsh only dressed in seven games last season, and was used very sparingly on defense at that -- just 13 snaps according to Pro Football Focus.

For the Eagles, it was all part of the plan.

Marsh was the club's third-round pick in 2011, so it was only natural to be somewhat disappointed when he amounted to a total non-factor in his rookie season. In Marsh's case however, his inability to get on the field was not a sign that he was a bust believe it or not.

For starters, it wasn't that long ago the Eagles were trying to find a way to get along with three Pro-Bowl corners who were all best suited on the outside. If it wasn't working out with Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel in the same secondary, adding the untested Marsh into the mix certainly wasn't going to be the solution. Heck, who would you dare have him replace? He was blocked, it's as simple as that.

At 6'1", 197, Marsh projects as another press corner in the mold of an Asomugha or DRC, only he happens to be a bit of a project, which also hurt his chances of making an impact from day one. Taken out of Utah State, Marsh actually began his collegiate career as a running back before switching over to defense as a junior. To make that leap and go on to be drafted in the third round, Marsh obviously demonstrated an instinct for the position, but there is just no way anybody could expect him to be as polished -- especially after a lockout-condensed offseason.

Not that it necessarily would have mattered either way. The whole situation is reminiscent of when the Birds took Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown in rounds one and two of the '02 Draft. With Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor still under contract and doing their jobs at a high level, Sheppard and Brown only started 12 games combined during their first two seasons in Philly. Clearly it's not uncommon for the team to groom cornerbacks in this manner.

For Marsh's part, he was impressive during the preseason last year, albeit against second-rate talent. He showed a willingness to get physical with receivers though, and the size and athleticism to cover them. The coaches obviously liked what they saw too, as once they were able to work him in on special teams, Marsh even became the focal point of a of trick punt return. The fact that it failed is beside the point -- they trusted him enough to try.

It only makes sense to increase his role now that Samuel is out of the picture. Joselio Hanson is a pure slot corner, and 2012 fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin is likely to battle for that spot as well. That leaves a relatively thin crop of players behind Asomugha and DRC, and none with Marsh's pedigree or natural ability.

The fact that they aren't simply utilizing him as a second stringer, instead putting him on the field at the same time as Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie, suggests his role may be even greater than imagined. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and Asomugha aren't backing down from the challenge of turning 24 into a do-it-all defensive back. If Nnamdi is going to line up anywhere other than at right corner on a regular basis, Marsh figures to be the man on the outside on gameday.

Whether Marsh is ready for that or not, obviously no one knows. It may be easy to explain why he wasn't on the field last year, but until he performs, he's still just another kid who has to prove he belongs. However, the Eagles must like what he brings to the table, because they don't seem to be afraid to keep putting more on his plate. Marsh is definitely a player to watch going forward.

Darren Sproles signs 1-year extension with Eagles

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Darren Sproles signs 1-year extension with Eagles

The Eagles on Friday signed running back Darren Sproles to a one-year contract extension. 

Sproles had been scheduled to become a free agent after this season. He signed a two-year extension in 2014 after the Eagles acquired him from the Saints for a fifth-round pick. 

(more coming ... )

 

Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

Aaron Altherr provides major spark in season debut to lead Phillies past Braves

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies are still looking for the real Aaron Nola, but they may have found a useful bat Thursday night.

Aaron Altherr had the kind of season debut he’d dreamed about for the four months he was on the disabled list as he helped the Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves, 7-5, at Turner Field (see Instant Replay).

Altherr was one of three Phillies to hit home runs on a night when the offense awakened after generating just one run the previous two days in Miami. Altherr, who came off the disabled list earlier in the day after missing four months with a wrist injury that required surgery (see story), drove a two-run homer to left in the fifth inning. Earlier in the game, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph had back-to-back homers to headline a five-run first inning.

Franco leads the team with 19 homers and Joseph, hitting .375 with six homers in his last 17 games, has 14 in just 57 games with the club.

Altherr, who batted fifth behind Franco and Joseph, also had two hard singles in the game.

“He had a really good night in his debut,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He provided a spark for us. He added to the offense. So I'm happy for that. It's good to get a win. We scored some runs, finally.”

Altherr was projected to be a starter in the Phillies’ opening day outfield until he suffered the wrist injury in spring training. He spent the last four months in Clearwater, rehabbing and, well, dreaming of a night like this.

“Definitely, especially sitting around thinking about how that first game's going to be being back,” he said. “For it to be like this, it was definitely special and I have to thank the Lord above for getting me back here as fast as He could.

“I was hoping to get a home run in the first game, but I definitely wasn't expecting it. Just hopeful. To have it happen like that was definitely awesome.

“It definitely surprised me a little bit because I hadn't really been driving the ball like I had wanted to down in my rehab stints. I'm just glad to know I've got [the power] in there somewhere.”

The Phillies hit all three of their home runs and scored all their runs against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler. He received a ticket to Triple A after the game.

The Phillies batted around against Wisler and scored five runs in the first inning. That was a welcome cushion for Nola, who desperately needed a win after failing to get one in his previous seven starts. The right-hander did manage to earn his first win since June 5, but it wasn’t exactly pretty. He lasted just five innings and threw a whopping 95 pitches as he continued to experience command issues that have been plaguing him in recent weeks.

Nola gave up eight hits and three runs. He walked three and hit a batter. That’s not Aaron Nola’s game. At least it wasn’t in his first 12 starts this season. He recorded a 2.65 ERA over that span and walked just 15 while striking out 85. He has walked 14 in his last eight starts.

“He's not the same guy,” Mackanin said. “He's just struggling with command once again. He's not dotting his fastball like he normally does. His curveball is erratic. He needs to get back on track.

“Sometimes it's harder to pitch when you have a big lead. You know you don't want to blow it. That can affect a pitcher as well. You have to have that mental toughness either way, whether it's a one-run game or an 8-0 game. You don't want to pitch poorly. There's a tendency, well, you have a five-run lead, should I throw more fastballs and challenge? But it was good to see he got a win. I'm happy for that. That should help him. He just needs to get to where he was. He's not there yet.”

Nola described his outing as “fairly OK,” which was probably right on. He got the win, but overall was not sharp. He allowed three runs in the fifth inning.

“I ran into some jams there,” he said. “I left some balls over the plate for them to hit. They took them the other way. The plan was to try to hit the outside part of the plate and they took it away.

“I feel like I have the command for the most part, but there’s some areas I still need to get better at and work to get better at.”

The Phillies used four relievers to close out the game. Edubray Ramos and Hector Neris pitched well. David Hernandez and Jeanmar Gomez did not. Gomez allowed three base runners and a run, but still managed to get the save. Hernandez allowed a hit and a pair of two-out walks before giving up an RBI double. A number of scouts from teams looking for bullpen help were on hand. Hernandez and Gomez probably did not help their trade value. Four days before the deadline, starter Jeremy Hellickson is still the Phillie most likely to be dealt.

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

Best of MLB: Sale loses in White Sox return, Chapman saves Cubs' 3-1 win

CHICAGO -- Chris Sale returned from his jersey-trashing suspension and threw six effective innings, but John Lackey outpitched him and Aroldis Chapman got the final four outs to save the Cubs' 3-1 victory over the White Sox in Chicago's rivalry series Thursday night.

Sale (14-4) was greeted with smiles and hugs from his teammates following a five-day ban for tearing up 1976-style uniforms he didn't want to wear before his previous scheduled start. He had command issues, but worked out of trouble while allowing two runs and six hits.

Lackey (8-7) allowed one run in six innings for his first win since June 8. Chapman, in his second appearance since being acquired from the Yankees, struck out two and consistently hit 102 mph in his first save for his new team.

Kris Bryant, who homered against Sale in the All-Star Game, hit an RBI double off the center field wall in the first inning (see full recap). 

Diaz's homer helps Cardinals beat Marlins and Fernandez, 5-4
MIAMI -- Aledmys Diaz homered, doubled and drove in three runs against childhood pal Jose Fernandez, helping the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Miami Marlins 5-4 Thursday.

Fernandez gave up five runs in five innings and fell to 26-2 at Marlins Park.

Miami's Dee Gordon, the 2015 NL batting and stolen bases champion, returned from an 80-game suspension for failing a drug test and went 0 for 4. Ichiro Suzuki doubled as a pinch hitter in the seventh for Miami and needs two hits for 3,000.

Diaz and Matt Holliday homered in the third inning against Fernandez (12-5), who had never previously given up more than one homer in a home game. His only other loss at Marlins Park came on opening day this year against Detroit.

Michael Wacha (6-7) allowed three runs in six innings, and three relievers completed an eight-hitter. Seung Hwan Oh pitched around a one-out single in the ninth for his seventh save (see full recap). 

Familia falters again, Rockies rally for 2-1 win over Mets
NEW YORK -- Mets steady closer Jeurys Familia stumbled for a second straight game, allowing two runs in the ninth inning as the Colorado Rockies beat New York 2-1 Thursday for their seventh win in eight games.

Less than 24 hours after Familia's streak of 52 consecutive regular-season saves was snapped, the right-hander entered in the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead, and couldn't hold it.

Trevor Story had a leadoff single and stole second. After fellow rookie David Dahl walked, Daniel Descalso bunted up the first base line. Mets catcher Rene Rivera watched as the ball spun toward foul territory but it stopped fair, loading the bases with no out.

With one out, Familia (2-3) got pinch-hitter Cristhian Adames to hit a slow grounder to the right side. First baseman James Loney booted the ball and Story scored to make it 1-all. Familia then threw a wild pitch, allowing Dahl to cross the plate with the go-ahead run (see full recap).