Yes, the Eagles have a Snapchat account

Yes, the Eagles have a Snapchat account

In an overcrowded, constantly changing media landscape, Snapchat is here to stay.  Alright, I don’t really know that for sure.  But my friends and I like Snapchat.  So hopefully that counts for something.

If you don’t know about Snapchat, here are the basics: You can send pictures or short videos, and friends can see them on their phone for 10 seconds before they disappear forever.  You can also enhance photos with captions and colorful doodles.

If I haven’t convinced you it’s more fun than texting, consult Buzzfeed’s 35 Most Powerful Snapchats of 2013 [and then rejoin us for the conclusion of this story].

The best thing about Snapchat is that you can use it for anything— like sending pictures of burritos to your cousin every time you’re at Chipotle (maybe), or taking video of yourself singing in the car (only at red lights, Nana), or drawing inappropriate body parts on the skeleton in the doctor’s waiting room (uhhh… I think that was somebody else).

And Snapchat is gaining traction.  Did you know the Eagles have an official account?  I was floored the first company I had heard of using a corporate Snapchat account happened to be the NFL team in my own backyard.

— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 24, 2013

I had to find out more, so I called up Linda Thomas, the Eagles’ digital and social media director.

It turns out the Eagles’ social media department was just like most offices, with coworkers using Snapchat for important matters like sending each other funny faces.  Then somebody came up with the idea to add the app to the team’s portfolio of social media platforms.

“Our team thinks that social media is a great way to connect with our fans,” Thomas said.  “People can connect with us and have a conversation with us.”

Sure, but people use Snapchat to take selfies in the club.  Do fans enjoy getting snaps from the Eagles?

As a matter of fact, they do.

“We didn’t do a great big media blitz,” Thomas said of the Snapchat launch.  They just posted about it on the team’s other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.  The response was immediate.

About 1,000 fans signed up within five hours, and the number grew to 7,000 in the first week.  Fortunately for the Eagles, signing up is easy.  Just search “eagles” and add the team.

Thomas said the following obviously doesn’t compare to the team’s 2 million Facebook fans, but the numbers are still surging.  And she said she’s been struck by the “intensity” of the fans who have added the Eagles on Snapchat.  “What’s funny is when we’re not Snapchatting regularly, we hear about it.  ‘Where are the Snapchats?’”

This shouldn’t be a surprise, Thomas is used to catering to Philly fans.

“We find with our Philadelphia Eagles fans, they are particularly passionate,” Thomas said.  “When we’ve lost a game they’ll tell us what we did wrong.  When we win, they’re very supportive.  These are fans that don’t go away.  Other markets— the fans— if you’re losing, they go away.  Our fans stay with us.”

So Thomas’s department feels an obligation to experiment with whatever the hot new medium is.  “We want to meet them where they are,” she said.

The Eagles Snapchat account is different from the ones you might have used to send me pictures of your dog wearing a Happy New Year party hat.  It mostly utilizes the My Story function, which enables users to combine photos and videos for a longer message.

Another key difference is that Eagles have opted not to receive pictures from followers.

So if you’re lying in bed striking a sexy pose in your Eagles Santa hat, you’ll have to keep it to yourself or your significant other(s).  Your picture won’t be opened by Swoop or DeSean Jackson or an intern in the communications department.

The Eagles are an early adopter when it comes to pro teams using Snapchat, but they are hardly alone in thinking about it.  The New Orleans Saints, for one, started an account earlier in the season than the Eagles.

And teams in other leagues are intrigued by the possibility too.

My friend Whitney Holtzman is a social media producer for MLB.com, so she develops social media strategies for the league itself and all 30 teams.

She said she expects MLB teams to start using Snapchat within the next few months.

“You don’t want to get left behind,” Holtzman said.  “With any emerging technology, you can’t bury your head in the sand.  You have to embrace it.”

She said her coworkers saw some early Snapchats from the Saints and have already started thinking about ways MLB teams could use the app too.

Holtzman said one team in particular reached out to MLB about starting to use it, and that she expects Snapchat to be a topic of conversation at an upcoming meeting with representatives from every big league club.

The Eagles are now Snapchatting everything from a video of the players singing “What Does the Fox Say?” after practice, to photos of gear you can buy at the online store.

So get used to the newest toy at the Eagles’ social media team’s disposal.  The photos may disappear faster than Chip Kelly calls in a play, but the use of Snapchat looks like it may last a while.

Mitch Goldich is a freelance sports writer originally from Philadelphia.  Follow him on Twitter at @mitchgoldich, mostly for ramblings about Philadelphia sports.

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

The Eagles were back to practice on Tuesday without the same four players.

Isaac Seumalo (pec), Wendell Smallwood (concussion), Vinny Curry (knee) and Taylor Hart (knee) were all held out of practice.

On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson said the team would hold Seumalo back from practice until he was 100 percent. Pederson expects Seumalo back next week and then the team will make a decision about the starting offensive line.

Pederson also said he expects Curry and Hart back for the season opener on Sept. 11.

For the second straight day, however, Carson Wentz (ribs) and Jordan Matthews (knee) were practicing. Neither will play on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets, but both also said they'll be ready for the opener.

The Eagles wrap up their preseason at the Linc on Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Jets.

Penn star receiver Justin Watson ready to keep doing it all in 2016

justin-watson-penn.png
Photo: Dave Zeitlin

Penn star receiver Justin Watson ready to keep doing it all in 2016

As Penn football players spread out around Franklin Field to take photos and do interviews for the program’s annual media day, Justin Watson hung by the track, playing a quick game of tag near the hurdles.

“Come and get me, J-Wat!” cried out Vhito DeCapria, the precocious 5-year-old cancer patient the team adopted last year through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and who’s now back for his “sophomore” season.

Watson, known as “J-Wat” to most, smiled and played along. Being Vhito’s favorite player is just one of the many hats he wears. He’s also one of the team’s hardest-working, smartest and most versatile players — and he enters his junior season as perhaps the top wide receiver in the Ivy League, if not the entire FCS.

“Does he do anything to surprise me?” senior quarterback Alec Torgersen said from media day Monday. “Not anymore. He did at the beginning when he first got here. But now it’s just expected of him. I expect him to make those crazy one-handed grabs. I expect him to catch every ball I throw to him. When he doesn’t, I get disappointed.”

Torgersen has had plenty of opportunities to throw Watson passes — and not only last season when the star receiver caught 74 balls (fourth all-time at Penn) for 1,087 yards (second all-time) and nine touchdowns (third all-time). Throughout the summer, the two friends worked together at the same internship downtown. They ate lunch together every day and, at 5 p.m., they hopped on a subway back to Franklin Field, where they worked out in the weight room and practiced back-shoulder fades and option routes.

“A lot of college quarterbacks and receivers can’t have that type of chemistry but I think us being here all summer really helped,” Watson said. “It’s been cool doing that. It’s a special thing that’s definitely going to help us in the fall.”

In truth, Watson is actually more than just a receiver. Last season, he was also used on running plays, gaining 154 yards on the ground, including a 79-yard scamper that sealed Penn’s huge upset at Harvard. Watson finished with a staggering 249 all-purpose yards that day at Harvard Stadium, helping the Quakers win the game that effectively led to them sharing a piece of the Ivy League title. And he said he was all set to play another position by taking direct snaps in the team’s regular-season finale vs. Cornell before getting hurt.

“The uniqueness about Justin is not only his talent and skill on the field but his football IQ,” second-year head coach Ray Priore said. “During the course of the year, he in theory played every skill position on offense. And he didn’t even blink an eye doing it. That’s a special characteristic.”

Priore laughed when asked if he can find more ways to utilize Watson in 2016 but said he won’t put him back on kick returns, “which he probably could do.” He will, however, play safety when the Quakers line up in their “victory defense” at the end of games, “so you may see an interception.”

Watson says he’s ready for anything.

“That’s so much fun,” he said. “When you’re a kid in middle school, that’s what you do. It’s awesome to be back doing that. Anything I can do to help us win, I’ll do it, whether it’s running back or receiver. I don’t think they’ll let me throw it at quarterback after seeing my arm. But anything else I’m definitely willing and ready to do.”

In the end, though, playing receiver is what Watson loves most, saying that catching a deep ball — and hearing the crowd “hold their breath when the ball’s in the air and then erupt” — is his favorite thing as a football player. It’s also his skills as a receiver that has him earning so much attention heading into Penn’s opener vs. Lehigh on Sept. 17. Among his preseason accolades, the junior was named one of 22 players on the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List — the only Ivy Leaguer to receive such an honor.

But if all of his records and accolades leads to opposing defenses paying more attention to him, Watson isn’t worried. That’s because he knows the team’s other receivers like fifth-year senior Cam Countryman and sophomore Christian Pearson are more than capable of having big years too.

“If you put two guys on me, we’ve got a bunch of other great receivers who will be open and will kill you down the field,” Watson said. “If I’ve got to take two or three guys every game, we’ll be 10-0 because I know everyone else will be making plays.”

It’s that kind of selflessness that has endeared Watson to his teammates, who enjoy the energy he brings to practice and how he always seems to be the first player in the training room.

“He’s an incredible player,” said Countryman, one of Penn’s leaders. “I have the utmost respect for him. When he came in his freshman year, you noticed right away the talent he had. So all of the accomplishments that he gets, I’m not surprised at all. 

“And they’ll keep coming in.”

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Following a shutout, Phillies get to face Max Scherzer

Phillies-Nationals 5 things: Following a shutout, Phillies get to face Max Scherzer

Phillies (60-71) vs. Nationals (76-55)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies couldn't hit in Monday's series opener, but they did receive the positive of Jake Thompson finally looking like he can get outs at the big-league level. Thompson allowed two runs over seven innings, but the Phils were blanked by Tanner Roark for the third time this season.

The task Tuesday night is no easier.

1. Due vs. Scherzer?
When the Phillies face Max Scherzer, you can essentially chalk it up as an automatic loss. The Phils are one of the weaker offenses, Scherzer is one of the game's best pitchers, and his track record against them is nearly flawless.

Scherzer (14-7, 2.92) has faced the Phillies eight times since 2013. He's 6-0 with 1.74 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP, with 62 strikeouts and 10 walks in 57 innings. 

Scherzer had some early missteps this season, caused mostly by home runs, but he's been incredible since the middle of May, when he tied a MLB record with 20 strikeouts in a game. Since that game, he's 11-5 with a 2.40 ERA and .172 opponents' batting average in 20 starts. He's struck out 181 and walked 29 in those 139 innings. Ridiculous. Otherworldly.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, they'll be seeing a lot of Scherzer moving forward. He's in the second of a seven-year, $210 million free-agent contract with the Nationals that, to this point, he's lived up to.

Scherzer has a blazing fastball and a disappearing breaking ball. He throws strike after strike after strike, which is ironically what gets him into trouble at times. Like Cliff Lee, Scherzer is around the plate so often that hitters tend to attack his early fastballs. The result is a lot of solo home runs. But Scherzer has even corrected that issue of late, allowing just five homers over his last 11 starts.

2. Learn from Herrera
Odubel Herrera has had by far the most success of any active Phillie vs. Scherzer. He's 6 for 19 with a double, a triple and five walks. There are only six players in baseball with at least 20 plate appearances against Scherzer and an on-base percentage higher than Herrera's .458.

Herrera had a multi-hit game Monday, his fourth in his last eight contests. He's hitting .283/.361/.413 in 540 plate appearances this season, providing pretty much the same offense he did a year ago. But still, the Phillies would like to see more consistency from Herrera over the season's final month. His OBP had declined every month this year until August.

Phils manager Pete Mackanin said on Monday that Herrera will remain in center field the rest of the season. Mackanin had indicated several weeks ago that Herrera would see some time in the corner outfield to allow the organization to get a look at Aaron Altherr and perhaps even Roman Quinn in center field in September, but that's no longer the plan. Quinn is on the concussion DL at Double A, and the Phillies don't want to move Herrera around or do anything to affect his confidence at this point.

It still seems likely that Herrera will end up at a different position in the future because the Phillies have better defensive centerfielders.

3. Their steadiest starter
Jerad Eickhoff tonight makes his 27th start of 2016 and 35th career start for the Phillies. He's 9-12 with a 3.87 ERA this season and 12-15 with a 3.57 ERA in his career.

Eickhoff is coming off yet another quality start, his 14th. He's pitched at least six innings in 17 of his 25 starts. 

Strange as it is, Eickhoff has faced the division-rival Nationals only once in his career so far. He allowed two runs to them over seven innings with 10 strikeouts in his penultimate start last season.

Eickhoff has been much better this season at home (3.27 ERA) than on the road (4.56).

4. A night for small ball
One of the Phillies' goals this season was to manufacture runs because they don't have a ton of power. That will be especially necessary tonight against Scherzer, who's shut down every Phils hitter with pop.

Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp are a combined 5 for 31 (.161) off Scherzer. Ryan Howard, who's unlikely to play, is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Herrera has gotten on base with regularity against him, and Cesar Hernandez is 5 for 18 with a double. Herrera and Hernandez will need to reach base and run tonight. Scherzer, however, does a better job than most aces of controlling the running game. He's allowed just 11 steals on 14 attempts in 60 starts with the Nationals.

5. This and that
• A loss tonight would put the Phillies 12 games under .500. Their record hasn't been that bad since June 27, which was 53 games ago.

• The Phils are 6-12 against the NL East since the All-Star break.

• It would have been difficult for Jayson Werth to play up to the seven-year, $126 million contract he got with the Nationals after 2010, but when you look back at his tenure in Washington he's had only two bad years out of six. In more than 3,000 plate appearances with the Nats, Werth has hit .269/.361/.442 for an .803 OPS that is 18 percent better than the league average over that span.