Have We Seen Enough of the Eagles’ QB Competition? And More Observations

Have We Seen Enough of the Eagles’ QB Competition? And More Observations

At this point you probably should be resigned to the inevitable. Barring injury or a dramatic reversal of fortune, Michael Vick will be named the Eagles’ starting quarterback sometime between now and September 9.

It’s not that Nick Foles has been bad by any means. The 24 year old moved the offense quite capably. It’s just, well… he’s made a mistake or two, whereas Vick has not yet.

Vick has struggled to throw so much as an incomplete pass for that matter. The four-time Pro Bowler’s line through two preseason games: 13 for 15, 199 yards – better than 13 per attempt – one touchdown. He’s run twice for 20 yards. Perhaps most important of all, Vick has only been sacked once, and his lone turnover came on an interception off a Hail Mary as the game clock expired.

Foles has been sharp, too, completing 78.6% of his passes while leading a pair of scoring drives. He’s turned the ball over twice though, at least one of which was almost entirely his own fault. Not saying it’s fair – Foles had just 31 preseason snaps to prove himself. That’s simply what happened.

On the other hand, that’s why there isn’t really any reason to wave off the competition yet, either. Vick has been on the field for all of 30 snaps himself, and while it’s been a quality 30 snaps, they’re not enough to totally convince anybody he’s heading for a second Comeback Player of the Year award, are they?

Vick deserves the start in preseason game three in Jacksonville on Saturday. He probably deserves a majority of the reps, too. That said, there really isn’t any reason for Chip Kelly to formally name him the starting quarterback for Week 1 in Washington. Based on what, half a game’s work?

I don’t expect anything to change in terms of who will be under center, but Foles could still use the reps – we’ve seen Vick get hot, get hurt before. The extra series or two a 10-year veteran will lose isn’t going to get him any more ready for the regular season, whereas it can actually help a second-year quarterback a great deal. And history suggests he may need it.

Let’s see this through to the end, even if it might be a bit of a farce coming down the home stretch. And then let’s get on to the regular season already.

RISING FALLING

LeSean McCoy

Eight carries for 47 yards (5.9 per carry), plus he punched one in at the goal line. Three catches, 16 yards. Beyond solid in pass protection. Oh, and there was his 21 scamper where it seemed as if he was running around the field looking for Panthers defenders to juke. He's going to be real fun to watch, folks.

Chris Polk

Did some things well. Is willing in protection. Contributes on special teams. Finished with five carries for 24 yards, much better than Week 1. However, that fumble lost is killer, took 3-7 points off the board for the Eagles. Bryce Brown has had issues with this in the past, and he didn’t even play, so it won’t necessarily cost Polk playing time, but enough to get him the “falling” column here.

Jason Avant

Shows chemistry with the quarterback regardless who is under center. What he lacks in pure athleticism he still makes up for in timing and intelligence. Made one mistake in illegally blocking downfield, but just a brain fart. Came back on the next play and got most of the yards back. Finished with four catches for 42 yards on four targets, giving him seven for 84 this preseason. Doesn’t look like his role will diminish any.

Jason Kelce

Arguably has been their most solid lineman. Evan Mathis looked a little rusty against Carolina, and Todd Herremans had something of an up-and-down night versus the Patriots. Allen Barbre seems to be getting some help while filling in over at left tackle, and naturally looks better in this OL-friendly offense. Lane Johnson has impressed, but is a rookie. Kelce has looked natural and strong in both phases, and hasn’t missed any game snaps – big positives coming off last season’s knee injury.

Zach Ertz

Nice improvement over a week ago. Had two catches for 36 yards, both to convert third downs. Had another big catch that was wiped away by a penalty. Saw him make one nice block on a wide receiver screen, driving his man past the sticks. All came against a second-string defense, still positive all the same.

Greg Salas

Has garnered some attention as a possible candidate to fill the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Caught two balls for 27 against Carolina. Also sort of forced a muffed punt as he was engaged with the blocker who disrupted the returner’s effort to field the kick.  Now has five receptions for 81 and a TD, and some circus catches in practice.

Matt Tobin

I suppose when you’re the backup to the left tackle’s backup (and that guy [Allen Barbre] probably wouldn’t start before the Eagles moved Lane Johnson there, Todd Herremans to right tackle, and played somebody else at guard), there’s no need to say too much. Didn’t keep Dennis Dixon’s blindside clean, nearly resulting in a turnover. Not very promising in general.

MIXED REVIEWS

Nick Foles

Bobbled two shotgun snaps against Carolina – one he kept his poise and converted a third down, the other he wound up throwing an interception. Made a dangerous-looking fake lateral on a zone keeper. Appeared to make the wrong read on one of those packaged plays, handing off with a loaded box. Just hasn’t had the big plays Vick has. Eagles are probably fine if he winds up starting, but has not made the most of opportunities so far.

Russell Shepard

Has made more plays on special teams than Salas. Ran right through a “wedge” to blow up a kickoff return around the 10-yard line. Is usually in position to force the issue with the punt returner. Has shown no ability as a wide receiver though. Went untargeted last week, and has just one catch for four yards overall. Special teams are important, but I don’t know if they’re that important.

Michael Bamiro

His second week was better than the first. Got out and made a couple of nice blocks on runs to help seal the deal over the Panthers as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter. Did get beat in pass protection once where he couldn’t recover, but the QB got the ball out. Has a lot of work to do, which is to be expected from a rookie who only went pro about a week before training camp. Improvement from one week to the next is a good sign though.

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

New Jersey product Tim Adleman limits Phillies to 1 hit over 8 innings

Cincinnati Reds starter Tim Adleman came into Friday night’s start against the Phillies with an ERA above six, having allowed 10 runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. 

So, naturally, he gave up just one hit over eight scoreless innings. 

The 29-year-old righty dominated the Phillies in just his 20th career MLB start en route to his third win this season, pitching easily the best game of his young career in a 5-2 Reds’ win (see game recap).

It was understandably the best that Reds manager Bryan Price had seen from Adleman.
 
"It wasn't just because of the line score," Price said. "It was really command-based. Really good both sides of the plate. Had a nice sinking fastball, could straighten it out when he needed to. A very, very good changeup. I don’t think he even used a breaking ball there until the eighth inning.

"So it was really that good."

At just 100 pitches through eight, naturally the question for Price was whether to allow him the chance at a complete game. However, Price needed to get reliever Asher Wojciechowski work to get him ready for a start next week.

"I wanted to stay in there pretty badly, but you understand the move," Adleman said. "Wojo needed to get some work. It had been a while since he threw and it's a game in May. It's not a game that's deeper in the season. … I totally understand."

For his eight innings, Adleman attacked the Phillies' batters early in counts and didn't allow a batter to reach third all night. He retired the leadoff batter in all but one inning and allowed just four batters to reach base.

The Phillies' only threat came in the first inning. An Andres Blanco single was followed by an Aaron Altherr hit by pitch. That brought up Thursday's hero -- Tommy Joseph -- with two men on and just one out. Adleman utilized his changeup on a 1-2 pitch, inducing a weak grounder back the mound for a 1-4-3 double play. 

In three at-bats against Joseph, Adleman recorded three ground ball outs, all on the changeup, which is his primary off-speed offering.

"The scouting report is that he's a really good fastball hitter. Does a lot of damage on fastballs," Adleman said, "So if you can get him in situations where you're confident he's looking for a fastball and then cut a changeup on him, it can be really effective. Obviously, you have to keep it down, but that's the same with all your pitches."

Joseph's at-bats set the trend for the rest of the Phillies' lineup. The Reds’ starter kept the ball down and didn’t allow another baserunner until he walked Blanco to lead off the seventh. Sixteen of his 24 outs came on ground balls and only five pitches were hit past the infield. 

Adleman stated his goal was to use the Phillies’ aggressiveness against them with strikes early in the count and it worked. It was his first time pitching into the eighth inning in his career and he did so with almost exclusively his fastball and changeup.

"I think it had a lot to do with that little pause [in his delivery] and he did a good job changing speeds on us," Joseph said. "He basically did it with two pitches, which says a lot about how hard this game can be. Hats off to him. 

"Next time we'll see if we can't get him back."

In a way, Adleman was getting the Phillies back. He made the third start of his career at Citizens Bank Park last year on May 14. He took the loss against Friday’s starter, Aaron Nola, while allowing three runs in five innings.

Born in Staten Island, Adleman was raised in New Jersey, but grew up a Yankees fan. He hadn't been to CBP until college, where he faced Villanova while playing for Georgetown. 

At 29, he's a little old for a second-year starter because he took a winding road to the major leagues. Drafted by the Orioles in 2010, he was nearly out of baseball by 24. He spent two years in independent leagues before catching on with the Reds and debuting in the show last season.

The journeyman starter had struggled in his last few starts, which helped his ERA balloon to 6.19. However, his Friday night opponent seemed more than happy to take some air out of the balloon. Adleman became the fifth pitcher in the last six days to come into a start against the Phillies with an ERA of 5.00 or above and allow one run or less over at least five innings. 

"It feels good," Adleman said of his night. "Philly's a good young team and Nola is making quite a name for himself. He out-pitched me last year and coming into tonight I knew I had an opportunity to right the ship so to speak."

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

Pete Mackanin calls team meeting after Phillies hit low point with 21st loss in 26 games

BOX SCORE

When the opposing pitcher comes in with an ERA that matches the area code for San Diego -- 6.19 -- and holds you scoreless on one single over eight innings, well …

You've reached the low point of your season.

And it's time for a team meeting.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin called for a little powwow after his club suffered a 5-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night (see Instant Replay). Don't let the final score fool you. It wasn't that close. The loss was the Phillies' 21st in the last 26 games. They were held to three hits for the fourth time in the last six games -- five losses -- and have scored just nine runs over that span.

Mackanin acknowledged that this was the low point for his team, which owns the worst record in the majors at 16-30. Cincinnati starting pitcher Tim Adleman entered the game with a 6.19 ERA, but he pitched like an ace in holding the Phillies to just a first-inning single over his eight shutout innings (see story). Adleman walked two, struck out four and at one point set down 16 straight Phillies. The 29-year-old right-hander has made 20 starts in his big-league career and this was by far the best.

"Yeah," Mackanin said when asked if the loss was the season's low point. "We need to step it up. We’re better than this. I know we’re better than this. We’ve just got to start playing as aggressive as we can and take it to the other team. Be aggressive at the plate and pound the strike zone."

That apparently was Mackanin's message to the club in his postgame meeting, though he would not talk about it.

"He just wants to see us play with a little more fire and a little more energy," Aaron Altherr said. "You know, it’s something we’ve got to do. Today wasn’t too great. But, like I said, hopefully we can right the ship and start winning some games again."

Tommy Joseph was tight-lipped on the content of the team meeting.

"That's basically stuff that was between us," he said. "There's a pretty good understanding that we need to get going in here and that was really it. I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory and what he had to say is between us.

"It's definitely not a lack of effort. Everybody is out there trying to get the job done. I think there are certain nights when the job is getting done. When things start to spark a little bit, everybody feeds off that. Obviously there are some nights where that doesn't happen. It's definitely not from a lack of effort. Everybody is going out there busting their ass, so it's just a matter of sometimes it goes our way and sometimes it doesn't."

Mackanin used slumping Odubel Herrera in the leadoff spot for the first time this season and he produced a ninth-inning double after Adleman exited. The Phillies actually loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a fielder's choice ground ball and then a strikeout by Maikel Franco, the potential tying run, ended the game. Franco struck out swinging wildly at a full-count breaking ball from Raisel Iglesias.

Joseph mentioned that Adleman changed speeds well and used a slight hesitation in his delivery to throw off hitters.

But was it more the pitcher or more just a bad offense?

"It’s hard to tell," Mackanin said. "That's a daily question. Are we not hitting the ball like we should or is the pitcher that good? It seems like I look up and every other pitcher we face has a 6.00 ERA, but I think it’s all because we’re missing good pitches to hit. We’re getting pitches to hit and we’re not hitting them."

Aaron Nola did not have a good start. He gave up a pair of homers in falling behind, 3-0, after two innings, and, obviously, there was no coming back, not with this offense.

The Philies are 5-18 in the month of May.

Or should we say Mayday?

"We’re trying to stay positive, as positive as we can throughout this stretch," Altherr said. "You know, it’s tough sometimes when things are going the way they are. We’re just going to keep being positive, keep trying to bring as much energy as we can to win some games."