When Jenkins suggests change, Eagles' coaches listen

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When Jenkins suggests change, Eagles' coaches listen

A few things happened soon after Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Eagles as a free agent on March 11.

He buried himself in the intricacies of Billy Davis’ defense. He pored over hours of film. He picked the brains of his new teammates. He met endlessly with his coaches. He learned all he could and then he learned some more.

And once he had a pretty good idea what was going on, he did an interesting thing.

He started making suggestions on what to change.

Before he played a single snap in an Eagles uniform, Jenkins began offering ideas and tweaks to his coaches. Little things that he believed could make Davis’ scheme even better.

“I think he's done a great job with our staff of asking a lot of interesting questions in terms of, ‘Hey, maybe we can fit it this way,’ as opposed to the way we are fitting it,” head coach Chip Kelly said.

Jenkins, a native of Piscataway, New Jersey, spent his first five years with the Saints, winning a Super Bowl ring as a rookie in 2009.

Along with five years of experience, a Super Bowl ring and a quick mastery of a new defense comes respect from the coaching staff.

And Jenkins learned very quickly that the suggestions he was making were actually being heard.

“That is rare,” Jenkins said. “That makes me feel like it’s partly my defense, and every player should feel the same way, because everybody has a voice.

“There’s open dialogue. If they don’t take your suggestion, they’ll give you a reason why, and that way it’s not just a dictatorship, but you understand the defense a little better and you feel like it’s partly yours, and when everybody feels like they have a hand in it, people buy in more, guys know the ins and outs, and it just makes us that much more dynamic.”

Jenkins is the new guy – the only projected starter on defense who wasn’t with the Eagles last year. But he’s been accepted and embraced very quickly by his coaches and his teammates.

“I think he's really fit in, maybe better than anybody on our staff thought he was going to fit in, just because we were not familiar with him,” Kelly said. “But he's a football player and he adds a lot of stability to the back end out there.

“He's really done a great job of stepping in at that other safety spot opposite Nate [Allen] and being real decisive in terms of what he's doing. He's been a great leader in the locker room and meeting rooms, has a really, really good football knowledge.”

Really, really good football knowledge that his coaches aren’t too stubborn to consider.

Jenkins said it’s big when coaches listen to their players instead of just running their scheme and shrugging off the opinions of the guys who are actually out there playing.

“It’s huge,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been around a lot of prideful coaches that don’t want to hear anything, so it’s a huge hats off to them, because that helps players really get into it. We feel like we’re all in this together, and you love playing for coaches like that.

“I’ve been around both. I’ve been around a few coaches, like [Saints defensive coordinator] Rob Ryan last year, he was one of those guys, whatever you had to say, he’d listen. If you were a veteran. He wouldn’t listen to rookies. But if you’d been around the block, he’d listen.

“But I’ve been on other teams where the coaches don’t want to hear it. This is the way they’ve done it for however many years, and they don’t want to change anything.”

And that gets frustrating.

“Especially when it’s not working,” Jenkins said. “It does. Because as a veteran, we’re the ones playing it. It’s not Madden, where you can set your play and control players. We’re the ones that have to actually execute what the book tells us.

“And sometimes you get coach-talk, where they’ll write it up on paper but it doesn’t really work too well in execution. And to have coaches that will listen to that and change your technique or tweak something in the defense to kind of help you out as players, that’s huge.”

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

Todd Herremans recalls unforgettable draft-day call from Eagles

When the Eagles held training camp at Lehigh, the day the full team reported to camp was marked by a parade of flashy, high-end vehicles.

In 2009, however, offensive lineman Todd Herremans drove up in something else.

A black — actually matte black — van.

“It was like a crossover — Scooby Doo, A-Team," Herremans said on this week's edition of the Measured Takes podcast with Amy Fadool and Marshall Harris.

Why a black van? Herremans explained how his first couple vehicles were minivans, the second a hand-me-down from his parents, which he drove in college and as a rookie in the NFL.

“After I started to buy different cars, wasting my money — I always drove these mom vans — I was like, you know what, I’m going to make a manly van. Hence the black van," he said.

Herremans, who spent 10 years with the Eagles and last played in 2015 with the Colts, discussed several topics in the podcast (listen here), including how football players can benefit from using marijuana (speaking of the black van), and the NFL draft — and about how he became a Philadelphia Eagle.

The Eagles selected Herremans in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Division II Saginaw Valley State. 

“I went to a small Division II school in Michigan and had a pretty tight group of friends there. I went to a very small high school and had a pretty tight group of friends there too. Mostly family and a few other close friends.

“So when I was thinking that I was going to get drafted, it was pretty big news. We had all of my high school and college friends over to my parents’ farm. We just kinda hung out there, set up some tents and campers in the backyard, and hung out and watched the draft and partied. Had a keg. Might have smoked a pig. It was a good time. 

"We thought that we were going to get picked on the first day. For some reason. Because that was rounds one through three back then. Maybe I was being a little overambitious, but I thought that some of the coaches that I had talked to while I was traveling around were telling me, ‘two or three — it looks good for you. If you’re there, we’re going to take you.’ I’m like OK, perfect. 

"We’re sitting there, and after the draft ended that day, we’re all feeling pretty good, but a little let down. Like ah, didn’t happen, oh well. But I’ve got all my friends over, might as well go to the bar! So we went to the local watering hole and just got into it. We were up late, and then the next day when the draft started, we were all just laying around, like hungover, couldn’t even know what was going on. Half awake. My phone rang. 

"So I jumped up and I went over and I answered it. I think it was (then Eagles general manager) Tom Heckert. (He said) 'Hey Todd, Tom Heckert, Philadelphia Eagles. Hang in there, I think we’re going to trade up for you right here.' I was like oh — hungover — like huh, that sounds good. 

"It just happened. He goes, ‘Welcome to the Philadelphia Eagles.’ I was like, oh OK cool. (He goes) ‘Here’s (offensive line coach) Juan Castillo.’ So I don’t even get to talk to my family or anything. I look in the room. It’s on the TV. Everyone is going nuts and (Todd impersonates Castillo) Juan’s like, ‘Hey, hey Todd how you doing? You got a second?’ Anything Coach, I just got drafted! 

"So I got into the next room away from everybody cheering and popping champagne and everything — and install offense for the next 40 minutes with Juan Castillo. Then he’s like, hey sounds like you’ve got your stuff together, you’ve got a good handle on this, go enjoy this time with your family and we’ll see you in a little bit. So when I meet up with my family, nobody’s hungover anymore, my family and friends — they’re all drunk again. 

That's odd, because those are normally perfunctory phone calls that last a couple minutes at the most.

“I think they are,” Herremans said.

But not this one.

“Juan’s a special guy," Herremans said. "Because Juan was a Division II guy (Texas A&M Kingsville), and he’s drafting me, a Division II player, I think we had an immediate connection in just the way we got along. I respected him. He respected me. Both hard workers. And we just clicked. So I don’t know, he know I wold stick on the phone with him for 40 minutes because I was from a Division II school, and he knew it would be an uphill climb for me.”

Listen to the rest of the podcast and subscribe to Measured Takes.

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

Nick Pivetta excited for big-league debut — even if rainout delays it a few days

The Phillies' starting pitching rotation, for the time being, features four arms that were acquired in trades that have coincided with the team's rebuild, which started after the 2014 season.

Nick Pivetta will become the latest to join the group when he is officially activated. He was in the Phillies' clubhouse Tuesday afternoon and was scheduled to pitch on Wednesday, but those plans changed when Tuesday night's game against the Miami Marlins was postponed because of rain.

No makeup date was announced.

The rainout means Pivetta's big-league debut will be pushed back. Vince Velasquez, Tuesday's scheduled starter, will pitch Wednesday night against the Marlins and Jeremy Hellickson will start the series finale Thursday. Jerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin are likely to stay on turn and pitch Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. That means Pivetta's debut will likely happen Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Not a bad venue for an unveiling. He does not have to be activated until that day. In the interim, the Phils are carrying an extra reliever in Mark Leiter Jr.

Even with the weather-related change in plans, Pivetta was thrilled to be in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"I've achieved my goal of getting here eventually," the 24-year-old right-hander said. "I'm happy to be here. I want to get my feet on solid ground right now and just take it one step at a time.”

Pivetta is a Canadian from Victoria, British Columbia, about 100 miles northwest of Seattle. As a kid, he watched Toronto Blue Jays' games on television and idolized Roy Halladay. (see story).

Victoria must now be Phillies territory. Michael Saunders, the team's rightfielder, also hails from the town.

"You see it more and more, more Canadians getting into the game of baseball, so it’s always nice to see another one in the locker room," said Saunders, 30. "Clearly he’s pitched well enough to earn his way up here and I’m looking forward to seeing him play."

Pivetta is 6-5, 225 pounds. He was originally selected by the Washington Nationals in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. The Phillies acquired him for Jonathan Papelbon and cash in July 2015.

Pivetta will take Aaron Nola's spot in the rotation. Nola is on the disabled list with tightness in his lower back. He could be back as soon as early next week.

Nola said he probably could have pushed himself and stayed in the rotation, but the team chose to be cautious.

"I don’t think it's any big thing," Nola said.

With Pivetta on board, the Phillies now have four pitchers in their rotation that came over in "rebuild" trades.

Eflin arrived in the December 2014 deal that sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers.

Eickhoff came in the July 2015 deal that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers.

Velasquez came in the December 2015 trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

Pivetta did not immediately pitch well upon joining the Phillies organization. He had a 7.31 ERA in seven starts for Double A Reading in the summer of 2015. In 28 1/3 innings, he struck out 25 and walked 19.

Pivetta was a different pitcher last season. He registered a 3.27 ERA in 148 2/3 innings between Double A and Triple A, struck out 138 and walked 51. That performance earned him a spot on the team's 40-man roster.

“In 2016, he showed us the potential to be a really good major-league pitcher,” said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. “He was a little excitable after the trade in 2015, but he came back calm and confident last year. His stuff is legit — 93 to 96 (mph) with life on the fastball, good breaking ball and good feel for the changeup.”

His control continued to improve this season as he got off to a 3-0 start at Triple A. He pitched 19 innings, gave up just two earned runs, walked just two and struck out 24.

"Just getting ahead with my fastball," said Pivetta, explaining the early-season success that put him in line for the promotion. "First-pitch strikes are big. Even if I get into that 0-1 count or that 1-1 count, getting back to that 1-2 count is big. So being able to even up those counts have been really big for me, as well, and being able to finish off with my off-speed later in the counts, too.”

Pivetta pitched for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. He made one start and took a no-decision in the team's 4-1 loss to Columbia. Pivetta worked four innings and allowed one run.

“That helped me," Pivetta said. "It was awesome. It was like having playoff baseball in March."

It's not clear how long Pivetta will stay in the big-league rotation. But he has more than put himself on the map, and if he continues to pitch well, he'll make more starts with the big club this season.

“I did not expect to be here this early in the season," he said. "I am happy to be here right now. I'll see how long I stay and just have fun while I am here.”