Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

On Being 1-2

Expectations are on a roller coaster. They started low before the season got underway, climbed exponentially after the Eagles throttled Washington in Week 1, now we’re down in the dumps after consecutive losses. All the while, how good this team actually is likely still lies somewhere in between.

That said, their 1-2 record isn’t as bad as it seems. They lost to San Diego on a last-minute field goal, which any number of single plays could have prevented from happening—Alex Henery missed a field goal for the Birds; Mike Vick made a poor throw to James Casey in the end zone that the tight end couldn’t handle; DeSean Jackson had one long touchdown called back on a penalty, couldn’t quite haul in another, while his momentum carried him out of bounds on a third.

Then despite turning the ball over five times against Kansas City, it took the Chiefs until the fourth quarter to put the Philly away. These were both winnable games, which is good from the standpoint that at least the Eagles are competing.

And if you look around the NFC East—which some would dub the worst division in football—the Birds are not in bad shape. Dallas is 2-1, but New York and Washington are both 0-3, and have looked completely pathetic in the process. When you factor in both of Philly’s losses were out of conference, those actually might not matter much if they turn things around in upcoming weeks.

Chip Kelly’s offense is working. The Eagles’ offense is ranked second in the NFL with 461.7 yards per game, and would take over first if the Broncos don’t eclipse that number on Monday night. The defense not surprisingly remains a work in progress, but they’ve held up their end of the bargain in two of three games so far, taking advantage of a rusty RG3 in Week 1, and keeping Kansas City out of the end zone until the fourth quarter last Thursday.

Chances are the Birds are staring at 1-3 with a trip to Denver this weekend—yet another out-of-conference matchup—but given the state of their division, not to mention the fact that they haven’t looked like pushovers by any means, and there’s little reason besides their record to feel any worse about the Eagles than you probably did coming in. Remember, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year anyway.

On Time of Possession

No, losing time of possession was not to blame for either of the Eagles’ back-to-back losses, at least not directly. Philadelphia has been doubled up in TOP for two consecutive weeks, which has led to many reminders that head coach Chip Kelly doesn’t care about this particular statistic, thus he must be wrong.

Well, I’ve got news for you, but most teams probably aren't going to win time of possession after they turn the ball over five times the way the Birds did against Kansas City. It wasn’t an issue of Chip’s offense moving too fast, preventing his own defense from catching a breather. Michael Vick and co. couldn’t go more than a few plays without coughing up the football or punting it away.

Versus San Diego, the defense couldn’t get itself off the field. The Chargers were going on long scoring drives from the opening kickoff. The Eagles couldn’t stop them late, but they couldn’t stop them early either.

I don’t agree with Kelly that time of possession doesn’t matter at all. It certainly can make the difference, and the fact that the clock was not on Philly’s side these last two games certainly didn’t help. However, people are seriously jumping to conclusions about the up-tempo offense hurting the defense. What’s hurt the defense are Philip Rivers and a lack of consistent execution by the offense.

Context is important with any stat. If the defense is wearing down because they’ve been on the field too long, there are reasons other than because Chip wants to go fast.

On Mike Vick

I was a little surprised at how quickly many were to jump off the quarterback’s bandwagon after last Thursday’s performance. Vick was responsible for three of Philadelphia’s five turnovers by himself, including a pick-six that his team was never quite able to recover from, and the 11-year veteran looked indecisive and erratic. There was nothing reassuring about his passing line: 13-of-30 for 208 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.

This was the sort of game I came to expect from Vick long, long ago, so that certainly wasn’t what caught me off guard. It was that some were already posing the question how many more chances would the four-time Pro Bowler get?

It’s odd because most would agree Vick played well in the first two games, certainly good enough to win either one. He hasn’t been perfect this season, missing some throws here or there—it’s not nitpicking, his underthrown pass to James Casey in the end zone against San Diego might have cost his team that win. But prior to Thursday night, Vick hadn’t tossed a single interception either, and you certainly wouldn’t lay their first loss at his feet.

Then there’s the fact that the Eagles’ offensive line was pretty abysmal against Kansas City. It doesn’t account for all of the poor play under center, for instance the pick-six at the game’s outset. It’s a lot harder to mount a comeback though when the other team is dominating the line of scrimmage.

Could Vick’s job be in jeopardy? If he starts stringing together a bunch of poor outings like this last one, then sure, but it’s a little soon to be calling for Nick Foles’ number. Anybody can have one bad game, and as of now that’s all it is for Vick as far as Chip Kelly is concerned. Let’s see how No. 7 responds to the adversity in the weeks ahead.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum lights up Virginia, Wake Forest

We're have just a few weeks left in the college basketball regular season, so everyone is looking for a big win. Or in the case of a top prospect, a big performance to show all the scouts.

Let's take a look at whose stock rose and whose fell this week among eight top freshmen.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
America is finally seeing the Jayson Tatum that was highly touted coming into his one-and-done stint with the Blue Devils. The move to power forward has ignited his game and helped catapult Duke in its seven-game winning streak. His line Saturday against Wake Forest — 19 points on 6 for 11 shooting, 3 of 5 from three, and seven rebounds — was pretty good and he made some clutch free throws to clinch the win.

But can we talk about his Virginia game? Seriously, this may be the gem of his college career. Tatum's Blue Devils were held to just 21 points (he had seven of those) by Virginia's stingy defense in the first half. So what does he do? Score 21 by himself in the second half to lead the Blue Devils past a top-15 team. He had 28 points on just 13 shots, making 6 of 7 from three while adding eight rebounds, a block and a steal. He had a 7-0 run by his lonesome that put Duke up for good. He's likely a three at the next level, but Tatum displayed all the tools to be an effective three while dominated at the four, a much-needed boost for the soon-to-be top-10 Blue Devils.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The three-point shooting slump isn't quite done yet for the Finnish freshman, but at least he's found his scoring touch again. Markkanen had a pair of double-doubles in Wildcat wins this week over Washington St. and Washington, all while only making 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. He's now just 4 for 19 from three in his last five games, a slightly worrying stretch that has brought his three-point percentage down to 46.5 percent.

Still though, he didn't fail to produce in 68 minutes combined over a three-day span. First, he had 19 points and 11 rebounds vs. Washington St. in a 78-59 win, his first double-figure rebounding effort since his last game vs. the Cougars. He then came through with 26 points and 13 rebounds against Washington in a 76-68 win. He was able to hit some jumpers but also competed inside, making his way to the free-throw line nine times and making eight from the stripe. It's certainly encouraging after some lackluster showings over the last two weeks.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
After missing two games last week with a knee injury, Fultz came back fully healthy with a pair of nearly identical performances. On Thursday, the impressive freshman shot 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, and had 19 points to go with four assists during an 83-81 loss to Arizona State. Two days later, he shot, get this, 7 for 16 from the field, 2 of 6 from three, in the loss to Arizona. He did make to the charity stripe more often (make 10 of 15 from the free-throw line) and finished with 26 points and six assists.

In the defeat, Fultz still played 38 minutes and scored or assisted on over 55 percent of the Huskies' points. Sure, he had four turnovers, but when you have the ball in your hand as often as he does, it's bound to happen. It's a pretty good idea of what he'll be doing for a team that finds itself at the top of the lottery this year. He showed off every part of skill set — shooting, getting the rim, finishing, etc. — Saturday and nearly led the 9-18 Huskies to a win over the No. 5 team in the country.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
Most players don't dominate a game while taking the fewest shots among his team's starters. Most players aren't Lonzo Ball. Ball messed around with a triple-double while taking just nine points Saturday night, coming up just short with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Bruins, who beat USC, 102-70.

Three teammates scored more points than Ball, but that's in part thanks to how well he spreads the ball and runs the offense. His maturity doesn't just come on offense. He's also solid on the defensive end, in part thanks to his 6-6 frame at point guard.

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Kentucky's catalyst keyed the Wildcats to two more wins this week as they extended their win streak to four. Monk was his normal volume shooting self in the two games against Tennessee and Georgia. He took a total of 31 shots, up from 30 over two games the week before. While he made just 10 of the 31 attempts, the formula seems to be working because the Wildcats keep winning.

He had 20 points with four threes and eight rebounds in a blowout win over Tennessee. The more impressive effort came with worse stats in the road victory against Georgia. He made just 3 of 11 but got to the free-throw line for 11 attempts and got it done for Kentucky in other ways, notably five assists and three steals. Monk has been labeled an offense-only guard, so the trio of steals are a welcome sight. How he'll defend ones and twos at the next level will be a real defining challenge for him.

Quick Hits
• Florida State lost consecutive games and forward Jonathan Isaac was relatively quiet, scoring 15 points on 14 shots over the two games. He had just three free throw attempts yet still reeled in 12 rebounds and had four blocks.

• Kansas' Josh Jackson provided 16 points on 14 shots Saturday, as the No. 3 Jayhawks defeated No. 4 Baylor. Jackson, by making his only attempt vs. the Bears, is up to 35.3 percent from three.

• NC State fired its coach this week, but that didn't stop Dennis Smith Jr. from being his normal self. In a pair of losses to ranked teams, Smith had 43 points, nine assists and seven rebounds combined.

Now a country music artist, ex-Phillie Brett Myers hopes to play in Philly

Now a country music artist, ex-Phillie Brett Myers hopes to play in Philly

Much like he was on the mound, Brett Myers is giving everything he has to create a name for himself in the music industry. And he is doing it by being his "own man." 

Unlike the mainstream pop-country that appears in your head when you think of the genre, Myers has set out to be different. When asked about the country music of today, Myers does not agree with the direction it is going. His first album, "Backwoods Rebel," describes the former Phillies’ starter and his music accurately — rebellious and unconventional. Myers’ music is country with a twist of rock but holds back from the mainstream pop country of today. 

“They kill it, don’t get me wrong,” Myers said this week in a phone interview with CSNPhilly.com. “But it’s not my cup of tea. Every song is about a girl and sitting on a tailgate. I think it is pop country that is out now. Country music is about songwriting and storytelling. I see these guys like Luke Bryan singing these songs, and I see they have six guys write the song. I mean, does it really take six guys to write a song? That frustrates me because I am a singer and songwriter. I live in this world. I don’t live in their fairytale world that they are singing about. 

"I think a lot of people want to listen to their music because it takes them away from their everyday life. But I want to write about everyday life stuff. I can only write about what I know and what I’ve seen. I don’t feel like this country music stuff we listen to today really grasps real-life stuff like country music is supposed to be.” 

For the last two years Myers has dedicated himself to this craft and produced two albums — he is working on his third. At first, it was strictly writing and no singing. The former pitcher was convinced to sing and now has the itch to play in front of live audiences.  

The end goal: get back to the City of Brotherly Love. 

“My main priority this year is to play a couple shows in Philly,” Myers said. “That’s all I want to do is play a show at the Fillmore or one of those venues they have in Philly. I know half the people there would come to watch me suck. And the other half would come to see me (do well). That’s the way Philly is and I am perfectly OK with it. I would enjoy it.”

The misconception with Myers’ post-retirement career is most people do not see it as a serious endeavor. He wants to clear the air. Myers is as serious as it can be when it comes to his music, but he still hasn't had the chance to play in a big venue in Philadelphia. 

He has played a few shows in Florida — his home state — but knows Philadelphia is his best chance to validate his music career. 

“The two shows we’ve done, I can tell you we don’t suck,” Myers said. “I got two guys from ‘Puddle of Mudd’ in the band. An original member from ‘Shinedown’ in the band. These guys have platinum records on their walls. And I think to myself, 'Why would they be a part of this if they thought it sucked?'"

He does not want a promotional team behind him; instead, he wants to go against the grain and make it in the industry on his own. 

“Twitter, Instagram, try to do some podcasts here and there,” Myers said. “My buddies have a syndicated radio show that I go on and put my music on. A couple people in Philly have written articles about when I first came out with my album. Good or bad.

“With the second album, I didn’t get the same publicity as the first because it wasn’t a shock. So not many people know it’s been out since August. I am working on the third one now, but this is why I need to play live (for more publicity).”

As he did with baseball, Myers doesn’t do this because he wants to make money. He loves it.

“I’m not going to do it if doesn’t make sense," he said. "Because I’m doing it for nothing. I’m putting my own money into this thing, but my band is not going to play for free. If I can make enough money to pay them and pay for our expenses. I don’t care if I make a dollar out of this.

“I want to create my own genre. Meaning I am southern rock and country, that’s how I classify my music. I don’t just say, 'Yeah I’m a country music artist’ or whatever. Because I know I am not mainstream country. That’s what people think country is right now, pop country. I don’t offer that and I never will. I don’t believe in selling out to make a dollar. I’m writing this for me and people who want to enjoy it.”

Country music and his children have his full attention these days, which makes it is hard for Myers to keep up with his old team. He did offer some words about the front office dealing with the young players and how there is always a chance the Phillies could surprise people in this season. 

“Honestly I don't know what their clubhouse personalities are so I really couldn't tell you if they have the same similarities," he said. "But you know, we were that young team coming up. It took us a while to figure it out, but Pat Gillick and his team put together a great group of personalities with a good mixture of young talent and veterans.

“I wish them the best, but you never know what the season has in store for anyone. Teams look good on paper then can't perform on the field. That's what makes baseball so great you never know what's going to happen. It's just so unpredictable.”