Ranking the Eagles 2013 Draft Needs

Ranking the Eagles 2013 Draft Needs

The 2013 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and the
Eagles are sitting on the fourth pick overall. They’ve already filled some of
their needs through free agency, perhaps even a few trades, but the true
reshaping of this organization’s philosophies is going to be on full display
during the selection process.

This is an organization that has needs at virtually every
position on the field, and unfortunately they won’t be able to address them all
in on weekend, not with one pick in rounds one through five and four in the
seventh. So then it becomes a matter best player available – and priorities of
course. Here’s our look at what areas we think might take precedence for general
manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office when they’re on the clock beginning
next Thursday.

10. Running Back

LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown have the top two spots on
lockdown, but there is an opening on the depth chart since Dion Lewis was
shipped to the Browns. Chris Polk is still in the mix, although a little
competition never hurt anybody. Don’t be surprised when the Birds add a back in
the later rounds.

9. Wide Receiver

It’s really difficult to judge the receiver talent on the
roster right now. Have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin failed to take the next
step due to circumstances beyond their control (quarterback performance,
injuries/illness), or were they overvalued to begin with? With Arrelious Benn
being brought up from Tampa Bay in a trade, and a fair amount of intriguing young
talent already in place, this feels like a wait-and-see situation – at least at
the top.

8. Inside Linebacker

There is some concern that because DeMeco Ryans became
expendable in Houston’s 3-4, he’ll soon be no good here. Ryans may not be a
three-down player in the new system, however he still has the size and instinct
to be useful situationally, while Mychal Kendricks brings speed into the
equation. Not sure either of these guys is the answer forever, but seeing as
only one of them might be on the field in certain packages, it’s not necessarily
a priority. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

7. Safety

Bringing in free agents Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips – a
pair of safeties who have started in the Super Bowl – to compete with Nate
Allen was a good place to start. Maybe there is a quality combination between
the three, yet none that seems like a long-term solution. Don’t anticipate
another second-round pick here, but the Eagles should look for somebody who will
be in the running for a job by year two.

6. Tight End

Brent Celek and James Casey are nice players, but the Eagles
lack a true playmaker at the position. It’s rumored Chip Kelly could carry as
many as four or five tight ends, and we’ve seen what a tight end-heavy approach
has done in New England’s version of the spread offense. It may feel like a
luxury right now, but front office will explore adding a big, vertical threat
possibly as early as day two of the draft.

5. Cornerback

Ex-Raven Cary Williams sounds like a lock to start at one of
the corners for the next two-three years, and Brandon Boykin is perfect for the
slot. Bradley Fletcher is probably fine on the other side, but next up is
Curtis Marsh, who coaches have hardly left on the field since he was drafted in
2011. It’s hard to say how high on the wishlist this is exactly with four names
penciled in already – the team cancelled a pre-draft meeting with Dee Milliner
for what it’s worth – yet they could also use a mid-round caliber athlete to develop
at the very least.

4. Outside Linebacker

The front office mitigated some of the immediacy to develop
an outside linebacker with the addition of Connor Barwin, a free agent who can
rush the passer and drop into coverage. Out of Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and
Vinny Curry though, not one of them is guaranteed to fit in a 3-4 – although defensive coordinator Billy Davis is also familiar with hybrid alignments that
would protect those converted defensive ends from dropping into coverage much. Regardless, a defense can never have too many pass rushers, so don’t rule out
Oregon’s Dion Jordan at number four, either.

3. Offensive Line

This unit will improve significantly simply by returning to
full health. That said, Jason Peters is 31 and coming off an Achilles injury, while one apparent hole remains on the right side. Were the Birds to select a tackle at the
fourth pick, that player could potentially start at right from day one (Eric Fisher, Lane
Johnson) – allowing Todd Herremans to move back inside – and eventually take
over for Peters. Even if the front office isn’t looking that far down the road
with their first rounder, it would be wise to pick up another competent lineman
at some point early.

2. Defensive Line

If the Birds intend to use 3-4 alignments on defense, the
Eagles must get bigger up front. Nose tackle in particular is a very
specialized area that demands addressing – Isaac Sopoaga is merely a stopgap –
but they could use another end as well. Fletcher Cox can set one edge, but who
will handle the other side? There are several versatile linemen who may be able to
move around the line (Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei) and are worthy of very serious
consideration at number four should they still be there, any of which might just happen to be the best player available at that time as well.

1. Quarterback

On one hand the Eagles have Nick Foles, which regardless of
what you think his ceiling is, he is a young quarterback who improved every
week when he was the starter. On the other hand Foles remains largely unproven,
and doesn’t have a similar type of pedigree as most franchise quarterbacks. For
most organizations it’s rare to be picking as high as fourth overall, so it’s
a potentially unique opportunity to grab the top passer in the draft. Unfortunately
for Philly, there are serious doubts about whether Geno Smith or anybody else
is worth that price.

Until that proverbial franchise QB is in place, this is
generally going to be considered any NFL team’s top need. Whether they actually have the ability to
fill the hole in this year’s draft is the question.

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Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

BOX SCORE

MIAMI -- For struggling pitchers, facing the Phillies has become like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
 
Another rival pitcher searching for a cure got it Monday night when the Phillies suffered their 23rd loss in the last 29 games. This time it was Miami Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed just three hits in leading his club to a 4-1 win over the Phillies, who fell to 6-20 in May (see Instant Replay).

Volquez had gone 16 starts between wins.
 
"Every loss stings, I don’t care who's pitching," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're just in a rut. We've got to battle our way out of it. We have to show up tomorrow and get after it. We've got to get more than three or four hits in the game."
 
The Phillies had just four hits in the game. It was the fifth time in the last nine games that they've had four or fewer hits. Only one of the hits was for extra bases and one of the singles was an infield hit.
 
"Once again, we need more offense," Mackanin said.
 
Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson completed a difficult month of May by allowing six hits, including a two-run homer, and four runs over six innings.
 
Hellickson surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich with two outs in the sixth and that was basically the ball game. Dietrich hit a high changeup. Back in April, that pitch would have been at the knees. But Hellickson has misplaced the pitch command that he needs to succeed.
 
Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. In May, however, he went 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in six starts. He was tagged for 35 hits, including nine homers, in 30 2/3 innings.
 
"Command in general," said Hellickson, describing his problem this month. "The biggest thing is not getting strike one, falling behind too much. I'm not getting the quick easy outs I was getting early in the season. I'm trying to get ahead, just missing."
 
Volquez signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Marlins over the winter, but it wasn't until this game that he delivered his first win. He entered the game 0-7 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
 
The win was Volquez's first since Aug. 25, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Volquez isn't the first struggling pitcher to shine against the Phils recently. Eight days earlier, Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl took a 6.69 ERA into a start against the Phils and pitched five shutout innings. In the series against Colorado, the Phillies were dominated by a pair of rookies. In the only game they won (in a late rally), they were held to one run over six innings by Tyler Anderson, who had entered that game with an ERA of 6.00. On Friday night, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tim Adleman pitched eight shutout innings against the Phils and gave up just one hit in the best start of his life. He had come into that game with an ERA of 6.19.
 
So Volquez had to be heartened when he saw the Phillies on the schedule.
 
They are the get-well team for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up.
 
It's actually kind of sad.
 
With Odubel Herrera locked in the throes of the worst slump of his life and on the bench and Maikel Franco mired in a 2 for 21 slump and hitting .209, Mackanin is trying to push things a little. He gave Aaron Altherr the green light to steal with one out and runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Altherr was out at second on a close play and Tommy Joseph struck out to leave the runner at third.
 
The Marlins salted the game away in the bottom of the inning on Dietrich's homer.
 
"With our offense, I have to take chances," Mackanin said. "I can't sit around and wait for three hits in a row. We haven't been doing that."
 
The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 17-32.
 
They have lost eight of their last 10 and scored just 15 runs in the losses.
 
"It sucks," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's really no other way to put it. It's frustrating. But the only people that are going to help us are ourselves. Nobody's going to go out there and play for us, swing the bats, pitch, play defense. That's on us and we have to do a better job all around.
 
"We all want to be successful and get the job done. We just haven't been hitting the ball. There's no other way to put it. But the good thing about baseball is we play every day so we turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to get it done."

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.

They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.

Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.

"I think at the end of the day we're up 1-0," Bonino said. "We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don't think it's Xs and Os. We've got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998.

All the guys from "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

"The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history -- and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

"We didn't do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake."