Ray's Replies: Dawkins will have his day

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Ray's Replies: Dawkins will have his day

Q. You wrote a piece recently citing five former Eagles that you felt deserved to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but weren’t. I don’t disagree with any of your choices, although I must admit Al Wistert was before my time. But I was shocked you did not include Brian Dawkins on your list. Don’t you think he deserves to be in Canton?

--Sully
NE Philadelphia

A. I should have made it clear that I was writing about former Eagles who were eligible for the Hall of Fame but were passed over. Brian Dawkins is not yet eligible. The rules are that a player must be retired for five full seasons before he is eligible for election. Dawkins won’t be eligible until 2017.

But in answer to your question, I absolutely believe Dawkins deserves to be in Canton. I feel he deserves to be voted in on the first ballot. Whether he is or not remains to be seen -- the voting can be very unpredictable -- but he deserves it. He was a great player.

I don’t have to make the argument to an Eagles fan. Anyone who watched Dawkins play for 13 seasons with the Eagles knows his impact. He could play the run, he could blitz as well as any linebacker (he had 21 sacks), he could cover a receiver one-on-one or in a zone, his mere presence could discourage an opponent from going across the middle.

Jim Johnson, the late defensive coordinator, referred to Dawkins as a Swiss Army knife because he could do so many things. The Eagles had some talented defensive players in those years -- Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter and Troy Vincent all went to the Pro Bowl -- but Dawkins was the key. Each opponent started its game planning by asking: “What do we do with No. 20?”

Dawkins changed the perception of safeties as second-tier players. He showed what a versatile and talented athlete can do -- and how many ways he can impact a game -- from the safety position. He was the prototype for the current wave of big-play safeties like Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and Earl Thomas. It is fair to say Dawkins pioneered a whole new approach to defense.

There are only 10 safeties in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and three of those spent part of their careers at cornerback: Ronnie Lott, Mel Renfro and Rod Woodson. There hasn’t been a pure safety voted into the Hall of Fame since Paul Krause in 1998. So Dawkins is not a slam-dunk in the same way, say, Reggie White was. But Dawk was so good for so long I have to believe he will have his day in Canton.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year, but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Peterson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Tonight's lineup: Michael Saunders dropped to eighth in order

Pete Mackanin is still searching for answers to the Phillies' offensive woes following Sunday afternoon's disheartening 1-0 loss in Pittsburgh during which the Phils could only muster three hits.

The latest lineup twist as the search for an answer continues will see Michael Saunders bat in the eight-hole tonight as the Phils open a four-game series with the surging Rockies tonight at Citizens Bank Park (see game notes).

When he has started this season, Saunders has been a fixture within the middle of the Phillies' order. After all, the offseason free-agent signing was an All-Star for Toronto last season when he hit 24 homers and drove in 57 runs.

But this season hasn't gone as planned as Saunders is hitting just .232 with four homers and 15 RBI in 41 games with the Phils this season.

With Saunders' drop down the lineup, Tommy Joseph will bat fourth, Maikel Franco fifth and Odubel Herrera sixth against Rockies spot starter Jeff Hoffman.

Tonight's full lineups can be found below:

Phillies
1. Cesar Hernandez 2B
2. Freddy Galvis SS
3. Aaron Altherr LF
4. Tommy Joseph 1B
5. Maikel Franco 3B
6. Odubel Herrera CF
7. Cameron Rupp C
8. Michael Saunders RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff SP

Rockies
1. Charlie Blackmon CF
2. D.J. LeMehiau 2B
3. Nolan Arenado 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez RF
5. Mark  Reynolds 1B
6. Gerardo Parra LF
7. Alexi Amarista SS
8. Tony Wolters C
9. Jeff Hoffman SP