Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Check the Tape: Union have plenty of work to do, but it's not 2012 all over again

Plenty of media outlets and Union blogs will offer
their take on games this season immediately after the final whistle.

With that in mind – as well as a job that leaves
me working nights and a 15-month-old baby at home who makes it hard
to do anything not on his schedule – we’re trying something
a little different.

Set the DVR, make a few mental notes from my seat
in Section 138 (too cold this week for any real note-taking) and let
things simmer for a few days – good or bad. Then tackle the replay
from the first minute to added time, and try not to ramble too much.
Might be a running diary like this (sorry, I’m not that creative),
and it might not. We’ll see how it goes.

We also might touch on the TV broadcasts a little
bit. How games reach fans on TV has always interested me, and hopefully
might not be totally boring to you.

And we’re off.

PREGAME: The game was on 6ABC, with usual play-by-play voice
J.P. Dellacamera and new color analyst Alejandro Moreno, who played
for the Union in their first season.

LINEUP: I was WAY off in my pregame post, partially because
Hackworth veered from his expected 4-3-3 for a 4-2-1-2-1. I was very
surprised by it at first, but I really like the formation for this team
(if not the players in it). With Okugo, Lahoud and Carroll on the roster,
you have three holding midfielders, so it makes no sense to play a 4-3-3
where you may not really used one at all. Le Toux has worked well as
a solo striker, but I would still like to see Conor Casey on from the
start, and either pair him with Le Toux up top or let Le Toux play just
off Casey.

1’: The new third jerseys looked great when they were released,
and they look even better in action. The white shorts are great. In
other uniform news, I thought I liked the new two-tone Sporting shirts,
but they look really weird on the field, especially for those wearing
long sleeves.

4’: Gabe Farfan with two golden chances off a good ball from
Michael Farfan. First one right into KC goalie Nielsen, rebound shot
way over the bar. It was a promising start for Gabe Farfan, who was
a very surprising starter up high.

6’: At this point, things are off to a good start. Some decent
possession on the other side of midfield, and two plays where Jack McInerney
would’ve been way offside last year but Le Toux stayed on well.

8’: Le Toux gets a long floating ball from Carroll and can
only muster a lobbed shot way over the bar. He was 1-on-1 with Matt
Besler, and should’ve done better to bring it down. All in all though,
the Union have done more in the first eight minutes in the attacking
half than in entire games last year.

10’: Le Toux tries to cut it back in the box for Daniel but
it’s a nothing pass kicked out for a corner. He sometimes needs to
be more unselfish and have a shot.

11’: Gaddis comes all the way from left to right to cover
for Sheanon Williams, who was way up in the KC 18 on the last attack.
I love the way Williams attacks on the wings, but with the shaky nature
of this defense (more on that later), he and Gaddis need to err on the
side of caution more often.

14’: Le Toux and Gabe Farfan working well together in opening
minutes. Nice balls into space and predicting each other’s movements.
I never liked Gabe as a left back (not sure I like Gaddis, either),
but I could learn to like him playing up higher.

16’: Sloppy pass from Carroll to Michael Farfan, but Carroll
is bailed out by a stupid foul. This will not go down as one of Carroll’s
best games. He seemed out of

17: UNION
GOAL. The move starts with a really bad pass from Gaddis for
Daniel, which is easily intercepted by Chance Myers, but quickly given
away on an even worse turnover. With one quick touch, Daniel sends a
perfect floating ball to the penalty spot, which Le Toux
cradles with his right foot before poking it past Nielsen.

The first touch was amazing, but he got away with a less-than-precise
finish. Still, a just reward for the Union’s strong start.

18’: Le Toux really needs a signature goal celebration. Also,
I predicted something right! (Not that I went out on much of a limb).

20’: Moreno has already provided more solid analysis and
insight than Bob Rigby did all of last season. He doesn’t overtalk
and seems to work well with Dellacamera. Although a screaming
goat
would have been an upgrade over Rigby.

22’: Carroll gets pushed off the ball with ease and it leads
to a half-chance for KC. Like I said, not his best game.

23’: A brilliant outside-of-the-foot ball from Michael Farfan
to Williams sets up a GOLDEN chance for Le Toux just inside the 18.
Looked like he was aiming to curl it far post but flat-out scuffed the
shot and missed the net entirely. The moment that really changed the
game, in my opinon.

24’: Le Toux was solid, but a minute after the missed chance
he fails to put anything on an attempted cross and it is easily cleared
away. Union really possessing the ball well, though.

26’: Gaddis streaks down the middle and draws a promising
free kick on a foul by Aurelien Collin. The kid has unbelievable speed,
and could really develop into a nice left back if given the chance.
But his lack of size means he needs to play smarter in the back, especially
on set pieces and scramble situations.

27’: Michael Farfan puts a free kick on frame (BREAKING NEWS!)
and forces a nice save from Nielsen.

28’: I DESPISE short corners. Just so you know.

31’: It was about this time that we all realized just how
cold it was in the River End. Also when we started to wonder exactly
who the back-breaking end-of-half goal against was going to come from.

32’: Benny Feilhaber commits a foul and then screams at the
ref with a “Who? Me?!?” look. For you soccer newbies, this is what
we call “being Benny Feilhaber.”

36’: Nice job by Gaddis to run at Colin again. He seemed
to know Colin had one yellow card and forced him into another dangerous
tackle. Colin makes a nice play to stop him, but that’s great awareness
from a young player.

37’: Great corner kick from Le Toux and a semi-free header
by Okugo that he can’t get on frame. Solid corner by Le Toux, who
often misses his mark on those.

39’: Moreno (rightfully) harping on Le Toux’s inability
to ease pressure by holding up the ball. He needs to get better at that,
especially if he going to play up top alone.

41’: SPORTING GOAL. Carroll’s biggest mistake of the match
leads to a goal. Okugo misreads a bouncing ball on the wing 40 yards
out and it falls to Convey. At this point, my brother, standing beside
me, says “He should’ve fouled him there.” Carroll can see a teammate
out of position in front of him and needs to go for the ball and take
a “professional” foul, even if it means a yellow card. Instead,
Carroll meekly stabs at the ball and Convey beats him easily before
floating a cross into the box.

Claudio Bieler nods it down nicely to Feilhaber, whose
shot is saved well by Macmath. But Parke and Gaddis are inexplicably
retreating BEHIND their goalie to guard the line, so when the rebound
rolls out to Graham Zusi, there is no one there and he roofs it to tie
the game
. Plenty of blame to go around on this one.
Macmath gets the least, as the shot was ripped and would’ve been hard
to push to catch or push to one side. Carroll needs to do better, and
Gabe Farfan and Michael Lahoud need to do more than watch from the edge
of the 18. A terrible goal to give up when you’ve dominated the half.

HALFTIME: The scoreline is not what the Union deserve for this
possession and passing game, which has been better than at any point
in 2012. Also, I’m super pumped that the creepy Bimbo teddy bear ads
are back this year (sarcasm font). And Peter Pappas is part of the halftime
show on 6ABC. I got his autograph on a Philadelphia Kixx ball after
a game at the Spectrum when I was a kid. That ball would be worth a
pretty penny today. An actual penny.

46’: SO MANY empty seats at the start of the second half
… a PPL Park tradition. For a new stadium, the number and layout of
the bathrooms is embarrassing, especially when men vastly outnumber
women. Not sure I’ve ever seen a second-half kickoff live.

54’: Feilhaber runs over Michael Farfan and gets called for
a foul. Running people over and pretending he did nothing wrong is what
Feilhaber does best.

60’: Sporting really controlling the ball now. Everything
has been different since the Zusi goal. Despite that, the Union have
had one or two forays into the attacking third. Last year when momentum
changed this way, the Union folded up and never pushed forward.

66’: Williams tangles with substitute C.J. Sapong and get
called for a foul. From my seat on Saturday I thought it was a foul
on Sapong if anything. From here it should’ve been a no-call. Both
guys were using their arms.

66’: SPORTING GOAL. Zusi’s free kick is well-placed, but
the Union are just watching. Gaddis
lets Oriol Rosell run free for the header
, so he gets
Blame #1. But Macmath MUST be more assertive there. You know where Zusi
is going to put it, so come to the ball and be aggressive. The goalie
is always going to get the benefit of the doubt in a penalty box pileup,
but Macmath consistently seems unwilling to make the first move. Just
bad all around from the Union, who apparently don’t practice set piece
defending.

70’: McInerney comes in for Gabe Farfan. I thought Farfan
was serviceable enough to deserve another chance in the attack. I’ve
never been the biggest McInerney fan, and would’ve rather seen Hoppenot
or Casey come in here.

75’: Williams trying to beat two men by himself. That tells
you all you need to know about the second half. No poise at all. For
Hackworth’s sake, you hope it’s not tired legs. Let’s also not
forget that Sporting K.C. is one of the top three or four teams in the
league, as well.

79’: Le Toux with a great ball to McInerney, who directs
a great header on goal, but Nielsen is positioned well to make the save.

80’: Roger Torres comes in for Lahoud. I have never liked
Lahoud but thought he played OK in this game. Not sure he needs to be
out there with Carroll and Okugo though.

83’: SPORTING GOAL. Again, this was easy to see a mile away.
Zusi is everywhere on this play, floats a great ball to Myers, who cuts
it back to Bieler, who seemed shocked to be so alone inside the 18. The experienced
forward makes no mistake and slots it home past Macmath.

Why are the Union never linked to designated players like Bieler? (The
$1 million question).

84’: Casey comes in and throws his body into Collin, drawing
a cheer from the Sons of Ben, who were waiting for anything to cheer
about.

89’: Gaddis lucky to not see a red card after a wild tackle
on Peterson Joseph.

90’: Let’s hope the Union are taking notes. This is how
an experienced winning team closes out a game. Sporting putting on a
second-half clinic.

FINAL: SPORTING K.C. 3, UNION 1.

I won’t get too caught up in one game. And there
were plenty of reasons to think this won’t be 2012 revisited. The
offense was MUCH better and there were chances created. There was even
a chance well-finished for a goal.

The problem is the defense was sloppy on all three
goals, while Macmath shares the blame for at least one of them (the
second). I like Gaddis, but he might be a better option as the left
back, especially if Bakary Soumare can play in the middle alongside
Parke.

I won’t fall into the “more of the same” argument. This was not like a 2012 loss, even if it felt like it at
times. There is more talent here and more cohesion, especially in the
midfield. That’s not to say roster moves aren’t needed and lineup
changes shouldn’t come. But let’s wait a few games before we write
off 2013 as a continuation of 2012.

Follow Steve on Twitter @smoore1117.

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.

New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

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New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

It's a new year for the Eagles, but the same lowered expectations for Marcus Smith. The 2014 first-round pick recorded only seven tackles and 1½ sacks over his first two NFL seasons, so at this point you can forgive people for being pessimistic about his development.

Smith doesn't blame Eagles fans for being disappointed with his career up to this point. The 24-year-old isn't content with the way things have panned out thus far, either, but sounds as though he's ready to turn the page in a new scheme.

"I understand they want their first-round draft pick to play," Smith said of fan criticism. "I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn't. I learned a lot of things from my first to my second year and I think I've grown and matured a lot, and this third year you'll see a lot different Marcus."

That won't do much to sway public opinion that he's a draft bust. The Eagles, however, are hoping a position change will unlock the potential that led the club to take Smith with the 26th overall selection in the draft.

Smith came to the league a raw prospect to begin with, and was immediately asked to take on the many responsibilities of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the third-year pro will line up at defensive end, where he'll primarily be used to create disruptions in opposing backfields.

"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said. "Difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact.

"He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."

Smith admits it's a role he was more accustomed to playing in college.

"I never really dropped into coverage before," Smith said reminiscing of his time at Louisville. "I dropped into coverage in some spurts, I knew how to do it, I was athletic enough to do it, but their thing was they wanted me to go rush the passer and be able to make plays. That's what I'm doing now."

This could be an opportunity for Smith to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking. He was overwhelmed and couldn't get on the field in a complex 3-4. Schwartz's 4-3, on the other hand, is much more streamlined, letting linemen pin their ears back and do one thing well rather than force them to be jacks of all trades.

"I feel like with Jim Schwartz, we have a great relationship to where I can just go make plays and not think about anything," Smith said. "He always talks about that with me. He says, 'Just go make plays, I don't want you to think.'

"Scheme is definitely more simplified. It's really just go get the ball. His philosophy is hit the ball on the way to the quarterback because we know sacks change games, so if you get a sack fumble and you're able to scoop and score, that's what changes a game. That's what Schwartz's philosophy is."

Believe it or not, there might still be hope for Smith. His 1½ sacks were registered in the final two games of the 2015 season, a late surge that could've been seen as a sign of progress, yet wound up flying under the radar at the conclusion of a lost year. After all, it's not at all uncommon for some players to need a year or two to adjust to life in the NFL.

If Smith has any chance of shedding the dreaded bust label, he certainly has a perfect mentor in teammate Brandon Graham. The 13th pick in 2010, Graham experienced similar hardships when his Eagles career didn't get off to a brilliant start, but has since proven to be a capable starter.

Graham's situation wasn't identical, as his progress and opportunities were derailed in large part because of injury. Regardless, he understands as well anybody the lack of playing time and criticism that comes with failing to live up to high expectations.

"We talk pretty much every day," Smith says of his relationship with Graham. "He actually went through something worse than I did because he went through a couple of years with not playing. He talks to me about it all the time, and told me to keep my head down and keep working and everything will fall into place."

As of now, Smith is currently lining up opposite Graham with the second-team defense, behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. The Eagles also used a seventh-round pick on Alex McAllister.

Still, despite the competition, despite his lack of production to date, Smith is keeping a positive outlook and feels as though he has every opportunity to be productive as part of a rotation.

"The way we play and how fast we play, [Schwartz] wants an eight-man rotation," Smith said. "He wants us to be able to be fresh. All of us can play 25-30 snaps a game. He wants us to be well-rested and ready to go because we're gonna be going.

"Whoever is starting, whoever's not starting, I think when you get in the game, just go get it. Once the coaches put you in the ballgame, you've just gotta be able to make plays."

There's no question Smith is running out of chances with the Eagles, that his reclamation story is already beginning to wear thin. The truth is his roster spot might even be in jeopardy if the roster was much deeper, and any contribution in 2016 will be viewed as a pleasant surprise.

There's also no question the physical ability is there. Smith is 6-foot-3 with sub-4.7 speed and told reporters he weighs close to 260 pounds. Point him in one direction with a singular goal — get into the backfield — and the Eagles may squeeze some production out of him yet.

NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

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NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

ASHBURN, Va. -- DeSean Jackson isn't taking part in voluntary team workouts, and the Washington Redskins don't seem to care.

Jackson was the only healthy player not at Redskins Park this week for the first organized team activities of the offseason. But teammates and coach Jay Gruden brushed off Jackson's notable absence, saying the veteran wide receiver knows how to get prepared.

"The last time I looked up the word `voluntary,' it is his choice," Gruden said Wednesday. "He's been in the league nine years I believe it is and he knows what type of shape he has to come in. Obviously last year he pulled his hamstring, and people are gonna say he was out of shape, but he wasn't really. I think he'll be ready to go."

Jackson missed six games last season after injuring his hamstring in the opener. After returning Nov. 8, he made 30 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

The 29-year-old has one year left on his contract and is still expected to be a big part of Washington's offense with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Jordan Reed and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon even after the Redskins drafted Josh Doctston out of TCU in the first round.

Veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall said players understand Jackson's situation.

"As long as these guys are working I don't think we mind too much," Hall said. "Yes you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you have a guy that knows (himself), you kind of what them to train the way they want to train."

Cousins likes having OTAs to get on the same page with receivers and go over the nuances of running routes and recognizing coverages. He's the unquestioned starter for the first time, which he said gives him "permission to take ownership" of the team.

With that ownership, Cousins followed the theme of downplaying Jackson not being around.

"DeSean will get here," said Cousins, who's on a one-year deal with the franchise tag and had no update on long-term contract talks. "He was here the last few weeks and was able to work with us. He knows what's best for him and what he's gotta do to be ready this fall. I'm excited for whenever he does get here and expect to get a lot of work in."

Jackson must attend 90 percent of offseason workouts to earn a $500,000 bonus in his contract.

Hall said because Jackson's home is in California and with him having a newborn, it makes it easier to comprehend why he didn't make it to optional workouts. From the standpoint of the secondary that's trying to work in All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, it'd be nice to have Jackson on the field.

"I'm just excited about getting him out here, Josh is excited about getting him out here," said Hall, who was one of the first-team safeties along with David Bruton Jr. "We want to go against him. We're juiced up to get him out here."

Gruden joked that Jackson "popped in and had a cup of coffee" at the team's facility but otherwise expressed no real concerns. He also doesn't know when Jackson will make an appearance.

"He'll probably show up here, could be next week could be whenever," Gruden said.