U Talking About the Playoffs

U Talking About the Playoffs

The math could not be any simpler. Win and they're in.

The Union, in just their second season in MLS, can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Toronto FC today (4PM/Comcast SportsNet).

There are multiple scenarios where the Union can clinch a postseason berth even with a loss, but you know they want to celebrate the accomplishment in front of the home fans.

After a lull where they went winless over eight games, Peter Nowak's side has recovered to go unbeaten over the last seven. The most impressive feat over this run of good form is that they earned four out of a possible six points after traveling to the West Coast on consecutive weeks (a 1-1 tie at Chivas USA and a 2-0 win at Seattle).

The key figure over this stretch has been Sebastien Le Toux. The Frenchman has nine goals and two assists over the last 11 games. He set-up the Union's second goal in Seattle last week, sprinting 50+ yards before slotting a pass over to Brian Carroll for the finish.

Le Toux's versatility has been a godsend for this team. However, he's not the only complete two-way player on the field. The Union have benefited from their own version of "Total Football".

Le Toux, Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan, Gabriel Farfan, and Sheanon Williams are effective all over the field. They get forward, they track back, and they're just as likely to get to the byline and serve a ball into the box as they are to win a ball in and around their own eighteen yard box.

Speaking of effective play, the Union have never been more effective offensively than the last time they faced Toronto. The U dropped a six-spot on them back in May at BMO Field en route to a 6-2 win. Due to some high profile arrivals and departures TFC is a vastly different team than the one that was destroyed by the Union in May.

Maicon Santos, who scored both of the Toronto goals that day, is now a member of FC Dallas. German international Torsten Frings, he of the infamous handball against the US in the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals, and forward Danny Koevermans joined Toronto at the end of June.

All Koevermans has done is step in and become Toronto's leading scorer. The diminutive Joao Plata, he's just 5'2", leads TFC with five assits.

Toronto, who has been eliminated from playoff contention, last played two weeks ago whent they tied New York 1-1. They've been brutal on the road this season, going 1-9-6 away from home.

The Union will look to add to Toronto's road woes this afternoon. The big question is who will be between the sticks for the Union. Nowak would not confirm, but there's a good chance Faryd Mondragon, who may or not be fully recovered from a broken finger, will start. If he's unable to go then you'll see Zac MacMath make his eight consecutive start.

Today could be a historic day in Union franchise history. Clinching their first ever playoff berth in front of a raucous PPL Park crowd would be a nice way to thank the fans for their tremendous support.

Lineup I'd Like to See Today: Mondragon, Gabriel Farfan, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Freddy Adu, Michael Farfan Sebastien Le Toux, Veljko Paunovic.

Final Score Prediction: The champagne is going to pop today. Although, since the Union have so many underage players they may need sparkling cider. Regardless, the Union win it 3-1 today.

The Toni Stahl Memorial Player Most Likely to See Red: This is too big of a game for the Union to be undisciplined. I realize I am likely jinxing things by not picking a player, but they can't pick up a red today, can they?

Frank Reich learning from Doug Pederson, adjusting to new system with Eagles

Frank Reich learning from Doug Pederson, adjusting to new system with Eagles

Despite rain forcing the Eagles’ first full-squad practice of training camp inside, new offensive coordinator Frank Reich liked what he saw out of his offense.
 
Speaking to reporters after practice at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday, Reich was pleased with how the offense’s preparation off the field translated during practice.
 
“Overall, what we’re happy about is how you take it from the meeting room to the field and minimize the errors. Make plays that are there,” Reich said. “There were very few mental errors. [The offense] looked sharp today.”
 
Before coming to Philadelphia this offseason, Reich spent the past two seasons as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator.
 
Joining a new coaching staff means learning a new system, and Reich has noticed some unique aspects of head coach Doug Pederson’s offensive attack.
 
“This West Coast-hybrid system obviously has a very long winning track record,” Reich said. “How it’s adapted in the run game now with some of the zone-read stuff and all the different ways you can scheme wide receiver throws, when you get a heavy box, I think that’s what Doug did really well in Kansas City.
 
“Of course, I went up against it six times in three years playing against that team (with the Chargers), so I saw it firsthand,” Reich said. “It’s fun now to be on the other side of that.”
 
Now working alongside Pederson, Reich thinks what the Eagles were able to do this offseason to build a talented roster was huge for what they’re trying to accomplish.
 
“Every time we had a chance to get something done from a personnel standpoint, we got it done," Reich said. "So that fires you up as a coach."

One of those moves was trading up to draft quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in April’s draft. Although he was running the third-team offense Thursday (see Day 4 notes), Wentz stood out, making some good throws and ending the day with a deep completion across the field.
 
Reich took notice and was encouraged by the rookie’s performance, but he and the rest of the Eagles’ coaching staff are focused on the team as a whole as opposed to just one player.
 
“We’re eager to see how we develop as a team first and foremost, and certainly that’s going to include great individual performances and days,” Reich said.
 
With a new coaching staff in place, Reich isn’t the only one adjusting to a new situation. Starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who had to learn former head coach Chip Kelly’s system last season, is getting used to Pederson’s offense this time around.
 
“I’ve seen a lot of football, I’ve seen a lot of different systems,” Bradford said after practice Thursday. “Obviously, this one’s new. It’s different, but I think there’s some carryover from some past systems that I’ve been in, so it’s nice to know that everything isn’t brand new and there are some things that are familiar.”
 
Bradford and Wentz are adapting together to the Eagles' new offense. Fellow quarterback Chase Daniel is more familiar with it, having studied and played in Pederson’s offense with the Chiefs. But Reich knows it’s been a learning process for the Eagles’ quarterback group.
 
“The guys have learned it real fast, they’ve studied it hard and they feed off of each other. They challenge each other,” he said. “I give them a lot of credit, they’ve picked it up very quickly.”
 
In terms of fulfilling his own role as a coach on Pederson’s staff, Reich is dedicated to going along with how Pederson runs the team.
 
“You commit yourself to whatever way the head coach wants to do it,” Reich said. “It’s been a really good thing for me as a coach learning from him.”

Jon Dorenbos far more than just Eagles' long snapper

Jon Dorenbos far more than just Eagles' long snapper

Most long snappers in the NFL are pretty anonymous.

Mike Bartrum spent seven years at that position for the Eagles with very little fanfare.

Over the last few weeks, Jon Dorenbos has turned himself into something much more than a football player, let alone a long snapper. Dorenbos is now a celebrity.

Thanks to a successful stint on the NBC show America's Got Talent, Dorenbos has shown off his ability as a magician. With another mind-blowing trick on Tuesday night's show, it was announced on Wednesday's results show that Dorenbos has made it to the semifinals. 

With each passing stage, Dorenbos gets closer to the $1 million grand prize — but not without a few anxious moments.

"It's a waiting game," Dorenbos said Thursday of the judges determining his fate. "Because it's a variety show there's a lot of completely different acts. I think the important thing is, at least for me, is don't try to compete with them. Be who you are and focus more on what makes you unique and what makes you interesting and try and highlight that and then hopefully the act follows."

A big part of what makes Dorenbos unique is his tragic back story. When Dornebos was 12, his father killed his mother at the family's home in Seattle. Dorenbos was left with a lot of confusion, but channeled that into something positive.

Magic has been a big part of his life since he was 16. He's used it to help himself heal and he hopes it has done the same for others. He's shared his story of success through tragedy with kids who have been through similar situations.

"At first when I was a rookie and I was young, it was a little awkward for me," Dorenbos said of sharing his story.

"You eventually start seeing that you're not alone and we're all in this together and if we just kind of help each other out and share our experiences and how we got through stuff and you can help, maybe that's why I was put here. I can share my message through the way I perform. If that's the case then it's pretty cool, man. That's a big responsibility and a big honor."

People have constantly asked Dornebos how he manages to balance his newfound celebrity magician status with his day job of being a professional football player. When you put it in perspective, it's really not that difficult considering what he's been through.

Then again, with this training camp comes something the two-time Pro Bowler has never truly experienced with the Eagles: Competition. The team brought in undrafted rookie free-agent long snapper John DePalma out of West Virginia.

Whether it's on the gridiron or on the stage, Dorenbos doesn't sweat the competition.

"I don't really worry about [the competition]. I don't really care," Dorenbos said. "And it's in the most respectful way possible and I want everybody to have success and I want everybody to do well but if I worry about other people, then all of the sudden I'm not worried about myself. If you worry too much about other people and you don't handle your own business, then it's a missed opportunity on your own stupidity."

When it comes to scheduling conflicts, that's another thing Dorenbos doesn't really worry about. He knows his teammates are in his corner. 

Head coach Doug Pederson had the team watch his latest trick on Tuesday night. Some of his teammates shared pictures of the Eagles watching Dorenbos. He was genuinely appreciative of their support, saying he doesn't "think anything feels better than when you get the respect of your teammates."

As for America's Got Talent, Dorenbos doesn't know how long the ride will last, but he's enjoying it. Just like his football career, he's leaving it all out there and not leaving a single trick up his sleeve.

"To me, you gotta let it ride and worry about the next one later," he said, "because if you save it, then what's the point?"

Darren Sproles signs 1-year extension with Eagles

Darren Sproles signs 1-year extension with Eagles

The Eagles signed veteran running back and punt returner Darren Sproles to a one-year contract extension Friday morning.

Terms of the deal were not made immediately available by the team, but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports the deal is for $4.5 million. That would represent a $1 million raise from the $3.5 million base salary Sproles was set to earn in 2016. Rapoport also reports that the Eagles have moved money from the extension into this season. 

Sproles, a Pro Bowler in each of his two seasons with the Eagles, is now signed through 2017. He was due to become a free agent after this season.

Sproles skipped the Eagles’ voluntary organized offseason workouts and the given reason was to spend more time with his family in San Diego. But Sproles’ contract status certainly could have played a role in his reason to stay away.

Sproles, 33, is tied for seventh in NFL history with Dave Meggett with seven career punt returns for touchdowns.

After five years with the Chargers and three with the Saints, he has enjoyed a career resurgence with the Eagles, making his first two Pro Bowl teams and becoming only the second player in NFL history with four or more punt return TDs after his 30th birthday. The other is Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

In his career, Sproles has 2,867 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns with a 5.0 average rushing and 473 receptions for 4,156 yards and 28 more touchdowns.

With 133 more rushing yards and 27 more receptions, Sproles will become only the 12th player in NFL history with 3,000 rushing yards and 500 receptions.

Sproles' 5.0 career rushing average is 14th-highest in NFL history among non-quarterbacks with at least 500 rushing attempts.

In two seasons with the Eagles, he has 646 rushing yards and 95 receptions, although his 3.8 rushing average last year was well below his career average.

He has two punt return TDs in each of his seasons with the Eagles and is one of only seven NFL players in history with consecutive seasons with multiple punt return touchdowns.

Sproles entered the league as the Chargers’ fourth-round draft pick in 2005. The Eagles acquired him – or stole him – from the Saints in March 2014 in exchange for a fifth-round pick.

That pick turned out to be Ronald Powell, a linebacker who played in just 14 career games and is not currently in the league.