Eagles Pro Bowl snubs, ranked

Eagles Pro Bowl snubs, ranked

With a 9-6 record, the second-ranked offense in the NFL, and a defense that’s held 10 of its last 11 opponents to 21 points or less, the Philadelphia Eagles managed to send just two players to the 2014 Pro Bowl. Running back LeSean McCoy and left tackle Jason Peters were beyond worthy candidates, but where’s everybody else?

Beyond that, only three additional Eagles were even named first or second alternates to the Pro Bowl in the event of injuries or players backing out. That just seems like such a low number for a team that’s had such a fun and memorable season. It’s all wrong.

So without further adieu, here are five players that should be in the Pro Bowl this year, and ranked for no real reason at all. Check out the full roster for reference.

5. Nick Foles (63.9 CMP%, 2,628 YDS, 9.0 AVG, 25 TD, 2 INT, 118.7 RAT)

The odds were stacked against Nick Foles from the beginning, seeing as he was only added to the Pro Bowl ballot around December roughly. That’s no excuse though. Foles leads the NFL in yards per attempt and passer rating, and his touchdowns-to-interception ratio is insane. He may not have prolific totals, but only because he’s started in just nine games.

He’s good enough for NFL Most Valuable Player consideration, but not the Pro Bowl? To be fair, all of the quarterbacks who got in are worthy, so choosing someone to bounce is not easy. I’d lean Russell Wilson because he’s thrown for the same amount of touchdowns and only a handful more yards despite playing every game (and because I’m a known Russell Wilson hater).

Foles is a first alternate, and given that one of these quarterbacks will likely be playing in the Super Bowl a week later, that means an invitation will inevitably be extended—unless, of course, the Eagles make it to the big game. Otherwise, Foles will back-door his way into the Pro Bowl anyway.

4. Somebody from the Eagles defense

The Eagles don’t have a traditionally great defense. The unit ranks 30th by the NFL standard of yards, but 16th in points allowed, which is all that really matters. In fact, only three offenses have scored more than 21 points on Philly’s D all season—Denver, San Diego and Minnesota.

So it’s a little baffling that nobody was voted into the Pro Bowl from the Eagles. No first or second alternates were named, either. Trent Cole made a late push, racking up eight sacks in the last seven games, but it wasn’t enough. Cedric Thornton is one of the top run-defending defensive ends in the NFL this season according to Pro Football Focus, but it’s not a glamorous role. And frankly, I can see why nobody from the secondary got in.

The one player you could make a case for though is DeMeco Ryans, the heart and soul of the Birds defense. Inside linebacker is a crowded field, but Ryans had more tackles, sacks, interceptions and pass breakups than Patrick Willis, one of two 49ers representatives at the position this year. Willis seems like a reputation pick, whereas Ryans—a two-time Pro Bowler—is actually enjoying possibly the best season of his career.

3. DeSean Jackson (79 REC, 1,304 YDS, 16.5 AVG, 9 TD)

DeSean Jackson has more receiving yards than Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall, more touchdowns than Antonio Brown and averages more yards per reception than all three of them. Jackson doesn’t belong in over the rest (Josh Gordon, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas), but you could easily build a case over any of the other three—yet somehow he’s only a second alternate.

DJacc has made the Pro Bowl when his numbers were far less than what they are this season, so it’s genuinely surprising he was moved to the backburner this year after setting new career highs.

2. Donnie Jones (40.2 NET, 33 IN20)

This one is legitimately confusing. Donnie Jones set an Eagles record with 33 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. His kicks were so vital, so clutch that Jones twice won Special Teams Player of the Week honors—only two other punters took the award once this season.

Here’s where we get lost. St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker, one of the two to get the nod, had nearly half as many kicks downed inside the 20 with 18. Yes, his net average was higher than Jones, indicating he had fewer opportunities to pin opponents deep, but Hekker’s kicks also forced the same number of fair catches (20) while he faced three more returns on six fewer attempts.

1. Evan Mathis

What does Evan Mathis need to do to receive proper recognition on a league-wide scale? Despite being on his way to being the highest-rated guard by metrics site Pro Football Focus for the third year running, Mathis once again will be watching the Royal Rumble Pro Bowl at home like the rest of us. The 10th-year veteran is a second alternate, so at least a few people finally must be starting to take notice.

Without the help of official statistics, offensive line selections are a little more difficult to dispute, but I’ll give it a go. Mathis is a key cog on the top rushing offense in the NFL. Marshal Yanda has been a very good guard for the Baltimore Ravens, but their running game stinks, averaging a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry. That’s not all on one player, but 19 guards have individual run-blocking scores than Yanda this season. Come on.

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

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Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

Flyers captain Claude Giroux has a word of advice for rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the two meet each other as opponents in this fall's World Cup of Hockey.

"The last few weeks, I told him to keep his head up," Giroux said Friday night on a conference call after both players were added to World Cup rosters.

"I'm pretty excited to go on the forecheck against him. It's pretty impressive what this kid has been able to do this year. To see it right beside him, he's got so much potential.
 
"To be on this team will only help him be better."
 
Giroux was named to Team Canada's roster, while Gostisbehere, the NHL's top rookie defenseman, was penciled in on Team North America (see story).

You may recall Giroux was overlooked by Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
 
"That was a little disappointing," Giroux said. "Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go play for them, you hope to get the call. I was a little disappointed for that. To be able to be on this team, I'm excited and I"m ready for the challenge."

Team North America is a unique blend of age 23-and-under players who will compete in the eight-team tournament starting in mid-September.

Whether the veteran athletes competing for other countries take this young stars contingent seriously on the international stage is subject to debate.

"I hope some teams would take us seriously," Gostisbehere said, "because I think we're pretty darn good. It's a different dynamic.
  
“You don’t have the veteran presence per say, but some of the guys on the team have been playing in the NHL for three years already. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also named to the tournament, playing for Team Europe.
 
“I am really surprised and excited,” Bellemare said in a statement. “I am happy that the way I played with the Flyers has helped me get a chance to play in the World Cup for Team Europe. I think this is going to be a celebration of hockey and it is surreal that I get to be in the middle of it.”
 
Both Giroux and Gostisbehere have been rehabbing at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since their hip and abdominal surgeries on May 17.

Bellemare will go into the tournament fully healthy, while Giroux and Gostisbehere will not. Giroux had reservations about undergoing surgery if it meant his exclusion from the tournament, sources said.
 
“The surgery was a little question mark,” Giroux said. “Maybe not so much for me, but for them. I don’t know what they were thinking. The rehab has gone very well right now. There’s no issue as to why I wouldn’t be ready for that tournament.”
 
Gostisbehere is no stranger to serious rehab from surgery. He missed nearly all of the 2014-15 season as a Phantom with a torn ACL in his left knee.
 
“It’s the same sort of rehab I did with my knee,” Gostisbehere said of his current rehab.  “We’re going to keep going down the line knowing something is at the end of the line for us. We gotta really focus.”
 
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which will be announced in late June, said he was humbled by the selection.
 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “The whole format of the tournament is pretty cool to see. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
The Flyers have eight players competing. Chicago has an NHL-high of 12.

Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

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Eagles mailbag: Pederson as a coach; running backs; Spikes

The Eagles are in the middle of Phase 3 of the NFL's offseason program in the CBA. That means they're well into OTAs, with another round set to start Tuesday and run through Friday. 

After that, the team will have a mandatory minicamp June 7-9, followed by a long break before training camp. 

There's plenty to talk about on this Memorial Day Weekend, so let's hop into your questions: 

This question is referring to the yearly USA Today list of the best coaches in the NFL. The list ranked Pederson at No. 30 in a group with the other first-year coaches. Adam Gase is 28, Ben McAdoo 29, Pederson 30 and Dirk Koetter 31.

"We’re lumping all of the first-year coaches together, because no one really knows how they’ll fare as head coaches," Steven Ruiz writes. 

OK, sure. 

Really, this isn't saying Pederson is a bad coach, just an unknown, which is true. I guess for the purpose of the list, he has to go somewhere. Actually, I'm surprised he's higher than Koetter, who has more experience. 

We're not sure how Pederson will be as a coach. Shortly after he was hired, I penned this column, which still holds true. Just because the Pederson hire wasn't very popular, it doesn't mean he won't be a good head coach.

Really, we won't know for a while. 

I've been asked this a few times over the last few weeks, and I understand why. The Eagles are certainly weak at the running back spot, with Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner. But I still don't see them adding anyone. 

The team drafted Smallwood and he's the key to this. They should see how he looks in training camp and even in preseason games before trying to pick anyone else up. If he can be a decent contributor this year, they can start to bring him along and groom him to be the starter. If he isn't going to be a contributor, then maybe it's time to look around a little bit. 

Another thing: there's not a ton of talent out there right now. And if anyone is still on the street, there's probably a reason for that. 

Q: Dave, you think Brandon Spikes should get a chance? He has played for Jim Schwartz before. - Joey (@MrJoey98)

Interesting name. Yes, Spikes did play for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo in 2014 and the Eagles already have three players on that team with these Eagles. 

But the team would have to weigh the positives and negatives of bringing him in. Spikes was released by the Patriots last season — he didn't' take a snap in 2015 — after he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a car crash. 

The Eagles have nearly no depth at linebacker, but would Spikes, now 28, be worth it? Not sure. Probably not, though. 

Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

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Phillies prospect Rhys Hoskins looking to steadily advance through minors

READING, Pa. – There is a photo atop Rhys Hoskins’ Twitter page that shows the Reading Fightin Phils first baseman, a Sacramento native, seated on a rock and looking out over Lake Tahoe, as well as the horizon beyond.

“Just keep livin’,” it says elsewhere on the page.

“As clichéd as it sounds, I try to stay where I am, day to day – take care of what I have to do that day,” he said Thursday, after hitting a solo homer in Reading’s 7-4 victory over Erie. “Life’s going to throw a lot of stuff at you, so just keep on going.”

The 23-year-old Hoskins, a fifth-round pick of the Phillies in 2014, as a result has managed to remain in the moment, but not without expanding his horizons – all the way to Australia, where he played winter ball this past offseason, and one day, he can only hope, Citizens Bank Park.

“I set a goal with my dad, as soon as I got drafted – a (minor-league) level a year, as long as I kept on progressing,” he said. “Try not to get caught somewhere.”

So far, so good. He spent 2014 at Williamsport, the short-season A-ball affiliate, and tore it up while splitting last season between two other Class A clubs, Lakewood and Clearwater. And recently he has begun to rake for the Double-A Fightins, a team featuring such other prospects as catcher Jorge Alfaro, rightfielder Dylan Cozens and pitcher Ben Lively.

Hoskins hit .450 while being named the Phillies Minor League Review Player of the Week for the week of May 16-22, and followed that up by hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday against Erie, in addition to his blast Thursday.

Overall, his stat line will not overwhelm – he was hitting .269 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 45 games through Friday – but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder is at least another name to consider going forward, as the big-league club continues its rebuild.

As for the others: Alfaro, the jewel of the Cole Hamels trade last year with Texas, was hitting .339 entering Saturday's games, and Cozens, a second-round pick in 2012, was leading the Eastern League with 13 homers and second in RBIs with 40. Lively, acquired from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd in December 2014, was 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA in nine starts.

Certainly Hoskins understands the first-base pecking order, with Ryan Howard in obvious decline. Tommy Joseph is off to a promising start for the big-league club, and Darin Ruf is at Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

At the same time, Hoskins tries not to dwell too much on such things.

“If you get caught looking ahead,” he said, “you probably miss some stuff, where you’re at right now.”

All told he hit .319 with 19 homers and 90 RBIs in his two stops last season, then asked the Phillies to arrange a winter-ball destination. They sent him to Sydney, and he excelled there, too – .323 with eight homers and 38 RBIs, in 42 games.

“The baseball was fun, a lot of fun,” he said. “I was able to get some more work in, but I think more than anything it’s a life experience. … Not too many people get to spend three months in a country on the other side of the world, especially when someone else is paying for it.”

The season ran from October to January – part of Australia’s summer – and he remained for a few weeks afterward, touring not only that country but nearby New Zealand.

No telling when he might ever be back there. 

He does have some idea of where he’d like to be, baseball-wise, but everything in its time. He’s just going to keep livin’ and continue to focus on the task at hand.