Eagles Return to Primetime Football Versus the Steelers

Eagles Return to Primetime Football Versus the Steelers

Prior to last week's preseason opener versus the Ravens, I cautioned readers not to get too excited about the game, one of the chief reasons being the Eagles would utilize a "vanilla" offensive strategy. As much as it pains me to do so, we need to issue a retraction on that statement.

No offense being run by Michael Vick could possibly be termed vanilla.

The Eagles played their starters for just one series against Baltimore, and Vick marched them straight into the end zone. It didn't seem to matter much what kind of plays were called, or even that the offense was without DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. They went right down the field with a series of big plays and accurate passes. It was very satisfying to watch.

With DeSean Jackson back in the lineup for tonight's meeting against the Steelers, we are hoping for more of the same.

They are faced with a slightly greater challenge tonight though as they face off against last year's AFC Champions on their home turf. Vick, in particular, has a lot to prove tonight versus the greatest zone blitzing team of this era. That's right: Mike Vick is going on the watch-list.

It will be interesting to see how much blitzing the Steelers actually do in an exhibition game, but where Vick is at in his ability to read and react to defensive pressure is one of--if not the biggest--keys to this season. We need to see if he can identify where the pass rush is coming from, and whether he knows where the ball goes and if he can get out quickly enough to beat the blitz.

The offensive line took a ton of heat last season, and the right side in particular was not great, but a big problem was Vick holding on to the ball too long and not feeling the pressure. For all the big additions the Eagles have made, if their quarterback doesn't improve and take the next step in that aspect of running the offense, we're not sure how far they will ultimately go.

Tonight's player to keep an eye on:

King Dunlap
Last week, we had Ryan Harris on our watch-list, but he's out tonight with a back injury. First of all, Harris was not super impressive against the Ravens, so the job is still very much up for grabs. Second, Harris had a history of back problems in Denver, so he could be falling out of favor very quickly.

We'll see if Dunlap can seize the opportunity. He showed some improvement in relief efforts last season, but was far from the stabilizing force the Eagles are searching for on the right side. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd also typically favors smaller linemen for zone blocking system, which works against the 6-9, 330 lbs. Dunlap. He could help himself out quite a bit though with a solid outing against one of the NFL's best defenses at pressuring passers.

Darryl Tapp
Major props to Jim Washburn and every member of the defensive line last week. From the opening snap until the final gun, their unit was by far the best on the field, showing tenacity and getting consistent penetration. The difference between last Thursday and the past several years was remarkable.

A big part of that was Tapp, who in one preseason game nearly matched his sack total for all of last season. The Birds sent DE Chris Clemons to Seattle last year in exchange for Tapp, and while Clemons amassed 11 sacks in 2010, Tapp accounted for merely three. The Virginia Tech product is off to a torrid start in August though, getting to Ravens QB's twice last week, as well as three tackles, one for a huge loss.

Maybe guys like Tapp and Jason Babin will prove the problem here the past two seasons was coaching and schemes all along.

Casey Matthews
For the second straight week, Matthews makes our watch list, which says something how important his development is to the defense. We also didn't see much of the rookie from Oregon last week, just eight snaps in fact, so another reason is we're still waiting to actually see him. However, Bleeding Green Nation put together a nice round-up of reviews on Matthews' brief performance, and it was mostly positive stuff, including CSN's own Ray Didinger.

So far Matthews hasn’t looked out of place. He has been good in camp and he was good again in limited snaps on Thursday. It appeared Matthews might have been fooled on a Joe Flacco to Ray Rice screen pass that gained 23 yards on the opening drive, but it was his tight coverage on the tight end that forced Flacco to hold the ball and allowed Trent Cole to record his first sack later in the first quarter.

Having said that, eight plays is about the smallest sample size there is, so we'll hold off on the excitement for at least one more post.

Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

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Phillies' offense sinks even lower in 9th straight loss to Nationals

BOX SCORE

Four … three … two …
 
Good thing the Phillies aren’t scheduled to play Thursday night or they might get one hit.
 
The Phils capped off three pathetic offensive performances in as many nights by being two-hit in a 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay).
 
The Phils were swept in the three-game series and they wasted three solid starts from Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan as they were held to four, three and two hits, respectively, in the three games.

Stay tuned Friday night to see if the Phils get one-hit by the Braves.
 
The National League East-leading Nationals have beaten the Phillies nine straight games since May.
 
The Phillies’ woeful showing at the plate in the series dropped their team batting average to .238, second-worst in the majors. Their on-base percentage is .296, worst in the majors.
 
“Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it,” manager Pete Mackanin said after Wednesday night’s loss, the Phillies’ seventh in the last nine games. "We’re not hitting the ball. We need more offense.”
 
It’s going to be interesting to see how general manager Matt Klentak addresses that in the offseason. The Phils have the money to add free agents, but the team is committed to building from within and using the free-agent market to find a finishing piece or two. The way things are right now, the Phils aren’t close enough to being good where a finishing piece would make a huge difference. They need some of the players that are here now – at least the ones that are staying – to make improvements and some of the talent that is in the minors to get to the majors and start making a difference before they’re ready for that put-them-over-the-top free agent.
 
The Phils were within striking distance to turn Wednesday’s game around. Cesar Hernandez walked in a one-run game to lead off the bottom of the ninth. That brought Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ only All-Star in July, to the plate.
 
Would Mackanin ask Herrera to move Hernandez into scoring position with a bunt, or give him a shot to shoot one in the gap and possibly score Hernandez from first?
 
“I thought about bunting Herrera,” Mackanin said. “The fact that we’re not hitting and he’s one of our top average hitters, I decided not to bunt him, took a chance.”
 
Herrera, who has struggled since the All-Star Game, bounced into a double play on the first pitch he saw from lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Maikel Franco then grounded out to end the game. And the series.
 
Herrera, who has been doubled-up just twice this season, said he would have bunted if asked. But he was happy to swing away.
 
“I was ready to hit and do some damage,” he said.
 
The Phils didn’t do much damage in the series. But the Nationals did. And they did it early. They scored five first-inning runs in the series. Jayson Werth hit first-inning home runs in the first and third games.
 
Werth’s first-inning bomb Wednesday night was just that – a 453-foot shot into the camera well high above the wall in dead center against Morgan.
 
Even Werth was impressed with how far he hit the ball.
 
“I’ve been in some pretty cool places in this ballpark but never there,” he said.
 
Freddy Galvis tied the game with a homer against Gio Gonzalez in the fifth, but the Nats went ahead in the seventh when they rallied for a two-out run against Morgan. The lefty allowed a two-out double to Anthony Rendon to extend the inning and an RBI single to Wilson Ramos on a full-count pitch.
 
“I’ve got to be able to finish,” Morgan said.
 
Morgan did have the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season, giving up just the two runs and three hits. He enjoyed working with new catcher A.J. Ellis and Mackanin said he liked the way Ellis called the game.
 
Morgan pitched well enough that he could have had a different fate. The same could be said for Thompson and Eickhoff the previous two nights.
 
Four hits. Three hits. Two hits.
 
As Mackanin said, “Nine hits in a three-game series just isn’t going to cut it.”

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos advances to America's Got Talent finals

Jon Dorenbos' magic run continues.

The Eagles' long snapper on Wednesday was voted into the finals of NBC's America's Got Talent.

Dorenbos performed this incredible trick Tuesday night to advance.

Shortly after receiving the results, Dorenbos expressed his gratitude.

Dorenbos will play in the Eagles' preseason finale on Thursday night. He'll get some time off from the show, as he was part of the first semifinals. The second semis round starts next week.

This is all super cool. Dorenbos' magic has lots of meaning. If you don't know about his story, read it here.

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

Instant Replay: Nationals 2, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies’ losing streak against the Washington Nationals this season rose to nine games in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
 
The Phils gave up five first-inning runs and had just nine hits in being swept in the three-game series. They had four hits Monday night, three on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.
 
The Phils entered the game hitting .239 as a team. Only San Diego was worse in the majors.
 
The Phillies have lost three in a row and seven of their last nine.
 
Starting pitching report
Adam Morgan absorbed his ninth loss but had the best of his 16 starts in the majors this season. The lefty gave up a first-inning home run to Jayson Werth then did not allow another run until there were two outs in the seventh. He was one strike away from getting out of the frame with a 1-1 tie when he gave up a full-count RBI single to Wilson Ramos.
 
In all, Morgan gave up just three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out five. He had entered the game with a 6.50 ERA and lowered it to 6.21.
 
Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez (10-9) held the Phillies to two hits and a run over six innings.
 
Bullpen report
Blake Treinen, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Kelley closed it out for the Nats. Manager Pete Mackanin pinch-hit Ryan Howard against the lefty Rzepczynski with two outs in the eighth. Howard, hitting .138 against lefties, struck out. Rzepczynski stayed on for the ninth. He walked Cesar Hernandez to lead off the frame then got Odubel Herrera to bounce into a double play before handing off to the righty Kelly. Herrera has two sacrifice bunts this season, but was not asked to get one down on this occasion.
 
At the plate
Freddy Galvis clubbed his 15th homer, a solo shot in the fifth, for the Phillies’ only run.
 
Werth’s homer in the first inning was his 20th of the season. It was a bomb to dead center. It came off the bat at 107 mph and traveled 453 feet. Werth also homered in the first inning of Monday night’s game. He has reached base safely in 55 of his last 57 games.
 
Ramos’ tie-breaking hit against Morgan came one batter after Anthony Rendon extended the seventh inning with a two-out double.
 
Ramos leads major-league catchers with 71 RBIs.
 
Reinforcements coming
The Phillies will add three players from the minors on Friday (see story).
 
Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on Friday night. Here are the pitching matchups:
 
Friday night — RHP Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.80) vs. RHP Joel De La Cruz (0-7, 4.66)
 
Saturday night — RHP Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.21) vs. TBA
 
Sunday afternoon — RHP Jake Thompson (1-4, 7.86) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (4-9, 3.12).