Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

The sky was supposedly falling last Thursday.  The Eagles, after dropping their second preseason contest 23-15 against a quality opponent with a Hall of Fame QB, drew scathing reviews for their performance.  Once again, we're attempting to walk you back from the preseason ledge.

The Colts did everything right on their first drive.  Peyton Manning was exactly what we've come to expect.  He controlled the pace, getting the offense up to the line of scrimmage quickly, making it difficult for the Eagles to sub or adjust.  They called almost entirely passing plays, attacking Ellis Hobbs' side of the field and using play action to pull the linebackers up from their assignments.  And Manning made the whole thing look simple, as only he can.

It wasn't all bad though.  A few plays after a successful WR screen kicked off the drive, the Colts went back to it, only this time Quintin Demps was all over it, making the stop for no gain.  Shortly after, Akeem Jordan recovered from being beat in coverage to separate the ball from a receiver, saving a sure touchdown.  And Manning had to complete a difficult 3rd and 10 throw in a tiny window over Joe Mays and between Demps and the sideline while being tossed to the ground by Jason Babin to keep the drive alive.  How many quarterbacks complete that pass?  And prior to the score, Asante Samuel nearly ended the drive with an interception in the end zone, but was unable to catch the ball cleanly.

When it looked like Manning would start doing the same thing all over on their second drive, Babin struck again, this time stripping the ball to give the Birds excellent field position.  Of course, what really sticks out was the following possession, one play, one uncontested 76-yard jaunt for Reggie Wayne, although it was clearly a mis-communication, and exactly the kind of play preseason is there to correct. 

Manning executed the Colts basic gameplan against the Eagles vanilla defensive schemes.  Is that a legitimate cause for concern?  There's room for improvement, but this wasn't the end of defense as we know it in Philadelphia.

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All things considered, the offensive line wasn't terrible either.  That's quite the backhanded compliment, but we are talking about four reserves, and King Dunlap doesn't even belong on an NFL field, which we sort of knew heading into the game.  The scenario would have to become extremely dire for that to ever happen anyway, so let's concentrate on the backups who might actually see gameday.

Nick Cole was shaky filling in at left guard as well.  Actually, sloppy is more fitting in this case.  He's been slow getting out into space, man-handled up front, and just generally ineffective in every phase of the game.  On one play, he just fell down inexplicably.  Can't say for sure what the deal is - the most obvious theories being he is either out of shape (too late) or looked better mixed in a cohesive unit - any way you slice it though, he hasn't impressed.

On the flip side, much to everyone's surprise, Winston Justice is living up to the reports of his revival.  The idea he could be starting for the Eagles in the regular season remains a delicate subject, and there still seems to be some hesitation when run blocking, but he is holding his own in pass protection.  Justice was probably miscast as a left tackle, and we would no longer be surprised to see him as a spot starter for a lesser NFL team somewhere down the line, as long as he continues to show he is indeed a football player.

Are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl if Cole and Justice are major contributors for any length of time?  It certainly lessens their chances (a lot), we simply think it's a stretch they will wind up in such a predicament.  Peters' injury sounds minor and perhaps related to conditioning.  Herremans being held out is partly as a precaution.  Odds are one or two of the Andrews brothers will eventually get right.  The group deserves an incomplete, not an F.

Offense

- McNabb's touchdown pass to Jackson was perfectly executed by both players.

- Have to agree with the negative assessments of Feeley's clock management in the comments.  What was he thinking dumping the ball in the middle with no timeouts?

- Eldra Buckley, with another solid special teams contribution tacked onto some tough running, has the upper hand over Booker for the third running back spot.  Kyle Eckel struggled filling in for Weaver.

- Looks like they might have picked a nice player with sixth rounder Brandon Gibson.  His four catches for 49 yards and a TD led the team.  Probably will spend a year on the practice squad or IR, unless they move one of their receivers.

- Random thought: could Hank Baskett play some tight end?

Defense

- Jason Babin set up camp in the Colts backfield and wreaked havoc basically the entire first half.  It leads us to wonder which ends could be the odd guys out if he makes the roster.  No easy decisions there right now.

- Spadaro-ish comment alert: the linebackers remain a work in progress.  Brady and Manning are two of the best play action quarterbacks in the NFL, but the entire unit is getting fooled, creating massive vacancies in the middle of the field.  While they've been fortunate so far, any coach in the league is going to see this and exploit it.

Individually, Gocong has been invisible.  Mays is still learning.  Jordan has some plays where he's in position, and some where he's not.

- Ellis Hobbs had an awful game, even if we give him a free pass on that TD.  That does not excuse a couple of missed tackles and another completion to Wayne, all leading to first downs.  The competition at right corner is over, not that there ever really was one.

- Aside from getting beat for the game's first score, a perfect throw that would have given any corner problems, Asante Samuel picked up from where he left off last season.  Colts quarterbacks found Samuel draped all over their receivers, and he very nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to allowing 6.

- Two rookies, Macho Harris and Moise Fokou, are having a nice preseason.  Harris seems to be playing the Dawkins role.  He's had some successful blitzes, has been a sound tackler, and broken up a pass or two.  Fokou seems to be freelancing a bit, but he's been finding the ball.  Don't think he's game ready though.

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

Source: Phillies, Rangers in 'pretty deep' trade talks about Vince Velasquez

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — The Phillies lost, 2-1, to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.

The big news from this game, however, was that Vince Velasquez might have made his last start with the Phillies. A major league source told CSNPhilly.com that the Phillies and Texas Rangers are “pretty deep” in trade discussions involving Velasquez. The Rangers, the source said, also have some interest in Jeremy Hellickson, who pitches for the Phillies on Saturday night, but he appears to be a secondary target.

It would take top talent to get Velasquez, a 24-year-old right-hander with a power arm. The Phillies acquired him over the winter from Houston as the centerpiece in the deal that sent Ken Giles to the Astros.

The Rangers had several scouts at the game, including Scott Littlefield, one of their top talent evaluators.

The Rangers’ interest in Velasquez was reported earlier in the week by Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Apparently there’s more than just interest. Stay tuned as Monday’s trade deadline approaches.

Starting pitching report
Velasquez scattered seven hits and two runs over six innings. He walked two and struck out five. Velasquez battled some command issues and needed 91 pitches to complete the six innings.

He is 8-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts. He has a 2.75 ERA in six starts since a brief stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

Braves right-hander Tyrell Jenkins gave up just one unearned run over six innings.

Bullpen report
Both bullpens pitched scoreless ball.

At the plate
Phillies leadoff man Cesar Hernandez reached base in his first three at-bats and scored the Phillies’ only run on an error in the third inning. 

The Braves scored two runs in the third inning on three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk against Velasquez. Gordon Beckham and Nick Markakis drove in the runs with base hits.

Up next
Hellickson (7-7, 3.65) makes perhaps his final start with the Phillies on Saturday night. He will face Braves right-hander Julio Teheran (3-8, 2.71).

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

ATLANTA — Even with the Miami Marlins having filled their need for starting pitching, there remains significant interest in Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, according to major league sources.

The Phillies have received offers for the 29-year-old right-hander, but none that they have deemed worthy of pulling the trigger on.

Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for the club on Saturday night. Will he make that start? Time will tell. Talks between the Phillies and interested clubs are ongoing.

Hellickson is coming off two strong starts in which he allowed just six hits and one run in 14 innings against the Marlins. Another strong start Saturday could add more luster to Hellickson’s stretch-run value and bring the Phillies the package they are seeking. The trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m.

Miami had interest in Hellickson before making a deal to acquire starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in a seven-player trade Friday (see story).

Hellickson is viewed by industry insiders as being a fallback option for a number of teams. Demand for him could grow as trades are made and the starting pitching market thins as Monday’s deadline approaches.

Baltimore, Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Houston are among teams looking to add starting pitching.

Though there’s no guarantee that Hellickson will be moved, he is the most likely Phillie to go. Reliever David Hernandez is next on the list. A number of teams are looking for relief help. The feeling around baseball is that the Phils could move Hernandez before Monday’s deadline, but the return would only be marginal.

The Phillies have received some interest in closer Jeanmar Gomez, but not to the degree one might expect for someone with 27 saves. Because Gomez lacks power stuff, rival teams do not view him as a closer on a contending team.

FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have interest in right-hander Vince Velasquez, but the Phils would have to be blown away to move the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez started for the Phillies on Friday night.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.