EaglesBengals: The Dhani Bowl

EaglesBengals: The Dhani Bowl

We're sure you're already sick of all the stories about that guy who used to play for the Birds. The man is a superstar though, and he played a major role in Super Bowl XXXIX. We're talking of course about Dhani Jones, who signed with the Bengals in 2007 and has actually become a very capable middle linebacker on a stout defense.

Unlike the Jaguars last week, Cincinnati should provide somewhat of a test for Kevin Kolb and the offense. The Bengals' defense ranked as a top five unit overall last season, featuring a pair of excellent, young corners in Justin Joseph and Leon Hall who wouldn't mind putting the hype about Philly's own youngsters to rest. Something's gotta give.

The skill players aren't the only ones who will be tested. The Bengals front seven will give the Eagles' line all they can handle. DT Domata Peko is the catalyst up front. He and Tank Johnson will go after an interior that has plenty of question marks right now, including C Mike McGlynn who is making his second start of the preseason.

Jason Peters will be matched up one-on-one with DE Anwtan Odom, who was off to a flying start in '09 with 8 sacks before his season was cut short with an ACL injury. He's back on the field, but he seemed to be lacking burst in Hall of Fame game against Dallas.

The Bengals have also been using second year player Michael Johnson to wreak havoc from the linebacker position. Johnson, a 6'7" converted defensive end from Georgia Tech, doesn't seem like a good fit at first impression, but he plays very fast and had a pair of sacks in the Cowboys game. This will help us get a feel for where the offense is with their blitz pickups, especially in the backfield.

On defense, we'll be keeping an eye on the right cornerbacks. Whether it's Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, Ellis Hobbs and company are in for some stiff competition. Even though both receivers are past their primes, and Carson Palmer may be as well, they're still quality veterans who can easily beat inferior competition.

Up front, Stewart Bradley and the Eagles' run D will have their hands full with fantasy football zombie Cedric Benson. Benson, not Palmer, has really become the focal point of the Bengals' offense, and he forms a nice little thunder-lightning combo with speedy Bernard Scott. Should be interesting to see how Bradley is moving around out there and if the linebackers can keep either ball carrier from reaching the secondary.

Also of note, we didn't get a chance to talk about it this week, but Michael Vick looked absolutely explosive against Jacksonville. He was playing within the offense, going through his progressions and checking down, but he also showcased that Houdini elusiveness. His 15-yard dash to the end zone may have looked easy, but the fact that he beat everybody to the pylon was downright impressive. He's back, and perhaps better than ever.

We'll also almost definitely have more opportunities to evaluate Nate Allen and the rest of the first string defense, who played all of six snaps last week. The starters are expected to play the entire first half, so even though it doesn't count, there should be some solid football tonight.

Stephen Colbert mocks Phillies, introduces Hilly Phanatic

colbert-hilly-phanatic.jpg

Stephen Colbert mocks Phillies, introduces Hilly Phanatic

The only surprising thing about Stephen Colbert making fun of the Phillies with the Democratic National Convention in town this week is that it took until Tuesday.

Colbert used our beloved Phillies as the brunt of a joke last night and then invited out the "Hilly Phanatic" instead because the real guy was unvailable.

"Unfortunately the Phillie Phanatic wasn't available for the convention because it belongs to some baseball team and they can't spare him because he's the only entertaining part," Colbert said.

As you can see below, the Hilly Phanatic has the personality of Mike Pence compared to the real Phillie Phanatic. This one looks like the Phillie Phanatic's second cousin from overseas, not from the Galapagos but rather from the land of Smurfs.

Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

usa-earnie-stewart.jpg
USA Today Images

Union sign prospect Derrick Jones to homegrown contract

Midfielder Derrick Jones has made Union history.

On Wednesday, the club announced Jones, 19, has been signed to the Union first team as a Homegrown Player. Currently playing with the Union’s USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel, Jones is the first Union Academy graduate to make the move from Union Academy to Union first team.

“Derrick’s progression through our system has been quicker than anticipated and it’s evident that he is ready for the next step of his career,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said in the team’s official release. “This is a testament to Derrick’s commitment to his trade, and it should be considered a tremendous accomplishment to become the first player to come through our Academy, to Bethlehem Steel, and finally to the first team.”

Jones, who moved to Philadelphia in 2012 from Bantana, Ghana, and worked his way through the Union Academy before joining the Steel in 2016, made his Union debut in a friendly match against Crystal Palace on July 13 at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The 6-foot-3 rangy midfielder, who doesn’t have a set position, showed well playing the entire second half, presenting his on-the-ball poise at the attacking mid position.

“Derrick has now set the benchmark for every player in our youth system,” Stewart said. “That there is a pathway to the professional level, and that it is achievable if you remain committed to your goals.”

Jones is the first Union homegrown signing since 2012. Homegrown status means the player avoids being submitted into the MLS SuperDraft. The Union Academy has been around since 2013 and is located at the YSC Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania. 

“I’m delighted that Derrick is our first and that the work of our staff has come to fruition in this way,” Academy director Tommy Wilson said. “This is a proud moment for Derrick and his family. I would like to congratulate them and everyone else who has played a part in his development.”

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

In final stage of rehab assignment, Aaron Altherr eager to return to Phillies

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Phillies can be forgiven to some extent for their failure to get consistent production out of their corner outfielders this season. After all, they've been without one of their projected starters since spring training.

The good news is Aaron Altherr is on the verge of returning after missing almost four months with a wrist injury. The 25-year-old reached the final stop of his rehab tour through the Phillies' minor league system Tuesday, going 1 for 3 with a double in a 4-2 victory for the Triple A Ironpigs.

Needless to say, Altherr is feeling better.

"It's going good," Altherr said of his recovery. "It gets a little tight every now and then. Just gotta loosen it up. I'm good to go."

Altherr suffered a torn ligament in his left wrist attempting a diving catch in a Grapefruit League game back in March. The injury was expected to keep the righthander out four-to-six months, possibly even ending his season.

If the current rehab assignment is any indication, it turns out he's about ready to rejoin the Phillies. Through 12 minor league games, which includes stints at Reading, Clearwater and in the Gulf Coast League, Altherr is 13 for 34 (.351) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. He's also walked seven times to six strikeouts and stolen two bases. Yet while clearly enjoying himself, he feels as though he's ready to rejoin the big club.

"It's been fun," Altherr said. "Was just down to (Double A) Reading, good crowd there. It's gonna be another good crowd up here (in Lehigh Valley) I'm sure. I always enjoy going to these places and seeing people again, so it's definitely fun.

"Mentally and physically, I think I'm ready to go. My timing is there. I'm just ready to go and get after it and play some games up there."

As for what he could bring to MLB's 29th-ranked offense, which too often this season has seen little impact from its corner outfielders, Altherr will do what he can to provide a spark for the Phillies.

"I hope so," Altherr said. "I'm not gonna try to do too much though. I'm just gonna go up there and do what I know I can do and hopefully help out the team any way I can."

A ninth-round draft pick in 2009, Altherr got his first serious look with the Phillies last year, batting .241 with 19 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs in 39 games. It wasn't nearly enough to anoint the German-born prospect as part of the franchise's rebuilding effort, but the organization was hoping to use 2016 to evaluate his potential as an everyday player.

"I wouldn't say missed opportunity," Altherr said about the poor timing of his injury. "Things like this happen. I'll get back stronger than ever and show what I can do. It is what it is. I've worked hard every day and tried to get back as fast as I could."

He's right, of course. It's not like all is lost in that sense. Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Tyler Goeddel have had their moments, but none has cemented his role moving forward. Outside of likely September call-up Nick Williams posting quality numbers at Triple A, there isn't exactly a long line of players knocking down the door for one of those two spots.

"There's always going to be competition no matter where you are in life, so I definitely don't really think about it too much," Altherr said. "I just have to go out there and control what I can control and play the way I know I can play."

Altherr's opportunity is coming any day now. A 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete who also happens to be a plus-defender could bring a lot to the mix for the Phillies right now. It may be too late to find out this year if he has a long and bright future with the club, but he could certainly provide some excitement down the stretch.