Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

With just a few days left before the team's 2011 kick off, we had the opportunity to sit down with Eagles rookie safety Jaiquawn Jarrett Thursday afternoon. We've been covering the Temple Owls here on the site the past couple seasons, so we thought it would be good to check in with Jaiquawn as he prepares for his first game in the NFL.

Inside the Novacare Complex, Jarrett's locker is flanked on either side by those of fellow safeties Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman. Anderson was listening and watching for the better part of the interview. You'll see why that's important later on.

Nick: First off, there's the obvious question. You're now just three days from your first game in the NFL. How's it feel?

Jaiquawn Jarrett: You know, It's exciting. But, it's still a long process just to get ready. Right now I'm just focusing on the game plan, learning the game plan. And then I'm doing my best in practice to go out there and execute that plan, so I can be ready when the time comes to get in there, whenever that may be.

Nick: We'll sort of start back in March and move our way forward. Prior to the 2011 Draft, how aware were you that the Eagles may have been interested?

Jaiquawn: Really, I wasn't too aware that the Eagles were interested in me, but I'm definitely glad and excited that they did select me. I'm excited that I'm able to play college ball and my professional ball here in Philadelphia. It's a good thing. I'm glad it worked out.

Nick: Once you were drafted, head coach Andy Reid called you the most intimidating hitter in the draft and then went on to compare you to Brian Dawkins. What does it mean to you to compared to a player like Dawk?

Jaiquawn: Brian Dawkins, man, Brian Dawkins is one of the best players to ever play this game. He is going to go down in history as a Hall of Fame safety. There's no doubt. Really, I'm just learning right now. You know, I've got a lot to learn. But I can definitely learn a lot from him. And I can obviously learn from the safeties I'm surrounded by in this locker room.

Nick: After the draft, what did you do to stay in shape and improve during the lock out when you weren't allowed access to the team or its facilities?

Jaiquawn: I worked out at Temple. I worked out at Temple numerous times with the strength coach, coach P [Frank Piraino], and my old strength coach, coach [Tony] Decker. So, I was always lifting and running.

Nick: Once you were allowed back, did the veterans hit you with any of the traditional rookie "chores?"

Jaiquawn: Oh no. You know, there's really no rookie chores here. None of that stuff, believe it or not. [Pauses — Smiles] But we do, uh, we do provide away game meals. But that's not really a big issue.

Nick: Well, you know it has been on other teams.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. I know. I've heard about that.

Nick: As a second round draft pick, there was some early talk that you and Nate Allen could make up a very young starting safety tandem. Now, those spots are filled by teammates Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman. Do you feel the lockout and not being able to attend mini-camps or OTAs in any way hindered your progression, and that if you had a normal training camp things might have turned out differently?

Jaiquawn: I'm not too sure. You know, I really don't know about that. If there wasn't a lockout…I probably would have learned a lot more. But, I mean, I'm learning now. And I'm going to continue to learn. And I'm going to go out there to compete. And I think if I can go out out there and try my best to become a good team player, that I'll pick it up.

Nick: It's your coach Juan Castillo's first season in the league as a defensive coordinator. What is your impression of Juan in that role having gone through an entire training camp?

Jaiquawn: Juan Castillo is a great man. He's a great man. He's exciting. He's always got a lot of enthusiasm. He's always got a lot of energy. He's just great that way. Definitely keeps us going.

Nick: Other than the coaching staff, from whom, thus far, have you learned the most?

Jaiquawn: Colt! [Laughs] Colt Anderson's helped a lot. We roomed together a lot. Roomed together at the hotel, in training camp. So definitely Colt. Kurt [Coleman]. Kurt helps a lot. Just about the whole safety core. [Smiles] We're all pretty tight around here."

Nick: As a part of the secondary who gets to see these guys in action quite a bit, what's been like to watch the Eagles "big three" corners on a daily basis?

Jaiquawn: You know, each of them has their own different traits. Each one has their own way of doing things. But, they're all talented. They're all great corners. And every day, every single day, they're out there making plays, whether it's practice, or preseason, or whatever. Everyday they're making plays. For me, it's just exciting to watch how Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame corners go about their business everyday. It's great to watch, great to learn from."

Nick: Prior to joing the Eagles, I'm sure you, like the rest of us, consumed quite a bit of the media coverage surrounding quarterback Michael Vick. What's it been like to meet him and interact with him everyday as a real person, and not just "that guy" who did "that thing?"

Jaiquawn: Mike is a real down to earth person. Honestly, being around Mike Vick is just like being around anybody else. He's down to earth, you know? He's really easy to get along with. He's just a good guy. Simple as that.

Nick: Switching over to college, you said you worked out at Temple over the summer. How much have you gotten to know coach Steve Addazio and what is your impression of what he can do for that program going forward?"

Jaiquawn: [Smiles] Ohhh, Steve Addazio. Coach Addazio has a lot of, a whole lot of intensity, man. [Laughs]. He's a real good man. And he's been letting the seniors who have graduated come back to work with the team, work out with the team, run with the team. I'm excited for them. I heard about their big win over Villanova. I'm looking for big, big things out of them this upcoming season."

Nick: And how about your old head coach, Al Golden? Have you had any contact with coach Golden, especially since all that came out about the University of Miami's football program?

Jaiquawn: Nah, you know, I really haven't had the chance to speak to coach Golden. I know he's got a lot on his plate right now. But, I'm pulling for him. I know he's gonna turn that program around."

Nick: Alright, two easy ones and then we'll let you go. We've been covering your career at Temple the past couple years so we have to ask, not counting the cafeteria or the SAC, what's your favorite spot to eat on Temple's campus? We'll give them some free advertising."

Jaiquawn: "Well, I always liked to go to City View! But I was definitely always eatin' Rita's, as well, though."

Nick: Finally, we hear it's pretty common for guys to listen to music before taking the field. Marshawn Lynch refers to it as "getting that last little bit of juice."

Jaiquawn: Mhmm.

Nick: What will you be listening to Sunday morning?

Jaiquawn: Sunday morning…well, I always listen to Fabolous.

Nick: Yeah? Any specific song? We'll put it on the website.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] "Gangsta Don't Play" [Continued laughter].

--

Thanks to Jaiquawn Jarrett for taking the time to talk to us, and for making it through what Colt Anderson called "the longest interview I've ever heard." And now, Fabolous...

Photos with thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles, Associated Press, Express Times and GCobb.com

Phillies beat writer promises to 'eat his shoe' if Tim Tebow ever plays in MLB

Phillies beat writer promises to 'eat his shoe' if Tim Tebow ever plays in MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams who will go give Tim Tebow a look during his baseball workout for roughly 20 MLB teams.

That's according to Phillies beat writer Jim Salisbury who writes that the chances of Tebow making it to Major League Baseball as "extremely thin."

Then, when appearing on Philly Sports Talk on Tuesday evening, he tossed in the added bonus of shoe eating.

"I think this is more of a due dillegence thing just to say that you were there," Salisbury told Michael Barkann. "This guy hasn't played baseball in more than a decade. Before that it wasn't like he was a standout. He was more of a tools plalyer, a good athlete."

"If he ever plays a day in the big leagues I will eat my shoe," Salisbury said.

I think it's safe to say we are all pulling really hard for Timmy to make it now.

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Can Phils pound James Shields like rest of MLB?

Phillies-White Sox 5 things: Can Phils pound James Shields like rest of MLB?

Phillies (58-68) at White Sox (60-64)
8:10 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies' brief two-game series with the White Sox ends tonight at U.S. Cellular Field. The Phils were pounded, 9-1, on Tuesday as they lost for the fifth time in seven games. They've been outscored 50-20 in those seven games.

Let's take a look at the series finale:

1. Get 'em through six
The Phillies turn to Jerad Eickhoff, who has been the most consistent of their many young right-handers. Eickhoff is 8-12 with a 3.91 ERA, and he's pitched at least six innings in 16 of his 25 starts.

That's notable at the moment because the Phillies aren't getting much length from any of their other young starters. Jake Thompson has averaged fewer than five innings in his four starts. Vince Velasquez is averaging 5.1 innings over his last four. Adam Morgan has averaged 4.3.

Unlike the others, Eickhoff has progressed rather than regressed this season. He hit a rough patch in April and early May and the struggles taught him to use his slider more. He went from being a three-pitch pitcher to a four-pitch pitcher, and the success of his slider made his fastball, sinker and curveball more effective.

That's the kind of adjustment a young pitcher needs to make. The adjustments for the others are pretty clear: Velasquez needs to mix his pitches better and get outs earlier in counts, while Thompson needs to throw more first-pitch strikes and get his slider below waist level.

Games in AL parks are always tougher on pitchers because of the DH, but Eickhoff has thrown well in both of his interleague starts in AL stadiums this season. He allowed one earned run in six innings at Target Field in Minnesota and pitched six shutout innings at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

It should benefit him that these White Sox hitters have never seen him. Players who don't have experience against Eickhoff tend to be frozen by his big hook.

2. Benefit of fresh arms
The Phillies' bullpen has been taxed lately because of the injuries and ineffectiveness of the starting rotation. Phils relievers have pitched an average of 3.9 innings per game in August. The starters have accounted for only 57 percent of the innings pitched. Not good.

Thankfully, the Phillies have been able to turn to somewhat fresh relievers. 

Edubray Ramos has made 23 appearances in July and August and shown flashes. He's struck out 29 and walked just six in 25⅓ innings this season. 

Michael Mariot, who missed the first six weeks of the season with an ankle injury, has a 3.24 ERA and has allowed just four baserunners in 8⅓ innings.

Manager Pete Mackanin spoke last week about wanting a few more relievers when rosters expand on Sept. 1. It would allow the Phillies to give Hector Neris more rest. Neris hasn't exactly been overworked — he's made 63 appearances and is on pace for 81 — but it could only help to lessen his load as the season nears its conclusion.

Neris continues to dominate, by the way. He's pitched 7⅔ scoreless innings in a row with 14 strikeouts. In 64⅓ innings this season, he has a 2.24 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 82 strikeouts and 18 walks. His opponents have hit .195.

3. Not the same James
The Phillies face veteran right-hander James Shields, who is having by far the worst year of his career. Shields, who began the year with the Padres before being traded at the beginning of June, is 5-15 with a 5.98 ERA. 

His numbers are even worse with Chicago — 3-8 with a 7.62 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. Everyone's pounding him — lefties, righties, good teams, bad teams. Shields' opponents have hit .297 with a .902 OPS. It's caused him to shy away from contact more and his walk rate has risen from 2.3 per nine in his previous 10 seasons to 4.3 this year.

Most teams stayed away from Shields in free agency prior to 2015 because of all the wear and tear on his arm. He was about to turn 33, and he had pitched an average of 223 innings over an eight-year span heading into that offseason. (He also pitched 60 total innings in the playoffs during those years.)

Those concerns appear to have been warranted, as Shields' stuff has declined in his mid-30s. Shields' fastball averaged 92.3 mph from 2012 to 2014 and is down to 90.4 this season. 

His changeup has always been his best pitch, even in recent years. From 2012 to 2015, his opponents hit .215 in 1,044 at-bats ending in a changeup. This season they've hit .263 with 14 extra-base hits, six of which were homers.

The Phillies saw Shields in the 2008 World Series. That was his third big-league season. A few Phils have hit him well — Odubel Herrera is 4 for 6; Peter Bourjos is 5 for 10 with a double and a homer.

4. Platooning Herrera?
Herrera has sat against most left-handed starting pitchers recently. Mackanin and the Phillies are trying to get him back to hitting the way he was earlier in the season, when he was seeing a ton of pitches and utilizing the opposite field. He hit .294 with a .378 on-base percentage in the first half but has hit .252 with a .321 OBP since the All-Star break.

Interestingly, Herrera fared well last season against lefties. He hit .293 against them in 123 at-bats as a rookie. In 2016, he's hit .225 against them in 120 at-bats. But a lot of those failures have come against left-handed relievers, who by nature are stingier against same-handed hitters because that's their specialty. 

Herrera, whose bat was missing from Tuesday's lineup against tough lefty Carlos Rodon, is actually hitting .309 (25 for 81) with a .398 OBP this season vs. left-handed starters. Against lefty relievers, he's 2 for 39.

5. Cell tower power 
U.S. Cellular Field is the only active big-league stadium in which Ryan Howard has never played. He sat last night but is expected to start tonight against the right-hander Shields.

Howard, who has taken Shields deep before, has homered in 25 of the 33 parks he's played in. If he hits one out tonight, that would be 26. 

It's not out of the realm of possibility given how locked in Howard has been. Over his last 13 games, he's 16 for 43 (.375) with four doubles, five homers and 13 RBIs. He's third in the majors in slugging percentage (.814) since July 29, behind only Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union-Crew 5 things: Still in good position, Jim Curtin's club looks to rebound

Union at Crew
7:30 p.m. on TCN

Despite being dominated by Toronto FC on Saturday, the Union (9-9-7) managed to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, thanks to a handful of fortunate results around the league. But if the club wants to better its odds for the postseason, it needs to take care of business at Mapfre Stadium Wednesday night against the Columbus Crew (4-8-11).

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Playoff push
It hasn’t been a convincing few weeks for the Union. Although the club still sits fourth in the Eastern Conference despite one win in its last six games, it needs points to stay afloat. That quest begins Wednesday against the Crew.

“The focus is getting points,” Union defender Richie Marquez said. “For us, home or away, we need three points because we need to solidify that playoff spot.”

As of now the Union are in snug playoff position with 34 points — one ahead of the Montreal Impact and six in front of D.C. United and Orlando City for the sixth and final playoff spot. On the plus side, the club is one point behind the New York Red Bulls with a game in hand.

“It’s a push to get into the playoffs and try to see how high we can end up in the table,” Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. “It’s important we don’t look too much at the standings because anything can happen in this league. It’s all really tight. It’s important we go to Columbus with the right mentality and come back to Philly with three points.”

2. Coming off a loss
Speaking of the playoff push, the Union’s dream of being a top-two seed in the East took a major hit Saturday in a 3-1 bashing by Toronto FC. The loss put Toronto up six and New York City FC up seven on the Union. 

Worst of all, it crushed all Union momentum coming out of a 4-0 win over the New England Revolution a week prior. Still, the club maintains its confidence heading into Wednesday.

“I feel good about this team and the players we have,” Bedoya said. “The goals we gave up were too easy. We have talent on this team, but there’s little things we have to fix. Once we get those right, we’ll be tough to break down.” 

As Jim Curtin explained, the short turnaround from Saturday actually works in the Union’s favor. 

“We were smart with how we managed the past two days in terms of getting the guys massages, taking care of their bodies, eating right and getting enough sleep,” he said. “They’ll be ready to go, they’re itching to get the bad taste out of their mouth after the Toronto game.”

3. Win-starved Crew
With the help of Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuain, the Crew took down the floundering Revolution over the weekend. But that’s nothing to celebrate over. It was just the club’s fourth win of the season and second since May 28. 

The Crew are currently closer to having the lowest point total in MLS than a playoff spot.

“It’s been tough,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s a team that I believe in deeply but it’s natural that confidence dips when you don’t get the results. It’s about believing in our playing style and fine-tuning things, approving in some areas. I think we did that in the last game.” 

Though the Crew attempt to climb out of the basement Wednesday, they know what they are up against. The Union took the first season meeting against the Crew, 2-1, and the second, 3-2. 

“They added Bedoya, who is a quality player,” Berhalter said. “Other than that, it’s similar to what they’ve been doing all year with [C.J.] Sapong and talented players behind him. Bedoya makes a good difference there, but they are a solid group and they’ll play with intensity. From our side, we’ll have to be smart how we approach the game.”

4. Keep an eye on ...
Union: Facing the Crew twice this season, the Union have five goals. Chris Pontius has three of them. The Union forward scored the brace on March 12, then buried another on June 1. 

Crew: MLS rookie Ola Kamara leads the Crew with 10 goals, including one against the Union on June 1. Since May 28, the forward has 10 goals and one assist in 12 games.

5. This and that
• Facing the Crew has always been tough for the Union. Including two wins this season, the Union are 6-10-1 against the Crew all-time.

• The Union have only suffered back-to-back losses twice this season, and both times it happened in the club’s last 10 games.

• Of Kamara’s 10 goals this season, six have come at home. 

• The first-ever meeting between the Union and Crew happened on Aug. 5, 2010, and was a 2-1 loss for the Union. Sebastien Le Toux scored a penalty kick but Steven Lenhart buried the brace.