Jimmy Rollins’ biggest problem: walk no longer backs up the talk

Jimmy Rollins’ biggest problem: walk no longer backs up the talk

“We are the team to beat.” With those six simple words, Jimmy Rollins gave the Philadelphia Phillies the swagger to seize the NL East in 2007, the first in a run of five straight division titles that included a world championship in ‘08. J-Roll was an undisputed leader inside the clubhouse.

Of course, it helped that Rollins went out and had himself a literal MVP season on the diamond in ’07. Those words might fall a little flat in 2014 coming from a 35-year-old shortstop who just posted the least productive season of his Major League career since becoming an everyday player.

Then again, they might not if he was the type of player who did things “the right way.”

A veteran of 14 big-league seasons, Rollins’ experience alone could be a valuable asset to the Phillies, particularly the younger players (there’s one or two I think). As the longest tenured athlete in the city of Philadelphia, he’s been through it all, from collecting championships and accolades to enduring losing and controversies.

Rollins has a history though. The three-time All Star has been benched in the past for his perceived lack of effort and issues with punctuality. He’s not a lead-by-example guy like, say, Chase Utley, who by all accounts is constantly working out and watching film, always striving to maintain an edge.

That’s not Jimmy. It never was, yet he was perfectly capable of leading this team before. Now all of a sudden the Phillies want him to lead or leave, as Buster Olney writes for ESPN.com.

The question is when did he stop being a leader?

One answer would be the moment Ryne Sandberg took over as manager last August. The new skipper instantly employed a more disciplined approach than Charlie Manuel, who at times seemed to act as more of a grandfatherly figure than a boss.

It’s not hard to imagine how Sandberg’s demands would conflict with Rollins’ laid-back attitude. Sure enough, J-Roll already has been benched for three games this spring. Meanwhile, his manager is ranting and raving about backup Freddy Galvis’ “energy” and “positive influence.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt the Phillies have got roughly the same production from Galvis here in the early-goings. Rollins is 2-for-22 with five walks and a home run this spring. Galvis is 4-for-34 with three walks, a triple and a home run.

Would Sandberg have benched Rollins if he was producing at the plate? Possible, but perhaps unlikely.

The bottom line is Rollins stopped being a leader right around the time his offense fell off of a cliff. The truth is he could get away with marching to the beat of his own drum because he was getting the job done where and when it counted, on the field and in clutch situations.

Those days appear to be gone now though, so let’s call this drama what it is. The real issue here has little to do with Rollins’ leadership, work ethic or attitude. This is about Rollins being a shell of the player he once was.

The problem is the Phillies are stuck with No. 11 for the time being. The organization can talk trade all they want, but Rollins has the final say on such matters, and he doesn’t sound inclined to walk. I suppose Sandberg could make the situation so untenable for Jimmy that he gives up, but that doesn’t exactly send a great message, either.

The play here might be to patch things up with Rollins, who is largely guilty of signing the contract the Phillies gave him, and try to survive the season ahead. The idea that he needs to set an example in the clubhouse if he can’t set one in the batter’s box is not who Rollins is. Feuding over it is only a disservice to everybody.

Eagles respond to Josh Norman comments: Sam Bradford is probably ticked off

Eagles respond to Josh Norman comments: Sam Bradford is probably ticked off

New Redskins CB Josh Norman ripped a ton of players from a number of teams in a wild interview earlier in the week. For whatever reason, Eagles QB Sam Bradford took a bunch of that criticism.

"Have you ever once been one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the league? Not that I remember -- and you want more money? I can't wait to play him twice a year,” Norman told ESPN The Magazine.

Sam’s teammates had a chance to come to his defense on Wednesday.

“Everyone knows Sam’s our leader,” Zach Ertz said. “I’m not going to pull a [Terrell Owens] right now and get all upset. At the same time, Sam’s my guy. Everybody loves him. Everybody knows he’s our quarterback right now and I think he’s going to be very successful this season.”

Not everyone on the Eagles had something to say about it.

“I’m not going to get into that. I’m not going to comment on it,” Head Coach Doug Pederson said.

Offensive lineman Lane Johnson points out the obvious, that Norman and the Redskins are going to have to put some action behind their words.

“That’s just what rival teams do. They like to talk their trash. They’re going to have to go out on the field and back it up. There’s going to be a time and place to show what you’re talking about.”

“It’s probably gonna piss [Bradford] off. He takes stuff to heart and he wants to prove everybody wrong,” Johnson said.

Temple's defense counting on several to replace production of NFL draft picks

Temple's defense counting on several to replace production of NFL draft picks

With just over a week to go before the season opener vs. Army at Lincoln Financial Field, it’s tough to pin down a way or even a few words to describe the 2016 incarnation of the Temple Owls.

There’s still veteran leadership on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Phillip Walker and running back Jahad Thomas back for their senior seasons.

But now the program has reached the point where head coach Matt Rhule, who’s entering his fourth year at the helm, and his staff can really start molding the Owls into their vision as members of highly-rated, athletic recruiting classes of recent years continue to filter their respective ways into important roles.

At this time last year before the season opener against Penn State, the pulse of Temple’s team was clear — an experienced, ferocious defense.

But just because star linebacker Tyler Matakevich (Pittsburgh Steelers), defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis (Washington Redskins) and cornerback Tavon Young (Baltimore Ravens) have graduated and moved on to the NFL doesn’t mean there’s not some very talented and experienced players to fill their roles as the Owls continue to evolve.

So that begs this question — who’s being counted on to produce and fill the shoes of those who’ve moved on?

Let’s start with the obvious hole in production at linebacker without Matakevich, who finished his Temple career with 493 tackles and punctuated that stellar career with last year’s Bronco Nagurski Award, which is given to the nation’s best defensive player.

Redshirt senior Stephaun Marshall will slide over to SAM linebacker and take Matakevich’s old WILL linebacker spot. While Matakevich was a generational talent, Rhule is confident Marshall will be able to contribute greatly to the Owls’ defense.

“He’s moved to be a productive guy,” Rhule said Tuesday during Temple’s media day. “I think he’ll play really well.”

Being a productive player is something Marshall, a Montclair, New Jersey native, is used to. In 38 games with the Owls over the past three seasons, Marshall has recorded 113 total tackles, 11 pass deflections, 2½ sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and one interception. He’s also used to moving positions as he started his collegiate career as a safety before moving to the SAM spot in 2014.

And Marshall will be set up nicely to increase his production in 2016. In defensive coordinator Phil Snow’s aggressive scheme, the WILL spot is known to be the most productive spot on the field. Players who have played that spot under Snow include former NFL players Pat Tillman (241 tackles) and Adam Archuleta (203 tackles) at Arizona State, and, of course, Matakevich at Temple.

Another player to keep an eye on at the WILL linebacker spot is redshirt freshman Chapelle Russell, who’s currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Marshall. But that doesn’t mean Russell won’t see time as Rhule and his staff have gushed about Russell’s potential for a long time now. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Russell is an athletic specimen.

“Chapelle Russell has infinite talent,” Rhule said Tuesday. “He’s got tremendous upside. It’s just gonna be whether he does it. He’s a redshirt freshman. Some days he’s out there and makes every tackle. Some days his shoulder bothers him a bit or something like that or it’s Coach Rhule told him he couldn’t wear this pair of socks and he’s not quite at the same level. We’re just trying to get him to be the same guy every day.”

As far as the defensive line is concerned, there’s no true answer yet on the inside to replace Ioannidis. Senior Averee Robinson, redshirt junior and North Carolina transfer Greg Webb, redshirt sophomore Freddie Booth-Lloyd and true freshman Karamo Dioubate are all in the mix to play key roles at defensive tackle.

The Owls are set up nicely at defensive end, though, with Praise Martin-Oguike and Haason Reddick back for their senior seasons.

Martin-Oguike had 30 tackles, four sacks and an interception last season. Reddick, a former walk-on from Camden and Haddon Heights High School in South Jersey, made noise last season with 45 tackles and five sacks, all while paying his own way to school without a scholarship.

“I got here and he wasn’t even on the team,” Rhule said of Reddick on Tuesday. “All he’s done is battle for his spot. He played last year at an all-conference level while not being on scholarship.”

Reddick was put on scholarship after last season. During this preseason camp, he was awarded jersey No. 7, an achievement as the Owls annually award single-digit jersey numbers to those voted toughest by teammates.

Sharif Finch, who had an interception against Penn State last year, is also in the mix on the defensive line.

The cornerback situation is a bit more unsettled at this point in time.

After last season, the Owls seemed set there with star Sean Chandler, who had four picks in 2015 and returned two of them for touchdowns. But the staff decided to move Chandler, a junior, to safety during the offseason to better utilize his athleticism and because they felt it would be the better position for his pro prospects going forward.

What’s left at corner after Chandler’s move is a mish-mash of depth. There’s no shortage of players who have the potential to make an impact, according to Rhule.

Redshirt senior Nate Hairston and redshirt junior Artrel Foster both saw time there last season and played well. Redshirt sophomore Derrick Thomas and redshirt freshman Kareem Ali are also in the mix.

But it sure sounded Tuesday like Rhule is waiting for one or two of them to stand out during the early part of the season.

“Thomas is playing at a high level. Foster was playing at a really high level but he just has some nicks right now, so he’s fighting to get back. Hairston is coming on and Ali is coming on, too,” Rhule said. “I think our corners, we feel like we have a lot of depth.

“The thing about playing corner is you have to get beat. You have to go into a game and really get beat and then respond to it. We have a lot of guys who have the talent to do it, they just haven’t gone into a game and got run by yet. How they respond is a true marker of how they are as a corner.”

The cornerback question may not get an answer for a couple of weeks, at least. Army runs the triple-option offense and rarely throws. On the schedule after Army is Stony Brook, an FCS squad.

That leaves Sept. 17’s game vs. Penn State at Beaver Stadium as the first true test for Temple’s corners. And for the defense as a whole.

Temple basketball names Chris Clark assistant coach

ap-chris-clark.jpg
AP

Temple basketball names Chris Clark assistant coach

Chris Clark is back with the Owls.

The former Temple guard and team video coordinator was named an assistant coach to Fran Dunphy’s staff on Wednesday night.

“We are happy to have Chris Clark rejoin our staff,” Dunphy said in a release by the school. “He knows our system as a player and as a staff member last year. He also has extensive coaching experience, serving as an assistant at three different D-I programs. Chris has been successful at every stop in his career, and we look forward to having him back in the fold.”

Clark, a Philadelphia native, played for the Owls from 2004-08 and was a standout sixth man his senior season, helping lead Temple to a 21-13 record and Atlantic 10 conference championship. During the 2015-16 season, he served the Owls as their video coordinator. He left the program in April to join Drexel’s staff as an assistant.

“I am truly excited to be able to return to Temple as an assistant coach on Fran Dunphy’s staff,” Clark said. “Last season was special working at my alma mater as the video coordinator, but to now serve as an assistant is truly an honor. With that said, I want to thank Drexel head coach Zach Spiker for the opportunity to work on his staff, and his understanding through this process. I enjoyed my short time there and wish the program continued success.”