Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Some weeks there just isn't much to say about the game. The Eagles dominated a listless Jaguars squad in every phase of the game on Sunday. The defense limited Jacksonville's only legitimate weapon, allowing the front four to tee off on the quarterback, while Michael Vick played mistake-free football, only taking the big plays that were there to be made. The result was never in doubt.

We're not going to learn a whole lot about the Eagles from dissecting this one. The fact is they should have won with ease, and did. Vick is supposed perform against defenses that don't have the personnel to cover his array of weapons, much less pin him down. This week will serve as a better example of his progress as an NFL quarterback.

Until then, let's humor the Vick crowd.

Michael Vick just played, in my opinion, his best game of the season so far. His completion percentage wasn't as high this week as the previous two, which might be a warning he will regress closer to his career average in that department. However, he seemed much more decisive with the football. He got rid of the rock faster, and he was willing to turn it loose down the field when the match-ups dictated he take a shot. There were no turnovers, nor was he ever really in danger of coughing it up.

Again, this is the Jaguars we're talking about, so we probably shouldn't get too excited. Still, with the exception of a handful of harmless incompletions, Vick appeared to have come a long way as a passer in a relatively short timespan. If this trend continues—a big if—how does that impact the state of the Eagles' quarterback situation for the future?

It may seem like a stupid question, but even if Vick sustains a Pro Bowl level of production throughout the course of the season, there is an inherent risk in giving him a long term contract. For starters, the man remains on probation. As we witnessed during the off-season after a shooting took place at his birthday party, even the slightest involvement by Vick in criminal activity will prompt an investigation, and could easily land him back in prison, or at least suspended by the league.

Had his role in a despicable dog fighting ring been the extent of the quarterback's wrong-doing through the years, this might not be as much of a cause for concern. Unfortunately, Vick has turned up on the wrong side of the law with some frequency. There's no reason to draft a list in this space, but those incidents, although in the past and many of them alleged, can't be treated as irrelevant or like they never happened at all.

Do I believe Michael Vick is a changed man? That's not really important. The reality of his situation is it only takes one miscue before he has everything taken back: one drink too many before getting behind the wheel of a car; one joint or dime bag left lying around; one physical altercation. These are not a stretch for any professional athlete, much less Vick. The difference is he might not get another second chance.

What's the back-up plan then?

The Eagles are walking a thin line with Vick. Kevin Kolb was either going to be a good NFL quarterback, or he wasn't, and the front office would simply move forward as everything unfolded.

If Vick continues to shred opposing defenses the way he did in Detroit and Jacksonville, can the Eagles make a commitment to an athlete with a sordid past at one of the most important positions in professional sports?

Conventional wisdom seems to scream, "No," but I think we may be way beyond that.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

For Shayne Gostisbehere, Dave Hakstol, Stadium Series brings back cherished memories

PITTSBURGH -- For Flyers coach Dave Hakstol and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, tonight’s Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Penguins brings back memories.
 
Hakstol coached North Dakota in an outdoor hockey in college, while Gostisbehere participated in one as a freshman at Union College.
 
For Hakstol, however, this whole idea of outdoor hockey began when he was growing up in central Alberta in the small town of Drayton Valley.
 
“I think everybody’s got great memories of growing up outdoors,” Hakstol said. “We had a back creek that we could shovel off. I’m sure everybody could sit back and tell you stories of playing on the outdoor rinks.
 
“For me, most recently, I’ve got two kids growing up playing on outdoor rinks, backyard rinks. It’s pretty cool. It takes you right back to the heart of the game.”
 
Hakstol’s outdoor coaching experience came during a game between Nebraska-Omaha and his North Dakota squad in 2013 at the “Mutual of Omaha Battles on Ice.”
 
“I don’t know how to describe it,” Hakstol said of the event. “It’s just a different feel. It’s an ideal scenario.”
 
He said while tonight's game is special, it’s still about the points, first and foremost.
 
“You are cognizant of everything that surrounds the event and the game,” Hakstol said. “Yet for us, it’s two points. We’re fighting for every point here. That is going to paramount.”

Gostisbehere played at Fenway Park in 2012 for Union in a game against Harvard. That night, Union won, 2-0, to become the first ECAC club to ever win outdoors.
 
“I played at Fenway Park against Harvard and it was fun,” Gostisbehere said. “That was my freshman year and the only one I ever played in.
 
“Good crowd. It wasn’t packed obviously, but it was a night game. The ice was really good. It was really cold, too. It was pretty cool.”
 
As warm as it was Friday here -- a historic 78 degrees -- temperatures will begin in the 40s tonight at Heinz Field and then drop. It rained this morning but has since ceased.
 
“The biggest thing for me was to take a second, look around,” Gostisbehere said, admitting he failed to do that in college and won’t make that mistake again.
 
“Just cherish it a little bit. You are so focused on the game, it’s tough. That was biggest thing for me. It was such a blur. Just being in college and having the opportunity to play at Fenway Park was pretty awesome.”

This will the Flyers first-ever outdoor affair in Pittsburgh.
 
“It’s pretty exciting and I’m glad to be part of it,” Gostisbehere said.