Check it out, someone has unearthed a highlight reel from Matt McCoy's college playing days. Watch it and you can really see how back then he played a lot bigger than his size would indicate:
Check it out, someone has unearthed a highlight reel from Matt McCoy's college playing days. Watch it and you can really see how back then he played a lot bigger than his size would indicate:
We all know what's going to happen. Come August, the national sports media will turn its attention to predicting what's coming for the 2007 NFL season. It's obvious that no one reporter could possibly have an in-depth understanding of what's happening with every single team in the NFL. Even if you decide not to bother with the perennial doormats like the Browns and Raiders, you still can't make it work.
So all these guys (and a few gals) will instead rely on their own little shorthand. Early on, a few "truths" will be determined for each team, and then every single member of the commentariat will regurgitate them in print, on the radio and on ESPN.
As a public service to Eagles fans, I'd like to help you get a jump on the big boys by providing -- in June -- the top ten bogus stories everyone will be repeating in August:
1. This is a make-or-break season for Donovan McNabb, who has to regain the trust of his teammates -- many of whom privately thought Jeff Garcia should have been re-signed -- while looking over his shoulder at future starter Kevin Kolb.
Ah yes, McNabb's future. The big question. In order:
2. With a major talent infusion in front and beside him, Jeremiah Trotter is set to retake his leadership role on the defense and demonstrate he's still got plenty of gas in the tank.
If you took my clunker of a 10-year old Ford Escort and put it next to a shiny new convertible, would it look better or worse? The guys making all those plays to Trotter's right and left will only make it more obvious that Trot's a shell of his former self. It really is too bad about his knees. And that he left the Eagles right at the prime of his career.
3. The Eagles drafted Tony Hunt and Nate Ilaoa because they wanted a big running back capable of moving the chains on third short.
Nope, the Eagles drafted Hunt because they see him as a guy capable of becoming their #1 running back four years from now after Brian Westbrook either a) accepts a smaller role as a team leader and change-of-pace back or b) moves on to some other team that overpays a fantastic player who unfortunately by then will be well on the wrong side of 30. Hunt's role this year might be rather limited, but he's way too talented to be kept in the short-yardage box.
Ilaoa is a wide receiver in a fullback's body -- not the guy you want trying to move the pile.
4. Assuming McNabb stays healthy, Reggie Brown / Kevin Curtis is primed to have a major breakout season now that he's maturing into a veteran / getting a chance to be a full-time starter.
This is more fantasy-focused, of course. I fully expect both Brown and Curtis to have good numbers this year, but neither guy is going to "break out" of anything because the Eagles just don't play that way unless they're dealing with TO. I actually expect Curtis to start strong, slow down in the middle of the season as a larger role takes a toll on his smallish frame, and then close fast once Andy and Marty start getting more creative with some of his packages so he's not constantly fighting off jams at the line all the time.
5. Along the same lines, look for L.J. Smith to take a major step forward now that he's in his contract season.
Besides the injury issue and the fact that the Eagles are going to run the ball a bit more this year, L.J.'s biggest problem is that the Eagles don't need him to put up big numbers to be successful. If they were to lose Westbrook and Brown, maybe, but otherwise the tight end in this offense is a safety valve and a complementary option.
6. "How will Andy Reid deal with the distraction of his sons' ongoing legal proceedings?"
And that's just how they'll say it, too. No one actually expects it to be much of a distraction at all (come on, this the stoic Andy Reid we're talking about here) but it's something to write about, so why not throw it in.
7. Brian Westbrook proved once and for all that he could carry the load as an every-down back last year.
Again, no. He did it for half the season, and only because the team had no other choice after McNabb went down. Early in the year they were still closely monitoring his workload because he had that ongoing knee issue that actually caused him to be held out of the Green Bay game. Only four times last year did Westbrook have 20+ carries and for the year he had only 240 attempts. Tiki Barber had 327, and that was with Brandon Jacobs stealing all his goalline carries and fantasy points.
8. The strength of this Eagles team will be the offensive line.
Actually, this one's true. Moving on...
9. The Eagles will need someone to take Donte Stallworth's place as the deep threat at receiver who can keep defenses honest. If not Kevin Curtis, it might be former Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom.
First of all, I'm going to miss Stallworth. I wish we'd kept him. But Donte didn't even lead the team last year in receptions of 20+ or 40+ yards, that was downtown Reggie Brown.
As for Bloom, I expect him to be a major upgrade in the return game, assuming he hangs on to the ball the first few times he gets drilled by NFL contact, but how many balls is a #5 or #6 receiver actually going to have thrown his way over the course of the season?
10. Brian Dawkins is still a very good player, but he's starting to slip and the Eagles are going to have to think about the future at his position pretty soon.
Leaving aside what our eyes tell us when we watch him, look at the stats. Does that look like a guy who is slipping?
I think we've managed to find the one moment of the year when football isn't king. The players are traveling, the coaches are on vacation and the beat writers are covering other things.
Training camp begins exactly one month from today, but I don't expect the doldrums to last that long. In the meantime, I found a great link for summer reading (ht: this enemy blog). It comes, as most good things do, from FootballOutsiders.com. Every few days, they're going deep into their film study to find and break down gimmicky plays. There's a lot to be learned from looking at how NFL offensive coordinators use different personnel groups and formations to create mismatches for the defense.
Here are some direct links:
I still don't understand how these guys can give away all this great stuff for free. Enjoy it while it lasts.
(And maybe buy their book.)
Last year, right before the season's final game against the New Orleans Saints, I mentioned that the Eagles had led the league in penalty yards in 2006. I also posted a chart showing just how much penalties had dropped leaguewide and asking if anyone in the media was going to notice that any time soon.
Then, of course, the Eagles lost to the Saints, I lost all appetite for reading or writing about football for a few weeks and I missed this article in the New York Times that looked at that very issue. The link is subscription-only, but here are some excerpts:
The number of penalty flags thrown in the N.F.L declined 20 percent this season compared to a year ago, a drop that reversed a trend that had taken hold in recent seasons.
According to an analysis by The New York Times, 2006 marked the first time since 2001 that the overall number of penalties went down, instead of up. Penalties for offensive holding (down 34 percent) and defensive holding (down 32 percent) were among those showing the sharpest decline from 2005. Penalties for delay of game, defensive offside, false starts, pass interference and roughing the passer decreased at least 15 percent.
''We rewrote the rule, where officials could look for specific things, like with pass interference,'' Pereira said. ''When we categorized it, and put down specific things to look for, I think that emphasis created a lesser amount of holding calls. Because there might be some relationship between the amount of holding and the increase in rushing, we'll take a look at that during the off-season to see if anything needs to be addressed.''
The Bears had more penalties during the regular season (132) than any other playoff team, and the Colts, their Super Bowl opponent, were one of the least penalized teams with 95 infractions. They trailed only the Denver Broncos (77), the Jets (79), Pittsburgh (85), the Cleveland Browns (87), the Kansas City Chiefs (89) and New Orleans (90).
The Eagles have never been particularly good with penalties under Andy Reid. Here's a table showing how the Eagles have compared to the league average the last five years in penalties and penalty yards:
Only in 2003 were the Iggles better than average. That's surprising to me.
That last point in the Times article is particularly interesting. I have always associated lots of penalties with a lack of discipline, figuring good teams should be lower on that list. Clearly, given some of those names, there's not a one-to-one relationship.
In fact, FootballOutsiders.com did a study a few years ago that found the opposite:
It defies everything every coach and commentator says, not to mention common sense. I can’t explain it, but I can’t ignore it either. There is no correlation between a team’s penalties and its won-loss record...
If you need more proof of the mathematical type, there was a (very small) negative correlation coefficient between wins and net penalties (-.10) as well as wins and net penalty yards (-.08) in 2002.
It's interesting and worth reading the whole thing. I still think it would be nice if we could get to maybe, you know, average next year.
You may not care very much about the ongoing fight between the NFL Players union and the retired members it represents, but Congress sure does:
"A House Judiciary subcommittee will formally hear unsworn testimony Tuesday from all concerned parties regarding the NFL's retirement-disability-system-under-siege. Although this hearing is considered a fact-finding exercise so preliminary that past and present NFL commissioners Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell, and players union chief Gene Upshaw, will not be present, it will be clear from the onset the former players will play the role of the sympathetic plaintiffs while the league and the union will be viewed as the bullying defense."
already know may wonder why members of Congress consider this such a pressing matter, especially with everything else their staffs they have to worry about when it comes to screwing up actually running the government. Clearly it's all about publicity due process:
"You read these stories about these graphic, graphic injuries and you wonder why a ($7) billion industry can't look out after some of the giants that helped build that league," said U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., who chairs the House subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law. "I'm a due process kind of a girl. I'm a lawyer and I believe everybody should have their day in court and everybody should have a fair shake at presenting their case. But we've seen some of the retired players being denied benefits while the NFL, quite frankly, continues to profit off their work. It just seems like a really hypocritical situation."
Perhaps during the hearings Chair Sanchez can explain how the NFL continues to profit off the work of guys who haven't laced them up in 20 years. Because they were extras in those football follies videos the NFL Network still shows sometimes on slow days?
Look, I think current players probably should do more to help out the retired fellas. Today's practice squadders make what long-time starters did not all that long ago. Clearly, there's enough money sloshing around the league to help these guys out. (And isn't it interesting how in this case the retired guys are only blaming the players union rather than the league itself? Why are Goodell and his rich owner buddies getting a free pass here?)
But this issue isn't as black and white as a lot of people want to make it out to be. How would you feel if one day at work you got a memo saying that because some of the people who worked at your company 20 years before you got there were disabled, they now planned to take $10,000 a year out of your paycheck to contribute to a fund to help them out?
Furthermore, how much of what's happened to these guys is really the fault of the league? The Denver Post article I linked to above tells the story of one "Mike Mosley, a receiver for the Buffalo Bills from 1982-84... Mosley experienced knee, neck and back injuries that shortened his career and eventually left him permanently disabled, at least as initially ruled by the NFL disability committee."
I don't know the first thing about Mosley's career or his injury history, but I do know that three years isn't all that long a time to be in the league. Not to be heartless, but if Mosley had the type of body that was likely to break down from the stresses of playing in the NFL, I'm guessing his issues started long before he got to that point. Maybe Congress can pull in the NCAA and Pop Warner, too, while they're at it.
Some of the retired players screaming the loudest about this issue may also not be the most credible sources. Here's the Post on another retired player:
DeMarco, whose career ended amid severe health problems after the 1999 season, said he has never been able to get through the NFL disability system's red tape to get his application approved - and his back was broken in 17 places. He has such severe numbness in his arms and hands that his wife, Autumn, had to hold the phone for him for this interview.
"Because of this (NFL) system, me and my family have been homeless three times in the last four years," DeMarco said. "I've lived in a storage unit for five months with my wife and two children. I'm hoping that this doesn't happen to anybody else. That's all. This is a multibillion-dollar business, and guys are giving their quality of life up for this sport. Just a little respect and dignity is all we want."
The NFLPA responded Monday night by producing documents, which included two payments in March from the Player Assistance Trust that totaled almost $3,000 covering rent for DeMarco and a moving company bill. The nine checks covering just under $10,000 since last June were only a "partial report," a union official said, who added that as recently as this past weekend an NFLPA employee wired $300 "out of his own pocket" to DeMarco, who had called saying he was desperate for cash...
DeMarco, who was unavailable for comment Monday night, acknowledged to the Sun-Times that he had received about $10,000 in assistance from the NFLPA, yet he still complained about the union's response to his plight.
Another union official told ESPN that it's DeMarco who has been non-responsive, saying he has not returned disability forms which have been sent to him twice and has ignored the NFLPA's instructions to fill out forms for an annuity worth more than $40,000. DeMarco also has received a $50,000 severance claim when he left the NFL after the 2000 season and has a 401(k) plan with $151,000 in it, the official said.
The NFLPA official said it also had lined up a job for DeMarco in Austin, Texas, but that he "no-showed..."
A prominent ex-Jaguars player told ESPN that he and another former teammate "cringed" when they saw DeMarco appear at Monday's press conference. The ex-Jaguar did not want to be identified but said DeMarco has been given significant financial help by his former teammates, including three jobs "that he's blown."
"Now he's walking with a cane in front of cameras," the ex-Jaguar said. "Last time we saw him -- and it was in the past two weeks -- he didn't need a cane. He has some physical problems, yes, but there are other things going on there."
Of course, the idea that this is a complicated issue with more than just one side that's Right and one side that's Wrong isn't as much fun to run with. Here's how Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan pulls off the "to be fair" bit:
It is a complex matter, to be fair, but it really seems to boil down to this: The current players are willing to let their predecessors live in poverty, their bodies ruined by the violence of the game, in order to amass as much personal wealth as possible.
Ah yes, rich gang-bangers vs. the noble, broken warriors of our youth. Very complex. Very fair.
I've often wondered whether any real Hollywood movies contained the oft-satirized bit of dialogue: "Things sure are quiet around here." "Yeah, too quiet." Google comes up empty on the question, which is rough, since for space reasons I long ago decided to outsource to search engines all movie knowledge that didn't relate to Hoosiers, Major League, Tombstone, or any and all sports flicks involving Kevin Costner.
Yes, I have to look up quotes from The Big Lebowski.
It does call into question my commentarial bona fides, given my generational standing.
Let's move on.
What I'm wondering today, however, is if quiet offseasons translate into productive regular seasons. It definitely seems like the reverse is the case. The TO debacle in the summer of 2005 certainly presaged the disaster that was to follow. Even last summer, with all the talk of how great the defense was going to be and issues with Brodrick Bunkley's contract negotiations (which must have made the big fellow feel unloved, since he dealt with it by moping around the house and pounding the Häagen-Dazs) was much noisier than what we see now.
Obviously it hasn't been totally dead around here. We had that little post-draft blowup after the Kolb pick, but that settled down quickly once a) everyone realized there was no chance in hell that Kolb was starting any time soon and b) we all learned the answer to the question, "Who the @#$% is Kevin Kolb?" And Reid handled his own unfortunate family situation the way he deals with everything: quietly, effectively and firmly.
(Geez, lapsed into Spadaro-speak there for a moment, didn't I? Snap out of it, boy.)
For the most part, however, this offseason in Philly has been controversy-free, especially in comparison to what's going on in seemingly every other NFL city. Consider this by no means exhaustive list of controversies:
Vick. Pacman. LenDale. Marty. LJ. Coughlin. LaVar. Barnett. Brett. Lance. Jake. Sean. EliJeremyPlaxico. Joey. Lovie. The Steeler who is an honest to God Pimp (allegedly). Frostee. ActuallyPrettyMuchEveryMemberOfTheBengals.
Really, the only surprising thing is that TO hasn't done anything stupid so far. Shouldn't he be getting the shakes from a lack of camera time right about now? Or is he still just on vacation?
Anyway, the best news is that "Eagles Fan Friday" has become absolutely my favorite part of the PhiladelphiaEagles.com website during the offseason. Some people think I have an unhealthy obsession with this team ... and let's just say these pictures always make me feel a bit better about myself.
Unfortunately, the caption writer for these things kind of sucks, so let's do a bit better:
Have a good, quiet weekend. But not too quiet.
(Note: The PE.com redesign killed those links -- sorry.)
For the second year in a row, the Rice baseball team goes down in flames at the College World Series.
Play of the game was a Greg Maddux (circa 1995) called third strike on new Philadelphia Phillie Joe Savery with two on and two out in the top of the 7th. Rice was down by three at the time.
Well, that and the four dingers Owls' pitchers allowed...
(This concludes this year's Rice Baseball portion of the IgglesBlog. I'm sure there's another Eagles/Owls fan out there somewhere. Probably N.D. Kalu.)
Not to kick a man while he's down, but the fact that no team in the NFL has tried to sign Dhani Jones is a pretty good indication that our eyes weren't deceiving us when we watched him.
(Link, scroll down)
The Eagles are being investigated for violating the prohibition against physical contact during mini-camps. Because everyone does it, it's a bit like being pulled over for speeding, but the penalty could include loss of a draft pick.
(Link, and you'll have to scroll down a bit or search for "eagles" on the page)
Think the Eagles were displeased with the play of their defensive tackles the last few years? Compare this depth chart from last April and this one from today and look at the DT position. Only one guy remains from that group.
As a Penn State fan, I really don't know what final outcome to root for in this whole off-campus brawl mess. I will say -- and I know this is heresy -- but there were times last year when Anthony Scirrotto was the best player on our defense. I feel like a Miami fan hoping he won't be suspended for the Notre Dame game in week two.
Not to spend too much more time on this, but SI's Peter King revisited his quarterback rankings this week and defended his slotting of McNabb at #12:
"McNabb doesn't get the benefit of the doubt any more, at least from me. He's got to prove his durability. And it's not just me he's got to prove it to. Why do you think Reid took a quarterback in the second round of the draft? Pretty obvious, isn't it? Deep down, he doesn't know if he has a quarterback he can trust to stay on the field."
...and so he drafted a guy who can't possibly be ready to contribute for at least the next two seasons? Try harder. This also guarantees the Eagles aren't going to be SI's pick to win the division this year, even though our back-up quarterbacks closed out the season better than the other teams' starters did.
I'm getting irrationally excited about the development of Chris Gocong. I just need to put that on the table so you can take anything I say about him between now and opening day with a grain of salt. I'd feel the same way about Takeo Spikes, but the guy only has one year left on his contract. If he plays well, there's no way we're keeping him after this season. You heard it here first, next year's starters at linebacker will be Gocong (SAM), Bradley (MIKE) and Gaither (WIL).
Last season, the Rice Owls baseball team cruised through their first two games in the College World Series, only to lose two straight to eventual champ Oregon State to miss out on the finals. This season, Rice bashed out easy opening wins over Louisville and North Carolina before getting shut down yesterday in a rematch against UNC. Next game is tonight at 7ET on ESPN. Even if you don't care about the teams, college baseball is fun to watch this time of year. And if the Owls win, you'll get a chance to see Phillies' #1 draft pick Joe Savery pitch in the championship series.