Author Archives: gordonglantz

Birds With A Burden

Barnett-Curry

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

GORDONVILLE — In high school, I was more freak than geek.

In adulthood, well, another story.

If my adoration for Star Trek isn’t enough, I often prefer documentaries over movies – especially if the movies in questions are sequels to sequels of rebooted sequels full of car-chase scenes, unrealistic fight sequences and gratuitous violence.

Then there is sports. I was always fascinated with drafts – all drafts, but football in particular.

I remember running home from school, turning on KYW and waiting for a report on the NFL Draft (I’m old enough to remember it being on a weekday and not in prime time). I was glued to the TV when the draft was broadcast on ESPN for the first time, and fascinated to learn – from a fellow counselor at Blue Bell Day Camp named Bill – that there was this thing called the “Ourlad’s Guide to the NFL Draft.”

Yes, I’m a draft geek, which put me in the Fantasy Football realm (always downhill after the draft).

That may be why I’m one of the few who boldly goes where no one with a life goes and watches as many preseason football games as possible.

And when it comes to the Eagles, well, I go one step beyond. From the VCR of yore to the DVR methods of the present day, I make sure I gather all the worthless knowledge I can about undrafted free agents with as much chance of making the team as I do.

With the 2017 preseason upon us, and the first glimpse of new faces – or others in the limelight of expanded roles – it is a time to dream through the eyes of others.

Like all good geeks.

But through it all – and through my training as a journalist – I can keep it real, too.

For every longshot that snares the last spot or two on the 53-man roster or turns up on the practice squad, the fortunes of the Eagles and their championship drought dating back to five years before I was born are going to ride on the shoulder-padded shoulders of players who need to live up to their advance billing.

At present, I have the Eagles anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6. That’s a big gap, especially since 10-6 would likely mean at least a wild card berth in the playoffs.

I also expect a lot of close games – games that are decided not so much by the final score but by the few key plays that turned it around one way or the other.

Who needs to make these plays, making the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 and all points in between?

These guys do:

1) Carson Wentz, QB: “Ah, come on,” you say. “Cut the kid a break.” Nope, can’t go there. That was last year. Wentz only started a season and a half in college. And while he led North Dakota State to a pair of national titles, it was at a lower level than Division I. The 16 starts last year were bonus time. Now we need to see some progress. Wentz has all the tools – size, arm strength, mobility, leadership skills and what has been billed as a photographic memory – but the football graveyard has a whole section for quarterbacks buried after the same obituary was written. Last year, especially early, we saw a glimpse of the possibilities. But we also got a heavy dose of reality. While he took almost every snap, learning on the job, we learned that his mechanics were so off that it was painful to watch. And in this system, the West Coast offense, he needs to do two things that Donovan McNabb subsisted on (despite being woefully inconsistent on short- and medium-range passes ): throwing a deft screen pass and being fairly accurate on the deep ball. Last year, we chalked up Wentz’s misfires to inexperience. This year, with an offseason to work on it with a quarterback guru, and with Darren Sproles to catch screens and newcomers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery to get open deep, the franchise quarterback is under both a microscope and magnifying glass to get the ball into those hands.

Eagles-Ertz2) Zach Ertz, TE: Here in Philly, we sometimes get caught gazing at our own bellybuttons. When that happens, we are prone to think the guys in green are more impactful than they truly are in the overall picture. Here is where the Fantasy Football geek in me pays dividends. I know, from my own painful experience with Ertz and from the litany of Fantasy draft guides I read, that Ertz – a non-entity as a blocker in the real world – is in the upper middle class of tight ends (i.e. not in the top 10, but not quite middle of the pack) when it comes to receiving production. The major issue here has been the Red Zone. Out of 17 targets – more than one per game (he played in 14) – Ertz had four touchdown catches in 2016. The year before,  he had just two. There have been injuries and excuses made, but the fact is that a one-way tight end with his size and the skills he has flashed should be a security blanket for a young QB. That’s what Ertz needs to be, and not just in a double-digit game or two to pad his statistics. Stay healthy, get open and catch the ball. Two-way tight ends are coming back into vogue, so his time in Philadelphia – let alone the league, at least as anything more than a role player – could be more numbered than we realize on the surface.

3) Derek Barnett/Vinny Curry, DE: Violating two rules here: 1) putting undo pressure on a rookie, like Barnett and 2) cheating a bit by putting two guys together in one entry. However, the Eagles went into the offseason desperate for an upgrade at cornerback and had the good fortune of a draft that was deep in corner prospects. Some teams chose to use that depth as a reason to wait, but it was a luxury the Eagles could not afford. The wiser move – particularly after some surprises in the 13 picks before them – was to swim against the tide and take Marlon Humphrey (Alabama) or Adoree’ Jackson (USC) or Garreon Conley (Ohio State). Instead, they went with Barnett, who was clearly the guy they had fixated on all along. The thinking was that a relentless pass rush was the panacea for sub-par corners trying to hang with super human wide receivers. And let’s be honest here, they are placing all this pressure on Barnett because Curry, despite a hefty contract that says otherwise, has not consistently produced (especially since getting said contract) as a pass-rushing specialist. Last year, for example, the since-vanquished Marcus Smith had as many sacks (2½) as Curry. In fact, nine of Curry’s 19 career sacks came in 2014. In football years, than may as well be 1914. So now we have Barnett, whose name comes attached with Reggie White because he broke White’s sack record at Tennessee, being asked to step in and be in contention for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in order to justify his choice. Since the pick, I have gone back and watched some Tennessee games on the SEC Network (total geek move, I know), and he was an absolute beast. Not only did he make plays, but he did it at key times. Let’s hope that carries over, as the Eagles went for a corner in the second round, Washington’s Sidney Jones, who is likely to miss the season with an Achilles injury that bumped him out of the first round. As a bonus to Barnett being dominant, maybe Curry can recapture some of his 2014 form and the two – in combination with Brandon Graham – can create enough consistent pressure to offset the still unaddressed weakness at corner. Additionally, this trio – and we can only really count on Graham right now – can free up space for defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks to come clean and make plays. It’s a ripple effect that needs to happen.

4) Jason Peters/Lane Johnson, OT: May as well go back and draw water from the 2-for-1 well once more, because this is really where the house of cards could ultimately stand or fall. Peters, while likely ticketed for Canton, is not playing at that high of a level anymore. At age 35, he has been to nine Pro Bowls and is a six-time first- or second-team All-Pro selection, but most of those honors now come by rote from voters who don’t see him on a play-in-and-play-out basis. Though signed through 2019, via extension from his “best friend” Jeffrey Lurie, the realistic hope is that he stays intact for the 2017 season. If he doesn’t, Johnson moves from right tackle – a spot where was becoming stone-cold dominant before leaving a 3-1 team with a 10-game suspension for his second PED strike – to left, and Hal Vaitai moves into the right tackle spot. Then again, given Johnson’s history, he better not take even a Tylenol without a team official present. The Eagles really need both bookends on the field. If that happens, the run game will be effective enough that Wentz won’t have to throw 50-plus times per game.

5) Caleb Sturgis, K: Snicker at a kicker all you want. Your smiles will turn to frowns if he costs you a game – or two or three or five. There is no reason to suspect Sturgis won’t continue to be solid (135 points last season on the strength of an 85.4 percent accuracy rate), but we are talking about delicate geniuses here who usually wear out their two- or three-year welcome and need a change of scenery to get their mojo back. Consider this a preemptive warning that the meter on Sturgis – unless he is more Justin Tucker than Alex Henery – is running in his third year in green. Assuming he does not regress, it is vital he hit as many makeable kicks as possible while showing he can hit from a distance (53-yard long in 2016 and 55-yard long last season). In close game, a missed or made field goal can make all the difference between crying in your beer or raising it in victory.

This column/analysis originally appeared at Phillyphanatics.com

The ‘Rocky’ Class of 2017

david-watford-c48b8019f5711232

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

GORDONVILLE — Blame it on George Washington.

No, not the high school in Northeast Philly.

No, not the double-decker bridge connecting Fort Lee, N.J., to Upper Manhattan.

Talking about the father of our country.

The original GW.

The guy who could tell no lies.

Why, you may ask?

Because when he led the rag-tag Colonial army to victory over the superior forces of the British Army, it was the upset of all upsets.

Vegas odds had the war ending, in Britain’s favor, within an over/under time frame of eight months. Instead, after eight years, a new nation was born.

And we Americans have embraced underdogs ever since.

Even if a nameless and faceless No. 5 seed is playing a No. 4 seed during March Madness, we are now genetically engineered to cheer for the No. 5 seed for no other reason.

In Philadelphia, where the country was born, we have an incurable case of US (Underdog Syndrome). We have it so bad that we erect statues to a fictional character, Rocky Balboa, because he was the ultimate cinematic underdog.

And when it comes to our football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, a new Rocky figure is born every August when some kid with a relatable tale to tell comes out of nowhere to make an unlikely run for a roster spot.

The franchise’s past includes many such figures – such as 1948 and 1949 title-winning quarterback Tommy Thompson, who was blind in one eye – but really came into focus during the tenure of Dick Vermeil, who molded a championship contender out of a lot of undrafted and recycled free agents and low draft picks.

The most notable Rocky figure in football gear is Vince Papale, whose story – although “Hollyweirded” – was told in the movie “Invincible.”

In actuality, another Eagle in the Dick Vermeil Era – Lem Burnham – may have made for a better flick. Originally a 15th round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1974 (out of U.S. International, where he played after a decorated four-year stint in the Marines), Burnham played with the Hawaii team in the ill-fated WFL (as did Papale, for the Philadelphia Bell) and then made the Eagles, albeit after stopover with the Washington Redskins and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Burnham led the Eagles in sacks with in 1977 with 10.

An undersized defensive end (234 pounds), he remained with the Eagles all the way through the 1980 NFC championship season, although he spent it on IR. Burnham then worked as the team psychologist for the Eagles and 76ers, and later the Baltimore Orioles before moving on work as an executive with the NFL and developing the rookie symposium.

The Buddy Ryan Era saw several Rocky types. Running back Junior Tautalatasi was a college backup out of Washington drafted in the 10th round who turned a big preseason, and a Keith Byars injury, into an opening-day start in the backfield. He started one other game as a rookie and caught 41 passes after settling in as the third-down back. Unable, or unwilling, to say his last name, Ryan dubbed the oft-injured Tautalatasi “Junior Smith.”

And who could forget Marvin Hargove? He was the Willingboro, N.J., native who had an OK college career at Richmond, but still asked Ryan for a chance. A receiver/returner, Hargrove ran a 4.5 40 and, probably as more of a PR stunt, was put on the training camp roster in 1990. Added to the roster during the season, he caught a touchdown pass from Randall Cunningham on his first snap, only to never catch a pass again before being released before the end of the season.

Running back Vaughan Hebron and quarterback Jay Fiedler each made the team as undrafted rookies under Rich Kotite. Hebron later won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos while Fielder bounced around, including a stint in Europe, before becoming the starter in Miami and leading the Dolphins to their only playoff win since Dan Marino retired.

Andy Reid was known for giving undrafted rookies opportunities and folk heroes included Sam “Truck Driver” Rayburn and receiver Chad Hall, who came by way of a hitch in the Air Force.

Since Chip Kelly generally had his 53-man roster set in his head no matter who did what in training camp, we’ll give him credit for current tight end Trey Burton – and deduct points for not even finding a spot on the practice squad for home-grown receiver Rasheed Bailey – and move to the present regime.

A year ago, in Doug Pederson’s first year, it was undrafted receiver Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech who turned a strong preseason into practice squad berth and an eventual promotion to the active roster.

Which brings us to the present. Who will be this year’s player who steps out of the shadows and threatens to shake up the depth chart and, at the very least, create a nice storyline for a few weeks?

Here is a list of likely suspects to steal your heart:

1. David Watford, WR: A college quarterback (three years at Virginia, one at Hampton), Watford had a promising showing as a UDFA last summer while learning the receiver position, even catching a touchdown pass in a preseason game. He was kept on the practice squad and could really shine, without much advance fanfare this year. He was the athleticism and size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) as well as a work ethic and desire to learn that has made him a favorite among the coaches, who seem to have seen more long-term potential than with Turner. He could just as easily become a fan favorite next. If drafted rookies Mack Hollins and/or Shelton Gibson struggle or Nelson Agholor continues to play himself off team while Watford makes plays, look out.

2. Aaron Grymes, CB: Like Watford, Grymes plays a noticeable position and one of dire need, meaning fans could be drawn to any light he might shine on a dark situation. Grymes, like Watford, played well last preseason – after standing out in the CFL – and could not only push for a roster spot but for playing time in nickel and dime packages.

3. Joe Walker, LB: Almost a lock to make the team, Walker is the reason the Eagles didn’t really go hard for linebacker depth during the offseason. A seventh-round pick last year, he had the team made before a knee injury. Still, for the average fan there is the out-of-sight, out-of-mind aspect that will make him popular in the preseason. Plus, the whole “battling-back-from-injury” angle always plays well in Philly.

4. Corey Clement, RB: Like Papale, Hargrove and Bailey, the undrafted 1,000-yard rusher last season at Wisconsin has the local thing working for him, as he is from Glassboro, N.J. Clement was projected be a mid-round pick but his tweener status – 5-11, 209 with middling speed and power – made him hard to peg and he slipped through the cracks. Nonetheless, backs in this category have found by-committee success in the NFL by just hitting the holes that are there without any extra fancy footwork. While fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey is the most likely rookie to excite in the preseason, Clement only has the likes of last year’s fifth-round pick Wendell Smallword and Byron Marshall in his way to carve a place for himself.

5. Randall Goforth, DB: An UDFA out of UCLA, Goforth was productive, passionate and always around the ball in college. His size (a generous 5-10, 190) makes him tough to project at safety, and a lack of elite speed (north of 4.5) limits him at just the slot as a corner. Still, a football player is a football player is a football player. As is the case with Grymes, the lack of clarity in the secondary creates a real chance here.

This column originally appeared at http://www.phillyphanatics.com

Training Wheels Off For Training Camp

blount-3

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

Just stop already, will ya?

No more lamenting every pitch of this long-lost Phillies season. How many times can you watch the same paint dry?

And who cares if Costa Rica beats Belgium in soccer?

Golf? Please.

Tennis? No comment.

This week we will be counting down the days until the 2017 version of the Philadelphia Eagles begin training camp under second-year head coach Doug Pederson.

To get you primed for prime time, here is a positional primer to get you more up to speed than if you were watching perpetual left turns in a NASCAR race (only to interrupted by a fiery crash and debris soaring into the crowd).

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK

Eagles-Foles1The Play Call: Easy peasy. Carson Wentz returns – hopefully wiser and more settled, in terms of mechanics – after his baptism by fire a year ago. Nick Foles (left), whose biggest crime was achieving near-perfection in 2013 (a league-best 119.2 QB rating, largely on the strength of 27 touchdown passes against two interceptions in 13 starts), comes back to town as the backup. It is doubtful the brass wants to keep more than these two on the active roster, meaning third QB Matt McGloin – who has somehow managed to parlay a middling career at Penn State into seven career starts (six as a rookie) in four years in the NFL with the Raiders – is here to take preseason snaps and have good enough tape on himself that he would get a call from another team, or the Eagles, if catastrophe would strike. Fourth quarterback Dane Evans will forever be associated with Dorial Green-Beckham because he was officially added to the roster when the plug was pulled on Project DGB. Evans, a Tulsa product, could play himself onto the practice squad with a solid camp and showing in preseason games.

Audible: Only needed if Wentz, or even Foles, goes down. Would the Eagles feel comfortable with McGloin as a backup? Also, it remains to be seen how much leash the restless fan base will give Wentz in his second year when many still have Foles jerseys hanging in their closets.

RUNNING BACK

The Play Call: With Ryan Mathews’ career in limbo after a neck injury last year, the Eagles went out got themselves a similar two-down option in 250-pound bulldozer LaGarette Blount, who has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, as well as a career average of 4.4 yards-per-carry average. Last year, while earning a ring with the Patriots, he ran for 18 touchdowns. However, while Mathews was also a decent receiver out the backfield, Blount is more one-dimensional (season-high for catches was 15 in 2011, his second in the league). The Eagles have the ideal complement in Darren Sproles, the quintessential third-down back/return man-type whose all-purpose numbers (8th all-time) have put him at the precipice of Hall of Fame consideration when his career concludes, possibly as soon as the end of this season. Planning ahead, the Eagles aggressively pursued San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey to be Sproles’ successor by moving up in the fourth round to grab him. Despite both being diminutive, they are not apples-to-apples in body build (Sproles is 5-6 and around 190, while Pumphrey is generously listed at 5-9 and 170). And while Pumphrey put up record-setting all-purpose numbers in college, he was rarely used as a return man. The Eagles’ are reportedly giving him a crash course on bringing back kickoffs (punts are more a risky proposition for the uninitiated), but expect some growing pains in terms of decision-making.

Audible: Blount, Sproles and Pumphrey – barring injury to any of the three – are the only locks to make the squad. And with two active quarterbacks, that leaves open a job for a fifth running back or a sixth receiver. Wendell Smallwood, last year’s fifth-round pick from the Eagles’ new minor-league affiliate, West Virginia, had a 100-yard game early in the season and also returned a kick for a touchdown, but he faded while being dogged by injuries and didn’t finish the year on the active roster. Smallwood would still have the inside track on the No. 4 spot, but nothing is guaranteed. That means any touches – carries, catches or return chances – for high-end UDFA (undrafted free agent) Corey Clement (from Wisconsin by way of Glassboro, N.J.) and versatile Byron Marshall could prove meaningful. Clement, who gained 1,375 yards and scored 15 touchdowns against Big 10 competition last year, could unseat Smallwood with a good camp, while Marshall, like Pumphrey, could make keeping a sixth receiver a luxury if they can each double as decent slot receivers.

WIDE RECEIVER

The Play Call: On the surface, the Eagles created a more stable situation for Wentz at the much-maligned receiver spot. But free-agent signee Alshon Jeffrey was only inked to a one-year, make-good deal. Torrey Smith’s alleged five-year contract is really just a series of five one-year deals. Jordan Matthews, who moves back to his more comfortable slot position, goes into the season as a pending free agent. Best-case scenario, all three are retained for the long haul Worst-case, none are – meaning the Eagles will start all over the following year. Hopes still hinge on 2015 first-round pick Nelson Agholor answering his wake-up call from the front desk. The impromptu release of DGB suggests Agholor at least earned another chance for himself. The Eagles also drafted two receivers, albeit in the fourth and fifth rounds. Mack Hollins out of North Carolina brings shovel-ready special teams skills but might be a work in progress as a receiver. Shelton Gibson, the fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, is reportedly not catching on – literally and figuratively – to the speed of the pro game, but his college credentials are solid.

Audible: Last year’s training camp head-turner, Paul Turner, got time at the end of the season and showed some ability as a slot receiver who could at least handle return-game responsibilities in a pinch. Converted quarterback David Watford was kept around last year on the practice squad and could make a push for a roster spot if someone ahead of him on the depth chart isn’t careful – or remains careless. And then there is Bryce Treggs, now a rightful afterthought. All he needs to do is get behind a fourth-string UDFA in a preseason game for a long touchdown and he will come back from the dead to be a folk hero.

Eagles-ErtzTIGHT END

The Play Call: Easy peasy here, too. Zach Ertz (left), Brent Celek and Trey Burton. All that remains to be seen is if Ertz finally makes the leap to being an elite tight end or continues to be a tease in that regard. Celek and Burton form the ideal supporting cast for a star. That’s all on Ertz and how he is used. Celek, like Sproles, is likely in his last season, but is a solid No. 2 tight end as a blocker, underneath receiver and respected team leader. Wentz and Burton developed a nice rapport last year – connecting 37 times – and Burton’s versatility may also be deployed a bit as a fullback in certain sets.

Audible: The Eagles have two other tight ends in camp – A.D. Denham and UDFA Billy Brown – and a good preseason could set one or the other on a path to go from the 2017 practice squad to the roster in 2018.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Play Call: The unofficial depth shows the starters – from left to right – as venerable Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. Some have gone so far as to suggest this is best unit in the NFC and maybe the whole NFL. A closer look reveals some lingering questions. Barbre was allowed to shop himself around the league and had no takers. Kelce seems to be on an early downslide for an NFL pivot, with his physique (6-3, 282) being a likely culprit. Brooks struggled with some mental issues last year while Johnson was suspended for 10 games for PED violations. Depth, though, seems sound. Isaac Seumalo, the third-round pick in 2016, can play anywhere on the line and could be the heir apparent for either Barbre or Kelce, although veteran Stefen Wisniewski would be better suited to start at either spot in the short term. After struggling in his first career start as a fifth-round rookie, Hal Vatai played decently in Johnson’s stead. The Eagles are also trying to revive the career of guard Chance Warmack, who played at Alabama under offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland (and was probably overdrafted as result). And then there is Josh Andrews, who always manages to hang on to a low-end roster spot through coaching and regime changes.

Audible: The team is likely to keep 10 offensive linemen on the active roster, which will make camp battles interesting. Second-year man Dillon Gordon was an undrafted free agent who was kept on the roster last year because it was believed he would be a hot commodity for some other team if put on the practice squad. Hard to believe he did anything to make them lose faith in Peters’ hand-picked protégé. Then there is guard/tackle Matt Tobin, who has plenty of playing time under his belt, although much of it is forgettable. Wasted 2014 fifth-round pick Taylor Hart, who was waived last year as a defensive lineman, is back trying to cut it as an offensive tackle. Also keep an eye peeled on both Tyler Orlosky and Darrell Greene. Orlosky, a center, was this year’s highest-paid UDFA and Greene was last year’s highest-paid UDFA (only to set a world’s record for being released and brought back on the practice squad). Interesting to note that Greene blocked for Pumphrey at San Diego State and Orlosky for Smallwood at West Virginia.

DEFENSE

Eagles-Cox with footballDEFENSIVE LINE

The Play Call: The locks are Fletcher Cox (left) and newcomer Timmy Jernigan inside and Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and first-round pick Derek Barnett likely rotating outside. With third tackle Beau Allen injured for possibly the first 4-6 games of the season, meaning he could land on short-term injured reserve, sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls would seem to have a job locked up.

Audible: Nothing else is guaranteed, and how well the rest of the group of aspiring Eagles plays will determine if eight, nine or even 10 linemen are kept. Hence, these roster battles will be worth watching. Chris Long, the song of Howie Long, was signed off the champion Patriots’ scrap heap and he could provide professional and depth at end, but he will fend off challenges from the likes of 2014 first-round bust-in-the making Marcus Smith and 2017 seventh-rounder Alex McAlister, who spent last year on IR and added bulk to his 6-6 frame. A summer ago, journeyman Steven Means came out of nowhere to earn a roster spot. If he has another strong camp, it could send someone – Long, Smith, McAlister (or two of three) – to the street. Destiny Vaeao made it as a UDFA last year and played decently early in the season before seeing his playing time diminish, but he could easily play himself onto the squad again as an extra tackle.

LINEBACKER

The Play Call: Assuming mercurial middle linebacker Jordan Hicks didn’t injure his hand too badly on his honeymoon and outside linebacker Nigel Bradham will have his legal woes in the rear-view mirror, this group should be OK. Mychal Kendricks, talented but underutilized last year by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, returns to man the other outside spot. Depth is bolstered by the return of Joe Walker, last year’s seventh-round pick who looked like a major draft steal until tearing his knee before the season. Versatile veteran and special teams’ standout Najee Goode also returns.

Audible: The Eagles can go with nine or 10 defensive lineman and/or nine or 10 defensive backs by keeping just six linebackers. That would leave one job open and it would likely come down to a battle between two hybrid outside linebacker/safety types in Kamu Grugier-Hill (6-2, 220) and recent fifth-round pick Nathan Gerry (6-2, 209). How they look on special teams and passing-down packages will go a long way toward securing a job (although Gerry could land on the practice squad). Also in the mix is Villanova product Don Cherry, a middle linebacker who was solid enough a year to be kept around on the practice squad.

CORNERBACK

The Play Call: Still remains to be seen how it will all shake out. Veteran Patrick Robinson is the next in a succession of first-round stones from elsewhere that the Eagles are hoping to get some blood from, while Jalen Mills – who gave it the old college try against pros as a seventh-round pick getting a lot of work last year – will either man the other outside spot or shuffle between outside and the slot. Much of that depends on a series of unknowns and what remains the team’s weakest link. Will Ron Brooks, an experienced slot corner, return from injury or will he be waived once he is medically cleared? Will second-round pick Sidney Jones, who slid on draft boards out of the top half of the first round because of a ruptured Achilles, be miraculously healed or will he go on the extended or full-season IR? Will third-round pick Rasul Douglas – from, you guessed it, West Virginia – be ready for prime time?

Audible: A savior could still be found. There has been talk of Darrelle Revis, but there is the same buzz around about a dozen other teams. A more realistic answer could be unearthed in house by the likes of Aaron Grymes, who played in the CFL before getting a chance last summer. Grymes was making a name for himself before getting injured. He was waived with a settlement, quietly brought back to the practice squad and was reportedly one of the stars of the recent team workouts. There is also C.J. Smith, who was a teammate of Wentz at North Dakota State and played a bit on special teams last year. Others who will get longer looks then perhaps anywhere else in the league include Dwayne Gratz, Mitchell White and Jomal Wiltz.

SAFETY

The Play Call: All good here with starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Chris Maragos would be a lock to make the team because he is a Pro Bowl-level special teams’ player, but a viable third safety to play ahead of him on defense needs to be found at this point.

Audible: It’s all right there for Jaylen Watkins, but that’s an old song. The former fourth-round pick, who was cut and then brought back, has had opportunities at every spot in the secondary and has been good enough to not quite be good enough. Versatility and special teams’ acumen could keep him employed, but not if Terrence Brooks, probably a better pure safety, makes him expendable. Randall Goforth, an UDFA from UCLA, is undersized (5-10, 190), but could turn some heads after a productive college career.

SPECIALISTS

The Play Call: Donnie Jones punts and holds the snaps from Jon Dorenbos while Caleb Sturgis does the kicking. Easy peasy, right? Well, maybe.

Audible: Rookie UDFA punter Cameron Johnston has a strong leg. Dorenbos isn’t getting any younger, is coming off an injury and has a legit challenge to fend off from the guy who finished the season in his stead last season, Rick Lovato.

This column/analysis originally appeared at phillyphanatics.com

A Cool Idea

hot_day_thermometer

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

 

GORDONVILLE – It is a typical pastime in a typical American.

What will your child be when they grow up?

Not sure yet on Sofia. Many roads to travel, and passions to come and go.

However, it would surprise me if she wanted to be like her old man and be a writer – even if it’s a side thing while making real money in the real world with a real job.

How do I know this?

Because she loves stories. Not just to be amused, but to retain for future use. I can talk by the look in her eyes that it is being retained, kind of like bank deposits to retain interest (i.e. embellishment).

We drive through Conshohocken, and she queries her mommy all about her hometown with questions well beyond that of the average incoming missile of a ‘tween.

The other night, she asking me about old Atlantic City – the Atlantic City I remember as a kid around her current age; the Atlantic City before gambling made it the weird combination of glitz and the pits that it is now.

Among the stories was how my grandfather, Poppie, would wake up each day and, with a broad smile on his easy-going face, ask if it was a “beach day or a Two Guys day.”

Two guys, for the uninitiated, was a catch-all department store – a sorta pre-historic Target – where they had it all, from an arcade and a place to eat to a furniture department.

You could buy food, a new baseball glove or bell-bottom jeans for your platform shoes.

After Sofia drifted to sleep – these stories are often meant as biofeedback to cure summertime insomnia – an old idea resurfaced it what is left of my brain.

Beach day or a Two Guys Day?

That more or less sums up the forecast for every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day, does it not?

Especially here in the Melting Ice Age, the forecast is pretty much in the same octave range, is it not?

It is either going to be hot or very hot, with a chance of rain to varying degrees.

So, I wondered, why do we need met meteorolgists in the summertime?

No offense to them, or the profession.

And the world doesn’t need more journalists working at a coffee shop.

And the loss of eye candy – from any perspective — would mean less sweetness in the world.

All I’m talking about is a three-month furlough.

I’m willing to bet that nine out of 10 of us could care less, especially if the time is better spent on real news.

Seriously, why do we need to be told the obvious three times in a half-hour span – and all before the important news, like the sports?

Just throw a graphic up on the screen and the anchor can do a quick summary. Hot or very hot, and the chance of a thunderstorm by percentage.

In and out faster than Chris Christie at a burger joint drive-thru on his way to the beach.

And, since this is my idea, it must follow the rule of being after the sports, lest you run the risk of FCC fine.

I took the liberty of breaking out the calculator.

According the “fake news” on the “internets,” the average weather person makes $89,820 a year. There are four stations – the three networks plus FOX in Philadelphia, employing an average of three meterologists – which brings our three-month (Memorial Day to Labor Day) savings to $269,460 that can be donated to help causes more worthy than letting people know if it is going to be a beach day or a Two Guys Day.

 

Cope With No Hope

Vigil

Cope With No Hope

Another long night, another slain teen

Take a sneak peek, as the dawn bleeds

Splash of cold water, read the tweets

News, views – more prayers for peace

By dusk a vigil, let the cycle repeat

Darkness descends, hear the screams

So go cope with no hope on these streets

So go cope with no hope on these streets

 

Up for air, come pastor and the priest

How many of these have they seen?

Hear what you want, not what you need

Sing a song, prayers for peace

From all this, who will take heed?

Maybe one day we all can break free

Until that day comes, hear the screams

So go cope with no hope on these streets

So go cope with no hope on these streets

 

Now it’s less than a week later

Pick up the local newspaper

Story is gone, never to be followed

Back to the zoo and its baby cougars

Those with jobs, head back to work

Once numb, how much can it hurt?

The root cause, never gets learned

On and on and on, the fire just burns

 

All that is said cannot be believed

Like blaming it all on the police

Is it the poverty or the money?

The money we all think we need

Take it past these prayers for peace

Prayers end when you hear the screams

So go cope with no hope on these streets

So go cope with no hope on these streets

-Gordon Glantz

 

 

 

Reality Bites for We Democrats

Hillary

By GORDON GLANTZ

@Managing2Edit

GORDONVILLE – Put away your wallets.

No need for an annual triple crown here in my Soul Town of Gordonville.

It’s always the same coming down the homestretch. Sports and music are neck-and-neck in a photo finish.

Third? Politics.

For the purposes of this drill, we will go with a sports analogy to put a political issue to rest.

If you have watched as many football games as I have – high school, college and pro – you come to learn that a loss can’t be laid on the doorstep of any one player.

Sure, the kicker may shank the chip-shot field goal at games end or the receiver who is “paid millions to catch the ball” drops the go-ahead pass in the end zone, but the hard facts remain. If team X (usually a Philadelphia team) was at the point where it came down to a missed field goal by a soccer player dressed up in football gear for Halloween or a receiver who caught everything else thrown his way all game, there is a laundry list of reasons why they were trailing in the first place.

Cut and paste this analogy, and apply to politics.

And let’s use it to put one falsehood to bed, if only for the sake of breathing life back into a moribund Democratic party.

Hillary Clinton did not lose the 2016 election because of Russia.

And I’m not saying Putin’s long reach didn’t allow his fingers to dip into our Fourth of July apple pies, because he clearly did.

It didn’t help, and it probably hurt.

A fatal blow?

Nyet (“no” in Russian).

Russia was guilty the same way our nation committed nefarious acts to influence elections elsewhere, particularly since two World Wars left us as a world power.

But Clinton didn’t lose because of Russia.

Clinton lost because of Clinton.

And the sooner we cross that bridge into the land of reality, however bitter the taste, the better.

Why? Because we have issues that affect all of us that are simply more important.

And if you make yourself sick over this, you may wake up to learn you do not have the health care to get well.

Catch my drift?

We have critical mid-term elections coming up, and taking back the House and Senate will be the first step in rendering President Twitter-thumbs as powerless as possible.

Yes, I understand that Clinton had a tough task, trying to extend a run of one party in the White House beyond two terms.

Beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, it has only happened once – when George H.W. Bush went from Ronald Reagan’s second banana to first for a four-year stint (before falling after one term to Hillary’s husband, Bill) – and not at all with a non-VP (let alone someone daring to be the first female president).

But her path to the Promised Land was strewn with penalty flags (see what I did there, sneaking in another sports reference?).

Many, myself included, resented the RFS (Royal Family Syndrome) that was being quietly perpetrated. We had two Bushes, and now the Democratic leadership was trying to prematurely send a queen to the throne while pushing all challengers to the fringes.

And here comes Bernie Sanders – for the record, my candidate – blowing up their early touchdown dance (Why stop with the analogies now?).

He was supposed to go away – with the likes of Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee and Martin O’Malley – after being humored for one debate and a few primaries.

But if it were not for O’Malley, and his phony-baloney grin, Sanders would have won Iowa instead of finishing a close second. Come New Hampshire, Sanders crushed Hillary – and her team seemed curiously stunned, even though it was a neighboring state to Sanders’ own Vermont.

Sanders’ progressive message appealed to the under-30 crowd and he was filling college arenas (not that you would ever see it on CNN) while cameras had to pan it tight to make crowds at Clinton’s appearances seems larger than they were.

She was being out-flanked on the left, and badly, so she played her Obama card in debates and on the stump for the swath of Southern (i.e. Red State) primaries for the sole purpose of drumming up the black vote.

It was a smart short-term strategy that hurt her in the long-term. Attaching herself to Obama’s hip, and with Obamacare, was a Scarlett letter she then had to wear as she needed PAC money and party backing to barely edge Sanders’ campaign of $27 dollar donations (I gave several) at the finish line.

Sanders exposed her weaknesses, especially in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, but her campaign arrogantly felt they need not campaign hard there – or in Pennsylvania, since the coronation was held in Philadelphia.

Did Russia seize the weaknesses in these swing states? Yes, more than likely.

Could and should she have still won them? Uh, yes.

Just pick Bernie Sanders as the running mate.

Too much eating crow, with a side dish of bad blood?

Fine.

How about Cory Booker, the standout star of the convention?

How about Elizabeth Warren?

How about anyone but Tim Caine, who not only added nothing to the campaign but detracted from it?

When I saw anyone, I mean anyone.

Or anything — up to and including a Cigar Store mannequin.

I see Cain now and I immediately think of Mike Michel, the Eagles’ emergency “kicker” who missed not only game-winning field goal in a 14-13 playoff loss to the Falcons in 1978, but also an extra point (hence, 13 points instead of 14) and a field goal that would have made it 16-0 before Atlanta scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

I don’t know how to say that all in Spanish – the way Caine would – but you get the point.

Michel was not qualified to be a NFL kicker. He was, by trade, a marginal punter. Coach Dick Vermeil figured he was “good enough” but he wasn’t.

Maybe someone should have read this parable from the Philadelphia Fan Book of Horrors to Clinton before tabbing Caine.

And yet, while a key reason for the loss, he was not the only.

There was Hillary herself. While her opponent gained steam all summer – in the full glare of the cameras from the networks he now loathes for not giving unconditional adoration due only Greek Gods and rock stars – leading “lock her up” chants, Hillary locked herself up by not finding a way to counter punch.

Personally, I don’t believe one needs to be inspiring — or likeable — to be qualified for most jobs, including president. In a prior life, I interviewed people for jobs and often went with the most qualified person, even if they were neither likeable nor inspiring.

But the reality is that, in today’s political world, you need to be both. And she was neither.

Maybe a fiery running mate would have helped to offset that issue, but she went the milquetoast route with Caine.

Maybe it was her campaign more than Clinton. Whatever it was, she went into the general election sounding a little disingenuous by touting more of Sanders’ issues than the disjointed talking points she started off with out of the gate.

And this well-oiled Clinton political machine, the one Sanders himself seemed to blame his noble second-place finish on, was a bit of a mirage.

At the least, it was overdue for an oil and lube change and never got one.

Deferring to the better half, a Clinton backer who punched me in the arm a lot during the primary season, we went to the closest office for a lawn sign 2-3 weeks before the election. The overwhelmed twentysomethings there couldn’t help us.

We eventually got one from a few towns over by calling in a favor from a politically connected friend.

Meanwhile, the opponent had phallic symbol messages all over. And yes, considering she lost the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania, it seems that signs matter. They matter so much that we still see them – erections lasting more than four months – often next to Confederate flags (just from finished a 10-day Pennsylvania road trip, and I know what my eyes saw).

And then there were the debates. While SNL had a grand time mocking the other guy, the satire only skirted the deeper concern that had me screaming at the television as much as when my beloved Eagles or Flyers or Sixers are locked in mortal combat.

She missed chance after chance after chance to land the knockout punches he was leaving himself open to receiving, perhaps figuring she didn’t want to come across as a bully.

Instead, the guy on the bully pulpit bullied her out of making history and shattering the glass ceiling.

He may have had some help, and the thought of being a foreign government is abhorent, but she likely had some tools up her sleeve, too. It is how the game is played.

And she still lost.

Some say she should come back and try again.

I say stay away. Please.

You don’t move ahead by looking back.

The next time Hillary Clinton smiles and waves, let’s hope it is goodbye.

 

An Open Letter To Flyers’ Brass

 

Nico

Dear Flyers,

Hello orange and black, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.

And don’t play dumb with the Simon and Garfunkel reference. We go back almost that far, back to the 1972-73 season, when I discovered hockey amid the vast wasteland of the Philadelphia sports landscape of the time.

As such, the Broad Street Bullies are the predominant sports team of my youth.

To this day, if I call for a takeout pizza, and they tell me I’m No. 6, I remember by saying “I’m Andre Dupont.” Heck, I’ll reveal some declassified information. Past passwords have included the likes of “MacLeish19” and “Leach27.”

I wanted to be like my heroes so badly that I became such a hockey legend on the backstreets of Northeast Philly that I was seen as a Charles Manson with a hockey stick at summer camp, where it is said that my ghost will one day find a place in the haunted Camp Arthur Rec Hall.

When I slashed some poor kid across his shoulder for accidently tripping me when I was about to pull my patented Bobby Clarke move from behind the net, I was dumbfounded by subsequent suspension – one that was mysteriously lifted before we played a rival camp – thinking I was only doing what “Hound” Kelly would have done.

Speaking of Mr. Clarke, my boyhood idol, I was floating on air when my two front teeth were knocked out playing street hockey (my quest to have diabetes, like he did, was not fulfilled until 2012).

My vocabulary was bolstered more by Gene Hart – with words like “ignominy” and sayings like “fare thee well” – than any English teacher.

That team may have skated on bloodied ice, but they walked on water so much that I have stayed along for the ride ever since.

That includes six bitter trips the finals, coaching and general manager carousels that would put a traveling carnival to shame and the dark years when Jay “Snide” Snider took the reins from his father, the late Ed.

Where is all this going?

It goes to history.

I know you better than you know yourself, a true blessing and a curse – kind of like Behn Wilson.

Just as I loathe Leon Stickle, and wonder how Game 7 would have gone had there been replay back in 1980, I spend many waking hours working through what should come next as a course is plotted away from the nuclear wasteland that Paul Holmgren turned the franchise into as general manager.

After “Homer” – among my favorites of the post-Bully era, particularly on that would-be Cup team of 1979-80 (still the best Flyers team of my lifetime, in my non-humble opinion) – Ron Hextall has made all the right moves (well, Dale Weise signing aside).

What he has done equates, in my mind, to the best save of his hockey career.

But now comes the moment of reckoning.

Hexy, and I think I have earned the right to call you that, you have an opportunity before you more golden than an open net and plenty of space for you to launch one of your patented shots toward.

But I sense trepidation.

Take it from one who has been riding these waves since you – a year older than I – were a lad in Brandon, Canada, with no allegiance to any team except whomever you were tending net for at the time.

We make our own breaks in this world, and getting the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery was not as much luck as it was an opportunity earned with your ability to bring light to darkness.

As the opportunity knocks, I wonder will if you will answer.

I wonder if you will seize the moment and accelerate the process – dare I use that term, but that’s what it is – and not worry about being semi-competitive in the interim.

There comes a time when you have to throw some of that caution to the wind and sacrifice short-term cheeseburgers for long-term surf and turf.

Sure, the easy part in the upcoming is taking whichever center – Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier – that the New Jersey Devils don’t at No. 1. There is no need to overthink this and try to parlay this pick into something more by trading back and picking up something extra, like a proven veteran or a few high-end prospects.

And I think I know you well enough to know you probably won’t.

But that is a blessing and a curse.

I know you well enough now to know you will gobble up one of the two – I am personally hoping it is the Swiss-born Hischier, who is a little more creative and more responsible, defensively, than the Jeff Carter-like Patrick – and then safely tuck him away for safekeeping in juniors and saying you don’t want to rush things by putting him in the NHL next year.

Unlike some others, I am fairly comfortable you won’t dip into the collection of top-tier defenseman prospects you have carefully curated and trade one way.

You see what I see: pairings of Samuel Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers.

I also see Patrick or Hischier with last year’s first-round pick, German Rubstov, up the middle.

While I see it by the season after next, you probably see it by the start of the next decade.

You know what, Hexy? I’m good with the patience, and not getting nudged to trade away any of the prospects you and your scouts have artfully collected. But what I’m not good with is being mired in the current purgatory of being just good enough to not be good enough.

The reality is that by the time the prospects all reach the NHL level, particularly on your timeline, the alleged “stars” of this very mediocre team will have less fuel in their tanks than a Hummer traveling on an open road through Nebraska.

Who am I talking about, while risking the hairy eyeball from fellow Flyers’ peeps?

I think you know, but I’ll come right out and say it. Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier come readily to mind.

If you have to sweeten the pot, why not do so with Scott Laughton before he has as much value as a Smith-Corona typewriter in an Internet Café.

I can hear it now. Giroux’s contract and no-trade clause (or whatever the heck it is). Voracek’s contract. Couturier is still young and will wake up one day and be a two-way player on a nightly basis.

Spare me.

So let’s forget what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do – getting close to equal value – and doing it do the best of your ability.

If Giroux knows he’s not wanted here, why would he stay? Heck, Hexy, he might be relieved.

The reason you didn’t make the playoffs? Because, on a playoff team, Giroux is not a No. 1 center and is past his expiration date. A good team, which you are not, would love to have him as a No. 2 center. If that means selling low, and getting a late first-round pick along with a mid-round pick, so be it.

And let’s face it, he is a not a captain. That “C” on his jersey has been weighing him down ever since he jumped the line ahead of Kimmo Timonen to get in the first place.

From where I sit, on my recliner in front of the TV, it seems Wayne Simmonds is more of the leader of this team anyway.

Voracek and “Coots” still have value, enough that, in a draft that has some depth but is not going to confuse anyone with 1979 (Ray Borque, Mark Messier, Mike Gartner, Brian Propp, Mike Ramsey, Paul Reinhart, etc.) or 2003 (Shea Weber, Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, etc.), they could get you picks in the middle of the first round.

Maybe you then package these three mid-to-late firsts for two between picks 5 and 10 and get yourself wingers to ride shotgun with whichever center falls to No. 2.

There is Owen Tippett (6-2, 204), who possesses the best shot in the draft and netted 44 goals in juniors last year. There are two Finns, Eeli Tolvanen (a surreal quick release) and the ascending Kristian Vesalainen, who would also help ease the pain of struggling to find the twine for painfully long stretches of a season.

And speaking of Finland, this draft is loaded with the guys who led that country to the Under-18 World title.

Even though, we can’t knock the fact that we had a league-best nine players at the Under-20 World Junior Championships (where Hischier stole the show and single-handedly kept Switzerland competitive), we had not one player from Finland

That has to change. Too much talent coming out that country, as well as Sweden, right now. But I think you know that. You went with the flow of the draft last year and selected a lot of North American power forwards (including Tanner Laczynski, who represented the US) in the middle rounds.

I’m not worried about that.

Swede Oscar Lindblom, a fifth-round pick in 2014, will likely play – and play better than Chris Vandevelde or Michael Raffl – for us next season.

A round earlier in 2014, you took forward Russian Mikhail Vorobyov, who had 10 assists in seven games at the World Juniors and is considered an NHL-prospect, too.

No, unlike Holmgren, your drafts have been superb, top to bottom.

And you will do it again.

I know you will, because I know you better than you know yourself.

Therein lies the problem. Just get what you can get for players of diminishing value now, go with the kids – and also in goal, with whichever of the several prospects shows he wants the job bad enough, just like the Flyers did with you – and use the cap space to add the right veterans to guide them.

It’s not easy, but please don’t take the easy way out.

I’m counting on you.

Respectfully,

Gordon Glantz

Hometown: Gordonville, USA

This column originally appeared at Phillyphanatics.com