Category Archives: Sports

Bias Keeping Flyers Grounded

Finns-celebrate

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It’s almost hard to think back to 2006, considering it is the year before my life changed forever with the birth of Sofia.

It is equally hard to believe — or conceive — that an NHL team that wants to stay relevant would close off part of the hockey-playing universe “just because.”

Not saying that is the case with the Flyers, in regards to drafting players from Finland, but the evidence is mounting.

Finland is a country of about 6 million people (a lame reason often given why they can be more humane to each other on social issues, but I digress). Despite this, it is becoming known “the best hockey country in the world,” much to the chagrin of our friends up in the Great White North.

In last weekend’s NHL Draft, the Flyers continuing their steak of not drafting a player from Finland since 2006 (Joonas Lehtiuvori).

Given the talent coming out of that country, it is an almost impossible feat to accomplish, and yet they have managed to do it.

Since that time, the Finns have won three golds at the Under-20 World Tournament. In the Under-18 tournament, where most of the draft-eligible players have been displaying their games for scouts, they have two golds, two silvers and three bronzes in that time frame.

Yeah, you’ll find a Finnish veteran on their roster, via trade, from time to time, but it’s not the same thing as growing your own talent.

Just scan the rosters of the league’s elite teams, and you will find what they have that the Flyers (no Stanley Cups since 1975 and six losses in the finals since) do not.

You win with Finns.

The Flyers don’t win, and the bias is obvious.

I’m sure they don’t just dislike Finns off-hand, but there seems to be some general fear that their players maybe won’t adjust to playing in smaller rinks with more physical play, or that they won’t be willing to come here on two-way contracts, meaning apprenticeships in the less-glamorous minor leagues.

Lehtiivori might be an example of that. After being drafted, he remained in Europe before coming across the pong and playing 98 games with the Adirondack Phantoms over a span of a season and a half before returning to Europe, where he still plays for pay.

It’s hard to believe that one experience left such a sour taste in the mouths of management that they have passed it along though several regime changes since 2006.

The only common ground between these front offices is no Stanley Cups and not drafting any players from Finland.

 

Every Day Is Father’s Day

MVP

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Only a few Father’s Days ago, I spent the occasion at an 8-hour dance recital just to watch Sofia perform for, maybe, a grand total of eight minutes.

I accepted it as my lot in life.

Sofia was my own personal Tiny Dancer, and I figured this was how it was going to be – waiting all day with a growling stomach, clinging to a bouquet of flowers while racing other dance parents for ideal seats.

At the time, she was the kid – “that kid” — in her first year of 8-U Rec softball that sometimes needed 10-12 pitches (from a coach) before she hit the ball four inches.

I braced myself to become a dance dad and not a sports dad, as she was more in her natural habitat in ballet shoes than spikes.

We fostered her overall creative side with piano lessons, art camps/classes, etc.

Softball was just something cute she did, usually with yours truly serving in some sort of coaching capacity, as she enjoyed being part of a team and accessorizing, via headbands and wristbands.

And it was all fine with me.

It would run its course and we would look back one day and laugh.

As long she did well in school and maintained “angel on earth” status with the Mount Rushmore of teachers she had in the early grades, all was good.

I could not have been more proud.

At least that is what I thought.

Guess where I spent this past Father’s Day?

I’ll make it easy.

It was not at a dance recital.

It was not at a piano recital, either.

We were in gritty Gloucester City, N.J. – literally in the shadow of one of the bridges — for a travel softball tournament.

And not as spectators – well, mama was a tense spectator while I was in the dugout as a low-on-the-totem-pole coach who keeps the scorebook.

Sofia was on the field.

For those of you not familiar with this world of travel tournament softball, the pace of the game puts it several notches above neighborhood Rec leagues.

Players have to audition for teams in mid-summer and, if they earn an invite, they practice year-round in indoor facilities.

I’m not going to say Sofia is a superstar at this level, because she is not – not yet, anyway – but she meets the commitment level needed for travel ball.

She played left field and batted ninth in both games Saturday. She made a nice running catch and lined a single in the first game, a 7-4 loss to the second-ranked team in South Jersey. That performance earned her a chance to be a game captain in the second game, a terse 7-7 tie in which she stole a base and scored a run after getting hit by a pitch (her specialty).

On Sunday, Father’s Day, she was moved up a spot in the batting order, but we were promptly eliminated, 10-0.

Still, in the midst of this early morning drubbing, it hit me as she rifled a throw from deep left field to the cutoff at shortstop, how much she has developed her softball skill set in such a short amount of time.

And she has done it her way.

Sofia still dances – just not at a school that holds recitals on Father’s Day (eye roll) – and we limit her ballet classes to one long night a week to allow for softball practice, schoolwork and her litany of other secondary activities (Girl Scouts, 4H, school choir, etc.)

In the spring, Sofia also played for her school’s softball team, starting every game at her preferred position, catcher, and was named as an All-Star at year’s end.

It was not uncommon for her to go right from a school game or practice to a workout with her travel team, Velocity.

I could take all the credit for not giving up on her, but the truth is that she never gave up on herself and is eternally coachable, meaning the arrow is still pointing way up.

And no, I have zero delusions that she will be one of those young women on TV playing for UCLA or Oklahoma in the College Softball World Series.

Sofia was never going to be dancing at Julliard, either.

She is what I said I always wanted, an all-around kid.

This is not to be confused with me thinking Sofia is perfect, because she is not. She is the princess of procrastination. She is not quite as compliant with authority at home as she is with teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc.

And she is bit too addicted to social media.

But Sofia is a young lady of many deep passions.

Beyond softball and dance, she is turning into a mini-me with her love for music (I wish she’d let me show her how similar my bands are to hers, but I’m not giving up). She enjoys going to museums, art and historical, especially if they are about ancient Egypt.

Sofia will soon return to her beloved creative arts camp – well-prepared with a purple streak in her air — to indulge herself in all it has to offer (except sports, as the kids there are, uh, not too athletic).

As parents, all we can do is let our children engage with the world, and embrace their passions with both arms.

In her case, she might need three.

Sometimes, it’s her mother helping her rake in the overflow.

Sometimes, it’s me.

That’s just what fathers do.

It is my lot in life — a life where every day is Father’s Day.

No matter where I am spending it.

This column  first appeared in The Times Herald on June 23, 2019.

No Reason To Play Ball

puerto-rico-opener-cgregory

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When it comes to sports, I’m as provincial as it gets.

If you’re from Philly and not a fan of a Philly team, get away – and stay away – from me.

It’s a question of loyalty.

There was one exception, to which I plead guilty – albeit with an explanation.

My grandparents had a summer home on the outskirts of Atlantic City that received both Philadelphia and New York channels.

Perfect for my grandfather, who would watch anything sports-related, even roller derby or celebrity bowling.

A perfect fit for me, because I loved sports – and my grandfather.

The Phillies preempted everything in those 1970s summers – except maybe an Eagles preseason game – but it was not uncommon to watch a Mets or a Yankees game. While there was no way I was going to cheer for the Mets, who were a divisional rival of the Phillies, I admittedly developed an affinity for the Yankees in those carefree days before interleague play.

Soon, a disdain developed for the Yankees’ rivals, with the Boston Red Sox topping the list.

And nothing was more annoying than to hear people from that town with so many championships in basketball and hockey whine, in their irksome accents, about how they were cursed because they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.

This alleged curse was eventually broken, as the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

They won it again in 2007 and 2013, before doing it again last season.

And with the Phillies a distant fourth – actually, fifth, if you count Temple football — on my Philly interest list, I may have to go get a Red Sox cap or hoodie or something.

And it has zero to do with me being a frontrunner. That’s not how I roll.

It’s because they have players – and a manager — who went against peer pressure and refused to visit the White House for a recent dog and pony show with your president (not mine).

The players who chose not take part had valid reasons, but I’d like to focus specifically on why manager Alex Cora took his stand.

It was a question of loyalty, which earns bonus points in Gordonville.

As a native of Puerto Rico, and as one who has been deeply immersed in relief efforts since Hurricane Maria’s wrath in the fall of 2017, he simply could not hang with the “man” who threw paper towels at his people for one photo opportunity and never looked backed in his rearview mirror at the island again.

In a Spanish to English translation, Cora said: “Although the government of the United States has helped, there is still a long way to go, that is OUR reality. I have continually used my voice so that we Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence is not different. Therefore, at this moment, I do not feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”

Cora is actually being kind in saying the government’s help was anything more than perfunctory, especially in comparison to its swift responses to natural disasters in red states with primarily white victims – 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in Houston and a destructive tornado in Lee County, Alabama in early March of this year.

Tapping into old country club canards about how minorities manage their finances, the current administration has painted Puerto Rico, where 3,000 perished, as mismanaged and corrupt and using aid money to cover old debts.

The implication is that the rich white man should not be punished by paying for it.

On the ground, it is a much different – and urgent – story.

The argument that “too much” aid is being sent to this American territory where residents serve in the military (assuming there are no bone spurs) and pay into Social Security, the infrastructure remains at the level of a third-world country.

According to a University of Michigan study, the federal response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma (affecting Florida and Georgia, two more red states, in 2017) on the continental U.S. was “faster and more generous” than the response to Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.

The study adds that survivors of Harvey and Irma had received nearly $100 million in federal funds nine days after the hurricanes hit land. Hurricane Maria survivors had gotten just over $6 million in this time frame.

This is about more than just how Puerto Rico has been treated, which is like dirt on the bottom of a sociopath’s shoe.

A lot of you want to know why I refer to the president as “your president (not mine),” and this is one of a growing list of reasons why.

My theoretical president (not yours, more than likely) would have felt compassion for Puerto Rico.

He – or she – would not have done the following:

-Justified putting children in cages after separating them from their parents.

-Denied the science supporting the man-made climate change that is likely behind these extreme natural disasters.

-Put Neo-Nazis on equal footing with counter-protesters.

-Called for gun control — not backing for the NRA – after ongoing mass shootings.

And my president would not have given good reason for the champions of what was once considered America’s pastime – where grandsons would skip the beach just to watch games all day with their grandfathers – to choose to not show up at the White House.

This column originally appeared in the Times Herald on May 19, 2019.

The Witch Hunt of Kate Smith

kate-smith-1

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are some true American heroes that, for one reason or another, don’t quite receive their just place in in the history books.

A few who come to mind are Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Woody Guthrie.

Another is Paul Robeson, a true Renaissance man if there ever was one.

As a black man born in 1898, he seemed to either break down barriers – or get around them – with an uncommon ease and grace for his time when mutual respect between races, and ethnic groups, barely existed.

One of the first blacks to attend Rutgers, he endured physical punishment from prospective teammates to earn a place on the football team.

Robeson was also on the debating team, honing skills that would serve him well with a lifetime of political activism that later got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Although he earned a law degree from Columbia, Robeson became a successful stage actor and singer, leaving behind a long discography while engaging in social activism.

Why do I bring up Robeson, other than because he should not be forgotten by time?

Because one of his recordings was a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The lyrics of this song, written by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, are beyond offensive and blatantly racist.

But Robeson still recorded the song, which would seem to be an off choice for someone of such steadfast conviction about who and what he was.

However, research reveals the song was meant as a satirical jab at racists (one of the writers, Brown, was Jewish and likely keenly aware of prejudice).

In that context, it is a poke right through the eyes of their white hoods of the many out-in-the-open Klan members of the time period.

The Marx Bros. also referenced the song in the movie “Duck Soup.”

And Kate Smith recorded it as well in 1931 (the same year as Robeson).

Although it was recorded as recently as 1970 by satirical song master Randy Newman, who once wrote and sang how “short people have no reason to live” to make a point, it seems that only Smith will be punished.

Since Smith has been dead for 33 years, there is no way to know if she was performing the song for reasons other than that of Robeson or Newman.

But unlike them, she has been posthumously singled out and put on trial like a Salem witch – without a chance to defend herself or her motives – as both the hometown Flyers and New York Yankees, a team so reluctant to sign black players that they reportedly passed on Willie Mays, have taken steps to make sure the singer of “God Bless America” is vanquished from history.

Truth be told, the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 – and again in 1975 – was a highlight of my wayward youth. The whole Kate Smith thing – the playing of “God Bless America” and her showing up in person before Game 6 of the finals in 1974 to belt out the song – was a bit silly to me (and I was the ripe old age of nine).

The fact that the Flyers erected a statue of her was embarrassing, but taking it down – now – is beyond mortifying.

Left in the place of where the statue once stood, we have yet another downright blatant case of political correctness run amok.

In the final analysis, this is more about what is or isn’t fair when dealing with what I regard as the most valued possession any person has, that being their legacy.

Yes, Smith also sang “Pickaninny Heaven,” another song – one she dedicated to children in a black orphanage to “cheer them up” — with offensive lyrics (watermelons and such) that was yanked off YouTube (and yet we can still watch the alleged cinematic masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” whenever we want).

These ignominious events caused me to research Smith a bit more, and I found nothing – as in zero – that the woman held any racist views.

After World War II, in terms of social and political stances, she was a non-entity.

At worst, she was a product of her time. More than likely, as time passed, she was embarrassed by the poor song choices made for her to sing.

And, in her prime years, keeping pace with the hit parade was a grind. You had to keep cranking out song after song, or someone else would take the same song and have a hit with it instead.

Considering artists don’t have much say or control today, they certainly didn’t back then.

Smith’s parents scoffed at her career aspirations and wanted her to become a nurse, but she chose a career as a singer. It was make it or break it. If someone said “sing this, it will be a hit,” she sang it.

That’s not an excuse, and maybe she could have risen above it all, but there are more egregious acts that are overlooked.

Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, for example, were vehement anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers who opposed our entry in World War II.

No statues of Lindbergh are being torn down, and plenty of people – myself included – drive Fords.

Walt Disney was purported to be a bigot, and yet people – of all creeds – pour into his resorts.

Andrew Jackson was responsible for heinous policies against Native Americans, and yet he remains on the $20 bill.

Many of the founding fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – owned slaves.

Their legacies remain untarnished.

But not that of Kate Smith.

Sounds like fodder for a song – one that a man with the character of Paul Robeson would have been proud to sing.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on April 28, 2019.

 

Another Mock for the Mockery

Simmons

 By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The smart money is on the Eagles drafting Alabama running back Josh Jacobs in the first round Thursday night.

The rumor mill is now spitting out the name of mercurial wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown as being linked the Birds.

Nay, I say.

I’d be shocked if the brain trust – Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Doug Pederson and the senior scouts and most valued assistant coaches – didn’t lay it on the line at pick No. 25.

That’s if they even stay at No. 25, as it is just as likely they either move up 5-10 spots or drop back as far as the early second round and pick up additional picks.

Since my request to have the phones at the NovaCare Complex tapped was denied, I’m not privy to what conversations with other franchises may or may not be going on.

So we will stick the board as currently constructed and take a run at a Mock Draft, which will be a delicate combination of who I would take in my dream job as Eagles’ GM and who they are likely to take based on past tendencies.

Away we go:

First Round (Pick 25) – Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

I think this is guy, I always he would be the guy and I would be shocked if the 340-pounder (give or take a few in either direction) would not be the guy. While boasting a larger-than-life personality in the spirit of Jerome Brown, Lawrence is similar to Brown in the sense that he is more than just a run-stuffer. At the NFL level, he will at least collapse the pocket enough to make the life of his fellow linemen easier. And if their lives are easier, so will those of the linebackers and secondary. Meanwhile, in a division where your team faces Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott twice a year, another run-stuffer is not a luxury.

Dexter

Second Round (Pick 53) – Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

With a knee injury that will likely keep him out of action for most of the season, this would be a red-shirt selection of a guy with first-round talent whose stock may have dropped a bit anyway because of character concerns. Eagles’ fans are rightfully wary of this whole scenario because cornerback Sidney Jones, taken under similar circumstances in Round 2 in 2017, has yet to stay healthy and really do much. However, each situation needs to be judged on its own merit.  This would be a case of stealing a Top-15 talent and storing him up for later. There is no reason to rush Simmons, who could also use the year to soak up the mature culture of a NFL locker room anyway. Some mocksters still have Simmons going in the window of the late first round to early second, and he still might, but I have been following this stuff for too many years to see it happening.

Second Round (Pick 57) – Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech

Whether or not Chris Long retires, and even if last year’s fourth-round pick Josh Sweat emerges, more depth is needed here around starters Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. While Vinny Curry has flown back to the nest, he is likely to be used a lot inside on passing downs. He’s 6-5 and will likely play at 260-265 has a NFL-ready burst off the edge that will give teams fits when coming fresh off the bench into games on obvious passing downs.

Fourth round (Pick 127) – Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

Anderson, when healthy, is one of the most talented backs in this draft. Despite three season-ending injuries, he could be snatched up on Day 2 (second or third round) by a team enamored by tape from his 2017 season that saw him use his cutback skills to accumulate 1,442 yards and 18 touchdown and look good doing it with his long and strong 6-1, 220-pound frame. Since the Eagles have the committee in place behind newly acquired starter Jordan Howard, there would be no reason to rush Anderson into action.

Anderson2

Fourth Round (Pick 138) – Ross Pierschabacher, C/G, Alabama

Out goes Stefen Wisniewksi, in comes another player with a name worthy of the final round of a spelling and who sports similar characteristics. While it is presumed the Eagles will be looking for a tackle in the draft, my gut tells me they will look more toward the interior and spend another year evaluating Halapoulivaati Vatai and Jordan Mailata as long-term solutions before spending draft capital on another. Wisniewski’s departure via free agency, Brandon Brooks coming off a knee injury and Jason Kelce hinting that the end of his career his nearing makes the interior a more pressing need. And while their paths did not cross at Alabama, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s blocking schemes are still used there, easing any learning curve – assuming one is even needed for a player who started 42 games at guard for the Crimson Tide before sliding over to center last year.

Fifth Round (Pick 163) – Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia

This pick may be off the grid a bit, as the Eagles boast an excellent 1-2 punch at tight end with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, but the 270-pound Wesco is a freakish athlete for his size who may just be scratching the surface. Conceivably, he could line up at tight end while Ertz and/or Goedert line up in the slot. And if someone does a Vulcan mind meld with Pederson, convincing to use a fullback, Wesco would be epic in that role. Plus, last year’s draft was the first since Roseman return from exile that a player from West Virginia was not drafted.

SIXTH ROUND (Pick 197) – Jahlani Tavai, MLB, Hawaii

He may prove to be just a core special teams guy at the NFL level, but the Eagles would be pulling off a major heist is the best defensive player to come out of Hawaii in ages continued showing the knack for the football that led to him collecting 391 career tackles, including 41 for a loss, and 17 ½ sacks in his career. There is also an arrest charge in his file, which hurt his draft stock but may help the team that grabs him late.

Tavai

Draft 2019: No Getting In Howie’s Head

Roseman

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — If we have learned anything from Howie Roseman, it’s that he always has an ace hidden up his sleeve, ready to play it at the exact moment when the competition is sleeping on him.

That said, with the 2019 NFL Draft fast approaching, it outwardly appears that his cards are on the table.

At least as much as they can be for a guy always looking to play the angles for the benefit of the hometown Eagles.

This offseason, he has fortified the roster for coach Doug Pederson and staff with an evenhanded distribution of veterans, leaving no real gaping holes to be addressed in the draft.

When you are playoff team that one season removed from a Lombardi Trophy, that is a good place to be.

And that’s where the Bird are — able to draft the best player available.

While it’s lip service that every team uses, it’s pretty obvious here.

“Let’s not be biased toward a particular need, because that’s where we make mistakes,” said Roseman, likely still haunted by the ghosts of Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith, among others. “That’s one of the things that’s exciting where we are right now. We can go play right now. We think we’re a pretty good team. So we go into the draft knowing we don’t have anything that we have to fill at any position.”

The Birds enter the draft with the following picks: One first (No. 25), two seconds (No. 53, No. 57), two fourths (No. 127, No. 138), one fifth (No. 163) and one sixth (No. 198).

Trades are likely, and I’d say it’s a 50-50 chance Roseman stays at No. 25 in the first round, which could set in motion a chain of events to acquire more picks or just target some select prospects and call it a draft.

Roseman could either use one of the second-round picks, along with No. 25, to move into the 15-20 range. He could also trade back, maybe even out of the first round altogether, and add the third-round pick – and maybe the seventh — they don’t have.

It would be about their board, and where they can get someone they covet.

Let’s now take a look at who the Eagles have at each position, and who are some possible fortifications are for the draft Because of the front office’s due diligence in the offseason, the possibilities are so endless that a lot of names are being thrown at you:

OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: While there should be legitimate concerns that Carson Wentz will make it through a whole season healthy, the Eagles are insisting they are comfortable with relatively untested Nate Sudfeld as the backup.

“When you’re able to find a guy like Nate and develop him, that’s like drafting a quarterback,” said Roseman in a pre-draft press conference. “That was just as good as any quarterback we could have taken certainly in the middle rounds.”

The Eagles also added Luis Perez from the suddenly defunct AAF, but he is strictly practice squad material for now.

Going with just Wentz and Sudfeld would save a spot on the active roster, but it would risky if – or when – Wentz goes down. The question would be if they go on the street for a veteran on a one-year deal or add through the draft. If they choose the latter option, it certainly wouldn’t be until Day 3, and likely not until the fifth or sixth round.

Names to consider are Ryan Finley (NC State), who holds three academic degrees, Jordan Ta’amu (Mississippi) and Eric Dungey (Syracuse). Easton Stick replaced Wentz at North Dakota State. He doesn’t have the same arm or size (6-2, 220), but he is mobile. Kyle Shurmur (Vanderbilt) is the son of Pat Shurmur, for whatever that’s worth.

RUNNING BACK: The need for a No. 1 back seems to have been filled by trading for Jordan Howard. Roseman expressed optimism about young backs Corey Clement and Josh Adams, who led the team in rushing last as an undrafted rookie who began the year on the practice squad. It’s hard to tell where Wendell Smallwood fits in, especially in the final year of his rookie deal, but he has shown enough to round out the group. Boston Scott and draft bust Donnell Pumphrey are also in the mix, if only as tackling dummies for the preseason.

Before the trade for Howard, there was a lot talk about the Eagles going for the running back with one of their top three picks, and maybe even trading up to secure Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, but that seems less likely now. Still, there are some names to consider on Day 3. There are two backs with Day 2 skill sets – Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma, pictured below) and Bryce Love (Stanford) – who should be available in the fourth or even fifth round because of injury issues. The Eagles could draft one, and provide a red-shirt year by stashing them on IR to get healthy. Temple’s Ryquell Armstead could be a late-round sleeper, but the Eagles have not had an Owl in camp – even as an undrafted free agent – since quarterback Adam DiMichele in 2009, which seems to indicate something a bit more nefarious about the relationship with their stadium tenant. Some small-school backs that could be add in the fifth or sixth rounds are athletic freak Jalin Moore (Appalachian State) and Wes Hills (Slippery Rock).

Anderson

WIDE RECEIVER: Just like Howard at running back, bringing back fan favorite DeSean Jackson to take the top of the defense takes away the immediate need for reaching for a receiver earlier in the draft. Alshon Jeffery is the No. 1 receiver while they could do worse than Nelson Agholor in the slot. Meanwhile, with promising Mack Hollins back after missing all of last season, they are in decent shape at the top of the depth chart. While there are some in-house names – Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward Jr., Braxton Miller, etc. – it would not be out of the question to draft a receiver.

With Clement coming off of injury, and no known punt returner on the roster, they could look at the draft’s better return men who are also receivers. Those names include Parris Campbell (Ohio State), who has been timed in the sub-4.4 range, and Deebo Samuel (South Carolina), who is not as fast (4.5ish) but has the more sudden moves that often work better in the big leagues. Julian Edelman clone Andy Isabella (Massachusetts) looks the part, but does not have much return experience. Georgia’s Mecole Hardman would be a steal in the fourth round, if he lasts that long. Raw as a receiver, he brings 4.3 speed and return skills. Later in the draft, they could look to fil the need with his Bulldog teammate, Terry Godwin, or a small school playmaker such as Alex Wesley (North Colorado) or Penny Hart (Georgia State).

It would be a mild surprise not to hear one of these names called by Roseman and Co. (second in command Joe Douglas loves small-school talent).

TIGHT END: After catching the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, all Zach Ertz did for an encore was set a record for receptions for tight end in a season. Meanwhile, Dallas Goedert should easily build on what was a promising rookie season. Richard Rodgers was resigned as a safe bet to be the third tight end, and there are some other in-house candidates, but Roseman could pull the trigger on the right tight end at the right time in the draft.

With the draft class at tight considered strong, the fact that the Eagles are covered here could help push other talent into their lap.

An intriguing name would be Trevon Wesco (pictured below) of West Virginia, which has served as a farm system of sorts for the Birds in the past. Wesco is 6-3 and over 270 pounds, and is also raw, but he could be a core special teamer and, heaven forbid, line up at fullback without burning a roster spot on a traditional fullback.

Wesco

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: A lot of mock drafts have the Eagles drafting a replacement for Jason Peters, and maybe even moving up to do so. Names mentioned include Greg Little (Mississippi) and Bobby Evans (Oklahoma), who both possess the requisite size and athleticism to warrant high picks. This is where we would need to be behind the curtain to know what the Eagles are thinking, long-time. Do they believe Halapoulivaati Vatai, who breathes the rarified air of starting left tackles who won Super Bowls, can be the replacement? Was Jordan Mailata, a rugby player out of Australia, just a PR stunt when drafted in the seventh round last year?

Remember what Roseman said about Sudfeld, and how the time investment being more valuable than a rookie. Also keep in mind that the tackle class, overall is considered mediocre. We don’t want another Danny Watkins, do we?

GUARD/CENTER: Whether or not the Eagles add tackle early, they will likely look to the interior line at some point, probably on Day 3. Brandon Brooks, two years removed from a Pro Bowl season and one removed from a ruptured Achilles, may not be ready to start the season. Stefen Wisniewski is gone. Isaac Seumalo is slated to start at left guard, but we’ve heard that song before. Good things have been said about Matt Pryor, last year’s sixth-round pick, but he could be regarded more as a tackle who can play guard than a pure guard. Meanwhile, Roseman may have to make arrangements for replacing center Jason Kelce, who talked about retirement a bit this offseason.

Versatile Beau Benzschawel (6-5, 317) of Wisconsin would be an ideal developmental choice.

And, while the presumption that offensive line coach/running game coordinator Jeff Stoutland’s fading connection with Alabama will mean drafting players from there, a good fit would be pivot Ross Pierschbacher (6-3, 309), who also has experience at guard.

RossP

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE: This where the rubber meets the road. If this is not the strong spot of the whole team, it is at least on the defensive side of the ball. Two big reasons for that are Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and depth. Defensive line also happens to be the strongest spot in the draft, inside and outside, and Roseman has not been shy about pointing it out. A smoke screen, or will the Birds reload for the future while giving themselves a killer rotation in the present.

While Michael Bennett was dealt to New England, Brandon Graham was resigned in a pleasant surprise, and will be joined at defensive end by promising third-year man Derek Barnett, who should be back healthy after missing most of last season.

Malik Jackson was brought in to play alongside Cox, ostensibly replacing Timmy Jernigan. And welcome back, Vinny Curry. An end by trade, he can slide inside on passing downs.

However, with it unclear if Chris Long will retire, it is not out of the question to add an end – even with last year’s fourth-round pick Josh Sweat expected to make more of an impact.

Inside, the backups are journeymen Trayvon Hester and Bruce Hector, so a top-end talent there would be almost unfair.

And there are plenty to choose from. In reality, the Eagles could use their first three picks on defensive linemen and justify it as a sound move for the present and the future. Nothing makes a suspect secondary more stable than a line that creates passing downs by stuffing the run and then getting pressure on those passing downs.

So which players could we see in green, should they go this route?

A wild card is Ed Oliver of Houston. He missed most of last year with an injury, had some bouts with immaturity and is a tad bit undersized (6-3, 285) to play inside in some schemes (there is some talk of him being an oversized middle linebacker). Draft projections have him all over the map, and reports are that the Eagles are intrigued. A one-time projected top 5-10 pick, he’d be a no-brainer at 25 but maybe not worth the risk to trade into the 15-20 range. That’s because there are other interior linemen to be had at 25, or even by trading back.

Names include a pair of Clemson stalwarts, 340-pound Dexter Lawrence and athletic Christian Wilkins (pictured together below), and Jeffery Simmons of Mississippi State. Another option, oft-mocked to the Eagles, is 6-7 Jerry Tillery of Notre Dame, whose character matches his skill set.

Clemson DTs

As for defensive ends, highly productive players like Joe Jackson (Miami) and Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech, pictured below), who was brought in for a visit with the Eagles, could compete with Sweat if Long does not return.

One more name to keep in mind is Zach Allen of Boston College. At 6-4 and 280 pounds, it is unclear if he is best suited for inside or outside in the NFL. That perceived negative would be a positive for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who values versatility. Allen was productive in college (18.5 career sacks) and is known for his high motor. He’d be a reach at 25 and probably would be gone by later in the second round, but would be the type of system fit they could add with a trade back (like with Goedert last year).

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LINEBACKER: If there is any position of need, this might be it. With Jordan Hicks now in Arizona, Nigel Bradham is the only impact linebacker. Kamu Grugier-Hill would be the next man up, and there is also hope Nathan Gerry progresses. Behind them, there is newcomer L.J. Fort, who is more of a special teams ace than a full-time starter, and Paul Worrilow, a similar veteran who missed all of last season with a serious knee injury.

The Eagles could get by with a mix and match approach to buoy Bradham, who can play the middle but is more effective outside, or they can address it in the draft.

If the Eagles trade up in the first round, this could be where it happens. The top middle linebacker is clearly Devin White of LSU, but it would take a lot to get where they would need to be – somewhere in the 5-10 range (Detroit has put a for-sale sign on its No. 8 pick, for example) – to get him. Would they trade No. 25, one of the seconds and a second next year – or throw in, say, Agholor – to do it, though?

Next up, and also a plug-and-play talent, is Devin Bush (pictured below) of Michigan. There is a chance he slides to No. 25, but do the Eagles take that chance?  Another option would be to trade back into the early second round and consider Mack Wilson of Alabama.

After those three, the next group of middle linebackers are rated as either going late in the third round or early in the fourth. Without a third, and not picking until later in the fourth, that would not work without some maneuvering – or some luck.

A late-round steal could be Jahlani Tavai (pictured below) of Hawaii, who had about a million tackles for the Rainbows as a four-year starter. He has requisite size (6-3, 245) to match his tenacity, but his 4.75 speed could limit him to being a two-down player.

Tavai

If the Eagles wanted more of an athletic hybrid to play outside, Florida’s undersized Vosean Joseph (6-1, 226) could fall into the laps with one of the second round picks.

SECONDARY: This group incurs the wrath of the fans, but too many draft picks have been invested to realistically think another will be, right?

Well, maybe.

The Eagles have shown interest in some of the draft’s top corners – i.e. Byron Murphy (Washington) and DeAndre Baker (Georgia), while avoiding Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin like the plague – but that could be a smokescreen.  All they would be asking for are same growing pains, and bites on double moves, they already have with the young corners they have invested picks in the last few years.

There are some intriguing Day 3-type prospects, though, who could end up in whatever shade of green the Birds decide to wear. There has been a lot of buzz around Jimmy Moreland (James Madison, who showed up well against the big boys in the post-season but measured in at 5-11, 175 – not ideal in an era of bigger corners. Another smaller-than-ideal corner from a lower level is Washsburn’s Corey Ballantine (5-11, 198, pictured below), but he brings some return chops to the mix. Blace Brown, out of Troy, who finished his career with 12 interceptions. He has bloodlines – Herschel Walker’s nephew – but an ACL injury in December of 2017.

Corey-Ballantine-NFL

All we know is that Ronald Darby was brought back. Roseman went out of his way to give a vote of confidence to Sidney Jones, the second-round pick of two years ago who has had trouble staying healthy. They also have Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and late-season surprise Cre’von LeBlanc in the picture.

At safety, Rodney McLeod was one of several veterans to restructure his deal to stay put alongside Pro Bowler and team leader Malcolm Jenkins. Veteran Andrew Sendejo was brought in as a free agent to be the third safety, while Tre Sullivan also remains. They could add a safety of the future – Deionte Thompson (Alabama), Taylor Rapp (Washington), Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida) or Nassir Adderley (Delaware) have been associated with the Eagles in some mock drafts – but there is also a question of if they view one of the young corners (Maddox, Douglas or Mills) as a safety down the road. Would they burn a Day 1 or 2 pick – or any pick – with the other needs mentioned above for what amounts to a luxury?

With Roseman, anything is possible.

He holds the cards.

Too Much PC Not OK

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — This past Monday was the most manic of Mondays I’ve had in quite some time.

I emerged in such grumpy old man form that I may as well had been wearing a moldy cardigan sweater.

Set against the backdrop of the surreal Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, there were two other dueling issues I wished would go away.

There was Tiger Woods winning the Master’s Open.

And there was Pete Buttigieg officially throwing his hat into the ring of a million Democrats in the quest for the presidency.

I have nothing against Woods or Buttigieg, and I have nothing against the need for political correctness –especially in the era of your president (not mine) setting such a low bar for civility.

But I can’t help but think, in both cases, that we may be dealing with political correctness run amok.

While I regard golf as a four-letter word, it was a big deal when Woods lived up to his advance hype and won his first major tournament in 1997, but all I learned in a career of journalism was lost with a headline from a Philadelphia paper that read “Tiger Wins One For Us All.”

Did everyone – i.e. “us all” — win that day?

And, in those pre-Internet days of steadfast rules, first names in headlines were for middle school papers with faculty advisors who napped through production.

After a stretch of dominance in his “sport,” Woods fell into oblivion with physical and personal issues.

And yet, he remained the biggest name in the game. News reports would start with “Tiger (not Woods) is 17 strokes behind in 45th place after the second day of the XYZ Invitational” without even a mention of who was winning.

Because of his name – his brand, if you will – he stayed on tour long enough to hit a ball in a hole a few less times than everyone else last weekend.

Sorry, not quite the “comeback of the century” it was made out to be, and I’m willing to stray from the PC script to say it.

Meanwhile, the situation with Buttigieg is less benign, as the need to vanquish your president (not mine) grows by the tweet.

And being PC is not OK if we want to KO the current claimant of the presidency in 2020.

“Mayor Pete,” already drawing hecklers about his sexual orientation, is not the right choice – at least not right now.

And something tells me he will be.

Just like something told me your president (not mine) was going to be the GOP nominee. We were at a Loretta Lynn concert (yes, she is still alive) in Lancaster, and she said her son, Earl (eye roll), wanted to make a political statement.

He bellowed the name of your president (not mine), at which point a surprising roar came from the throng.

Cult 45 was alive and well.

Something similar happened recently, when Bill Maher didn’t make it all the way through Buttigieg’s last name of 1,001 pronouncements when the crowd erupted in raucous cheer.

Even though his platform is a bit Hillaryesque, “Mayor Pete” already has rock star status.

In a foot-shooting drill, PC-minded Democrats are so quick to show how enlightened they are that that they are not considering that the chances of this realistically working with a thick-headed national electorate that can’t see past the idea of the spouse of the president being a man.

I get it with “Mayor Pete,” I do. He is the antithesis of your president (not mine). With no alleged “bone spurs,” he actually went to war. He’s well-educated, well-spoken and insightful.

After the Notre Dame fire, for example, he went on French TV and spoke French in the interview.

Big change from a current “president” who butchers the English language, huh?

But he is also 37 and is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana — a small town in a middling state.

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How about moving on to the Indiana governor’s mansion and/or the US Senate before taking a serious run at the White House when we are more open-minded?

The fear here is that he will get chewed up and spit out in a general election, thus ruining his promising brand so severely that it may take Tiger Woods-type comeback to be viable again.

And the embarrassment of another loss on the left will be pretty severe.

Democrats need to build a farm system as in baseball, with the likes of “Mayor Pete” and AOC as blue-chip prospects rising up through the ranks.

Putting this mayor – gay or straight – in the presidential race now would equate to promoting someone from single-A to the big leagues.

You’d root for the kid – you know, just to be PC – but he’d be overwhelmed.

Nominating the first openly gay man for president in 2020 could backfire into winning the PC battle just to lose the war in the quest for the larger and more pressing issues (health care, gun control, education, environment, etc.).

We’re past the point of trying to prove a point, as we are at the point of no return.

Any day of the week.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on April 21, 2019