Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Underwear Olympics

First off, I love the NFL Combine. Check that, I'm obsessed with the NFL Combine. So expect a few more thoughts in the next coming days regarding what is going on with workouts as they happen. If you follow on a religious basis as I do, it has recently coined it the Underwear Olympics poking fun at Under Armour's recent takeover of combine apparel. Friday kicked off the event with weigh-in's and other measurables, giving teams the opportunity to see how the athlete's sized up as compared to their size listed on team rosters. (which is wrong 100% of the time by the way)

To start, I don't share the view popularly expressed by many in the media downplaying the combine's effectiveness at identifying talent. While I do agree that 40 yd dash times are a tad overrated, I believe the individual drills do in fact serve a purpose by giving teams an opportunity to see up close how players match up directly against others at their position. It's one thing to simply watch game film on each player, but it is another to be able to watch these athletes go through the same drills, and the same motions right next to the best of the best from around the country. This gives scouts the opportunity to weed out the "small school" or "product of a system" bias that is so often brought up when evaluating talent.

For example, I am against all of the top tier QB's refusing to throw at the combine. Many of these prospects claim they would rather throw at their pro-days because they would be more "comfortable". Bullshit. In reality, if I'm a scout, I would rather see these guys throw when they are out of their comfort zone. This is the NFL, you are only allowed to be in your comfort zone for half of the season, playing 8 home games. The other half of the season you are in hostile territory with a crowd that is consciously trying to throw you off by screaming at the top of their lungs for the entire game. Plus, if you feel as though you are the best at your position, wouldnt you want every possible opportunity to show it? I feel like these guys are so deathly afraid of having an off-day they are actually hurting themselves rather then helping. If you throw bad at the combine, then worst case scenario you have an opportunity to redeem yourself at your pro-day. Joe Flacco's combine 2 years ago is a picture perfect example of how a player can shed his label as a small school prospect and shoot up draft boards through a strong combine showing being taken 18th overall. I think that worked out pretty well for Flacco and Baltimore as well, all he did in his rookie season was take the Ravens to an AFC Championship game.

I only caught some of the Tight End pass catching drills and Offensive Line drills today, but two players made an immediate impression on me. The first being premier OL prospect Bruce Campbell out of Maryland. This 6'6 315 lb monster ran a 4.78 unofficial 40 yd dash and benched 225 lbs 34 times. In a tackle heavy field, Campbell is the 5th ranked prospect who looks to be only improving his stock so far. The next prospect to keep an eye on is Jimmy Graham, a TE out of University of Miami. Graham has received a lot of attention because he was a four year basketball player at the U before switching to football this past season. He is extremely raw but has the size, 6'6 260 lbs, and skill-set to be an asset to any team. Graham looked extremely impressive in the TE drills and could be a steal.
***UPDATE*** (Graham ran a 4.56 official time in the 40 yd dash)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

saying goodbye to brian westbrook

Wow. We all knew it was coming one of these days, but it is still hard to see the headlines. Brian Westbrook's tenure as a Philadelphia Eagle officially ended today. For those Eagles fans that are around my age, all we have ever known is Brian Westbrook. Trust me, it is no surprise that once #36 became a full time back for the Eagles, they were successful.

While he was known more for his electrifying run after catch ability then as a true every down running back, Westbrook brought much more to the field then meets the eye. He was a matchup nightmare, opposing teams were forced to recognize where he was on the field on every single play of the game, opening up opportunities for the other players to excel. How else do you explain Donovan being able to win ballgames with Todd Pinkston and James Thrash?

I could go on and on about the many things Brian Westbrook brought to this Eagles team over the last decade, but instead I'll leave you with some statistics to mull over. If you thought he was successful in the NFL, take a close look at what Westbrook did in college...

NCAA All-time leader in all-purpose yards (includes I-A and I-AA)
9,512 yards
(4,298 rushing, 2,582 receiving, 343 punt returns, 2,289 kickoff returns; 1,022 plays)
2001 Walter Payton award winner (basically the Heisman of I-AA football)

Brian Westbrook (3rd Rd 2002 draft, Villanova)
2x Pro Bowl selection (2004, 2007)
5, 995 Rushing yards (4.6 yd/carry)
37 Rushing TD's
426 Receptions
3,790 Receiving yards
29 Receiving TD's

Oh and by the way, Westbrook measured in at 5'8 200 lb and ran a 4.57 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine in 2002. Goes to show you dont have to run the fastest or be the biggest to be a great football player, Brian Westbrook showed us and the entire NFL just that.

Thanks for all the hard work Westbrook, you'll always be an Eagle to us

Monday, February 22, 2010

eagles and the draft

What are the Eagles most glaring needs in Aprils NFL Draft? I dont think it needs to be argued that their first round pick needs to be on the defensive side of the ball. The birds could use upgrades at a few spots including Safety, Defensive End (speed rusher), and Outside Linebacker.

A few mock drafts, including both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Taylor Mays falling to the Eagles. I would be ok with bringing in a prospect like Mays. He obviously brings in unparalleled physical attributes that no other safety on the birds current roster, or anywhere else in the draft, possesses. The knock on Mays is that he had a somewhat unproductive senior season and that he struggles in pass coverage. Still, his 6'3 230 lb frame brings a physical nature to the Eagles defense that was severely lacking last season. Moreover, Demps is simply not the answer at the FS position and drafting a safety will at least add some depth to the position. But, the team will not simply be drafting for depth with their first round pick, there are bound to be some players on the board at that time that can start right away for the Eagles and my thought is that they will gravitate toward those players.

Some other players to keep an eye on if they fall to the Eagles at the 24th pick would be Sergio Kindle (OLB/DE from Texas), Brandon Graham (OLB/DE from Michigan), Nate Allen (S from South Florida), and Sean Witherspoon (OLB from Missouri). I think this years draft will be interesting for the Eagles with ex-GM Tom Heckert leaving for Cleveland and new GM Howie Roseman taking over the War Room.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

the halladay season

Check out this article on what Roy Halladay can bring to the Phils rotation, besides being a Cy Young caliber pitcher.
-thanks to Nurg-love for forwarding this on to me

Myself and Nurg had good convo the other day about possible scenarios for the Phils 5th starting spot. As of now it seems as though it is Jamie Moyer's "job to lose". However, I'm inclined to say that was a mere courtesy statement out of RAJ (Ruben Amaro Jr.) While I am not high on Kyle Kendrick, and truthfully never really have been, I am excited to see he has taken to Halladay after such a short time. Hopefully Kendrick's new found dedication secures him a spot on this roster, and more importantly gives the Phils a legit 5th starter. If not, keep an eye out for Jose Contreras who was signed to a 1 year deal this offseason. He was on-and-off last year for the WhiteSox before they released him, but he showed promise as a reliever in Colorado at the end of the year. Looks as if the Phils brought him in primarily as a reliever, but they did exactly the same thing with Chan-Ho Uglyfacialhair last year and then still gave him an opportunity to start.

Congratulations 76ers

Congratulations are due to the Philadelphia 76ers for yet another failed attempt at becoming relevant. Even despite repeated trade rumors around the league, the Sixers still found a way to keep Andre "I will never live up to the monster contract I was just given" Igoudala and Sammy "I couldn't even start for UNC this year" Dalembert on the roster. Instead, Ed Stefanski decided to get rid of the minuscule contracts of Royal Ivey and Primoz Brezek. Really? To go along with giving away 2 irrelevant players, the Sixers also got back 2 irrelevant players in rookie Jodie Meeks and journeyman Francisco Elson from Milwaukee. Not exactly the move Philadelphia fans were expecting to see. In response to doing absolutely nothing, again, Stefanski was quoted as saying, "There was nothing out there that we could've gotten back that would've helped us on the floor." WRONG. Last time I checked, ANYONE is better then the 8.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg that Sammy has put up over 8 years in Philly. Not to mention he's making $11 million this year and $12 million next year. To put it in perspective for you, that is more then Rasheed Wallace, Josh Smith, Caron Butler, Nene, and David West will all make this year. Wow. Keep up the good work Sixers, this is why only 3,000 people show up to your games.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Keep an eye on Ryan Mathews

The Fresno State Bulldogs played 13 games this year, Ryan Mathews rushed for 130 or more yards in 9 of them, going for over 200 yds on two separate occasions. Oh, and he didnt play in 2 games because of an injury. He finished the year second in the nation in total rushing yards (1,808) with a 6.6 yd avg and 19 TD's. Still not impressed? Remember that undefeated media darling Boise State who finished the year ranked #4 in the nation, Mathews had an "ok" day against them back in September going off for a mere 234 yds and 3 TD's in a 51-34 loss. Yes, in a 17 point loss when most other teams are airing it out to play catch up against a far superior team, Mathews pounded his way to the national spotlight.

Only getting 113 carries last season, Mathews flew under the radar until that Boise State game where he proceeded to rush for 140+ yards in his next 6 games. He's got the perfect build for the NFL at 5-11 220 lbs and after watching some of his clips on YouTube he shows exceptional burst when hitting the first line of defenders and is the type of runner that wont be stopped by mere arm tackles. He reminds me a little of Michael Turner when he came out of Northern Illinois and I wouldnt be surprised if San Diego snagged him with the 28th pick if they dont end up trading for a RB in the near future. If Mathews does end up slipping to the second round there's no way he falls past the Chiefs and Redskins who pick 36th and 37th respectively.

The question that will plague mankind...until September

The first of what I see as many thoughts related to the ongoing saga of the Eagles QB situation. What will the birds do with the 3 able QB's they currently have on the roster? Great question. I'm convinced that Mike Vick will be gone before the draft to either Buffalo or St. Louis for nothing more then a 3rd round pick. My money is on St. Louis seeing as though Chan Gailey is taking over in Buffalo and his success in the past has come with "real" quarterbacks like Troy Aikman and John Elway, unlike Mike Vick and his career 53% completion percentage.

That leaves the incumbent Donovan McNabb and the unproven Kevin Kolb. First, let it be known that I have been an adamant McNabb supporter over the years. He's a great a quarterback, just not an elite quarterback, its as simple as that. Donovan doesn't have the "it" factor that all the NFL greats possess, the characteristic that will push a great quarterback over the edge. For that fact alone, I think its time to turn over the reigns to the youngster (I can say that because he's only 3 years older then me). I like what I have seen out of Kolb to this point in his career, and no one can deny that he is progressing given his spot starts this past season. Similar to the situation in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, Kolb is entering his fourth year in the Eagles' West Coast system after sitting and learning behind a premier quarterback who knows the offense front to back.

All Rodgers did in his first year was throw for 4,000 yds and 28 TD's. Now that might be an unfair comparison as this year showed Rodgers seems to be climbing into the class of elite QB's in the NFL, but the similarities are there. In Kolb's senior season at Houston, he threw for 3,800 yds and 30 TD's to just 4 interceptions. In 2004, Rodgers' senior season, he threw for 2,600 yds 28 TD's and 8 interceptions. Granted, Rodgers was up against Pac-10 competition while Kolb feasted on Conference USA opponents, but the criticism goes both ways. Rodgers was playing with a far superior offensive team talent-wise then Kolb was, yet he did not top the 300 yd passing mark in any single game his senior year.

I am not claiming Kolb as the next coming of Aaron Rodgers, but rather simply pointing out that if you give this kid a chance to succeed he just might surprise us all. This Eagles team needs some sort of shake up on its face while we have this core group of players together. The McNabb/Reid/Lurie connection is proving to be a consistent, yet underachieving relationship that is stuck in a groove modeled after our very own Philadelphia 76ers (see - teams stuck in mediocrity).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Arena Football is back

Indoor football is back for our enjoyment, or ignorance, whichever way you want to take it. So far, the following teams have been announced as part of the newly formed AFL: Alabama Vipers, Arizona Rattlers, Bossier-Shreveport Battlewings, Chicago Rush, Cleveland Gladiators, Dallas Vigilantes, Iowa Barnstormers, Jacksonville Sharks, Milwaukee Iron, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Orlando Predators, Spokane Shock, Tampa Bay Storm, Tulsa Talons, Utah Blaze. Initial thoughts include the fact that the closest venue to the Philly area would be the Cleveland Gladiators. Interesting that 30% of United States population lives on the east coast but there isnt one team on the eastern seaboard. Still, there has to be a good reason for this, first thoughts are that the new leagues investors/sponsors might be located in the midwest area where most of the teams are situated. Admittedly, while I was not the most diehard arena football fan the first time around, it is good to see the sport back after its short hiatus. I am a fan of arena football in that it gives a lot of the D-I AA, D-II, and D-III players an opportunity to continue their playing careers without having to make the trek to the CFL (which we know no one actually wants to do by choice).


The league announced they will be targeting 4 markets for expansion in 2011: Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Southern California...looks like the Soul might be back in town

giving it a shot

I am hoping this gives me an avenue to voice my opinions about what is going on in the sports world, and in particular around the Philadelphia area. Rather then badger my friends, family, and especially girlfriend about my beliefs I figure that trying to get them down on paper is a slightly more responsible idea. Hopefully anyone who happens to read a post or two agrees with what I have to say. If you don't then please feel free to comment and tell me that I can respond and let you know why you are wrong. Anyways, welcome to a south jersey perspective.