Monday, April 28, 2008

Digesting the Eagles Draft Haul

No grades folks, that is a useless endeavor. This is draft definitely is a mixed bag for Eagles fans, there are some really good highlights and some real puzzlers. Then again, it wouldn't be an Eagles draft is everyone thought it was great or if AR & Co didn't select some guy out of left field that leave us all scratching our heads.

Here are some the implications as I see them
- Plucking Carolina's 1st rounder next year was just awesome. Given the state of the NFC South, this pick will probably range somewhere from 12-21. (yeah thanks, why not just guess 1-32?). I don't think it will be a top 10 might be...especially if the injury bug bites the Panthers again this year. Giving up the #19 pick is never easy, but having two #1s for 2009 provides the Eagles with some decent ammunition if, as I expect, they continue their pursuit of a veteran WR.

- Getting some guys who should be able to come right in and contribute. I'm talking to you: DT Trevor Laws, WR DeSean Jackson, RB Lorenzo Booker.

First Laws. Ok, beyond the inevitable Berman "I fought the Laws" line we'll hear on ESPN once this dude tallies a sack, I see a guy with a strong wrestling background as a great foundation for a NFL defensive tackle. Moreover, this guy should be in on-time and I can see him working right into the DT rotation. As the DTs stand right now, there is Patterson and Bunkley starting, with some combination of Laws, Montae Reagor and Lajuan Ramsey....those five might be the actual guys...but I actually expect DT/DE Darren Howard to take up one these roster spots, because Howard can play all along the line and if the Eagles cut him, they'll incur a cap hit...something they don't like to do. Howard has been a huge disappointment, but if Laws shows anything in preseason, expect him to be worked into the regular rotation.

Next is DeSean Jackson. First off, anything is better than Reno Mahe. The dependable hard-working Mahe scared nobody, and really he was only on the team last year because they didn't have anybody could field kicks. Jackson's speed provides an instant threat. I am not predicting he'll be the second-coming of Dante Hall, but the man has football talent. They can help him put on some muscle, but like the adage goes, you can't coach speed. I see the Eagles spoon-feeding him some select routes, and running him out there in special packages designed to create mis-matches. Think about it...Flank Westbrook and Curtis on the other a team try and post a safety on this guy....Jackson flies right by and McNabb hits him in stride...that only needs to happen once my friends, and the threat will be established. I'd also like to see him running some of these reverses they tried with Reggie Brown...While I believe him impact on the offensive side of the ball will be limited, if only because that the Eagles' style with rookies, I do expect him to be able to improve our special teams. If he can provide a 5-10 yard difference in field position on punt returns, that is a tangible contribution. If he can be a threat that forces bad punts and helps tilt field position in the Eagles favor...that is going to pay dividends.
- As for the Roster, an interesting question came up on the forums, with Jackson on board, who goes??? Greg Lewis...seems like every year we wonder if this the year he doesn't make the cut. Hank Baskett...that potential flashed in 2006 seems like good news, from long, long time ago doesn't it? Jason Avant, if he going to get used in this offense or not??? Look I think the 4 roster locks right now are Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson. Why am I so gracious to Avant right now - because I think he showed he can be a decent slot possession receiver in this league, the Eagles just don't dial his # very often. Would the Eagles carry 6 WR on the roster? Good question. In the past they have not done so, but then again, none of the WR were PR/KR either...Mahe had those duties for the most part, and he was part of the Backfield.
With Mahe a goner and his slot open, that doesn't necessarily translate into another slot open for running backs on this team.

As for Booker, well I dunno what his addition to the team means. A third-down change of pace kinda guy. Since he can catch out the backfield that is a big, big plus. But the backfield, she be a bit crowded right now. Not exactly brimming with talent behind Westbrook, but crowded. Ever-dependable Correll Buckhalter is the top back-up, with Ryan Moats, Tony Hunt, Jason Davis and Dan Klecko filling out the HB/FB slots...figure 3 RB, 1 FB, unless some really flashes that "you gotta keep me on the roster" skill. I won't even venture a guess what that means for the roster at this point...Just say this: Westbrook and Booker will be two names on the final list, unless Lorenzo comes in and proceeds to take a dump on Andy Reid's desk during training camp/preseason.

Other guys they picked up:
3rd rounder DE Bryan Smith...oh great, another fastball tweener you say. And I am tempted to agree. It seems like every year the Eagles dupe themselves into believing some small-school project is being coveted by a bunch of teams, so they "reach" early....3rd round??? For a guy from McNeese State? AIYA! Anyway, unless this guy is a real, true and honest no-shit surprise play-maker, I fully expect him to get the red-shirt treatment from AR & pals. The DE rotation is fairly set at this stage, with Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, newcomer Chris Clemons, and 2nd year man Victor Abiamiri looking to make that almost traditional, OK-I've-been-around-for-a-season-now-let's-see-if-I-can-play bid for the Birds. I think he will contribute. Smith though? He is Gocong-esque project, unless I miss my guess, so I wouldn't expect to see him swooping into opposing backfields until 2010, if we're lucky.

4th rounders: OG Mike McGlynn. A self-described "lunch-pail" guy. His biggest asset is going to be the fact that's he has played all along the O-Line. Kinda like Nick Cole, who can be a back-up Center and Guard. One potential bonus...he has long-snapped in the past. I don't know of any particular plan in place, but right now the Eagles have a pure long-snapper on the roster in Jon Dorenbos....coughing up a roster slot for LS who does nothing else could turn into a luxury Andy decides he just can't indulge....I know the Eagles signed him to deal last year, and they won't want to upset the critical special teams chemistry between JD and Akers and Sav Rocca. But if McGlynn shows ability and develops a feel for it with those out.

Safety Quintin Demps - OK in there a limit on the number of guys in the defensive backfield that can named Quintin?? The guy has a little mouth on him too, but confidence is something to be appreciated in a DB, so long as they can back it up on the field. Is this guy going to replace anyone? Dawkins and Mikell as there...baring injury that is set in stone. I think JR Reed showed he can play, and play well last year and he knows the special teams...if Demps flashes some talent, then erstwhile, can't-seem-to-stay-healthy S Sean Considine could find himself on the outside looking in. As a 4th rounder - I expect him to make the roster.

CB Jack Ikegwuonu - I had the same reaction when I heard about this pick...didn't this mofo jack up his ACL prior to the draft?? Yup same guy, he's an automatic redshirt, er I mean placed on IR. Lots of folks have panned the pick - some because of the guys off-the-field legal troubles. The guy probably would've been one of the top 2 or 3 CB in the draft is he'd stayed healthy. Period. So the talent is/was there. Here is what I think might've been going through the minds of the Eagles' FO folks regarding Ikegwuonu:
1) We know he's injured, but some team could take a flier on this guy before we pick again. He was the Eagles compensatory 4th round pick, #131. The Eagles didn't have another choice on the board until the 6th round, #184. That's 53 selections, so there is a chance that some team, thinking long-term, might take a flier on a guy like Ikegwuonu in the 5th or 6th round.
2) We have a shit-ton picks, and they all can't make the roster. Taking a flier on this guy give us future potential but guarantees that we won't have to worry about cutting a 4th round guy in August.

As for the rest, If OG Mike Gibson, LBRs Mays and Studebaker (both small school guys) or OT King Dunlop make the team, consider that gravy....I expect one the LBR and one of the OL to make the practice squad, but that's about it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Another Good Day to be a Philly Fan

WOW, folks, by almost any measure Saturday was a damn fine day to be sports fan in Philly.

The Phillies stomped the Pirates to take their road-trip to a 5-1.

The Flyers rebounded strong from a disheartening OT loss in Game 1 to even up their best-of-seven series, beating the Canadiens 4-2 and wresting home-ice advantage for the hometown boys on Broad Street.

And did the Eagles ever make some waves on Day 1 of the NFL Draft. Did they have the best day? No, it hard to make the best impression when some other teams (Carolina, KC, Dallas) came away with multiple first rounds picks. That said, the Eagles scored themselves some DT depth with ND Trevor Laws and go themselves a KR/PR and a potential contributor, match-up nightmare guy in Cal WR DeSean Jackson.

Its not the players themselves that have Eagles fans buzzing, it's how we got there. The Eagles FO swung 3 draft-day trades on Saturday.

First they got a sweet-offer for their first-round pick, #19, from Carolina. You see, Carolina wanted an OT. There were five certifiable blue-chippers this year (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear you, two, maybe three of them will pan out and live up to expectations, but all five are considered really good). Well the top 4 prospects were gone by pick 15 (when KC moved up to take Branden Albert), and hell, even Detroit got into the act and picked up a non-Top 5 OT at Pick 17. So Carolina was desperate. They wanted them at OT, and there was NO CHANCE that a guy like Jeff Otah from Pitt (shout out to my old alma mater) was going to linger around until the second round.

So Carolina forks over a #2 and #4 pick this year, and next year's #1 selection to for Philly's #19 this year. Lo' and behold, they select Otah. Just to show how this tumbled even more teams to fall all over themselves. It helped the Washington Redskins too, because then Atlanta panicked, and seeing 6 of the Top 8 OL gone, they traded with Washington for the Redskins pick at #21, and they selected an OT as well.

So they then had two #2, one #3 and three #4 picks (along with 1-5th, 4-6th and a 7th).

Then the Eagles ship their own #4 (not Carolina's, it was higher, and they can't trade the comp pick) to Miami for scatback Lorenzo Booker. Evidently, a guy they wanted to draft last year but didn't get the chance.

However, this left the Eagles without a first round selection, and the fans, well, they were a-howling. We want to see picks! We want to debate the selection and all that fun shit. And here the Eagles are, trading down, amassing more picks in a draft were we already have 11!!

So finally, after HOURS of waiting it the Eagles turn again in round 2, and there are still a TON of quality players out there...they lost out on WR Devin Thomas, who the Redskins snagged with the second rounder they got from Atlanta, but NO wide receivers went in the first round, and Eagles were sitting there at #43 (overall) with their choice of a bevy of Wideouts...

and what do the Eagles do??

THEY TRADE DOWN AGAIN!!!!! Augh, the howls got louder. Dave Spadaro and Merrill Reese on Philadelphia are going looney...

They trade with Minnesota....Minnesota gets the Eagles #43 pick and Eagles lone 5th round pick (#152). The Eagles get Minnesota #47 pick and Minnesota's 4th round (#117).

So, for moving down 4 slots, the Eagles get to move back up into the 4th round (essentially moving a pick "up" 35 slots....) Here is the thinking folks...the next teams on the board following the Eagles were the Bears, Lions and Bengals. They were probably assured by the Viking that they wouldn't take a player the Eagles were targeting....So the Vikings take a safety (T Johnson), the Bears reach for a RB (M. Forte), the Lions reach for a LB (J Dizion) and the Bengals go for a hella-reach and chose some WR few people outside of the draftniks have even of and pluck some dude from Coastal Carolina (yeah, watch this dude rock). So the Eagles, still have their choice of some top-tier WRs.....and now its #47, followed, quickly by #49. THe only team in between - WASHINGTON. And the Redskins already picked a WR.

So I think this was the Eagles thinking - the Reskins need to shore up their OL and DL, so lets chose our DL first, and heck there is no way the Skins can chose all the WRs, so we're still sitting pretty. With #47 - The Eagles select Trevor Laws, DT Notre Dame. Then the Redskins go TE, and the Eagles pluck a guy many suspected they pick (if he was still around) at the #19 position - Cal WR Desean Jackson.

So to summarize: the Eagles got a 3rd down back from Miami, their 3rd DT and some much needed depth at DT, and their KR/PR+potential slot WR threat in Jackson.

I see potential immediate help from both players. Laws should be able to step in and join Bunkley and Patterson in the DT rotation. The DE are pretty much set with Cole, J. Thomas, Clemons and Abiamiri. Jackson can flat out fly. So I'd hope that in addition to return duties, the Eagles O-minds could come up with some personnel packages designed to isolate Jackson on a safety or 4th CB and just see if the young guy can blow by them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Some Pre-Draft Thoughts

Well as good as the other day wasn't a good day for Philly fans...the Sixers came out flat and got stomped by the Pistons and the Phillies blew a late game lead and lose to the Brewers...ugh...

Been a lot of talk on the boards about who the Eagles are going to draft this weekend.

A few thoughts about my take on it all. There won't be any predictions about who I think they'll take (that is useless) but rather what positions they'll go after:

1 - lots of talks about the Eagles wanting to move up in the draft. They sit at #19. Some folks think they'll use Lito as trade bait to move up, but I don't see the worth in that....especially if the choice is a young CB like McKelvin or that dude with the ultra-long name...sure those guys can return kicks, but why would you trade a ProBowl caliber CB for the chance to move up and take a young unknown at the same position. Makes no sense. Perhaps they use some picks to move up and snag someone they like...

2 - whether or not they draft an OL. Looks if its the right guy at the time they pick...fine, I have no trouble with drafting linemen, the Eagles have been pretty good at getting decent linemen on Day 1. I would NOT like they to trade up and take a OL. If you're going to sacrifice whatever it takes to trade up - get a player who is going to contribute in 2008. Be it a young WR who can return kicks or whomever.

3 - What do the Eagles need? They need a safety, so that suggests Kenny Phillips from Miami, but he's about the only decent safety this year, so I dunno if the Eagles reach for him at #19. Maybe they trade down, bank another #2 and take Phillips later in the 1st round.

4 - I'd like to see the Eagles secure another Day 1 pick (just the first two rounds, btw). But I don't see how they do it unless they trade Lito. And whilst I'd rather see the Eagles get a WR in return for Sheppard (if he's dealt), I guess the market for someone of his caliber is what the Atlanta Falcons got for Deangelo Hall (a "2" and a "5")...perhaps on draft day they get more (or less). Who knows?

5 - Back to what the Eagles need - A few linemen (at least 1 OL and perhaps 2 for depth, 2 DL, 2 DBs, 1 WR, and maybe 2 Backs (Full, Running or otherwise). That's 9 picks, the Eagles have 11 I can see the Eagles trading for some future picks as well. I mean lets face it. They aren't going to keep 11 guys...they need to package the picks that they can (the non-compensatory ones) to either a) move up in various rounds or b) bank future picks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Good Time to be a Sports Fan in Philly

Well there is something on tap for all sorts of sports fan in Philly.

The Flyers won GAME 7 versus the Capitals. IN OVERTIME no less! What a game, what a gritty up, the Canadiens...oof...that's going to be a stern test for John Stevens' team.

Chase Utley is kicking much ass in Major League Baseball and the Phillies, for the first time in a while, they haven't fallen on their face in April.

In the basketball arena, the 76ers stunned the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 on the road, and they're just about ready for tip-off in Game 2. Now, I don't care about the NBA at all, but I do hope the 76ers give basketball fans in Philly something to cheer and get excited about...its been too long for them.

And finally, there is the NFL Draft, the primary off-season moment of excitement (outside of training camp and preseason games). Come this weekend, fans around the country will be debating their team moves...who they drafted, yada yada yada....Its fun, but its a completely useless exercise to be perfectly honest.

Put it this way - this year is really the first year that we can legitimately judge a team's performance in the 2005 Draft. Those players have had three years to make an impact. That accounts for any long time to injury, etc, etc. These guys should be established young pros, and if they aren't....well then....perhaps a sterner evaluation or the removal of rose-colored glasses is in order.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting your Vader on

Ok, so I checked out looking for something on Grand Theft Auto IV and what do I find, this little puppy about getting to play as Darth Vader in the opening level of the Star Wars, The Force Unleashed - due out at very end of this summer (think September).

Here is the problem -- I like Wookies! I don't wanna kill Chewie's family....That said, anyone who has ever wanted to force-choke someone simply by clenching their fist at some idiot will probably forget all about this and start tossing hapless wookies around with abandon. If only just to their Vader on.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

You May be Taliban IF....


1. You refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to beer.
2. You own a $3,000 machine gun and $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can't afford shoes.
3. You have more wives than teeth.
4. You wipe your butt with your bare left hand, but consider bacon "unclean."
5. You think vests come in two styles: bullet-proof and suicide.
6. You can't think of anyone you HAVEN'T declared Jihad against.
7. You consider television dangerous, but routinely carry explosives in your clothing.
8. You were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs.
9. You've ever uttered the phrase, "I love what you've done with your cave."
10. You have nothing against women and think every man should own at least Two.
11. You bathe at least monthly whether necessary or not.
12. You've ever had a crush on your neighbor's goat.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

XBox 360 Vs Playstation 3

Well folks, there is a reason this blog has suffered from a limited amount of post in recent months. The culprits: HALO3, Call of Duty 4 and Mass Effect. (soon to be joined by Grand Theft Auto IV, I'm sure.)

And there is just one console on which I play them: the XBox 360.

Now, hold on, Playstation lovers and PC Gamers. I am avid gamer. Here is a little background on me before you go judging:
- I didn't own a single next-gen console prior to July 2007. I'd owned nearly everything that had come out previously, gotten burned numerous times by Sega (Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast...grrr), even 3DO and absolutely LOVED my original Playstation (Final Fantasy VII, Worms, et al). Got a Playstation 2, but to be honest, it mostly just collected dust. Why? the PC had entered the scene as my rig of choice. And a high-powered ALIENWARE gaming rig blows away any console. Hands down.

- Said Windows-based Gaming Monster PC took a shit on me about a year ago after a certain someone filled up my hard drive with crap, and hasn't been the same ever since. So over the Summer of 2007, a friend shows me XBox Live Arcade, and I could see that the strategy game CATAN was available for download and online or offline play. I was hooked. I hit the local Base exchange, and lo' and behold, they had a military appreciation package. Got the 360, wired controller, 3 games, and 1-yr subscription to XBox Live Gold for about $450.

- By the end of the year, my wife and I would go on to hunt and track down a Wii (thanks to the parents back in Delaware) and also get a Playstation 3.

- So this review comes from someone who owns all the next-gen systems.

- Moreover, this review also comes at a time when the dreaded "red ring of death" problem appears to have been addressed to a significant extent. I understand the frustrations many would have if their 360 crapped out for no reason other than poor-quality control on the internal thermal paste, but I don't know too many people who've had that probably with new 360s.

So enough intro, let's get to it:

Why do I prefer the XBox 360 to the Playstation 3? Four B-I-G reasons:

1. The 360 is the place to be for Online Gaming.
- I've got 50+ friends on XBox Live...on the Playstation? Two, 2, dos, zwei, er.... This will increase when some PS3 exclusive games come out, like Resistance 2 or Killzone 2 (scroll down for more on that), but right now, there is just no real comparison between the online experience between the consoles. The XBox 360 beats the piss out of the PS3. Hands down, don't even try and argue the point.

2. Ease of navigation. The XBox has 5 total "pages" to navigate through. The entry page, gives you a quick glimpse at whether you have messages and how many friends you have online? The information is present is an intuitive, visual way that is impossible to sit here and describe. Suffice it to say that all the info you need (plus some advertisements). What to see which friends are playing, the info is a click away. What to download a new Rock Band song, a game demo, a Live Arcade game? A few clicks and you'll be playing in minutes (provided you have enough MS points...) - As for the Playstation? Everything is present along a linear horizontal line and choices pop-up in a vertical fashion when you scroll over them....In other words: NOT AS EASY. and ease and intuitiveness are key here folks. Want to see if any friends on PS3? Scroll all the way to the right....and up and down...there's no instant look. Hopefully that changes when Playstation rolls out their HOME.

3. Gamerscore and Achievements - a.k.a. Gamer-crack. It may have seemed like a throw away thing in the beginning...give the players "points" for doing certain things in games. I think there was even some discussion about folks who racked up high gamerscore being able to "cash" them in for free stuff from Microsoft (guess that isn't going to happen anytime soon). But I tell you what. Part of each game now is looking at what the designers set as Achievements. A lot of games are fairly standard, finish the game on different difficulties, get so many kills, fly this far, run this far...but others can drive you to do some odd things in games. Like running around with a shotgun in Rainbow Six Vegas 2 until you've gotten the "I like the sound it makes" achievement for shotgun kills, or running down zombies with your jalopy in Half Life 2 Episode 2 or starting a third play-through on a game like Mass Effect in an epic quest to the Extreme Gamer achievement for having a 60th level character (the Max level you can get in the game I just found out.) Of course, it has already been mocked to perfection by the Simpsons game, which unlocked a 5gp achievement just for pressing start at the beginning of the game. The inclusion of this simply, addictive add-on to games is hard to ignore. Perfect example: I have both a PS3 and a 360. Given a choice between getting the "next big thing" like Grand Theft Auto IV on PS3 or 360, and I will choose the XBox 360 version. EVERY TIME. Why? Not because of downloadable content or any difference in graphics performance. But because of Gamerscore and the thrill of pursuing those dastardly achievements!

4. Lack of Must-Have Content on the PS3! What killer game is on the PS3 that isn't also on the XBox, thus wrecking my choice and forcing me to get the game for PS3 and not for 360 so I can wrack up gamer point and achievements? The quick answer: NONE. Okay, okay, I've got Resistance (picked up a used copy) but I haven't played it yet....Its not about the 360 having better games or more exclusive ones, its that there isn't any game out there that MADE me get a PS3....The wife bought our PS3 from a friend who sold it because of this very reason, he was bored with it, used his XBox way more and wanted to recoup some of the money he plunged into the system. We bought it primarily as a Blu-ray player, and hopefully, there will be some cool games out for it soon.

Is it all doom and gloom for the PS3? HELL NO! First off, I think its the best Blu-Ray bargain there is, and Sony's Online is free, even if it is crappy right now. As Sony gets its online bandwagon rolling, it may actually force the XBox to rethink its $50/year charge for XBox Live Gold. Moreover, some exclusive games are on the way that will probably be prompting quite a few friends to get a PS3: Resistance 2, Killzone 2, and the new Metal Gear game, to say nothing of new Final Fantasy chapter. I think an 8-player co-op campaign for Resistance 2 will be killer, I just hope I have 8 friends who own PS3 to play with! As it stands right now, I may be a little hard pressed to find companions to help me right the Earth of alien invaders this fall.