Eagles Training Camp Set to Begin

Chip Kelly will begin his first training camp with the Eagles today.

Chip Kelly will begin his first training camp with the Eagles today.

Today marks the official start of the first Eagles training camp under new head coach Chip Kelly. The first year NFL coach has decided to move the camp from Lehigh University to the Novacare Complex here in Philadelphia.

Select practices will be open to the public and held at Lincoln Financial Field.

That will not be the only change from the Andy Reid era. There will be a lot of new sights and sounds to look out for this year. There will be new drills, tempo, players, schemes, strategies and positional battles that will make this training camp quite unique.

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Jeffrey Lurie Stands Behind Andy Reid: What does it all mean?

Jeffrey Lurie has announced that Andy Reid will return to coach his 14th season with the Eagles.

By now it certainly is not breaking news. Jeffrey Lurie took to the podium at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday to announce that Andy Reid will be back next season to coach the Philadelphia Eagles for a 14th season. Lurie met with the media just two days after the season ended and before his coach has done so. Certainly there are fans out there that are not happy with Lurie’s decision. The “fire andy” chanters are certainly up in arms this season. Media members are probably not all that excited either considering they have to deal with Reid’s unclear and predictable answers.

Speaking of pressers, let’s analyze Lurie’s. There are many points and things to analyze in regards to what the announcement means for the fans, for the team, for the organization as a whole and most interestingly, for Lurie himself. I’m not a doctor, but the themes of Lurie’s address seem to point to something very distinct. It’s a textbook case of grief.

According to Elisabether Kubler-Ross and David Kessler the five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. All of these were paramount in Lurie’s words and demeanor as he stood before the media assembled before him.

DENIAL

Denial is the typical response to anything that occurs in life that does not go our way. We all tend to make excuses during this time and sugarcoat to try to make a situation seem a little less bleak than it actually is. Lurie clearly embodied that symptom.

The first display came early in the press conference before the questions started flying. Lurie denied the fact that he had high expectations for the team. He basically admitted that he thought the team could be good but did not regard them as the best.

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What do Philly Fans Want for Christmas?

Philadelphia fans have a lot to wish for this holiday season.

Tis the season to be jolly…

It’s the time of year when we all grab a pen and paper (or maybe an iPad) and make out our list to Santa Claus as we all hope for that special gift to be under the tree come Christmas morning. I came home this afternoon and noticed my parents making their annual inconspicuous trek out the door, failing to mention to anyone exactly where they were headed. They’ve dropped their share of hints to the point where my brother ended up making up a list for “Santa” and needless to say, that list is gone. I’m not trying to let the cat out of the bag for any of my readers who haven’t heard the news so lets move on.

The list itself made me wonder something. What are Philadelphia sports fans hoping that Santa brings them on Christmas morning?

There have been a few early gifts for Philly sports enthusiasts. The Sixers are back in action and thumped the Washington Wizards in their first preseason game last Friday. The Eagles defeated the New York Jets Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Flyers will be the hosts of this year’s Winter Classic at Citizen’s Bank Park and their star Claude Giroux has returned to practice following a concussion (Story via CSNPhilly). And of course, the Phillies re-signed Jimmy Rollins to a deal that will keep him in red pinstripes for three to four more seasons. But let’s be realistic. Philadelphia fans are hard to please so there’s a good chance there’s more on the list.

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Eagles vs Phillies. Eagles Acquire Asomugha and Phillies nab Pence

Nnamdi Asomugha signed a 5 year $60 million deal with the Eagles.

Tonight the biggest matchup in Philly has not been between the Phillies and an out-of-town opponent. It has been between the Eagles and the Phillies. Both franchises have acquired players that will put the teams in positions to perhaps do some big things in the immediate future.

This afternoon, Twitter, Facebook and pretty much every smart phone in the tri state area, exploded with the news that the Eagles somehow maneuvered themselves into the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes, that seemed monopolized by the Cowboys and Jets, and were able to sign the most coveted free agent to a 5 year $60 million dollar deal with $25 million guaranteed. Asomugha signing with the Eagles is a clear-cut sign that the franchise feels ready to compete right now and are going all in on winning a Superbowl this year. Asomugha puts them into a position where they can either boast the best trio of corner backs in the league with Asomugha, Samuel and Cromartie or the team can look to trade Samuel to acquire another piece that they need perhaps at linebacker.

Hunter Pence is coming to Philadelphia in a 4 for 1 deal.

While news was being made in Bethlehem at a press conference with Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman, which was conspicuously scheduled at the same time as the start of the Phillies game, Phillies’ GM, Ruben Amaro Jr, was planning his next move. As the Phillies were racking up runs left and right against Pittsburgh news broke that Hunter Pence was acquired by the Phillies for Singleton, Cosart and two players to be named. The Phillies are acquiring the right handed bat that many think they so desperately need to balance the lineup and to position them to compete with the impressive pitching staff in San Francisco. The move shows the aggressive nature of Ruben Amaro Jr. who even with the best record in the league, knows that he cannot allow a minor hole in the lineup to hold this team up from winning a World Series. The crafty Amaro was able to pull off the deal without dealing away either Vance Worley or Domonic Brown and Pence was attractive due to the fact that they control him beyond this season. If there were any doubts about whether or not this was a World Series team before this move, there should be no doubts now.

Ruben Amaro Jr has gotten Charlie Manuel the right-handed bat he wanted.

These two major moves on the same day is a testament to the promising era of Philly sports we are currently in. Realistically, the city has three teams within reach of a championship run. The Phillies are there. With this acquisition, it is championship or bust for the Phillies. Nothing short will do. The Eagles are all of a sudden one of the deepest and most athletic teams in the NFC and they are in an interesting position to continue adding to this team. The Flyers have undergone major changes but judging by the way last season ended, they were warranted and it seems like they still view themselves as viable contenders. The only team without a title in their sights is the Sixers but that is not to say that they are not headed in the right direction because they certainly are. Smile Philly. A city that was once seen as a destination that no player wanted to play for, is now becoming a premiere destination for many sports. Look at the players recently acquired the last few years for Philly teams; Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Asante Samuel. The bottom line is that all of a sudden, Philly is an attractive destination and it will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Head Coach Andy Reid and Eagles GM Howie Roseman kept negotiations with Asomugha quiet until the deal was announced.

Tonight was the battle of the GM’s in Philly and these moves were two aggressive moves made by two aggressive franchises.

Andy Reid Now 3rd Longest Tenured Head Coach in Pro Sports

Earlier today, the longest tenured coach in professional sports called it quits. Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan has resigned his position as head coach after coaching the Utah Jazz for the last 23 years. Sloan coached the franchise through numerous ups and downs and perhaps would have had a couple of championship rings to show for it had it not been for Michael Jordan and those pesky Bulls.

Sloan characterized the decision as the right time to move on. It seems a little odd though. The Jazz have struggled a little recently (4-10 in their last 14) but it seems like hardly enough to quit a job that you have had for 23 years. Perhaps Sloan has just reached the decision that he’s done all that he can with the Jazz. Maybe he feels like there is no more that he can do to get them closer to a championship. Perhaps he feels like even though he is a good coach (4th winningest coach in NBA history), maybe the players simply need a new voice, a new system, a new direction.

I wonder if Andy Reid heard that.

In light of Sloan resigning and Jeff Fisher parting ways with the Titans, Andy Reid has jumped from the 5th longest tenured coach in professional sports to 3rd. Reid has been head coach of the Eagles for 12 seasons and will be entering his 13th despite the blog rumors dubbing Jon Gruden the next head coach of the team. Blogs, huh?

Andy Reid is in 3rd behind the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals Tony LaRussa and Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Reid is currently the longest tenured coach in the NFL.

Reid will be taking his 13th crack at winning a Superbowl with the Eagles. It is a bit of a rarity in today’s NFL especially considering the quickness with which coaches are winning Superbowls today. Mike McCarthy won a Superbowl in Green Bay in year 5. Tom Coughlin won one in NY in year 4. Sean Payton brought one home in year 4. Mike Tomlin brought a ring to Pittsburgh in year 2 and Jon Gruden brought a ring to Tampa Bay in his first season at the helm.

Reid seems to work with employers that really trust him. They believe in him and feel like even after 12 years, he is the guy for the job; the guy to bring a ring to Philly. Do the fans feel that way? Well, they seemed to jump all over an internet blog rumor about Reid being fired so it’s probably safe to say the answer is no. Regardless of that fact, Reid is the guy. He may not be the right guy but, he’s the guy.

So congratulations to Andy Reid on this honor. He has been elevated to number one on the list of longest tenured coaches in professional sports without a championship and he will be looking to add another notch onto that belt next season.

SHOCKER…Eagles Promote Castillo to Defensive Coordinator

Just when you thought the Eagles couldn’t surprise us more, they do it again. I mean we’re talking about the franchise that took Donovan McNabb over the guy everyone thought they were taking, Ricky Williams. We’re talking about the franchise that traded back into the 2nd round and then used the selection (their first of the draft) to select QB Kevin Kolb, a position it did not seem like we needed. We’re talking about a franchise that signed QB Michael Vick fresh out of jail to utilize as a “Wildcat” QB only to help him return to Pro Bowl form. We’re talking about a franchise that has never been short on interesting surprises and they just hit us with another one. 

After searching for over two weeks to find a new Defensive Coordinator, the Eagles have finally found him. And he was there all along. The Eagles have promoted line coach Juan Castillo to Defensive Coordinator. No, not defensive line coach Juan Castillo but offensive line coach Juan Castillo. Castillo will be heading to the other side of the ball to head up the  defense.

This is clearly a surprise simply because Castillo comes from the other side of the ball and thus one would assume that he  has little to offer to the defense and probably has not been to in tune with what the Eagles defenses have been about throughout the years, but who knows, maybe that’s a good thing; maybe it is a fresh perspective. This is also quite a surprise, because if the Eagles were going to promote from within, what took so long. Why didn’t they promote him a long time ago? Many speculated that the Birds wanted to wait until after the Super Bowl to interview candidates from the Packers and Steelers but I guess that wasn’t the case.

Castillo does have some experience on the defensive side. He was a linebacker for years in the USFL and coached defense on the high school level. That is the highest level that he ever coached defense on. Castillo came to the Eagles in 1995. He has served as an assistant, tight ends coach, and offensive line coach. The Eagles line has been stellar since 1998 when Castillo took over. He has produced numerous pro bowl lineman and was quite successful at protecting quarterbacks from Donovan McNabb to Michael Vick.

The Eagles also announced that they have hired Howard Mudd to be the offensive line coach. Mudd has a stellar resume and coached the Colts’ line from 1998 to 2009. The Colts had perhaps the best line in the NFL during that span allowing only 227 sacks, which was far fewer than any other team in the league.

Castillo will be introduced along with Andy Reid tonight at 6pm. Obviously, it is too soon to make a judgement on this move just yet. We are going to have to wait and see. The bottom line is this. Andy Reid had full control over the search so this is his call. If Castillo is horrible on the defensive side, Reid could be the one who takes the fall, but if Castillo is great, Reid will be a genious. At some point this season, we shall know.

Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner

This past Monday, The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association held their 107th Annual Award Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ. The event featured numerous awards handed out by the PSWA to deserving individuals from both the worlds of college and professional sports. Honorees included 76ers F Elton Brand (Good Guy Award), Phillies Ace Roy Halladay (Sportsperson of the Year), Phillies CF Shane Victorino (Humanitarian Award) and Ian Laperriere accepting the Best Team award on behalf of the Flyers. Also in attendance was Phillies GM Ruben Amaro. The evening also included honorees from Lasalle, Temple, Philadelphia University, University of Pennsylvania and other colleges in the area.

The night had many admirable awards including Matt Hoffman of Rowan University who won an award for saving the life of a young child by donating bone marrow to the young man. Hoffman’s story resonated with many in attendance and Hoffman’s achievements were spoken about numerous times including during Charlie Manuel’s speech when he talked about how honored he was to have met Matt Hoffman. Another amazing award was handed out to Mark Herzlich who took home the Most Courageous Athlete Award for overcoming cancer to eventually return to play his final season at Boston College. Herzlich said that battling cancer was not courageous in his eyes because he had to do it, otherwise he would not have made it.

The night also had many lighthearted moments. The funniest speaker of the night was certainly a toss-up between Phillies Skipper Charlie Manuel and Comedian Joe Conklin. Both took to the stage with the intent to make people laugh and both succeeded. Manuel ironically referred to himself as the “best speaker” of the night which brought the crowd to a rousing laugh. Conklin utilized his trademark impressions which included Charlie Manuel, Cole Hamels, Dan Baker, Merrill Reese, Mike Quick, Andy Reid, Bill Bergey, and Allen Iverson. Both did a wonderful job of entertaining the crowd.

Just as a side note to this article. I have to thank the PSWA for awarding me the Richie Ashburn Scholarship, which was the reason that I was in attendance Monday night. It was truly an honor to receive an award that contains the name of one of the most legendary figures in the history of Philadelphia Sports. I once again want to thank the PSWA and the Ashburn family for this honor.

Eagles Offseason Checklist

The Philadelphia Eagles have several players participating in this weekends upcoming pro bowl in Hawaii which means only one thing…They once again, are not playing in the Super Bowl. However, although still tough, it must be a little easier pill to swallow for Philadelphia fans simply because they did not have set expectations going into the season anyway. Experts had predictions that ranged from 6-10 to 8-8. Surely the ones who predicted 10-6, were not in the majority.
Be that as it may, they still did not play in the big game and change is going to come. Head Coach Andy Reid has already begun his quest to purge the defense which was historically bad in the red zone. Reid fired defensive coordinator Sean McDermott who has quickly landed on his feet in Carolina. Reid has also dismissed Defensive line coach Rory Segrest and Linebacker coach Bill Shuey in addition to losing Secondary coach Dick Jauron. The Eagles defense needs to look drastically different next year and with all the coaching changes, it certainly will.
The first step on the Eagles checklist is quite simple… Pick a quarterback. We might as well title this part sign Michael Vick because it is only a formality and his play warranted the opportunity, but out of respect for Kevin Kolb who has been very professional, we call this step “Pick a quarterback”.
Expect Vick to get a long-term deal this offseason. He clearly deserves it and the Eagles feel like he is the quarterback for the job. He gives the Eagles the best chance to win and that fact is not lost on the Eagles leadership. They took a huge chance signing Vick and it is finally paying off. The Birds would be foolish to let another team benefit from Vick’s second chance.
The second step immediately has to do with the offensive line. This is perhaps the most logical step to go after signing Vick simply because if you are going to give Vick a raise you got to protect him. The left side of the line is great with Herremans and Peters but with a lefty quarterback it’s the right side that needs to be the strongest. Honestly, the line played much better last year than they get credit for but they still must improve. Jamaal Jackson will once again look to make a return to his center spot and will have to supplant Mike McGlynn who played fairly well in his first season starting. The Eagles biggest task will be to address RG. Since Shawn Andrews began having his, “issues” we’ll call them, the RG spot has been a revolving door. First it was his brother Stacy Andrews and now this back and forth between both Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles. Expect the Birds to address this spot in the draft. It is time to find a long-term solution at that spot.
Now we flip it over to the other side of the ball. There are a few key spots that need addressing. First is the Defensive line. The Eagles need much stronger play from every spot on the line, including from Trent Cole. He looked incredibly winded coming down the stretch and was manhandled late in the season. There has been talk of the Eagles re-acquiring pro bowl DE Jason Babin and DT Albert Haynesworth, both of which are acquisitions that would not be a problem. I am all for Babin coming back, but I have reservations about Haynesworth. He is talented of course but high character guys are important and his attitude could come back to bite the Birds down the line, a la Terrell Owens.
Next would be linebacker. They just are not talented enough. None of them are. Stewart Bradley is good, not great. He has to improve immensely still. The Eagles have to strive to acquire a top flight linebacker at any spot because the play has to improve at that position. Bradley and Sims both underperformed this past season and they have to improve or be prepared to be backups.
The last step is pretty simple. It can be summed up in two words. Nnamdi Asomugha. Not the easiest words, but Eagles fans are going to get to know them very soon. Asomugha is a free agent and he has to sign with the Eagles. He and Asante Samuel would form the best 1-2 corner punch in the NFL hands down. Dmitri Patterson did a stellar job replacing Ellis Hobbs but he should not be starting on a typical top flight defense.
All of these steps in the process are merely possibilities. Do not expect them all to happen, but do not be surprised if they all do. Remember, when the Eagles brass feels like it has a chance to win, they go all in on free agents. They did it in 2004 and if they feel like they are close, they will do it again.