Eagles

NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

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NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick T.J. Watt will take all the preseason snaps he can get at right outside linebacker.

And perhaps most of them in the regular season too, a fact the man he is in the process of replacing isn't fighting.

James Harrison is the Steelers' all-time sacks leader, including a team-high five last season at the not-so tender age of 38.

The now-39-year-old Harrison doesn't care who has the starting spot he's held for the better part of a decade as long as it results in another Lombardi Trophy for the Steelers.

"I'm not worried about it," Harrison said Wednesday. "Whatever they want me to do. I'm 39 years old and still playing football."

Saints: Team replaces 2 doctors after Breaux misdiagnosis
METAIRIE, La. -- Saints coach Sean Payton says cornerback Delvin Breaux needs lower-leg surgery that will sideline him about six weeks and that an initial misdiagnosis of Breaux's injury has sparked a shake-up in the team's medical staff.

Payton says Breaux has a fibula fracture that was initially diagnosed as a contusion. Breaux has missed more than a week of practice and Payton said he had been getting frustrated with the pace of Breaux's recovery, based on the initial diagnosis.

"I certainly was pushing him, based on the information I was getting," Payton said.

The coach said the Saints will replace two orthopedic surgeons and in the meantime receive help from Chargers physicians during joint practices in California leading up to their game Sunday in Los Angeles (see full story).

Patriots: Ageless Brady not slowing down at 40
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Training camp is easier for Tom Brady at age 40 than it was when he entered the NFL in 2000.

Brady, who turned 40 on Aug. 3, was asked how camp with the New England Patriots is different for him now that he's one of the older players in the league.

"I think it's a lot easier for me now than it's ever been," he said. "I feel like my routine's better than it's ever been. When you're younger you don't know what to do, and after 17 years, going on my 18th year I know what to do. I know how to prepare."

Redskins: Safety Cravens undergoes knee surgery
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Su'a Cravens had knee surgery and there's no official timeline for him to return.

Coach Jay Gruden says Cravens had a knee scope to clean out some issues with his meniscus. Gruden says Cravens was injured on the third play of the Redskins' first preseason game last week at Baltimore.

With Cravens out, Deshazor Everett has taken most of the snaps as the first-team free safety and could start there when the Redskins host the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

Tight end Jordan Reed, who's on the physically unable to perform list with a left big toe injury, isn't expected to play Saturday. Receiver Jamison Crowder, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, said the plan is for him to play against the Packers.

Packers: TE Bennett ‘the quarterback whisperer’
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Call Martellus Bennett the "quarterback whisperer."

The Green Bay Packers' tight end is with his third team in as many seasons, which means another training camp of building rapport with a new quarterback. He's proven to be productive at every stop.

Bennett is confident he'll do just fine connecting with Aaron Rodgers, even if the veterans might get limited reps together in preseason games.

"I need all the reps I can (get) with Aaron -- practice reps, game reps, meeting room reps. Any rep I can get with him I'll try to get whether it's just whispering to him, try to be the quarterback whisperer," the always-entertaining Bennett said. "Over-communicate and over-rep every single thing we could possibly do."

Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

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Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

The Eagles ended up scoring the final 30 points of Sunday's game in North Texas to crush the Cowboys 37-9. 

They didn't start off so hot though. 

In fact, the Eagles were down 9-7 at halftime, so when they got the ball back to start the second half, it was a pretty important drive. 

On first down, Jay Ajayi ran for 8 yards. On the next play, he went 1 yard. 

That set up a 3rd-and-1 and one of Doug Pederson's best and gutsiest play calls of the game. Out of an unusual look, the Eagles ran a screen play to Brent Celek that picked up 28 yards and helped them continue a scoring drive. 

"It was a great call," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Great feel and call from coach. We're meeting the night before. He and I always meet on Saturday night, the night before (the game) for an hour, hour and a half, just going through the call sheet, talking about what he's going to call, why he's going to call it. And we're bouncing things back and forth. 

"That was one I knew he was going to call. He was just waiting for the opportunity to call that play. Had a good sense."

Let's take a closer look at the play: 

Here's a look just before the snap. The Eagles are using a "tackle over" formation. You'll notice Lane Johnson is lined up inside Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Celek (circled) is lined up as the right tackle. 

The Eagles didn't motion into this look. They came out in it, with all three tight ends to the right side of the line. Trey Burton is lined up like a fullback. When the Cowboys see this, they load up that side of the defensive line, prepared for a run on 3rd-and-short. 

Carson Wentz takes the snap and begins to roll right for the play fake. Celek (still circled in red) engages and holds his block for a couple seconds. "Celek did a great job of selling it and good execution," Reich said. 

With the play going right, the Cowboys' linebackers are going with it. 

Here's the other angle just after Celek releases his block. The Cowboys' corner on the defensive right is blitzing, but with Wentz rolling right, he won't have enough time to get to him. 

Marcus Johnson, who was the outside receiver on the offensive left is running a go route, which will drive the safety out of the play. That leaves a ton of space open on that side of the field. 

 

It takes a perfect throw from Wentz and it wasn't easy to get off. Because of the blitzing corner, he needs to throw off his back foot and will need to loft the ball over the defensive end, who never gained an inch on Vaitai. 

 

At the point of the catch, Celek would have already had the first down. He has the ball for a short gain but rumbles ahead into open space for a 28-yarder, his longest catch of the last two seasons.  

This was a play the Eagles practiced during the week, but Reich said it looked just OK. According to Reich, those types of plays usually look better live in games than they do in practice. 

It certainly worked. 

"You want to hear defensive players swear," Chris Collinsworth said on the NBC broadcast, "that play probably does it more than any other."

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

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USA Today Images

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to reverse course from Rob’s Rants and express what I’m thankful for in Philadelphia sports. Truth be told, with the football team having the best record in the NFL and the basketball team having two dynamic, budding superstars and playoffs in their sights for the first time in a long time, things are pretty good around these parts. So let’s show a little gratitude.

Eagles
Where to start? Before this season, the hope was a playoff appearance. After 10 games, a division title, a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC are all real possibilities. This team is complete, laser-focused, well-coached and talented. Further, they have a second-year quarterback in Carson Wentz whose skill is only matched by his work ethic and football IQ. This city has always loved a tough defense and that’s exactly what they have. They are physical from the deep, defensive line to the surprising cornerbacks. The Saints, Vikings, Rams and Panthers are right there on the Eagles’ tail, so nothing is a given, but I just don’t see this team collapsing. I love that they can beat you in a multitude of ways whether it’s Wentz’s arm, a punishing running attack, a ferocious pass rush, or out-scheming the opposition. We are in for an amazing ride with this group.

Sixers
Ben Simmons has 11 double-doubles in his first 16 games in the NBA. That‘s the most by any player in that span of time in his first season since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. His ability to finish with both hands is remarkable. If you never watched him shoot a jump shot or a free throw, you would have no idea he is left-handed. His size, power, handle and ambidextrousness mask his inability or willingness to pull the trigger from the outside. And by the looks of his stats and what the eyeball tells you, he’s doing just fine. Mr. Meat Pie is averaging 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. Then there’s the big fella. Joel Embiid is a once-in-a-generation talent, who by his own admission is not even in basketball shape yet. His Tinseltown two-step where he throttled both L.A. teams out there may have been the highlight of this short season thus far. But Embiid shows on a nightly basis that if he stays healthy, he’s capable of leading this teams to multiple championships. The Wells Fargo Center is back to the A.I. days of being the place to be for a basketball game. It’s electric.

Flyers
The Flyers' season has been very up and down. But there are certainly things to be thankful for when it comes to the orange and black. The first line of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, centered by Sean Couturier has accounted for 69 points through 20 games. Whether it was Dave Hakstol or Ron Hextall’s call, the decision to move Giroux to the wing and insert Couturier as the top-line centerman was a stroke of genius. Ivan Provorov deserves a plate full of kudos himself for his machine-like play.

Phillies
The Phillies' youthful core of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and soon-to-be Scott Kingery has the makings of a nucleus to be proud of going forward. Aaron Nola showed himself capable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. There’s much work to be done here but the club appears headed in the right direction.

College Hoops
Let’s give college hoops a little love as well. Villanova has dominated the headlines of late and rightfully so but there’s a possibility that at least three of the local teams will be dancing come April.
      
So pass the stuffing and enjoy the gravy, things are looking up in Philadelphia sports.