Eagles

Rob's Rants: Lombardi on Pederson; Crawford's debut; Rhule's rough start

Rob's Rants: Lombardi on Pederson; Crawford's debut; Rhule's rough start

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which CSNPhilly's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Qualified opinion
Former NFL general manager and front office member Mike Lombardi pulled no punches when it came to his assessment of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Lombardi is now an analyst for The Ringer, and his comments have caused quite a stir locally. At first glance, them’s fightin words. No gray area there. He is not a believer in Doug P. And naturally there are Eagles fans who haven’t taken kindly to Lombardi’s hot take on their coach. 

"Now, everybody knows Pederson isn't a head coach," Lombardi said. "He might be less qualified to coach a team than anyone I've seen in my 30-plus years in the NFL."

The hot takes from fans in and of themselves are ironic considering there was a throaty portion of said fan base who shared those very same sentiments when Pederson was hired and as the team lost seven of its last 10 games in his first season as coach. In a previous life, I fielded a large number of phone calls echoing precisely what Lombardi, an Ocean City, New Jersey native, expressed. Does this mean I agree with Lombardi? 

Yes and no.        
     
I was then and am now concerned that the Eagles' front office and ownership brought in Pederson to recreate some form of the Andy Reid era. A kinder, gentler time of mostly winning, a stark contrast to the choppy, adversarial, screw-your-holiday-party, Chip Kelly regime. I never bought that Reid would cede play-calling in second halves of games to Pederson. It’s difficult to know just how much coaching acumen Pederson actually has. There were losses last year, like the first meeting in Dallas, that were directly on him. There were lapses in judgment like asking your starting quarterback fresh out of concussion protocol to be a lead blocker. These are legit concerns.

But Pederson should be given some rope. He was left with an ill-fitting roster, damaged by Kelly. His receivers were as bad as any team's in the NFL, and half of his secondary was equally inept. His defensive line was not talented enough to get any kind of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He had eight days to prepare a rookie quarterback thrust into the job. None of this was on him. 

And back to the anti-Chip thing. There was something to that. The players had had enough of Kelly. There was a divide in the locker room and the next coach did need to have a better bedside manner than the Chipper. Pederson is well liked by his troops, who appreciate being treated like men.   
 
A case could be made for both sides. And here’s the thing about Lombardi: I’ve never viewed his analysis as some clearly contrived Skip Bayless hot take. His stints in Cleveland and Oakland did not go well, and that certainly opens him up to be questioned. But he knows the league. The proof will be this year. No more rookie excuses, and the talent has been upgraded. Pederson needs to show he is in fact qualified. 
         
Welcome to The Show  
The Phillies absolutely did the right thing bringing up J.P. Crawford right now. There was some debate that he should have stayed with Lehigh Valley as they begin the International League playoffs. But with all due respect to the IronPigs, this is not about them; it’s about the big-league club. I was highly critical of how long the Phillies waited to bring up Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins has shown in his first 25 games he was more than ready. 

Crawford, after an awful start, has been excellent the last two months. The Phils have 25 games left. There's nothing to lose by getting Crawford a taste of the major leagues while also moving some pieces around to get a handle on what you want to do in 2018. And from a fan's standpoint, it’s yet another reason to watch a team that is 33 games under .500.    
 
Give me Liberty?
Matt Rhule’s run at Temple was nothing short of remarkable. He took what Al Golden started and brought the Owls' football program to legitimacy on a national level. So it wasn’t a matter of if but when he would leave for greener ($$$) pastures. But the choice of Baylor seemed a strange one. The program is and has been mired in a sexual assault scandal, among other violations. You share the state with Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. 

You knew it would take some time to clean things up and get the school back to prominence. But losing at home to FCS division Liberty as a 34.5-point favorite? The Fighting Jerry Falwells' quarterback torched the Bears' defense for 447 yards in the air. Could be a long year in Waco for Coach Rhule. Guess the grass isn’t always greener. 

Speaking of upsets, Howard University’s stunning win over UNLV was the biggest point-spread upset ever. The Bison, another FCS team, went off as 45-point underdogs. Howard was 3-19 the last two seasons. If you placed a $100 wager on Howard, your return was a cool $55,000 beans.  

Only in Vegas.     

Upon further review
The chilly, wet, conditions in the Delaware Valley Saturday provided perfect couch potato weather. I watched college football pretty much nonstop for about 14 hours. Honey do’s be damned. It was glorious. 

For the most part. 

The inordinate number of reviews for plays has gotten completely out of control. I understand they want to get every play right. But clear, obvious, no-doubt-about-it plays that even I in a salsa dip coma can see from my couch have to have a two or three-minute look under the hood. Take the Penn State-Akron game. It lasted three hours and twenty-six minutes. The Florida State-Alabama game clocked in at an untidy three hours and fifteen minutes. It kills momentum, flow, brain cells, etc. when these games drag on as long as they do. Less is more and the people in charge need to realize it.     

Beautiful sight
This is anything but a rant; in fact it’s the polar opposite. We tend to focus on the negatives in sports. But what took place in the Western Michigan-USC game this past weekend was what makes sports great. 

Jake Olson lost both of his eyes to cancer and has been blind since the age of 12. He grew up a diehard Southern Cal fan in Huntington Beach, Calif. He dreamed one day of playing for the Trojans. That dream became a reality when he was used as a long snapper on an extra point in USC’s win over W. Michigan. Credit Trojans head coach Clay Helton and his administration with making this happen. 

But a very special assist goes to Western Michigan’s head man, Tim Lester. Helton reached out to Lester via e-mail during the week. Lester was on board and the result was one of the coolest things seen in sports in a while. Olson was allowed to make the snap, untouched by a defender. 

“I didn’t think it was a hard decision at all. It was bigger than the game. I was happy to be a part of it," Lester said to USA TODAY.  

Olson, a junior, was a long snapper in high school and practiced his craft the last two seasons with the Trojans.  

"I just loved being out there. It was an awesome feeling, something that I will remember forever," Olson said to AP.  

Football is the ultimate team sport. You won’t find a better example than this story.

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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USA Today Images

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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USA Today Images

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.