Eagles

Roob's 25 Random Points: Sidney Jones, Ryan Howard, Doug Pederson & more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Sidney Jones, Ryan Howard, Doug Pederson & more

We've got Sidney Jones and Wendell Smallwood, we've got Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, we've got Jordan Matthews and Carson Wentz, we've got The War on Drugs and Mondo Cozmo and of course we have the Schuylkill Expressway westbound.

And we've even got a random guy in the waiting room of Thompson Toyota.

It's 25 random points and it starts now!

1. It's been surprising to see so much negative reaction to the Sidney Jones pick at No. 43. Now, if you genuinely believe he's never going to be the same player because of the Achilles injury or if you just didn't like his game in the first place, before he got hurt, you have a case, although I don't agree. 

Certainly all the medicals indicate a very good chance he'll be the same player he was before he got hurt. But complaining about the pick because the Eagles won't have him from the get-go his rookie year? That makes no sense. Who cares if you don't have him? You're going to have a first-round caliber cornerback for the next several years. You get him in now, you have him in meetings, you coach him up, you get him healthy, and even if he doesn't play a snap this year, on opening day next year, you have an extra first-round pick. 

Look at it this way: If somebody told you the Eagles could have an extra first-round pick in 2018, but whoever they drafted wouldn't be able to play until 2019, would you take that deal? Of course you would. And that's exactly what the Eagles just did.

2. I'm also fine with the Eagles' not taking a running back in the first three rounds. Let's see what Smallwood can do in a full season. I liked what I saw from him last year. In the three games he got double-digit carries, he averaged 4.6 yards a pop — against the Falcons, Steelers and Seahawks. And he's not a small back. He's 208 pounds (same as Shady). I'm not giving him 20 carries a game, but if he gets 12 to 14 carries, Darren Sproles gets four to six and the rest are divvied up between Corey Clement and Donnel Pumphrey — whomever's active — I think you can get pretty good production.

3. I get a lot of tweets asking who the Eagles' "big back" is going to be. Their goal-line back. I just think that's an antiquated concept, that you give the football to some 245-pound dude on 3rd-and-inches or on the goal line. You give the football to your best back, not your biggest back. If the offensive line is doing its job, he's going to get the yard. Who are the biggest backs in Eagles history? Keith Byars, Stanley Pritchett, Thomas Tapeh, Leonard Weaver, Emil Igwenagu, Ronnie Brown and Tony Hunt? You want those guys with the football on the goal line? Out of that group, Byars was a terrific pass catcher and Weaver had a nice half season, but neither was a short-yardage back. It's not about how big you are. It's about how good you are and how much push your O-line gets.

4. From 2006 through 2011, Ryan Howard led all of major-league baseball with 262 homers and 796 RBIs. He hit .279 during that six-year span with a .929 OPS. And the Phillies averaged 93 wins during that period, winning the NL East the last five years, reaching two World Series and winning one. He was the most-feared slugger in baseball during that period. Every time he stepped to the plate, you watched, waiting to see that massive swing, that momentary pause to admire his handiwork, and that baseball disappearing into the night. The guy launched rocket shots. That's the Ryan Howard I'll remember.

5. I like Jordan Matthews. And I want him on my team. He's steady, he's consistent, he's durable, he's a hard worker and he's a natural leader. He has yet to play more than one season with the same quarterback, and you could see last year how his chemistry with Wentz grew as the year went on. Another year together will help both of them. Say what you want about Matthews, but only nine wide receivers in NFL history have more catches in their first three seasons. Now that Alshon Jeffery is here and Matthews doesn't have to be the No. 1 guy, I think you'll see his numbers take off.

6. Matthews is one of 22 players in NFL history with at least 800 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. Of those 22, he's one of only four who didn't have a 1,000-yard season along the way. Nobody in NFL history has started his career with four straight seasons of 800 yards or more — without a 1,000-yard season. If Matthews finishes 2017 between 800 and 999 yards, he'll be the first player ever to open his career with 800 or more yards in each of his first four seasons without a 1,000-yard season. What do you think? Does he get to 1,000?

7. If the Eagles don't make the playoffs this year, Doug Pederson will be the Eagles' first head coach to fail to make the playoffs in either of his first two seasons since Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984. This doesn't count the 1987 season, when the Eagles were 7-5 in real games but 0-3 in strike replacement games with fake players and didn't make the postseason. If those games hadn't counted, the Eagles would have been a playoff team in 1987. Buddy Ryan reached the playoffs in 1988, his second full season as head coach. Is 8-8 without a playoff berth good enough for Pederson to keep his job? I don't think so. I need to see more than a one-game improvement.

8. The War on Drugs is pretty much the best band on Earth right now.

9. Here's an interesting notion: LeSean McCoy, Hall of Famer. Am I crazy? Let's lay out the case: Shady already has 11,884 yards from scrimmage, and only 10 players have had more before their 29th birthday. Eight of those 10 are in the Hall of Fame (all but Edgerrin James and Steven Jackson). 

But here's the kicker — of the 14 players in NFL history who've netted 11,000 yards from scrimmage before their 29th birthday, only three have a higher career yards-per-carry average than Shady's 4.7. Those three are Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders. Shady already has four seasons with 1,000 rushing yards and a 4.8 average. Only Sanders, Brown and Jamaal Charles have more. Through his first eight NFL seasons, Shady has averaged 1,485 yards from scrimmage. Two more seasons at his career average puts him right at the doorstep of 15,000. If he does that and maintains that 4.7 average, he's an absolute lock for Canton.

10. Freddy Galvis has more hits than any other National League shortstop since opening day 2015 with 318. Galvis is also fourth with 31 homers during that span, just four behind Brandon Crawford of the Giants and Corey Seager of the Dodgers, and third with 138 runs scored. He's no slugger, but as shortstops go, he's not the worst hitter. And with that glove, I'll take him in my lineup any day of the week.

11. I can't believe Domonic Brown is still playing minor-league baseball. He's hitting .259 with no homers and two doubles in 11 games for the Rockies' Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He hasn't played in the majors since 2015. In 251 games since playing in the 2013 All-Star Game, Brown has hit .251 with 19 homers and 104 RBIs. He's 29. He should be in his prime. Instead, he's playing in anonymity in New Mexico, in front of 7,000 fans a night. Sad story.

12. One of my favorite records of 2017 is by a band called Harmony Woods, which is the brainchild of Sofia Verbilla, a Glenside teenager who writes remarkably poignant, detailed and evocative lyrics and super hooky melodies, all with a sense of dynamics that's rare with someone so young. The record, "Nothing Special," was released last week, and you can stream it or download it on her Bandcamp page at harmonywoods.bandcamp.com. Rarely has an album title been so inaccurate.

13. I've had the same philosophy about players complaining about their contracts since my first experience with a disgruntled Keith Jackson back in 1990. It's simple: If you don't like the contract, don't sign it. The same pattern has been repeating itself over and over for decades — players give up free agency to sign deals that make them among the highest paid in the league at their position, then, in the later years of the deal, when they're invariably no longer among the highest paid in the league — or even on their team — at their position, their feelings get hurt and they want to renegotiate. 

But this is the nature of contracts. You sign it understanding that just because you're the highest paid now, you might not even be in the top 30 a few years later. Because as the salary cap goes up and salaries go up, other players will get more lucrative deals. It doesn't mean your deal was a bad deal. It was just an earlier deal. Yet year after year, players who were thrilled with their contracts when they signed it, threatened to hold out because all of a sudden their feelings are so hurt. 

Not because they're not getting what they wanted, but because other people are getting more. With very few exceptions, I have zero sympathy for athletes who complain about their contracts. Not because of how much money they make. They deserve every penny. But just because if they don't like the deal they're offered, they have a very good option. Just don't sign it.

14. Note to the dude in the crowded waiting room at Thompson Toyota in Doylestown: Maybe don't talk in detail about the results of all your medical tests in an extra-loud voice so everybody from here to Quakertown can hear you? M'kay?

15. Also, good luck with the gallbladder surgery, dude.

16. Hard to believe Aaron Altherr is the first Phillie with three RBIs in three straight games in 19 years. I mean, three is not that many RBIs. But thanks to Baseball-Reference.com, we know he's the first to do it since Rico Brogna in 1998. That's just really hard to believe. Three ribbies in three straight games? You'd think it would have happened in the last two decades!

17. A note to Joaquin Benoit: The Phillies are paying you $7.5 million this year. You know what? Forget what inning it is. Forget the score. Just go pitch.

18. Most underrated band ever: The Bee Gees.

19. You know what's kind of amazing? Even with a terrible receiving corps and a ridiculous number of dropped passes, and even after becoming the starter just a week before the season began, Wentz had the third-highest completion percentage in NFL history by a rookie at 62.4 percent (minimum of 400 attempts), behind only Dak Prescott (67.8 percent) and Teddy Bridgewater (64.4 percent), whose injury was responsible for Wentz's becoming a starter. If he can complete 62.4 percent of his passes with that receiving crew and no offseason as the starter, I don't see any reason he can't complete 65 or 66 percent of his passes this coming season. The Eagles' record is 65.0 percent by Sam Bradford in 2015. I say that goes down in 2017.

20. Does it drive anybody else bonkers that no matter what time of day, no matter what day of the week, no matter what the weather, no matter what time of year, the Schuylkill Expressway westbound always backs up as soon as you pass the City Line Avenue ramp? Always.

21. Chase Utley is hitting .145.

22. J-Roll is out of baseball, Howard is out of baseball. Shane Victorino is out of baseball. Chooch is hitting .129. Cole Hamels can still pitch but is 33 and on the DL with an oblique strain and may miss two months. Kind of crazy that pretty soon this whole group will be retired. Time remains undefeated.

23. Low Cut Connie has got to be the worst band name.

24. I really hope Modern Baseball continues as a band.

25. I first met Hooters drummer Dave Uoskkinen last year during a WIP Eagles pregame show at the Head House Plaza, but like a lot of us, I've been a Hooters fan since the days of "All You Zombies" in the early 1980s. Dave is a huge Eagles fan, and I'm a huge music fan, so we got along great. Dave remains the Hooters' drummer, but he's involved with a number of other projects these days, including his own brainchild, In the Pocket, a remarkable ongoing collective of Philly music legends from every era that performs in the area every few months with a rotating cast of musicians paying homage to classic Philly music from past and present. 

On any given night, you can see Tommy Conwell, Kenn Kweder, Jeffrey Gaines, guys from Smash Palace, Beru Revue, the A's, Robert Hazard's band, plus rising Philly music stars like 18-year-old Turnersville native Joey Ditullio or local cover band legends such as Buddy Cash sitting in with In the Pocket. The set lists are essentially a Greatest Hits of Philly music over the decades and you never know who you'll see on stage or what Philly classics they'll play.

That was certainly the case last month, when Dave recruited me to play keyboards on a great old Robert Hazard song called "Change Reaction" when In the Pocket played at the Ardmore Music Hall. Dave had asked me to sit in with the band without ever hearing me play keyboards, but for some reason he trusted me to get the job done. I borrowed some gear and rehearsed around the clock for a month to make sure I was ready, but I had no idea what I was in store for. I arrived at the theater for sound check around 4 p.m. on the day of the gig, and after a few minutes, In the Pocket's regular keyboard player, Wally Smith of Smash Palace, brought me on stage to show me around his rig and give me a chance to practice a little on the Nord Electro 5 keyboard I'd be playing later in the night.

Just then, Dave — who is simply one of the best drummers on Earth — started playing a funky little riff, and a few other musicians who happened to be on stage at the moment checking their gear began jamming on that riff. Why not? I jumped in too with the Nord set on a B3 pre-set and began wailing away with these guys. I learned later the dude playing bass that I was jamming with was legendary Kenny Aaronson, who has toured with Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Hall and Oates and countless others. Whatever else happened the rest of the night, I had jammed with Bob Dylan's bass player and apparently hadn't made a fool out of myself. I felt a little out of place, but all these legendary cats were totally cool and accepting of me.

By the time it was our turn to play, I was totally stoked. I walked on stage, joining Dave on drums, two incredible guitar players — Steve Butler of Smash Palace and Greg Davis of Beru Revu — Cliff Hillis on bass and freaking Ben Arnold on vocals. After Dave introduced all of us, we kicked into a revved-up Change Reaction for about 500 people. I don't remember much from the actual performance except at one point Greg looked at me with a huge smile while Steve was soloing, and I apparently screamed really loudly. That, and I remembered the key change near the end of the song. Then it was over.

Dave fist-bumped me from behind the tubs, I walked off the stage and Tommy Conwell came over and high-fived me. Then I wandered out into the house to catch incredible mini-sets from Richard Bush of the A's, Kweder, Conwell and several others. What a night. A lot of us dream about being rock stars. Thanks to Dave Uoskkinen, I got to live that dream. And it was more amazing than I ever could have imagined.


Photo credit: Dailyn Pavey

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the Eagles weren’t going to lose Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry because it looked like the Browns were going to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else has dropped out of the race.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has taken himself out of the running to be the Browns’ next general manager, which means Berry is now the new favorite, according to Cleveland.com

This is certainly an interesting turn of events.

According to Cleveland.com, “Paton was reluctant to accept the initial interview because he assumed the job would go Berry.”

Now it might.

It would have made plenty of sense for the Browns to hire Paton, who has a long-standing relationship with new head coach Kevin Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. But according to reports over the past few weeks, it seems like Berry has been a favorite of ownership and the front office.

While Berry and Stefanski have never worked together, they did get to know each other during the coaching search in Cleveland a year ago. After that search, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and Berry left for Philly. But now, Berry and Stefanski might actually get a chance to work with one another.

The Harvard-educated Berry, 32, was with the Browns from 2016-18 as their Vice President of Player Personnel before he joined the Eagles last season in a role they created for him. Berry initially came up in the Colts franchise, first as a scouting assistant and finally as a pro scouting coordinator. He’s been a quick-riser in the NFL world.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a Vice President job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

Final say is something Berry will likely never have here in Philadelphia. Despite a few missteps in recent years, Howie Roseman has pretty solid job security and he isn’t going anywhere. If Berry is going to become a GM, it’s going to be in another city. And it seems like that day might be coming soon.

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Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson is officially in offseason mode, and he kicked off Pro Bowl week - which he's now officially part of - by showing up on former teammate Chris Long's podcast and shooting the breeze for an hour.

The duo bantered about plenty, from dealing with failure and ego as football players, to Johnson's time as a grave digger. About halfway through, Johnson offered up a seldom-heard explanation for his hairstyle, or lackthereof.

Johnson, of course, famously keeps his hair short (read: nonexistent) on top, and keeps his beard long. He explained to Long that it took some serious self-reflection, and a couple rough games early in his rookie season, to officially start shaving his head:

I was in college, it was my senior year, and my friend goes, 'Bro, are you f***ing losing your hair?' I said, what are you talking about? Then I went to the mirror, and I'd clearly been in denial for some time. I said, 'Bro, this s*** is terrible.' 

So I played with it my senior year, it was bad. I'd comb it over, wear my hats, feather it out in the back, try to look cool. Then I got to the Eagles, and after getting bull-rushed by Dwight Freeney and giving up three sacks to Justin Houston, I just shaved that s*** off. I've been a different man ever since.

The Eagles, you might remember, lost in Week 2 that year to Freeney's Chargers, and then lost in Week 3 to Houston's Chiefs, to fall to 1-3. They went 9-3 the rest of the way, a startling and fun turnaround. I'm not saying it's all thanks to Johnson shaving his head... but maybe?

That's about as good a reason as I can think of to make a hairstyle change. Johnson has been one of the best right tackles in the NFL since he started shaving his head, so maybe he's on to something. He spends very little time focusing on his hair, and plenty of time focusing on his game.

When you go back and look at Johnson with hair, it's... extremely jarring:

Johnson is basically unrecognizable in that video. He looks like a child! Thank goodness for Freeney and Houston shellacking Johnson as a rookie, or he might still be clinging to that brutal hairdo.

Maybe Johnson should've floated this idea to the Eagles' coaching staff years ago. Who knows what a haircut could've done for Nelson Agholor?

You can listen to, and watch, the full conversation between Johnson and Long below:

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