Wizards

Bowles, last-place Eagles battle to break slump

Bowles, last-place Eagles battle to break slump

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is like so many in and around Philadelphia.

As his team struggles to get out of a losing streak that has cost it a playoff berth - and maybe much more before it's all said and done - he's disappointed, he's frustrated, and he's puzzled.

But most of all, he's surprised.

``More surprised that we're not winning ball games,'' Bowles said on Thursday, as coach Andy Reid's coordinators met the media. ``It's not about me. It's about a team as a whole. Everybody has their part in it, me included. I'll take my share of the blame as well. We just have to play better and we haven't been.''

Bowles was promoted to defensive coordinator on Oct. 16, replacing Juan Castillo. That was two days after the Eagles lost to Detroit, 26-23, at home, and two games into what is now a seven-game skid.

``You always think you have the right players here as well as the coaches,'' Bowles said. ``We just have to do a better job and we haven't been.''

That could start on Sunday, when the last-place Eagles (3-8) take on the Cowboys (5-6) in Dallas. But first things first. The Eagles, searching for answers and short-handed on both sides of the ball, need to be motivated and have the past firmly behind them before this streak goes anywhere.

That's where Bowles and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg come in.

``I think one thing in coaching, and I've been in this thing a little while now, is that motivation aspect,'' Mornhinweg said. ``It's key and it's every day with the motivation aspect of it. Now, we certainly are in a spoiler type role here and that can be very rewarding. So, we have discussed that and it's very rewarding that way.''

The Eagles lost to the Cowboys, 38-23, in what was their fifth straight loss on Nov. 11. That was Bowles' third game as coordinator. And in the five contests he's held that role for, Philadelphia has allowed at least 28 points each time.

Perhaps, a midweek shakeup will help stem the tide this week. On Tuesday, the Eagles released two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, who had just 5.5 sacks after recording 18 last year. He signed a five-year, $28 million deal last summer after going to his first Pro Bowl with Tennessee following the 2010 season.

Reid said the Eagles cut Babin to give more playing time to younger players. Babin was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville on Wednesday.

``That's something handled by management and the head coach,'' Bowles said. ``Jason was a great player for us and he's been a great player in this league and we just wish him the best.''

But now is the time for the Eagles' youth to find an identity. With little to play for - and a new coaching staff likely on the way for next season - it's a perfect chance for the inexperienced players to carve out a niche. The sledding, though, will not be easy. After the Cowboys, Philadelphia closes with Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Washington and the New York Giants.

All four are in playoff contention.

``You've got a lot of young talent,'' Bowles said. ``It's no different than coming in as a freshman in college or a freshman in high school. Football is a game that you can master early. You'll see some tweaks here and there but I think these guys handle it professionally. They came (into the season) in shape so they're not having that mid-season swoon that a lot of rookies have. Their maturity has a lot to do with that and I think they're doing a good job.''

Lost in the defensive struggles has been an impressive debut season from linebacker DeMeco Ryans. Traded from Houston in the offseason, Ryans has mostly gone unnoticed despite leading the team with 87 tackles. He has 15 more than anyone else on the team.

``His biggest strength is his mental capacity. He can handle a lot and he understands adversity because he's been through a lot,'' Bowles said. ``And he's played well. But not winning ball games, as a coach and as a player, nobody plays well when you're not playing well as a group. We win together and we lose together.

``But from a mental standpoint as far as keeping everybody on the same page, he's been doing a great job.''

Perhaps - sometimes soon - that will start to show in the standings.

---

NOTES: QB Michael Vick did not pass a league-mandated concussion test this week and will not return to practice until he does. Backup Nick Foles, a rookie, is 0-2 as a starter since Vick's injury. ... Mornhinweg on teams gameplanning differently for the Eagles minus injured wide receiver DeSean Jackson: ``Absolutely no question about it. Then, certainly we'll play it differently as well. DeSean is quite a threat.'' ... The Eagles are 1-5 on the road, and 1-2 in the division. ... Despite the shakeup on defense, special teams coordinator Bobby April does not expect the same on his units: ``I hope not. I don't think so. We have our unit set. That would mean somebody's either not playing very good or somebody gets hurt.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

2019 NBA Draft: Lakers take De'Andre Hunter with No. 4, will reportedly trade him to Hawks

De'Andre Hunter is a Los Angeles Laker...for now.

The Virginia star and reigning ACC Defensive of the Year was selected by the Lakers with the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night. However, the Lakers will send that pick to the Pelicans in the agreed-to trade for Anthony Davis, New Orleans in turn reportedly trading it to the Hawks. Thus, Hunter likely ends up in Atlanta. 

If the trade goes through, Hunter will join a talented young Hawks core which already includes Trae Young and John Collins. He would bring a championship pedigree to the team, having just won an NCAA title with UVA this past season.

"Coming off a national championship, there's no better way to try to go into the NBA," Hunter told NBC Sports Washington during an interview for the I Am The Prospect series

MORE NBA DRAFT NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

trea_turner_dugout.jpg
USA Today Sports images

Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: