EAGLES COLUMN: Rookies look like contributors/ Guest writer Ed Kracz

Below is a column written by Eagles Beat Writer for the Philadelphia Eagles
http://www.theintell.com/sports/eagles/eagles-column-rookies-look-like-contributors/article_5ba2afb8-59a7-5c69-b2e0-5a3f99eb877c.html

Carl Kosola/Staff Photographer
Carl Kosola/Staff Photographer

PHILADELPHIA — Usually they need time to marinate, slowly simmering in the weight room and meeting room.
That’s what rookies, for the most part, have done in the first two drafts with Eagles coach Chip Kelly in charge. There are some exceptions. Right tackle Lane Johnson comes to mind, but he was the fourth overall pick in 2013. Jordan Matthews was on the receiving end of nearly 900 yards last year after entering the league in the second round.
This year could be completely different.
There were rookies making plays all over the field during the Eagles’ 36-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The team’s first three picks — receiver Nelson Agholor, cornerback Eric Rowe,and linebacker Jordan Hicks — flashed, their sixth-round pick, cornerback Randall Evans, recovered a fumble, and their seventh-round selection, 6-foot-9 defensive end Brian Mihalik, recorded the Eagles’ first sack. And don’t forget another sixth-round selection, JaCorey Shepherd, who was on track to be the starting slot cornerback until an ACL tear ended his season last week.
“The one thing you don’t know about a lot of those guys is what are they going to be like when you get them into a game,” said Kelly. “That’s the encouraging thing … Without seeing film, I felt a lot of guys stepped up and made plays. Eric Rowe with a fumble caused, did a great job stripping him. Nelson made big catch on our bench and on their bench turned it into a touchdown, then another catch, so we’re excited about those guys. It’s just one step for us, but we feel like we have a lot of good film to teach off of.”
Agholor turned a high, short throw from Mark Sanchez into a 34-yard touchdown that put the Eagles ahead to stay 7-3 with 3:27 left in the opening quarter. The first-round pick finished with three catches for 57 yards. Asked about the touchdown, all Agholor wanted to talk about was the two catches he didn’t make, including one that zipped right through his hands.
“First time I touched the ball was a dropped incompletion,” he said. “I had two hands on the ball, guy comes in and rakes it out, so at end of day, that’s on my mind more than the (touchdown).”
The team’s second-round pick, Rowe forced a fumble from Phillip Dorsett, the Colts’ first-round draft pick this year. Of course, there was some bad there, too. Rowe was beaten on deep over route by Dorsett.
“All I could do was run and catch up,” said Rowe. “When I saw him catch it — at practice we preach strip and get the ball out. I saw he was carrying the ball loose, I punched at it, but wrapped up and tried to get the tackle, too. Once I saw it come out, I was pretty pumped.”
As for Hicks, he made mistakes, too.
That’s what being a rookie is about.
Hicks missed a tackle on the Colts’ only TD of the day, a 9-yard run from Josh Robinson that made the score 26-10 with 7:08 to play in the third quarter. But there was the key block he made on what became a 92-yard punt return by Kenjon Barner with just four seconds left in the first half that sent the Birds into the locker room with a 23-3 lead.
With a crowded field of inside linebackers, it will be special teams where Hicks will learn to grow his game.
“We take a lot of pride coming in here,” said Hicks of the rookies. “This organization, coach Kelly’s done a great job getting guys here who care, who want to get better, who want to compete, who take practice seriously, who take getting better seriously. It’s the culture of this team. You come in here, you’re around his team for five minutes, you understand you’re around a group of guys who want to get better, who want to compete, who want to play for each other.”
Then there were the guys who weren’t even drafted this May but scooped up shortly afterward as free agents. Guys like tight end Eric Tomlinson and receiver Rasheed Bailey.
Tomlinson led the team in receiving, catching five passes for 61 yards and Bailey caught both passes thrown his way, one of which was a one-handed spear from Tim Tebow that went for 18 yards and bailed the team out of bad field position. Bailey’s two receptions covered 23 yards.
“The ultimate goal here is to win and win every week,” said veteran tight end Brent Celek, who added that he has been energized by this influx of youth. “When you have young guys that can contribute like that, it’s big. We still have a long way to go, but I love the attitude of not only these young kids but the whole team. It’s just a different attitude around here. I really hope it translates. At end of day we have to win games and I think we have the guys to do that. I’m excited. I know I’m getting older now, I’ve never been happier to be on a team than I am now.”
The thing that makes contributing as a rookie so difficult, at least in the opinion of nose tackle Beau Allen, who was one himself last year, is that there is very little break form the time the college season ends until the NFL season ramps up. Allen was one of only two drafted rookies from last year who made an impact on the field, with Matthews being the other.
“It’s a whirlwind for those guys because a lot of them have bowl games then all star games, the (scouting) combine, the pre-draft process, then OTAs and they get a couple weeks off before they’re in camp,” said Allen. “It’s just wild. They don’t get a lot of time off and that’s hard on the body.”
This year’s rookie crop seems to get it, and, right now, looks like several can come out sizzling from the start rather than slowly marinating.
Ed Kracz: 215-345-3069; email: ekracz@calkins.com; Twitter: @kracze

Rumors: Andre Johnson to Colts

Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole has reported that Texans wide out Andre Johnson and the Indianapolis Colts have shown mutual interest.

Cole stated that Johnson prefers to be cut, and look to negotiate the best deal possible; but a trade is still possible. After all the Texans want to get something out of him before he goes.

Johnson is due $10 million next season, but want to seek more if he is cut.

The Colts would likely send some draft picks to Houston in exchange for Johnson’s services. This would be beneficial to both teams, although the Colts would then only have around $34 million in cap space. Which is still quite a bit, but if Grigson intends to target players like Pernell McPhee and Demarco Murray, he needs top save money for those more important possible signs.

The Colts main needs are in the rushing game and on the defensive line, so this move wouldn’t exactly be what the Colts need. But it does present an interesting precedent, and would help receivers Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter develop.

(photo via stampedblue.com)

Colts Release Laron Landry, Among Others

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(Picture via Bleacher Report/USA Today)

The Colts have released three players including safety Laron Landry. This likely due to the four game suspension assessed earlier in the year, for PED use. The Colts will save about $2.2 million dollars with his release.

Landry never showed that he liked playing for Indy, and never jelled well with the other players. He was the odd ball of the team in a sense. Plus with the rise of former special teams player Sergio Brown, Landry just wasn’t an asset worth keeping. Landry become inefficient against the pass and lost his job to Brown after the suspension. This saves the Colts money and opens up a roster spot.

Indy also released linebacker Andrew Jackson. Which makes sense, considering the two arrests in the last nine months. Jackson didn’t play much on the defensive end, but was used in special run packages as a fullback. The Colts picked him last year in the 6th round out of Western Kentucky, with hopes he could develop; but he just couldn’t stay out of trouble.

The third player released, was offensive lineman Xavier Nixon; who just never played well. Ever. This is just to make room for this years draft picks, and other possible free agents.

Official NFL Press Release / “Deflate-gate”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

1/23/15

Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday’s
AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The
investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New
England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing
Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per
square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and
confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday’s game.
The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the
law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent
perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly
40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties
with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional
information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained
Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in
reviewing electronic and video information.
The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously
claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or
delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued
expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine
video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far
supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first
half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the
game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the
explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and
specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any
judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and
considered all of the relevant evidence.
Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have
made their personnel and other information available to us upon request. Our investigation will seek
information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well.
As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them
publicly.

Colts Offseason Begins

GRIGS

The Colts have a very important offseason ahead of them. Luck needs more help and the defense needs some large improvements. They also need to work on resigning Jerrell Freeman, Sergio Brown Darius Butler and others.

The main positions to address are wide receiver, defensive tackle, safety, and of course the offensive line. The Colts will have 30 million in cap space for March 11 when NFL free agency officially opens.

Unrestricted:
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
Matt Hasselbeck, QB
Reggie Wayne, WR
Hakeem Nicks, WR
Joe Reitz, OL
Cory Redding, DL
Fili Moala, DL
Andy Studebaker, LB
Darius Butler, CB
Josh Gordy, CB
Sergio Brown, S
Mike Adams, S
Colt Anderson, S

Restricted:

A.Q. Shipley, OL
Jerrell Freeman, LB
Delano Howell, S
Matt Overton, LS

Those are the free agents headed into next season. Not many of them would be big signs, outside of Jerrell Freeman, but they can all make an impact. They likely wont resign Hakeem Nicks, due to his poor and disappointing performance this season. They’ll need to address the offensive and defensive line first an foremost, because they cant stop the run and they cant run the ball.

With 30 million dollars to spend and likely more to come with the cap raise. The Colts need to find a veteran wide receiver, solid defensive tackle and maybe an offensive guard for the right side. Basically, Andrew Luck needs more help, more pieces around him.

Lets start with wide receiver, maybe the deepest 2015 free agency position. Dez Bryant is the headliner, but is likely too expensive for the Colts. They need to look into a lower level, such as Randall Cobb, Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and possibly Jeremy Maclin. Those are all affordable options, but someone like Michael Crabtree is more likely.

If the Colts want to improve the position of defensive tackle, they’ve got options; but expensive ones. Ndamukong Suh is a headliner but is far to expensive. The other Lions DT Nick Fairly is also available and is far more affordable than Suh would be. Other options include Jurell Casey, Marcell Dareus, Henry Melton, and B.J. Raji. Out of all of those, Raji would be the least expensive option, but might resign with the Packers. The Colts may think Josh Chapman and Montori Hughes are adequate but they still need help on the defensive line.

The Colts offensive line might not need to much help next season. With a solid season from Anthony Castanzo and Jack Mehwort, and Donald Thomas and Gosder Cherilus returning. The Colts could have a solid offensive line. The problem is the center position. Khaled Holmes has struggled and A.Q. Shipley wont be resigned. Jonathan Harrison might be the answer. He played well at center, although early on he had snap troubles and fumbled many times; he has potential. If the Colts want to upgrade, the o-line free agency pool is large; headlined by Bryan Bulaga and Carl Nicks; but I doubt the Colts spend big though. If anything they’ll go lower level, or look to the draft.

The Indianapolis Colts need to improve for next season, because clearly they don’t have enough. The Patriots showed our every weakness. Even if the Colts don’t sign big free agents they’ll look tot he draft. Last season they drafted 3 quality starters, Jack Mewhort, Donte Moncrief and Jonathan Newsome; and they didn’t even have a first round pick! Ryan Grigson will find a way this offseason. He’ll find a way to improve this team for the future.

 

Colts Ended Season on Embarrassing Note

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The Indianapolis Colts played their worst game since the 2-14 season on Sunday against the Patriots. They were dominated at every turn, and on every down. Both sides of the football, the Patriots dominated.

On the offensive side, Andrew Luck played terribly. He had a season low 126 passing yards, no touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His throws seemed short, and inaccurate the entire game, but not that it mattered. Receivers couldn’t get separation and T.Y. Hilton had 2 defenders at his side at all times. The run game was the same, but they seemed to have alittle more sucess than usual. They finished with 83 total yards, and 51 from Boom Herron; who averaged 5 yards a carry.

The defense was the real embarrassment. Allowing the Patriots to score 45 points, on 397 total yards of offense. Lead by Colts-killer LeGarrette Blount, who yet again stampeded the Colts front 7 for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. Its not that Blount out ran anybody, but the Colts just could not tackle, and Blount was just an unstoppable train. The Colts however did limit Gronk to 28 yards and a touchdown.

Tom Brad had a pretty pedestrian game, with 226 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. But that’s all they needed was a pedestrian game form him with the under par performance of Luck and Blounts’ great game.

Later on allegations came out against the Patriots stating they were deflating footballs, and it affected the game. The NFL stated that its normal to have a least one, but the situation become “abnormal” or “rare” to find multiple like that. Regardless of the verdict, they could’ve played with a nerf football and still lost the game. Either way the Colts got outplayed, and deserved to lose.

The Colts have got a bright future ahead of them, and for a team that young; reaching the AFC Championship is a big deal. This offseason will be a big one for the Colts. A new Andrew Luck contract coming, and a decent amount of money to spend, they’ll look to make improvements.

 

2015 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round

NFLPLAYOFFS

This season the NFL playoffs, have basically gone as expected. The highlight of course being Luck Vs. Manning, and the interesting side stories of the always underdog Ravens making another unexpected run. In this article I’ll be reviewing each one of these playoff games and giving my predictions.

Ravens Vs. Patriots: Interestingly enough these 2 teams have faced in recent years many times. This is actually the only team Brady doesn’t dominate in the Playoffs. Baltimore winning the last 2 playoff matchup’s (one of them leading to Superbowl victory). The Ravens seem to start playing well come playoff time and regular-season-struggler Joe Flacco (or should a say Flacko) turns it a different QB. John Harbaugh calls “The leagues best quarterback”. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are ready to get over the Baltimore hump, and as always will be ready to pinpoint the weakness of the Ravens; which would be its secondary. This will likely not be a smooth running offensive heavy game. Its going to get real ugly.

Prediction: My guess is, things are going to go down to the wire. In this situation Joe Flacco chokes, and Brady will capitalize. All week the favorites have been the Ravens due to the competitive nature of the last 2 games. This round things will be different, thats Pats will be ready; and they’ll win, 28-24.

Panthers Vs. Seahawks: This NFC matchup will be one of more intrigue, with young athletic QBs Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. Newton’s Panthers are easily the worst team left this playoffs, considering the terrible regular season record (7-8-1). Wilson’s Seahawks finished the regular season with a 6 game winning streak, beating the 49ers and Cardinals twice. Even though this matchup does get fans excited, the Seahawks will have no trouble winning this game. The Panthers just have far to many issues; struggling to find a pass game, or any success in the secondary at all. Richard Sherman will eat rookie Kelvin Benjamin alive and the Panthers will be put in their place on Sunday. The only thing that would keep them in the game would be if the Seahawks struggle to pass the football, which is a definite possibility.

Prediction: Not saying this will be a blowout, but i do expect the Seahawks to win this game, no doubt. A young Cam Newton might carry his team with his legs, but in the end the Seahawks are a better team in almost all areas.

Cowboys Vs. Packers: Ahh Aaron Rodgers, the leagues best quarterback to face of against Americas most hated team the Dallas Cowboys. Such a sweet matchup for this divisional round. A surprising Dallas team against a Superbowl favorite Green Bay. This game could go many directions, but I think Dallas will have too many issues. Aaron Rodgers and his receiving core is just too much for a horrific Dallas secondary that ranks 26th in the league in yards allowed. Demarco Murray will be the x-factor for the Cowboys in this game. If he can control the tempo and rush for about 80-90 yards. The Cowboys might have a shot. I just think the Packers offense so a different universe better than the Cowboys defense and that will decide the game.

Prediction: Aaron Rodgers will deliver a monstrous game for the Packers, and will lead his team to another deep playoff run. As for the Cowboys, they’ve had a great season, but that secondary will be the downfall of them Sunday. Packers win 29-17.

Colts Vs. Broncos: Otherwise known as Luck Vs. Manning, otherwise otherwise known as the playoffs best game. This will be the game of the year. Peyton Manning’s old team the Indianapolis Colts come to town in his new city, with a new QB. The Chosen one, Andrew Luck. In this game Andrew Luck has everything to gain, and not a lot to lose. On the other hand Peyton Manning has everything to gain and everything to lose. With them both at different points in their careers, perspective will be different. The Broncos strong points this year of course have been the passing game, and passing defense. The Colts are exactly the same. It will all come down to who can do them better.

Prediction: Manning things could happen in this game. Yes you know the ones. The ole 4th quarter choke, or the 4th quarter dagger-in-the-heart game winner. I have a feeling, that its going to come down the the perfomance of Peyton. Andrew Luck will get his own, but Peyton will decide this game. Colts win this game 21-17.

Colts Wildcard: Playoff Preview

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Colts Vs. Bengals:

X Factors: Cincinnati will be without superstar wide receiver A.J. Green, and this will be a big hit to the offense. The last time these two teams faced, it was a blowout. Indy embarrassed the Bengals on both sides of the football, winning 27-0. They also did not have A.J. Green in that game either. However this round, they’ll have a newly found running mate for Giovani Bernard in Jeremey Hill. So for the Colts it will come down to the run game, they mus slow down this explosive tandem and get some 3 and outs. Which in the last matchup Cinnci started with 7, 3 and outs. Indy will need to take advantage of an average Cincinnati secondary. Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks will look to have better playoff performances and gain more relevance so that T.Y. Hilton may not be double teamed any longer.

Surprise Factors?: Something to watch for will be kick returns, Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones made the pro bowl this year for returning kicks, and said he wants to score this week. On the other hand Josh Cribbs has done a fine job returning kicks, and will play a big role in field position for the Colts.

Prediction: This will not be another 27-0 Colts blowout victory, however i do expect a Colts W. With the strong suite of the Colts being the pass game, and the Bengals weakness being the secondary. They will have a nightmare trying to keep track of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, maybe the 2 fastest receiver pair, (4.34, 4.36 40 yard dashes). Indy is going to put up points on the board, and a lot of them. With Cincinnati run offense of Bernard and Hill, I expect this to be an offensive shootout. It will come down to who can make the most stops. I think that team will be the Colts; with no A.J. Green, and a healthy Vontae Davis; Cinnci will have issues moving the football through the air. Greg Toler did a fantastic job during the year covering Bengals young star Mohamed Sanu, and will most likely be covering him this week. Finally I predict a 35-24 Colts victory over the Bengals this wildcard weekend.

Colts Struggles

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This season the Colts have had a rough going against elite teams. Starting off the season with a defeat to the Denver Broncos; in a game which seemed to be a blow out, until a quick Colts spurt, and an eventual 31-24 loss.

The Colts have had in terms of team prediction records; the easiest schedule in the NFL. They now sit at 10-5, with the division clinched. Have they performed that way though? Considering the schedule, and the blow out losses to contenders like Pittsburgh, New England, and Dallas. This Colts team may be shakier than we first imagined to start the year.

They might have the best young team in football, but they’ve got some growing up to do. Luck has thrown double the interceptions he did last season, and the Colts defense has improved, but is far from being solid.

Last season was similar to this one. Disappointing losses, some flashes of greatness, and horrendous performances. That’s what you get when your entire offense was practically all drafted the same season, and your defense struggles to find any sort of consistency.

After the Dallas blowout 42-7. Journalists had a field day, throwing the Colts down the gutter any chance the got. Now of course this is permitting of the loss; but does it justify the Colts playoff chances? Maybe.

After all we all thought we were going to get blown out by Kansas City last season; and it ended up  being the 2nd greatest playoff comeback of all time.

You can never tell with the Colts. The inconsistency is inevitable, but often times the inconsistency flips. So don’t be surprised if the Colts pull off another crazy win the playoffs or make a very surprising deep run; that makes no logical sense.

Colts Division Champs

Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton

The Indianapolis Colts are AFC South Divison Champs again, for the 3rd straight season. Should they be proud and celebrating? Of course. I know they only beat the Texans, right? the Texans are a lowly NFL team, right? Wrong. Before Sunday they sat at 7-6, and yet still seemed to be viewed as a ‘bad team’ the Colts should ‘blow out’, right? No.

Many do not realize, those guys on the other team, they get paid to0, they’re professional players too, they’re talented too. The Houston Texans, are a good football team. They’ve got the best defensive player in football, J.J Watt and a top 5 running back in Arian Foster. That’s nothing to overlook.

Sure, the Colts only won by 7 points, but why is it that we send so much criticism? Because we assume that the Colts can just blow out any team that we deem, ‘ average’ or ‘bad’.

The Colts have practically spoiled us fans, with blow out losses that they made look far easier than they actually were. So I think the Colts had a solid win Sunday, yet they struggled in some areas, its professional football, everyone is here for a reason: they’re good. So think next time, you put down a Colts victory, even if they didn’t play well.

Next week the Colts will face a hot Dallas Cowboys team on the road. So expect a bounce back game for the Colts, and for everyone to play. As Chuck Pagano confirmed he would play all starters and that resting starters towards the end of the season “Isn’t his philosophy”.