Written By Jason Voorhees
The 2019 NFL Draft is now in the books and its time to recap the Philadelphia Eagles draft haul and assign a preliminary grade.
As a sports writer and enthusiast, I have always found it extremely difficult to rate these players before they ever set foot on an NFL field. However; its easy to provide an early opinion and grade the picks based on where players were expected to be drafted.
Lets face it, the NFL is a totally different ballgame than college football. Draft experts are like meteorologists...there are plenty of them and they are generally wrong more than they are right.
The NFL Draft, like all other sports drafts is a crapshoot. However; the importance of the NFL draft has increased over the years and has become more vital in a salary cap league. Teams that have mastered the draft generally have success in the NFL. One team that has aced this process is the New England Patriots who have become the ultimate dynasty in sports.
The Eagles on the other hand have had mixed success at drafting players. Howie Roseman is undoubtedly one of the best GM's in the NFL; however, he has struggled when it comes to evaluating talent. In fact, it was this reason that led the organization to bring in Joe Douglas to assist Roseman in the draft process and constructing the roster.
The Eagles entered the 2019 draft with seven picks. In past seasons, the Eagles showed an affinity for a "draft for need" mentality as opposed to drafting the best player available on the board. This year, Howie made it known that the team would try and take the best players available when making their picks.
Well, with the 25th pick, the Eagles did not expect certain players to be available when their number was called at 25. One of these players was offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Andre Dillard is a left tackle who played at Washington State. Dillard was pegged by most top draft experts as one of the best offensive tackles available and many had him going in the top ten picks. In fact, a few draft experts and teams even had Dillard going in the top 5.
When Dillard began to fall, the Eagles began to tell themselves that they could have a shot. As many teams tried to take advantage of the depth at Defensive End and Tackle, Dillard continued to fall. At this point, Roseman decided to strike and he made a trade with Baltimore to acquire the 22nd pick. The Eagles traded the 25th pick along with a 4th and 6th round pick to leapfrog the Houston Texans, who were reportedly ready to draft Dillard.
By taking Dillard with the 22nd pick of the first round, the Eagles chose to draft their left tackle of the future who will be Jason Peters eventual replacement. It is no secret that the Eagles need to protect their franchise quarterback. In fact, keeping Wentz healthy may be the most important aspect for the franchise moving forward. Drafting Andre Dillard was a huge step in that process.
Andre Dillard was one of the top offensive line prospects and he is undoubtedly the best pass protector of the draft class. Dillard is also one of the most athletic tackles of the group which bodes well for him developing as a run blocker. While playing in Washington's air raid offense in college, Dillard did not have much exposure to run blocking but everyone agrees that he has the skill to develop that talent.
So, I give the Eagles an A+ for their first pick. Dillard is a top ten talent that fills their need of protecting Carson Wentz's blindside for many years to come. Left Tackle may be one of the hardest positions to fill in a roster and the Eagles believe they have a future all pro. With Jason Peters being 37 and close to retirement, the Eagles can now relax and concentrate on the rest of their roster.
The Eagles went in to day two holding two picks in the second round. Many experts speculated that the Eagles may take a running back with one of those two picks. Coming into the draft, many people had linked the Eagles to Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was viewed by most as the top running back available in the draft. However; the Raiders selected Jacobs in the first round so that scenario was no longer in play.
Needless to say, the Eagles did select a running back with their first second round pick. With the #53 pick, the Eagles drafted Miles Sanders (RB) from Penn State. The local kid who played his high school games in Pittsburgh, was viewed as one of the top running backs in the draft. In fact, once again the Eagles were shocked that he was still around when their pick was called.
Miles Sanders was the backup for Saquon Barkley for two years before starting last year at Penn State. Sanders is a 3 Down back that has major upside. He still has a ton of tires on his tread as well. One player that Sanders is comparable to coming out of college is LeSean "Shady" McCoy. Ironically, McCoy was the last running back to be drafted this high by the Eagles at you guessed it...Pick #53.
I give the Miles Sanders pick an A. Sanders may have been the second back taken but I believe that he has the most upside and he has a chance of being a star in the league. I think the Eagles nailed the pick and by doing so addressed a major need in the backfield.
I must say, the Eagles third pick had me scratching my head at first. With the #57 pick, the Eagles selected Stanford WR JJ-Arcega Whiteside. When I first heard the pick, my first thought was John Harris. Ughhhhh….Another reach here folks. But my opinion quickly changed when I switched over to YouTube and cranked out some highlights.
JJ-Arcega Whiteside is a huge body receiver that has surprising speed. The player comp that continues to ring true is Mike Evans and Alshon Jeffery. If JJ is even close to those two players, then this pick was an absolute steal. Whiteside is considered a red zone beast that can create matchup nightmares all over the field. My first grade for the pick is a strong B.
After going offensive heavy in the first three picks, the Eagles chose to finally address the defensive side of the ball. With the last pick of the fourth round, the Eagles selected another Penn State player, Shareef Miller. Miller is an edge rusher that can play either defensive end or tackle. Miller is a versatile defensive lineman that has strength and a high motor.
The 2019 draft was one of the deepest drafts as far as defensive line talent and Miller is a middle of the pack player. All of the top guys went off the board quickly in the first two rounds. Players like Nick Bosa, Josh Allen, Clelin Ferrell, Brian Burns, and Montez Sweat were long gone by the time the Eagles were making this pick.
One local expert had an interesting player comp today...Ross Tucker called Shareef Miller "a poor man's Michael Bennett." Miller's ability to play multiple positions just like Bennett gives him a chance to be a key contributor for the Eagles defense. I don't know much more about Miller but I did watch some highlights and love what I see.
I give the Miller pick a B- grade. I wanted Montez Sweat coming into the draft but understand it was more important to get an offensive tackle to protect Wentz. With that in mind, and knowing that the Eagles did not reach for either of their second round picks, getting the next best defensive edge rusher with the fourth round pick was a solid addition.
Their final pick of the draft was Clayton Thorson in the fifth round. Once again, not a name that I was familiar with. Thorson is somewhat of a project but he does have size and athleticism, something the Eagles value with their quarterbacks.
One analyst did say that the Eagles probably give Thorson his best chance of success. Playing behind Carson and under Doug Pederson should give Clayton a chance of becoming a decent back up quarterback in the NFL. I am going to give this player a C grade with the chance of becoming a B if and when he becomes a solid backup.
So overall, I give the Eagles a B+/A-. Of course, only time will tell if these players are a hit or miss. I do think that the Eagles not only got the best players available on their board, but also players that can come in and be key contributors right away. So for that, I am extremely happy with the results of the draft and am looking forward to see these guys hit the field.
Dillard and Sanders have a shot at being stars in the league. Whiteside could be the sleeper of the draft. Miller will definitely be part of the Eagles defensive line rotation. And Thorson has potential to be Carson's backup. If you have not already done so...go to you tube and pop on some highlights of all of these players. Especially Sanders and Whiteside. I promise you it will give you chills.
Cant wait for training camp folks! Until then...#FlyEaglesFly!
Written By Jason Voorhees
Aaron Nola's 2019 season has gotten off to a very rocky start. Studying what may be wrong with the 2019 version of Nola had me wondering where he stands compared to the leagues other ace pitchers. After glancing at the leaderboards throughout the league one thing jumped off the screen. The fact of the matter is that many of the leagues aces have not been all that good so far this year.
In fact, it has been a tough go of it so far for many elite starting pitchers. Max Scherzer, considered by some to be the top pitcher in the game, has abysmal stats by his standards in five starts. In 32 Innings Pitched, he is just 1-3 with a 4.45 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 44K's and 5BB. He has also given up 3 long balls early on and has not been the dominant force that we have grown accustomed to watching on a nightly basis.
Chris Sale has been even worse. He is 0-4 with a terrible 8.50 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 14K's and 5BB while giving up 5 long balls. Some experts point to a drastic dip in velocity and are claiming a possibility that Sale is injured. Whether there is an injury or maybe just a mental block, Sale has in his own words flat out "sucked."
Another of the league's elite, Corey Kluber has been awful as well. In one of his starts he lasted only 2 2/3 Innings and gave up six runs. Kluber, known as one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the league has been uncharacteristically inconsistent. Hence his 2-2 Record in five starts. He has a bloated 5.88 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. He also has 22K's to go along with 12BB and has served up 4 dingers.
I could keep going with a list of ace pitchers that have been very un ace like so far but it would take up the entire page. The fact of the matter is...2019 has not been kind to these elite pitchers in the seasons early stages. This could all change but it does make you wonder why? What are some of the factors that have lead to this interesting anomaly so far.
Even the National League's reigning Cy Young winner Jake deGrom has been somewhat off of his game. His teammate Thor has been a disappointment as well. This is the one reason why it may be too early to write off Aaron Nola just yet. I do think that Aaron Nola's case could be very similar to the others.
The one constant with all of these examples has been a lack of control. All of these studs thrive when they are pitching with consistency and staying around the plate. In 5 starts, Nola has walked 12 batters and given up 7 long balls. Last year, Nola only walked 58 hitters all year and only surrendered 17 home runs. Those numbers came in 212.1 Innings Pitched. The old adage walks kill has been a daily theme in Aarons starts thus far.
Lack of control can be the number one reason why Nola has been off his game. Another key element of Nola's game that the games other elite share is the movement on their out pitch. Nola's out pitch happens to be his curveball. When Aaron is able to locate his curveball with pin point accuracy it is deadly. Well his curveball's location has been missing the target by a wide margin. When Aaron can't hit the mark with his curveball, it forces him to rely more heavily on the fastball. This can explain his sudden propensity to serve up home runs at an alarming rate.
Thirdly, Aaron has had to pitch from behind due to his lack of getting ahead of hitters. When Nola is at his best, he is pounding the strike zone early and then using his curveball to make hitters chase. This has been a recipe for success for the young ace. Well, Nola is instead pitching from behind and then failing to locate the curveball. Its like the "perfect storm" for disaster and that's where Aaron Nola is living so far.
Can Nola right the ship...of course. He has to improve in these three areas and you will then see Nola being successful once again. During his last start, there was some reason for optimism as he was finally getting that nasty movement on his curveball once again. I think a lot of his struggles could be confidence as well. Nothing a few quality starts cant repair.
Lets face it folks...the Phillies season rests on the status of Aaron Nola and whether he can get things turned around moving forward. If Nola continues to struggle, the Phillies chances of making the playoffs will sink faster than the Titanic.
However, if Nola can get back to his 2018 form, then this team will be a force to be reckoned with. Aaron just needs to take a deep breath and start throwing with authority again. Pound the strike zone early on the corners with the fastball. Then use the machine like curveball to annihilate opponents.
Sounds so easy right.
Well I do think that Aaron Nola will turn it around just like I think the leagues other aces will figure it out. Good pitching will always favor good hitting in my book. And the league needs its star pitchers to get back to their dominant form.
Here is hoping that this all is just really an anomaly and that the aces will be dealing. Until then, its aces are wild and the fans are getting ready to flush their royal toilets on the 2019 season. Don't give up yet folks...its still very early.
Yes, offense and home runs are exciting to watch. However, in my book dominant pitching is the masterpiece that we should all be craving. I cant wait for these guys to get it turned around so that we can see the master script. Nothing like watching a deGrom/Scherzer battle it out on the field. If these aces can improve it should be a fall run to remember!
Written By Jason Voorhees
Just in case you were wondering...the Philadelphia Flyers season ended on Sunday. Yes, the team once again failed to make the playoffs in an NHL league where just about every team qualifies for the postseason.
Of course this is nothing new as the Flyers have now failed to make the playoffs in four out of the past seven seasons; while getting bounced out in the first round in the three years that they did qualify.
This is just flat out unacceptable anymore. This once proud franchise has become nothing more than a perennial loser and the depths of mediocrity has reached its highest level. Something has to give here folks. A team that was consistently one of the top five teams in the league for two decades has now become one of the leagues doormats.
The Philadelphia Flyers franchise is a complete train wreck anymore and the team's fans deserve change. I believe that team chemistry begins at the very top and that is where ownership needs to begin its process of turning things around.
Loyalty is an excellent quality to abide by but this franchise chooses to exude blind loyalty which has ultimately led to failure. The Flyers organization has continually employed former ex players and coaches at its most important leadership positions. Whether it has been Bobby Clarke (multiple times), Paul Holmgren (multiple times) at GM or President/Vice President. Ron Hextall as GM. Craig Berube as Coach.
You can go up and down the leadership scale and find examples of this strategic failure. The underlying cog in the franchises armor is this fundamental mistake. The team continues to bring back players, coaches, general managers and presidents that have close ties to the organization. This is where ownership needs to take a stand.
Paul Holmgren needs to go. Its that simple. It starts at the top and the top deserves a bulls eye. The organization needs a complete overhaul. There needs to be a fresh set of eyes at the top...a set of eyes that will bring new life to this once proud franchise. A set of eyes that will bring a new found passion and direction. A set of eyes that will institute a new strategy; one that is more conducive to the new NHL.
In order for the Philadelphia Flyers to move forward the team needs to take a step back. And by that I don't mean going back to the good old boys network. This means a complete overhaul and rebuild from the top on down. Yes this would be a hard sell to the fans. However; if the fans could see that by doing this that the team would eventually be able to compete like they once did from the 1990's and 2000's, I think they would embrace this change.
Flyers fans deserve much better. Lets face it...the teams core has just not gotten it done and there have been minimal changes from season to season and zero growth. There has been no improvement in the past seven years no matter what band aids the team has used to try and get better. What is the definition of insanity. Doing the exact same thing with negative consequences and expecting a different result. Yes the Flyers have played this constant game of Russian Roulette year after year.
Well its time for the franchise to destroy the 1970's mindset and move into the new millennium like most other NHL teams. Teams today win with elite talent, something that the Flyers have not had in decades. Yes, Claude Giroux is an extremely talented player but he is not elite. Elite is Sidney Crosby. Elite is Alex Ovechkin. Elite is Connor McDavid.
That is not to say that the team does not have future elite talent, because I firmly believe that Carter Hart could be that elite goaltender that the team has been searching for in forever. However; Carter Hart will never reach that elite level if this franchise does not take some extreme measures to improve its talent level moving forward. So yes, it starts at the top by ousting Holmgren. Bring in a new face, a talented executive that has zero ties to the Flyers.
After the team replaces Holmgren, bring in a new coach, once again one with zero ties to the Flyers franchise. Try to target a coach with a Stanley Cup pedigree, or at least one that has had consistent playoff success. Of course, one such option went off the board today when the Florida Panthers hired Joel Quenneville. Of course, Joel won three Stanley Cups as a coach and another while he was an assistant. There are definitely some other good options out there its just a matter of finding the right fit.
After replacing the President and coach, the team then needs to shed some salary. Goodbye Jake Voracek. Bye Bye Andrew MacDonald. Sayonara Shane Gostisbehere. Its been real Radko Gudas. We were glad to have you back but wish you luck elsewhere James van Riemsdyk. Yes, the only player that I am keeping is Claude Giroux. Giroux still has upper echelon talent and you can still build around him. But these other guys have to go.
As new team president, I am then taking a run at Erik Karlsson and Artemi Panarin. Yes, this would give the team an elite NHL defenseman to pair with its very young core. A young core that took a step back this season. I still belive that Ivan Provorov has the ability to be that elite shutdown defenseman but he needs a mentor to help him grow. Karlsson fits that mould and would instantly upgrade the team on the back end.
Likewise, Panarin at age 27 would give the team a bona fide sniper. Something this team has lacked in forever. And he would give the team a fresh set of eyes on the ice to pair with Giroux. Then I would let the younger players continue to gain valuable experience under the tutelage of a new coach and team concept. I believe that these extreme changes would be able to propel this franchise forward.
Of course, there would be many other changes along the way. But in order for these changes to breed success, the first move has to be made. Fire Paul Holmgren. Please, for the Love of God. Desperate times require drastic measures. It is time for this franchise to be great again. Getting there will require putting an end to the good old boys network. Change is in the air and the Flyers faithful is owed a better fate. Get your head out of your ass and take action. Or else we will be singing the same song in 2020.
About Jason Voorhees
Jason resides in Norristown, PA and writes about all things sports and heavy metal music.