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2011-12 Philadelphia Eagles Complete Training Camp at Lehigh

The Philadelphia Eagles have arguably made the most noise in the league since the NFL lock-out ended a few weeks ago. The team traded back-up QB Kevin Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for pro-bowl CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round draft pick in 2012. That move got the ball rolling, and it has yet to stop.

The team signed former pro-bowl QB Vince Young to replace Kolb as Michael Vick’s back up. Looking to bolster the defensive line, the Eagles signed DT Cullen Jenkins and DE Jason Babin. Jenkins had seven sacks last season and Babin recorded a career high 12.5 sacks on his way to the pro bowl.

Already the proud owners of two of the league’s best DB’s, the Eagles shocked the NFL when they signed the prize of this year’s free agent class, DB Nnamdi Asomugha. Very similar to the Phillies signing of Cliff Lee before the 2011 baseball season, Asomugha was expected to either sign with Dallas or New York (Jets). Instead, at the last minute, Philadelphia stepped in and rubbed more salt in the wounds of Texas Rangers and New York Yankees fans that still haven’t fully recovered from the Phillies signing Lee.

With a legitimate back up QB, potentially the best secondary in league history, and a stout defensive line already secured, the Eagles next added a few more weapons for Vick. The team signed former Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown to spell Shady McCoy and signed former New York Giants WR Steve Smith (in a move that shocked the Giants front office).

On paper the Eagles are the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl, but for a city and an organization longing for their first ever Super Bowl victory, a paper championship is meaningless. The Eagles players have to go out there on the field and do it.

With only a few short weeks for the team to integrate all of their new players and evaluate their draft picks and undrafted free agent signings, the team has been conducting their annual training camp at Lehigh University over the past few weeks. Several faces from last year have moved on to other teams, most notably LB Stewart Bradley who joined Kolb in Arizona and PK David Akers who spent twelve years with the Eagles (and is the team’s all time leading scorer) who signed with San Francisco after Philadelphia drafted his replacement, Alex Henery, in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

The team played their first pre-season game last Thursday when they hosted the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. While the starters played only briefly, they looked sharp, and the Eagles won.

Today, the team held their final practice at Lehigh (opting to end camp a day early) before they head to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers on Thursday evening. Head coach Andy Reid has stated that the starters will play for the entire first half.

Lehigh was a total mess today. After heavy rain over the weekend, the already muddy fields turned far worse with the light drizzle and heavy downpours that occurred during the morning walk-through. To say the mud was thick and slick would be a complete understatement. The conditions made it unsafe to practice at anything close to full speed. For the hundreds of fans that showed up today to brave the mud and rain in the hopes of seeing their favorite players (and possibly securing an autograph or photo) it was anything but easy going.

The morning session started just after 8am and continued until around 945am when the team assembled in the center of the field to chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!”. When the team huddle broke, Coach Reid led the players to the barriers that surrounded the playing field so that fans and players could shake hands and exchange high-fives.

When the players were done with the gauntlet of high-fives, many of them stopped just outside the locker room area to sign autographs and conduct media interviews.

From there, the players changed and headed out, looking forward to getting home to spend the night in their own bed (or at least away from Lehigh).

The players that we talked to said that this year’s training camp had a different feel to it due mostly to the long lockout and the discontinuation of two-a-day workouts. With so many new faces in camp, there was a lot of hard work to be done and both the players and coaching staff thought that the team bonded over their time spent at Lehigh.

After returning from Pittsburgh the Eagles will resume practicing at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. Their final two pre-season games will be played at home on August 25th against the Cleveland Browns and on September 1st against the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.

The regular season (and road to the Super Bowl) kicks off with two road games (at St. Louis and Atlanta) before the Birds play their first home game in week three against the Giants.

For additional game photos, as well as video interview clips with Trent Cole, Vince Young, and Michael Vick…

CLICK HERE

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Phillies vs. Marlins: Cliff Lee Reels in Fish to Complete Four Game Sweep

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The Philadelphia Phillies hosted the Florida Marlins in the final game of a four game series at Citizen’s Bank Park on Thursday afternoon. The game, played at 1pm, was the third game between the two teams in 24 hours, following a day/night double-header the day before. After blowout wins by the Phillies in the first two games of the series, Philadelphia was down to its final out on Wednesday evening, trailing by two. With runners on second and third, Shane Victorino knocked a  hit up the middle to tie the game. The Phillies completed the comeback win in the bottom of the 10th inning on a walk-off hit by Carlos Ruiz.

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With the series sweep, and a six game team win streak on the line Thursday, Cliff Lee took the mound for the Fightins (opposed by the Marlin’s Javier Vasquez). Although baseball is a team game, this day would be all about Cliff Lee.

Teach Lee how to Dougy

Half way through the 4th inning, with the game still tied at zero, Lee drove in the first run of the game when he doubled to score Michael Martinez. Later, in the top half of the 5th inning (with two outs), Mike Stanton got the first hit of the game for Florida, breaking up Lee’s no-hitter bid. Heading into the bottom half of the inning, Lee had as many hits (1) and more RBI (1) than the entire Marlins team.

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In the bottom of the 5th, Ryan Howard connected on a solo HR to make it a 2-0 Phillies lead. After Lee allowed no hits in the top of the 6th, Jimmy Rollins doubled to right field in the bottom half of the inning to score Dominic Brown and increase Philly’s lead to 3-0.

Lee only gave up one more hit on the day (in the 7th to Logan Morrison), but also got another hit at the plate, on his way to a two-hit, complete game shut-out of the Marlins. He finished the day tied with the entire Marlins team in hits (2) and his one RBI at the plate was more than he allowed in 9 innings on the mound.

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With the win, the Phillies win streak extends to seven games as the team heads west to take on the Seattle Mariners in interleague play. Lee, who was traded from Philly to Seattle in his first go around with the team, will not pitch against the Mariners.

The Phillies hold the best record in baseball at 44-26. They are five games up on the Atlanta Braves in the division, and hold leads of 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 games over the Mets, Nationals, and last place Marlins.

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Phillies vs. Rangers: Cliff Lee Masterful in Win Over Texas

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After Roy Halladay notched a win for the Phillies in the first game of the series against the Texas Rangers, the two teams met again on Saturday evening at Citizen’s Bank Park. Cliff Lee got the start for the Phillies and faced off against the team he helped take to the World Series last season.

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Much like the Phillies, the Rangers have suffered many injuries this season. Reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton, still on the DL, did not play.

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Lee had a masterful performance. He pitched eight innings of shut out baseball, striking out ten Rangers. He also had a single and stole a base. It was the first stolen base by a Phillies pitcher this season.

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Ryan Howard broke out of a long slump at the plate with two hits. Howard connected on a solo HR in the 2nd inning that put the Phillies up 1-0. Although that was all the offense they would need, they added an insurance run in the 6th inning (on an RBI single by John Mayberrry that plated Raul Ibanez), to eventually win 2-0. Domonic Brown saw his first action of the season at the major league level but went 0-4 in his 2011 debut. Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco each added two hits for Philadelphia.

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Ryan Madsen pitched the 9th inning, and although he allowed a few base-runners, none of them were able to score; earning him his ninth save of the season. His ERA now sits at a stingy 0.47.

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All in all the Rangers totaled six hits, three of them by Michael Young, and stranded fourteen runners over nine innings.

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Starting pitcher Colby Lewis took the loss for the Rangers. He allowed both Phillies runs and scattered seven hits over 6.2 innings.

With a series win already locked up, the Phillies will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon as Roy Oswalt takes the mound for the Phillies. Beginning Monday, it’s back to National League action as the Phil’s host the Cincinnati Reds in a three game series.

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Phillies vs. Mets: Halladay Pitches Complete Game to Earn 2-1 Win

On a beautiful day in Philadelphia the Philadelphia Phillies took on the New York Mets in the second game of a three game series. The Phillies won the first game behind two home-runs (including a grand-slam) by Ryan Howard and a nice outing by Vance Worley who got the start in place of Joe Blanton who was unable to pitch due to injury.

The Mets scored the first run of the game on Saturday in the 4th inning (an RBI single by Carlos Beltran) and Roy Halladay found himself in line for the loss as the Phillies trailed 1-0. In Halladay’s last home start he suffered a loss after getting roughed up by the Brewers’ bats. Halladay kept his composure, despite what appeared to be a narrowing strike zone by the home plate umpire late in the game, and the Mets were unable to score again.

John Mayberry, who got the start today in right field, hit a solo home-run in the bottom of the 7th inning to tie the score at 1-1. Later in the same inning, Wilson Valdez scored (sliding into home plate) on a sacrifice fly by Placido Polanco (who set the Phillies club record for hits in the month of April and is now batting a robust .398) and the Phillies took the lead 2-1.

Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Valdez all had one hit on the day and Polanco and Mayberry each added two. After a monster game the night before, Howard went 0-4 on Saturday. Ben Francisco was hit with a pitch & appeared to be in a good deal of pain, but stayed in the game. He was thrown out trying to steal second base later in the game.

Halladay scattered 7 hits on route to the complete game victory, walking one batter, and striking out 8. He now has a record of 4-1 on the season. Jonathan Niese took the loss for the Mets and his record dropped to 1-3.

The two teams finish the three game series tomorrow night at 8pm on the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the Week. Cliff Lee takes the mound for the Phillies as they look to complete the weekend sweep of the Mets.

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Philadelphia Eagles: Originators of the “Next Year” Offense

 

Mike Vick & Clay Mathews Stare Down

The Philadelphia Eagles ended their 2010-11 season yesterday in the exact same way it began, with a loss, at home, to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

It was a crazy roller-coaster season for the Birds. They traded away Donovan McNabb to the Redskins before the season began and opted to go with Kevin Kolb as their new QB. In the season opener (against the Packers), Kolb was knocked out of the game and Mike Vick came in to replace him. What happened next, no one could have imagined. Mike Vick, once a pro-bowl QB before losing everything and going to prison, roared back to life.

 

Aaron Rodgers Runs the Packers Offense
Mike Vick Going Deep

At times over the course of the season Vick looked unstoppable. He put up record numbers against the Redskins. He became a pocket QB. There was talk of the Super Bowl and as Vick for MVP.

Down 21 points to the Giants in the final quarter of the game, he helped spark a 28 point comeback in just eight minutes to help the Eagles secure the NFC East title. The Eagles would lose their next game to the Vikings but after sitting out the final game of the season (against the Cowboys) to get healthy for the Packers, expectations were high.

 

Calling in the Plays
Mike Vick Looking for Jason Avant

Just when Philadelphia (and the rest of the world) began to think that there wasn’t anything Vick couldn’t do, he proved that we were all right. He could do anything, including lose.

Down just five points with the ball in the final minutes, Vick and the Eagles were driving. He hit DeSean Jackson for a big play (that almost went for a TD). Then he hit Riley Cooper for another first down. With just under a minute to go the Eagles (out of time-outs) were on the Packers doorstep, ready for Vick to continue his rise to football redemption.

 

Offensive Huddle
Mike Vick & LeSean McCoy in the Backfield

Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock, Vick rushed the team up to the line, snapped the ball, and threw it to the end zone for a… a… an interception. In one second the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, and Eagles fans around the world, went from the verge of bliss to the depths of sorrow.

 

Eagles Van
Eagles Fans

In the aftermath of the painful loss, Eagles fans must now rely on the same mantra we’ve always had: “Next Year”.

Maybe what hurts the most is that after all of the Next Year’s with McNabb, it finally felt like this season might be different with a new QB. After all of the season’s without weapons for McNabb we surrounded Vick with Maclin, McCoy, Celek, and Jackson. We had one of the best kickers in football, and then last night David Akers missed, twice.

 

David Akers FG

The Eagles will need to improve in many areas before next year: the offensive line is a mess, they need to improve their secondary and linebackers, and above all else, there is the QB situation. Vick is a free agent and Kevin Kolb has said that he wants to be the starter or be traded. The Eagles could use their franchise tag on Vick (unless a new CB agreement doesn’t include a franchise tag) but he’s sure to be somewhat unhappy without a long term deal. Kolb also cannot be traded for draft picks until a new CB agreement between the owners and players union can be reached.

 

Bird Brained

Then there is head coach Andy Reid. Is it time for him to go? Many fans would say “no”. We’re not so sure. We’d like to see what a different head coach could bring to the table although we are very doubtful that Eagles management will show him the door anytime soon. They seem content to make the playoffs but we haven’t had a playoff win in over two seasons. For a team with so much talent and such loyal fans, that is hard to swallow.

 

Wide Angle View of The Linc

It should be an interesting off-season for the Eagles. This season gave fans a lot to be excited about but it’s hard to look forward to Next Year when the disappointment of losing feels identical to Last Year (and all the years before it).

This seems like the appropriate place to mention two things: The Phillies & Cliff Lee.

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