Brady’s bunch

Yes, I know that I will rile Philadelphia fans, but I am a huge fan of the New England Patriots. I have been so since 1989, when, as a 10-year-old, I began following football. I definitely took to the local teams, but the Patriots, who happened to go 1-15 that year (I hope that suppresses any bandwagon claims) just appealed to me.  Through the ensuing 26 years, I have experienced many highs and lows, but Super Bowl Sunday certainly counts as my best experience as a fan of the Foxborough-based athletes.

Like any reasonable follower of any team, I went into the game thoroughly respecting the opposition. Because of my regard for the Seattle Seahawks, I wanted to celebrate a win that much more, and, yes, since I know how skilled the NFC representatives are, I supposed they would score late to take a 31-28 lead with virtually no time left. Call me Doubting Joseph for not believing the defense could prove as clutch as the offense! Thanks to Malcolm Butler’s interception, quarterback Tom Brady can revel in his fourth Super Bowl title since 2002 and I can fend off criticism for another season. It’s good to be king.

Bird watching

I am a diehard Flyers fan, but with marginal interest in the Phillies and Sixers and absolutely no enthusiasm for the Eagles, nobody can count me as a “homer.” However, I respect those who root for the other three local squads and, sad to say, have come to pity those who adore the Birds.

Even with minimal interest in the franchise, I fully expected the Eagles to destroy the Redskins Saturday. I had other obligations for most of the game, so when I was able to catch action for the first time, I found myself stunned to see the 3-11 Skins up 24-14. As quarterback Mark Sanchez and tight end Zach Ertz proved a potent tandem, I believed they would ward off an upset and claim their 10th win. Then I remembered that I live in Philadelphia, and Philadelphia sports teams have a wonderful legacy of choking. No unit seems immune to this malady, and Sanchez showed he is in a sharing mood this Christmas season by tossing a late interception. Thanks to Redskins kicker Kai Forbath and the Dallas Cowboys’ 42-7 annihilation of the Indianapolis Colts yesterday, the Birds, despite having the ability to finish four games over .500 should they beat the Giants on Sunday, will be making January golf plans.

Knowing fellow Philadelphians’ passion for the Birds, I deep down wish the players and coaches could concoct a remedy for their perpetual assault on fans’ sanity. What will it take to produce a winner at Lincoln Financial Field? Maybe the front office can resolve to find answers in 2015.

Eagles fall to Bears 34-28

South Philly Review Intern Joseph Fontanazza gives his analysis of the Eagles first preseason game versus the Chicago Bears

The first live action since the Philadelphia Eagles post season loss to the New Orleans Saints showed an array of mental mistakes but also flashes of potential.

As the first team offense toke the field against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, quarterback Nick Foles shook off a thick layer of rust. The third year player threw two interceptions during his three drive stint. His decision making lacked the precision he is known for while seeming apprehensive against the Bears’ pass rush. The mental debauchery began when Chicago safety Ryan Mundy ensnared a Foles floater after the defensive line hurried the Eagles’ field general.

Subsequent to a first drive three and out, the Chicago Bears’ offense looked sharp with every quarterback posting respectable numbers and flashing excellent passes. Jay Cutler led a 13 play, 69 yard stampede to the end zone as he made use of his assortment of skill position players. The drive ended with Cutler squeezing a seam route to Zach Miller beating the Eagles’ inside linebacker Demaco Ryans’ almost perfect man-coverage. Miller was a constant target for Bears’ quarterbacks as he also hauled in a touchdown from Jordan Palmer and ended the game with six catches for 68 yards. Jordan Palmer additionally performed well posting 104 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception.

During Nick Foles’ third and last drive, another errant pass found the eager hands of a Bears defensive backfield member. Philadelphia’s starting quarterback attempted to avoid a sack while being pressured by Trevor Scott but cost his team the possession as Bears’ cornerback Sherrick McManis stepped in front of the hurl. While being alarming, Nick Foles’ poor performance may steam more from the “vanilla” play calling that takes place in the preseason which hides the Eagles’ suspiring packages for the regular season.

An offensive turnaround for Philadelphia was manufactured through the help of newcomer quarterback Mark Sanchez and former Texas Christian running back Matt Tucker at the beginning of the second quarter. The offense appeared crisper on the backfield duo’s second drive as Sanchez found tight end Zach Ertz for two straight long gains and allowed Tucker to score one of his two touchdowns. Zach Ertz was the Eagles’ most formidable pass catcher throughout the game gaining 60 yards on four receptions.

Mark Sanchez showed a grasping of the Eagles offense early and accumulated 79 passing yards on 7-10 completions. Turner also added 40 yards rushing and an impressive 5.0 yards per carry to his touchdown. G.J. Kinne led all Eagles passers in yards through his late game ball movement ,but Matt Barkley was the only Philadelphia quarterback to reach the end zone. Barkley set up running back David Fluellen on a screen pass for a touchdown.

The Eagles’ offense could not keep up with former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen nor could the defense contain him. Clausen threw for 150 passing yards and two touchdowns taking advantage of Eagles rookie cornerback Jaylen Watkins for a long score. The Bears’ backup identified the separation after receiver Chris Williams made a swim move against Watkins’ press attempt resulting in a 73 yard touchdown for Chicago.

Philadelphia’s rookies also had up and down showings. Highly-hyped wide receiver Jordan Matthews dropped several passes during his playing time. Jaylen Watkins was beaten badly on the aforementioned deep ball but also intercepted a pass with an extraordinary vertical leap. Although Josh Huff only had one catch for four yards, a 102 yard kick return put him in the forefront of the highlights which at the time give the Eagles a 21-14 lead that they would surrender eventually. Marcus Smith did not record a sack but did boast two tackles and displayed his athleticism by swatting down a screen pass.

While performing poorly as a unit on defense, some individuals all showed a flash of potential. Eagles’ safety Nate Allen recorded an interception while waiting over the top for a Jordan Palmer errand pass and helped gain an edge over Earl Wolff for the safety spot. Vinny Curry displayed explosiveness penetrating Chicago’s offensive line for a the Eagles only sack and Beau Allen made one of the most striking plays of the game as he pushed the Bears’ interior line into Jay Cutler to force an incompletion.

Although the Philadelphia Eagles could not generate a staple pass rush or cover Chicago’s receivers, the Eagles did contain the running game. They allowed only 92 yards on 32 attempts permitting an anemic 2.9 yards per carry. No cutback lanes or holes appeared for Bears’ backs as the front seven filled gaps adequately. Casey Matthews led the effort with four solo tackles and five overall before leaving the game with an injury.

Philadelphia will look to iron out several of the missteps from the Soldier Field contest and with the first preseason loss behind them, the Eagles will battle the New England Patriots for their second game of the preseason.

 

 

Training camp training

Review Intern Joseph Fontanazza weighs in on his trip to the Novacare Complex.

Jordan Matthews and I have little in common. The Vanderbilt alumnus is a world class athlete looking to be a part of one of the most explosive offensives in recent memory. Then there is me, a writer with a sub-six 40-yard dash and currently debating if I should have that fourth slice of pizza. But in the summer of 2014, we both attended our first training camp likely with the same type of early jitters.

Walking through security Aug. 4, I had the fear of denial creeping into my subconscious. “Who is this kid? Somebody get him out of here,” security personnel wondered as I almost tiptoed to avoid attention. The paranoia subsided with every passing checkpoint. I was able to receive my media pass from Eagles Public Relations Coordinator Anthony Bonagura and Public Relations Intern James McDonald. If I didn’t have to show a semblance of professionalism, I would have passed out on the spot from sheer excitement. As South Philly Review Editor Bill Gelman, fellow Intern Joe Tressa, and I walked through the entrance to the practice, I remembered why I wanted to be a writer. The future pressure of finding a job, short deadlines and interacting with multiple millionaires may be anxiety-filled, but I have an opportunity to write about sports for a living. Some people have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go to jobs that they hate, but this is what I do. Sometimes we forget how blessed we are.

The Eagles’ field was a football junkie’s dream and a cavalcade of player interaction. To the left, giant bodies struggle for five-second supremacy. Straight ahead, defensive backs deny adversaries any notion of breathing room. To the far right, wide receivers float above earth’s surface plucking leather out of the sky from their quarterback companions. After taking in the sensory overload, I realized the same thing that held me back from a below average football career is the same thing holding me back from being an above average writer: Me, a common folk around behemoths, could not see over the players to observe the action. I spotted an unimpeded view and made a dash like Chip Kelly’s personal invite to the team depended on it… Alright, I’m getting dramatic…I briskly walked to the open view point. The wideouts were running fade routes while working on attacking balls at the highest points. Jeremy Maclin barreled through the sideline as he toe tapped for the touchdown. After Maclin, wide receivers Benn, Murphy, and Pratt all were given the opportunity to work one of the NFL’s staple routes.

The buzzer for the next activity sounded, and I had to find a new spot. Stuck in the same situation that I hastily escaped, I surveyed the surrounding area looking for a new viewpoint. Subsequently to appearing like a lost child looking for his mother, I had a vantage point on the far bleachers become available. For the first time of the day, I could see what was going on, and just in time for one-on-one drills. Oregon alum Will Murphy impressed with a catch in traffic on an out route, but Kadron Boone stole fans’ gaze through a diving catch on a deep ball. Rookie Matthews displayed his aggressive nature, as he attacked a pass over a flailing cornerback. Chip Kelly’s fast paced practice was truly a test on my writing speed as the Eagles quickly sojourned to the next task. During the Seven On Seven, the offense appeared crisp. Nick Foles connected on every pass during his first three repetitions connecting with Maclin, Matthews and McCoy while Mark Sanchez worked his short passing game connecting with multiple buttonhooks and flat routes. Foles continued his chemistry with his assortment of skill position talent finding a corner route to Maclin flaunting exquisite ball placement to his number one wide out. Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley also was given a chance to impress during a Two Minute Drill situation. He found Matthews then Darren Sproles to get into scoring position but on a forth down Barkley and Zach Ertz were unable to connect. Ertz made an extravagant effort over stretching for the ball with one hand but because he was unable to stay inbounds the pass was ruled incomplete. With practice going to a close with a couple more drills, I looked back on this whole experience.

Going to my first training camp practice was a crazy experience that left me in awe. I sat close to Eagles’ writer Les Bowen, while I struggled to get out a word just listening to him talk to some of his colleagues was an education in itself. I tried to stay on the line of professionalism being this close to players and writers that I admire truly changed my prospective on the future. I’m looking forward to the next time I make a venture to the Novacare Complex now that I somewhat-kind of-almost know what I’m doing.

Attending an Eagles Press Conference

By South Philly Review Intern Joseph Tressa

I never dreamed of the day where I would have the opportunity to sit in on a press conference done by an athlete. On Monday, Aug. 4, I got that special opportunity by being allowed to watch the Eagles practice and the chance to attend the press conferences of linebacker DeMeco Ryans and quarterback Nick Foles.
It was a surreal experience to say the least. Sitting around media members from such affiliates as Comcast Sportsnet, 6 ABC and Channel 69 News gave me my first real look at the world of sports reporting. Just to be in the same room as some of these people gave me the chills.
While walking around the playing field, I also caught glimpses of a few 94 WIP radio hosts. Howard and Spike Eskin, along with Michael Barkann, were in attendance to take in the practice. Howard even said “Hello” to me (not the greatest person in the world to get a “hello” from, but I can now say that I interacted with the man to some degree). I was also inches away from 6 ABC’s sports anchor, Jamie Apody. Going from seeing her almost every day on the news to being in her presence was another humbling experience.
That’s enough with the media personalities. The fact that two actual NFL players were standing about 20 feet from where I was sitting in the press conference tent topped everything else from that day (well, maybe getting a free Rita’s water ice was the best). But, seriously, having Nick Foles looking in my direction and answering questions asked by the media was an awesome experience. The man who threw seven touchdowns in a single game, the man who led the Eagles to the playoffs with his spectacular play was just feet away from me.
Now, for the actual press conference. One of the big topics addressed by the media members was NBC’s Cris Collinsworth stating the Eagles were Super Bowl contenders.
“It’s too far away right now to say, since we have many things to work on,” Ryans said of Collinsworth’s estimation.
“I already knew those expectations were there the minute that I first stepped on the field here,” Foles noted.
Ryans was also pleased with how hard some of his teammates have been playing during the team’s training camp.
“Some guys are naturally gifted, and you can see that during practice,” he said.
With many rookie receivers on the roster, Foles was asked if his chemistry with these players is improving.
“Me and the young guys are getting better with our chemistry,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a hard experience. It’s fun for me because I like improving chemistry with all my receivers.”
With the first Eagles preseason game being this Friday against the Chicago Bears, Foles noted how important this time is for rookies and young players.
“The preseason is very beneficial for the young guys. It gives them a chance to experience an actual game and feel what it’s like to be out there,” he said.
With the recent news of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton getting a $115 million extension, Foles was asked his opinion on the subject.
“Andy’s a great player and I admire the way he plays, but I don’t worry about things like that,” he said. “My job is to go on the field and make it work.”
Foles will look to improve on an impressive 2013 season, where he went 9-2 as a starter.
The day that I took in at the NovaCare complex will one that I will surely not forget for a while. Being that close to the players and media members gave me a true sense of what it means to be a sports journalist. Thanks to my editor Bill Gelman and others who made this trip possible.

Summer Sports Depression

Musings from Intern Joseph Fontanazza

Summer Sports Depression hit me in full effect over the last week. The 76ers won the Orlando NBA Summer League and advanced to the Second Round of the Vegas League, which gave a small alleviation to the blackness.

The summer leagues are over, and Philly Sports are submerged in nothingness. The baseball abominations that reside in Citizens Bank Park hold no happiness. Mediocrity engulfs the once powerful Flyers as they watch the West Coast edition of the team begin a dynasty. The Eagles still have a month before opening day, and the 76ers do not take the court until the end of October. Also, the coming year doesn’t hold much hope of a parade down Broad Street.

Optimism for the future Sixers runs high with the drafting of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and a gaggle of talented second-round picks. While very talented, the 76ers’ first round selections will not take the floor for the coming year, and the current roster will likely manifest itself into another year of hoping for ping-pong balls. Adding onto the distress, having to watch the prize of the 2014 NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins, go to the basketball wasteland, Cleveland Cavaliers, is enough to drive me into the insane asylum.

(Cavaliers rant coming) Cleveland! The place made so many horrible decisions while it had the best player of my generation that he decided to leave is now the best situation in the NBA. It sickens me that a front office comprised of David Griffin and the ever-annoying Dan Gilbert is seen as a collection of geniuses after lucking into three of the best talents of this era. Now rumors swirl around that Wiggins may be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, to quote Interstate-76 writer Anthony Capelli “Neither the Cavs nor the Wolves deserve Wiggins at this point; this is like seeing David Spade and Jeff Foxworthy fight over Ariana Grande.”

Before I break this computer screen, let me get off the subject of basketball. The Sixers’ situation infuriated me because they did everything right then got shafted (last basketball thing I swear), but the Phillies continue to do everything wrong. The most frustrating thing about them is they don’t know the direction of the franchise. While their record over the past couple years indicates they should be a seller, they continue patching up their roster with veterans. While Marlon Byrd has been the Phillies’ most consistent player besides Chase Utley, Byrd’s signing contradicted everything. If Philadelphia’s MLB team looked to get younger, farm system players should have received a look. If the Phillies looked to get back into the playoffs, why didn’t they make more of an effort in the free agent market? Again, everything the Phillies do is a contradiction. Besides the general managerial mistakes, the on-field product is exacerbating.

The Phillies are appalling on all levels to the simple eye testers and Sabermatric fanatics. The way Ben Revere and Dominic Brown constantly misjudge fly balls and the lineup’s 28th-ranked on-base-percentage sicken the hardcore observes of the sport. While the math- consumed fan remains troubled by the Phillies starting multiple players with negative wins-above-replacement numbers, with Dominic Brown posting a team low -1.6.

The one thing offering me solace for the Phillies is the MLB operates in cycles. I remember the days of the late 90s-early 2000s Philadelphia teams. The days of trotting out mediocre players and being dominated by the Atlanta Braves still live in the deepest vaults of my subconscious. That period did not seem like a championship team would rise from it, but that happens in Major League Baseball. Teams get bad, they stockpile young players and then some of those players become good major leaguers. Those young players grow old together, then the team becomes bad again… lather, rinse, and repeat. The only teams that don’t follow the ideology are the Yankees and Red Sox.

Eagles Camp starts July 26; please let these days go fast…or I need a life, maybe a girlfriend.

Requiem for a team

How vivid are my memories of those summers when professional baseball captivated the residents of South Philly! I gained a sense of the dwindled glory Friday when watching the Phillies defeat the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, especially pondering the glory years as Jimmy Rollins smoked two home runs and orchestrated a first-inning double play with his fellow 2008 World Series-winning peers Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. All champions eventually go through mental and/or physical distress as their gifts wane, and the last two seasons in our proud city have been filled with anguish for the local nine’s supporters, as also-ran status has begun to creep in for a franchise that had really begun to become not only relevant but dominant.

I have summer sports staples and used to count on the Phillies to wow me. Despite their winning on Friday and making my $65 ticket worthwhile, I do not expect much from them. To be honest, I have always expected them to plummet because, hey, I am a Philadelphian, but they have hit a point where I do not even care about their record or their roster. Speaking of the latter, I looked at Friday’s program and had no clue who some of their players are. If management is truly considering parting with mainstays, I fear lean days will become copious and the fan base furious. I know time waits for no man, so I will not expect it to spare the Phillies from their decline. I just hope they take the steps to start a new countdown for capable players. In the meantime, mindful of my minutes, I thank them for their hard work. Age is cruel, gentlemen.