Welcome to the finest Philadelphia sports blog ran from within Temple University. This blog's focus is local sports, including Temple sports as well as news and opinions regarding the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Temple Football Yet to Achieve Full Potential

The Owls are 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 1981. They opened the season with a Mayor Cup title over the in-state rival Villanova Wildcats and followed that up with a win over three-time defending MAC champions Central Michigan. But the nature of these two games has been unsettling.
The Owls defense has given up an average of 326.5 yards of total offense a game and the offense has turned the ball over in crucial situations in both games.
The running game has shown flashes of brilliance. There has a been a virtual split of carries between Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown. Pierce has effectively handled short yardage situations and Brown has displayed an exciting breakaway ability. Two of the three touchdowns scored by the offense so far have been by Pierce and Brown.

But the passing game has been suspect. Despite a respectable QB efficiency of 132.2, Chester Stewart has not shown the ability to be a successful pocket passer. He too often take sacks and has failed to protect the ball over the first two games, suffering two crucial fumbles that almost cost the Owls the game each time.
Defensively, it seems as though two different units show up in different situations. The Owls have given up on average almost 100 rushing and 250 passing yards a game. But against Villanova, the defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs to allow the Owls to come back and win. And in overtime against Central Michigan, junior free safety Kee-Are Griffin's interception setup Brandon McManus' game winning field goal. Temple's defense has shown up in pressure filled situations.
But this timeliness that has defined Temple's success over the first two games will not be enough when facing more difficult opponents. In the next two games against Connecticut and Penn State, the offense needs to be operated with a stronger sense of composure and the defense needs to play well consistently for Temple to have any shot at winning.  

Monday, September 6, 2010

Best Case Scenario for Kolb

How many times have you seen an NFL quarterback get drafted first overall to a terrible team and have a lackluster beginning portion of his career because of it? Recent examples include David Carr of the Houston Texans, Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers,  and Jamarcus Russell of the Oakland Raiders. Granted, actual physical and mental ability to perform in the NFL certainly has something to do with it, but i don't understand this lauded affection quarterbacks have for the first overall draft pick.
Is getting drafted in an early round and being thrust into a starting position without any professional knowledge or experience the most efficient route of success for a quarterback? Do teams and fans honestly expect a kid who is fresh out of college to rally a team behind him and lead them to victory immediately?
Sure there have been exceptions, Ben Roethlisberger's recent Super Bowl run comes to mind, but history has shown us that there is a much more efficient way for quarterbacks to be successful in the NFL.
Take Brett Favre for example. Favre began his career by sitting on the bench for one year in 1990 in Atlanta and the following year in Green Bay. During this time, Favre retained in-game experience, knowledge of how NFL offenses are run, and advice from players and coaches. When he was finally a full time starter in 1993, Favre led the Packers to a 9-7 season and their first playoff birth in ten years. In the span of the next five seasons, Favre led the Packers to the playoffs all five years, won three consecutive MVP awards, and won a Super Bowl championship.
Speaking of Brett Favre, another example comes to mind. Aaron Rodgers was projected to be a possible number one overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft. The pick instead went to the aforementioned Alex Smith, who started immediately and has since led the 49ers to five seasons of futility. In contrast to Smith, Rodgers started his career by playing three seasons as a backup to Brett Favre. Like Favre himself, these three seasons allowed Rodgers to gain knowledge and experience of how the NFL works. In 2009, Rodgers second full season as a starter, he threw for over 4,000 yards passing and had a QB rating of 103.2. Coming into this season, Rodgers is one of the favorites to win the MVP award and the Packers are the favorite in the NFC to go to the Super bowl.
My point is that the best case scenario for a quarterback in the NFL is to not start right away and try to win a Super Bowl your first year, but to stay behind the scenes the first couple years, learn some things, practice a lot, and prepare yourself for when your time comes. This scenario just so happens to describe the situation in which current Eagles starter Kevin Kolb found himself in.

Kolb was drafted by the Eagles in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft. Even then, when the Eagles had perennial starter Donovan McNabb on the team, fans wondered if there would be a quarterback controversy. Head coach Andy Reid, a former quarterbacks coach for Mike Holmgren in Green Bay, squashed any ideas of Kolb starting his first or second year. It seems Reid may share the same ideas that i have and may have wanted to develop Kolb before he became the Eagles' starter. So Kolb, like Rodgers and Favre before him, played behind Donovan McNabb for two years and learned what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.
When Kolb did perform in an actual game, he thrived. In his first NFL start, Kolb threw for 391 yards and a touchdown against the eventual Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints in a 48-22 loss. His next start, he threw for 327 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 win against the Kansas City Chiefs. First two starts: two 300 yard games. No other quarterback in the history of the NFL has accomplished that feat.
So with Kolb's performance so far, and the history supporting his progression, i think it's safe to say that we can expect good, if not great things from him this year. His development combined with a surplus of talent at wide receiver and a pass heavy offensive system makes Kevin Kolb a reliable Eagles quarterback of the future. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Phillies' Edge

The makeup of the Phillies' rotation with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt as the first, second, and third starters respectively makes it obvious that this is a team built for the postseason, and that if the Phillies win the division or wild card then they will thrive in the playoffs. 
But the Phillies' edge in the postseason is not limited to their physical ability. This team has a state of mind of a playoff mentality that is evident throughout the season.

On August 23-26, the Phillies were swept in a four game series at home against the Houston Astros, a team that is currently ten games below .500. Many ridiculed the Phillies' for laying down, taking those four games off against an opponent who they deemed not worthy of a complete effort.
The Phils answered that challenge in the following week, going 6-1 on west coast road trip, including a sweep of the San Diego Padres, who have the best record in the National League.
The difference between these two scenarios is obviously the level of competition, or rather how the Phillies approach different levels of competition. It seems when the Phils are placed in a playoff atmosphere, in a series against one of the best teams in the league, they rise to the challenge and play as if it were the postseason. In a series against a lowly team like the Astros, who will be watching the postseason from home, the Phils don't always seem to show up.
The Phillies clearly have a playoff mentality throughout the season; a hunger to get to the postseason and be successful when they get there. And if their wild card lead holds up or if they overtake the Braves and win the division, you can expect to see their physical makeup and strong mentality combine in October to create another World Series run. 

Heisman Unhopeful

We've all seen the signs. Whether you're driving down I-95, riding the subway, or walking around campus, Temple football signs with the heading "Hunt for the Heisman" are everywhere. It is obvious that Temple has made the decision to heavily broadcast Sophomore running back Bernard Pierce's plight to win the Heisman this season. Whether the signs are a mere advertising ploy or a genuine feeling of hope, Pierce's chances are slim.
Pierce is currently not even a lock for the starting running back position. He has struggled with a concussion and Sophomore runner Matt Brown now sits atop the depth chart. Head coach Al Golden has said that he expects both runners to get a large amount of carries this season, so it should be a challenge for Pierce just to repeat his performance last season, where he had 236 carries and averaged over 113 yards per game.

Even if Pierce manages to repeat last season or even excel beyond it, he is still an outside shot for Heisman contention.
The Heisman selection panel has shown us in the past that it does not merely look at statistics as its sole criteria, it considers other aspects as well. The past twenty Heisman trophy winners have all hailed from Major conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 10), so it is obvious that strength of schedule plays a large role in the panel's decision.
So, Pierce, a runner who will split carries and plays in the MAC, has a slim to none chance of being in Heisman contention this year. Despite all of Temple's advertising, Pierce's plight remains unhopeful.