Tag Archives: Malcolm Jenkins

Defying the Shield: The Blackballing of Colin Kaepernick

23 Mar

Snowflakes In Designer Suits

 When it comes to free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, NFL owners appear to want a “safe space” where they don’t have to think about the racism he was protesting.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down…
Buffalo Springfield

KaepernickPhoto2

Colin Kaepernick is still without a team and he may never get one because of his refusal to stand for the national anthem during the 2016 season. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

The words to “For What It’s Worth”, a classic of the 1960s heyday of protest music, feels particularly relevant when we talk about athletes speaking out on social issues and the sports culture overall these days.

It’s become especially relevant when the subject of free agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick comes up. As of press time, the former signal caller for the San Francisco 49ers is currently the most high profile free agent without a football home.

A lot of sports writers and commentators have speculated that the reason why Kaepernick has no football bench to sit on is because he refused to stand for the National Anthem during the 2016-2017. Shortly before the free agent period began, he announced that he wouldn’t be taking a knee during the anthem this year, something that disappointed a few people.

But in spite of that, NFL owners, fearful of getting a nasty tweet aimed at them by Recalcitrant 4-Year-Old In Chief Donald Trump, haven’t been calling Kaepernick to his services despite the tons of money being thrown at the feet of career backups and people that will never be able to include an NFC Championship or a trip to the Super Bowl on their resumes.

Because we’re not really big on remembering our history, there are probably more than a few people who are looking at the travails of the former Nevada star, who is still sending money to feed folks in Somalia and gave $50,000 to the Meals on Wheels program that the Recalcitrant 4-Year Old In Chief is looking to cut despite not having a contract, and see something new.

But in reality, Kaepernick is just the latest NFL star to get smacked down and blackballed by the league for protesting the national anthem. Defying the “Shield” has consequences no matter how talented you are.

Back in 1969, John Mackey, then a star tight end for the Baltimore Colts, helped to form the National Football League Players Association and served as it’s resident from 1969-1973.  Mackey led the first players strike in 1970 and stood up to some brutal coercion by then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.

According to Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro who co-authored a book with Mackey, Rozelle and then Washington Redskins owner Edward Bennett Williams tried to get Mackey to sign a document to end the players strike by blaming them for the death of Vince Lombardi, who was then dying of colon cancer.

But Mackey refused to be manipulated and won the right to receive disability and widow’s benefits and having an agent negotiate salaries for the players. Mackey also led the legal fight against the Rozelle Rule, which made a player’s new team compensate his old one when they switched.

Shortly after Mackey beat Rozelle and the NFL court in 1971, the Colts traded him  to the San Diego Chargers after the 1972 season. Mackey, who is considered one of the greatest tight ends in the history of pro football, was denied entry in the Pro Football Hall until 1992 because of his union activities.

Former American Football League star running Abner Haynes, one of the leaders of the 1965 AFL All-Star boycott that moved the league’s All-Star game from New Orleans to Houston because of the Crescent City’s racism, was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Denver Broncos because of his activism.

“(The Kansas City Chiefs) wrote me a two-page letter explaining to me how a football player’s role is not to help his people. All I’m supposed to do is to keep my mouth shut and play football,” Haynes said in the Showtime documentary,“Full Color: A History of the AFL”.

That’s the message that’s being conveyed to Kaepernick and other Black players who have dared to speak out on issues pertaining to race. According to my friend and “Bleacher Report” columnist Mike Freeman, a large number of NFL executives and owners despise what Kaepernick did.

In an article Freeman wrote in “Bleacher Report”, he said that one league executive he spoke with said that the owners “genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

During the course of the 2017 NFL Combine, Freeman also reported that some of the players, according to their agents, were asked about the Kaepernick situation during the course of the interviews. That lends credence to the idea that the owners are saying to guys around the league and to the new guys coming in that this can happen to you if you dare to protest the racism that African-Americans live with on a regular basis.

Of course, you can point to some football reasons that there is no interest in Kaepernick. He’s got some accuracy issues. The scouts also say he has difficulty hitting receivers in tight windows and will run even when receivers are open. Even though he is 3-16 in his last 19 starts, Kaepernick still has thrown 22 touchdown passes against nine interceptions and has an 88.2 passer rating.

That said, Kaepernick is still better than guys like Josh McCown,  Mike Glennon or even Eagles backup Chase Daniel who don’t have his ability or his accomplishments.  Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to two straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl.  He was one play away from pulling off a huge comeback against the Baltimore Ravens in Super XLVII (47).

Two current Philadelphia Eagles—safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Torrey Smith—took to Twitter to let the league and anyone else reading that they’re not falling for the “Kaepernick isn’t good enough” okey-doke.

Malcolm Jenkins‏Verified account @MalcolmJenkins

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Malcolm Jenkins Retweeted NFL Total Access

hhhhmmmmm… @nfl GM’s you can try to act like talent is the reason @Kaepernick7 isn’t employed …but we know the real reason.

 

 

Torrey Smith‏Verified account @TorreySmithWR

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Torrey Smith Retweeted Cameron

Colin Kaepernick is not currently employed. However, his skill set vastly exceeds others who were on the market.

 

But if you’re one of the folks agreeing with the owners that Kaepernick should have just “shut up and played”, I have a question for you. Are you going to hold Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway to that standard? Elway not only wrote a letter supporting President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, but did it on the team’s letterhead. I’d also like to know if you’re going to, at long last, tell New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to stick to sports in light of his support of Trump and his refusal to accompany his teammates to visit the White House when President Barack Obama was president.

To quote a line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

But when it comes to the NFL, the treatment of Colin Kaepernick might be the incident that forces Commissioner Roger Goodell to look at his Animal Farm a little more closely.

Real Patriotism Stands and Kneels in Solidarity with Malcolm Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick

23 Sep
malcolmjenkinsfist

(From right to left) Steven Means, Malcolm Jenkins and Ron Brooks raise their fists during the national anthem in protest of unarmed killings of Black people by the Police prior to Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

This was supposed to be a column on Monday night’s Philadelphia Eagles/Chicago Bears game.

I was going to talk about how the Eagles’ defense shut down a Bears offense that has a whole host of problems. I was going to talk about how well rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had done against another below average team.

I had planned on making this column totally and completely about football.

But, I saw the video of Terrence Crutcher getting shot in cold blood for the crime of asking for help when his car broke down by a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer as he stood, hands raised.

colinsittingdown

Colin Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid (left) take a kneel during the national anthem to protest the unarmed killings of Black people by the police.

I saw residents of Charlotte, North Carolina take to the streets in protest due to the murder of Keith Lamont Scott by police as he sat in his car, mistaken for the subject of a fugitive warrant.

So, while it is important to note that the Eagles defeated the Bears on Monday night, giving the team a 2-0 record, I’m going to devote this column to something more important than football.

I’m going to write about how it might be time for everyone who’s tired of seeing more and more of the nation’s athletes join San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in National Anthem protests to stop complaining about how “disrespectful” you think these protests are, and start listening to the message they send because whether you like it or not, they’re not going away.

In fact, I hope they grow.

On Monday night, safety Malcolm Jenkins, corner back Ron Brooks, and defensive end Steven Means raised their gloved fists during the National Anthem. Aggrieved fans in serious need of a visit to the National Constitution Center on 5th and Market took to social media to complain about the protest and accused the trio of attention seeking.

If that was the message you got from the trio’s raised fists, you’ve missed the point, Jenkins said.

“We’re not doing this made-up thing to get attention,” Jenkins said. “Real lives are being lost. Real communities are being affected. The negativity comes from people’s unwillingness to digest the hard truth.”

What he said.

As a 50-something Black man who occasionally finds himself walking down the street, changing a tire on my car, or any of the myriad of things that seem to get Black men killed by police these days, I agree with Jenkins, Kaepernick and all of the other athletes who are protesting because, quite frankly, this persistent pattern of state-sanctioned violence against unarmed Black men has to stop.  Not only does it have to stop, the perpetrators in uniform and hiding behind their badges need to be punished for their crimes.

And despite what The Clash may have told you in the song “Know Your Rights”, murder is a crime, even if it’s done by a policeman or an aristocrat.

But until that happens, athletes in all sports and people of good conscience shouldn’t stand for the National Anthem.

And all of the people who want to get mad about that to the point of questioning people’s pattrriotism need to instead understand why so many African-Americans might feel that their life could in danger because of a routine traffic stop or because your vehicle stalls on some lonely highway.

I applaud Brooks, Jenkins and Means for raising their fists during the national anthem because they play in a city where African-American athletes are expected to just shut up and play. If they raise their fists during this Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial field, they are going to hear a crescendo of boos and U-S-A chants.

That’s not how a true patriot would react. True patriots would recognize that we have a Constitutional amendment that governs freedom of speech.

True patriots would empathize with their fellow Americans who are having their rights violated through police brutality.

True American patriotism means that you embody the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It also requires that you understand that the flag and the National Anthem might mean something different to those battling oppression than it does to you.

Whether it’s the right to bear arms or voicing displeasure at the police shooting unarmed African-Americans, it seems sometimes like the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply to people of color in the minds of some of you.  It’s really easy to tell an athlete with a fat contract to “shut up and play!” when they want to protest police brutality, but it also negates the fact that being an athlete probably hasn’t been spared the indignity of being pulled over by police for Driving While Black.

But they’re not supposed to talk about that. They’re “the entertainment”.

Here’s the thing, if you truly consider yourself a “patriot” and you truly believe in principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, you’d do more for your community if you put on a Black glove, stretched out your arm, and raised your fist at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday in solidarity with Brooks, Jenkins, and Means because, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,  “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, the injustice of police brutality is being visited upon African Americans, Latinos and other people of color.

Tomorrow, it could be you.

Think about that.

Eagles 2015 Training Camp Preview: Several Unanswered Questions

2 Aug

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles ability to make plays in space makes the Eagles an exciting offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA –With the Phillies playing out a bad season, sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love are now focused on the only team that has a chance to have a winning season and make a run to the postseason.

As Philadelphia Eagles training camp approaches, fans have a lot to be excited about and also a lot of reasons to be concerned. The Birds situation is arguably better than that of the city’s other three teams because despite all of the changes, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

One thing that Eagles fans have to feel good about is that DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, will be their starting running back. They will also have good change of pace backs in Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still a whole lot of question marks on the offense. After cutting offensive linemen Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans, the Birds are hoping that Allen Barbre (6-4, 310 pounds), likely the new left guard, and Matt Tobin (6-6, 290), whose expected to win the starting job at right guard, will be upgrades at these positions.

The team also signed John Moffitt (6-4, 319) last month. Moffitt, who took a year away from football to deal with substance abuse issues, gives Eagles some much need depth along the offensive line in case someone gets hurt. The way things have gone for the Eagles in terms of injuries last year that might be important. Dennis Kelly (6-8, 321), Andrew Gardner (6-6, 308) and Kevin Graf (6-6, 309) also have to be ready to go are among the guys that need to be ready even if you have injuries to the starters.

Having a solid offensive line is crucial because the Eagles have to protect starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played a full season since 2012. If he can survive the season, fans will definitely be optimistic. But if Bradford gets hurt, can head coach Chip Kelly or the fan base stomach the idea of the mistake-prone Mark Sanchez running the Eagles offense for a sustained period of time?

Among the Eagles wide receiver corps, will second-year wide receiver Jordan Matthews become the go-to-guy in the passing game? Will rookie Nelson Agholor, with his 4.4 speed, be able to find his way on the field and be an important part of the Eagles passing game? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

On defense, the Eagles will have a solid front-seven that includes linebackers DeMeco Ryans and newly acquired inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. This could also be a breakout season for defensive end Fletcher Cox, who is coming off a 2014 season in which he had a career-high in tackles with 70 (59 solo) and four sacks.

The sticking point for the Eagles defense coming into the 2015 season is the secondary, which got torched quite often late in the season. The inability of the Birds secondary to keep opposing receivers from piling up yards and lighting up the scoreboard kept them out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

The Eagles ranked 31st in net passing yards per game in 2014 and the most touchdowns of 20 yards or more and the only holdover from that unit is safety Malcolm Jenkins.

The Birds got former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played well during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. But there’s uncertainty about Nolan Carroll and Eric Rowe, the other two guys vying for cornerback spots. Carroll is a pro that couldn’t get much playing time in the other places he’s played and Rowe is a second-round draft pick who hasn’t played a down as a pro.

Meanwhile at the other safety spot, Kelly is counting on former Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond. Thurmond is a converted cornerback who has never played at the safety spot and has been injury-prone throughout his five-year career.

If the Eagles fail to shore up this part of their defense, New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson and Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant could be licking their chops.

Eagles Believe They are Close to Being an Elite Team, but Face Challenges in 2015

1 Jan

 

LeSean McCoy  is open to have his contracted to keep him on the Eagles..  Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy is open to have his contract restructured to keep him on the Eagles.. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Despite having a 10-6 record that would have easily won a weak NFC South, the Eagles missed the playoffs and are left with the feeling of what could have been if they could have only gotten out of the way of themselves.

“We’re right there,” said running back Darren Sproles. “When you get to December, you have to win in December. Even with the turnovers we were right there.”

On offense, the Eagles committed a league-leading 36 turnovers-including a combined 27 by both Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. Those self-imposed mistakes are among the reasons the Birds are home for the postsesason.

“Coming off last year, we knew we had a good team, we started off 9-3 and to lose the way we did at the end of the season is very uncharacteristic of us,” said tight end Zach Ertz. “Usually, we get stronger as the season progresses, but we can’t put any of the onus on anybody but on ourselves.”

While cleaning out their lockers Monday, several Eagles players said despite missing the playoffs in 2014, they are close to being one of the elite teams in the NFL.

“It’s encouraging because we got 10 wins and we really beat ourselves all year,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins. “But the thing yet to be corrected for next year is can we stop beating ourselves. …That’s one thing we’ve got to stop this offseason. Once we learn two things-If we can keep the ball in front of us on defense and not turn the ball over that much on offense, we can go from a 10-win team to an elite team.”

On the defensive end, you could make the argument that the Eagles front-seven had a pretty goodseason. The Birds were tied for second in the NFL in sacks with Connor Barwin leading the way with 14.5 sacks.

The downside to that was the Eagles were next to last in the league in passing yardage yielded. Opposing teams passed for 4,238 yards against a suspect secondary. In the three-game losing streak that took the Birds out of the playoff, they gave up too many big plays in the passing game.

“There were no breakdowns, it’s just matchups and not winning those matchups,” Jenkins said. “You’ve got receivers that are at the top of their game and at an elite level. It’s hard to win those matchups on every down. A lot of those times we’ve had help over the top. We can’t double team every play and so when they had those opportunities they took advantage of it and we didn’t win.”

The weakness in the Eagles defense was their secondary. In that critical three-game losing streak, the difference in the game came down to giving up big plays in the passing game.

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, who gave up plays of 25 yards or more in losses to Washington and Dallas, will be a free agent and so will safety Nate Allen. Don’t look for the Eagles to go out of their way to bring those guys back.

On offense, it has been widely speculated the Eagles aren’t necessarily happy with Foles has a franchise quarterback even though he’s 14-4 as a starter under head coach Chip Kelly. Foles critics point to his 10 interceptions and his struggles during the eight games he played in before he broke his left collarbone.

There has also been talk the Eagles might draft another quarterback or somehow move up to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.

As far as Foles is concerned, he said he’s the Eagles starting quarterback until Kelly or the organization tells him otherwise. Neither Kelly nor owner Jeffrey Lurie would say whether they were committed to him as the starter for next year.

“I expect to be the guy to lead them and win games,” Foles said. “It’s tough sitting on the sideline when you want to be out there. …It’s coming from my heart. That’s where I really expect to be and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be the best Nick Foles possible.”

The Eagles are also looking re-sign free agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin,who had the best year of his career in 2014. He caught 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdown passes.

The Birds also have to figure out a way to keep running back LeSean McCoy, who is due to make $9.75 million. The team could save $7.55 million under the salary cap if they release McCoy, who said he was open to restructuring his contract.

Meanwhile, Kelly said he wants to keep both Maclin and McCoy because they are important to his offense, but he also knows that he has to take the business of the game into consideration.

“Yeah, I’m in charge of the roster in terms of who our 53 are so I have to weigh in on that,” Kelly said. “But I also know there are other factors, salary cap money and the numbers and all those other things.”

It’s On Now: Eagles Push for the Playoffs Starts in Dallas

24 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles back-up quarterback Mark Sanchez  will lead the team's run to the playoffs.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles back-up quarterback Mark Sanchez will lead the team’s run to the playoffs. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—With five games left in the regular season, the Eagles (8-3) have arrived at the point of their season that will determine where they will be in January.

The Birds Thanksgiving Day tilt with the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium will be their first test of their run to the playoffs. The Eagles will face the Cowboys in two of their next three games with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks sandwiched in between.

The Birds and  Cowboys come into Thursday’s game tied for first-place in the NFC East. Dallas (8-3) is coming off a huge come-from-behind road win over the New York Giants.

LeSean McCoy scores a second quarter touchdown with in the Eagles win over the Tennessee Titans.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy scores a second quarter touchdown with in the Eagles win over the Tennessee Titans. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“We really have to go in this week focus really focused,” said running back LeSean McCoy, who gained 130 on 21 carries and one touchdown in Sunday’s win . “It’s a short week, it’s a big game, Thanksgiving is coming up and it’s a division game at that. So I think you add all those things up, it’s a must win type of game.”

After that gauntlet of tough games, the Eagles will close out the season with two road games against Washington (3-8) and the New York Giants (3-8). While those two teams aren’t necessarily setting the world on fire with their records, divisional matchups are never easy and never taken for granted.

Even though players and coaches like to tell you they are not looking beyond what’s in front of them, they also recognize that every game from this point forward will have some sort of postseason implication—whether it’s for a division title or a wildcard berth.

“Every week is a one-game season and we take it like that,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. “But really the games start to count a little bit more as you get to December and the end of November. Usually they have implications on the division and playoff positioning.

“If you don’t want to look at the big picture, you still take it week by week, your preparation from a physical and mental has to be ramped up as the season gets on. As your body gets weary, you have to fool yourselves and turn it up even more.”

The Birds managed to bounce back from a horrific loss to the Green Bay Packers by coming away with an easy  43-24 win over the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

While it wasn’t necessarily an artistic masterpiece over an overmatched team, the Eagles will take a win to stay in first place after the way they were shellacked by the Packers last week at Lambeau Field.

“It was a buzz saw situation that we ran into, but we understood that this week that we couldn’t afford to lose this one,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “It was a bounce-back game and a must-win game for us.”

The Eagles playoff hopes will depend upon how well quarterback Mark Sanchez plays down the stretch. In the win over Tennessee, Sanchez 30-of-46 passes for 307 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

In his last three games as the Eagles starting quarterback, Sanchez has eight turnovers. With the Eagles season riding on his shoulders, Sanchez has to avoid mistakes if the Birds win the division. That was something he talked about after the win over the Titans.

“If you squander too many opportunities, you might miss out on the playoffs,” Sanchez said. “For anybody to be successful, we have to take care of the football. We can’t be on the wrong page and I can’t miss the ball down the field to Zach (Ertz).”

After Dominating Carolina, It’s Bring On Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers

12 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Happy days appear to be here again for Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. He came up big against the Carolina Panthers Monday night. His next assignment will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA— The competitive portion of Monday Night’s Eagles-Panthers game ended shortly before halftime mainly because Carolina was overmatched, undermanned and had absolutely nothing for the Birds.

The Eagles were able to cruise to an easy 45-14 win over the Panthers because they scored in all three phases of the game—offense, defense and special teams-despite having just 37 yards rushing as a team. To be honest, the Birds could have beaten Carolina with one hand tied behind their backs.

Defensively, the Eagles front-seven teed off on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, sacking him nine times and forcing four turnovers—three interceptions and two fumbles. Connor Barwin had three and a half sacks by himself.

The Birds defense cut off Newton’s running lanes and put pressure on him throughout the game.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.  The Eagles had eight sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Connor Barwin (98) and Brandon Graham converge on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The Eagles had nine sacks. Photo by Webster Riddick.

“The idea was definitely don’t let him run up the middle, don’t let him go North,” Barwin said. “When he gets North that stride can open up on you. He’s gonna run East-West, we thought that we could run him down.”

On offense, Mark Sanchez not only managed the offense well, he made some plays in the passing game and basically picked the Carolina defense apart. He completed 20-of-371 passes for 330 yards and two touchdown passes.

After some tough times with the New York Jets, Sanchez looked like a guy who was having funs running the Eagles uptempo offense. Fun was something he didn’t have too much of during his days with the Jets.

The win over the Panthers was his Sanchez’s start in two years.

“I don’t know. It was just a great night. It was so fun. It was so fun to get back out on the field. I’m very blessed and I thank God for the opportunity. It was really cool,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a while, and I’ve been out of it for a little bit and away from the game. It’s good to get back. It’s good to get back in an environment like this in front of this crowd and in front of all of those guys that work so hard during the week. It’s so fun to watch it pay off.”

His favorite target was rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who had a pretty good game, catching seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. The six-foot-three Matthews is getting better with every game.

“I think it’s definitely slowing down,” Matthews said. “I think early on you look at the game in a sense that I gotta hurry up and do something good. I gotta go out and make a play.

“But you can’t press it, you can’t rush it, you just gotta let the game come to you and just continue to play with that confidence and never get too far outside the game and that’s what I’m learning …Play fast, but in your mind slow the game.”

Meanwhile, Head coach Chip Kelly was not happy with the small numbers the Eagles produced in the running game. Running back LeSean McCoy had just 19 yards on 12 carries.

“We didn’t execute the way we needed to execute in the run game,” Kelly said.

Darren Sproles had another electrifying performance with a 65-yard punt return and an eight-yard run for a touchdown that gave the Eagles a 17-7 lead after the first quarter. It was the ninth return touchdown of the year for the Birds special teams and defense.

By the end of the second quarter, it was a wrap. Sanchez hit rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews for a 13-yard touchdown pass and cornerback Bradley Fletcher scored on a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Next week, the Eagles will face one of their biggest tests of the season when they head out to the Midwest to take on a Green Bay Packers squad that destroyed the Chicago Bears in a 55-14 romp at Lambeau Field.

On Sunday night, Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers carved up the Bears defense for 315 yards and six touchdown passes. The former Cal star can not only chuck it from the pocket, but he can also do it on the run.

Something not lost on the Eagles defense.

“You know what you get when you play the Packers. You know you got an explosive offense that can put up points at any time,” said Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins. “Rogers is really the only duel threat quarterback that really excels at both scrambling and he’s one of the real good pocket passers in the league. You have to pick your poison.

“If they get him going, it could be a long day for the defense.”

Game Changer: Darren Sproles Comes up Big for Birds in Season Opener

8 Sep

 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Sproles 49-yard dash in the third quarter of Sunday's game against Jacksonville eventually sparked the Eagles to a victory over the Jaguars. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Sproles 49-yard dash in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Jacksonville eventually sparked the Eagles to a victory over the Jaguars. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Going back to his college days at Kansas State and in his pro career with the New Orleans and San Diego Chargers, Darren Sproles has always been capable of coming up with the big game-changing play to help his team win.

“That’s the advantage of having (Sproles) on your team,” said Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who played with him Sproles in New Orleans. “At any point in time, he can be that guy to spark and blow the game open. When we needed a play, he gives us an explosive run. We need another thing, he gives a good return.”

After a mistake-filled first half in which the Eagles found themselves in a 17-0 hole in the season-opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sproles electrifying 49-yard touchdown run on a fourth and one play on the Birds first possession of the second half was the jump start the Birds needed to get back in the game.

“Yeah, we started slow, but I think that was the turning point.” Sproles said. “That got us going. We knew they were getting tired, so we tried to hurry up on them. They were not even set and left a big hole in the middle of the field. ”

Energized by Sproles’ big run, the Eagles owned the second half and came away with a 34-17 win over Jacksonville in front of a packed house of 69, 596 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on a hot Sunday afternoon.

“We got down 17 and we felt like we had to go for it on fourth down,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “You don’t think you’re going to get a touchdown out of that. You’re hoping to just convert, keep the chains moving, we’re trying to get some momentum to jump back on our side. …That was a huge jump start for us.”

Sproles game-changing play was also a by-product of the Eagles fast-pace no-huddle offense which caught a visibly-tired Jaguars defense off-guard without the right personnel package. The Birds took advantage to get back in the game and eventually win it.

“It absolutely caught them off guard,” said Eagles center Jason Kelce. “They didn’t have a safety back there. Once we broke through the hole, it was smooth sailing.”

After the Eagles forced Jacksonville to punt on its possession after the Birds first touchdown, Sproles made another big play when he returned Bryan Anger’s punt from the Eagles 38 to the Jacksonville 40 for a 22-yard return.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards in the Eagles win over Jacksonville. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back Darren Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards in the Eagles win over Jacksonville. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For the game, Sproles had 147 all-purpose yards—71 rushing on 11 carries, four receptions for 14 yards and 62 yards on punt returns. Eagles’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said what Sproles did on offense and special teams is the reason why the Eagles signed him as a free-agent last spring.

“Those are the things he’s done for years and years,” Shurmur said. “His presence was felt in the kicking game and as a running back. We’ve said all year that he’s a running back and we’re going to play him at running back. He was running the very same plays that LeSean (McCoy) would run if he was in there. We saw the impact that he had on the game.”

Five plays after Sproles return, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz to bring the Birds to within 17-14 with 7:19 left in the third quarter.

Sproles’ big plays also pumped up an Eagles defense that gave up a couple of big plays in the passing game—a pair of touchdown passes from Chad Henne to wide receiver Allen Hurns. After allowing 17 points in the first half, the Eagles defense shutout Jacksonville in the second half.

“Once they got it going, everybody’s gotta feeling that we’re going in for the kill,” Jenkins said. “Now we’re starting to play our style of team play and that’s a good feeling.”

In the fourth quarter, the Birds tied the game on a 51-yard field goal by Cody Parkey and took the lead on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Foles to Jeremy Maclin. The Birds added another Parkey field goal and got a 17-yard touchdown return of a recovered fumble by defensive end Fletcher Cox.