By Bill Campbell
If Michael Vick isn’t the Eagles’ most important player, it might be Todd Herremans.
The Birds have only two pre-season games left to straighten out their offensive line situation barring further changes. Vick seemed to settle down last week in the Cleveland tune-up game, perhaps in anticipation of that big, new contract that was probably all but settled at the time. But he still had a lot of hands in his face and took more of a battering than Coach Reid would have liked. If anything serious ever happened to Vick, all that business about the “dream team” would become a real nightmare. So the key player in trying to correct things appears to be Todd Herremans, who now must try to learn a new position in two weeks. He is and has been the Eagles most consistent offensive lineman and he and Jason Peters have done a good job on the left side. But Vick, as you know, is a southpaw and the right side is Vick’s blind side – and this is where the Eagles 2011 story will be told. King Dunlap has not proven to be the answer so Herremans goes from long-time left guard to brand new right tackle, next to rookie and hot draft choice, Danny Watkins. They practiced together for the first time on Monday. Another rookie, Jason Kelce, is starting at center replacing nine-year veteran Jamaal Jackson. Moving a player to an unfamiliar position can sometimes trigger additional problems but in this case Reid may have had little choice. It also means that Evan Mathis will eventually replace Herremans at left guard. Fortunately, Mathis is an experienced player who has been in the league for seven years. He played left guard last year with the Cincinnati Bengals and seemed to play okay in the Eagles-Cleveland encounter of last week. There is no stronger believer than Andy Reid in the theory that winning football starts with the offensive line – even in a passing league like the NFL. But his latest decision regarding the O line involves two rookies in his plans for the first time since he’s been here. After a shortened training camp, no mini-camps or OTA’s, it is rather late in the preseason for important decisions like these. But adequate protection for your $100 million quarterback, whom you just signed to a new six-year deal, is very high on the agenda. So Todd Herremans has two weeks to learn the difference between his left and his right. The Eagles’ early season future might depend on it.
Switching to baseball: about the only team that refused to surrender completely to Hurricane Irene over the past weekend was the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics played a double-header on Saturday in Boston in and around three long rain delays. They began the first game at 12:02 p.m. and finished the second game at 10:58 p.m. the Red Sox won both games, 9-3 and 4-0. The Oakland guys then had to fly on to Cleveland for a series with the Indians before flying across the country to return home to California. I can well imagine that the Oakland players must have been in a wonderful humor to endure that nice long plane trip complete with switches to cross the country. But David Ortiz of the Red Sox had a delightful day. He went 5 for 8 in the double-header and knocked in 4 runs despite rain dripping out of his batting helmet.
The first twenty-game winner in the major leagues this year is right-hander Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are 21-8 when Verlander starts and 52-51 when it’s someone else’s turn. But I’ll bet that no one has ever tried to identify a twenty-game loser. This season it looks like a contest between a couple of guys who, until recently, were Phillies pitchers: namely, J.A. Happ, who is 4-15, and Brett Myers, who is 3-13, with the Houston Astros this season. The Astros look like a cinch to reach 90 losses faster than at any time in the history of the franchise. The manager is Brad Mills and the general manager is Ed Wade. And they have endured a long, hot summer. Ed Wade happens to be a friend and I feel for him, although some of his trades have helped the Phillies.
And wasn’t it unusual to see five Americans finish in the top five for a change in the Canadian Women’s Open Golf Tournament last weekend? The top five in order were Brittany Lincicome, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Cristi Kerr and Angela Stanford. The tournament winner, Lincicome, closed with a 70 in a driving rain for a 13-under par 275.
In a sports world containing more than its share of scandal, point-shaving, steroid use, cheating, violence and other untold offenses, this week’s final words will be dedicated to the significance of one five-letter word which we don’t hear or see much of these days. If you’ve been heading north on I-95 lately near the South Philadelphia Sports Center, you’ve probably seen the billboard that greets drivers heading in that direction. It reads:
“THANKS, PHILLY, FOR BLESSING ME FOR 12 YEARS AND FOR YOUR SUPPORT ON AND OFF THE FIELD. MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL.”
It’s signed by David Akers.
The significant five-letter word to which I referred was “class”. And I’m surprised that more people haven’t noticed.