The #Jaccpocalypse has finally happened and the Eagles Pro Bowl receiver is now a Washington Redskin. Just like with Terrell Owens, the Eagles have cut a star wideout in his prime after a career year. Obviously, Jackson to Washington is squeezing lemon juice into an already open wound and the Eagles won’t easily replace him. But we’ll get into Desean later, the first thing I wanted to discuss was how Ryne Sandberg managed the Phillies in the first two games of the 2014 season.
Playing The Match-ups, But Then Not
The Phillies cranked out 14 runs in their Opening Day victory over the Texas Rangers, but Ryne Sandberg quickly adjusted the lineup the next day with Rangers lefty Martin Perez due to start. This is an idea I can really get behind, but there’s one crucial aspect Sandberg failed to address. He benched Cody Asche (.629 OPS in 35 career PAs vs lefties) and Dom Brown (.672 OPS in 270 career PAs vs lefties), but only moved Ryan Howard down one spot in the lineup. Since the beginning of 2011, Ryan Howard has been absolutely atrocious against left-handed pitching, posting OPS totals of .634, .605, and .539 in the last three seasons. In the past two years, he’s struck out over 40% of the time against southpaws. Over 40%! A healthy Darin Ruf will offer Sandberg more options at first base vs lefties, but it’s baffling to bench two young players and not a declining veteran in a disadvantageous situation. John Mayberry at first base with Brown in the outfield is probably a better way to maximize your talent and hopefully that’s the route Sandberg goes next time the Phils face a lefty. Platoons are a very good idea for this team, but you’ve got to include everyone when going over the numbers, even the guy getting paid $25 million this year.
Cross Your Fingers and Hope For The Penguins
The Flyers are six points away from clinching a playoff berth with seven games remaining. They’ve got games against doormats Buffalo and Florida next week and finish with Carolina on the season’s last day. That should be six points right there, no? But the way things are set up, the Flyers would face the Rangers in the opening round and that’s a match-up to dread. The Flyers haven’t won in Madison Square Garden since the Roosevelt Administration (and that’s Teddy, not FDR) and the Rangers always seem to carry the play when these teams meet. Opening on the road against New York probably leads to a first round exit, so I can’t be alone in hoping the Flyers DROP a spot and get a first round date with Pittsburgh. The Penguins are riddled with injuries and have only four wins in their last 10 games. But even more alarming, their possession numbers have been plummeting like a meteorite since December. The Penguins, always a preseason darling, are ripe for swift removal from the postseason and they’re the best match-up the Flyers could draw in round one. Not only do they own the Consol Energy Center (10-2-1 lifetime including playoffs), but the Flyers seem to own real estate inside the Penguins’ heads. Plus, there’s Marc-Andre Fleury. Who doesn’t want to see more of this in two weeks?
So About That Former Eagles Wide Receiver…
Well, it’s official. Desean Jackson is now a member of the Washington Redskins after signing a three-year, $24 million contract with $16 million guaranteed. The guaranteed money is obviously the important number here, but Jackson will be making less annually than he would on the remainder of his Eagles contract. While there’s certainly a chance that Jackson, RG3, and Deangelo Hall create a locker room so toxic that even roaches suffocate, it does make the Skins offense considerably more formidable on paper. And there’s a good chance Desean burns the Eagles for a long TD at some point next year.
But the new Redskins coach is perennial underachiever Jay Gruden and the Eagles should (and will) be favored to win the division again in 2014. Fans might gripe about finding someone to replace Jackson, but in reality, his catches will be spread out all across the offense. Jeremy Maclin will be good for 60-70 catches, Darren Sproles will snag another 60-70, and Zach Ertz will improve on his impressive rookie total of 36. The Eagles are losing 120 receptions between Jackson and Jason Avant, but Maclin, Sproles, and Ertz will likely combine for over 160. Yes, our dream of Jackson, Maclin, Shady, and Sproles in the same offense was quickly extinguished, but the Eagles will still be an offensive juggernaut in 2014. They’ll be the division favorite when Vegas releases the odds and will be a better overall team from last year if they draft well on defense. Just please, please, please win the first game against the Redskins.