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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On October 18

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If Carson Wentz gets hurt Sunday against the Vikings, don’t blame Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Even if defensive end Brian Robison, whose height and weight is disturbingly similar to the Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan, blows past Vaitai and crushes Wentz, it won’t truly be Big V’s fault.

The fault lies with Eagles head coach Doug Pederson for putting Vaitai in this position. The rationale for starting Vaitai – it only disrupts one position on the offensive line instead of the two that would disrupted if Allen Barbre switched from left guard to right tackle – is debatable. What isn’t debatable, though, is that Pederson was mistaken in believing that Vaitai was ready to match up with Kerrigan, who doubled his sack total Sunday with 2½ during the Redskins’ 27-20 victory.

If Pederson follows through on his word and starts Big V against the undefeated Vikings on Sunday, he will be doubling down on the same mistake. It won’t be Big V’s fault that his first two games will have been against Kerrigan and a Vikings defense tied for first in the NFL in sacks. A rookie drafted in the fifth round should never have been put in this position.

Another person who should bear some of the blame for Vaitai being overmatched is executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman. Until selecting guard Isaac Seumalo in the third round this year, the Eagles hadn’t drafted an offensive lineman since choosing Lane Johnson with the fourth overall pick in 2013.

If you want to blame Chip Kelly for not taking an offensive lineman in 2015, that’s fine. We can add Kelly to the list. But Roseman may, or may not, depending whether the picked turned out to be a good one – have been in charge of the 2014 draft. Just as Roseman may have been the one pushing for the Eagles to draft guard Danny Watkins with the 23rd overall pick in 2011. Even though the Eagles lacked experienced depth at tackle, Roseman traded offensive lineman Dennis Kelly to the Titans this fall for receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Kelly isn’t a great option, but he would be a better option than Vaitai.

Roseman’s maneuvers have left Pederson without any good options at right tackle. Choosing Vaitai to start against the Redskins and Vikings is a mistake. But it’s not as if Pederson overlooked a good option.

Last, and certainly not least, on the blame list is Johnson. The Eagles right tackle created this mess by drawing a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. I know, I know. Johnson didn’t know the supplement he was taking contained a banned substance. I’m sorry, but it’s his job to know what he’s putting in his body. And when it’s your second suspension in three years, you lose the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s hope that Wentz, the franchise quarterback, doesn’t get hurt this weekend by the Vikings’ ferocious pass rush.

If Wentz does get hurt, most of the blame should not fall upon Halapoulivaati Vaitiai, a rookie fifth-round pick who should never have been put in this position.

*****

DEFENSIVE DOLDRUMS: The explanation that says the Redskins rushing for 230 yards against the Eagles is more troubling because the players aren’t making tackles because they aren’t making a strong enough effort isn’t nearly as troubling as the alternative, which is that teams have learned how to attack the Eagles’ Wide-9 scheme by running the football.

When you’re defensive linemen are going “downhill” on every play, they are left susceptible to trap blocking and counter runs. If you’re defensive linemen are going to attack the backfield on every play, you’d better have terrific linebackers to fill the gaps left behind.

*****

PRACTICE DOESN’T MAKE PERFECT: The Sixers expect center/forward Jahlil Okafor to be ready for the season opener on Wed., Oct. 26. Okafor, who had knee surgery during the offseason, has yet to play in a preseason game. The Sixers’ final preseason game is Friday at Miami.

This basically means that the Sixers will experiment with Okafor and Joel Embiid being on the floor together during the regular season. As for the “third tower,” Nerlens Noel is not expected to return from a groin strain in time for the start of the regular season. Noel played in the Sixers’ first preseason game, and hasn’t played since then.

People concerned about how the Sixers’ three young big men would work together on the court may not have to worry. There’s no guarantee the three of them will ever be healthy at the same time.

*****

MISSING THE POINT: The Sixers still don’t have a starting-quality point guard. T.J. McConnell and Sergio Rodriguez should both be backups. Jerryd Bayless, a shoot-first point guard signed as a free agent, hasn’t played during the preseason due to a wrist injury.

*****

RELIEF EFFORT: The Indians’ bullpen has been tremendous during the first three games against the Blue Jays. The bullpen pitched 8 1/3 innings during the Indians’ Game 3 triumph after starter Trevor Bauer had to leave the game in the first inning due to a cut he incurred while working on a drone opened up.

Reliever Andrew Miller has been virtually unhittable. When a hitter makes contact and puts the ball in play against Miller, it’s reason for celebration.

*****

DECLINING UNION: The Union are luck the MLS regular season doesn’t last an extra week. The Union, winless in their last six games, have dropped to sixth place, the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Although New England is three points behind, within striking distance, entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Union’s hold on the final playoff berth is virtually assured because of their huge advantage over the Revolution in goal differential, which would serve as a tiebreaker.

The Union badly need the psychological boost they would receive Sunday (4 p.m.) if they could defeat the first-place New York Red Bulls. Entering the playoffs on a seven-game winless skid would not do much for the team’s confidence.

*****

UNION ISSUES: With three regular-season games remaining, it would require a total collapse for the Union to miss the Major League Soccer playoffs, but they’re in danger of dropping to the bottom of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Montreal trails the Union by just one point. D.C. United trails by two points. The fourth-place Union complete a three-game road stretch Saturday (7 p.m.) against the second-place Red Bulls.

In other Union news, midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta says he will leave the Union after this season. Barnetta plans to return to his home country of Switzerland..

*****

CHASE HEATING UP: Four more drivers will be eliminated from the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field Sunday after the Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The field will be reduced from 12 to eight, which is means half of the original Chase field will have been eliminated.

Joey Logano and Austin Dillon are tied for eighth place. Denny Hamlin is fsix points behind. Brad Keselowski is one more point back of Logano and Dillon.

Chase Elliott is 25 points behind Logano and Dillon, so he needs a trip to Victory Lane to remain alive in the Chase. All race winners advance to the next round. Kevin Harvick is just three points ahead of Dillon and Logano, but his victory this past weekend in Kansas assures him of a spot in the next round.

An Elliott victory would likely knock Logano and Dillon out of the Chase. It’s also possible that both Hamlin and Keselowski could pass Logano and Dillon.

*****

CELEBRATING THE 50’s: Bernard Hopkins claims that his Dec. 17 fight against Joe Smith, 27, will be his final fight. Hopkins will turn 52 to following month. Yes, he will be 52 years old.

Hopkins didn’t select a tomato can for his final fight. Smith is 22-1 with 18 knockouts. Nearly two years have elapsed since Hopkins’ last fight. I hope he comes out of this fight healthy and unscathed, but my first hope is that Hopkins changes his mind and never steps back in the ring.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 28 years, is only a few months older than Bernard Hopkins, yet has no desire to step inside a boxing ring.

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