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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On August 13

There were reasons that the Eagles considered Jordan Matthews to be expendable. But the real reason he’s gone is the Birds’ deficiency at cornerback.

There’s a reason that free agent-signee Patrick Robinson is with his fourth team in four seasons. Jalen Mills is a battler, but, in his second year, he’s a borderline starter for a decent team. Ron Brooks is injured – again – and third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas is raw. C.J. Smith, Carson Wentz’s teammate at North Dakota State, had a bad game against the Packers, and we didn’t see anything from Aaron Grymes, Jomal Wiltz, Tay Glover-Wright or Mitchell White to convince anyone they should get a crack at the starting job. White even seemed to be targeted by the Packers’ third- and fourth-string quarterbacks.

The Eagles couldn’t pretend to be a playoff contender while entering the season with that cast at cornerback. So, when the Bills made Ronald Darby available, the Eagles jumped at the opportunity.

Darby’s star has faded since he was the runner-up for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2015. His dropoff in 2016 is one reason why he was available in a trade. But even the reduced version of Darby immediately becomes the Eagles’ best cornerback.

By contrast, the Eagles have depth at receiver. The signing of veterans Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and the drafting of Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson better addressed the Eagles’ needs at receiver than did their offseason additions at cornerback.

There is also the question of whether the Eagles were going to sign Matthews after his contract expires following this season. If they weren’t going sign him, it makes sense to try to get something in return for him now. To get a starting cornerback for Matthews was an opportunistic move, even though the Eagles also had to throw in a third-round draft pick.

There is a risk to this deal. If Jeffery and Smith falter or are injury-prone, particularly with Jeffery on a one-year contract, the Eagles might not be left with any starting-quality receivers next season. Unless, of course, Nelson Agholor’s play finally approaches the level expected from a first-round draft pick.

That’s the risk the Eagles are taking by trading Matthews. With their dire need at cornerback, however, it was a risk worth taking.

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NEW BILL: Eagles fans shouldn’t have to wait too long to see Jordan Matthews. The Bills visit Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday (7 p.m.) for a preseason game.

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CONCERN FOR FOLES: At what point does Nick Foles’ sore elbow become a concern? His elbow bothered him during mini-camp. It has prevented him from practicing during training camp. Are the Eagles comfortable with Matt McGloin being Carson Wentz’s primary backup?

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TERRIFIC DEBUT: First-round draft pick Derek Barnett made a wonderful first impression, registering two sacks and two hurries against the Packers. Perhaps he will make a significant impact to defensive end as a rookie.

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HOLDING THE LINE: Don’t be fooled by the Eagles’ touchdown on their opening drive against the Packers. The offensive line was terrible. The line couldn’t create lanes for the running backs and left Carson Wentz under constant pressure, including on the 38-yard touchdown pass to Mack Hollins that completed the drive.

The Packers may have surprised the Eagles by blitzing more often than is usually done during a preseason, so maybe the Eagles didn’t spend much time on blitz protection. But the first team offensive line seemed to miss blocking assignments, leading to defenders reaching the backfield untouched. Other than Chance Warmack starting at right guard in place of Barrett Brooks (strained ankle), this was the regular starting offensive line.

The offensive line is supposed to be a strength for the Eagles this season. The line’s performance against the Packers may be an ominous sign.

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COWBOY PUNISHMENT: Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension related to allegations of domestic violence is a big blow to the Cowboys’ bid to become the first team to win the NFC East in consecutive seasons since the Eagles ruled the division from 2001-04. Elliott’s absence, unless he appeals, could hurt the Cowboys at the start of the season.

Anything that damages the Cowboys is good news for the Eagles. The bad news is that Elliott will be back before both of the Cowboys’ games with the Eagles.

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SOUL OF A CHAMPION: The Soul will try to defend their Arena Football League championship at ArenaBowl XXX on August 26. The game, against the winner of the semifinal between Tampa Bay and Cleveland, will take place at Wells Fargo Center because the Soul, who reached the title game with a 69-54 victory over Baltimore on Saturday, clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by finishing in first place.

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CHRISTMAS PRESENT: The Sixers’ higher profile is reflected in their appearance in a Christmas game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. From a television perspective, the primary attraction is the Sixers, not the Knicks.

Remember when it was a big deal last season that the Sixers-Rockets game was going to be nationally televised? With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons added to a lineup that already includes Joel Embiid, expect the Sixers to make at least several appearances on national television.

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UNION TROUBLES: Saturday’s 3-0 loss to visiting Montreal left the Union in a precarious position regarding their playoff hopes. With the victory, the Impact jump ahead of the Union (8-11-5) by one point in the Eastern Conference standings. Montreal and Orlando City have 30 points, one more than the Union and New England. Montreal and Orland are six points behind Columbus and Atlanta, which share the final playoff position. Making matters worse for the Union is that Montreal and Atlanta have both played two fewer games than the Union.

With 10 games remaining in the regular season, there is still time for the Union to make up the deficit, but they can’t afford to waste any more opportunities. If the Union are to make a run at a playoff spot, they must improve on the road. Four of their next five games, including Saturday (10:30 p.m.) at San Jose, are on the road, where the Union have only won once this season.

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INK FOR UNION: The Union have never won a playoff game, but the organization is taking a leading role in at least one area. The Union named Bonedaddy’s Tattoo as the team’s Chief Tattoo Officer, which the Union says is the first time a professional sports franchise has created a chief tattoo office. Presumably, Bonedaddy’s Tattoo will provide tattoos for Union players.

Although having an official tattoo shop doesn’t help the Union on the field, this is an interesting idea. Can NBA teams be far behind?

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 29 years, does not have a tattoo.

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