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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

The Greek God of Wrestling previews WWE’s Elimination Chamber, including speculation about a surprising development. Achilles Heel also tells you how NXT warmed up its fans at the Tower Theater, how Shaquille O’Neal may get involved in WrestleMania, and how far you’ll have to travel to see CHIKARA’s King of Trios.

Nick Foles keeps saying he’s going to clean up his mistakes. But his actions haven’t backed up his words. As Eric Fisher “discovers,” this isn’t a new problem for Foles.

Rhys Hoskins (pictured) certainly appears to be a foundation for the Phillies’ future, but who else cemented his place as part of the Phillies’ future? In the final Phillies Notebook of the season, Eric Fisher examines what we learned about the Phillies’ future from the 2016 season.

Archive for August, 2018

Eagles-Jets: Battling until the end

Posted by Eric Fisher On August - 29 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

It would be incorrect to call Thursday night’s preseason finale (7 p.m.) between the Eagles and Jets a dress rehearsal. That would imply a resemblance to a real game between these teams.

Instead, starters will be few and far between when the Eagles (3-0) and Jets square off at Lincoln Financial Field.

That means the Eagles’ first-team offense will finish the preseason without a point. It means quarterback Nick Foles hasn’t had a half-decent game yet – and I’m being kind. It means Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Brandon Graham and Nelson Agholor won’t take a snap during preseason.

As has been stressed throughout the preseason, that doesn’t mean that Thursday’s game is meaningless. Here are 10 questions to consider before and during Thursday night’s preseason finale.

Are the Eagles ready for the regular season?

Ultimately, this is the most important question.  And we won’t receive an answer this Thursday. The Eagles only have one week between the Jets game and their season opener against the Falcons. The Falcons game is when we’ll find out the answer to this question.

Does it matter if the Eagles lose to the Jets?

No team wants to finish the preseason without a victory, but, coming off a Super Bowl victory, it’s not exactly as if the Eagles need a victory to confirm that they’re a good team.

Who will play quarterback for the Eagles?

We know it won’t be Nick Foles or Carson Wentz. The question is whether third-stringer Nate Sudfeld will play at all. If Wentz isn’t sufficiently recovered from his knee injury to start the season, Sudfeld will be Foles’ backup. We should see Joe Callahan and Christian Hackenberg at quarterback.

Can Christian Hackenberg make the team?

No. Not unless they can move him to the practice squad without any team claiming him. But Thursday’s game is a huge opportunity for Hackenberg to demonstrate that he belongs in the NFL. He may have a little extra inspiration against the Jets, the team that traded him to the Raiders two years after drafting him out of Penn State in the second round.

Who will claim the final running back spot on the roster?

Head coach Doug Pederson said that undrafted rookie Josh Adams will receive plenty of playing time on Thursday. Adams, who has looked good in the two preseason games in which he’s played, is competing with former draft picks Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey to be the final running back on the roster. Thursday will be Pumphrey’s first game this preseason. Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement fill the first three roster spots at running back.

Who will earn a roster spot at wide receiver?

This situation is complicated by the uncertainty over the health of Alshon Jeffery and Mack Hollins. An ESPN report says that Jeffery, who had offseason shoulder surgery, will mist the first game or two of the regular season. The fact that Hollins hasn’t played during the preseason raise questions about his availability at the start of the season. Nelson Agholor just started practicing this week and is expected to be ready for the Falcons game, but nothing is certain. Veteran Mike Wallace, signed as a free agent, will make the roster despite doing very little during the preseason. On the other hand, second-year receiver Shelton Gibson has had an outstanding preseason. The injury situation creates the possibility of one or two other receivers making the team – at least for the first few weeks. DeAndre Carter has been playing very well. Also keep an eye on Rashard Davis and Kamar Aiken. Greg Ward hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities, and Bryce Treggs and Markus Wheaton have had difficulty getting on the field.

Who won’t play at linebacker?

Yes, you read that correctly. The starter likely won’t play, so if we don’t see either Kamu Grugier-Hill or Nathan Gerry, you’ll know that player has earned a starting role.

Who will make the team as a backup defensive tackle?

This battle is between Destiny Vaeao, who likely will make the team, former 6th-round draft choice Elijah Smalls and unheralded Bruce Hector. Winston Craig and Aziz Shittue are also in the mix, but there might only be two spots available behind Fletcher Cox and Haloti Ngata.

Which offensive linemen will make a good impression?

It will be interesting to see if Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has had a terrible preseason filling in at left tackle for Jason Peters, will play against the Jets. But Vaitai’s position on the roster is secure. Less secure is Isaac Seumalo and guard Chance Warmack. Draft picks Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata are pushing for spots on the roster, as is Toby Weathersby. Taylor Hart could be playing for his job on Thursday.

Is this the last preseason preview of the year?

Yes. Thank goodness.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On August - 26 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

It isn’t difficult to keep the faith when your team ended the previous season by winning the Super Bowl. But the Eagles certainly are testing fans’ faith this preseason.

The Eagles are 0-3. Records aren’t important during the preseason. What’s important is how the team plays.

The Eagles offense, particularly the first team, has been awful. How awful? They don’t have any points in 14 possessions. They’ve given up a safety and a fumble return for a touchdown, so the first-team offense is minus-9 for the preseason.

There is, of course, a huge asterisk next to the first team statistics. Starting quarterback Carson Wentz hasn’t played while he continues to recover from knee surgery. Receiver Alshon Jeffery hasn’t played after undergoing shoulder surgery. Receiver Nelson Agholor, who had a breakout season last year, returned to practice Sunday, but hasn’t played in a preseason game. Left tackle Jason Peters and running back Darren Sproles, both veterans recovering from season-ending injuries, haven’t played during the preseason. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement have missed games.

But those injuries should be considered extenuating circumstances rather than excuses. The Eagles didn’t have Peters and Sproles for most of last season. They didn’t have Wentz on the field for the final three games of the regular season and the entire playoffs. And they still won the Super Bowl.

Nick Foles, who emerged as a hero and was named Super Bowl MVP, hasn’t found a rhythm during his two preseason starts. He’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate, racking up three turnovers during the first half of Thursday’s 5-0 loss to the Browns. Even during the preseason, a loss to the Browns is worse than losses to the Steelers and Patriots, the Eagles’ first two preseason opponents.

To be fair to Foles, one reason he can’t get into a rhythm is he’s been sacked a lot. As good as Halapoulivaati Vaitai was while filling in for Peters last season, he’s been awful frighteningly bad during the past two preseason games. Another reason Foles hasn’t been able to find a rhythm is that he’s missing three of his top receivers, with Mack Hollins joining Agholor and Jeffery on the sidelines. But Foles would be the first to tell you that most of his struggles are his own responsibility.

The starting quarterback for the season opener will either be Wentz, who hasn’t played since Dec. 10, 2017, or Foles, who has struggled mightily throughout the preseason. Peters and Sproles will have a lot of rust to shake off. Agholor will likely have some rust. It’s uncertain if Jeffery will be ready for the season opener.

The Eagles are counting on a lot of things to go right for their offense when the regular season begins. The Super Bowl provides fans with a reason to trust the Eagles – no matter how hard their preseason performance is making it to keep the faith.

*****

FAKE NEWS? Two headlines on the Eagles’ Web site caught my eye for the wrong reason. The headline for Tommy Lawlor’s most recent article is “Lawlor: Positive Answers to Preseason Questions.” The headline for one of Dave Spadaro’s recent columns is “All in All, Eagles Having Thumbs-Up Preseason.”

I know the Eagles’ Web site is going to be favorable to the home team, but, given that the Eagles are 0-3 and their first-team offense has been horrendous, those headlines, which don’t misrepresent the content of the articles, are ridiculous.

*****

COLLEGE KICKS OFF: A reliable sign that summer is ending is the start of college football season. Our local season kicks off Thursday (7 p.m.) with Delaware hosting Rhode Island. Temple hosts Villanova on Saturday (noon) at Lincoln Financial Field, and then 10th-ranked Penn State hosts Appalachian State later (3:30 p.m.) that afternoon. Penn fans have to wait until mid-September to see the Quakers play.

*****

URBAN RENEWAL: The three-game suspension that Urban Meyer received for, at best, ignoring the alleged domestic abuse and misbehavior by assistant coach Zach Smith is a slap on the wrist. The lack of any disciplinary action, or even a serious investigation, into Smith’s actions at the behest of Meyer, who was allegedly aware of abuse allegations by Smith’s wife, is inexcusable. Smith was fired this past offseason, but that was long after the Meyer was supposedly made aware of the allegations.

This moment of shame is nothing new for Ohio State, which looked the other way during Jim Tressel’s transgressions and Maurice Clarett’s farcical freshman year, during which he helped the Buckeyes win a national championship while allegedly failing to attend most of his classes. After winning the national championship, the Buckeyes dismissed Clarrett from the team (and the university) for several reasons, including filing a false police report. (Clarett was arrested several times after being dismissed from Ohio State, including once for armed robbery and once for possession of several guns, including an AK-47, after leading police on a car chase. He was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, although he was granted early release.

The point is that scandal is par for the course at Ohio State, as is a willingness to look the other way and, when the problem can’t be ignored. The punishment for Meyer is almost as scandalous as the head coach ignoring reports of Smith’s behavior.

*****

CAUSE FOR CONCERN: Sean Couturier sustained an injury to his right knee at a charity hockey game in Quebec on Aug. 10. He is expected to miss most of the preseason.

Having Couturier, the runner-up for the Selke Award as the NHL’s best defensive forward, be less than 100 percent entering the regular season is an obvious concern. Couturier set career highs with 31 goals and 45 assists last season. He took important face-offs in the Flyers’ defensive zone, played on the first power play and penalty-killing units, and provided leadership, as was evident by Couturier being the Flyers’ best player in the series finale against the Penguins despite having a torn MCL.

General manager Ron Hextall says the latest injury is not related to Couturier’s knee injury sustained during practice during the Penguins series. Flyers fans certainly don’t want the team’s best two-way forward favoring his knee as the season begins.

                               *****                               

CHINA TRIP: The 76ers are going to China. The Sixers will play the Mavericks in a pair of preseason games on Oct. 5 and 8 in Shanghai and Shenzhen, respectively.

*****

UNION ON THE MOVE: The Union are riding a four-game winning streak into Wednesday’s game at D.C. United. Saturday’s 1-0 win over New England, their second win over the Revolution in their last three games, gives the Union (11-11-3) a 7-point cushion over the Revolution in the battle for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Union are three points ahead of Montreal, which sits in sixth place.

D.C. United (7-10-6) is two points behind New England, but has two games in hand on the Revolution and Union and four on Montreal. D.C. United has lost only one game at home this season. Their problem is they’ve only won one game on the road.

*****

DOWN TO THE WIRE: With two races remaining before NASCAR’s playoffs begin, it appears that the playoff field is set unless a driver currently out of the playoffs notches a victory in Richmond on Sunday or the following weekend at the Brickyard in Indianapolis.

The gap between Alex Bowman, holding down the 16th and final playoff berth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 79 points. That’s too big of a gap to make up. The only way Stenhouse, Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray or anyone else in the top 30 to crack the playoff lineup is to win the Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Sunday) or the Big Machine Vodka 400 (Sept. 9).

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 30 years, has thrown as many touchdown passes as Nick Foles this preseason, but has yet to throw an interception or lose a fumble.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie