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Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

In his first news conference as Nittany Lions head coach, James Franklin made it clear that he’s committed to Penn State for the long haul. Following Bill O’Brien’s short reign, Franklin is exactly what Penn State needs.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions about our second Eagles-Cowboys week, the Phillies making some noise at the winter meetings and Walter Payton.

The 76ers could be even worse this season than they were last season, when they won 19 games. But are they bad enough to challenge the record for the worst season in NBA history? Eric Fisher provides a preview of their 2014-15 season.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Some years it takes a few weeks before we begin to get answers to my annual 10 questions for Eagles training camp. Some of the questions go unanswered until the regular season.

Not this year.

This year we received the answers to two of the questions before the first full-squad practice.

Question: Will Marcus Smith make the final roster?

Answer: No.

Question: Who will start on the offensive line?

Answer: Although it wasn’t a complete answer, the only position at which there’s any real question about the starter is left guard. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich revealed that 2016 third-round pick Isaac Seumalo is the starter at left guard. Later in the day, after initial reports that Allen Barbre had been released, the Eagles announced that they had traded the 10-year veteran to the Broncos for a conditional 2019 draft pick.

It isn’t hindsight to state that drafting Smith was a mistake. Many objections were raised from practically all directions when the Eagles selected Smith, a defensive end from Louisville, with the 26th overall pick. Most draft previews had Smith as a mid-to-late second-round pick or a third-round pick.

I’ve always believed that when the Eagles – who saw the Saints trade up to No. 20 to select receiver Brandin Cooks and then had the Packers pick safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix at no. 21 – traded down the 22nd pick to the Browns and moved down to 26th, they thought that Auburn defensive end Dee Ford would be available. But the Chiefs, who were expected to pick a player for their offense, surprised most observers by taking Ford at No. 23.

Even with their preferred players gone, the Eagles could have done much better than Smith at No. 26. The Cardinals selected safety Deone Buchanan, who had developed into a terrific linebacker, at No. 27. The Panthers selected receiver Kelvin Benjamin at No. 28. The Broncos nabbed cornerback Bradley Roby at No. 31.

Smith finishes his three-year Eagles career with 24 tackles, four sacks and zero starts. That officially qualifies him as a bust who will go down in Eagles lore as one of the franchise’s worst first-round picks.

Speaking of busts, the Browns used the No. 22 pick to select quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Eagles also received the 83rd overall pick from the Browns. The Eagles subsequently traded that pick to the Texans, who selected Notre Dame tackle Louis Nix, for the 101st and 141st overall picks. The Eagles used those picks to select defensive back Jaylen Watkins and defensive end Taylor Hart, two players they have released and brought back. That’s not much of an overall return for the 22nd overall pick.

The departures of Smith and Barbre answer two of my training camp questions. Only eight more to go.

*****

CONCERN OVER MATTHEWS: Developments surrounding Eagles training camp often get overblown, but there is sufficient reason to be concerned about receiver Jordan Matthews. After being limited during OTAs and mini-camps due to a knee issue, Matthews may also be limited during training camp, according to Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

If Matthews’ knee issue, reportedly tendinitis, still isn’t healed after months of rest, that’s a reason to be concerned. Another possibility is that Matthews is limiting himself due to unhappiness that he hasn’t received a contract extension entering the final year of his rookie deal. The contract explanation would be much better for the Eagles than if his knee truly is limiting his participation.

*****

DISTURBING STUDY: The Boston University study that found a strong connection between playing football and CTE, a degenerative brain condition that includes severe memory loss and depression. The study concludes that the longer you play football, the greater chance of developing CTE. Of the brains of 112 former NFL players studied, 111 showed signs of CTE. That’s a higher rate than those who only played college or high school football.

The authors of the study pointed out that the samples came from families of former players who committed suicide or demonstrated signs of CTE, so the samples weren’t random. But, any way you slice it, the findings are disturbing.

I used to regret not having played football in high school – I went to a small school without a football team – or college, where I declined encouragement to play from a friend on the team after he watched me play intramural football, but studies like this one make me think that maybe I was fortunate I didn’t play football.

*****

FISH STORY: Did people truly expect Michael Phelps to be in the water with a great white shark during their match race? Judging by the reaction to Phelps’ race against a simulated great white shark to kick off Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, apparently many people did.

Let’s use some common sense, people. No matter how much he was paid, Phelps isn’t going to risk his life by getting into the water with one of nature’s fiercest predators. And what about the shark? Did you think the shark would stay stationary until the signal for the start of the race? Did you think the shark would stay in its lane? Or even swim in a straight line?

Discovery Channel shares some of the blame for the way in which it promoted the race, but how could viewers truly believe they were going to see a real race between Phelps and a great white shark?

*****

LONG SHOT: Jordan Spieth’s recovery after a horrendous tee shot on the 13th hole during the final round of the British Open is one of the best in golf history. Spieth hit his shot so far to the right that he had to take an out of bounds penalty and a drop in a practice area behind a television tower and sponsors’ trucks.

Spieth hit an amazing shot from the practice area and escaped the par-4 hole with a remarkable bogey. The great escape seemed to inspire Spieth, who made two birdies and an eagle on the next three holes to regain the lead and take control of the tournament.

*****

KAHNE’S BIG WIN: Kasey Kahne’s victory at the Brickyard 400 last Sunday was his first victory in 102 races, a stretch that lasted nearly three years. The victory virtually assures Kahne a spot in NASCAR’s 16-driver playoff, but it doesn’t assure him of remaining with Hendrick Motorsports.

When asked about Kahne’s future before the race, team owner Rick Hendrick wouldn’t commit to Kahne being in the No. 5 car next year. A strong showing in the playoffs might change Hendrick’s mind.

There are only six opportunities, including Sunday’s Overton’s 400 (3 p.m.) at Pocono Raceway, for drivers to get a victory to propel themselves into the playoffs. Among the drivers without wins are Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., who will be making his final appearance at Pocono before retiring. Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth are also winless this year, but, if the season ended today, they would qualify for the playoffs based on points.

*****

GOLDEN MOMENT: The United States meets Jamaica for the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Wednesday night. This tournament is supposed to be a big deal – MLS teams, including the Union are missing key players who are participating in the tournament – but I don’t sense much excitement for it outside of die-hard soccer fans.

*****

SMITH ENTERING HALL: Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodrigues and Tim Raines will be the headliners Sunday at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., but congratulations should also go to Claire Smith, the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The award, which is presented to a sports writer for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing,” is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association.

Smith, a pioneer as one of the first women to be a beat writer covering a major league team, will also break ground as the first woman to win the Spink Award. Smith covered the Yankees for five seasons for the Hartford Courant and later became a columnist for The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

I once covered a high school basketball game at Simon Gratz High School for The Inquirer with Smith during the NBA strike/lockout, but that was my only interaction with her. What I do know is that everyone I’ve ever spoken to about Smith goes out of their way to say that she’s a wonderful person.

*****

PLAYOFF DATES: The Soul will open the Arena Football League playoffs on Sat., Aug. 12 (4 p.m.) at Wells Fargo Center. The Soul will be the top seed, which means that, if they win their playoff opener, they will host the ArenaBowl on Sat., Aug. 26 (7 p.m.).

*****

WILD, WILD WEST: A belated congratulations goes out to umpire Joe West, who worked the 5,000th game of his major-league career earlier this summer. West’s attitude often rubs people the wrong way, but former umpire Eric Gregg, who I had the privilege of knowing and working with in his post-baseball life, made me see a different side of West. Eric loved working with West, a sentiment I conveyed to West at Eric’s funeral, and told me a story or two that convinced me that West is a stand-up guy. I know Eric would be proud of Cowboy Joe for reaching this incredible milestone.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 29 years, has four fewer career sacks than Marcus Smith.

Heel Turns: Philly is a Battleground

Posted by Achilles Heel On July - 21 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelAfter “Money in the Bank” and “Great Balls of Fire” didn’t match the Greek God of Wrestling’s expectations, he’s a little reluctant to fully endorse “Battleground,” WWE’s next split-brand pay-per-view, which takes place Sunday (7:30 p.m., WWE Network) at Wells Fargo Center.

The main event is a Punjabi Prison match between WWE champion Jinder Mahal and Randy Orton. This stipulation was picked by Mahal, but Achilles Heel thinks Orton has to win this match. First, Orton can’t lose to Mahal yet again. Second, Mahal hasn’t caught on particularly well as champion. In a reason related to the second one, I can’t see Mahal heading into SummerSlam as champion, unless WWE finds a new way to package his feud with Orton.

It will be interesting to see if A.J. Styles retains the United States Championship against former champion Kevin Owens. The loser could move into the WWE Championship picture, depending on whether Orton or Mahal emerges from Battleground as champion. The pick here is for Styles to retain.

The Usos, Jimmy and Jey, will defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against The New Day. A title change is possible, but the Greek God of Wrestling expects this title change to come at SummerSlam.

The five-woman elimination match for the right to challenge for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at SummerSlam could be entertaining. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Natalya are all extremely capable wrestlers. Tamina plays the monster heel role, and Lana plays … I don’t know what role she plays. Perhaps Lana will stay out of the action and then try to pin opponents after they’ve been the recipients of big moves by other wrestlers. But an elimination match leaves no room for a fluke victory by Lana. Becky Lynch is my choice to win, but Charlotte and Natalya are certainly legitimate possibilities, with Tamina as a long shot.

We’ve gone pretty far down the card without mentioning the return to pay-per-view of both John Cena and Rusev, who will meet in a flag match. Achilles Heel envisions a Rusev victory, with Rusev moving into title contention for either the United States or WWE Championship. Cena won’t be hurt by a loss in a flag match if the ending is handled well.

Philadelphia will gets its first live look at Shinsuke Nakamura in a WWE ring. Nakamura battles Baron Corbin in what should be an interesting match.

The card is rounded out by Sami Zayn squaring off with Mike Kanellis and a pre-show match between Tye Dillinger and Aiden English. The also will supposedly be some sort of closure to the Breezango case. The payoff for the Breezango had better be worth all of the awful skits fans had to sit through on Smackdown and at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view.

One of the positives of Battleground is that there is uncertainty in the outcome of most of the matches. This creates more drama, which should enhance the atmosphere. After the past two split-brand pay-per-views failed to reach their potential, however, the Greek God of Wrestling isn’t giving an all-out endorsement for Battleground.

*****

TICKETS AVAILABLE: As of Thursday, there were tickets available for Battleground, particularly in the higher price range.

*****

RUMBLE TICKETS: Tickets for next year’s Royal Rumble in Philadelphia go on sale on Sat., July 29, but Achilles Heel has a suspicion that Rumble tickets may be available at the Wells Fargo Center box office during or after Battleground.

*****

WWE IN REGION: If you can’t get to Battleground on Sunday night, perhaps you can catch WWE on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ) at the Wildwood Convention Center. There also will be a Smackdown house show on Monday at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del. Earlier (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) on Monday, Dolph Ziggler will be at the Xfinity Store by Comcast in King of Prussia to sign autographs and pose for photos.

*****

CHIKARA POWER: CHIKARA presents an “Hour of Power” show on Sunday (4 p.m.) at The Wrestle Factory in Philadelphia. Matches included Hermit Crab vs. Razerhawk, Delmi Eko vs. Race Jaxon, and the Rumblebees vs. the Force. You can also watch the show by signing up for CHIKARA’s live streaming service.

You could go to The Wrestle Factory before Battleground and make it a wrestling doubleheader. Hour of Power will be followed on Aug. 5 by Chikarasaurus Rex: Flesh and Stone. Johnny Kidd Invitational winner Rory Gulak against CHIKARA grand champion Juan Francisco de Coronado headlines the card.

*****

JORDAN ELEVATED: The surprising revelation that Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son, ending the storyline in which Angle and broadcaster Corey Graves were receiving texts about Angle, has some intriguing implications.

The move of Jordan to Raw breaks up American Alpha, a terrific young team that won the Smackdown Tag Team Championship earlier this year but hadn’t been very active lately. This leaves Chad Gable as a singles wrestler, a role he has filled recently on Smackdown. As for Jordan, this storyline certainly elevates his profile. He will likely be a featured singles wrestler, a role we haven’t seen him in very often.

This storyline and the move of Jordan to Raw also opens the door for Angle’s return to the ring. An attack on Jordan would be a personal attack to Angle. The Greek God of Wrestling envisions Angle teaming up with Jordan and then eventually having a singles match or two. Could they stretch this story out so Angle could have a match at WrestleMania next year?

*****

TURN THE PAIGE: The latest development in the domestic violence incident involving Alberto Del Rio (Alberto El Patron) and Paige at the Orlando airport is that Paige is being investigated for a potential domestic battery charge. Achilles Heel thinks it’s obvious that the Alberto-Paige relationship is not a healthy one. Two of Paige’s brothers posted their concern for her on social media, talking about Alberto being controlling. If they won’t get counseling on their own, their friends need to intervene and convince them to get help or convince Paige to get out of the relationship before there is further physical or emotional abuse.

*****

NO IMPACT: Global Force Wrestling’s suspension of Alberto El Patron for the domestic violence incident came after weeks of taping for Impact Wrestling was completed, so the suspension does not affect the on-air product. For those who wanted GFW to edit El Patron out of the show, this past Thursday’s Impact Wrestling made it obvious why that wasn’t possible. The main angle of the show was LAX trying to convince El Patron to become a member of their group.

*****

SHANE SAFE: For those who missed it, Shane McMahon was a passenger in a helicopter that had to make an emergency landing in the water near Long Island. Fortunately, Shane and the pilot were not seriously injured – or worse. All of the crazy stunts Shane has done in his career, including getting thrown off the top of Hell in Cell through a table, pale in comparison to the fear that must have come from the crash landing of a helicopter into the water.

*****

CHANCE OF A LIFETIME: Legendary CZW champion Masada will challenge Shane Strickland for the Combat Zone Wrestling Heavyweight Championship at “Once in a Lifetime” on Sat., Aug. 5 (7:30 p.m.) at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. Strickland captured the title in a four-way match with Lio Rush, Joe Gacy and defending champion Davey Richards at Evilution on July 8.

Atsushi Onita battles Father Matthew Tremont in what is certain to be a physical confrontation. Rush, who is headed to WWE, will battle Joey Janela in what is likely his final match in CZW. There will also be a meet-and-greet session with Onita from 4-6 p.m. The session costs $40 and is first-come, first-served.

*****

McINTYRE VS. ROODE: Drew McIntyre defeated Killian Dain to earn a shot at the NXT Championship against Bobby Roode at NXT: Takeover the night before SummerSlam. Roode has been an outstanding NXT champion, just as he was when he was TNA world champion. McIntyre also was a terrific TNA champion and has been good since he’s returned to WWE/NXT. McIntyre vs. Roode is an excellent marquee feud for NXT.

*****

GULAK EXCELS: For those who have been waiting for Drew Gulak to demonstrate the talent he’s shown on the independent circuit in WWE, check out Gulak’s 2-out-of-3-falls match against Mustafa Ali on 205 Live. Given the time and a storyline, Gulak can put together a tremendous match.

*****

STROWMAN INTERRUPTS: The Greek God of Wrestling is usually annoyed when a terrific match ends with outside interference and a non-decisive conclusion, but Braun Strowman’s interference in Raw’s main event between Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns last week made perfect sense. Strowman’s anger at Reigns after the ambulance incident is certainly understandable. Joe’s attack on Strowman for interrupting his opportunity to get a rematch with Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam is also understandable.

Furthermore, the injection of Strowman into this storyline makes it even more interesting. Who will be Lesnar’s opponent at SummerSlam? Could it be a triple threat or fatal four-way match? We’ll find out during the coming weeks.

*****

DIJAK TO WWE: In a move that should not be surprising to anyone, Donovan Dijak is heading to WWE. Achilles Heel identified Dijak as future WWE material shortly after he started in Ring of Honor. Dijak has the six (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) and agility to be a potential star in WWE. The only question is whether he goes to NXT first or makes his debut on Raw or Smackdown.

 

Pirates' Jose Osuna throws out 3 Phillies