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Consecutive home runs for Phillies during 8th inning Sunday

Flyers stick with defense in first round of NHL Draft, selecting Travis Sanheim with 17th overall pick. But Sanheim needs to adjust his “favorites” list to avoid wrath of Flyers fans.

It’s time for end-of-the-year fantasy awards. After handing out some hardware and selecting his All-NFL Fantasy Team, Jacob Fischer recaps Thursday’s top fantasy performers, implies that Aaron Rodgers will have a big game against the Bucs and suggests a lineup for Sunday.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column on a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on the importance of the offensive line, a potential flaw in Sixers GM Sam Hinkie’s strategy and the wonderful finish to baseball’s regular season.

Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Eagles need to be right

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 23 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2Why is the NFL Draft such a big deal? Because it can be a franchise-changing event.

To mix our sports analogies, you can’t hit a home run every time. Sometimes you have to make the best of what’s available to you, and punch a single to the opposite field. But when there is a hanging curve over the center of the plate, you can’t afford to miss.

Unfortunately, the Eagles have missed quite a bit.

In 2010, the Eagles traded up to No. 13, where they selected Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham. At No. 14, the Seahawks selected Texas safety Earl Thomas, ranked as the second-best 14th pick of the last 50 years on the PhillyPhanatics.com Top 10 list.

No. 14, of course, is where the Eagles are slated to pick Thursday night as the NFL Draft commences at the base of the famous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They have drafted 14th four times during the past 50 years. The results are mixed, with linebacker Tim Rossovich (1968) being a good pick, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (2006) being a mediocre pick (there wasn’t a lot to choose from that year), and offensive tackle Bernard Williams (1994) and quarterback John Reeves (1972) being poor selections.

It’s not a secret that the Eagles are in the market for a cornerback. It’s also not a secret that this year’s draft is incredibly deep at cornerback. Can you imagine if the Eagles draft the equivalent of Darrelle Revis, whom the Jets selected 14th in 2007?

The question is which cornerback in this year’s draft will become, if not the second coming of Revis, at least an elite NFL cornerback. Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, USC’s Adoree Jackson, LSU’s Tre’Davious White, Washington’s Kevin King and Florida’s Quincy Wilson all could be drafted in the first round. One or two of these cornerbacks, and possibly three, may be gone by the time the Eagles make their pick.

The Eagles must identify which of these cornerbacks has the skills to work the best in their defensive system. If a player who fits is available, they should grab him.

The Eagles should not outsmart themselves and trade down, as they did in 2014, moving down from No. 20 to No. 26 and ending up with linebacker/defensive end Marcus Smith. Even at No. 26, they would have done better by selecting linebacker/safety Deonne Bucannon (No. 27 to Cardinals), receiver Kelvin Benjamin (No. 28 to Panthers) or cornerback Bradley Roby (No. 31 to Broncos).

Trading down in the first round and picking the best of the remaining cornerbacks would demonstrate the Eagles’ lack of confidence in their own ability to select the correct cornerback. Then again, after deciding that 2015 second-round pick Eric Rowe didn’t fit their scheme and trading him last year to the Patriots, where he played a significant percentage of snaps for the Super Bowl champions, perhaps there’s a good reason not to trust the Eagles’ judgment.

Using two of the drafts cited earlier, 2010 and 2014, imagine how much better the Eagles defense would be with the Thomas and Bucannon, the two players selected immediately after Graham and Smith. If the Eagles were firm about selecting a defensive end in 2010, Jason Pierre-Paul, scooped up by the Giants at No. 15, would have been a better choice than Graham.

To make the 2010 trade to get Graham look even worse, in hindsight, the Broncos flipped the 24th pick and ended up with the 22nd pick, where they selected receiver Demaryius Thomas. Who went 24th? Receiver Dez Bryant was selected 24th overall by the Cowboys. One of the third-round picks the Eagles sent to the Broncos was used for receiver Eric Decker – one pick after the Eagles selected defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.

Would you rather have Graham and Te’o-Nesheim or Bryant and Decker? Or Thomas and Decker? Or Pierre-Paul and Decker? This demonstrates how one draft can alter a franchise’s fortunes.

If we go a little further back in Eagles history, they traded up from No. 31 to No. 15 in 2003 to select defensive end Jerome McDougle, one spot before the Steelers selected safety Troy Polamalu. In 1996, the Eagles selected guard Jermane Mayberry at No. 25, one spot before the Ravens selected linebacker Ray Lewis.

The missed opportunities don’t only plague the Eagles. In the 1985 NFL Draft, the Cheifs selected tight end Ethan Horton at No. 15, one pick before the 49ers selected Jerry Rice. The Eagles selected offensive tackle Kevin Allen, a huge bust, at No. 9. Imagine how the Eagles’ fortunes might have been different if they had selected Jerry Rice to line up opposite Mike Quick, an outstanding pick at No. 20 in 1982.

How important is it to make the right pick? In 2005, the Packers drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers at No. 24, one pick before the Redskins selected quarter Jason Campbell. Imagine how the fortunes of those franchises might have been different if the Packers had selected Campbell and the Redskins took Rodgers.

Let’s go way back in Eagles history to hammer home this point. In the 1969 Draft, the Eagles selected running back Leroy Keyes at No. 3, one spot before the Steelers chose future Hall of Fame defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene.

The Keyes-instead-of-Greene draft was a franchise-altering mistake, as were the 2010 and, arguably, the 2014 first-round trades and selections. The Eagles can’t afford a similar mistake in Thursday’s first round.

A draft this deep in quality defensive players presents the opportunity for a home run.

The Eagles can’t afford to swing and miss.

Heel Turns: The remarkable rise of The Miz

Posted by Achilles Heel On April - 22 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Achilles HeelLike a good professional wrestler, Heel Turns is always evolving. Heel Turns has been the best wrestling column on the Internet from the day the Greek God of Wrestling started it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better.

If you don’t keep moving forward, you’re going to become stale, so this week introduces a new twist to Heel Turns. On weeks when there isn’t a major event or issue, Achilles Heel will offer an evaluation of a specific wrestler. The first wrestler to find himself under the microscope is …. The Miz!

I picked The Miz as my first subject because I hated him. I don’t mean that I disliked him personally. I hated his character. But, as noted in the previous edition of Heel Turns, Miz has raised his game during the past year as much as anyone in WWE, resurrecting a career that seemed to have peaked with his successful WWE Championship defense against John Cena at WrestleMania XXVII.

Why did the Greek God of Wrestling detest Miz when he started? Because he was awful. As the host of Smackdown and then the host of the Diva Search competition, Miz was terrible. He had a bad haircut and stumbled over his lines. He had heat from the crowd, but not the good kind of heat. He had “go away” heat.

The Greek God of Wrestling felt the same way. Part of the reason for that feeling was that Miz hadn’t paid his dues. He was a reality TV star, first on MTV’s “The Real World,” and then on WWE’s “Tough Enough.” Miz was the runner-up to Daniel Puder on Tough Enough, but someone at WWE was, in hindsight, smart enough to sign Miz. Fans enamored with Puder, a legitimate tough guy, would have laughed at the suggestion that Miz would be a much better professional wrestler than Puder.

Miz became accustomed to being laughed at and disrespected. As I said, even though he spent time at Deep South Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, there was the feeling that Miz got rushed to WWE long before he was ready.

Miz finally found success in a tag team with John Morrison. With Morrison carrying most of the action in the ring, but Miz doing more than simply being along for the ride, M&M were very successful for several years, winning the WWE tag team titles.

When Miz and Morrison split up, with Miz turning on Morrison, it was assumed that Morrison would be the bigger star. Wrong again. Miz won the tag team titles with Big Show and later won a Money in the Bank ladder match, a contract he cashed in against Randy Orton on Nov. 22, 2010, winning the WWE Championship from Orton after he had successfully defended the title against Wade Barrett.

Among Miz’s successful title defenses was one against Morrison. His title reign culminated in the WrestleMania victory over Cena, which was aided by interference from The Rock.

Memorable moments were few and far between for Miz after losing the title to Cena. He was terrific as Daniel Bryan’s “mentor” on the NXT Rookies show, infuriating “smart” fans who blanched at the idea of independent sensation Bryan Danielson, as he was known before coming to WWE, having the less-talented Miz as his mentor. He also won a few titles, but he was languishing until finding his movie star persona, which included Damien Sandow acting as his stunt double in a humorous angle.

Miz really hit his stride a little more than a year ago when Maryse, his real-life wife, returned and helped him win the Intercontinental Championship, ending Zack Ryder’s championship reign after one day. This began Miz’s rise back to prominence.

With Maryse at his side, Miz made “Miz TV” one of the better interview segments in WWE’s recent history. His in-ring performance also has improved. He had a series of terrific Intercontinental Championship matches with Dolph Ziggler.

Miz always had the attitude, but now he can back it up. As I wrote last week, getting Miz during the Superstar Shakeup was one of the best acquisitions for Raw.

At this point in his career, the surprise would be if Miz failed to become one of Raw’s top heels, not the other way around.

Miz has come a long way since he was an inexperienced, obnoxious punk kid who earned the ire of many people, including the Greek God of Wrestling, as a wrestler pushed onto the big stage before he was ready. Miz’s persistence and determination pushed him past the obstacles and made him a big star. He worked extremely hard to reach this level, and he deserves everything he has because he’s earned it.

And don’t be surprised if Miz hasn’t reached his ceiling. He may have another world championship in his future.

*****

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU: Impact Wrestling (formerly known as TNA) has merged with Global Force Wrestling (GFW), both in storyline and in “real life.” In the storyline, Karen Jarrett, co-owner of GFW with husband Jeff Jarrett, announced the merger. Achilles Heel is OK with Karen Jarrett making this announcement, but, as he’s stated in the past, he’s not a fan of Jarrett being a part of ongoing storylines.

This brings GFW champions to Impact Wrestling, which sets up obvious champion vs. champion matches. That’s a good storyline, although the company vs. company storyline should go away by the end of the summer if the promotion is to move forward.

*****

WRONG FOCUS: For the second straight edition of Heel Turns, the Greek God of Wrestling is going to take Impact Wrestling to task for highlighting a feud between broadcasters instead of its wrestlers. Impact featured Rosemary successfully defending the Knockouts Championship against ODB, Bobby Lashley defending the Impact World Heavyweight Championship against James Storm (with interference by Ethan Carter III) and a returning Low Ki winning the X Division Championship in a high-energy match, but the focus at the end of the show was on the broadcasters. Seriously.

Moments after Low Ki’s triumphant return, the spotlight shifted to broadcasters Jeremy Borash and Josh Mathews, whose team lost a “loser has to leave the broadcast booth” – or something like that – match the previous week to Team Borash. Mathews and Borash argued, with Borash knocking him out to end the show. The climax of the show should have Low Ki winning the X Division title in his return, not one broadcaster punching another..

*****

TOUGH BREAK: The Revival’s impressive start in WWE came to a screeching halt when Dash Wilder broke his jaw during an NXT house show match. It’s a shame for Wilder and Scott Dawson that as soon as they got to WWE, their tag team is sidelined. But this “old school” team should be ready to make an impact this summer.

*****

BLAST FROM PAST: Braun Strowman’s superplex of Big Show from the corner ropes, breaking the ring, was reminiscent of Brock Lesnar and Big Show breaking the ring on June 12, 2003, with a superplex from the corner. The ring collapsing was an awesome sight both times.

By the way, Strowman has been involved in memorable segments involving feats of strength several times this month. He is carving out his reputation as WWE’s resident monster.

*****

TANAHASHI JOINS WAR: Legendary Japanese wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi is the latest name to be added to the War of the Worlds Tour, which stops at 2300 Arena on Sun., May 14. No matches have been announced yet, but the event, a joint promotion between Ring of Honor and New Japan Professional Wrestling, is nearly sold out. As of Saturday (April 22), only one section wasn’t sold out.

*****

MIDWEST SWING: Prior to the War of the Worlds Tour, Ring of Honor makes Midwest stops next weekend in Milwaukee and Hopkins, Minn., for “Unauthorized” and “Masters of the Craft,” respectively.

*****

PAYBACK TAKES SHAPE: The card for WWE’s “Payback” on April 30 on WWE Network seems set, but the event is a little unfocused. In Achilles Heel’s eyes, the card is unfocused. There isn’t a hierarchy of matches.

The top two titles on the line are the WWE Championship held by Randy Orton and the United States Championship held by Kevin Owens. Those are both Smackdown titles, yet Payback is supposed to be a Raw premier event. The challengers – Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship and Chris Jericho for the United States Championship – are both from Raw, but that doesn’t completely negate the Smackdown presence.

But are the Smackdown title matches the main events or are the matches between Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman, and Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe the main events? There also will be Raw title defenses, with Bayley defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Alexa Bliss, and Matt and Jeff Hardy defending the Raw Tag Team Championship against Sheamus and Cesaro. Neville will defend the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Austin Aries in a rematch from WrestleMania 33.

The Greek God of Wrestling will have a complete preview of Payback in the next edition of Heel Turns.

*****

NEW IDENTITY: Last week I speculated that The Shining Stars may get a chance to shine on Smackdown. It appears they will get that opportunity.

The Shining Stars were presented as Primo and Epico Colon, playing off their wrestling heritage as part of the famous Puerto Rican Colon family rather than as stereotypes. The Colons were praised for their wrestling, and they backed it up with a win over former Smackdown tag team champions American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan).

 

Eagles fans boo selection of Donovan McNabb