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

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Find out by taking the Philly fans quiz.

The Greek god of wrestling isn’t pleased with WWE’s effort to build and promote Survivor Series. Achilles Heel also identifies TNA’s new television home, lauds Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore show in Philly and lists matches for CHIKARA’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” show on Dec. 6 and CZW’s Cage of Death XVI show on Dec. 13.

Sunday’s Royal Rumble at Wells Fargo Center will take place exactly 11 years after the only other Royal Rumble in Philadelphia. The 2004 Royal Rumble is one of the best in history, but it has largely been forgotten. Achilles Heel brings the 2004 Royal Rumble back to life with a detailed recap.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ 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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 13 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

The left ankle injury sustained by Markelle Fultz during the 76ers’ first game in the Las Vegas Summer League serves as a reminder that the Sixers’ future is built upon a fragile foundation.

Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, appears to be all right. He is expected to resume basketball activities within one or two weeks. Only an alarmist would point out that Fultz missed six of the final eight games of Washington’s season with a knee injury.

Until proven otherwise, though, Fultz isn’t the fragile piece of the foundation. The most fragile piece is center Joel Embiid, who sat out his first two NBA seasons with injuries before playing 31 games last season. Embiid is the most important piece of the Sixers’ future plans. A recurrence of the foot injury that sidelined him for two seasons or the knee injury that sidelined him for the latter stages of last season would likely delay the Sixers’ timetable for being a contending team.

The other foundation piece who can be labeled as fragile is Ben Simmons. The first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Simmons missed all of last season after breaking a bone in his foot at the end of training camp. A foot injury for a large man, a category Embiid also fits into, is always a concern. Until Simmons plays some NBA games, his health will be a question mark.

Two of the Sixers’ most important pieces in their future plans have health concerns. It’s premature to place Fultz in that category, but one more injury this year would move him closer to that designation.

The Sixers have enough supporting players that, even if Simmons or Embiid misses significant time due to an injury, they shouldn’t be a bad team. At least not by the standards of the past few years.

This is no longer a team with a D-league roster. The signing of guard J.J. Redick and forward Amir Johnson, along with the continued development of Dario Saric and Robert Covington, make the Sixers a legitimate team.

But their development into a contending team would be seriously affected if their young foundation players remain plagued by injuries.

The Sixers’ future may appear bright, but that bright future is built upon a fragile foundation.

*****

BOYS OF SUMMER: The results of summer league games aren’t important, so there’s no need to fret about the Sixers winning just once in the Utah Jazz Summer League and once, so far, in the Las Vegas Summer League. Sixers fans should feel good about the apparent improvement of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and the performance of Turkish shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz. The competition during the summer leagues isn’t close to what these guys will face during the NBA regular season, but their performances certainly suggest that both Korkmaz and Luwawu-Cabarrot may be able to make significant contributions in the future.

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(SOCIAL) MEDIA ISSUES: He’s not quite President Trump, but someone in the Sixers organization needs to tell Joel Embiid to curtail his social media activity. I know this isn’t a popular idea. Fans and media members love Embiid’s entertaining tweets and posts, but he’s gotten himself into a little hot water twice in recent weeks.

First, the NBA fined Embiid $10,000 after an Instagram live video he posted included a profanity-laced remark directed at LaVar Ball, the father of No. 2 overall draft pick Lonzo Ball. Although not as serious an infraction, Embiid took umbrage with an ESPN graphic about the number of games played by top draft picks of the Sixers. Embiid appeared to misunderstand that the graphic showed the number of games that they played during their rookie seasons, although Embiid’s 31 games in three seasons doesn’t exactly negate the point highlighted by the graphic.

I’m glad Embiid is having fun and that so many people enjoy his engaging personality. But he needs to dial back the social media activity before he gets himself in more trouble.

*****

FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT: The Flyers’ recent development camp highlights the number of prospects the organization has. The depth at goalie is obvious, with prospects Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom at the top of the list. The Flyers seem more excited about this duo being part of their future than about goalies a few years older, such as Anthony Stolarz.

The defenseman pipeline continues to churn out players, with Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers seemingly ready to join Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg as contenders for roster spots with the Flyers this season. And, although they’re young, the Flyers might finally have some legitimate future NHL starters on the wings. We could see former fifth-round pick Oskar Linblom in orange and black as soon as this fall.

*****

CAMP COUNTDOWN: Speaking of camps, the media-driven monstrosity known as Eagles training camp kicks off on July 23.

*****

TOURNAMENT FOR THE AGES: A couple of older stars are making at impact at Wimbledon. Venus Williams, a five-time Wimbledon champion, will be making her first appearance in a Wimbledon final since 2009 when she battles Garbine Muguruza for the crown on Saturday (9 a.m.). Williams, 37, hasn’t won a grand slam title since 2008, when she won her fifth Wimbledon title.

In the men’s draw, the only remaining member of the Big Four still standing after the quarterfinals is 35-year-old Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal lost in the fourth round, Andy Murray lost in the quarterfinals and Novak Djokovic withdrew from his quarterfinal match with an elbow injury. All of a sudden, Federer, who ended a major championship drought by winning the Australian Open earlier this year, is in contention for his 19th major tournament title. The 3rd-seeded Federer, who breezed past 6th-seeded Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (4), will face 11th-seeded Tomas Berdych in Friday’s semifinal.

*****

MADE IN AMERICA: The most surprising name in still alive in the men’s draw at Wimbledon is American Sam Querrey. The 24th-seeded Querrey upset top-seeded Andy Murray, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1, to reach the semifinals, where he will face 7th-seeded Marin Cilic, a 3-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 winner over Gilles Muller in the quarterfinals. Querrey’s last three wins have come in five sets, so, even with a day off between matches, his stamina will be tested against Cilic.

*****

LET FREEDOMS RING: The Philadelphia Freedoms kick off their World Team Tennis season Sunday (5 p.m.) on the road against the New York Empire. The Freedoms’ home opener will be Monday (7 p.m.) against the Empire. All home matches this season will be Hagan Arena on the Saint Joseph’s campus.

Two big names are scheduled to play in Hagan Arena on back-to-back days, with Venus Williams joining the Washington Kastles to face the Freedoms on Mon., July 24, and Andy Roddick joining the Freedoms the next night to battle the Empire.

*****

TOCCHET GETS HIS CHANCE: It’s good to see Rick Tocchet, who started and finished his playing career with the Flyers, get another opportunity to be a head coach. Tocchet, who coached the Lightning in 2008-09 and 2009-10, has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.

The Penguins replaced Tocchet with Mark Recchi, another forward who played for both the Flyers and Penguins.

*****

NASCAR RETURNS TO POCONO: NASCAR returns to Pocono Raceway on July 30 for the Overton’s 400. Ryan Blaney won the season’s first race at Pocono in May.

*****

NO ANSWERS: Congratulations to the Union’s Derrick Jones and Aaron Trusty for being selected to participate in the MLS Homegrown Game, which features young American players, on Aug. 1 as part of the festivities leading up to the MLS All-Star Game.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 29 years, would have a difficult time choosing whom to root for if Roger Federer and Sam Querrey meet in the Wimbledon final.

Pirates' Jose Osuna throws out 3 Phillies