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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fifth-ranked Penn State and 9th-ranked USC have made remarkable turnarounds to reach Monday’s Rose Bowl. Eric Fisher examines the reasons for their turnarounds and makes a prediction for Monday’s game.

The Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, appear to have improved during the offseason. Can anyone prevent them from winning a second straight Super Bowl? Eric Fisher thinks he found a team to stop the Evil Empire — but he’s not happy about it.

The Greek God of Wrestling explains the impact broadcaster can have in wrestling, and why today’s broadcasters aren’t up to par. Achilles Heel also fills us in on new matches for SummerSlam and GFW’s Destination X, reminds us that Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore comes to 2300 Arena on Saturday, and explains why the success he predicted for The Revival will be delayed.

Archive for the ‘Fish ‘n Chips’ Category

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 18 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

The Eagles’ offseason is far from over. We must keep that in mind when evaluating Howie Roseman’s moves. But the early moves leave plenty of question marks.

The most notable issue is at running back. Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman switched teams at a reasonable price. Let’s give Roseman time, though. I doubt the Eagles are going to enter the 2019 season with the same running backs they had last season.

Instead of looking at what hasn’t been done – because there’s still time to bring in more players – let’s examining what has been done.

The big splash was trading for DeSean Jackson. The Eagles gave up a sixth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft for Jackson and a seventh-round pick next year. That makes it clear that the Buccaneers were eager to cut ties with Jackson. That doesn’t mean, however, that Jackson won’t give the Eagles a boost. Jackson is happy to be back with the Eagles. A motivated Jackson with the speed to stretch a defense should definitely help the offense.

The Eagles signed free-agent defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2017 with the Jaguars, to a three-year, $30 million contract. Jackson replaces Tim Jernigan, who was hurt for most of last season, and Haloti Ngata, who retired. Malik Jackson should benefit from playing alongside Fletcher Cox and should give the Eagles more than they got from Jernigan and Ngata last season.

On the other hand, the decision to re-sign Brandon Graham to a three-year, $40 million contract while trading Michael Bennett to the Patriots is a bit curious. Bennett, 33, was the Eagles’ best defensive end last season. He wanted more money, and an unhappy Bennett could be a distraction. But wouldn’t the Eagles have been better off signing Bennett for $10 million per year for two years and letting Graham walk away?

My biggest concern with the Eagles’ offseason, though, is the offensive line. The Eagles re-signed Jason Peters to a one-year contract. I have no problem with bring Peters back, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking he’s going to make it through a full season. The problem is that Halapoulivaati Vaitai is still the primary backup at left tackle. Having Vaitai protect Carson Wentz’s blind side for any length of time is taking a major risk.

With left guard Brandon Brooks coming off a torn Achilles tendon, suffered during the playoff loss to the Saints, the left side of the offensive line is fragile. The Eagles let veteran Stefen Wisniewski leave, so there’s uncertainty over who could fill in for Brooks or center Jason Kelce, who signed a one-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2021.

The Eagles also signed guard Isaac Seumalo to a three-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2022. Obviously, the Eagles have been impressed with Seumalo. They must also be impressed with some of their younger backups. Otherwise, how could they enter next season with a 31-year-old center, a 30-year old left guard coming off a major injury and a 37-year-old left tackle who has often had difficulty making it through a game the past two years?

The Eagles have filled in some gaps in the secondary and at linebacker. Ronald Darby is returning as the top cornerback, but will his speed still be there, especially his lateral speed, after tearing his ACL? Signing veteran safety Andrew Sendejo is a good move, but it seems as if Roseman still has work to do in order to make this a successful offseason.

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COUNTDOWN IS ON: As I write this edition of Fish ‘n Chips, there are only 10 days remaining until Opening Day. It would be nice if a Phillies starting pitcher could make it through an outing during the rest of spring training without allowing two or more runs.

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HARPER’S STRUGGLES: For Bryce Harper’s sake, I hope he gets a hit in spring training. It would be awful for him to arrive in Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day without a spring training hit to his credit. After being hit by a pitch in the right ankle last week, there doesn’t appear to be enough time to get Harper the 40 at-bats he said would be necessary to be in top form by Opening Day.

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TOURNAMENT TIME: I’m not bullish on the chances of either Temple or Villanova in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Owls face a major threat in Belmont in the “first four” game on Tuesday (9:10 p.m.). The defending-champion Wildcats need to get past 11th-ranked St. Mary’s and, most likely, third-seeded Purdue in order to make it past the first weekend. The top seeds are Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Gonzaga, the only non-ACC top seed.

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POOL PICKS: Sorry, it’s only Monday. I haven’t filled out my bracket yet. But don’t forget to fill out your bracket for PhillyPhanatics.com’s Bracket Madness.

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NO INVITATION: There aren’t any local teams in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Penn (23-6), which lost to Princeton in the Ivy League championship game, had hoped for an at-large berth, but the invitation wasn’t forthcoming. The top seeds in the women’s tournament are defending-champion Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Baylor and Louisville. Perennial power Connecticut is a No. 2 seed, the first time the Huskies haven’t been a No. 1 seed since 2006.

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DYNASTY: Penn State, which finished the regular season undefeated (14-0) and won the Big Ten Championship, brings nine qualifiers to this week’s NCAA Wrestling Championships in Pittsburgh. The top-ranked Nittany Lions, who have three top seeds and three No. 2 seeds in the tournament, have won seven of the past eight NCAA Championships.

Penn State’s three top seeds are Jason Nolf, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal. Nolf (26-0), wrestling at 157 pounds, is seeking his third straight individual NCAA title. Hall (26-0), the 2017 national champion in 2017, is seeking to regain his crown. Nickal (25-0), a two-time NCAA champion at 184 pounds, is attempting to win a national title at 197 pounds.

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THE FINAL WORD: Congratulations to the Swarthmore men’s basketball team, which reached the final of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Wisconsin-Oshkosh defeated Swarthmore in the title game, 96-82.

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TOUGH START: Optimism for the Union has been dampened by an 0-2-1 start. To be fair, the Union has had a rough schedule thus far, facing Toronto, Kansas City and defending-champion Atlanta.

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for more than 30 years, is working on his NCAA Tournament bracket.

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 6 - 2019 ADD COMMENTS

Bryce Harper has yet to play in a spring training game. But he’s making lots of news.

Bryce Harper’s plane lands. Bryce Harper waves. Bryce Harper talks. Bryce Harper takes batting practice. Bryce Harper speaks with Larry Bowa and Charlie Manuel! Bryce Harper talks about recruiting Mike Trout to become a Phillie! Bryce Harper eats dinner. Bryce Harper sneezes. Oh no! Is he sick?

Most of the items mentioned in the preceding paragraph were real stories reported on credible Web sites. Philly definitely has Bryce Harper fever.

Ticket sales and jersey sales have gone through the roof since Harper signed with the Phillies. The Phillies are off to a fast start in recouping the $330 million they’ve committed to Harper.

Harper is big news. The news that Harper will play his first spring training game on Saturday has been at the top of the “first-and-10” feature on the left side of PhillyPhanatics.com all week. Harper’s spring training debut has ranked above the Sixers and Flyers, both of whom are actually playing games, and even the Eagles’ offseason moves.

Can you imagine what it will be like when Harper actually plays a regular-season game at Citizens Bank Park?

Don’t misinterpret my sarcasm at the top of this item. I’m not complaining. It’s fun to be this excited about the Phillies again.

The excitement alone might have been worth the $330 million the Phillies are paying Harper. Then again, it’s not my money.

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LINE DANCE: As we count down to the NFL free agency period, which begins next Wednesday, the Eagles have been busy making adjustments along their offensive and defensive lines.

Along the offensive line, the adjustments have been financial. They signed center Jason Kelce to a one-year extension. They signed Isaac Seumalo to a three-year extension. Right tackle Lane Johnson reportedly reworked his contract to help create room under the salary cap. It wouldn’t be a shock to see left tackle Jason Peters agree to adjust his contract.

There appears to be more turnover on the defensive line. Defensive end Brandon Braham, who was slated to become a free agent, signed a three-year contract worth $40 million. But the Eagles decided not to pick up the option for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan’s contract. There also are reports that the Eagles are trying to trade defensive end Michael Bennett.

All of this shuffling of contracts indicates that the Eagles are going to be active in free agency. It will be interesting to see which direction executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman will go when free agency begins.

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FOLES ON THE MOVE: The Eagles’ decision to let quarterback Nick Foles go rather than apply the franchise tag wasn’t a surprise. The Eagles can’t afford to tie up $25 million in a backup quarterback. They would have almost no maneuverability under the salary cap if they placed the franchise tag on Foles.

It’s also not surprising that, according to reports, Foles will sign with the Jaguars when free agency begins. The Jaguars are clearly looking for an improvement over Blake Bortles. Furthermore, they hired John DeFilippo, who was the Eagles’ quarterback coach, as their offensive coordinator. Foles’ familiarity with DeFilippo should enhance Jacksonville’s pitch to Foles.

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REMEMBERING A LEGEND: Al Shrier is a legend at Temple, where he worked for 65 years. Yes, 65 years. Shrier, who died Monday morning at age 88, started working at Temple after he graduated in 1953, and he didn’t retire until June 2018.

I have fond memories of meeting Mr. Shrier while I was sports editor at Metro newspaper. Mr. Shrier couldn’t have been more welcoming to the new paper in town. One of my treasured memories from my years at Metro was being seated next to Mr. Shrier during the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Spectrum. I don’t remember what we spoke about besides basketball, but I remember that he was always a gentleman.

A long list of halls of fame to which Mr. Shrier has been inducted and awards he received would take up a lot of space. A simpler way of explaining how important he was at Temple is to point out that not only is the media room in the Liacouras Center named after Shrier, but there is a banner in the rafters, featuring his trademark briefcase, which he carried seemingly everywhere. How many non-athletes have a banner hanging from the rafters?

I send my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Shrier. And I can add with complete confidence that this beloved man’s impact will live on for decades at his beloved alma mater.

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TOUGH START: The enthusiasm built up during the Union’s offseason didn’t last too long. The Union lost their season opener to Toronto FC, 3-1. At least midfielder Marco Fabian, the Union’s major offseason addition, scored on a penalty shot in his first game.

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END OF AN ERROR: Tight end Jason Witten is coming out of retirement to rejoin the Dallas Cowboys. This will end the misery of listening to Witten on Monday Night Football.

I won’t recount all of Witten’s mistakes. Let’s simply say that he was brutally bad.

To be fair, a lot of the blame should go to ESPN for putting Witten in that position. He jumped right to the major leagues without any training, and it showed. If Witten makes the Cowboys better, however, I reserve the right to request that he return to the broadcast booth.

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FIGHT NIGHT: UFC is coming to Wells Fargo Center on March 30 for an event that will be broadcast on ESPN2. The main event features lightweights Edson Barboza (20-6) and Justin Gaethje (19-2). In the co-main event, David Branch (22-5) meets Jack Hermansson (18-4) in a battle of middleweights. In a women’s strawweight battle, Karolina Kowalkiewicz (12-3) faces Michelle Waterson (16-6).

Eric Fisher, who has been writing about sports for more than 30 years, will remain a Nick Foles fan even though he no longer will be wearing Eagles green.

Harper hits 1st home run as Phillie