Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

NFL teams have been allowed to contact impending
unrestricted free agents since midnight on Saturday, but it’s been relatively
quiet as far as any news is concerned. The Eagles were linked to a few players
over the weekend however, perhaps none who have more name recognition than
Danny Amendola.

Geoff Mosher reports the Eagles are expected to pursue the
St. Louis Rams wide receiver
according to a person with direct knowledge of the
team’s plans. You may recall Amendola spent the summer of ’09 with the Birds at
Lehigh. Mosher has more:

Amendola, 27, spent his past four
seasons with the Rams but won’t be re-signed, according to a Sunday report from
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The former
Texas Tech wide receiver spent about a week on the Eagles’ practice squad in
2009 before the Rams, then coached by Pat Shurmur, signed him.

Shurmur is back with the Eagles as
offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, who has never
coached in the NFL at any level. Amendola’s skill set fits with the up-tempo,
spread offense that Kelly intends to implement.

Amendola has carved out a role as a high-intake slot
receiver, hauling in 196 passes in four seasons, including a personal-best 85
in 2010. He’s not very explosive however, averaging a meager 8.8 yards per
reception to go with seven career touchdowns. Last season was the 27-year-old’s
best overall, catching 63 balls for 666 yards (10.6 YPC) and three scores. He’s
also a capable return specialist, though not flashy.

If the price is right, Amendola could be a good fit, but how
much better than he is than Jason Avant – already under contract for two more
seasons – is debatable. The Rams have basically nobody else to throw the ball
to, so they would often dink and dunk the rock to Amendola, which at 5-11, 183
seems like it would be his ceiling. Plus, he’s had a ton of injuries, so
durability is a concern as well.

For what it’s worth, PhiladelphiaEagles.com mouthpiece Dave
Spadaro said he doesn’t believe the story. Elsewhere…

T Eric Winston

Otherwise the legal tampering window has lacked buzz. The
only report we have of the Eagles actually reaching out to a free agent was last Thursday
after the Kansas City Chiefs released tackle Eric Winston. Les Bowen of the
Daily News wrote on his blog that the Birds were among the first teams to
contact the 29 year old
– but then that’s not tampering since he was no longer part
of the team.

Winston, a third-round pick in ’06, spent the previous six
seasons with the Houston Texans, where had some solid seasons blocking in front of running back Arian Foster. The 29-year-old’s release from the Chiefs appeared to be
financially motivated, so he probably has some tread left on the tires. Were the
Eagles to sign Winston, he could play right tackle while Todd Herremans slides
over to guard. Bowen’s take:

How much sense would he make for
the Eagles? Some. He isn't an all-pro. Given his age, a huge longterm deal
would be excessive. But he could sure take some pressure off the early rounds
of the upcoming draft.

DL Ricky Jean-Francois

The lack of actual information available hasn’t prevented
speculation. Several members of the media suspect defensive lineman Ricky
Jean-Francois’s agent is fielding a lot of calls, with two suitors already tied
to the 49er. The Eagles are thought to be among the teams that could jump into
the RJF fray, especially since VP of player personnel Tom Gamble would have intimate knowledge about the kid.

Jean-Francois, 26, spent four years with San Francisco as a
backup, but teams might like his upside. Bleeding Green Nation did a round-up of what people are saying about RJF, and Zach Berman for the Inquirer also had this to say about
the former seventh-round pick out of LSU.

Among the free agents, pay attention
to San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, who is 26 and has
only five career starts in four years. Jean-Francois, 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds,
is versatile enough to play different spots on the defensive line and excels as
a pass rusher.

OLB James Harrison

Finally, sometimes it’s not teams who court players, but the
other way around. The Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with All-Pro linebacker
James Harrison over the weekend, and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise tells Philly
Mag’s Tim McManus that the fearsome hitter/sack artist would be a good fit
in Philadelphia – although the organization has not contacted him.

Harrison, 35 this May, is clearly a player on the decline as injuries and age have started to catch up with him. He still racked up 15
sacks over the past two seasons despite missing eight games, so there was
a little something left in the tank. While the Birds are clearly in rebuilding
mode, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would overlook Harrison.

Chip Kelly and defensive
coordinator Bill Davis intend on running some version of the 3-4, and certainly
Harrison could assist with that transition. 
But would the Eagles go for a 34-year-old in what many consider a rebuilding
year? Howie Roseman told Birds 24/7 last week that age would not necessarily be
a deterrent if the player helped the greater good.

“There are certain players that no
matter what the age is, they set the right example, they do the right thing. As
you’re building a culture, they help carry that culture forward. That’s
important stuff,” said Roseman.

It seems at this stage of his career, Harrison's antics are probably more trouble than he's worth, especially in this situation. Then again, infusing a bit of attitude into the Eagles' defense probably couldn't be a bad thing.

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Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.