Is the worst already over for the Philadelphia Eagles?

Is the worst already over for the Philadelphia Eagles?

In case you’re still searching for silver linings from the Eagles’ 52-20 drubbing in Denver two days ago—their third consecutive loss, and looking increasingly less competitive with each passing week—well the good news is there actually are some reasons to remain upbeat.

Go ahead and scoff at the mere implication the sky isn’t falling. If the Birds handle the New York Giants this Sunday (possible), and the Dallas Cowboys fall to the Broncos (likely), Philadelphia would actually take over first place in the NFC East. Ah, the joys of playing in a weak division.

It gets better. Anybody who checked the schedule is no doubt already aware the Eagles’ slate is about to lighten significantly compared to the first four games. Their opponents thus far have combined to produce an 11-5 record, good for a winning percentage of .688. The next 12 are just 16-32 with a .334 percentage.

And although it’s impossible to predict where many of these teams could be sitting one month from now, even just the immediate future seems favorable. Three of the next four opponents (Tampa Bay, Giants x2) have yet to win so much as a game so far this season.

Let’s face it: the Eagles are a rebuilding team, and were completely outclassed by the Broncos in Week 4. They also lost to another of the league’s five remaining unbeatens in the Kansas City Chiefs, and even that defeat took a pile of unforced turnovers in order to essentially give the game away. Throw in a last-minute loss to the San Diego Chargers, and the Birds had actually been competitive in every game up until Sunday.

Philadelphia easily could be at least 2-2 right now, if not 3-1 had they not completely imploded against the Chiefs.

Now the next four weeks pose a golden opportunity to turn things around. The Giants have been absolutely hammered by injuries, and have allowed opponents to outscore them 69-7 the last two weeks. Tampa Bay has hitched its wagon to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, a third-round pick who was abruptly promoted to starter last week.

Even the first-place Cowboys coming to town in three weeks—while a challenge—is not especially frightening. They’ve already lost San Diego and Kansas City as well, so we’ll see how much better they fare against Peyton Manning’s armada.

The Eagles’ schedule toughens up again down the stretch, but there are still clashes with Oakland, Washington, and Arizona leading up to then. Between now and Week 14, the only intimidating game on the schedule is a trip to Green Bay in November.

Do we expect the Eagles are going to beat all the teams they “should?” Probably not, given they look like one of those teams themselves based on the standings. True rebuilding teams usually don’t run into too many honestly lesser opponents—although some of these franchises are in pathetic shape.

The point is, it’s much too early to give up on this season much less this coaching staff after four games, three of which the Birds were against quality teams with established NFL quarterbacks. The Eagles will have the opportunity to prove where they stand in the pecking order of unfinished products around the league beginning this weekend. Who knows, a last-place schedule may yet propel this team to a run to an NFC East title.

Chip Kelly and his squad have a lot to work to do, but if they knock off Eli Manning and the G-men in New York this week, that could go a long way toward turning the momentum back in the Eagles' favor.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: