Opposition Beat: Talking Eagles-Falcons with Chris Dimino of Falcons Radio Network

Opposition Beat: Talking Eagles-Falcons with Chris Dimino of Falcons Radio Network

Each week during the 2012 season, we're hitting up some of the most knowledgeable people on the Internet when it comes to the Eagles' opponent that particular Sunday. This week we chat with Chris Dimino, a sports talk radio host and Falcons analyst for 790 The Zone in Atlanta.

Kulp: Quarterback Matt Ryan is off to the best start of his five-year career. The Exton, PA native is fourth in touchdown passes (14) and passer rating (98.8), and he's on pace to throw for over 4,600 yards. With the Falcons off to a 6-0 start, would you say Matty Ice is the front-runner to win league MVP honors?

Chris Dimino: Ah... the always coveted seven week MVP Award. His numbers say he's as good a choice as anyone. I think more importantly is what an MVP is/has. His team believes something good is going to happen RIGHT NOW. Matt has walked onto the field a few times where the non-MVP candidate wouldn't have gotten the first downs or found a way to be a reason the Falcons won a game late. He has that right now. Never have seen a season-long MVP who didn't have "it." That's what different about him right now.

The Falcons are ranked 29th in rushing offense and 27th in yards per attempt. Michael Turner doesn't look like an explosive runner anymore, and Jacquizz Rodgers isn't giving him much of a breather. Is Turner's decline and the lack of quality depth behind him the problem, and does he even still fit in Atlanta's pass-happy offense?

Those numbers are horrifyingly bad. They read like a total disclaimer to being a championship team. Good thing it's 2012. One-dimensional isn't a death knell these days. What it still is though is a recipe to have teams play you differently and attempt to take away your strength. I don't care about total yards rushing anymore -- from Turner, Rodgers, anyone. I DO care about an inability to get the one- or two- or three-yard first down on the ground. If I can play GM for a second... I'm on my second year of asking St. Louis what they want for Steven Jackson.

Asante Samuel was traded to the Falcons more or less because the Eagles wanted flexibility from their corners, and he only likes to play off-man coverage on the left side. It was also rumored the front office felt he was in decline. How has Samuel performed so far in Atlanta, and has there been any difficulty fitting him into a scheme?

Assante "paid" for himself (seventh-round pick) with his pick-six game-changer a couple of weeks ago. Ball hawking risk/reward guy -- I'll take a couple of them. He's the biggest talker this team has seen in this regime. In practice he doesn't shut up. But he's NOT Deangelo Hall who talked because he needed it to be about him. Samuel legitimately talks to get his whole unit up for the moment. And his acquisition lessened the blow of losing Brent Grimes and has made Dunta Robinson a better player because he has gotten to play the more inside attacking DB role.

Atlanta's defense is ranked 22nd in the NFL largely due to their claiming ownership of one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Falcons are 28th in yards allowed, and 31st at 5.2 yards per attempt. However, it looks like they should get interior lineman Corey Peters back from a stress fracture this week. How far will his return go toward solving their problems?

Big-bodied, hard-working guys on the interior of a defensive line that has those rushing numbers should be picked up and driven to practice. He'll help as long as he's ready to play and stay on the field. Going one man deeper in your rotation is big. They have to fix the run D problem. Mike Nolan's defense is more react than read and react. More responsibility for DE's, LB's, and DB's. The interior guys need to body up to let those guys make plays closer to line of scrimmage.

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”