Vince Young, Part Two

Vince Young, Part Two

As you are likely aware by now, Vince Young will make his second start in an Eagles uniform today, the level of competition becoming significantly better in round two. We're talking Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots -- winners of three Super Bowls over a four-year span. As I heard on sports talk radio over the holiday weekend, Sunday's opponent is the true gold standard in the NFL over the past decade.

VY is up to the task though. The Birds' faithful largely remain skeptical about Young's ability to quarterback a pro football team, many of them specifically questioning his talent as a passer. However, he has an opportunity to put such notions to rest versus a Pats defense that ranks 32nd in the league when it comes to defending against aerial attacks.

All things being equal, New England faces more passing attempts than most clubs. They have one of the league's most prolific offenses, which means their opponents are frequently playing catch-up, or need to chuck it just to stay in the game. The Patriots have faced the fourth-highest total of attempts, but their opponents' passer efficiency rating ranks 14th, which is still better than the majority.

Still, they are by no means great, plus they're banged up. The Pats are without CB Devin McCourty, their first-round pick in 2010, and SS Patrick Chung. They released starting safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders from a year ago. Some of the names that will be on the field in the defensive backfield are CB Kyle Arrington -- who may have seven interceptions, but was little more than a camp body for the Eagles a few years ago -- and SS Josh Barrett, a seventh-round pick by the Broncos out of Arizona State in 2008.

It's a tad thin to say the least, but shifting the focus back to Young, he certainly stands to capitalize. The rush to conclude he isn't a stellar passer is strong, yet there is plenty of evidence that's not exactly the case. Initially it seemed VY got better as last Sunday night's game against the Giants went on, but the statistics actually confirm that was the case.

Young completed 83% of his passes in the second half at the Meadowlands, going for roughly two-thirds of his yards and the game-winning score. He shook off the rust and led the offense an 18-play, nearly nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter. Of course, it was only one game, but naturally I wasn't surprised. The idea Young isn't a decent passer was debunked pretty easily over the summer by some of our own research.

Young had greatly improved during his final two seasons in Tennessee. All his vital numbers were better -- completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns-to-interceptions, even winning. He was already taking the next step in a career marked with achievements such as a Rookie of the Year award and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Why the VY experiment ultimately failed there is complicated, but it wasn't necessarily performance based.

And when you compare the level of talent from there to Philadelphia, it's no contest. They didn't have an explosive down-field threat like DeSean Jackson, nor a tight end capable of posting a 1,000 yard season like Brent Celek. They didn't have quality depth like Jason Avant or (ugh) Steve Smith, or much emerging talent like Riley Cooper (that should be good for a laugh). The most Vince Young ever had was Chris Johnson when the runner was still blowing through opposing defenses.

Eagles fans need to forget the wonky delivery, the antics that caused him to lose his previous coaching staff and locker room, and understand that Young has never had an opportunity like the one he's getting here, in a huddle supposedly bursting at the seams with talent. Whether or not they can actually beat the Patriots is anybody's guess, but if they don't, it probably won't be for lack of Michael Vick. Young is an able passer, and he'll have an ample number of chances to showcase that this week.

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days. 

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his workload management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”