Who Crowned Matt Barkley?

Who Crowned Matt Barkley?

There has been some buzz since the Eagles chose Matt Barkley
in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, as you might expect. For one
it defied many of the preconceived notions people held about what works in Chip
Kelly’s offense. Also, had Barkley departed USC one year earlier, he might have
been a far more heralded prospect, perhaps even a top 10 pick.

News flash: Barkely didn’t go in the top 10 or in the first
round at all, not even during the first two days of the draft. Again, he was a
fourth-round pick, a mere 10 spots later than where Nick Foles went in 2012,
and the same round where the Eagles grabbed Mike Kafka in 2011. I don’t recall
anybody writing the story two years ago entitled, “What Mike Kafka and the
Eagles’ Offseason Say About Andy Reid’s Plans.”

Yet that story was written about the Eagles, Barkley, and
their new head coach
by Chris Brown at Grantland yesterday. Brown admits
Barkley is likely a hedge by an organization that lacks a franchise
quarterback at this point in time – or at least doesn’t know who that person is
yet. Then comes the part where his addition might be a sign of things to come for Kelly's offense.

There is another possibility,
though. In addition to drafting Barkley, among the major moves Kelly made was
signing tight end James Casey in free agency and drafting Stanford tight end
Zach Ertz, two movable chess pieces to go along with Philadelphia’s other
multipurpose tight end, Brent Celek. These moves might be an indication that
Kelly’s focus is shifting from the roster of speedy running backs and
dual-threat quarterbacks he had at Oregon. Instead, Philadelphia may be looking
to mesh the fleet-footed receivers already on its roster with a group of
dynamic tight ends. As part of that group, Kelly is likely hoping Barkley can
be an extremely accurate, intelligent, intangible-heavy quarterback who can
efficiently operate his lightning-fast no huddle.

This is no different from saying Chip needs a mobile
quarterback. He keeps saying he doesn’t, and now the Eagles have drafted as
though he doesn’t. Now Chip says we’re just taking the best player on the
board, and it’s a statement about what the Birds’ offense will look like.

Don’t me wrong, Brown is a knowledgeable football guy, and I
respect his opinion. That probably is
what the offense is going to look like if Barkley or Foles for that matter are
under center. But then Kelly has said all along he will coach to the strength
of his personnel, so if it’s Vick or the shiny new mobile quarterback they choose
in the first round next April, maybe it won’t look like that then.

Barkley’s arrival in this town has been treated like no
other fourth-round pick I can remember (except maybe Na Brown). It’s as if his being groomed as the franchise
quarterback is almost a foregone conclusion. Les Bowen of the Daily News wrote
shortly after Barkley was selected “you'd have to think Barkley is Kelly's
quarterback of the future,” and has since suggested his presence may not be a
good sign for Foles.

With the Eagles, Barkley faces a
crowded field, led by Michael Vick. Barkley's arrival is bad news for Nick
Foles, in that Foles was the young QB drafted by the previous coach, and
Barkley is the young QB drafted by the new coach. But this also might mean
Foles really will get that even chance to compete for a starting role, given
that drafting Barkley means Kelly isn't wed to the idea of great QB mobility.

I’m not sure either Foles or Barkley was drafted by their
head coaches for one. Howie Roseman took the credit for the 2012 draft that
netted Foles, and while Chip’s finger prints are all over this year’s group,
there were a lot of seasoned talent evaluators such as Tom Gamble and Tom
Donahoe working on this class. Let’s forget about whose guys are whose and just
look at the reality of the situation.

  • • Vick turns 33 this summer and is playing on a one-year deal.
    If he doesn’t start and have a great season, he’s gone.


  • • Foles is a third-round pick with six NFL starts under his
    belt. He’s earned an opportunity to compete for the job, but we don’t know what
    they have yet.

  • • Barkley is a fourth rounder. To put that in perspective, the
    best three fourth-round quarterbacks of the last 20 years are Kyle Orton, David
    Garrard, and Aaron Brooks.

In other words, any one of the three Birds QBs could be the starter on
opening day over a year from now in 2014 – or none of them.

Barkley isn’t special just because at one time people
believed he might go in the top 10. As Bowen points out, even though somebody
thinks it doesn’t mean that’s what would have happened (just look at Sharrif Floyd this year), and I would add it
doesn’t mean Barkley would have been successful, either. He went
where he went in the draft, and expectations should be adjusted accordingly.

Chip Kelly’s plan wasn’t to discover the next Tom Brady in
this draft. The Eagles have a need at quarterback, and Barkley was the player
available when they were on the clock, so they took him. For the time being at
least, there really isn’t too much more to make of the selection than that.

>>
What Matt Barkley and the Eagles’ Offseason Say About Chip Kelly’s Plans [Grantland]

>> Matt Barkley’s fall ‘a perfect storm’ for Eagles [Daily
News]

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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.