The Linc Is Open For Business! Eagles Host Ravens

The Linc Is Open For Business! Eagles Host Ravens

Feels like 2004 in this joint.

That's the last time I can remember there being any serious excitement for a preseason opener. The Eagles were coming off of a huge off-season, not so very different from this summer in fact. They signed the most coveted free agent on the market (Jevon Kearse), brought back a former member of the team (Jeremiah Trotter), sought additional defensive help (Dhani Jones), upgraded their offensive line through the draft (Shawn Andrews), and pulled off one major trade (Terrell Owens).

And that team certainly delivered, at least on its promise to finally get off the NFC Championship doorstep, and bust through the front door of the Super Bowl. We all know how that story ends, but this year we are once again reminded how August feels when it's full of promise.

The promise of a legit contender that's jam packed with all star talent.

However tempting as it may be to get super-duper excited about tonight's action, I'm not about to do that, and advise you don't either. Once the game kicks off, you'll more than likely be treated to vanilla offensive schemes that make everybody look bad, and defensive mix-ups that show just how far this is from the final product we will see in September.

Then after 15 minutes of lousy football--and probably lousier than usual given these guys will be shaking the rust off from their vacations/the lockout--it will be time for the reserves to get theirs. By the fourth quarter, you won't recognize a soul.

Hey, at least it's football. Am I right? On to who we'll be watching tonight.

The Offensive Line
Particularly, we want to see what the Eagles are working with from center to right. Jamaal Jackson has returned from last season's triceps tear, but camp reports have sixth round rookie Jason Kelce getting more than his share of snaps with the first team. Of course, first round pick Danny Watkins will be making his debut at guard, while free agent signee Ryan Harris will make the start at tackle.

The Ravens are very stout up front, with Pro Bowlers Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs among the loads that will be bringing the heat, so this will be a good test for the revamped O-line.

Dion Lewis
Lewis could be in line for a decent number of carries tonight, as the coaches try to guage what he can bring to the table this season. The rookie out of Pitt appeared to be in line for a backup role, but the Eagles signed Ronnie Brown, which puts Lewis's role in question. The veteran Brown probably doesn't need a ton of work, so hopefully they give the fifth rounder a chance to shine.

Cullen Jenkins
One of the least discussed, but biggest free agent acquisitions this off-season, it will be interesting to see in exactly what capacity he is utilized. He is currently listed as a second stringer on the depth chart, which could indicate he'll primarily see action on passing downs, or it could mean they are simply working him into the system as well. The Eagles aren't likely to tip their hand too much in this first contest, but maybe we'll get a taste of what his role will be in Juan Castillo's defense.

Casey Matthews
The time for talk is already over. Can a rookie handle the middle linebacker job? Is Casey Matthews strong enough to shed blocks and wade through the traffic around the line of scrimmage? Of course, even if he has a solid outing tonight, that doesn't mean he won't be another Joe Mays, the original Kulp/700Level camp darling.

The Secondary
We just want to see if a quarterback can complete a pass against this group.

In all seriousness, don't get your expectations too high for tonight, but this unit is going to be fun to watch. Also, let's not forget this year's second and third round picks, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh. Our own Nick Menta is attending the game tonight, and will more than likely provide some kind of write-up on his self-proclaimed man-crush of Jarrett afterwards.

Alex Henery
Because we're all very, very curious. You've got some big shoes to fill, kid, and if you miss a field goal tonight, you seriously might not ever hear the end of it. Unless you kick a game winner in February. Then it's all good.

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

Joel Embiid unhappy with how Sixers handled injury updates

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Joel Embiid will miss the next four games and is slated to return March 3 against the Knicks in Philadelphia, so long as he is symptom-free. While Embiid wants to play as soon as possible, he’s just glad there is now a definitive timetable announced.

Prior to Thursday, the team had not announced a specific timeframe.

“I wasn’t too happy with the way it was kind of handled before,” Embiid said. “I saw the day-to-day part. I was told that I was going to miss at least two or three weeks. So I wasn’t happy with the way it was handled.

“I thought keeping my name out there was going to just like literally have people think about me all the time instead of just saying when I was going to be back. So I’m happy that they did that today and they said that I’m out for the next four games.”

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion on Jan. 22 against the Trail Blazers. He sat out three games and returned on Jan. 27 to play the Rockets. He has not played since then, sitting out the last eight games.

An MRI also revealed Embiid has a slight tear in his meniscus, which is not thought to be related to the contusion.

Embiid went through a full practice on Thursday for the first time, he estimated, in four or five weeks. (Wednesday’s practice was not intense.) According to the Sixers, they are encouraged by the progress Embiid showed but do not feel he is game-ready. Team doctors are holding him out the next four games to minimize the risk of aggravating his knee. In order for him to be cleared, Embiid has to be symptom-free.

Embiid had eyed a return on Friday against the Wizards because he was feeling well, he said, but he had some swelling on Thursday.

“No swelling, no pain, nothing,” Embiid said of his criteria to play.

Now the team -- and fans -- can move forward without daily questions of Embiid’s status.

“I think it’s good for everybody,” Brett Brown said. “For you all to understand, the people that buying a ticket to understand, for me as a coach to prepare my team that he’s not going to be here for four more games. I like that clarity. I’m fine with it. Obviously, you want him playing, but the mystery that surrounds that speculation I think is frustrating for people and we understand that.”

Embiid reiterated the patience aspect of the injury, noting he waited two years to rehab his foot and there is no need to rush his knee. Now everyone can be in the loop with his status.

“The end point is basically making sure I’m ready to play instead of just putting me out there,” Embiid said.

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

In Justin Anderson, Sixers get solid defensive wing who was buried in Dallas

On the surface, the Nerlens Noel trade doesn't look good.

The Sixers on Thursday traded the third-year big man to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a top-18 protected first-round pick. That first-rounder turns into two second-round picks if it doesn't convey in 2017. Yuck. And double yuck.

The only hope in this trade comes in Anderson. The former first-round pick has the look of a prototypical NBA wing. At 6-foot-6 with a nearly 7-foot wingspan, he has the frame to disrupt passing lanes and the bulk at 228 pounds to muscle up stronger swingmen.

At Virginia, Anderson was a key cog for a team that was ranked as high as No. 2 and earned a 2-seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. After that season, Anderson opted to forego his senior year and enter the NBA draft. He was selected 21st overall by the Mavericks in 2015.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches defense and Anderson was one of his finest disciples in that regard. Offensive limitations and being a part of a balanced attack with the Cavaliers caused Anderson's stock to drop. Despite shooting 45 percent from three in his final season, Anderson was considered a streaky shooter and, frankly, that's remained the NBA.

His rookie season was one to forget. The Mavericks were competitive in the Western Conference, finishing as the 6-seed and losing to the Thunder in the first round. Anderson couldn't find his way into Rick Carlisle's rotation. Dallas' never-ending supply of point guards coupled with the sharpshooting duo of Wesley Matthews and Chandler Parsons relegated Anderson to just 11.8 minutes a game his rookie season. In his limited time, he shot 41 percent from the field and 27 percent from three.

Unfortunately, it's been a similar story this season, but with some glimmers of hope. Anderson is still losing minutes to Matthews and also big free-agent acquisition Harrison Barnes, who's having a strong first season with the Mavs. But over a three-game stretch in late January, Anderson averaged 15.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. He also shot 6 of 16 (38 percent) from three during that span.

“I don’t want to sell myself short,” Anderson said to the Star-Telegram during that run. “I still think that I can be a really great player in this league, but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

“I think [the early-season struggles] may be the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. All we can do is wait and just keep working hard, push through it and hopefully one day it’ll all pay off."

The most promising numbers in Anderson's young career are that he's averaging 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes as a pro. At the very least, Anderson should develop into a solid defensive wing. If he develops offensively, who knows?

Per ESPN's Kevin Pelton, "Noel and Anderson (who just sneaks over the bar) are both among the 21 players in the league who have averaged 2.0 steals per 100 team plays and blocked 2.0 percent of opponent 2-point attempts or better in at least 500 minutes."

It's tough to argue that this trade was a good one for Bryan Colangelo. With that said, Anderson could still turn out to be a decent NBA player. He needs minutes and patience, two things the Sixers can offer in spades.