Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

Eagles Week 2 Preseason Autopsy

The sky was supposedly falling last Thursday.  The Eagles, after dropping their second preseason contest 23-15 against a quality opponent with a Hall of Fame QB, drew scathing reviews for their performance.  Once again, we're attempting to walk you back from the preseason ledge.

The Colts did everything right on their first drive.  Peyton Manning was exactly what we've come to expect.  He controlled the pace, getting the offense up to the line of scrimmage quickly, making it difficult for the Eagles to sub or adjust.  They called almost entirely passing plays, attacking Ellis Hobbs' side of the field and using play action to pull the linebackers up from their assignments.  And Manning made the whole thing look simple, as only he can.

It wasn't all bad though.  A few plays after a successful WR screen kicked off the drive, the Colts went back to it, only this time Quintin Demps was all over it, making the stop for no gain.  Shortly after, Akeem Jordan recovered from being beat in coverage to separate the ball from a receiver, saving a sure touchdown.  And Manning had to complete a difficult 3rd and 10 throw in a tiny window over Joe Mays and between Demps and the sideline while being tossed to the ground by Jason Babin to keep the drive alive.  How many quarterbacks complete that pass?  And prior to the score, Asante Samuel nearly ended the drive with an interception in the end zone, but was unable to catch the ball cleanly.

When it looked like Manning would start doing the same thing all over on their second drive, Babin struck again, this time stripping the ball to give the Birds excellent field position.  Of course, what really sticks out was the following possession, one play, one uncontested 76-yard jaunt for Reggie Wayne, although it was clearly a mis-communication, and exactly the kind of play preseason is there to correct. 

Manning executed the Colts basic gameplan against the Eagles vanilla defensive schemes.  Is that a legitimate cause for concern?  There's room for improvement, but this wasn't the end of defense as we know it in Philadelphia.


All things considered, the offensive line wasn't terrible either.  That's quite the backhanded compliment, but we are talking about four reserves, and King Dunlap doesn't even belong on an NFL field, which we sort of knew heading into the game.  The scenario would have to become extremely dire for that to ever happen anyway, so let's concentrate on the backups who might actually see gameday.

Nick Cole was shaky filling in at left guard as well.  Actually, sloppy is more fitting in this case.  He's been slow getting out into space, man-handled up front, and just generally ineffective in every phase of the game.  On one play, he just fell down inexplicably.  Can't say for sure what the deal is - the most obvious theories being he is either out of shape (too late) or looked better mixed in a cohesive unit - any way you slice it though, he hasn't impressed.

On the flip side, much to everyone's surprise, Winston Justice is living up to the reports of his revival.  The idea he could be starting for the Eagles in the regular season remains a delicate subject, and there still seems to be some hesitation when run blocking, but he is holding his own in pass protection.  Justice was probably miscast as a left tackle, and we would no longer be surprised to see him as a spot starter for a lesser NFL team somewhere down the line, as long as he continues to show he is indeed a football player.

Are the Eagles going to win the Super Bowl if Cole and Justice are major contributors for any length of time?  It certainly lessens their chances (a lot), we simply think it's a stretch they will wind up in such a predicament.  Peters' injury sounds minor and perhaps related to conditioning.  Herremans being held out is partly as a precaution.  Odds are one or two of the Andrews brothers will eventually get right.  The group deserves an incomplete, not an F.


- McNabb's touchdown pass to Jackson was perfectly executed by both players.

- Have to agree with the negative assessments of Feeley's clock management in the comments.  What was he thinking dumping the ball in the middle with no timeouts?

- Eldra Buckley, with another solid special teams contribution tacked onto some tough running, has the upper hand over Booker for the third running back spot.  Kyle Eckel struggled filling in for Weaver.

- Looks like they might have picked a nice player with sixth rounder Brandon Gibson.  His four catches for 49 yards and a TD led the team.  Probably will spend a year on the practice squad or IR, unless they move one of their receivers.

- Random thought: could Hank Baskett play some tight end?


- Jason Babin set up camp in the Colts backfield and wreaked havoc basically the entire first half.  It leads us to wonder which ends could be the odd guys out if he makes the roster.  No easy decisions there right now.

- Spadaro-ish comment alert: the linebackers remain a work in progress.  Brady and Manning are two of the best play action quarterbacks in the NFL, but the entire unit is getting fooled, creating massive vacancies in the middle of the field.  While they've been fortunate so far, any coach in the league is going to see this and exploit it.

Individually, Gocong has been invisible.  Mays is still learning.  Jordan has some plays where he's in position, and some where he's not.

- Ellis Hobbs had an awful game, even if we give him a free pass on that TD.  That does not excuse a couple of missed tackles and another completion to Wayne, all leading to first downs.  The competition at right corner is over, not that there ever really was one.

- Aside from getting beat for the game's first score, a perfect throw that would have given any corner problems, Asante Samuel picked up from where he left off last season.  Colts quarterbacks found Samuel draped all over their receivers, and he very nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to allowing 6.

- Two rookies, Macho Harris and Moise Fokou, are having a nice preseason.  Harris seems to be playing the Dawkins role.  He's had some successful blitzes, has been a sound tackler, and broken up a pass or two.  Fokou seems to be freelancing a bit, but he's been finding the ball.  Don't think he's game ready though.

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured


852 days after Joel Embiid was drafted -- a number becoming as familiar to Sixer fans as any Cubs fan could tell you how many years it's been since their last World Series -- he actually played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. He lives. He exists. He has a Basketball-Reference stat line. It looks like this: 

The feeling of triumph was tangible at the not-Wells Fargo Center well before it became clear that the Sixers might actually have a shot at beating the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Embiid's every move was treated with breathless anticipation and rapturous cheering, as well it should have been. Even Dario Saric got his name chanted at him in the first quarter, during his very first regular-season trip to the free-throw line. It was less a basketball game than a Bar Mitzvah, celebrating that these two guys we'd waited a combined four years for were at last becoming full-grown Sixers before our very eyes. It couldn't have mattered much less whether or not we won the game. 

That said, hey, we almost won the game! The Sixers led most of the way, including by six fairly deep into the fourth quarter. If not for the Internet-pandering greatness of Russell Westbrook -- 32-12-9 on good shooting, including a handful of tough pull-ups to make the difference late -- the Sixers might've won their first home opener since Process Genesis three years ago. It didn't happen, and a couple highly flustered 76ers possessions late in this one would probably make this loss pretty frustrating if it happened in February, which it probably still will. Last night? W/e. Let's watch those Embiid highlights again. 

And oh, were they high. It was a night that I imagine will soon become typical for our Jojo: He didn't have a great game, and he was still amazing. 6-16 from the floor with four turnovers and 0 assists is hardly the most efficient night Joel will have for us; a couple times he tried to do way too much in the half-court, and it would've been embarrassing if how much fun he was having even in his screw-ups wasn't so inspiring. He didn't know what spots to run to in transition, he was a non-factor on the boards late, and he probably needs to cool it with his coast-to-coast experiments for a little bit. (Actually, what am I saying? Do You forever, Joel, just watch for those tiny dudes sneaking into your blind spot.) 

But he did get to the line for eight FTs (including two on a rip-through move that most ten-year pros can't successfully execute) and made seven of 'em, he did grab nearly every rebound in sight in the first quarter (even though he only ended with seven for the game), he did get an early swat on Russ (and deterred countless other shots), and yes, he did hit his first-ever three-pointer (and even sent the not-WFC crowd into a frenzy with a couple he missed). Even on an off night, where Thunder big men Enes Kanter and Steven Adams — who my mother now hates — got the best of him on multiple occasions, and he radiated a total lack of NBA experience, he still scored 20 points in 22 minutes and kept us in a game we had no right being anywhere near. He is going to be DOMINANT. And soon. So soon.

Technically there were also ten other Sixers who took the court for us last night, so it's probably worth humoring a couple of their contributions as well. For all the shit that I gave him about cruising through the preseason, I thought Robert Covington was awesome last night — super-active on defense, making good decisions on offense, and hitting a couple huge three-pointers. Jerami Grant was similarly impressive, causing his typical chaos under the basket on both ends and even hitting a couple jumpers; probably shouldn't get super-used to that. And even though Gerald Henderson's night was most memorable for him bricking a three and coughing up the ball in critical late possessions, he also set the evening off with a gorgeous alley-oop slam, and played tough perimeter defense — the kind we just haven't had available to unleash on opposing point guards the last few years — on Westbrook, even if he was ultimately undone by Russ's sorcery.

Special kudos to a couple of our backcourt guys, though: In his first regular-season start for the 76ers — and his first regular-season start for any NBA team in seven seasons — Sergio Rodriguez was exactly what we needed: He attracted the Thunder trap but was able to easily navigate out of it, getting good looks and driving lanes for our perimeter guys, and he hit open shots when passed out to himself. He finished with 12 points, nine assists, and no turnovers, just what we'd hope for from our imported point guard. And Nik Stauskas packed a little extra heat for the bloggers who called for his dismissal all summer (as well as some of the fans that booed him — booed him! — last night), attacking the basket like his roster spot depended on it, finishing with an eye-catching 13 on 5-6 shooting. (I never stopped believing in you, Sauce.) (Well, maybe I sorta did, but at least I was rooting for you to make the team, if partly for selfish reasons.) 

On the other hand, it was something of a rough night for Dario Saric. He did fight for seven rebounds, and should laudable toughness on both sides of the ball, but the looks just weren't falling for Our Friend Dario last night — just 2-12, and some of the misses were brutal — and he was late on a couple rotations that led to open Thunder jumpers (Thumpers?) early. And despite showing his advanced touch early with three consecutive scores, Jahlil Okafor ran out of gas pretty quickly in this one, ending with just eight points on 4-10 shooting (with three TOs), and stood virtually no chance against the Thunder on the boards and in the pick-and-roll. Better nights to come for both. 

In the end, though, only one thing really mattered for the Sixers and the 20,000 fans — about 10,000 of them clad in Sixers jerseys, and mostly non-Iverson ones! — at the Center last night, and that's Joel Embiid, our beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy, officially becoming a player of record in the NBA. When a full stadium of Philly Phaithful chants "TRUST-THE-PRO-CESS!" while JoJo cackles from the free-throw line line, it means Our Once and Always Dark Lord's work is finally done. Hinkie died for our sins. Embiid is risen. 

Look at how much fun this season is already, with Simmons still in street clothes and Nerlens still Netflix-binging in Alabama with his phone in the other room. What's left to trust, anyway?

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

After two years filled with will he or won't he speculation over joining the Sixers, this certainly wasn't the effort Dario Saric had envisioned for his NBA regular-season debut. 

"I felt comfortable, but sometimes it's not your day and this was my bad day," said Saric, who scored five points in the Sixers' 103-97 season-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'll try to watch the video and fix what I can fix and move forward."

The raw numbers look bad. The rookie forward shot 2 of 12 from the field, including 0 of 4 from three-point range. He did notch seven rebounds and two assists, but also contributed two turnovers.

But as you know, numbers don't always tell the story. 

Saric displayed the offensive versatility and headiness on defense that had the Sixers salivating over him for two years while he played for Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He was able to penetrate in the lane several times against the Thunder on Wednesday night and used pump/head fakes to get his defender off balance, but the shots just didn't fall.

"He struggled with his shot" Sixers head coach Bett Brown said. "But just the physical play, some of the intellect of guarding things suddenly that we all might not pay attention to that coaches do. You see him go out of his way to make a rotation, that he just felt the game. I think that some of his pick-and-roll reads on trying to hit cutters, trying to slow up rollers and still go back to shooters like (Ersan) Ilyasova is, stood out to me.

"He's intelligent. He is a smart basketball player. The stats will show that he didn't make some of his shots, but I think that just that gamesmanship, that intellect stands out to me." 

The only time Saric looked a tad overmatched is when OKC went to its mustachioed muscle tandem of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter inside. After the game, Brown lamented leaving Saric in for so long against that pairing, which combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds on the night.

Teammate Jahlil Okafor tried to come to Saric's aid in those moments, but returning from a torn meniscus and on a minutes restriction, his plan wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm by the coaching staff.

"I actually kind of hinted to the coaches that I wanted to play with him (Embiid) because they put Kanter and Adams in," Okafor said. "I was kind of hinting to the coaches that if they want to play big ball we can play big ball with them."

Their response?

"Stay disciplined. Have your lawyer call my lawyer," Okafor said with a laugh. "That's the go-to line."

Even with Saric's few hiccups on defense, Okafor is confident the 22-year-old Croatian will be able to hold his own against NBA players and get the buckets to start dropping on the offensive end.

"I love Dario. It's been a pleasure having him around," Okafor said. "He's such a selfless guy.

"He did struggle a little bit with his shot, but all of the shots that he missed are shots that we know he can make and shots that we've seen him make since he's been here. So we're good. We know what he's going to do."