Still In This Thing: Sixers Look to Stay Afloat in Atlantic Against Orlando

Still In This Thing: Sixers Look to Stay Afloat in Atlantic Against Orlando

Even though it felt like it should've counted for far more, the Sixers'
loss to the Raptors last Wednesday actually only marked one extra tally
in the loss column for the Sixers, who still rest at four games above
.500. It may feel like the race for the Atlantic (and if you wanna take
it a little further, the whole season) is over, but in actuality we're
still very much in the hunt here—the Celtics lead only by a game, having
lost their last two (admittedly tough gcontests against the Spurs and
Celtics) and playing tonight against the surging Pacers, currently on a
four-game winning streak. With the Celtics and Sixers gearing for an
Easter showdown, any scenario but a Boston win and Philly loss means
that the Ballers will have a chance to re-take the division in Boston
tomorrow.

Of course, if the C's lose and the Sixers win tonight—it happened a lot
earlier in the season, I promise—they can capture the Atlantic lead
tonight instead. To live up to their end of the bargain, Philly will
have to defeat the Orlando Magic, who like they were when the Sixers
caught them at the beginning of the season, are currently at very low
tide, having lost five in a row (including a pair of embarrassing losses
to the Knicks) and also dealing with a feud between their coach (Stan
Van Gundy) and best player (all-everything center Dwight Howard). Still,
with the Sixers coming off a 21-point loss at home to the Raptors,
we're not really anyone to talk, are we? Neither team's gonna be doing
much chest-puffing tonight.

It'll be interesting to see how the Sixers come out to start this game.
After a final half on Wednesday where they scored a combined 22 points,
looking as tired, incoherent and spiritless as we've seen the team all
year, it'll be crucial for the team to get off to a good start tonight,
to put images of that awful 24 minutes of basketball firmly in the
rearview and jump on this bad-vibes Magic team early. In fact, this game
may very well end up a borderline-pathetic "which one of these teams is
gonna crumple first?" matchup, so let's hope the Sixers are sharp
enough after a couple days off to stick it to Orlando early and beat the
fight out of them.

8:00 tip from Wells Fargo Center. Another national game, remarkably—last
year we didn't get nearly enough of them, this year it's starting to
feel like we're getting way too many. But as bad as feelings are around
this team after blowouts at the hands of Washington and Toronto in the
space of a week, it's still far from lost—keep pace with the Celtics
here, pull ahead tomorrow, and we could still be on our way to a four
seed and a potentially very favorable first-round matchup against the
underwhelming Atlanta Hawks. The time is now, though—lose a couple more,
and we're gonna start wondering if it's not too late to start tanking
just so we don't have to meet the Heat in the playoffs.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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AP Images

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has died in Orlando.

Police say the 48-year-old former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead on Tuesday morning.

Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

One of the best defensive lineman of his generation, Kennedy was a star in his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks. He became the second Seattle player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

There was finally some football in South Philly on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off the first round of their OTAs. 

Aside from a few notable absences -- Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Donnie Jones -- the Eagles had just about everyone on the field (see story)

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice: 

1. Here's how the first-team offense looked: 
QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Zach Ertz
OL (left to right): Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews

2. Here's how the first-team defense looked: 
LDE: Brandon Graham
LDT: Destiny Vaeao
RDT: Tim Jernigan
RDE: Vinny Curry
LBs: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod
CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson. 

Note: In the nickel package, rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas came on the field as an outside cornerback and Mills slid into the slot. 

3. Early in the practice, in an offense-only drill, the Eagles were trying to audible into a new play, but there was some confusion with Blount, who didn't seem to know the play. Blount is still obviously learning the playbook, but it shows the respect they have for him that he was working with the ones already. 

4. The play the Eagles wanted to get into during that drill was a good one. Wentz rolled out to his right and found Jeffery streaking across the field. The two seem to be getting on just fine. 

Although later in 11-on-11s, Wentz tossed up an ill-advised pass deep to Jeffery in tight coverage and the ball was picked by McLeod. Jeffery will win a lot of battles, but that one was too much. 

5. Linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ron Brooks were on the field on Tuesday but didn't participate in team drills. Walker (ACL) and Brooks (quad tendon) are both recovering from significant injuries. 

6. The Eagles lined up a few times with Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together. Those few times, Sproles was in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's early, but we might get to see some creativity from Doug Pederson with these two this year. 

7. Dillon Gordon, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie last year, did something interesting on Tuesday. The offensive tackle, who played tight end in college, took a few reps at tight end in limited offensive drills. That's intriguing because if he could play the role of an extra tackle during the season, he'd have something Matt Tobin doesn't: the ability to actually become a receiver, not just an eligible one. 

8. Robinson, who is getting run at corner with the first team, won a jump ball with Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep ball. It was an impressive play by Robinson, but DGB mistimed his jump. 

The best defensive play of the day came from Najee Goode in 7-on-7s. The veteran backup linebacker and special teamer dropped back and dove backward to break up a pass off the hand of Nick Foles. 

9. Obviously, there's no hitting yet, but Derek Barnett had a good first day going against the vets. Sure, Lane Johnson completely shut him down on one play, but Barnett showed off a variety of moves. 

10. The Eagles' two rookie receivers worked with the third team on Tuesday, while DGB and Nelson Agholor worked with the twos. Shelton Gibson showed off his quickness and Mack Hollins' size and speed combo wasn't any less impressive. Also, Hollins wasn't wearing gloves, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch. 

Stupid observation of the day: Thanks to his afro and thick beard, Seumalo kind of looks like a lion with a mane.