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Poll: Fans against drafting athletes with history of domestic abuse

Poll: Fans against drafting athletes with history of domestic abuse

If you ask Howard Eskin, the Eagles aren't considering selecting Joe Mixon in next week's draft.

If you ask Josh Norris, the Eagles are strongly considering Mixon.

If you ask the 1,062 football fans who participated in an HBO Real Sports/Marist poll, you'd find that nearly nine out of 10 of them would oppose the drafting of Mixon by their favorite team.

In the poll, 87 percent said they would not want their favorite team to draft a top college prospect with a history of physical violence against women. 

The results also showed that 75 percent are against drafting a player with a known history of using performance-enhancing drugs, but only 28 percent are against taking a player with a known history of using marijuana. 

"Football fans are clear on their view of NFL athletes and domestic violence. Physical violence against women is unacceptable, defying the myth that fans will excuse transgressions that don't impact athletic performance,” Keith Strudler, Director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, said in a statement. “Conversely, marijuana is hardly a concern among fans, something the league should consider in their own codes of conduct.”

Evaluating the Eagles' Darren Sproles replacement options

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Evaluating the Eagles' Darren Sproles replacement options

It was possible to write off Darren Sproles as a role player of sorts for the Eagles. An integral part of the offense, yes, though not an every-down back or even a starter necessarily. A unique and dangerous weapon – just not somebody who was going to touch the ball 20 or more times most weeks.

Today is not the day to undersell Sproles’ meaning to this team. The 12-year veteran finished with a career-high 146 touches on offense last season. He led all Eagles running backs in snaps by far in 2016, and as recently as Week 2, was on the field for 50 of 72 plays. Oh, Sproles is the primary punt returner, too, and a three-time Pro Bowl selection at that.

Sproles’ skill set is pretty much impossible to replicate. What the Eagles must now hope is Sproles’ production isn’t impossible to replace after his injuries turned out to be season-ending.

Here’s how it can be done in theory. In practice, well… that’s going to have to be another story.

 

Wendell Smallwood

The player who has the most to gain from this is Smallwood, by virtue of being the most accomplished receiver out of the backfield currently on the 53-man roster. Of course, LeGarrette Blount has spread 48 receptions over an eight-year NFL career, while rookie Corey Clement is still working his way into the rotation, so that isn’t saying much.

While he’s certainly no Sproles, Smallwood does have decent hands. He caught 53 passes for 476 yards in his final two seasons at West Virginia, and finished with 6 receptions for 55 yards while playing limited snaps for the Eagles in 2016. Smallwood also looks like the most quick-twitch, slippery runner of the trio, which perhaps makes him the best option to split out wide or line up in the slot – should the Eagles choose to continue using those looks.

Smallwood is the clear frontrunner to serve as the primary third-down back, though somewhat by default. He has just 105 touches as a pro, and his pass protection remains a concern. Then again, somebody has to do the job, preferably a back who could conceivably catch a pass or two, and for Week 4 in Los Angeles at least, it appears that’s going to be Smallwood.

 

Corey Clement

We can’t discount Clement entirely. We know for a fact that Blount isn’t going to see much third-down work, but Eagles coach Doug Pederson specifically mentioned Clement as an option. Based on what we saw in the preseason, it might not be too farfetched, either.

An undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, Clement came in with a reputation as a bruising, between-the-tackles runner. However, he’s shown quite a bit more burst and quickness than maybe was anticipated, while also putting in steady work in the passing game. Clement finished the preseason with 7 receptions for 46 yards, plus looked solid in protection throughout.

Clement still isn’t as fast or elusive as Smallwood, so don’t expect to see him lining up at receiver or anything like that. Clement isn’t a terrible option in passing situations, as at the very least he can keep the quarterback clean, in addition to running the basic routes in the tree to help move the sticks.

 

Byron Marshall

Marshall is currently on the Eagles practice squad, with the roster still sitting at 52 players, he certainly might be in line for a promotion. Given his skill set, that also might make a lot more sense than trying to shoehorn Smallwood or Clement into a role they don’t necessarily fit.

Pederson has said on multiple occasions that Marshall is cross-training at running back and receiver. That sounds an awful lot like what Sproles does for the Eagles, doesn’t it? Marshall also played both positions at Oregon, posting a 1,000-yard season on the ground as a sophomore, and a 1,000-yard season through the air as a junior.

But that was college. There’s really no context for doing it in the NFL. Undrafted in 2016, Marshall was active for three games last season, recording 19 carries for 64 yards and 3 receptions for 10 yards. It’s not a large enough sample size to draw any definitive conclusions, although the fact that he’s still on the practice squad suggests he’s not the answer.

There is no shortage of players who are in the mold of Sproles. There are a very select view for whom it translates on the field. Marshall is intriguing and may warrant a look. At the same time, he’s a bit of a long shot to fill the void in the Eagles offense.

 

Nelson Agholor

There’s a lot of talk about how the Eagles will go about plugging the hole in the Eagles offense, but what about on special teams? Torrey Smith was something of a surprise to take over Sproles’ punt return duties on Sunday. After all, Smith had never previously returned a punt in his seven-year NFL career, nor at Maryland for that matter.

Perhaps Agholor would be a better option, seeing as he actually has some experience in the role. He was pretty good at it, too, you might recall. Agholor returned 37 punts for a 14.6 average and 4 touchdowns in two seasons for the Trojans. Why not give him a shot?

The Eagles are currently in the process of trying to rebuild Agholor’s confidence, so sticking him back there on an island might sound a bit tenuous. At the same time, what would be a better ego boost then expanding his role with the team? They should really be working Agholor in as the primary return man at practice, because he’s currently the best they’ve got.

 

Trade

How desperate are the Eagles to make a deep playoff run this season? Because if they are serious about making a big push, there are some Sproles clones and cheap imitations that are likely available to be had in a trade.

The Patriots could no doubt afford to part with Dion Lewis. The Broncos backfield is getting crowded, so Jamaal Charles could be available. Do the Jets really have any use for Bilal Powell? These are just a few examples, but there is always somebody out there.

It doesn’t necessarily behoove the Eagles to deal draft picks at this point, because let’s face it, are any of those guys going to truly replace Sproles? Probably not, but it is technically an option, and would not be surprising at all to learn the front office has explored those paths.

Ultimately, the Eagles are probably better of trying to replace Sproles in the aggregate with the remaining pieces that are remaining on the roster.

Sixers can't replace Nerlens Noel with Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries

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Sixers can't replace Nerlens Noel with Emeka Okafor, Kris Humphries

What's better than one Okafor? Two. Yes, the Philadelphia 76ers have hired Jahlil's big brother [photo not found] Emeka Okafor to help him hold down the middle in training camp this season, along with their annoying-but-always-around next-door neighbor growing up, Kris Humphries. (Kris of course would refuse to play Super Smash Bros. with the one slightly gimpy N64 controller, so Emeka and Jahlil would have to trade off so it wouldn't be A Thing, and they always won anyway.) 

Humphries, of course, has not had a relevant NBA moment since 2012, the year he both combined with Deron Williams to torture the playoff-hopeful Sixers in a 97-90 January home loss that still gives me hives a half-decade later AND inspired one of the coldest verses in Kanye West's illustrious frostbitten catalog. That's still probably better than Emeka Okafor, who has not had an NBA moment of any kind since 2013, where a half-decent season for the Wizards ended with his aching bones being shipped as cap filler to the Suns and him essentially never being heard from again. 

To put it callously, these are no longer players of consequence. They have no meaning to this current Philadelphia 76ers roster in any practical or even symbolic capacity. They will not steal a roster spot from Richaun Holmes or Amir Johnson or little bro Jah. They are merely players who are on this team at the moment and someday very soon will no longer be. Talking about how they might fit into the Sixers' roster this season would be like talking about how that free bag of potato chips you forgot was in your bag from weeks ago is going to fit into your dinner at The Continental. 

In fact, the most relevant quality that these two tall men share in Sixers terms is that neither of them is Nerlens Noel. Remember him? He was on the 76ers for about three and a half seasons, until the Colangelim decided that he was a ticking time bomb and decided to cut both the red wire and blue wire by trading him to the Dallas Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew "Nah B" Bogut and a first-round pick only redeemable at out-of-state locations within the first half-hour of purchase. And as we all remember, we had to trade him because he was a restricted free agent that was Definitely Going to Demand a Max Contract in the Off-Season and he was Definitely Going to Get It and we were Definitely Not Going to Be Able to Match. 

Of course, astute NBA offseason headline watchers may also have noticed that the contract Nerlens ultimately signed was merely the qualifying offer with the Dallas Mavericks, for one year and $4 million -- or, roughly $80 million less than most assumed he was bound to get as a free agent. With The Eraser too many millions away with the Mavs to re-sign long term (and without a credible counter-offer to force their hand with), he elected to play out the the string in Big D and hope for a more resounding return next season. Turns out, the market was pretty soft for raw, defensive-minded, athletic big men with proven potential but not a long track record of on-court success. 

But there is at least one team that out there that could really still use such a player: The Philadelphia 76ers! Despite the presence of these two new bigs, and all the other dudes on our roster who have to crouch when they get on the subway, there's still nobody who can credibly anchor a defense when Joel Embiid isn't playing. And despite his many tremendous on-court skills, not playing is still what Joel Embiid does best: With the Sixers' home opener less than a month away, there's not even a timetable for JoJo playing 5-on-5, and Embiid has himself laughed off the possibility playing 82 games this season -- as if it would mark a Ripkenesque streak of endurance and perseverance. Because it would. (Bryan Colangelo says he believes Embiid will be ready for the season opener, which is better than him saying he believes he won't be, I suppose.) 

In a world where Embiid misses a bunch of games over the course of the season and can't play that many minutes even when he's active -- that's this world, btw -- it's almost invaluable to have a backup who can do a bunch of the most important things JoJo does, helps maintain roster continuity and still has the chance to unlock worlds of possibility within his own potential. Would it be worth $4 million for one year -- roughly 1/3 of what we're paying Amir Johnson, for the exact same contract length? I'd reckon. 

It may seem petty to continue beating this drum like a one-armed Keith Moon while so many other 76ers things seem to give cause for optimism -- from a reduced Sauce Castillo to Markelle Fultz living in the gym (like Worm in Rounders!) to J.J. Redick pander-trolling his way into the cholesterol-laden hearts of Philly fans worldwide. When will it be time to finally let this go? Well, when I run into Bryan Colangelo at the 76ers' championship victory parade in 2019, we can begin to have that discussion. Until then, Nerlens Noel Was Traded for a Fake Draft Pick and no Sixers moment will be sweet enough for me to get over my saltiness.