Budding stars, promising young cores give Philly fans hope

Budding stars, promising young cores give Philly fans hope

Wins have been hard to come by for far too long in this city. When that’s the case, your only real alternative as a sports fan short of bailing on your team is to focus on the individuals and what might be someday.

This is done in part by looking ahead to drafts, free agency and trades. The Sixers have made an art form of it, but each of the other three teams has had plenty of practice as well.

We don’t yet know what lies ahead for the Eagles this season. There certainly is reason for optimism and the large majority of that hope is centered around the quarterback.

Carson Wentz heads a growing list of young players with star potential who could lead the Philadelphia sports scene out of the depths of despair. The fruits of the laborious losing could finally be paying off.

Wentz appears to have the physical tools, work ethic and the desire to lead that translates into greatness and winning. The Eagles will need to continue to surround him with the right parts and coaching, but Howie Roseman’s vision and bold move up to get the QB could be a franchise-changer.

In the NFL, more than any other sport, one position dictates winning. With Wentz at the helm, the Birds could finally halt their Super Bowl futility.              

The Sixers' potential cup runneth over in the “what could be” department. Joel Embiid’s brief but impactful 31 games last season fed a fan base starved for something tangible to back up that process faith. One can only imagine what he would do over an entire season.

The fact that he did not play in 51 games because of injury, and by design, makes Embiid the scariest of propositions. The upside is so high, but he could go down as the biggest heartbreaker in Philadelphia sports history.  

Then there’s Ben Simmons. The 6-foot-10 lefty with handle, skill, vision, unselfishness and athleticism. In a league that is becoming increasingly positionless, Simmons would appear to be the prototype. The thought of him grabbing a defensive rebound and pushing the ball the other way with endless options is downright scary. 

And the perfect complement to Simmons' skill set is Markelle Fultz. Similar to Wentz, the Sixers' front office identified their man and, with the ammunition, made their move. Fultz's versatility on and off the ball should allow Brett Brown the freedom to move Simmons all around to create the kind of matchup nightmares the club envisions.     

Rhys Hoskins' start to his Phillies career has been nothing short of spectacular. He is not just a one-trick pony. While the 24-year-old has shown immense power, he is a hitter first. He works counts and he’s not afraid to operate from behind in the count. He has something not many Phillies batters have had in recent years: an approach.

You can also throw in Nick Williams, who has had a somewhat quiet, yet very strong rookie season. Of course, there is Odubel Herrera and, in the very near future, Scott Kingery. Aaron Nola, last two starts aside, has been ace-like since his return from the disabled list. There aren’t many other answers with the club’s arms.

Overall, the Phils appear to be building a core of regulars that could be pretty potent.

Despite starting last season at the ripe old age of 19, Ivan Provorov proved to be the Flyers' best player. His poise and skill were on display from the jump. The blue line will be the club’s foundation going forward and Provorov will be the leader of this group.

If this year’s No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick’s injury history becomes nothing more than a footnote, the orange and black could have two foundational pieces to go along with Shayne Gostisbehere that move them out the malaise they've been in the last few seasons. 

While it’s not time to block off parade routes, if these players continue down the path they're currently on and they get some help, the fortunes of this city could be changing sooner rather than later. In the meantime, enjoy the youngins.

Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice


Eagles Injury Update: Lane Johnson, Wendell Smallwood back at practice

Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood were both back at Eagles practice Tuesday.
Johnson missed the Panthers game with a concussion he suffered against Cardinals, and Smallwood missed the last two games after hurting his knee against the Chargers.
Practice was closed Tuesday and the Eagles are not required to release an injury report until Thursday because of the long week, but a team official confirmed that Johnson practiced — which means he was cleared through the NFL's concussion protocol by an approved neurosurgeon.
Johnson was not in the locker room during the period it was open to the media, but Smallwood said he did practice without limitations and hopes to play against the Redskins Monday night.
"It's been coming along," Smallwood said. "Felt good these past couple days, since really after the Carolina game it started feeling good. I was full-go today, I practiced with the guys. ... I wasn't limited at all. It really didn't bother me much. I felt good today. Hopefully, later on in the week, I'll feel better as the week goes and I'll be playing Monday. I think I should be ready."
Smallwood rushed for 113 yards with a 3.9 average and caught seven passes for 56 yards in four games before getting hurt early in the Chargers game.
"Wendell obviously brings a lot to the table," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "He's that thrashing, downhill runner. He's got some explosiveness. He's a three-down back, he's good out of the backfield, he's really good in protection. It brings all those things."
Smallwood said he played "on adrenaline" with the injury but said his knee swelled up during the game.
Injuries have married Smallwood's career. He missed the last three games last year with a knee injury and missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury.
"I get frustrated a lot when I'm not in the game, not being out there to help and progress as the year goes on," he said. "So it frustrates me.
"But it happens. I've just got to suck it up and not pay attention to it. Just know I can bounce back and just try to get on the field as fast as I can."
Smallwood said he expects to be 100 percent Monday night in a huge divisional game against the Redskins at the Linc.
"I believe so," he said. "I'm not going to hold back any. I'm not going to think about it or get nervous. I have that confidence in myself. As the week's gone on, I just started feeling better about what I'm able to do."

Also, rookie cornerback Sidney Jones, who became eligible to practice Wednesday after spending the first six weeks on the reserve-non football injury list, said he did not practice. Jones has been out since suffering a torn Achilles at his pro day in March.

Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

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Judge set to rule on latest bid to stop Ezekiel Elliott's suspension

NEW YORK — A federal judge said he will rule Tuesday on an emergency request from attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty heard arguments from lawyers on both sides as the NFL Players Association scrambled to keep Elliott on the field after a federal appeals court last week overturned an injunction that had stopped the league's suspension.

Elliott, last year's NFL rushing leader as a rookie, is on the suspended list. The Cowboys play at San Francisco on Sunday.

Attorney Daniel Nash, arguing for the NFL, accused Elliott's legal team of seeking relief from courts in Texas to evade courts in New York and the effect of the April 2016 ruling that reinstated a four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady in the "Deflategate" scandal.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler, representing the NFLPA, asked Crotty to prevent enforcement of the suspension for two weeks so that the Southern District of New York judge assigned to the case — Katherine Polk Failla — can return from a vacation and rule. Crotty concluded the hearing by saying he'd look at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Brady case before ruling by the end of the day on the union's request for a temporary restraining order.

Nash warned Crotty that allowing the union to continue to delay the suspension would invite "every player who's suspended" to go to court for relief.

"They know under the Brady decision they have no chance of success. None," Nash said.

Kessler said the harm to a player's short career was serious when a suspension is served.

"He can never get that back," Kessler said, arguing that the irreparable harm — among issues of law considered before a temporary restraining order is granted — faced by a player is much greater than harm claimed by the league when a suspension is delayed.

In their request for the temporary restraining order, Elliott's attorneys said NFL procedure required rosters to be set by 4 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said there is no such deadline from the league's perspective.

NFLPA attorneys, working on Elliott's behalf, also said the league had already informed Elliott that he couldn't practice or play this week. The Cowboys returned to work Tuesday after their bye week and will have their first full practice Wednesday.

Elliott was suspended in August by Commissioner Roger Goodell after the league concluded following a yearlong investigation that he had several physical confrontations in the summer of 2016 with Tiffany Thompson, his girlfriend at the time. Prosecutors in Columbus, Ohio, decided not to pursue the case in the city where Elliott starred for Ohio State, citing conflicting evidence, but the NFL did its own investigation and announced the six-game punishment.

That led to weeks of court filings, with NFLPA lawyers contending that league investigators withheld key evidence from Commissioner Roger Goodell and that the appeal hearing was unfair because arbitrator Harold Henderson refused to call Goodell and Thompson as witnesses. Elliott has denied Thompson's allegations under oath.

The NFL placed Elliott on the suspended list a day after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas court's injunction that kept Elliott on the field.

The case is shifting to New York because the New Orleans court ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Depending on the outcome in New York, Elliott's attorneys could still seek a rehearing with a larger panel of the appeals court, which they have indicated they would do.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled 2-1 last week that Elliott's attorneys filed the Texas lawsuit prematurely because the arbitrator had yet to decide on the running back's appeal through the NFL. Elliott's attorneys have argued in subsequent filings that the dissenting judge in New Orleans agreed with the Texas judge's findings that the NFL appeal was unfair to Elliott.

Brady's suspension was served more than a year after it was imposed. A federal judge ruled against the NFL and overturned the suspension, but the league won an appeal.