t.j. mcconnell

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Rob's Rants: Doug Pederson needs to give his new QB some help

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

I know you're feeling conflicted right now. The Eagles are 11-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. They've already clinched the NFC East. Home-field advantage and a playoff bye are a very real possibility. But the Carson Wentz injury is an equalizer and then some.

On the bright side, the Flyers steadied their sinking ship in Western Canada by winning three straight. But the Sixers have dropped four in a row. Maybe the Phils will land Jake Arrieta or Manny Machado? Dare to dream. You're up, you're down. Welcome to Philadelphia sports. So what better time to provide some nice, healthy Rob's Rants? Letting things out can be therapeutic and after the Wentz news, I need to vent a little.    

Run-pass-option
It's hard to find fault with Doug Pederson this season. He's done an excellent job game planning and having his team prepared week in and week out, and his most impressive work has been his ability to overcome injuries. The Eagles have lost Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos, just to name a few. All of the above represent major core pieces and Pederson's team is 11-2. Losing Wentz trumps them all and presents the head coach's biggest challenge. So look at this not so much as a rant but a plea to Doug P. moving forward.     

Nick Foles entered the Rams game late in the third quarter with the Eagles trailing 35-31. Certainly a difficult spot for any backup. He hadn't taken a meaningful snap all season. Logic would dictate emphasizing the run to let him get his feet wet. This was not the late fourth quarter, no timeouts, need to move down the field quickly type of circumstances. Further, the Eagles have three very capable running backs.

Pederson elected to throw the ball five straight times and called pass plays on eight of nine in the possession. The Birds did wind up getting a field goal on the drive and Foles completed three passes, but you wonder if it's the wisest move to drop Foles back that much, that quickly. I know Doug has been aggressive all season and that in part has helped the Eagles get where they are, and I'm also well aware of the heat he took by many (including me) for being too passive in the Seattle loss. But with Foles' lack of mobility in the pocket and the left side of the Eagles' offensive line struggling mightily against the pass rush, a bigger dose of the run could have made his transition back to starter a little smoother. But beyond the Rams game, balance and a commitment to the run will be Foles' best friend, along with a strong defense.    

Sixers' struggles
It's one thing to lose in Cleveland and New Orleans, especially without Joel Embiid for both games and Robert Covington vs. the Pelicans. It's another to drop home games to the likes of the Suns and the Lakers prior to those defeats. For that, there is no excuse. The Sixers have lost four in a row and stand at 13-13. They continue to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and of late have not come to play to start games, particularly at home. Some of this can be chalked up to youth. Some not so much.

They are losing far too many 50-50 balls. Too many offensive rebounds and second chances allowed. That's just hustle and want. They also need veterans like Jerryd Bayless to be better, especially in the absence of T.J. McConnell. I've pointed this out before in this space but the Sixers are beyond losing to the NBA's dregs. It would also be nice to get the No. 1 overall pick from this past draft on the floor at some point.    

Army-Navy
Let's close out this Rob's Rants on two positives. First, the 118th edition of Army-Navy football was played Saturday right here in Philadelphia. It is everything that is right about sports and our country. The men doing battle on that field at the Linc put sports into the context it deserves. Battle hard on the field, win or lose, respect to your opponent, represent our service men and women and country. Then it's on to further protecting and serving. They are truly unique individuals. And to have it played in the snow in such a cool setting was awesome.

DJ and the Kernal
Lastly, Dick Jerardi and Mike Kern both recently announced their retirements from the Philadelphia Daily News. They were as good of writers as this city has ever seen. They were even better people. I grew up reading them and had the opportunity as an adult to work with them professionally as a producer, then as a host and the pleasure was all mine. They knew of what they wrote, you learned something every time you read them, and they provided a sense of humor while doing it. Nothing beat our yearly Daily News Live Christmas Eve shows with Hall of Famer John Chaney. Their bylines will be missed.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

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USA Today Images

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, T.J. McConnell questionable

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

The Sixers might get some reinforcements back to help try to halt their losing streak.

Joel Embiid, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell are listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota (9:30 p.m./NBCSP+).

Embiid (back tightness) sat out Saturday night’s loss because of load management and then was a last-minute scratch against the Pelicans Sunday. Covington (lower back contusion), who was injured diving into the stands for a loose ball against the Cavs Saturday, also missed Sunday night’s loss. McConnell suffered a sprained AC joint in the Sixers’ win over the Wizards back on Nov. 29. He came back and played 18 minutes in the team’s loss to the Lakers, but then missed the first two games of the road trip in Cleveland and New Orleans.

Embiid’s injury is not believed to be serious. The big man himself didn’t seem too concerned.

“If it was the Finals, I'm sure I could have gone,” Embiid said Sunday. “But we've got 82 games and they don't want me to push if I'm not a hundred percent, so that's what I did.”

The Sixers will look to snap a four-game losing streak — their longest of the season — against the reloaded Timberwolves (16-11). 

Sixers Injury Update: At least 3 more weeks before Markelle Fultz is cleared

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Injury Update: At least 3 more weeks before Markelle Fultz is cleared

Updated at 7 p.m. 

CLEVELAND — It will be at least three more weeks until Markelle Fultz is cleared to play.

Fultz has been sidelined since late October because of right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance. The Sixers announced Saturday both issues are resolved.

So what are the next steps? The 2017 No. 1 pick will continue physical therapy on his right shoulder. He also will increase his strength and conditioning training as well as on-court basketball activities.

Then in approximately three weeks, the Sixers medical team and Dr. Ben Kibler will examine Fultz and “gauge his readiness.” Fultz has been rehabbing with Kibler, the Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic, including a recent trip to Kentucky.

There are various stages of criteria players have to go through before they are given the green light for NBA action. This could include, as examples, 5-on-0, 3-on-3, and finally 5-on-5 full-contact practice.

The Sixers also announced Justin Anderson, who has missed the last eight games because of shin splints in his left leg, will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks. Anderson will increase basketball training and conditioning. He has been limited in what he has been able to do on the court, following a program with physical therapy and rest.

The team is eyeing the returns of these two players as the roster has been hit with injuries. T.J. McConnell will be back on the sidelines Saturday against the Cavaliers because the sprained AC joint in his left shoulder still is an issue. McConnell suffered the injury last week, missed three games, played 18 minutes against the Lakers Thursday, but will not be able to go in Cleveland.

Dario Saric is available to play. Saric was listed as questionable, but the Sixers decided he would be able to play shortly before 7 p.m. The forward is dealing with a left eye laceration and right eye corneal abrasion he suffered in practice this week.

With Joel Embiid out because of his back-to-back restriction, Brown could turn to Richaun Holmes and Amir Johnson in the starting lineup if Saric cannot play.

The Sixers do have their newest member, Trevor Booker, available. The forward joined the team in Philadelphia Friday and traveled to Cleveland for his first game with the Sixers.