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Do the 49ers do anything better than the Eagles?

Do the 49ers do anything better than the Eagles?

You may think there's no need to break down the Eagles and 49ers position by position, and frankly, you are probably right. The Eagles have amassed a 6-1 record, to some amazement, and San Francisco is 0-7, to no surprise at all.

Regardless, the Eagles swear up and down they can't take this opponent lightly. There may even be some statistical evidence to support that feeling, like the fact that the 49ers lost five straight games by three points or less. They've been in almost every contest this season.

Until last week, that is. The 49ers are coming off a 40-10 blowout loss at home to Dallas, so even the very perception this team is capable of playing competitive football is being put to the test.

So as we do every week, we ask if the Eagles' opponent is any way superior or has the advantage. And in this case, the answer is somewhere between "No" and "Hell no." 

QUARTERBACKS

We'll have mercy on C.J. Beathard and keep this short and sweet. A third-round draft pick from Iowa, Beathard will be making his second NFL start for the 49ers on Sunday, and the first did not go well. Beathard completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 6.2 yards per attempt with five sacks and two fumbles lost in a 40-10 loss to the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Carson Wentz is blossoming into a top-five or -ten quarterback before our eyes, which is pretty exciting.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

Carlos Hyde could very well be the best running back on the field Sunday, and it may not be particularly close. Hyde is averaging 4.3 yards per carry with four touchdowns in an offense where he's the only weapon defenses legitimately need to worry about stopping. Perhaps more impressive, the 235-pound back has already matched his output as a receiver from 2016 with 27 receptions for 162 yards — in seven games! Granted, LeGarrette Blount is a beast as well, and has only nine fewer yards on 16 fewer carries. And while the two may be difficult to compare, the Eagles are deeper overall with Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement.

Edge: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is sixth in the NFL with 39 receptions, tied for seventh with 494 yards, and tied for fourth with five touchdown grabs. Ertz is the most dangerous weapon in this game, although Pierre Garson isn't too far behind. The 10th-year veteran is the 49ers' only consistent option in the passing game with 38 catches and 483 yards, but he has yet to find the end zone. San Francisco's receivers can't match the complementary production of Alshon Jeffery (24 REC, 354 YDS, 2 TD) or Nelson Agholor (24 REC, 366 YDS, 5 TD), so the head-to-head ends there.

Distinct edge: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINES

Obviously, the loss of Jason Peters is significant for the Eagles, but they're fortunate to have Halapoulivaati Vaitai to step in. There will be a drop-off at left tackle, for sure, but Vaitai has been a stabilizing force off the bench the past two seasons. Even if the unit takes a little bit of a step back, it was arguably the best group in the league. The same can't be said for the 49ers O-line, which has taken its lumps. Only left tackle Joe Staley has a positive grade from Pro Football Focus in 2017, while 6-foot-8, 355-pound right tackle Trent Brown and right guard Brian Fusco may miss the game with injuries.

Edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVENS

San Francisco's 30th-ranked run defense is deceiving. Opponents are only averaging 3.9 yards per attempt, which is tied for 12th, so all that production isn't coming easy. That should come as no surprise with all the first-round picks the 49ers have invested in the front seven — DeForest Buckner in 2016, and Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster in '17. Of course, the Eagles boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, not to mention are also tied for 10th with 18 sacks. Buckner, Thomas and Foster will be great down the line, but Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Nigel Bradham are great right now.

Slight edge: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Moving Eric Reid to linebacker may or may not bolster the 49ers' front seven, but the coaches seem to believe it's improved their secondary. A second-round pick in 2015, Jaquiski Tartt has taken over at free safety, and is currently the only defensive back on the team that grades out positively by PFF. Tartt and Jimmie Ward make a nice safety tandem, but the cornerbacks are not very good, especially with K'waun Williams likely out. The Eagles also have a "nice" safety tandem, but Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson have been holding down the fort at corner as well. Much like San Fran's run D, the Eagles' 29th-ranked pass defense is largely a product of volume.

Edge: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

Robbie Gould has experienced a bit of a career resurgence with the 49ers, yet his lone missed field goal on the season likely cost the team its first victory. Jake Elliott doesn't miss kicks in the clutch, or hasn't so far anyway, not even from 61 yards out. As always, the Eagles boast some of the best coverage units in the league as well, while Kenjon Barner is a threat in the return game — even if it isn't exactly Darren Sproles back there.

Edge: Eagles

COACHING

It's hard to imagine a month ago we would be giving Doug Pederson the nod over a guy who ran the best offense in the NFL last season, but here we are. As the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan was one of the primary reasons why the Falcons went to the Super Bowl last season — you can see how much he meant to that team now. Yet Shanahan is searching for his first win as a head coach, while Pederson is in the midst of a five-game winning streak and the Eagles are on fire. Sure, a talent discrepancy has a lot to do with it, but would you trade Pederson for Shanahan right now? Didn't think so.

Very slight edge: Eagles

OVERALL

There's a reason the 49ers are 0-7, and the Eagles are 6-1. These two teams are not particularly close, and that's reflected accurately by their records. When you consider that even in the areas where the talent is comparable, the Eagles are still superior every time, it's difficult to imagine a way in which San Francisco could even pull off the upset. It would likely take a total meltdown at home by the Eagles for that to happen, which seems impossible the way they're playing right now.

Very distinct edge: Eagles

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

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AP Images

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.