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Eagles' D-line built to dominate for years

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USA Today Images

Eagles' D-line built to dominate for years

The Eagles might have the best defensive line in the NFL this season, although there are certainly other teams in the conversation.

Beyond 2017? It's not up for debate. No D-line is better positioned for future success than the Eagles'.

That might've been the case already before defensive tackle Tim Jernigan signed a four-year contract extension worth $48 million on Thursday. A new deal for Jernigan just put the unit over the top. There isn't a defensive line in the league that possesses more high-end talents who are either in their prime or still developing, all under contract for the foreseeable future. 

The Eagles boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL at 66.4 yards per game — 12 full yards better than the second-place team — and entered Week 6 tied for sixth with 25 sacks. And to think, this front four could be together for years to come.

Tim Jernigan
Age: 25
Signed through 2021

Jernigan's numbers in his first season with the Eagles might not blow anybody away — 17 tackles and 1½ sacks through nine games. However, nearly half of those stops — seven, to be exact — have come behind the line of scrimmage, which is tied for highest on the team. Acquired from the Ravens for a swap of third-round draft choices, Jernigan has proven to be the perfect complement to Fletcher Cox on the interior.

Fletcher Cox
Age: 26
Signed through 2022

With 4½ sacks, Cox is only two away from his total from all of last season, and he missed two games this year with a calf injury. The two-time Pro Bowler also leads the Eagles with 11 quarterback hits, and he has a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown. There may still be some debate as to whether Cox was worth the massive contract he signed for $100 million, but practically speaking, he's here through at least 2020 the way the deal is structured.

Brandon Graham
Age: 29
Signed through 2018

It's weird to think of Graham as the elder statesman of this group, but of the unit's core players, the defensive end is the oldest. Yet the former first-round pick is into only his third season as a starter, and he's seemingly getting better every year. His five sacks are two away from a career high, and he's matched Jernigan with seven tackles for loss. The Eagles just added compensation to Graham's deal this summer, but it will be interesting to see if they offer an extension in the offseason. Since his game isn't built on pure speed, and he is a team captain, the club may want to prevent him from even thinking about free agency.

Vinny Curry
Age: 29
Signed through 2020

Curry caught a lot of flak last year for not living up to an expensive, long-term extension, but he's been far stronger in '17. His three sacks are tied for third on the team, and he's knotted with Jernigan and Graham at seven tackles for loss as well. The Eagles could save $6 million under the salary cap if Curry isn't on the roster next season, so it remains to be seen whether the defensive end is still part of the plan.

Derek Barnett
Age: 21
Signed through 2020, with a team option for 2012

If the Eagles decide to part ways with Curry, they're molding his potential replacement anyway. Selected 14th overall in April's draft, Barnett is having something of a quiet rookie season with 14 tackles and 2½ sacks in a situational role. However, his 10 quarterback hits are tied with Curry for second on the team, in far fewer snaps. Barnett is clearly the future at end and there's a good chance he'll be elevated to starter by next season, possibly making Curry expendable. Regardless, this is as strong a core group of linemen as you'll come across in the NFL.

Free-agents-to-be
Beau Allen, Chris Long

With the cap situation the way it is, the Eagles can't afford to keep everyone. It would be a shame to lose role players such as Allen, an ideal rotational player up the middle, or Long, a veteran pass-rush specialist off the edge. At the same time, either player could theoretically re-sign for 2018, keeping the tremendous depth intact behind the Eagles' front four. Even without them, the line is stacked, but just imagine if one or both decide to stick around.

The Process is ready for primetime

The Process is ready for primetime

Basically, you saw everything you'd want to see from Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid during the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Friday night, as they kept doing what they've basically done all February: winning. 

Ben Simmons was electric all over the court, ending with 11 points (5-5 FG, mostly dunks), six boards, a game-high 13 assists and a team-high four steals. A still-locked-in Dario Saric was the beneficiary of a handful of those dimes, ending with 18 points (7-11 FG, 4-7 3PT), three boards and five assists. 

Joel Embiid had an underwhelming stat line in his thankfully clipped playing time (just eight minutes after sitting out Wednesday's game — we'll see him more on Sunday), ending with just five points and two boards, and not exactly displaying the defensive dominance we're accustomed to from our big man. But the five points came on back-to-back possessions in the third, where JoJo nailed a top-of-the-break three and then scored on a dunk following a Fultzian spin move to the basket, showing the range of his skills in an appropriately breathtaking (and Internet-slaying) manner. 

And of course, the Sixers — I mean, Team World — won handily, outscoring Team USA in every quarter and ultimately triumphing 155-124. Even though Sacramento's Bogdan Bogdanovic took home MVP honors on the night for his white-hot shooting night (26 points on 9-16 FG, including a handful of Steph Curry-esque extended pull-up triples), I thought Simmons was the best all-around player on the floor, another thumb in the eye of the All-Star committee that snubbed him (four times!) for the proper game on Sunday night. 

Perhaps more importantly, the Sixers' presence just dominated the game altogether. Hell, they made up 3/5 of Team World's starting lineup — no other team had more than two representatives, across both squads, though the Lakers would have were Lonzo Ball available — and in the broadcast booth, the TNT guys couldn't stop talking about Embiid all night, comparing him to Hakeem and debating whether they'd ever seen a big man of his versatility before. 

And to think, this year they'll actually be represented on Saturday and Sunday, too. Hopefully Ben and Dario get a nice, relaxing All-Star break from here — they've certainly earned it — and now, it's Embiid's spotlight. The Process is ready for primetime, baby, and longtime Trusters should make sure to enjoy this moment as much as JoJo himself undoubtedly will. 

Chris Long defends LeBron James after attack from Fox News host

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AP Images

Chris Long defends LeBron James after attack from Fox News host

Chris Long is beloved by Philadelphians for much more than rocking a full-lenghth faux fur during the Eagles' Super Bowl championship parade. Most in Philly respect Long because he is one to speak his mind on whatever topic he sees fit. He's also a man of action, not just talk.

So when Fox News host Laura Ingraham attacked LeBron James and Kevin Durant for expressing their views on Donald Trump, Long stood up for his fellow athletes.

"Keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, 'shut up and dribble,'" Ingraham said.

As someone who hears "stick to sports" on a regular basis, this commentary hit close to home for the Eagles defensive end.

Long took exception and wanted to point out some of the people Ingraham's own network has on for their own political commentary. He launched into a Twitter thread pointing out some of the political experts.