The700Level

Grading the Eagles' 28-23 Week 6 win over the Panthers

Grading the Eagles' 28-23 Week 6 win over the Panthers

QUARTERBACK

Carson Wentz: 16/30, 222 YDS, 3 TD

Wentz is the real deal, plain and simple. Under intense pressure for much of the contest, the second-year quarterback kept his composure and continued to come up big in clutch situations. The Eagles were only 5 for 14 on third-down conversions this week, but it was enough, and Wentz's lone turnover occurred on a strip-sack in the first quarter. The numbers may not look incredible, but he got the job done, guiding his team to victory, on the road, against a quality opponent and defense (see 10 observations).

Grade: A-

RUNNING BACKS

LeGarrette Blount: 14 ATT, 67 YDS

All numbers aside, this group struggled mightily in pass protection, especially Kenjon Barner. Barner wasn't effective with the ball in his hands, either, carrying five times for seven yards and catching one pass for nine yards. Blount was fantastic again, and the case could easily be made he should've touched the ball more. Have to think his limitations in the passing game keep him from being on the field more, although it's not as if somebody else was deserving of those snaps.

Grade: B-

WIDE RECEIVERS

Nelson Agholor: 4 REC, 55 YDS, 1 TD

Agholor is on a roll. He now has four touchdowns this season and really showed his wheels on this one, turning a short reception over the middle into a 24-yard score. Nice night for Alshon Jeffery as well with a team-high 71 yards on four receptions. Rookie Mack Hollins added two catched for 38 yards, and give Marcus Johnson a catch for 16 yards, as the Eagles spread the ball around and got everybody involved.

Grade: B

TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz: 2 REC, 18 YDS, 2 TD

It was a quiet night for Ertz, from the standpoint that he was targeted only five times, but he certainly made the most of the limited opportunities. The Eagles needed their tight ends to block here — not exactly Ertz's strong suit, but nobody is complaining when you score twice. That false start in the fourth quarter sure could've hurt though.

Grade: A-

OFFENSIVE LINE

Halapoulivaati Vaitai: Started at RT

Starting in place of Lane Johnson, Vaitai experienced his share of shaky moments (see breakdown). The backup right tackle had a hand in two sacks, one of which went for a forced fumble. Granted, Wentz likely could've got rid of the ball sooner. Vaitai would eventually settle down, and once he did, the offensive line was fine. The Eagles rushed for 103 yards with a 4.1 average (minus kneeldowns), while Wentz took three sacks and sustained eight quarterback hits — though much of that damage was inflicted early.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE

Fletcher Cox: 2 TKL, 0.5 SK, 2 QBH, 1 PD

This was one of the most dominant performances against the run that I can recall. Granted, Carolina has struggled in this phase all season, but outside of Cam Newton, they literally could not get anything going on the ground against the Eagles. Panthers running backs carried 13 times for one yard. Unreal performance, and it made the Panthers offense one-dimensional. The front four also registered 2.0 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Cox in particular was a beast making his return from a calf injury, forcing an interception (see story).

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS

Nigel Bradham: 10 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD

This was probably Bradham's best game of the season (see story). He prevented Newton from getting out of bounds during a two-minute drill. He held Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line to force a Panthers field goal. He sacrificed his body to make a pivotal third-down stop in the third quarter. The numbers speak for themselves. Jordan Hicks exited the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury but finished with four tackles, while Mychal Kendricks finished with a whopping 15 tackles in extended action.

Grade: A+

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Rasul Douglas, Patrick Robinson Jalen Mills: 1 INT each

Newton completed 28 of 52 passes for a 53.8 completion percentage, 4.6 yards per attempt with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. It should've been four picks, but a ticky-tack pass interference penalty against Jalen Mills wiped it away. Douglas led the way with three pass breakups (see rookie report), but the whole unit was solid in coverage. The longest play from scrimmage for Carolina in either phase was a 20-yard completion.

Grade: A

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jake Elliott: 2/2 FG, 2/2 XP

The Eagles nearly made a rare special teams miscue. Barner got clipped by his own man while attempting to field a punt and muffed it. Fortunately, Robinson was hustling on the play and there to clean up the mess. Otherwise, another strong effort. Elliott was good from 50 and 48 yards, and Donnie Jones averaged 51.0 yards per punt with one inside the opponent's 20. Jones also did a nice job handling a tough snap on Elliott's 50-yard try. Special teams captain Chris Maragos and Hollins both exited the game with injuries in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A-

COACHING

Eagles' record: 5-1

I'm sure you could nitpick all sorts of calls and decisions, but the record speaks for itself. Furthermore, to go down to Charlotte on a short week, with a hostile crowd and officiating crew, and beat a strong Panthers team speaks volumes about the job Doug Pederson is doing right now. They're winning on the road. They're winning close games. They're winning, period. If the season ended today, the Eagles would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and it's a credit to Pederson and his staff.

Grade: A+

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night — the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 — Team LeBron emerging victorious — no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) — only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James — LeBron James!! — for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player — which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave — LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low — but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't — even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career — it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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SB Nation/Twitter

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.