The700Level

Shooters Everywhere — Sixers bomb Hornets into submission

Shooters Everywhere — Sixers bomb Hornets into submission

It says something when J.J. Redick and Dario Saric, the Philadelphia 76ers two best sharpshooters on the season, can go a combined 3-10 from deep -- and the team can still end up tying a season high for triples made. That happened last night against the Charlotte Hornets, as J.J. and Dario's calibration was off for most of the night, but Marco Belinelli got red hot, Joel Embiid was left too open too often, and Robert Covington stayed schemin', as the Sixers shot 18-44 from deep and pulled away late from Charlotte, winning 108-94. 

It was typical of the condensed season series between these two teams -- the Hornets made the Sixers sweat for the better part of three quarters, even leading by seven at the half, but just got outmuscled late by the Sixers' superior talent and execution. Good to be that one of the two teams, of course, and our two stars proved the main difference again, with Embiid scoring 25 on 10-17 shooting while matching a career high in boards (19) for the second straight game, and Ben Simmons posting his his third triple-double in four games, including a sparkling 15 assists with 0 turnovers -- numbers only hit by one other player (Atlanta's Dennis Schroder) this season. (Joel and his nine turnovers was one TO away from a very different sort of trip-dub, but who's counting?)

Still, the Sixers' MVP in this one might've been RoCo, who scored 18 on 6-12 shooting and at least made life tough for Hornets guard Kemba Walker. You just can't say enough about how much more dangerous this team is when Covington is hitting regularly, and after about a three-month frigid spell, Robert has has rediscovered his early-season form -- shooting 47% from the field and 42% from three this month after only hitting 35% (and 29% from deep) in February. Cov's defensive toughness and general hoops IQ makes him a net asset even when he's a bricklayer from deep, but when he converts reliably, he just might be the damn team MVP. 

Three in a row for the Sixers now, who still sit entrenched in the sixth seed -- but with a huge Wednesday coming up, where the three teams immediately ahead of them all have major challenges (Cavs-Raptors, Pacers-Pelicans, Wizards-Spurs) while the Sixers get to host the tanktastic Memphis Grizzlies. Just a game and a half separates three through six in the East, and the Sixers still have by far the easiest schedule remaining. Anyone still think Brett Brown needs to be fired?

Our first glimpse of Brian Dawkins’ Hall of Fame bust

ap-dawkins-bicep.jpg
AP Images

Our first glimpse of Brian Dawkins’ Hall of Fame bust

It won’t be long until Eagles fans turn Canton, Ohio, into a sea of green this summer. 

That’s when Eagles all-time great and fan favorite Brian Dawkins will be officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Class of 2018 also includes Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher. 

Here’s our first look at Dawkins’ bust, which will eventually find a permanent home in Canton. 

 

The 2018 class will be enshrined on Aug. 4 in Canton at 7 p.m. Dawkins previously announced that his teammate Troy Vincent will present him for the Hall of Fame. 

While players don’t go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of a specific team, Dawkins spent the majority of his career with the Eagles and is arguably the most popular Eagle of all time after making seven of his nine Pro Bowl appearances with the Birds. He now works in the Eagles’ scouting department. 

It won’t be long before the finished bust is presented to the football world. 

Don't write off Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey quite yet

Don't write off Eagles RB Donnel Pumphrey quite yet

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.

Before he ever suited up in an Eagles uniform, Donnel Pumphrey had his fair share of doubters. Measuring 5-foot-8, 176 pounds and able to perform just five reps in the bench press at last year’s scouting combine, many questioned whether a running back with such a slight build could survive in the NFL.

Preseason football certainly didn’t convince anybody otherwise. To the contrary, games raised even more concerns.

Despite becoming the all-time NCAA Division I FBS leader in rushing yards at San Diego State, Pumphrey appeared to lack any quickness or burst whatsoever. He was completely ineffective carrying the football for the Eagles, averaging 1.9 yards per attempt, and fared only marginally better as a receiver out of the backfield and return specialist.

The Eagles were undoubtedly tempted to cut their losses and release the fourth-round draft pick out of training camp. Instead, Pumphrey cracked the 53-man roster, then landed on injured reserve with a “torn hamstring” a short time later, resulting in a much-needed redshirt year.

It would be easy to write Pumphrey off after all of that, and many people have. Sure, he had an incredible college career, but the Mountain West Conference and the NFL are two different worlds.

Yet, there’s reason for the Eagles to hold out some hope for Pumphrey, whose redemption tour began Monday at OTAs.

This is the period of the offseason where Pumphrey can show coaches he’s bigger, stronger, faster than when he arrived. All the 23-year-old has been doing since September 2017, besides rehabbing from an injury, we’re told, is working out. Some improvement from a purely physical standpoint should be evident.

If Pumphrey has taken the necessary leaps, his rapid ascent up the Eagles’ depth chart is possible.

Only Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement have their roster spots set in stone, and the former is on the final year of his contract. Wendell Smallwood spent the latter half of last season on the inactive list. Darren Sproles could be re-signed, but is currently a free agent. The Eagles will likely select another running back in the draft next week, but Pumphrey can still carve out a role in 2018 or beyond.

It’s not outrageous to envision Pumphrey filling a Sproles-like role – a running back/receiver hybrid who plays situationally.

Keep in mind, Pumphrey did have a legitimate hamstring injury last summer that caused him to miss time in training camp. Not a lot of work was lost, but it’s unclear how that impacted his preseason performance. It at least might explain the seeming lack of athleticism, and was perhaps related to his IR trip.

Pumphrey’s size is another story, and may always be an issue. Then again, he wouldn't be the first person of small stature to carve out a niche in the NFL, or the last.

That isn’t going away anytime soon. However, if Pumphrey arrived at OTAs with a little more meat on his bones and a little more bounce to his step, he has the potential to turn some heads over the next few weeks.

Then, who knows. Maybe he’ll be in a position to compete for a roster spot come camp.