The700Level

Is this the start of injuries portion of Sixers' season?

Is this the start of injuries portion of Sixers' season?

No Joel Embiid? No Robert Covington? No T.J. McConnell? No problem last night for the Philadelphia 76ers. Well, maybe one problem, and that's that they didn't have enough healthy good players to compete with an essentially full-strength New Orleans Pelicans squad for 48 minutes, losing 131-124 (JRUUUUUUEEEEE). That was kind of a problem. 

We all knew we'd get here at some point this season -- the stretch of games where various key Sixers are suffering from various prohibitive maladies, as Brett Brown is forced to juggle his starting lineup and overall rotation every night and we're waiting with baited breath before each tip-off to see who'll be showing up. It's pretty much unavoidable for most teams, and all but guaranteed for the post-Process Sixers. It's just a question of when it comes and how long it lasts. 

Over the weekend, I made the rookie mistake of mentioning how despite the Sixers suffering two embarrassing home defeats, making a trade I find personally insulting and giving us another "Oh yeah, Markelle's doing great -- you can't see it, and you won't for another three weeks, but just trust us, he's all good" Fultz update, everything still was OK because Embiid was still healthy and as long as he's healthy who even cares about whether the sun rises or not? Wouldn't you know it, the next day he's a gametime scratch with back soreness. He says he could've played if it was the finals (though not the other playoff rounds, I guess?) and expects to play in Minnesota on Tuesday, but a one-game flare-up has not traditionally lasted just one game for JoJo, so we'll see about that one tomorrow. 

Maybe it's some kind of back virus that Robert Covington caught diving into the stands in Cleveland on Saturday. Scans were negative on Cov after the game, but according to Derek Bodner, he's still considered doubtful for Tuesday's game in Minnesota. And while T.J. McConnell hoped to be back as early as Thursday's game against the Lakers, his lingering absence with a shoulder injury is definitely becoming something of a concern for the Sixers, especially with Stauskas gone, Fultz still out, and Jerryd Bayless showing Mariah Carey-like target accuracy on his jumper the last couple games. 

In the meantime, the Sixers have dropped four in a row and fell to .500 in the standings -- out of the playoff picture in the East, even. This is hardly tragic, especially since the Sixers have had one of the hardest schedules in the league so far, and should have plenty of time to make ground back up in the top-heavy East once they get healthy and come together. But as we all know from experience, that last part is easier said than done, and once injury season really hits, it gets to be a lot of one step forward, two sprained ankles backward. Pray we don't get to Christmas and have to trot out a Bayless-Redick-TLC-Booker-Johnson lineup on national TV.

Our first glimpse of Brian Dawkins’ Hall of Fame bust

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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.