Barrett Brooks

Brett Brown serving as interim GM good for Sixers' current players, free agents

Brett Brown serving as interim GM good for Sixers' current players, free agents

As I watched the 76ers navigate through the resignation of Bryan Colangelo, it made me think about how the players often get lost in translation.

I can remember not knowing what direction the Detroit Lions team I played on was going when head coach Bobby Ross resigned from the team midseason. As a player, losing your head coach when the team was still in the thick of things for the playoffs was weird, but interim head coach Gary Moeller — the team’s defensive coordinator — was a solid replacement.

Coach Ross knew it was time to go. He had lost the players. We didn’t trust his ability to lead us as a team and the relationship with the players was compromised. Lions owner William Clay Ford said, “Bobby Ross had nothing left to give.” As a player, trust with the coaching staff, the front office and the players themselves is paramount.

Players are huge on relationships, so they depend on coaches and upper management to navigate the direction of the team. Communication is vital and it defines the team’s culture. For example, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have created a team-first culture. No one is more important than the team. This allows the next-man-up mentality to flourish in the locker room because players believe that they all are important cogs in the total machine.

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and Brett Brown — who will run the basketball ops on an interim basis — will now have to maintain this young Sixers team and get ready for free agency and the draft. Current players on the team are often the biggest sellers of potential free agents on the market. Joel Embiid has tried to influence probable free agent LeBron James for years. If players already on the Sixers’ roster don’t trust the front office, there is no way they would endorse the services of friends in the league.

The Sixers made a great move by making Brown the interim GM. This is a move that stabilizes the culture of the team. Now the philosophy he’s introduced will remain and Brown can be a liaison to the front office for the players. At this point, none of the players know what to think about what just happened with Colangelo.

I believe the young core that has been under Brown’s tutelage knows where the coach is coming from, but players on the outside will need more to be convinced to make Philadelphia their home in the near future. The Sixers' management will have to do some flattering and very good convincing to lure premier talent to the City of Brotherly Love.

X's and O's — How Eagles should utilize Michael Bennett

X's and O's — How Eagles should utilize Michael Bennett

Jim Schwartz gets another cog in an already impressive defensive front four in Michael Bennett, who fits the scheme Schwartz wants to run. 

Bennett can play both defensive end and tackle at a Pro Bowl level. Bennett’s pass rush, I would say, mainly consists of moves that come from his power. The initial step is always toward the QB, which forces the O-lineman to punch or grab him. As an OL myself, I wanted to be the first to initiate contact because I knew the snap count and the direction I wanted the defender to go. Bennett is so explosive and physical with his first step that he forces the issue. It's constant pressure on the O-line, always working toward the ball. 

Bennett also has very good hands. Good pass rushers never allow an O-lineman to get his hands on them. (Hand-to-hand combat in the trenches is where the game is won on passing downs.) Bennett is pretty good at using Mr. Miyagi's wax-on, wax-off technique as he knocks an O-lineman's hands off of him on his way to the QB.

The Eagles will use Bennett across the defensive line at every position but probably the most at DT. With the probable departure of Beau Allen to free agency, depth would have been a problem. Not anymore.

There will be serious competition at the starting DT opposite of Fletcher Cox. Yes, Tim Jernigan earned his extension last year, but Bennett will push to be a starter. Schwartz rewards results with more playing time and Bennett is good enough to compete as a starter in the middle at DT.

From an X's and O's breakdown, Bennett can be a major factor in the middle on pass-rush downs. On third down, the Eagles like to use Nascar personnel — three defensive ends and Cox. It’s hard to imagine being an offensive coordinator game-planning which D-lineman to double-team and which to chip with a running back. Which way do you slide the protection? 

Think about the Eagles D-line rotation OCs will have to prepare for. You'll have Brandon Graham-Cox-Jernigan-Derek Barnett or Graham-Cox-Bennett-Barnett or Chris Long-Bennett-Graham-Barnett. Prepare for a lot of QB-crushing hits from a top-notch defensive line that just got even more versatile.

Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

USA Today Images

Ex-Eagle marvels at how NFL Combine has changed

The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine started this week and I am really in amazement of the production it now presents. There are so many differences in the way the Combine was run, in comparison to how I remember it.

Let's start with the athlete swag and gear used to work out. Under Armour sponsors the athletes' workout uniforms; I remember I had regular Russell kelly-grey sweat suits, red t-shirts with the NFL logo and the blue shorty-shorts that came to only mid-thigh. The high-tech material and fit of the new workout gear weighs next to nothing and dri-fit spandex moves with the player's body like it is a part of their skin. 

I was a 300-pound O-lineman, so air drag and track shoes didn't matter to my 40-yard dash, but it does for a player like Donte "Action" Jackson out of LSU, who is trying to break the sub-4.2 in the 40. 

These new athletes run their 40 in track shoes like Olympic sprinters. I remember I ran the 40 in some New Balance running sneakers. I'm sure with the high-tech gear and preparation, I could have really put up some good numbers at the Combine, but my numbers were average.

Athletes are prepped today for the physical and mental gymnastics. The only real test I remember being stressed was the Wonderlic. I wasn't sent to a workout facility to concentrate on Combine-specific workouts. I stayed at Kansas State and worked out with my team strength and conditioning staff at the school. I maintained my diet at the KSU training table and splurged on fast food with my newfound money from agents trying to recruit me to represent me in contract negotiations. 

Now, athletes are taken through strenuous interviewing sessions implemented by their agents. Agents send the athletes to training facilities that force-feed them football 24/7. Their diets are maintained, body fat measured. They go through sleep studies and interviewing classes, which help for when teams question everything under the sun to see whether they'll get a good return on the athlete. Yes, a good return, because these athletes are investments. These companies, i.e. teams, invest millions of dollars into these athletes.

Back in a time that now seems like the Stone Age, there wasn't 24-hour coverage of sports, let alone the NFL Combine. The results for these athletes is now instantaneous. Back in 1995, we didn't know what our results were until later in the week. The O-linemen worked out on Friday and I walked around bragging back at KSU that I ran a 5.10 in the 40-yard dash, put up 26 reps on bench press (225 pounds) and a 32-inch vertical. All those results ... WRONG! I ran an electronic time of 5.24 in the 40 with 20 reps on the bench and a 30-inch vertical.

So folks, long story short, the amount of information and visibility these new athletes have to navigate is tremendous. Mentally, physically and emotionally, players have to be tougher to deal with this theatre that is now the modern day NFL Combine.