The700Level

Keep shooting, Ben Simmons

Keep shooting, Ben Simmons

Sixers point guard Ben Simmons wound up with a double-double almost by accident in Tuesday’s 104-97 win over the Jazz. It wasn’t the most sparkling performance, with a line of 16 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks bogged down somewhat by five fouls and six turnovers. Simmons was a marvel all the same.

Plus, Simmons’ shot chart from the contest is a thing of beauty – absolutely no sarcasm intended.

Simmons was only 7 of 22 shooting from the field for the game, and five of those buckets were dunks or layups. That means he was 2 of 17 from everywhere else. Take away a couple of hooks that wouldn’t go, and a desperation heave while the shot clock was winding down, and Simmons still only shot 14.3 percent from eight feet and beyond.

Yet the two shots Simmons made – a 15-foot jumper and a 13-foot pull-up – were important, and not merely because they were good for four points in a tight game.

If Simmons a threat to hit that shot at all, opponents will have to respect it.

That’s what started to happen as the game wore on against the Jazz. Oftentimes, defenders will sag off of Simmons around the foul line and dare him to shoot. But as he continued to shoot, more and more, defenders came out to contest it.

Knocking one or two down earlier certainly didn’t hurt, either.

Perhaps the larger and more imperative development here is Simmons was taking so many midrange shots and shots outside the restricted area in the first place. Excluding backcourt shots, the 21-year-old has attempted 49 field goals from eight to 24 feet in 10 games. Thirteen of those alone, or more than a quarter, came against the Jazz.

Obviously, Simmons’ percentage needs to rise for that jump shot to become a true asset to his game. For right now at least, even the threat of shooting can affect the defense. He was a little unlucky, too, as there were a few shots that rimmed out or were just a little heavy – touch he’ll hone with experience.

Simmons also won’t turn into a better shooter if he never works on it or takes a shot in a meaningful NBA game. Maybe the promising aspect of all is the simple fact that over the past couple games, he does appear to be making a more concerted effort to pull up once in awhile. Earlier in the year, he seemed almost afraid to shoot.

As incredible as he is, Simmons needs to shoot if he wants to prevent teams from sitting on his drive, which is a big part of what makes him so special in the first place. So keep firing, Ben. It wasn’t always pretty, but seeing an increased willingness to put the ball up is a positive sign.

Super Bowl champs showed up to ESPYS in style including a Philly Special homage

ap_jalen_mills_rodney_mcleod.jpg
AP Images

Super Bowl champs showed up to ESPYS in style including a Philly Special homage

The Super Bowl champs showed up to the ESPYS in style on Wednesday night out in Los Angeles.

Nick Foles may have taken home the hardware for best performance in a championship -- with a heck of a speech to boot -- but it was the Eagles secondary who won best dressed.

Or maybe just most outrageously baller. Tough to tell these days.

I mean, just look at what Rodney McLeod wore. Purple. No shirt.

The Green Goblin wasn't far behind. Personally, I liked Jalen Mills going with a vest that still showed off his tat.

And then there was Malcolm Jenkins adding a bit of class to the group.

But the sartorial flair that won the evening may have to go to former Eagle and current member of the Chicago Bears Trey Burton who kept the Philly Special close to his heart.

And shouts to Jake Elliott and his hat just because.

AP Images

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

Are 2018 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

The one area the Eagles made no major changes from last season is at quarterback. Carson Wentz returns from injury. Somewhat surprisingly, Nick Foles was retained and even signed a contract extension. Nate Sudfeld remains in the fold as well.

The cast may be the same, but with Foles returning to the bench as a Super Bowl MVP, will the Eagles be better or worse off in 2018?

Better

Depth

When Foles took the reins last December, he had barely played or practiced since 2015, his hellish season with the Rams – and, initially, it showed. But after what the 29-year-old signal caller accomplished in the playoffs, does anybody believe Foles is lacking for confidence now? Anybody still wonder whether he’s comfortable running the Eagles’ offense?

Foles is better prepared to take over for Wentz or start Week 1 than he was this time a year ago. So, too, is Sudfeld, who will benefit from his first camp with the team after signing last September, as well as his first NFL game experience in Week 17 against the Cowboys. QB2 and QB3 are both in a better place now, which is remarkable, but true.

Worse

Greater sense of uncertainty

Until the trade deadline comes and goes in October, there’s always the possibility Foles is traded this year. Obviously, there would be some drop-off between the Super Bowl MVP and Sudfeld, a third-year player who’s thrown 23 career passes, should that come to pass.

For now, that’s not the case, but is something to keep an eye for awhile yet.

The same

Nick Foles

Despite everything that’s happened – the winning, the newfound notoriety, going back to the bench, a so-called quarterback controversy, trade murmurs – the one thing you can count on is Foles’ demeanor. He may have questioned himself on the football field at one point in his career, but he’s in a place now where he knows what he’s capable of and his value to the Eagles.

Foles also hasn’t changed much as a player since his historic, breakout campaign in 2013. As long as the offensive line can keep him upright, and he has talented weapons to distribute the ball to, this is somebody that can win you a lot of games in the NFL. There’s no longer any disputing that.

The unknown

Carson Wentz’s knee

Wentz has looked so darn impressive in videos and on the practice field, it’s easy to fall into the trap that his surgically repaired knee is fine, everything is fine. Despite raising the question here, he’s probably better prepared to overcome a torn ACL than some past Eagles quarterbacks who struggled with the recovery in the past – namely Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb.

Still, more passers than not have come back and looked less than 100 percent in their first season removed from the injury. And many of them had more time to recover than Wentz, who only went down in November.

We don’t even know for sure if Wentz will be cleared to play Week 1. It seems likely he will be, but it’s far from definite. Until he’s playing in actual NFL games, and back to looking like the 2017, MVP-caliber version of himself, all of these concerns give folks some pause before assuming the Eagles would immediately be better off with Wentz under center.

Better or worse?

Fortunately, the determination doesn’t rest solely on Wentz here. A comfortable and confident Foles and the developing Sudfeld should give the Eagles a marginal lift at quarterback. And even after sharing a pile of concerns about Wentz, eventually, possibly sometime in 2018, he will be fine, making Wentz-like escapes and ice-in-his-veins third-down conversions. In fact, if Wentz Is miraculously fine for Week 1, he should still be improving heading into his third season.

Now that’s something BETTER to look forward to.

More on the Eagles