Have the early 2000s returned? The Eagles and the Sixers look to headline the comeback of Philly sports.
Jackpot! This feeling of excitement seems appropriate for Philadelphia sports fans. All four of the city’s professional teams have gone through a recent refacing, but through the rubble an identity is emerging. Tough, hardworking, gritty — these are all traits associated with Philadelphia (internally, of course). Outsiders are convinced that the city’s population is made up of obnoxious drunks who do more talking than walking. Well, it may be time to roll that red carpet back out, because we’re coming.
It’s been labeled as a title-less town, but Philadelphia fans grew familiar with competing year in and year out. Only one team wins the championship each year, but a handful of fan bases carry their emotions into the playoffs with hopes of progression. Fans had hope in the early 2000s — the Eagles and Sixers were competing for titles. The Flyers were a regular, household playoff team in the NHL. The Phillies emerged in 2008 as a World *fucking* Champion. It changed quickly. It felt as if the four teams hit a brick wall collectively. The passionate fan base that enjoyed multiple playoff runs per year was introduced to a new concept: patience.
Guess what? It’s paying off.
The Sixers started their new look by subtracting middling talent in hopes to land elite talent at the top of the NBA Draft. The organization told its fans that they should “Trust the Process”, and the fans have obliged. Last night, the Sixers finished 3rd in the NBA Draft Lottery, and that’s a 3rd place ‘W’ if you ask any basketball talking head who has studied Kansas wing Josh Jackson. The ever infectious Joel Embiid has already shown the NBA what he’s coming to prove, not to mention the highly anticipated debut of Ben Simmons. The potential of that “Big Three” is limitless.
The Eagles started their new era with a quarterback. Like Embiid, Carson Wentz is infectious and has spread like a virus through Philadelphia. This offseason, the Eagles made sure that Wentz will be equipped with the proper weaponry for hunting season. And no, that isn’t a reference to his Wentz Bros Outdoors brand. In September, Wentz will be outdoors, but situated in Lincoln Financial Field victimizing defensive backfields with the help of his new wide receiving unit led by Alshon Jeffery. The additions of Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson should create healthy competition and give the Eagles a slew of versatile pass-catchers to further shape the offense.
With an effective vertical passing game comes relief in the run game. The Eagles drafted the squirmy, undersized Donnel Pumphrey who will be attached to Darren Sproles like a germ all summer. The 2016 day three pick Wendell Smallwood is looking for another year of growth. Former New England Patriot LeGarrette Blount signed a 1-year deal in Philly to give the Eagles much needed insurance in short yardage and red zone situations.
With both pass protection and run blocking in mind, the Eagles thickened the interior of their offensive line. They extended G/C Stefen Wisniewski’s contract and signed former Jeff Stoutland product Chance Warmack to provide depth at the guard position. They’ll look for G/C Isaac Seumalo to continue his growth, G Allen Barbre to provide veteran savvy and C Jason Kelce to lead by example. The key here is stability. The loss of RT Lane Johnson ruined that last season, but the pairing of Johnson and LT Jason Peters makes for one of the league’s most dynamic duos.
The Eagles focused on defense early and often in the 2017 NFL Draft, and that made for a very happy fan base. The Eagles were once known as a team with a vaunted defensive group. It looks like they’ve started to trend back in that direction, building a relentless defensive line and aggressive secondary to compliment the pass rush. By selecting DE Derek Barnett, CB Sidney Jones and CB Rasul Douglas, the Eagles gathered more youth to add to a defense in which is projected to see 11 starters under the age of 30 in 2017.
Winning doesn’t happen overnight. The Philadelphia fan base is learning that the hard way, but each year brings a new journey. Each acquisition brings new hope. Each team is its own family.
We. Are. Coming.