Subject: Sal Pal Is So Full of Shit
Subject: And The Band Played On: Penn State Sidestepped Another Round of Unwanted Publicity
Subject: The FREE Dunkin Donuts-Eagles Promotion Is No More
Subject: Is a bounce-back actually in store for Claude Giroux this season?
Coming off of his least productive season this decade, Claude Giroux is tasked with showing he’s still got years of high-end production left in him.
As the 2017-18 Flyers season draws near, we’ll be breaking down everyone we expect to make the roster, from the long-time vets to the new guys. For each player, we’ll ask three key questions about their season, and look at what their best- and worst-case scenarios are for the year.
Six summers ago, the Flyers put into motion a reset of the core of its team, trading away captain Mike Richards and top goal-scorer Jeff Carter for three talented young forwards and three draft picks and then signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year contract, all within about an hour on (obviously) June 23. The team — as then-general manager Paul Holmgren called it that day and in subsequent interviews on the matter — became a “different” team that day, one that was going to need a new face of the franchise.
It wasn’t quite as obvious at the time of those trades, but it quickly became apparent who that face was going to be.
Claude Giroux, already coming off of a 76-point season before those trades, emerged immediately not just as the best player on the team but as one of the best players in the sport. Spending most of the year between Jaromir Jagr and Scott Hartnell, he was the single biggest reason the Flyers navigated that first season post-Richards/Carter trades as well as they did, and he led the team to its most recent playoff series win in the process.
In the few seasons that followed, Giroux — despite a lack of recognition and respect from some corners of the hockey world, including that of the Canadian Olympic team in 2014 (sometimes you just gotta have Chris Kunitz on your roster, y’know?) — remained the force that kept a few otherwise-unimpressive Flyers team afloat. He famously guaranteed the Flyers would make the playoffs after a 1-7-0 start in 2013-14, and then made it happen with a year in which he was a deserved Hart Trophy finalist. He was also a near-point-per-game player again the following year as things fell apart under Craig Berube ... the same way he was two years prior, when things fell apart under Peter Laviolette.
The years since the trades that changed the Flyers as we know them have largely consisted of Claude Giroux doing everything he possibly could to cover for holes elsewhere on the roster, whether in terms of depth forwards, bad defense, or shaky goaltending. Because that’s what the face of a franchise does.
And now, six years after those trades, the Flyers appear to be on the verge of another reset. And where their current captain and face of the franchise fits into that reset is something no one seems to be quite sure about.
Giroux is coming off of arguably the worst full season of his nine-year NHL career, having posted 58 points in 82 games (a 0.71 points-per-game mark that is his lowest since his age-21/22 season in 2009-10, which was also his first full NHL season). At even strength, Giroux’s scoring numbers were almost unfathomably bad; among regular Flyers forwards, only noted offensive dynamos Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Roman Lyubimov scored fewer points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than Claude did. His production on the power play remained stellar, and his possession/play-driving metrics were positive overall and compared to the rest of the Flyers, but it’s tough to deny that right now Claude Giroux doesn’t look anything like the player that dragged the Flyers to the playoffs twice earlier this decade.
And maybe that’s to be expected. Giroux turns 30 in January, and signs that he may be falling off a bit started to show as recently as 2015-16. The hope at that time was that Giroux spent much of that season dealing with the effects of core injuries (injuries which required post-season surgery that spring), and that with an offseason to heal, Giroux would look more like the player we’d grown used to seeing. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and some mid-season quotes from Giroux about his body not being able to do what it used to only further worried the team’s fanbase that the team’s long-time leader and best player is going to continue to get worse before he gets any better.
Prior to this offseason, the specter of Giroux’s potential decline hung over the Flyers’ future, as the lack of a long-term top-line center could have undone all of the other great work Ron Hextall has done in building a potential Cup contender via the team’s high-end prospect pipeline. Winning the draft lottery and drafting Nolan Patrick changed that.
But Giroux is still going to be making over $8 million against the Flyers’ cap for the next five seasons, and while there are reasons to be optimistic for a bit of a bounce-back this year, it’s very tough to know exactly what to expect from the captain. Six years after the Flyers blew up the team and Giroux emerged as the cornerstone of the franchise, the question of how his play will trend as new franchise cornerstones emerge remains almost as big of a question as any facing the team right now.
3 Big Questions: Claude Giroux
1. Was Giroux healthy last year, is he healthy now, and does it matter?
(Alright, so technically that’s three questions rolled into one, but they’re all pretty well tied together, so let’s approach them all at once.)
The news that Claude Giroux was having surgery on his hip and abdominal muscles came as a minor surprise in May of 2016, as Giroux had steadfastly denied in exit interviews that he was slowed down by any sort of injury. At the time, though, it also made some sense to fans who had seen Giroux struggle through the tail end of the 2015-16 regular season and the Flyers’ first-round loss to the Capitals, and it gave them some hope. Their best player didn’t suddenly become a 5-on-5 non-factor overnight, he was hurt! Nothing to see here, he’ll be fine with some time to recover!
Of course, Giroux wasn’t fine, and the question of how much of last year’s struggles were due to lingering short-term effects from his injury/surgery, lingering long-term (and potentially permanent) effects from his injury/surgery, and effects from a general age-related decline is the single biggest question that comes with trying to forecast Giroux’s 2017-18 season.
That Giroux didn’t feel like the Giroux of old last year is not news to anyone. Exactly how long it takes to recover from the surgery he underwent in May of last year isn’t something that we know with certainty at this time, but the initial window provided by the team of a “return to full activity in 10-12 weeks” would have placed a full recovery for Giroux some time in late August of 2016. And sure enough, in late August of 2016, Giroux told the media that he was 100 percent, via the Inquirer’s Mark Narducci.
Which made the following statements from Giroux in March, almost a full season later, all the more concerning for Flyers fans (also via Narducci):
"When you try to make plays you used to make and can't really make them, it is frustrating and confusing," Giroux said. "When you start getting the confidence back, you know you can make those plays you just go out there and make it happen."
The hip injury was more difficult to overcome.
"I think when you don't think about that kind of stuff, you go out and play the game, but when it is in the back of your mind and you are really not thinking about the game and mostly thinking about your hip or whatever, I think it is important to kind of focus on the right things," he said.
"Even if you don't feel good out there, you have to find the right way to be strong mentally."
Giroux’s quotes here are brought up in the context of his surgery, but again, this is over six months after the time at which Giroux was expected to return to “full activities”. To be fair, that doesn’t necessarily mean “the exact same player”, as injuries can take a while to recover from — in fact, some discussion surrounding the exact surgeries Giroux underwent has suggested that it could take around a full year’s worth of time to truly get back to the level of performance that he was at prior to the surgery.
But the biggest question facing Giroux is whether those issues are going to get better with some more time to heal, or whether at his age the effects of a core-muscle surgery will affect his game for the rest of his career. Somewhat concerning in that excerpt above is the idea that Giroux’s hip injury and subsequent surgery was “more difficult to overcome”, as it’s at least possible that the a soon-to-be-30-year-old with a whole lot of miles on his legs just won’t be the same player at this point in his career following a significant surgery. (This idea was discussed a bit in the July 3 episode of BSH Radio, in which the panel talked a bit about Nolan Patrick’s June surgery and the doctor who performed it, who also happened to perform Giroux’s surgery last year.)
Ron Hextall, who publicly remains optimistic about Giroux this season, had one theory that he expressed to the Courier-Post’s Dave Isaac last week: that Giroux’s appearance in the World Cup of Hockey cut his rehab a bit short, and that the adverse effects of that played a bigger role in his recovery than may have been expected:
I think last year the World Cup, in hindsight, was probably the worst thing that could have happened for him because it shortened his rehab/workout window in the summer trying to get over the surgery. I think it was much of that time at the World Cup that hurt him as it was…if you look at the first part of the year he was actually pretty good and then he started to dip. If you don’t have a full summer, a lot of times it will show up later in the year because you just can’t maintain over the course of the year. I believe that was a big chunk of what happened to Claude. He knows he’s a better player. We know he’s a better player.
For a whole number of reasons, no one should expect the team’s general manager to be anything but optimistic about his captain/top-line center/franchise player when it comes to public interviews and statements, so take everything Hextall says there with a grain of salt. But if you’re an optimist, the idea that Giroux’s offseason being cut short affected his rehab may be a welcomed one. Giroux still played hockey into May as a part of Canada’s World Championships team (being selected to the team by none other than Hextall himself), but the hope that four months in which Giroux can just focus on his rehab may do him some good heading into this year.
Finally, there was the idea expressed by some that Giroux improved as the season went on, and that that improvement was a product of his getting healthier. And by the eye test, Giroux did seem to be moving around a bit better later on in the year. However, in his season review for Giroux here at BSH, Charlie O’Connor looked into Giroux’s splits over the course of the season and didn’t find much evidence that Giroux’s actual performance really ticked up late in the year. (Additionally, one could argue that the idea that Giroux improved late in the year runs directly counter to Hextall’s aforementioned theory that training for/playing in the World Cup ended up hurting his season further down the line.)
All of which boils down to this: It’s very, very tough to say how much after-effects of Giroux’s surgery contributed to his relative down-year in 2016-17, and right now, it’s equally difficult to tell if those injuries that led to that surgery are ones he’ll fully recover from or ones that will plague him for the rest of his career. But by the time Claude Giroux takes the ice on October 4 in San Jose, we’ll be over 16 months removed from that surgery.
Any short-term impact that the surgery had on Giroux should, hopefully, not be a factor by then. If Giroux still looks a step slower this year and still isn’t able to “make the plays [he] used to make”, odds are that either he’s come across a new injury (which opens up its own set of problems) or the Giroux we saw last year isn’t going anywhere.
For his sake and for the Flyers’ sake, we can only hope that’s not the case.
2. How do the Flyers get more out of Giroux at 5-on-5 offensively?
Hope he gets healthier. Problem solved!
Ideally, it’s that simple: Giroux was plagued by injuries last year, and a healthier version of him will score more points.
But even before his injury troubles started late in the 2015-16 season, Giroux’s performance offensively at 5-on-5 had taken a bit of a dip in the two seasons prior. To borrow a chart from Charlie’s review of Giroux’s 2015-16 season:
Even before this year’s plunge into fourth-liner territory, the numbers in 2014-15 and 2015-16 had Claude in second-liner territory in terms of scoring. That’s certainly not bad, and at this point in time I think we’d all welcome a return to second-line-production for the captain. Given the pieces around him and the likelihood that he’ll still be good on the power play, that may be all the Flyers need from him at this point. (More on that in a second.)
But those seasons were during the prime years of his career, and Giroux turns 30 in January. Even if Giroux’s “healthy” again, the idea that he’s a lock to get back to where he was at even strength when he was 27 years old may be misguided, and any sort of drop-off from where he was at 27 could spell trouble.
The good news is it’ll be hard for Giroux to replicate his abnormally-low 5-on-5 scoring numbers from last year, for a couple of reasons. We know the following:
- Via Natural Stat Trick, the Flyers’ shooting percentage at 5-on-5 last year with Giroux on the ice was 5.95 percent, fifth-worst on the team among regular forwards. Even for a team that may genuinely have a below-average shooting talent, it’s hard to see that level of poor luck continue. And if more goals happen with Giroux on the ice, more points will inevitably follow.
- In addition, as Charlie pointed out in his season review, Giroux only registered a point on 52.9 percent of 5-on-5 goals that he was on the ice for last year. That’s an extremely low percentage for any forward, let alone one that’s as talented a passer and as active in the offensive zone as Giroux typically is. That number should tick up drastically this year (Giroux typically registered a point on around 3⁄4 of on-ice 5-on-5 goals prior to last season), and Giroux’s scoring should increase in kind.
Which is to say that Giroux shouldn’t have 5-on-5 scoring rates similar to those of bad 4th-liners next year. But there’s still the question of what he and the team can do beyond hoping dumb luck swings the other way.
The biggest question in projecting Giroux’s scoring is how good he is at creating high-opportunity scoring chances at this point in his career. As Charlie mentioned in his review, not only is Giroux generating fewer scoring opportunities than he used to, but those opportunities are coming from farther away than they usually do. Again, it could be the case that Giroux’s physical limitations from the past two seasons are preventing him from getting to places he used to be able to get to, which could just mean that if he can’t do it himself, Dave Hakstol needs to keep him with linemates who can.
That may mean keeping him at all times with a strong netfront presence, be that a big guy like Wayne Simmonds or potentially Oskar Lindblom or a smaller, shiftier type, such as Travis Konecny or Jordan Weal. And maybe it involves less deferral of shots to the team’s blue line, where guys like Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere are third and ninth in the entire NHL, respectively, in shot attempts per 60 minutes among regular defensemen (via), even though by nature shot attempts from defensemen are going to be lower-percentage chances.
Whatever the proper combination of personnel and improved tactics may be, Giroux’s still too good of a passer and set-up man to be totally washed up in terms of offensive production. And while he’s not a difference-maker in terms of play-driving any more, he’s a good enough player in the neutral zone that, with the right pieces around him, the Flyers should be able to be in the black scoring-wise with him on the ice, in large part thanks to his offensive production.
3. What will Giroux’s role be?
When you have a player in the fourth year of an eight-year deal that pays him like a top-end center, in an ideal world that player is still going to be in a top-line role, since when you’re paying a guy like a top-end center it’s pretty hard to find other players to approximate that role in the event that your guy can’t do it himself. But we may not live in an ideal world when it comes to Claude Giroux any more, and unless a lot of things that we’ve talked about above go right, it’s possible that we’re not looking at a guy that should be filling an all-around top-line center role on the Flyers.
Luckily, the Flyers may have the pieces in place to free Giroux up to do what he does best, thanks to a 5-on-5 stalwart and a rookie scorer.
It’s not totally clear yet how Dave Hakstol plans to balance the roles and responsibilities of the Flyers’ projected top three centers this year — Giroux, Sean Couturier, and Nolan Patrick (who, no, is not a lock to make the team, but still seems more likely to than not to). But if last season was a hint, Giroux and Couturier are more or less already sharing top-line responsibility at even strength. While Giroux led the team in ice time per game last season, he and Couturier — who, lest we forget, is probably the best 5-on-5 player on the team at this moment — played basically the same amount per game at 5-on-5, with Giroux getting just five more seconds per game than the 24-year old (13:57 to 13:52).
Is an increase in responsibility in the cards for Couturier this year? That could be one way to keep Giroux fresher and in more favorable situations. Couturier has shown he can handle tough assignments at 5-on-5; even getting just a little bit more from him in those assignments could go a long way towards freeing up Giroux, who could essentially handle second-line minutes at evens while continuing to take on a big power play role and some spot duty on the penalty kill.
The potential addition of Patrick to the picture, meanwhile, could mean a number of things. It’s possible — likely, even — that the Flyers aren’t going to want to throw their 19-year old center to the wolves right away, which could mean he starts his NHL career off with relatively light assignments. That would leave Giroux to handle, essentially, the space in between Couturier’s heavy minutes and Patrick’s sheltered ones, and that could be a happy medium as Claude tries to recover his scoring touch.
But if Patrick comes right out and succeeds right away at the NHL level — not a given and not necessarily something we should expect, but certainly something within the realm of possibility — he and Giroux could essentially share the work in feasting on non-top-end competition. That could open up even more time against lesser opponents for Giroux, and that, too, could bode well for him in his attempts to re-establish himself as a good even-strength player.
All we know at this point is that Giroux is definitely going to keep his role on the top power play, and he should continue to get a lot of time there and succeed there. But the pieces are in place for the Flyers to make Giroux’s life easier this year at 5-on-5 if they think it’s best for the team. Of course, if that does happen, Giroux will have to reward their faith by way of a significant scoring bounce-back, or else the team is essentially wasting its highest-potential offensive minutes. But it seems like something that could be in the cards.
It turns out that Giroux’s struggles over the past two seasons were just the beginning of a long, painful fall from the NHL’s elite. Even more than a year removed from his core surgery, Giroux still doesn’t look quite up to the speed he was once able to play at. While his even-strength production isn’t quite as bad as it was in 2016-17, Giroux still only scores like a bottom-six player at 5-on-5, essentially ending any chance in fans’ minds that he’ll ever be due for a bounce-back. Even worse, Giroux’s power-play production sags as well, as he and Brayden Schenn’s replacement in the high slot never quite establish the chemistry that those two had.
Giroux’s scoring totals drop towards the low 50s (per 82 games), and his play-driving ability, while respectable, isn’t nearly enough to prevent fans from remaining very concerned about his long-run outlook. With an expensive contract that runs until 2022 and a number of talented young players that are going to need extensions soon, Hextall quietly spends spring and summer 2018 looking behind the scenes at ways to get out of Giroux’s contract, be that via a trade or a buyout.
It turns out that Giroux’s struggles over the past two seasons did have a lot to do with his hip/abdominal injuries and the subsequent lengthy recovery from them. Giroux’s movements end up being much more smooth and fluid this year, and his performance on the ice is all the better for it. On the power-play, Giroux has zero trouble at all replicating his production from recent years without Schenn, and remains one of the league’s top power-play distributors and scorers. And at even strength, the points start showing up again, as a new offensive strategy and new linemates offensively help Giroux rediscover his offensive touch.
While he still isn’t quite the player he was in the first half of this decade, Giroux shows he’s still got high-end play in him, and he bounces back roughly to where he was in the the 2014-15 season — a good-if-not-quite-elite even-strength scorer who drives play well and is a true game-changer on the power play. That’s a no-doubt top-line center, one that should be the anchor of a playoff team, and one whose performance not only puts Flyers fans (and management) at ease a bit about the long-term fate of their captain, but also allows the Flyers to ease Giroux’s inevitable replacement — Nolan Patrick, of course — into NHL life, the way they’d probably like to be able to.
Subject: Richaun Holmes Needs To Play a Big Role This Season
Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: Declare your principles!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*It's season preview time babby!!! First up, Captain Claude Giroux. [BSH]
*So yesterday the NHL and the NHLPA released what they're calling a "Declaration of Principles". Interesting concept. Even the Pope got involved! [Puck Daddy]
*The Caps fans have no respect for our goaltending. Which...I mean, yeah. That makes sense. [Japers' Rink]
*On the list of things that your author finds annoying, the weird silent ban on offer sheets that has been instituted by NHL GMs is pretty high on the list. [NHL Numbers]
Subject: Top 10 fight photos from 2016-17
Subject: Your Thursday Morning Roundup
Subject: This Is The Year Zach Ertz Actually Breaks Out, and Other Fantasy Values for Week 1
Subject: The Eagles
Subject: Eagles Mailbag
Subject: Football Concepts of Success, Part III
In the final part of this series I debut my newest version of “Crunching The Numbers” for the 2017 season
Happy NFL Kickoff! In Part I of this series, I presented of few personal theories of mine about what makes football teams successful, and then analyzed these theories in Part II using a linear regression on statistics relevant to each theory. Here in Part III, I’ll use the information obtained to introduce this year’s format for “Crunching The Numbers.”
If you’re new to this site (welcome!), Crunching The Numbers is a project I undertake each season in which I use statistics to “grade” each NFL team. It began as a pet project for me in 2011, inspired by the 2009 season, and I started posting it here in the FanPosts in 2012. It was actually how I originally got promoted to contributor at Bleeding Green Nation by former manager JasonB.
The idea behind it was simple. I would analyze some statistics, combine the relevant ones into a formula that made mathematical sense, and then determine a “score” for each team every week. The ultimate goal was to develop a formula that could separate “contenders” from early-season “pretenders” as quickly as possible. Each year I would attempt to tweak the formula to make the predictive model more accurate.
Well, now I’m here to tell you that I won’t be doing that anymore.
After I graduated college, I was sure I would have more free time to work on this since I wouldn’t have the endless activities, exams, and classes. As it turned out, when you get a job and start making money “free time” magically goes out the window. With everything going on I can’t commit the time each week to develop a score for every team. So I’m dropping the “power rankings” format for Crunching The Numbers. Honestly we get enough of those anyway.
Introducing the new “streamlined” Crunching The Numbers
A common feature in my previous versions of this series was I would use the statistics analyzed to preview the Eagles’ upcoming opponent. After a while I noticed that my “innocuous” predictions - look for the Eagles to run the ball early, this game will come down to defending the intermediate passing game, things like that - often held up during the game. Of course, I wasn’t prognosticating wins and losses or anything like that, but in general my subtler “keys to the game” carried more merit than I expected.
This is the direction I’ll be taking Crunching The Numbers this year. Starting in Week 5 (when I feel I’ll have a good sample size), I’ll compare the Eagles to their next opponent using statistics from Part II of this series that were significant. Based on how the teams stack up, I’ll offer some small details to look for beyond “turnovers will be the deciding factor in this one” and “whoever has the ball last will probably win.” I’m hoping to be able to make statements like, “The Eagles should have success on defense if they play Jenkins in the box” or “I’d expect Sproles to be a bigger factor in this game than Smallwood.”
This method for previewing games is a little different than James Keane’s slick simulations or a general “players to watch” post. I’m more going for the big picture here, almost from a coaching perspective. What formations will we see on both sides of the ball? Who will get more snaps? Will the defense be better off in man or zone coverage? In essence I’ll be using the metrics to distill a rough “game plan” that the Eagles should follow.
Okay, so that’s all well and good. But what statistics will I be using to make these claims? Before I even looked at a metric this offseason, I decided I would only use ones that the analysis deemed “significant” (see Part II for more information on this). It doesn’t make sense to do an analysis if you’re going to arbitrarily ignore the results you don’t like. This ended up having interesting side effects, as I will not be looking at anything related to the running game or pass rush here. I look forward to seeing how this affects my thoughts when previewing each matchup.
The statistics that made the cut were (in no particular order):
- Yards per Pass Attempt (YPA)
- Opponent Yards per Completion (Y/CMP)
- Time of Possession (TOP)
- First Half Points (PTS/1HLF)
- Opponent Yards per Point (Y/PT)
These five statistics will form the backbone of my weekly game previews. As much as it bothers me from the outset to ignore large facets of the game (namely the running game and pass rush), I’m willing to trust the data here. I’m also hoping that some of the “forgotten” aspects will be buried in other metrics I am using by virtue of being collinear. For example, TOP also works to assess the running game by extension since running the football is the most effective means of clock control.
Of course, in a blog the most important opinions are in the comments. What do you think of this? Are you intrigued by looking for something in a game you might not have thought of before? Or will this project here be all bark and no bite? Who knows! We’ll find out for sure Week 5.
Football is back! GO EAGLES!
Subject: Philadelphia Eagles 2017 hype video is here
What do you think?
After releasing a few teaser clips earlier this week, the Philadelphia Eagles’ hype video for the 2017 season is officially here. Watch the entire thing below:
Personally, I’m not super hyped after watching that video. I’m not trying to say it’s a bad video; it’s certainly well-produced and worth a watch. But it’s not the best one they’ve done. (My all-time favorite is still the 2013 hype video. You can’t go wrong with the 2015 hype video featuring Brian Dawkins, either.)
I saw some similar reactions to mine on Twitter.
Eagles hype video was a dud. pic.twitter.com/LH4hckCVVl— Gym Shorts (@IgglesCoverage) September 7, 2017
I felt 2015 was the best hype video, last year's was very good. This one was OK. https://t.co/chrMly1Q5t— Matthew Chastain (@MattChastain_) September 7, 2017
The voice over guy on the Eagles hype video is too ehhh for me, need better.— Eric Von Bro Dude (@FINK_BOMB) September 7, 2017
That hype video didn't really hype me up but I'll take it lol @Eagles— King Hank2️⃣5️⃣ (@HC2310) September 7, 2017
Video or no video, I’m still pretty hyped for the season. I think this Week 1 game is the perfect matchup for Philadelphia. Start the season off with a team you haven’t been able to beat in nearly two years. Right the wrong and start the season off strong. There’s a slogan you can use, Eagles. (Please don’t though because it’s not good.)
What do you guys think of this year’s Eagles hype video? Vote in the poll below (click here if you can’t see it).
Subject: Patriots vs. Chiefs 2017 NFL Kickoff: Game time, TV schedule, online streaming, odds and more
Read on for more information on how to watch tonight's opening game!
TONIGHT, FOOTBALL IS OFFICIALLY BACK.
The 2017 NFL season finally begins on Thursday night with a game at Gilette Stadium between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs. It should be a good battle between two of the top teams in the AFC. Not to mention one of the teams is the best league in the league and potentially chasing 19-0 this year.
Tonight’s game holds some interest for Philadelphia Eagles fans, and no, not because you get to complain about how the Birds traded Eric Rowe. The Eagles will get a look ahead to their Week 2 opponent tonight: the Chiefs. Andy Reid’s side will be looking to upset Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on the road.
It’s great to know football is back. It’s also great to know we’re only a few days away from the Eagles’ first game of the 2017 season on Sunday against Washington.
Find everything you need to know about tonight's game below.
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Game time: 8:30 PM EST
Date: Thursday, September 7
Announcers: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth
Location: Gilette Stadium - Foxborough, Massachusetts
Live on NBC Sports Live Extra
Replay on NFL Game Rewind
Chiefs +9.5 (-110)
Patriots -9.5 (-110)
Over/under: 49 points
Open thread: discuss Thursday's game in the comments below.
Subject: NFL Mock Draft 2018 for all 32 picks in the first round
The regular season kicks off tonight with the Patriots and Chiefs while the rest of the teams in the NFL don't get started until this weekend. With the season starting, many fanbases have their eyes on potential playoff runs and Super Bowl contention while other fanbases have strapped themselves in for another long season. Either way, people have their eyes and ears open for NFL draft prospects who could help their team in the future, regardless of how good the team is now. Sure these early mock drafts tend to be less relevant come April, but they serve as a good way to get to know some of the better players in college football. This mock is based less on pick predictions (which is a stupid exercise, especially at this point) and more on evaluations of players at this stage in the game. Draft order is based on Super Bowl odds.
- Cleveland Browns- Mike McGlinchey, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame: Being fairly optimistic, it looks like the Cleveland Browns have a promising quarterback in Deshone Kizer and may not need to take a signal caller high in next year's draft. The Browns are slowly reconstructing their roster and should consider fixing up the one weaker spot in their offensive line at right tackle. Mike McGlinchey has experience playing on both sides of the line and could play on the right side until Joe Thomas eventually decides to hang it up.
- San Fransisco 49ers-Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA: This quarterback class got a lot of hype going into the season but not in the way that made a ton of sense. Josh Allen, a quarterback from the MWC who completed 56% of his passes and threw 15 interceptions, was a anointed early on as an elite quarterback prospect. Also, Sam Darnold is surely incredibly gifted with physical tools, but has less than 12 career games under his belt. However, one of the quarterbacks rightfully got people talking with Josh Rosen. Rosen missed most of his sophomore season with an injury but he has all the traits and smarts for the quarterback position. He is a bit inconsistent and can make head scratching decisions for every wow throw he makes, but he has a lot of what it takes to be a franchise signal caller in the NFL.
- New York Jets-Harold Landry, Edge Defender, Boston College: The Jets need a lot of help and could just take the best player off the board to fix up their roster. While both sides of the ball need help, the Jets could stand to add a dynamic pass rusher to a rebuilding defense. Harold Landry has the quickness, motor and technique to be a star defender in the NFL and god knows the Jets need blue chip players wherever they can get them.
- Buffalo Bills-Connor Williams, Offensive Tackle, Texas: It would be a bit head scratching if the Bills ended up needing a quarterback in the spring. Tyrod Taylor is a solid starter and the staff seems high on Nathan Peterman so they may elect to continue to rebuild the both sides of the ball (since they keep trading away good players). Williams is a very good tackle prospect who has all the tools of a top tier player. He struggles a bit with consistency, but he is still young with lots of room to grow. A great way to rebuild a team is through the trenches and Williams would give a massive boost to Buffalo's line.
- Los Angeles Rams-Derwin James, Safety, Florida State: The Rams have done a good job adding a lot of juice to their offense to give Jared Goff a fair shot at succeeding. However, their defense has lost some playmakers over the last few years and they could stand to reload. Derwin James is a do it all defensive star who can play free safety, strong safety, in the slot or as a nickel linebacker. He is not so much a safety as he is just a defensive weapon. James looks like a blue chip talent at this point and could be a day one star for the Rams' young football team.
- Chicago Bears-Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama: Similar to Derwin James, there is very little Minkah Fitzpatrick can't do. He has experience all over a defensive backfield and it will be to the discretion of NFL teams where they want him at the next level. He can cover, hit and make plays on the ball. The Bears are starting to put together a nice young team and Fitzpatrick would be another much needed star in their secondary.
- Jacksonville Jaguars- Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville: I really hope people get over the "Lamar Jackson isn't an NFL quarterback" schtick. He has a cannon arm, great mobility and is a solid decision maker. His biggest issue is consistent accuracy and he definitely looked much improved in Louisville's debut this season. While there will always be doubters due to the "unorthodox" nature of his play and his size, I bet he continues to climb in quarterback rankings until people realize he is the real deal.
- Miami Dolphins- Arden Key, Edge Defender, LSU: The Dolphins are looking like a promising team before Ryan Tannehill was lost of the season with a knee injury. While they did add pass rusher Charles Harris last year through the draft, the team may want to double dip in the defensive line pool with Cameron Wake getting into his twilight years. Key has all the potential in the world and by the time the draft roles around, he could go a lot higher than this.
- Detroit Lions- Christian Wilkins, Defensive Line, Clemson: The Lions defensive line has taken some hits the last few years with its only legit player going into this season being Ziggy Ansah. Christian Wilkins is an athletic stud who can wreak havoc at the defensive tackle spot. The Lions are a solid team, but adding more juice to their defensive line could go a long way.
- Cincinnati Bengals-Mitch Hyatt, Offensive Tackle, Clemons: The Bengals lost a ton of offensive line talent this offseason and definitely need to rejuvenate the unit if they want any chance going forward. Mitch Hyatt is a big, athletic tackle who could step in immediately for the Bengals and be an upgrade.
- Washington- Jerome Baker, Linebacker, Ohio State: Washington is going through some uncertainty right now as Su'a Cravens debates retirement. Cravens was an important young piece in their defense and they will need to contemplate how to move on from him. Jerome Baker is a speed freak at the linebacker position who could add a great dynamic to a talented defense from day one.
- Los Angeles Chargers- Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC: Even for his lack of experience, there is no denying that Sam Darnold is a talented quarterback. Coming into a situation like the Chargers would be perfect because he would not be asked to step in from day one and can be eased in over time. Darnold needs to prove this year that 2016 wasn't a fluke, but there is still reason to believe he can help an NFL team in the future.
- Baltimore Ravens- Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, SMU: The Ravens have been snakebitten the last few years by injuries but they have also just been a stagnant team on the offensive side of the ball. While there is hope that the group of Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman actually works this year; the Ravens need certainty at the receiver position. Courtland Sutton is a massive target who wins jump balls on the regular. That is exactly the type of player Joe Flacco needs and it's not hard to figure that the Ravens need young stars on offense instead of bandaids.
- Indianapolis Colts- Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State: The Colts made a a few great picks last year with Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson to add some youth to their secondary. However, with Vontae Davis getting up there in age, they might need to continue adding young defensive backs. Denzel Ward is a stud in man coverage and could help the Colts form a formidable secondary of young players in 2018.
- New Orleans Saints- Tavarus McFadden, Cornerback, Florida State: The Saints are another team that spent a high pick on a cornerback that could still use another one. While Marshon Lattimore looks like he is going to be a very good player, the Saints could stand to add even more talented players to their secondary. Tavarus McFadden is a nasty press cornerback with ball skills; having the attitude and the playmaking ability the Saints defense desperately needs.
- Minnesota Vikings-Quenton Nelson, Offensive Guard, Notre Dame: The Vikings have a fairly talented team but look the weakest in the offensive trenches, especially after the release of Alex Boone. Quenton Nelson is an athletic mauler who brings incredible run blocking and a great demeanor to any offensive line.
- Philadelphia Eagles- Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State: While Barkley falling this far would be some kind of miracle, the Eagles should sprint to the podium if he is still there. It is well known that the Eagles have a massive hole at running back and Barkley is the type of back to completely transform an offense. He can run, catch and block at an elite level and the Eagles would be lucky to be able to select one of the best running back prospects of the last few years.
- Tennessee Titans-Jaire Alexander, Cornerback, Louisville: The Titans have done a good job loading their roster with talent but still one of the weaker groups on the team is their defensive backfield. Adoree Jacksons should provide a longterm upgrade, but they should pair him with another young cornerback to fix up the unit. Alexander is a feisty ballhawk who would fit perfectly with Jackson being a feisty ballhawk to give the Titans an athletic, playmaking cornerback duo.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Orlando Brown, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma: It is hard identifying a pressing need on the Buccaneers but they could definitely stand to add some talent to their offensive line. Orlando Brown has the size and athletic ability to command either tackle spot and the Bucs surely need some security for their franchise quarterback.
- Arizona Cardinals- Mason Rudolph, Quarterback, Oklahoma State: With Carson Palmer aging, the Cardinals need to start seriously thinking about the next era of quarterback for them. Mason Rudolph may not have the strongest arm, but he has great accuracy as a vertical passer and is smart, poised and athletic.
- Buffalo Bills (From the Chiefs) - James Washington, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State: With the trade of Sammy Watkins, the Bills have a huge whole on their offense for a playmaking pass catcher. Jordan Matthews could be a solid number two for them, but longterm they need someone to stretch the field. James Washington is a vertical threat with ball skills for days. He would give the Bills a much needed downfield target and in turn elevate the offense's underneath options.
- Carolina Panthers- Billy Price, Offensive Lineman, Ohio State: The Panthers have done a nice job reloading offensive talent, but they could still stand to add some youth to their line. Bill Price is a versatile interior offensive lineman who can play center and guard at a high level. The Panthers would best stand to focus on becoming an offensive football team and adding a talented offensive lineman high would be a massive help.
- Cleveland Browns- Jaylon Ferguson, Edge Defender, Louisiana Tech: A somewhat under the radar name, Jaylon Ferguson is a small schooler, but incredibly dynamic getting after the passer. He might not have the size of Myles Garrett, but he would pair nicely coming off the other side of the defense for the Browns. Ferguson is definitely a name to keep an eye on throughout the season.
- Denver Broncos-Derrius Guice, Running back, LSU: The Broncos have been searching for a bell cow runner for a while now. With their quarterback situation slightly in flux, they could stand to add an option on offense that would take pressure off of the passing game. Derrius Guice is an incredibly gifted pure runner who could contest being the top back in this class by the end of the season. The Broncos could use his size, speed and tackle breaking ability in a huge way to help their offense.
- New York Giants- Micah Kizer, Linebacker, Virginia: We say it every year that the Giants need linebackers, but it never happens. This year will likely be no different. The Giants field a talented defense that is lacking at the second level in terms of linebackers. Micah Kizer is an old school, smart, hard hitting backer who would give the Giants a huge boost on an already solid unit.
- Dallas Cowboys-Tyquan Lewis, Edge Defender, Ohio State: Despite taking Taco Charlton last draft, the Cowboys will still likely need a good bit of help rushing the passer. Tyquan Lewis is a very good athlete with great size and would give the Cowboys a lot more speed on a defensive line unit that needs it.
- Pittsburgh Steelers- Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington: The Steelers tend to love big, physical defensive lineman and Vita Vea would be no different. He is a versatile athlete who can provide help rushing the passer and stopping the run. The Steelers defense is not in desperate need of defensive line help, but Vea would help turn the unit into an even more stingy group.
- Atalanta Falcons-Damian Prince, Offensive Guard, Maryland: The Falcons have very few pressing needs but they could stand to upgrade their guard position. Damian Prince is a very good athlete who gets after it int he running game and flashes as a pass blocker. While it isn't a sexy pick, it would be a huge boost for an already outstanding offensive unit.
- Seattle Seahawks-Deon Cain, Wide Receiver, Clemson: The Seahawks have one of the better pass catchers in the league with Doug Baldwin but there are a whole bunch of question marks at receiver besides him. Will Tyler Lockett stay healthy and take the next step? Can Amara Darboh make an impact early? Those are pretty pressing questions given the lack of depth at receiver that the Seahawks have. Deon Cain is a massive, athletic target who could step in on day one and make a huge impact.
- Oakland Raiders-Malik Jefferson, Linebacker, Texas: The Raiders desperately need help at the linebacker position. It is a unit almost completely bereft of talent and it is holding the team back in a big way. Malik Jefferson is still a raw player, but he is a great athlete who can cover, defend the run and rush the passer. He still needs to become more consistent, but adding an athlete like that to the Raiders defense would immediately be an upgrade of their current group.
- Green Bay Packers- Christian Kirk, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M: It may not seem like it now but the Packers could benefit from adding some youth at wide receiver. Jordy Nelson isn't getting any younger, Randall Cobb is owed more money than he's worth and Davante Adams is headed into a contract year. The Packers likely retain two of those three but could still benefit from adding another dynamic playmaker. Christian Kirk is a quick twitch athlete who does a very good job picking up yards after catch and providing an impact as a returner. It would be hard to see a playmaker like him slip out of the first round.
- New England Patriots-Bradley Chubb, Edge Defender, NC State: The Patriots have a completely stacked roster besides their defensive ends. Bradley Chubb is a high motor player with awesome technique. He would be able to step in day one and give the team a lot of help rushing the passer and setting the edge against the run. While it is hard to find a need for such a team, Chubb could be an immediate impact rookie for them.
Subject: NFL Picks Week 1 2017: Predictions by Football Writers
Predicting the winners of this week's NFL games.
The Bleeding Green Nation weekly writers picks are back for the 2017 regular season schedule! Each week we'll predict the winners of each and every NFL game. We'll tally the results along the way and see who comes out on top at the end of the season. Feel free to post your own predictions or discuss the writer predictions in the comments. Let's get to this week's picks.
UPDATE: You can also vote for who you think will win the games. I’ll tally those results in a “BGN Community” column. Vote in the polls beneath the table. (Click here if you can’t see the polls.)
Vote for your picks below. (Once again, click here if you can’t see the polls.)
Subject: Eagles Time Machine: RGIII, the Carson Wentz debut and Opening Day
A lot has changed in a year.
Secure your belongings.
We’re about to ride the Eagles Time Machine (clever name, huh?) for a look back at the Philadelphia Eagles’ season opener from 2016. There will be memories — some fond, some sour. There will be nostalgia. There may be tears (I told you some of the memories were sour).
Most of all, though, I think you’ll catch a glimpse at just how much can change in a year’s time. As Opening Day 2017 rolls closer and the Birds try again not to make Kirk Cousins look like a fourth-quarter genius, allow yourself to be awed by the past:
Insert dreamy harp sound effect.
Carson Wentz is still a relatively new face in Philadelphia. He captivated our summer — and put the beeping tones of MGMT’s “Kids” in our heads — as the star of a nerdy, vintage trick-shot video from high school, not to mention the first young quarterback to draw such a sizable investment from the Eagles since the days of Donovan McNabb. But he’s still a new face. A pillar, perhaps, of Midwestern college football lore from the FCS dynasty that is North Dakota State University, but just a nice, scholarly and still-unfamiliar face in the City of Brotherly Love.
Oh, and the face of the Eagles’ Opening Day starting quarterback.
No worries. Nothing outshines him in his first action under the light of the Philadelphia sun. Not the post-Chip Kelly debut of Doug Pederson — yes, the same Doug Pederson who quarterbacked ahead of McNabb at the start of 1999 and the same Doug Pederson who, a few years earlier, was an offensive quality control coach under Andy Reid. Not the post-Bill Davis (remember him?) debut of Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. Not even the violent tinge of orange or the distracting pants lettering on the Cleveland Browns uniforms.
His fifth goes for six, a perfect loft to Jordan Matthews in the back of the end zone. And a 35-yarder to Nelson Agholor, who streaks past an outmatched Joe Haden, comes a quarter later, igniting the Lincoln Financial Field crowd and setting into motion weeks worth of premature, albeit understandable, talk of an early favorite emerging for Offensive Rookie of the Year — perhaps even MVP.
With the scores, of course, also comes the first-ever rendition of “The Handshake,” a classy composition from Matthews and his new QB.
Wentz gets help that afternoon from a myriad of others.
Kenjon Barner and Ryan Mathews combine for 119 yards on the ground. The latter all but somersaults his way through the air for a late score, and mammoth teammate Jason Peters stops him from falling on his head in the end zone.
Rodney McLeod, meanwhile, snags a tipped pass for an interception in his first game in green, redeeming himself from a mistimed deep ball to Terrelle Pryor that he and Nolan Carroll failed to prevent. Caleb Sturgis nails his final two field goals after sending his first wide right — and getting mixed signals from the refs. Connor Barwin logs one of three sacks on Robert Griffin III, whose attempt to truck Jalen Mills on a fourth-quarter run toward the sideline leaves him with a fractured shoulder.
Bennie Logan wraps up a Browns ball carrier on the final play from scrimmage, and the Eagles move to 1-0 with a 29-10 decision, reaffirming their spot in the national spotlight and catapulting themselves toward a 3-0 start.
The scoring summary:
Eagles TD (J. Matthews 19-yard pass from C. Wentz; PAT by C. Sturgis) PHI 7 CLE 0
Eagles FG (22-yard by C. Sturgis) PHI 10 CLE 0
Browns TD (2-yard run by I. Crowell; PAT by P. Murray) PHI 10 CLE 7
Eagles FG (38-yard by C. Sturgis) PHI 13 CLE 7
Browns FG (35-yard by P. Murray) PHI 13 CLE 10
Eagles safety PHI 15 CLE 10
Eagles TD (N. Agholor 35-yard pass from C. Wentz; PAT by C. Sturgis) PHI 22 CLE 10
Eagles TD (1-yard run by R. Matthews; PAT by C. Sturgis) PHI 29 CLE 10
Subject: Eagles News: Malcolm Jenkins shows support for Michael Bennett following alleged racial profiling
Philadelphia Eagles news and links for 9/7/17.
Let's get to the Philadelphia Eagles links ...
Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins glad Seahawks' Michael Bennett shared his police brutality experience - NJ.com
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, a staunch advocate for equal rights and criminal justice reform, threw his support behind Michael Bennett Wednesday after the Seattle Seahawks defensive end shared his own allegations of police brutality. "It's unfortunate that that happened to him," Jenkins told NJ Advance Media of Bennett's allegations of police brutality following last month's Floyd Mayweather vs. Connor McGregor fight in Las Vegas. "I can feel and almost imagine the frustration that he had. Unfortunately, he's kind of telling the same story that many people of color tell and live every day."
Michael Bennett: Las Vegas police threatened to ‘blow my f*cking head off’ - SB Nation
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says police officers in Las Vegas pointed a gun at his head, jammed a knee into his back, and handcuffed him so tight around his wrists that his fingers went numb the night of the Mayweather-McGregor fight. Bennett and others around him heard what sounded like gun shots and ran for safety, when police singled him out. Bennett said that an officer placed a gun near his head, and warned him that if he moved he would “blow my f***ing head off.” “I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground handcuffed facing the real-life threat of being killed,” Bennett said.
Giants player admits he tried to hurt Carson Wentz, gives backhanded compliment to Zach Ertz - BGN
It’s Eagles-Redskins week, so excuse me for this brief detour while we turn our attention to a different NFC East rival: the New York Giants. New York safety Landon Collins, a self-admitted “Giant baby,” had some interesting things to say in a recent interview with ESPN that caught my attention. The highlights include Collins admitting he tried to injure Carson Wentz last season.
BGN Radio Daily #18: Next Level Pod w/Turron & Barrett - BGNRadio.com
Turron and Barrett are back as they go through the 53 man roster, make some Eagles schedule predictions and of course take you to the next level while breaking down this week's matchup.
Q&A with Joe Banner: On Pederson, Darby and cute baby animals - The Athletic
Yeah, I do. It’s silly to call Doug unqualified. We’ll see over time whether he ends up being a really good head coach or not. I think I’d call his first year solid. There were some pluses and minuses if we’re objective about it. But there was nothing there in which you felt like you were watching somebody who is unqualified — just by the virtue of the staff he put together. That’s the first and maybe the most important thing a head coach does. He has to evaluate those people, recruit those people and manage those people. The staff is excellent. So that by itself is a significant achievement.
'Go ahead and doubt me' – Eagles' Pumphrey out to prove critics wrong (again) - PhillyVoice
“The NFL is a matter of a change of game speed. When I’m on the field, I feel I’m the best player on the field, and that goes back to when I was a five-year-old, playing with my older cousins. They used to hit me hard and I would bounce back up. It’s why I’ll never shy away from lowering my shoulder and delivering the shot. I do run with anger and play with as much swag as possible. Go ahead and doubt me. I’ve been doubted before. I’ll keep getting back up.”
Packages - Iggles Blitz
Jim Schwartz made an interesting comment in his press conference on Tuesday. He said that the defense will have six packages they can use in the opener against the Skins. That’s hardly a huge deal, but it is interesting for a coach like Schwartz who has been so focused on keeping things simple for most of his career. I think there are a couple of reasons for the packages. First, the opponent. Washington runs a multiple offense. They have five WRs on the roster and four TEs. They have a pair of RBs that are more than 230 pounds. The primary backup is 191 pounds and lightning fast. They can go big. They can go little. They can spread you out. They can go base. You have to be prepared for a lot of looks.
Eagle Eye: Still Plenty Of Firepower In The Nation's Capital - PE.com
When preparing for a Week 1 regular-season game, there’s always a bit of guesswork that goes into formulating the game plan. In reality, all you really have to go off of is last season’s film, especially if the two teams played each other. Luckily, the Eagles faced the Washington Redskins twice in 2016, so there’s some familiarity there, even with the new faces on the other sideline. Head coach Jay Gruden runs the show on offense. Yes, he lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay to the Los Angeles Rams. Washington became the first team in NFL history to lose two 1,000-yard receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. With that three-headed monster leaving the nation’s capital, everyone wants to know how different this offense will look in 2017? My guess is that it will look pretty similar schematically with Gruden’s fingerprints all over it.
Brandon Graham: The sci-fi making of the world's strongest Eagle - ESPN
Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson likens the experience of going up against defensive end Brandon Graham to "getting hit by a damn car." "Somebody that strong and that quick, you better get ready, you better get your hands on him or you're going to get embarrassed," Johnson said. "Little f---ing bowling ball rolling off that f---ing edge," added guard Brandon Brooks, who couldn't resist the urge to chime in from the next locker stall over.
Zach Ertz poised to have, yes, a 'breakout' season - Inquirer
Ertz’s YAC average dropped in each of his first four seasons from 4.39 yards to 3.88, 3.59 and 3.37. Last season, he averaged just a 2.3 YAC in his first 10 games. In the 10th game, Ertz ducked out of the way of the incoming Vontaze Burfict during a Wentz scramble. He was criticized, and said that in retrospect he should have probably blocked the Bengals linebacker. In his final four games, Ertz’s YAC jumped to 5.0 yards. He said his improved health had more to do with the disparity than anything.
7 Predictions For the '17 NFL Season - Sports on Earth
Carson Wentz will prove to be the real deal. Everybody in Philadelphia already believes this, as do some experts around the league, but there's still a group of doubters that aren't really buying what the Eagles are selling with last year's No. 2 overall pick. Considering the Eagles had the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL last year and major offensive line issues that led to protection woes and a nonexistent running game I would expect Wentz to look and be much more comfortable in Year Two than he was at the tail end of Year One.
Lane Johnson vs. Ryan Kerrigan a major key for Eagles in Week 1 - CSN Philly
Lane Johnson could only watch from home as Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan almost single-handedly beat the Eagles in 2016 — not once, but twice. “It still affects me today,” Johnson said Wednesday after practice. “It just motivates me to go out there and go play even harder this year.” Johnson missed both dates with Washington last season because of a 10-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The result was nothing less than disastrous for the Eagles, who were suddenly rendered powerless to stop one of the NFC East’s most formidable pass rushers.
Preseason Review: Notable non-first round rookies - PFF
The most well-rounded rookie interior defender this preseason, Elijah Qualls finished the season-before-the-season with the third highest overall grade among all DIs and his 85.4 run defense grade ranked fourth while his 79.5 pass-rushing grade ranked eighth. Qualls ranked ninth among rookie DIs with a 13.3 run stop percentage – and when the sixth-round draft pick wasn’t getting stops he was forcing cuts and blowing up points of attack – and tenth with an 8.2 PRP.
2017 DVOA Projections - Football Outsiders
The Eagles rank ninth here with a win projection of 8.1 games and a 35.3% chance of making the playoffs.
The Unprecedented Expectations of the Defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots - The MMQB
Goodell has told fans that there’s been no effort to keep Kaepernick out, and his hope is that the focus can go from the protests to progress in addressing the issues the players are attacking. Certainly, there are players, and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is one, who’ve done work to make it happen while they continue with their quiet on-field statements.
Michael Bennett goes public on disturbing interaction with police, video showing incident released - Field Gulls
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett has made it known that he’s very disturbed by some of the police brutality incidents that have been happening in America recently — and apparently he himself was the subject of alleged racial profiling less than two weeks ago. On Wednesday, Bennett released a statement on Twitter in which he described police holding a gun to his head, putting a knee in his back, securing handcuffs so tight that his fingers went numb, and that he was told by them that they’d “blow (his) f***ing head off.”
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Subject: NFL Power Rankings Roundup: Eagles stuck in the middle to the start the season
A look at what the experts are saying about Philadelphia.
Today we begin our weekly roundup of how various media outlets have ranked the Philadelphia Eagles in their NFL power rankings. It’s always interesting to see how the Birds stack up from an outside perspective. But first, let's start by revisiting my rankings.
13) Philadelphia Eagles - Lucky No. 13 for your Philadelphia Eagles. I’m bullish on the Birds as an above average team despite the fact they went 7-9 last year. The Eagles had the ninth best point differential in 2016 and they’re likely to take a step forward this year. The Eagles actually surrounded Carson Wentz with some weapons. As a result, the second-year passer looked great during training camp and the preseason games. On defense, Philadelphia’s pass rush figures to cause trouble for the offenses that they’ll face. This Eagles roster isn’t without concerns (see: the running game), but it’s improved from last year. The Eagles will push for a playoff spot this season.
18) (No explanation)
15) Carson Wentz has a lot more to work with this season thanks to the additions of Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount. Despite some positives in 2016, Wentz did finish with the 26th-best Total QBR, partially because of the Eagles' issues at wide receiver.
19) It's very possible that the Eagles can be one of the six new playoff teams the league averages every year. Last year, the Giants, Cowboys, Falcons, Lions, Raiders and Dolphins were newbies. Philadelphia should be able to hold its own against those squads. We saw it against Miami in the preseason. What we haven't seen enough of is a new-look first-string offense, which my colleague Brian Baldinger so aptly pointed out.
18) If Carson Wentz takes a big step forward, they will be much higher on this list at season's end. The division is a tough one, which hurts.
17) LeGarrette Blount this preseason: 13 carries for 36 yards and a 2.8-yard average. Maybe that’s just a veteran saving himself for when games count, but assume the Eagles are keeping a close eye on how he looks in September. A lot of players look worse when they leave the Patriots.
19) WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are shaping up to be transformative figures for the passing attack. CB Ronald Darby may prove to be one of the most important additions, however.
14) The Eagles have fortified the offense around their second-year QB, Carson Wentz, and they presumably will have tackle Lane Johnson available all season after he missed much of last season while on suspension. Assuming that Wentz is better, this offense will be better and the team should be better as a whole. But it still might be difficult to leapfrog the Giants and Cowboys in the division.
22) Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is a baller. He looked good as a rookie last season. He's looked even better through the preseason. Alshon Jeffery has been solid at wide receiver, but let's not get too hyped about the new-look Eagles receiving corps. When an aging Torrey Smith is your No. 2 wideout, there's room for improvement. At this stage in his career, he should be a No. 3 at best. Defensively, the Eagles have an impressive front seven. With guys like Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, there is a lot of talent on the defensive line. I absolutely love Mychal Kendricks playing linebacker behind it. I do have questions about the secondary. The Eagles have good safeties, but not a ton of cornerback talent. Ronald Darby is serviceable, but he's the only corner capable of playing man-to-man on a consistent basis. That's a problem against Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, who have a ton of receiving threats.
17) The Eagles reloaded on offense during the offseason, bringing in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount to aid Carson Wentz during his sophomore campaign. Questions remain on defense and whether free agent talent will translate into in-game points, but should the wheels of the cogs line up correctly, the Eagles could be in a good position to make the playoffs.
14) (No explanation)
9) (No explanation)
The rankings range from as high as 9 to as low as 22. 16.3 is the average ranking.
The way power rankings work is that the very top and the very bottom are very defined. Things start to get blurred in the middle. You can place most of those teams just about anywhere. That’s where the Eagles are right now.
A Week 1 win over the Redskins, who mostly rank above the Eagles, could put Philly in the top 10 ... or just outside of it.
Subject: How does Radko Gudas fit on a changing Flyers blue line?
In two years with the Flyers, Radko Gudas has emerged as a key cog on defense. How will his responsibilities change now that he’s one of the team’s vets?
As the 2017-18 Flyers season draws near, we’ll be breaking down everyone we expect to make the roster, from the long-time vets to the new guys. For each player, we’ll ask three key questions about their season, and look at what their best- and worst-case scenarios are for the year.
When he was initially acquired in the early hours of March 2, 2015, the day of the 2014-15 NHL Trade Deadline, the guy who had just become the newest member of the Philadelphia Flyers was probably the least talked-about part of his own trade.
Radko Gudas, then a 24-year old Czech defenseman, had gone from being a top-4 defenseman with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013-14 to a third-pair guy on the same team a year later to a player sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury to a player that, at the time, appeared a throw-in on a deadline deal that sent long-time Flyer Braydon Coburn to Tampa and a first- and third-round pick to the Flyers.
After missing the remainder of the season due to surgery on the aforementioned knee injury, Gudas was something of an afterthought on a Flyers defense that had several other established-if-unspectacular pieces in place. And after a rough first preseason with the Flyers — a preseason which, to be fair, was his first real hockey action in eight months — Gudas was a healthy scratch in his first game with the Flyers. At that point, it looked like the Flyers probably had just another third-pairing defenseman on their hands.
But that’s not how things ended up playing out.
In two seasons here, Gudas has emerged as a top-4 defenseman on the Flyers, both in role and in ability. Possession metrics, measures by which in Tampa Gudas was never more than “just fine” and was at times worse than that, had Gudas’ performance in 2015-16 as one of the best in the NHL among defensemen. The decision to protect him in this past June’s expansion draft was a no-brainer. And when Gudas was signed to a four-year deal worth $3.35 million per season against the cap last year, the general reaction from fans tended to be a positive one for a contract that could lock a top-4 defenseman in with the Flyers for the rest of his 20s at a very reasonable rate.
This coming season, Gudas will effectively become one of the elder statesmen of the Flyers’ blue line. Among all Flyers defensemen under contract, only 31-year-old Andrew MacDonald (whose birthday is today!) has played more NHL games than Gudas. And with a number of potential new faces on the unit, Gudas may have to wear a number of hats.
Gudas’ spot on this team, right now, seems like it should be as safe as ever. But what exactly the season has in store for him is anyone’s guess.
3 Big Questions: Radko Gudas
1. What will Gudas’ role be in a new, younger defense corps?
On defense this year, the Flyers figure to have two rookies (whichever ones end up getting chosen out of Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, and Phil Myers), two young defensemen with experience (Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov), and two legitimate NHL veterans (Gudas and MacDonald). Exactly how those players end up getting paired with one another is anyone’s guess, and there are a lot of ways that Gudas could end up being used in this lineup.
The team could opt to pair its two oldest NHL players with the two rookies, giving the young players a guy with experience to lean on a bit. This is essentially what they did with Andrew MacDonald over the past two seasons — he was largely stapled to Gostisbehere from the moment he returned to the NHL in February 2016, and he was almost exclusively partnered with Provorov from early December onwards this past season. That could be the plan for he and Gudas next year, as each could end up spending a lot of time with the team’s newest blueliners.
But is that the best plan given Gudas’ skillset? It may depend on exactly which defensemen get the nod to start the year with the team. If Morin and Hagg get the call, a pairing made up of one of them alongside Gudas may just not have enough puck-moving talent at the NHL level. If Sanheim or Myers makes the team, one of them could be a better fit with Gudas, who’s shown some ability to create offense on his own but still isn’t much of a passer.
If Gudas isn’t paired with a rookie, the most likely combinations remaining involve him spending a lot of time with either Gostisbehere or Provorov. That would be a new look for the Flyers — outside of a handful of games with Provorov just after Thanksgiving last year, Gudas hasn’t spent any real time with either of those two. But it would be fun to see two of the Flyers’ three top NHL-level defensive talents playing on the same pair, and if the Flyers want to have one “veteran” pair take on the tough assignments (this would be much more likely were Gudas to be paired with Provorov than with MacDonald) while they let the two pairs with rookies on them ease into the NHL, that may be the best way to do it.
Regardless of who he’s playing with, though, how the Flyers plan to balance the need to play one of their better defensemen with the need to develop young talent is something they’ll have to figure out. Outside of Ivan Provorov, the Flyers’ coaches seemed to see basically every defenseman on the team last year as worthy of receiving a similar amount of ice time, which happens when your defense consists by and large of a bunch of guys with limitations.
But now there’s no Michael Del Zotto or Mark Streit — no guys that you can give ~19 minutes a night to and expect solid-if-unspectacular results. Those guys are being replaced by rookies, and by nature there’s a lot of variability in trying to project what a rookie will do.
It’s possible that, while guys like Morin, Hagg, or Sanheim get their feet under them, Gudas is asked to do even more than he has been in recent years. On the other hand, if any of those guys really get out to a hot start to their NHL careers, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if any increase in responsibility given to them comes at the expense of Gudas’ ice time. Radko Gudas could realistically serve almost any role on the Flyers’ defense this season, from top-pair/top-PK guy to veteran mentor to third-pair support piece. The wide range of potential outcomes is what makes the task of guessing what to expect from him so difficult.
2. Will Gudas’ strong on-ice differentials from the past two seasons continue?
In Dave Hakstol’s two years in charge of the Flyers, a number of key Flyers players have seen drop-offs in certain statistical measures. Claude Giroux is the most notable example, but Jakub Voracek had a somewhat uninspiring season this past year by the statistics, while Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn had serious problems at 5-on-5 for prolonged stretches in those two years as well.
But with the arguable exception of Sean Couturier, no one on the Flyers has seen their play turn in a positive direction quite like Gudas has.
In his first full year with the Flyers, Gudas quickly ascended from the role of a fringe/third-pair guy to that of a de-facto top-pair defenseman at even strength, mostly alongside Hakstol favorite Michael Del Zotto. And his actual on-ice performance was worthy of that kind of role: by most standard on-ice possession/play-driving metrics, Gudas was spectacular in the 2015-16 season. Furthermore, when Del Zotto went down for the season with a wrist injury in February, Gudas’ strong performance kept up, even alongside the likes of Brandon Manning and Evgeny Medvedev.
(Numbers above and elsewhere in this article via Natural Stat Trick except where noted otherwise.)
Gudas’ eye-popping numbers from last year didn’t carry over to the 2016-17 season at quite the same level, but given the amount of responsibility he was asked to take on, one could reasonably argue that his second season in orange and black was an even more impressive all-around season than his first. Gudas still led the team’s defensemen in standard possession metrics, both overall (53.71% Corsi For) and relative to his team (2.88% Corsi Rel). And that’s all despite leading the team’s defensemen in 5-on-5 TOI per game (16:47) and starting shifts in the defensive zone more frequently than any other Flyers defenseman.
He may not be the most talented defenseman on the Flyers — really, he may not even be close — but it’s tough to argue with the fact that no defenseman on the Flyers has done a better job keeping play moving in the right direction than Gudas has since he arrived here. And as Charlie O’Connor wrote here back in March of Gudas’ first season with the Flyers, he’s done it largely through his work in the offensive zone, contrary to the widely-held idea that Gudas is mostly a big, hulking, stay-at-home defenseman:
The general perception surrounding Radko Gudas is that of a defensively-oriented, physical player. There is evidence to support this description -- his high hit totals, low scoring numbers, and the fact that Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol uses him on the penalty kill and in late-game situations.
But this is not the most complete way to understand what Gudas brings to the table. When it comes to even strength shot creation and shot prevention, Radko Gudas is markedly better at the former. Despite his mediocre puck skills and lack of high-end skating speed, Gudas actually is better at creating offense than preventing it.
At this point, we don’t have much of a reason to think that Gudas won’t continue to be a solid play-driver, which is why the aforementioned idea of pairing him with Provorov is one that could have so much upside on this team — if he’s doing what he’s done alongside Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto, what will he do with maybe the best defenseman on the team?
But at the same time, different pairings could certainly lead to different results. Gudas has mostly managed to avoid playing alongside Andrew MacDonald during his time here, and while the Flyers likely won’t pair their two veterans with one another, that would be an interesting test of just how good Gudas really is at pushing play forward. Similarly, a run with one of the rookies could provide a new challenge, albeit one with more long-term upside for the Flyers. In any case, Gudas’ 5-on-5 play has been a revelation, and they’re going to need it to continue again this year.
3. Can Gudas stay out of trouble again?
Ask a Flyers fan what they think of Radko Gudas, and they’ll probably tell you about the defenseman we’ve discussed so far in this piece: one that has reliably played a key role on an otherwise-suspect Flyers defense over the past two seasons and figures to be a key piece moving forward. Ask a fan of one of the other 30 fanbases in the NHL, though, and the first thing that probably comes to mind regarding Gudas is what he’s made news for outside of Philadelphia: a somewhat questionable disciplinary history.
In his two seasons with the Flyers, Gudas has been sat down by the Department of Player Safety twice — he received a three-game suspension in December 2015 for check to the head in Ottawa, and was nailed with a six-game timeout in October 2016 following an interference penalty in the Flyers’ final game of the preseason in Boston. Those are Gudas’ only two incidents that have led to suspension in his career, but some other hits that he’s thrown in games with the Flyers have led to majors, misconducts, and ejections. In fact, the hit that led to Gudas’ second suspension came just five days after a boarding major on New York’s Jimmy Vesey that garnered an ejection but no supplemental discipline.
But following that six-game extended vacation to start the season, Gudas — who by that point was surely being watched closely by the powers-that-be in the NHL — was about as well-behaved as could be expected. Gudas took three fighting majors and two misconducts (both of which were matched by an opponent on the ice), none of which actually put the Flyers at a disadvantage beyond the fact that they were without Gudas himself during those times. And plus, Gudas was able to do all of this without losing much of the physical intimidation that helps him succeed. Gudas threw a number of big hits this year, they just mostly weren’t ones that refs thought were illegal.
The hope here is that no longer will we have to worry about Gudas (who, remember, is a key contributor to this team and whose prolonged absence of any kind leaves the Flyers worse off) continuously being at risk of a lengthy supplemental discipline penalty.
If that does prove to be the case, the next challenge for Gudas is cutting down on minor penalties. Last season, he took minors at a more frequent rate than all but seven other NHL defensemen who played at least 600 total minutes (via Natural Stat Trick). But while there’s surely room for improvement from that level of misbehavior, significantly reducing Gudas’ penalty rate could be easier said than done.
By nature, sometimes a player who consistently plays as physical of a style as Gudas does is going to take penalties. And when you couple that with the track record Gudas has picked up, fair or not, some bad ones are going to be called on him. Such as this absurd “clipping” call on January 21, which gave the New Jersey Devils a man-advantage that changed that game:
Maybe, with the way he plays and with the reputation that he has, a high volume of penalty calls against is going to be a constant occupational hazard. Which only further stresses how crucial it is that Gudas continues to play on the right side of the line when it comes to his biggest hits, the way he did once the regular season got underway last year. Some penalties will always be a part of Gudas’ game, but overall improved discipline should hopefully, in time, lead to fewer reputation calls, which should mean more ice time for one of the Flyers’ better defensemen.
Paired alongside one of the two rookies that make the Flyers, Gudas has a tough time replicating his positive on-ice performances from his first two years with the Flyers. His limitations with the puck on his stick spring up more this year, plaguing his performance in all three zones. All the while, Gudas seems to have trouble keeping himself out of, well, trouble, as he sees an uptick in penalties taken and ends up getting ejected from multiple games during the season. In sum, Gudas ends up looking less like the guy that was a revelation for the Flyers and more like the guy who slowly fell out of favor in Tampa before getting dealt out of town as a trade throw-in. The result is a third-pair guy who regularly finds himself up in the press box as the team looks to give his ice time to younger players.
While the rookies work to get their feet under them, Gudas calmly steps into a top-pair role alongside Provorov, and the Flyers quickly find success in the combination of arguably their most talented overall defenseman and one of their best 5-on-5 play-drivers. Gudas continues to post very strong possession metrics overall and relative to the team, and even gets some decent luck on those point shots he keeps firing off with reckless abandon and scores a few goals. Better still, Gudas is able to cut down a bit on the minor penalties and continue to stay off the radar of the Department of Player Safety. Success from young guys elsewhere in the lineup may catch more attention and will likely matter more in the long-run, but it’s the continued strong performance of Gudas that really pushes the Flyers forward in the short-term — all while the 27-year old very quietly makes a case that he should be considered a key part of this team’s long-term future, no matter who else is popping up on the blue line.
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Season Previews: