Subject: We Know You Won
Subject: Eagles-Giants PFF Grades: Jason Kelce among Philadelphia
Best and worst of the Eagles-Giants game.
Pro Football Focus releases the top five graded players from each team after every single NFL game. Here’s what PFF had to say about the Philadelphia Eagles following their Week 3 win against the New York Giants.
CB Patrick Robinson, 88.3 overall grade
C Jason Kelce, 88.1 overall grade
LB Mychal Kendricks, 87.7 overall grade
DI Timmy Jernigan, 87.4 overall grade
T Lane Johnson, 87.0 overall grade
Patrick Robinson was one of the worst players during Eagles training camp. Now he’s playing like one of the better defenders on the team.
Robinson had mixed results against Eli Manning and the Giants receivers as he allowed 103 receiving yards in coverage, including Sterling Shepard’s long touchdown. However, Robinson made up for it by breaking up two passes and recording an interception of a tipped pass.
The explanation for his turnaround is simple: Robinson is much more effective in the slot than he is on the outside. This much was true before he signed with Philly.
Believe it or not, Robinson ranks 5th out of 109 cornerbacks this season. (Funny enough, Eric Rowe is 109th.)
Robinson, who signed for veteran minimum, looks like a good bargain signing by the Birds so far.
Would you believe it if I told you Kelce is PFF’s third highest graded center through three weeks? Well, he is.
Kelce has earned his grade due to good run blocking, which is no surprise. Mobility is Kelce’s strength.
Here are some great examples of his effectiveness against the Giants via Fran Duffy. Note that Philadelphia ran for 193 yards (4.9 average) and two touchdowns on 39 carries on Sunday.
Reich: good movement upfront on QB sneaks. Lauds Kelce's play so far this season.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) September 26, 2017
Kendricks saw an increase in playing time due to Jordan Hicks getting hurt. He made the most of it by logging seven tackles (six solo) and two pass deflections. One of his deflections (a pick that went through his hands) was intercepted by Robinson. Kendricks has struggled in coverage in the past but he did a good job against the Giants.
Kendricks ranks 12th out of 87 linebackers this season. (Funny enough, Kiko Alonso is dead last.)
Jernigan is having a really good season. He ranks sixth among all defensive tackles.
The Eagles lost star interior defender Fletcher Cox during the game; however, Jernigan was able to replace him and become a force in the middle of the defensive line. The former Baltimore Raven was tied for the most pressures in the defense with three, as he recorded a quarterback hit and two hurries. In addition, he proved to be the Eagles’ best run defender as well.
Jernigan is a free agent after this season, so it’ll be interesting to see whether the Eagles keep him or not. The combination of him and Cox could be pretty pricey. With the way he’s playing, though, Jernigan could be worth the price tag.
Jim Schwartz notes that Tim Jernigan had a really good pass rush on play where Rasul Douglas got an interception. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) September 26, 2017
Lane Johnson, who ranks 13th among offensive tackles, did a great job of shutting down Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Eagles right tackle had a standout performance today, particularly in pass protection. From 39 pass-blocking snaps, he didn’t allow a single sack, hit or hurry, and delivered some key blocks in the running game. It marks the first time this season Johnson hasn’t allowed a pressure, after allowing two in each of the first two games.
Last week, I felt like PFF was too harsh on Wentz. I think they might have been too generous with him in this game.
After a poor showing last week, Wentz rebounded with a solid game against the Giants today. He attempted just three passes traveling 10 yards or further downfield, but picked his spots to pick up several key first downs on short passes. When the Eagles kept pressure away from him, Wentz produced an passer rating of 99.8. When the Giants were able to get pressure on him, that dropped to just 39.6.
I’m not saying Wentz was terrible. He didn’t turn the ball over, which is great. His 19-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery along the sideline allowed Jake Elliott to attempt and make a 61-yard walk-off field goal.
But it wasn’t a particularly great overall game for him. The sack he took on Doug Pederson’s 4th-and-8 call was inexcusable. The overthrow on what could’ve been an Alshon Jeffery touchdown was awful. Wentz needs to be better moving forward, especially when it comes to the deep ball.
On the season, Wentz ranks 14th out of 33 quarterbacks graded by PFF.
Subject: Preview: Flyers host Rangers on NHL Network
Roster battles continue to take shape with just three preseason tilts left.
The Flyers are right back at it with the back end of a preseason home-and-home series with the Rangers tonight from the Wells Fargo Center at 7pm. Tonight’s game will air nationally on NHL Network, locally on TCN, and on radio at 97.5 The Fanatic.
Last night the two teams met up at Madison Square Garden for a tilt that saw rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim score twice for the Flyers but, in the end it was veteran Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh who scored the game-winner in overtime as the Rangers took the front end of the back-to-back by a 3-2 final.
While there were plenty of positives to take away for the Flyers - including another strong night in the face off circle (winning 33 of 53) and 39 shots generated on Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist - the power play again went 0-for-5 on the night. While an 0-for-14 skid on the power play dating back to the Boston game isn’t promising, it’s important to remember there are still a lot of moving pieces and players in the preseason, so bad numbers in the exhibition season aren’t the end of the world. Not yet, at least.
As for the Claude-Giroux-to-left-wing experiment, the Flyers’ captain sure didn’t look out of place on the wing for the first time in his career. The line of Giroux, Sean Couturier in the middle, and Jake Voracek on the left generated a couple good chances on the night, but also failed to score on a two-on-one and a two-on-none with Giroux and Voracek both passing up shots for…you guessed it, more passes.
Michal Neuvirth was strong in goal for the Flyers, stopping 28 of 31 shots, though he’d like to have the game-winning goal back due to the juicy rebound he left that ultimately led to McDonagh’s goal.
Looking ahead to to tonight, look for Brian Elliott to get the start in goal and play the entire game. With the Flyers sending back Alex Lyon to Lehigh Valley, the only two goalies left in camp are Neuvirth and Elliott, who will begin the season as a tandem between the pipes.
With just three preseason games left it’s crunch time for players on the bubble. Those would seem to include forwards Scott Laughton, Oskar Lindblom, and Mike Vecchione and defensemen Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, and Travis Sanheim. Sanheim has scored three goals in his past two games and is having a strong finish to the preseason to help bolster his case.
Here is tonight’s roster straight from the Flyers:
22 Dale Weise
40 Jordan Weal
46 Mikhail Vorobyev
58 Taylor Leier
48 Robert Hagg
50 Sam Morin
37 Brian Elliott (starter)
Subject: Carson Wentz said he
This is awesome.
We’ve already seen a ton of great reaction videos to Jake Elliott’s 61-yard game-winning field goal by now. But the Philadelphia Eagles released another one on Tuesday and you have to see it. It features Carson Wentz mic’d up before the kick happens.
CARSON WENTZ: This guy’s a superhero if he makes this.
WENTZ: I’ll freaking ... I’ll freaking give my paycheck. I’ll give him my game check.
KAMU GRUGIER-HILL: Yo Carson, he’s made this a bunch of times in practice.
GRUGIER-HILL: He made this a bunch of times in practice.
WENTZ: I’ll give him my game check if he makes it.
GRUGIER-HILL: Wooooo! Woooo!
WENTZ: Make sure we cover ... come on Elliott ... come on, big four ... OOOOOHH!!! OOHHHH!!!! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! AHHH YOU SON OF A GUN! LET’S GO! LET’S GO!
It’s only fair to hold Wentz to his word. He better make sure he gives his game check to the Eagles’ rookie kicker.
Subject: Carson Wentz Owes Jake Elliot $31,764
Subject: Brett Brown Gets Completely Carried Away Talked About Joel Embiid
Subject: Philadelphia Eagles work out a familiar face at running back
The return of Oregon Bias!
Philly has an open roster spot after placing injured veteran scatback Darren Sproles on injured reserve.
Barner spent three years with Philadelphia after the Eagles traded for him in 2014. Last season, Barner ran for two touchdowns and 129 rushing yards (4.8 average) on 27 carries. He also had five receptions for 42 yards.
Barner was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason but the Eagles didn’t offer him a tender, thus making him unrestricted. Barner signed a contract with the Los Angeles Chargers (the Eagles’ Week 4 opponent) before being waived in final cuts.
Adding Barner to the roster could make sense. He knows the scheme and he’s shown good punt return ability in the preseason before. Barner was a player Sproles really took under his wing (no pun intended) during their time together in Philadelphia.
The Eagles are likely to make a roster move soon. Perhaps they’ll sign Barner. Or maybe they’ll promote Byron Marshall from the practice squad.
Stay tuned to BGN for more updates.
Subject: Kenjon Barner, Eagles sign contract
The Eagles’ biggest Nickelback fan is back.
Here’s what we wrote about Barner earlier today.
Barner spent three years with Philadelphia after the Eagles traded for him in 2014. Last season, Barner ran for two touchdowns and 129 rushing yards (4.8 average) on 27 carries. He also had five receptions for 42 yards.
Barner was set to be a restricted free agent this offseason but the Eagles didn’t offer him a tender, thus making him unrestricted. Barner signed a contract with the Los Angeles Chargers (the Eagles’ Week 4 opponent) before being waived in final cuts.
Adding Barner to the roster could make sense. He knows the scheme and he’s shown good punt return ability in the preseason before. Barner was a player [Darren] Sproles really took under his wing (no pun intended) during their time together in Philadelphia.
The Eagles are signing Barner to help replace Sproles, especially when it comes to the punt return game. He becomes the fourth running back on Philadelphia’s roster now with Wendell Smallwood, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement also under contract. Byron Marshall is still on the practice squad.
It’s likely a coincidence in this case, but it’s funny how the Eagles are signing Barner ahead of their game against his most recent team: the Chargers. The Eagles signed Washington quarterback Nate Sudfeld to their practice squad before playing the Redskins. Then the Birds signed former Chiefs quarterback DeVante Bausby before playing Kansas City. Hmmm.
Philadelphia’s roster is now full at the 53-man limit.
Subject: Rangers vs. Flyers recap: Sam Morin will eat you for breakfast, lunch, and
Konecny wins the game in overtime. It feels good to be home.
Even though their unsuccessful power play held them back once again tonight, the Flyers managed to keep the shots well in their favor (39-27) and edge out a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers in overtime.
Brian Elliott played a decent game in this showing at the Wells Fargo Center, stopping 24 of 27 shots. Sam Morin had a fight and a goal, Travis Konecny played hero with a clutch overtime goal at an impossible angle, and the Flyers did a good job of keeping the pressure on the Rangers through three periods (plus some bonus hockey).
TRAVIS KONECNY, THE OT WINNER!! pic.twitter.com/MXNl0nhyPB— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 27, 2017
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the first period opened with an almost-immediate Flyers power play, this time on a probably-weak holding call on J.T. Miller. Unsuccessful power plays are likely to be the big story of this preseason. The Flyers failed to generate scoring chances and gave up a breakaway to Michael Grabner, who couldn’t manage to get it past Elliott.
Then, a fight! Bobby Farnham did not like Sam Morin’s hit on Gabriel Fontaine. Unfortunately for our good old friend Bobby, Sam Morin was built for this, and there’s no contest there. Morin took his five-for-fighting, but Farnham got the instigator penalty, handing the Flyers their second power play of the night.
... buuuut, once again, they failed to capitalize on this. A Dale Weise turnover would lead to another breakaway for the Rangers. This time it was a two-on-one, and Elliott had a stellar save on that play, flashing the glove to take care of Fontaine’s shot up close.
Almost immediately afterwards, New York would get their first power play of the night on a Claude Giroux hooking call at 9:43, and David Desharnais scored for the lead with just six seconds left on the man advantage. 2-1 Rangers.
A rush to the net by Weise drew a hooking penalty on J.T. Miller, giving the Flyers another power play. They didn’t score on this one, either. Hey, I’m just the messenger.
Just as the period dwindled down, Sam Morin scored his first of the preseason at 18:36 off an excellent pass by Giroux. Now we’re in business.
Sam "Offensive Dynamo" Morin pic.twitter.com/G3KwHWIvV7— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 26, 2017
AFTER ONE: 2-1 Rangers, shots 13-11 Flyers
The second period would see the Flyers tie the game early on. Scott Laughton got this one, with Michael Raffl on the main assist. Raffl was a maybe being a little too generous by passing when there was an open net right in front of him, but Laughton was able to tuck it in regardless, and we’re tied 2-2.
SCOTTY LAUGHTON TIES THE GAME pic.twitter.com/M8veno9SGH— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 27, 2017
Andrew MacDonald would soon receive a holding call (there’ve been a lot of those) at 3:53, and the Rangers went back on the power play. The Flyers had the answers to this one, holding the Rangers scoreless and even generating a breakaway going their way. Sean Couturier would take this one, though he would fail to score.
Both teams spent the majority of the period swapping scoring chances, including one by Taylor Leier up front, though none that looked especially dangerous.
Michael Raffl drew a tripping penalty on Steven Kampfer with six minutes left in the period, sending the Flyers on their fourth power play of the game. They also did not score on this one. Sorry.
The Flyers managed to keep pressure on the Rangers in the offensive zone, culminating in a shot by Gostisbehere that hit Ondrej Pavelec up high. Neither team managed to score as the period ended, but the Flyers continued to get solid shots on net.
AFTER TWO: 2-2, shots 25-17 Flyers.
The third period started out like a reverse of the first. Mikhail Vorobyev caught Filip Chytil early on in the period with an elbow, and the Rangers get another power play. The Flyers penalty kill, including Laughton specifically who’s had a decent game tonight, was up to the task.
Patrick and Lindblom worked hard to keep the puck in the Rangers zone, and it paid off with a goal. Andrew MacDonald fired a wrist shot from the line that deflected off of Lindblom’s stick, and the Flyers went up 3-2.
A GOAL...— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 27, 2017
IN REAL LIFE!? pic.twitter.com/63dU5qYhCe
The Flyers looked promising at even-strength, keeping up the pressure in the offensive zone and eventually drawing a slashing penalty in their own. They generated plenty of scoring opportunities on their fifth power play of the night, but failed to score once again.
A faceoff in the Flyers zone lead to the tie game, with Michael Grabner scoring to make it 3-3 with just a couple minutes left in the period. It looks like the Flyers are cursed this preseason.
AFTER THREE: 3-3, shots 36-26 Flyers
Overtime, it is.
Both teams swapped decent scoring opportunities through the first two minutes, but it’s Travis Konecny’s heroic goal off a Giroux assist that won the game for the good guys. What a shot.
What a wonderful job by Konecny to stay with the puck and score from a tough angle. pic.twitter.com/pdp2Z6tikW— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 27, 2017
Home sweet home.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: SEVEN
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*And now on to last night's game, which went to overtime AGAIN but this time with a win! RECAP!
*I know I know, paid content, but this piece on Samuel Morin's path to (probably) the NHL is a really great read and worth the price of admission. [The Athletic]
*On what it means to play in the ECHL when you've got NHL dreams. [Inquirer]
*GMs for national teams are going to have to get creative when building their roster for these Olympics, and Team USA is looking to Europe to find talent. [Puck Daddy]
*Speaking of the Olympics, there will be zero nationally televised NHL games during the games. That'll teach you, Gary. [SB Nation]
*Concussion research is getting interesting as scientists and doctors word towards finding better ways to protect people's noggins. [The Hockey News]
*And finally, a new episode of BSH Radio records tonight but ahead of that, we've launched a Patreon! If you like what you hear on BSH Radio and want to support the show, we'd be super grateful. [BSH]
Subject: Eagles News: Wendell Smallwood
Philadelphia Eagles news and links for 9/27/17.
Let's get to the Philadelphia Eagles links ...
Without Sproles, Eagles' Wendell Smallwood to assume 'increased role,' especially on 3rd downs - PennLive
"There's no doubt Wendell Smallwood is going to have an increased role," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Tuesday. "All the guys have some third-down ability, but Wendell has really improved in the area. He showed natural aptitude for it early, both from a protection standpoint and from a route running standpoint." Smallwood's hauled in nine catches for 66 yards over 16 games in his NFL career, which falls far short of Sproles' production. But as Reich pointed out, Sproles is one of the most prolific pass-catching running backs in NFL history, and Smallwood has provided flashes of potential in the area.
Jake Elliott nominated for two NFL awards that you can vote on - BGN
Philadelphia Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott has been nominated for two different awards this week due to his 61-yard game-winning field goal against the New York Giants. You can vote for Elliott to win.
Afternoon QB with BLG - BGNRadio.com
It's an Eagles Victory Monday! BLG celebrates the Eagles' win, defends Doug Pederson, laments Darren Sproles' injury, talks about the left guard situation, and goes over some over/unders for the upcoming Chargers game.
NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Giants and 49ers are dead - PhillyVoice
At -33, the Giants have the worst point differential in the NFC. As you can see above, they are not only two games behind all the other teams in the division in overall record, they're also 0-3 in the NFC and 0-2 in the division. It's going to be extraordinarily difficult for them to win any tiebreakers. The Giants are done.
Dangerous Doug - Iggles Blitz
I wasn’t a huge fan of going for it on 4th and 8 on Sunday, but I would rather have a coach that is too aggressive than one who is too conservative. Part of the thinking there is to establish a mentality in your team that you expect to convert on 4th down. Going for it on 4th down becomes a weapon rather than a random gamble. A lot of teams look nervous on 4th down. The more you go for it, the more comfortable the players will be. You do have to accept the fact there will be failures. There are going to be times when you turn the ball over to the other team and they go score points. You don’t get the reward without some of the risk.
Lawlor: Don't Overlook The Coaches' Role In Sunday's Dramatic Win - PE.com
Give the coaching staff credit for getting everyone ready to play. When there are so many new faces in the lineup and the team still manages to win, that tells you the coaches did a great job of getting everyone prepared. Give Pederson credit for the way he handled the game. He was aggressive throughout. He went for it on fourth down three times. The Eagles converted two of those and scored touchdowns on both drives. Pederson could have become conservative at the end of the game. Instead, he went for the win. Be honest. Didn't you get nervous for a second when you saw Beckham sitting underneath the goal post? If that kick is short and he takes off, who knows what is going to happen. Pederson showed faith in his new kicker and Elliott rewarded him.
All-22: How the Eagles ignited their ground game and ran all over the Giants - The Athletic
Smallwood gave a lot of credit to Wentz for getting the Eagles in the right run looks at the line of scrimmage. “Carson gave us some great plays,” he said. “He checked to most of those run plays that we had. He put us in a good situation, and the offensive line executed, and it went on from there. “He saw a favorable box or a scheme that would work for us. Some of the schemes we haven’t done in awhile, and he checked to them. They looked pretty good.” On one 5-yard Smallwood run, the film shows Wentz changing the play and moving the back from the right to the left.
Eagles look to Smallwood with Sproles out - Daily News
“You get mad,” Reich said, when asked what energized a ground game that had struggled at Washington and at Kansas City. “You know, you get mad. We know we have the people to have a good running game. We know it. There was never any doubt. “Whatever all the outside chatter is … I can promise you, [there is] no doubt from the coaching staff and no doubt from the players that we have what it takes to have a successful running game … It was a pretty small sample size, so it was just a question of being patient and just keep calling it, and keep calling it, and give our guys a chance.”
Roob Stats: Plenty of non-kicking statistical tidbits from Eagles' win vs. Giants - CSN Philly
With 31 pass attempts Sunday, Carson Wentz increased his career total to 723. That's the most pass attempts in NFL history by a quarterback in his first 19 games. The previous record was 719 by Andrew Luck. The record for 20 games? It's 754 by both Luck and Drew Bledsoe. So Wentz needs 32 passes against the Chargers for the most attempts through 20 games. I like his odds!
Brandon Marshall: I didn’t spit on an Eagles fan - PFT
“No, absolutely not,” Marshall said, via SNY.tv. “I think that if anybody does that — a fan, or a player — should be suspended, should probably pay a fine, and you should have a public apology prepared and they need to read through it on camera. So, absolutely not. But, that’s the world we live in. I’m sure because there was a lot of cameras around, he had his camera, all of his buddies had their cameras out. There should be video evidence of anything on his face or on his body. So, I’m not worrying about that.”
Philip Rivers Was on Fire on Sunday... in the Wrong Way - Bolts From The Blue
Philip Rivers had probably what will be the game he will remember as the worst of his career today, and if you didn't see it, don’t make yourself depressed by watching it. In 4 drives, Philip Rivers managed to cough up the ball 3 times. And none of them can really be blamed on anyone but himself. He made terrible decisions, throwing jump balls for Travis Benjamin (seriously?), and trying to force the ball to Antonio Gates, who has clearly lost more than several steps and probably shouldn’t play in between the 20s much anymore.
Is something wrong with the Patriots? - SB Nation
These three fatal flaws could put an end to New England’s repeat title hopes.
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Subject: Eagles Film Review: Philadelphia
Down but not out.
Welcome back to the Eagles Film Room. Jonny Page and myself have decided that, going forward, I will do the defense full-time while he takes the offense. Wentz reports from myself will continue to be a weekly analysis for those curious.
The Eagles were handed some unfortunate circumstances that every team has to deal with, as injuries forced them to play without four starters in this game. Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks, Rodney McLeod and Ronald Darby — each the best players at their respective positions, with McLeod possibly being the exception — were all hurt at some point in this game and never returned. Darby and McLeod were ruled out coming in and Hicks and Cox sustained first half injuries that left a depleted unit almost barren. Fortunately, the Eagles’ spirit didn't break and despite a few late bumps in the road the Eagles were able to force turnovers and put an offense that struggled to capitalize for a portion of the day in position to win the game.
As we expected, coming into the game the Giants needed to scheme to mask the deficiencies of one of the worst offensive lines in football. As a result, the Eagles weren't able to sack Eli Manning even once on Sunday. Plays like the one above were a constant as the plan was to get the ball out of Eli’s hands as quickly as possible. As much as I disagree with some of Pro Football Focus’ charting, time to get the ball out of the hand isn't necessarily subjective and is a good statistic when you can provide context. The following to throws were a wide receiver screen and another quick throw to Brandon Marshall who ran a curl route.
Conventional wisdom says that if the Giants are trying to get rid of the ball quickly, why not press or jam the receivers at the line of scrimmage to buy the pass rush time? The play above is an example of why Jim Schwartz had his hands tied. In addition to the absence of Rodney McLeod, the Eagles backup safeties Jaylen Watkins and Corey Graham were also out, which left special teams ace Chris Maragos to start alongside Malcolm Jenkins. Maragos takes a bad angle on the receiver, as the Eagles are in what appears to be a Cover 3 zone. In an ideal world, the Eagles would've been able to stay in Cover 2 as they did last December when they hosted the Giants, but again, personnel issues really forced the Eagles’ hand schematically.
The Eagles defense may not have shown up on the stat sheet with sacks, but the defensive line did force the Giants to game-plan around them. The thing about the short passing game is that it consistently forces a team to put together long drives of 10 plus plays and that becomes unsustainable. Just because the Giants tried to scheme around and neutralize the Eagles’ pass rush, doesn't mean they were 100 percent successful. On plays like the one above, it’s important to keep in mind that the rush is still super talented and when given chances, will disrupt throwing lanes and windows. Above Brandon Graham is left unblocked on the edge and does an excellent job of keeping backside contain on Manning on the bootleg. Pressure throws Eli off his spot and forces an incompletion.
As mentioned above, the Eagles were forced to play a lot of off-coverage and the Giants attacked it well. In the play above the Giants call an RPO and Manning takes the pass option. The offensive lineman come out run blocking which draws the linebackers up. With off coverage, Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd runs a slant with the opened throwing lane and secures a first down for the Giants.
This was the first interception of the day for Manning and the first of Rasul Douglas’ career. I didn't think this was a good throw by any means from Eli. The Eagles are again going with a single-high safety look pre-snap and Douglas is left alone on an island with Brandon Marshall. Marshall has done an excellent job throughout his career of winning at the catch-point, which is probably what leads Manning to heave what he believes to be a 50/50 ball to Marshall. Marshall doesn't have top end speed so Douglas doesn't have to worry about him getting behind him down the field. Some of the positives for Rasul Douglas coming out of West Virginia were his ball skills and length. Both helped out here, and the Eagles defense stepped up when the team needed them.
I thought Douglas played this well, but a corner route is always going to beat man coverage. Factor in a well thrown ball from Eli Manning and this is a play you have to tip your hat to. Fortunately, the NFL doesn't know how to define a catch so the touchdown was nullified.
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention Mychal Kendricks and his admirable job filling in for Jordan Hicks on Sunday. Kendricks was all over the place, as he has been in limited time all season, making plays. With the quick passing game, defensive players know that the ball is coming out quick — obviously. A quarterback’s drop tells you how quickly the ball is supposed to come out of their hands. Here, Eli takes a quick drop and opens up right. Kendricks sees Manning’s eyes and drives on that passing window. I’ve been critical of Kendricks’ instincts, as I believed that was the biggest part of his game that’s prevented him from becoming an Pro Bowl caliber linebacker, but his instincts appear sharper than they've ever been. Kendricks closes the window, tips the ball for the interception. My only complaint here is if Kendricks had caught this — it hit him right in the hands — it’s likely a pick six with his athleticism.
Again, another RPO that the Giants used to draw in the linebackers to open a window for Manning. The run blocking linemen bring up Nigel Bradham and vacate a throwing lane for Odell Beckham Jr. on the slant. Fortunately Beckham dropped it, as he’s better than anybody in the game when it comes to turning slants into touchdowns.
This was where the coverage and pass rush work in perfect synchronization. On fourth down, Manning has nowhere to go with the ball and the pass rush forces the ball out of his hands before he has to take a sack. The offensive player running towards the corner has been mentioned as being open, but Manning was never going to be able to make it to that progression for the touchdown. Excellent coverage and a good pass rush.
It looks like Jalen Mills got caught peeking in the backfield at Eli Manning and OBJ just hit him with a sluggo. To be fair OBJ is one of the most insanely athletic players in the league as evidenced by his ability to catch the ball and toe tap in the back of the end zone. I can't tell though if Mills was just really slow to react to OBJ breaking off the slant or if Manning’s eyes insinuated he was going to the other inside receiver before moving them last second.
There’s not really a lot to say for the run defense other than they were stellar against a team that struggles to run the ball and they made play when it counted. Two plays come to mind when recalling their performance on Sunday. This first, was the silly play call above. On 3rd and 1 the Giants decided to run a toss play to Orleans Darkwa. The Eagles clearly had numbers to the outside and snuffed the play from the snap. More importantly, what this play did was force the Giants out of field goal range, and they punted.
This isn't the second play that I mentioned a moment ago, but it is my weekly Timmy Jernigan highlight. Playing three-tech for Fletcher Cox, Jernigan shoots the gap before the right tackle can block down on him. Once the ball is handed off to Paul Perkins, Jernigan is right there to greet him him and drop him for a loss. We’ve seen the explosiveness and burst from Jernigan in just three weeks that takes this defensive line to the next level. This is my weekly #Re-signJernigan play.
This was the biggest play against the run game that the Eagles made all afternoon. With seconds left in the half and after just barely keeping Sterling Shepherd out of the end zone on the previous play, the Eagles had to stuff stop the Giants on fourth down. If the Giants get in the end zone, the Eagles are likely tied going into the half with the Giants getting the ball to start the half. Vinny Curry bursts outside the left guard and crashes on Darkwa who has nowhere to go. The Eagles get a huge stop and head into the locker room with a lead.
This was all I had for the defense that stood out. I know the 24 fourth quarter points are a lot, but what this defense was able to do for three quarters — forcing two turnovers and two additional turnover on downs without four of their best players — speaks volumes to the job the coaching staff was able to do and how they adapted. Mychal Kendricks and Rasul Douglas answered the call when the Eagles needed them to step up and a win is always sweet, especially when it ends a division rival’s season.
Subject: Carson Wentz Probably Didn
Subject: Your Wednesday Morning Roundup
Subject: What we learned: Flyers vs. Rangers, round two
Some observations for your morning...
As preseason winds down, let’s have a look at some standout players and groupings from last night’s game against the Rangers.
1. Welcome back, Mikhail Vorobyev!
One of the big surprises prior to last night’s game was the news that center Mikhail Vorobyev had been recalled from the Phantoms to join the big club for this second matchup against New York. Vorobyev made it through the beginning part of camp, only to be sent down in last week’s massive eighteen player cut. Many expected to see him at some point in the regular season, but not so soon, still in the preseason.
And while this means, of course, that Vorobyev is no longer competing for an opening night roster spot with the Flyers, that doesn’t mean he let up at in his performance with the squad last night. Centering a line with Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, he didn’t show quite as much flash, but he still kept pace with these two dominant forces. His major standout shown? His strength and confidence behind the net, bringing a distinct presence to an area which has been lacking it, of late.
2. Sam Morin makes some noise
Given the strong performances put up by some of his young defensive counterpoints, it would be easy to feel like Morin has been stagnating, or getting lost in the shuffle, even as he still play not-unimpressively. Last night, however, he took a big step up, to reintroduce himself into the mix, lest any had forgotten about him.
Though not a perfect showing — losing his man and allowing for a breakaway in the first period certainly made that clear — Morin recovered and still did what he does best. The hit he laid on Fontaine was clean and solid, but it stirred up the opposition’s emotions, drawing them in for a fight, and subsequently drew a penalty. And, not generally a high-volume goal scorer, last night he let loose a real laser from past the circles to open up the Flyers’ scoring. In short, he put together a solid game, working hard to solidify his place in the lineup.
3. Taylor Leier still making his case
As the preseason winds down, and the final roster decisions begin to solidify, Leier still finds himself very much in the balance. After a stellar performance last week in Allentown, he yanked attention back to himself, and has been working hard to hold onto that momentum, to keep the coaches’ eyes on him. He needed another stellar night against the Rangers to hope to do that, and he brought it. Sort of.
Leier had a solid night, showcasing his much praised speed and craftiness, and showed some real tenacity in the few shots on goal he generated, close to the net. But, on the whole, he was outshined by some of the other forwards mentioned in this list. He looked solid, had a more than decent night, but was this enough?
I’m hesitant to say for sure that the place in the lineup has slipped away entirely— surprises and upsets remain a distinct possibility— but the question still lingers of whether Leier has done quite enough to anchor himself to the Flyers’ regular season squad.
4. And what about Mike Vecchione?
If you recall, in yesterday’s observations, I talked about the scratches from Tuesday’s game. I emphasized that, with back to back games, we shouldn’t read too much into those scratches. But, with the second game in the two night series, that changed, as Mike Vecchione found himself out of the lineup for the second night in a row.
Though he’s had a relatively solid preseason — he’s been able to keep pace, but hasn’t been flashy — he also hasn’t been able to make any real waves with the organization. Add to that the fact that he’s waiver exempt this season, it makes him an ideal candidate to start the season with the Phantoms, and potentially earn call ups to the Flyers, as injury necessitates. I want to be clear: Vecchione certainly hasn’t done anything wrong this preseason, per se, he’s just been outshined and outplayed by the younger forward competition.
5. Someone help me, I’m feeling conflicted
The Giroux [back] on the wing experiment continued last night, as the Flyers redeployed the Giroux-Couturier-Voracek group as its first line. And I have to say, as much as I expected to, I didn’t hate it.
If Tuesday night’s game saw them still getting adjusted to the new structure at game speed, last night saw them looking more settled in. The chemistry between these three was clear, as well as the growing comfort in the new roles. This line was one of the most productive, in terms of creating offensive pressure and scoring chances, even if— much the same as we saw on Tuesday— they were unable to translate this directly into goals.
However, I still think Giroux is one of the four best forwards on this lineup, presently. That hasn’t changed. And I’m still a little hesitant about the idea of Couturier consistently being the one to center the first line. But, despite these concerns, I do appreciate the variability this offers, knowing that this line has some real chemistry and production potential, should an occasional changeup need to be made.
6. Scott Laughton draws attention
After a mostly quiet preseason, and some questions and concerns about what he will be able to bring to his return to the Flyers, Laughton began to quell these concerns, with last night’s performance. To start, he was able to bring some scoring to the fourth line (imagine that!) on a feed from Michael Raffl, reading the goaltender’s position and sticking with the puck, not overskating past the net. He also looked steady and consistent during his time on the penalty kill.
This was also part of a first look at what very well may be two thirds of the opening night fourth line, with the Laughton-Raffl pairing, and it was a good one. They showed some real chemistry, combining to bring a nice mix of physicality and scoring opportunities. It feels like a big change to have a dynamic presence— much less any real presence— on the ice with a fourth line, and it’s certainly a change I can get behind.
7. Sanheim still impressing
Are you tired of hearing me talk about how good Travis Sanheim has looked in these last few preseason games? I hope not. Because I’m not even close to being done.
Sanheim went without a goal last night, but still leads in goal-scoring for the team overall in the preseason. The puck battle he lost behind the net that lead to a turnover and a goal was rough, I won’t say it wasn’t. But I will say that he did well to contain his opposition until backup arrived, even if it didn’t help in the way that he hoped. So the recovery, on his end, was good, even if it didn’t, or couldn’t, change the ultimate result.
But he looked strong, otherwise, as he continued to show an eagerness to jump in on the rush and create controlled entries and scoring chances, in a variety of locations. After the earlier shakiness, it seems like Sanheim is really settling into his game, and he’s certainly holding our attention.
8. Veteran defensemen struggling
As we’re paying close attention to the impressive performances being put up by the young defensemen, attention has largely been shifted away from the veterans. And if you’re worried that, in looking elsewhere, you’ve missed something really major from them, well, you can put your worries aside. You haven’t.
Indeed, veterans like Brandon Manning and Andrew McDonald have looked — last night especially — anywhere from flat to just outright bad. Manning, though largely avoiding major mistakes, has been overwhelmingly underwhelming. And McDonald… well… how much do I really have to say? We got our first look of him skating backwards directly into his own goalie, so I guess you can say hockey season really is back.
What this means for Hagg, Morin, and Sanheim’s hopes of all making the team, it’s too soon to say. But it will be interesting to see how heavily management and the coaching staff weigh these lackluster performances from their veterans.
9. Overtime until we die
Legend has it that there was once a time when the Flyers could close out a game during regulation time (I suspect this was around the same time that they were able to score on the power play). Win or lose, sixty minutes was all it took. Three on three was a nice little treat we saw only once in awhile. And I got to bed on time.
But, since we’re on the topic, last night’s overtime was a real beauty. As they did in regulation, Giroux and Voracek kept the offensive pressure up, creating a few quality scoring chances that were only narrowly saved. And Konecny’s game winning goal? Oh baby, what a marvel. From the vision exhibited, to the mastery of the tough angle, to the confidence to try and bank it off Rangers goaltender Ondřej Pavelec, it was an impressive, all around show of strength. It seemed like a step up, in terms of confidence and production, and it will be interesting to see how much of this carries over into the regular season.
10. The only damn thing I know
There’s something that feels so final about the last week of preseason. The final stretch of home games is upon us. We’ve talked about the blackouts. We’ve talked about the less than exemplary away broadcasts. We’ve endured it all, and finally we’ve been rewarded. We’re finally back in Philly, and the CSN broadcasts are back on our TVs. All is right in the world, until the next thing goes bad. But for now, it’s good to be home.
Subject: NFL Power Rankings Roundup Week 4: Eagles ranked as high as the top 5
A look at what the experts are saying about the Birds.
Today we continue 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 mine.
11 - It sure wasn’t pretty, but the Eagles were able to beat the Giants thanks to a 61-yard field goal from Jake Elliott. Philadelphia was on the bad end of a lot of close games in 2016. Maybe their luck is starting to turn around. (LW: 12)
8 - Beating the Giants wasn’t as smooth sailing for the Eagles as beating the Raiders was for Washington, but Jake Elliott came to the rescue with two field goals in the last minute, including a 61-yarder to win. If you haven’t already, watch Elliott’s parents get to see their son make his first game winner as a professional. (LW: 16)
13 - Carson Wentz: 63.7 Total QBR. Wentz is coming through when it matters for the Eagles, posting the fourth-best Total QBR in the second half of games so far this season (74). Wentz has games against the Chargers and Cardinals before getting a chance to shine (or flicker) in a pair of prime-time affairs. (LW: 15)
6 - A few observations from the Eagles' thrilling win at the Linc: A) Jake Elliott's game-winning 61-yard field goal was the most rousing moment of Upset Weekend.B) Sure would like coach Doug Pederson to get LeGarrette Blount (12 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown on Sunday) more involved. C) While we're talking about the backfield, what a brutal development for Darren Sproles. A broken arm and torn ACL on the same play? Jeez. The 34-year-old has considered retirement in the past. If this is it, what a career. D) More people should notice Carson Wentz's mobility. Vastly underrated aspect of his game. E) Not feeling the go-for-it on fourth-and-8 from midfield with the lead. F) The secondary is still paper-thin. G) Sticking by my prediction of Philadelphia being a playoff team. (LW: 14)
5 - They are 2-1 and their defensive front will be a problem for teams all year long. Carson Wentz is continuing to improve. (LW: 15)
10 - Darren Sproles blew his ACL and broke his arm on the same play. If this is the end for Sproles’ career, he’ll go down as one of the most exciting players to ever take an NFL field. (LW: 11)
8 - The Eagles just held on against the Giants thanks to the 61-yard FG by rookie kicker Jake Elliott as time expired. That was the good. The bad was the defense crumbling late, and failing on an inexplicable fourth-and-eight gamble by Coach Doug Pederson near midfield in the first half. It was a completely misguided decision that would have been even more glaring in a loss. (LW: 17)
13 - The Eagles outplayed the Giants all day long. Other than a brief window where the Giants scored two touchdowns in short order, the game was mostly Philly. The Eagles' defensive line didn't get a chance to disrupt the game because the Giants relied on the short-passing attack. However, the Giants' running game didn't get going, either. Now, there are still major concerns with the Philadelphia secondary. Seeing Sterling Shepard running loose for a long touchdown is a worrisome sight. With Ronald Darby out, there are going to be some struggles going forward. What's encouraging is this was the first game of the year where there wasn't too much pressure on Carson Wentz. The Eagles' running game was effective, which I didn't think it would be against the Giants' defensive line. Wentz was efficient and avoided questionable decisions. This game was close on the scoreboard, but the better team won. Philadelphia is a legit factor in the NFC East this season. (LW: 18)
6 - Jake Elliott picked a fine time - at the final gun - to drill a game-winning 61-yard field goal, the longest ever converted by a rookie. (LW: 16)
11 - Sources say Jake Elliot's new book, "How to become a legend overnight" hits shelves October 3rd. Despite entering the game injured, and losing several more key players to injury during the game (RIP Sproles), the Eagles were able to put down the Giants and that dog Odell, Old Yeller style. Piss on that. (LW: 15)
10 - Jake Elliott delivered victory from the jaws of defeat to inspire that the Eagles, after their close loss to the Chiefs, are for real. Carson Wentz had an off day, but other things picked up to help him come through in the end. Watch out for Doug Pederson entering the coach of the year race soon. (LW: 15)
13 - Philly’s latest star athlete is nearly as popular as the city’s most famous fictional one. (LW: 16)
14 - No explanation (LW: 16)
8 - No explanation (LW: 8)
The rankings range from as high as 5 to as low as 13. The most common rankings are 8 and 13. The average ranking is 9.7, which is nearly five spots up from last week’s average of 14.6.
This was a weird week for power rankings because there were so many major upsets in this NFL. Take the Jaguars, for example. I had them in the 20’s last week but I felt the need to move them into the top seven due to them demolishing the Ravens. Moves like this have a weird impact on the rest of the order.
The Eagles benefited from some of the upsets by not suffering an upset themselves. Sitting at 2-1, they’re in pretty decent shape heading into Week 4.
A win over the Chargers would further help cement Philadelphia’s status. A loss, however, would likely result in a significant drop.
Subject: Jake Elliott named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week
You knew it was coming, but now it’s official: Philadelphia Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season. Elliott is the first Eagles kicker to win a Player of the Week award since David Akers in 2005 (Week 12).
Elliott was the only acceptable choice for this weekly award. His 61-yard game-winning field goal against the New York Giants was clutch as it gets. Elliott’s kick was the longest ever by a rookie. It was the seventh longest field goal and third longest walk-off field goal in NFL history. Something you may have forgotten is that Elliot also nailed a 46-yard kick to tie the game at 24-24 late in the fourth.
“NFC Special Teams Player of the Week” isn’t the only award Elliott is eligible for this week. You can also vote for him as “Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week” and “Castrol EDGE Clutch Performer of Week 3.”
Long live Jake Elliott.
Terrence Brooks is the 1st Jet to win a Defensive Player of the Week Award since Darrelle Revis in Week 2, 2015 pic.twitter.com/6ke8BNaafj— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) September 27, 2017
The two other NFC players of the week were also from the NFC East.
NFC Players of the Week (Week 3)— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) September 27, 2017
Offense: Kirk Cousins, Was
Defense: Demarcus Lawrence, Dal
Special Teams: Jake Elliott, Phi pic.twitter.com/yMasupx0qn
Subject: Fourth Dumb and 8
Subject: The rumors of Shayne Gostisbehere
Let’s talk about Shayne Gostisbehere’s upcoming season.
Shayne Gostisbehere had a rough 2016-17 season.
Hampered by the lingering effects of both hip and abdomen surgeries, the Flyers’ blue liner struggled to put the puck in the back of the net and struggled to be on the ice when the right team scored at even strength. Thanks to a 3.5 shooting percentage, Gostisbehere managed seven goals and 32 assists in 76 games of work last year. He was also scratched at times last season due to head coach Dave Hakstol’s desire for the defenseman to focus on the defensive side of his game more.
Compare this to Gostisbehere’s rookie campaign in 2015-2016, where he posted 10 more goals and seven more points in 12 fewer games. Thanks to a 15-game point streak and routinely manufacturing highlight-reel plays, Gostisbehere earned enough recognition to finish second in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting behind an impressive season from 57-year-old Artemi Panarin.
Somewhere between these two seasons is what we can realistically expect from Gostisbehere for the 2017-18 season. He won’t post another season shooting 11.2 percent like he did in 2015-16, but he also won’t find himself at the bottom of the league in terms of goals for percentage at 5-on-5 like he did this past season.
What we do know is Gostisbehere is a crafty, offensive-minded defenseman who has some flaws in the defensive zone, but not nearly as many as his biggest detractors claim. That said, there are some big questions surrounding the d-man heading into this season.
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.
3 Big Questions: Shayne Gostisbehere
1. Can Gostisbehere thrive in the new-look power play?
Since the start of the 2011-2012 season, the Flyers have had either Scott Hartnell or Brayden Schenn serve as a successful lefthanded one-timing option for Claude Giroux on the man advantage. With both players now off the roster, and the lack of an immediate candidate to fulfill this role (Valtteri Filppula?), the Orange and Black will need to most likely find a few new ways to generate dangerous chances on the power play. One strategy would be to find ways to create more space for Wayne Simmonds down low to the goaltender’s right. Another strategy may be to give Gostisbehere more freedom to create from the point or along the sideboards.
Even in what many deemed a down year for Gostisbehere last year, the blue liner posted impressive numbers when Philadelphia was on the power play. Out of 298 defensemen to play in the NHL last season, Gostisbehere finished seventh with 23 power-play points thanks to his 21 assists on the man advantage (fourth in the league), 13 of which were primary assists (second to Brent Burns’ 18). Although he struggled to convert on his shots last season, Gostisbehere didn’t fail to use his shot to create chances. He was fourth with 60 power-play shots, second with 156 individual shot attempts (behind Burns’ again, who had 180), and second with 11 rebounds created (Cam Fowler created 17 for Anaheim). Unfortunately, Gostisbehere’s ability to generate shots from the point on the power play didn’t pay dividends last season. He’ll hopefully receive a little more luck this year, as he and Keith Yandle were the only two d-men with two goals or less on over 50 power-play shots in 2016-2017.
It’s easy to counter these totals by pointing out that Gostisbehere had the second-most time on the power play last season with 284:19, which was only eight seconds less than Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson. However, his rate stats don’t drop off too much when compared to other defensemen who had significant power-play time. Gostisbehere finished seventh with a 4.43 assists-per-60 rate, 15th with a 4.85 points-per-60 rate, and sixth with a 32.92 individual Corsi-for-per-60 rate out of 71 d-men who skated 100 power-play minutes last year. It wasn’t just individual numbers where Gostisbehere shined, as he led those 71 defensemen with a Corsi-for-per-60 of 129.99, Fenwick-for-per-60 of 99.81, and shots-for-per-60 of 68.58. The Union College product (if you’ll Pierre with me for a second) also finished fifth with a 29.75 high danger chances for per 60 and fourth with a 9.07 goals for per 60.
Gostisbehere could see more success in man or two-man advantage situations in the upcoming season thanks to the Flyers’ hiring former Erie Otters’ head coach Kris Knoblauch. The former Ontario Hockey League coach was brought in to handle the team’s power play after Joe Mullen’s release earlier this summer. In his four full seasons as Erie’s bench boss, the team finished first in the OHL with a 30.7 power-play percentage in 2013-2014 and 31.2 percent in 2014-2015. The Otters dropped to second in both 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 with power-play percentages of 25.3 and 27.2 respectively. Knoblauch helped Erie to an overall power-play percentage of 28.61 over those four seasons.
The hiring wasn’t just intriguing to Flyers’ fans, which was proven this past week when The Elliotte Friedman illustrated Knoblauch’s power-play structure in his 31 Thoughts column:
10. From 2011-12 to 2014-15, Philadelphia had a top-five power play using four forwards and one defenceman on the top unit. During that four-season span, only Washington and Pittsburgh were better. But the Flyers dropped to 11th in 2015-16 and 14th last year. Newly hired assistant coach Kris Knoblauch is trying a new look, four forwards and one defenceman on the second unit, too. The scouting report on Knoblauch’s power plays at OHL Erie:
“They loved to generate chances off the rush. Their group will attack the offensive zone with speed and try a lot of rush offence…not something you see much strategically in the NHL like the OHL, though. Setting up in-zone was much more conventional, but similar to Washington in the sense everyone has a purpose.”
Also: Expect a lot of movement from between the goal line and bottom circle and, “Running that 4F 1D, the defenceman will be very involved. Not just a set up on the half-boards guy.” That could be very good for Shayne Gostisbehere.”
If the rush chances are able to catch the opposition off guard and Gostisbehere is given an opportunity to create more than he was last season, the blow from Schenn’s departure to St. Louis could be lessened greatly from a special teams’ perspective.
2. Will his goals for percentage be poor again?
Gostisbehere wasn’t on the ice for many Flyers’ goals and found himself out there for plenty of the opposition’s at 5-on-5 last season. After he posted a 59.21 goals for percentage in 2015-2016, Gostisbehere posted the lowest goals for percentage of the 114 d-men who played 1,100 minutes at 5-on-5 last season with 37.33. He posted this low goals for percentage despite finishing just outside the top 20 of those 114 d-men with a Corsi for percentage of 52.86 and a Fenwick for percentage of 52.57. Since there is a big discrepancy between his general possession numbers and how they translated to goals for and against Philly, it's safe to say Gostisbehere wasn't too lucky last year. But just how unlucky?
Although the fact he was on the ice for 47 goals against at 5-on-5, which placed him 43rd out of that field of 114 defensemen, it was being on the ice for only 28 Flyers’ tallies at 5-on-5 that killed Gostisbehere’s goals for percentage. His 4.84 on-ice shooting percentage was not only the lowest of any of the 114 d-men who played 1,100 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, it is, according to Natural Stat Trick, the lowest on-ice shooting percentage for any of the 664 1,100-minute 5-on-5 seasons recorded by any defenseman since the 2009-2010 season. Needless to say, this percentage most likely increases, meaning his goals for percentage should also see some sort of an increase.
As for an area of concern, Gostisbehere's 49.75 high-danger chances for percentage isn't the most encouraging sign of things to come. Gostisbehere's skill set is underrated in the defensive zone, since the assumption is any offensive defenseman is poor in defending their third of the ice. However, he has shown the ability to intercept passes with anticipation, break up opposing entries routinely, and serve as one of the better defensemen in the league when it came to exiting the d zone. The one area where this stereotype rings true is the fact Gostisbehere struggles to end the opposition's cycle down low once it's been established. This is illustrated by the fact he was on the ice for 31 high-danger goals against at 5-on-5 last season to finish in the bottom half of those 114 1,100-minute d-men.
To defend the mobile blue liner, this total may be heavily influenced by the fact his two most common defensive partners last year were Brandon Manning (307:15 together at 5-on-5) and Andrew MacDonald (229:04). This would be reason enough for some to explain Gostisbehere's poor numbers in the home-plate area, but let's dig a little deeper. Manning was one of the worst defenders in terms of preventing high-danger chances and goals last season, as his high-danger-chances-against-per-60 rate of 11.08 placed him 88th out of 132 d-men who played 1,000 5-on-5 minutes last season and he finished 127th with a 1.82 high-danger-goals-against-per-60 rate. It doesn't look any better when one looks at both his and Gostisbehere's heat maps from last year when it came to unblocked shots against at 5-on-5.
It's not a good look for Manning that both his and Gostisbehere's heat maps are dark red just to the left of the crease, as he played the left side and Gostisbehere played the right side. However, both d-men can receive blame to an extent as there were several occasions last season where a lack of communication, misreading of a developing play, or just an inability to move bodies in front led to one or both of the defensemen out of position while the opposition capitalized from in close.
As for their numbers together and apart, the tandem of Manning-Gostisbehere finished with a 51.33 high-danger chances for percentage while Gostisbehere finished with 48.26 percent away from Manning and Manning finished 44.29 percent away from Gostisbehere. So to say Gostisbehere's home-plate area numbers were negatively impacted by Manning has merit, especially when one considers his high-danger goals for percentage jumped 11.14 percent away from Manning.
When it came to playing with MacDonald, Gostisbehere's high-danger goals for percentage trended in the opposite direction. The mobile d-man posted a high-danger goals for percentage of 50 last year when skating with MacDonald and dropped to 35.29 percent away from number 47. This despite the fact that Gostisbehere posted a better high-danger chances for percentage away from MacDonald while MacDonald's high-danger chances for percentage dropped 7.46 percentage points away from Gostisbehere last season to 47.30.
Along with his on-ice shooting percentage, Gostisbehere didn't exactly receive any luck when it came to how his on-ice puck possession translated to the scoreboard. It's hard to envision a scenario where these numbers repeat for the defenseman, not just because of the amount of luck that bounced in the wrong direction, but since Manning is likely the seventh defenseman this year and that MacDonald will most likely be spending most of his 5-on-5 ice time away from Gostisbehere again. Being paired with Radko Gudas or Ivan Provorov, or even being paired with Sam Morin or Robert Hagg, Gostisbehere should be provided with an easier situation to elevate his goals-for percentage at 5-on-5.
3. Can he play his game this year?
After a rookie season that saw Gostisbehere almost win the Calder Trophy, the Philly rearguard ran into a pair of obstacles with his hip and abdomen injuries, and his coach's distrust in his style of play.
Almost every single time a player is asked if an injury is negatively impacting their play, an athlete will say it isn't because #sports. That's what makes Gostisbehere's quotes to Friedman for his 31 Thoughts' column interesting:
"I feel great on the ice, there’s no doubts in my mind about injuries holding me up,” he said. Were there doubts last season? “Not physically or anything, but I think mentally it takes a toll on you after a while, just thinking things aren’t really working out. (You’re) thinking, ‘Is it my injuries, is it this?’ But this year I have a clear mind and I’m ready to go.”
Gostisbehere also mentioned he and Claude Giroux are 'no-excuse guys' as the pair both battled recoveries from surgeries for the early part of last season before seeming to hit their strides near the close of the campaign. We'll probably never get a straight answer from both Gostisbehere and Giroux, but the fact they both underwent surgeries last summer and both coincidentally struggled for most of the season before finding their game late in the season hints their injuries dictated their play more than they'll admit.
Along with dealing with offseason surgeries, Gostisbehere had to deal with Hakstol limiting his creativity on the ice. Although there were a few players who could have been scratched due to inconsistency and inability to focus more on certain aspects of their games, it was Travis Konecny and Gostisbehere who were left out of the lineup on more than one occasion to teach the young skaters a lesson. On the surface, this sounds like a fair move by the head coach, but when one considers these two were two of the more dynamic playmakers who set up goals on a team that struggled to score the decision becomes a little more perplexing. It didn’t seem to do much for Gostisbehere besides make him a little more hesitant in situations where he would often flash offensive upside.
Moving closer to this season, it seems as though nobody wants that situation to play out again. Flyers’ general manager Ron Hextall showed his commitment to the blue liner by inking him to a six-year deal worth 27 million dollars this summer. The decision to bring in an assistant coach who specializes in producing on the power play with dynamic playmakers could also be a message to Hakstol. Whether it was Hextall or just a different approach, Philly’s head coach sounds like somebody who is willing to utilize Gostisbehere to his fullest. Yet again from Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, Hakstol had this to say:
“Honestly, what I’ve seen is a mindset to make sure he’s staying positive. That doesn’t mean he’s being soft on himself. It means being positive and confident. The dedication of his summer is what builds confidence. He put in the work. When you do the work and do the prep, you feel better. Maturity is figuring out what you have to do, and be disciplined every day. He’s done that.”
With both his hip concerns and his coach’s concerns hopefully past him, we’ll see if Gostisbehere can return to the play from his strong rookie season.
Somehow, Gostisbehere’s unlucky streak in terms of 5-on-5 goals continues. On top of that, the loss of Schenn and an unfamiliarity with the implementation of Knoblauch’s system cause Gostisbehere’s power-play numbers to take a hit. Throw in the fact his struggles to break up opposing cycles continues and Hakstol could find himself benching Gostisbehere occasionally through the season again. Lack of inconsistency and a large sample of on-ice presence for goals against lead to a large segment of the fan base questioning whether or not he should finish out his contract in Philadelphia.
A big increase in on-ice shooting percentage and being paired with an effective defensive-minded partner to help limit opposing high-danger goals against creates strong 5-on-5 numbers. Pair this with Gostisbehere putting himself into the conversation as being one of the elite power-play assets across the league, and it’ll look as though the rumors of Gostisbehere’s demise were greatly exaggerated.