Subject: Flyers Mailbag: New Year
We always like know what’s on your mind
Happy New Year, Flyers fans! Everyone have a fun night? Stayed warm, hopefully? Enjoyed a little champs? Stayed home alone and felt sad? Well, as you nurse your hangover and enjoy a nice greasy breakfast, here are a few questions posed by our fantastic readers that we wanted to answer for you as we kick off a new calendar year.
Why can’t we play consistently? Either good or bad it’s just frustrating.— Michael Henaghan (@tryflin09) December 31, 2017
This is a super interesting question. It’s easy to watch this team play a fantastic game against the best-in-the-league Tampa Bay Lightning and wonder, “why the heck isn’t this the team that shows up every night??” Personally, my instinct is to blame the coach (this shocks you, I’m sure). The coach is the guy charged with getting the most out of his team night in, night out. Finding ways to optimize the lineup such that he gets the best match-ups, puts together the best line combos, and finds ways to win. At this point, I’m not sure anyone would argue that Dave Hakstol is doing any of those things consistently or doing them well at all, ever. But this weekend, during our monthly BSH Radio Q&A session, Charlie O’Connor convinced me otherwise: it isn’t coaching, or systems, or lines, or strategies. It’s just talent, and this team doesn’t have a ton of it. This team is, at its core, mediocre. Average - or below - in nearly every way. So, sometimes this team gets bounces and everything goes right and you end up beating Tampa Bay. Or sometimes the luck isn’t there and guys make dumb plays and you lose to the Florida Panthers. The inconsistency is a symptom of the in-flux state of this team. No one in the organization is willing to say the word “rebuild”, but we all know what is happening. This is a team in transition. And until we get to the end of the road, wherever that end is for Ron Hextall, this is what we’re going to be dealing with, I think.
Who is “trade-able” if the Flyers fall out of playoff contention?— Chris Edwards (@ChrisEdwards87) December 31, 2017
It’ll be interesting to see if Ron decides to become a seller at the deadline. I’m not sure he will, because he seems to be very married to the idea of this team trying to remain competitive. I think he’ll be chasing a playoff spot ‘til the very end, logic be damned. But for the sake of the intellectual exercise, let’s say Ron comes to his senses by March and realizes that, despite his team earning enough loser points to keep them right on the bubble, they’re not getting in. There’s one player on this team whom I think we all know is very, very, very tradeable: Wayne Simmonds. Next year he’ll be on the final year of his very cheap contract and headed for a big (and well-deserved) UFA payday. He’s the kind of player that hockey people love - gritty, willing to get beaten up in front of the net, and his numbers are pretty dang good. So if there is a team out there in contention that is in need of secondary scoring ahead of a Cup run, well, Wayne’s your guy. We all love Wayne Simmonds, he’s amazing, but paying him the money he’ll garner in free agency for the term he’s going to want is just not in the Flyers’ best interest. And if we all agree that we should let him walk, then we should all agree that Ron should try and get something for him.
In that same vein is Jori Lehtera. He’ll be a little harder to get rid of because...well... he’s not that good at playing hockey, but never underestimate the desperation of a team looking to make a push for the Cup. Effective centers are hard to come by, and if a team in contention loses a center, you never know! Ron got a 3rd for Zac Rinaldo. Miracles do happen.
And then, in my dreams, Ron shops Michal Neuvirth. I mean, sure, he’s garbage. And sure, he’s hurt all the time. But if you’re a team headed into the playoffs and you backup goalie gets hurt in a major way... well, maybe Neuvy looks a little better than your AHL starter. Who knows! The hockey gods could smile on us, friends.
On the last podcast, you guys talked about how Hakstol’s system is “passive” in that it keeps guys to the outside and uses high-low a lot. Do you think that’s a function of his roster and could change with the infusion of younger, skilled guys or are we stuck with it?— MikeY (@Im_Mike_Y) December 31, 2017
So at the beginning of this season, it looked as if Hakstol was turning a corner with this sticking-to-the-outside nonsense. We saw guys making plays from behind the net, shots coming from the home-plate area, all kinds of fun times. Let’s take a look at one of the most exciting games of the season, the early-season route of the Washington Capitals:
Look at all that red down low!
As the early season success continued, we began to convince ourselves that last year’s perimeter nonsense was a result of the fact that the team’s offensive weapons couldn’t buy goals and Dave Hakstol couldn’t trust his goalies to make saves. But, as the season has progressed, we’ve seen Dave fall back into his comfort zone.
We’ve got some action down low, sure, but tons from the outside, too.
To me, it seems that Dave Hakstol is an extremely risk-averse coach. Mediocre veterans are preferred to dynamic rookies because you know what you’re getting from the vet. And when you keep your players to the outside, you cut down dramatically on the risk of the opposing team getting a break the other way.
But it doesn’t seem to work, right? It surely didn’t work last year. And we saw a lot more excitement and more consistent play from the team at the start of this season, when he was letting the guys get in tighter in the offensive zone. I’d like to believe that with a more talented roster he’d do things differently, but here’s the thing: this is a more talented roster. Compared to last year? This is absolutely a better team. And Dave’s still keeping things to the outside.
This year has been meh. Can you let us know possible buyout candidates and effect of the cap, the chances of an actual FA signing vs. extending Simmons, oh and bonus - how the defensive prospects have played vs team’s internal expectations? (wow! a lot!)— Brett Littman (@BLitt1978) December 31, 2017
Oh buddy, you’re much nicer than me if you’re calling this year “meh.” But anyhoo.
I think the only buyout candidate on this team is Jori Lehtera. The team didn’t want him - we had to take him to make the Brayden Schenn trade work for St. Louis, salary-wise - and he hasn’t been great since he got here. Could very much see Ron just getting him out of here the easy way.
Okay I’m gonna skip around a bit: Wayne Simmonds. Like I said above, Wayne has earned a payday, and I hope he gets it. Just not here. I don’t think the Flyers extend him.
Free agent signings... man, I don’t know. Ron Hextall has been very, very not great when it comes to signing veteran NHL talent (see: Weise, Dale). And while there are some spicy names hitting the free agency market next season, I just don’t know that any of them really help the Flyers. When you sign a guy as a UFA, there are a couple of things you have to accept: this is a guy on the probably downside of his career. This is a guy who is going to be overpaid for at least part, if not all, of the contract you give him. When I think of signing a free agency, I think of getting a guy who is going to put your team over the top and into win-now mode. Next year isn’t the win-now year for us, so I just don’t see a point. That said, BRING ME JOE THORNTON.
And finally, the D prospects. I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen, for the most part. Robert Hagg seems to be a steady, dependable defenseman to the eye, despite his underlying numbers being just so-so. I’ve been very happy with Travis Sanheim, but it would appear that the team is not, given the fact that he continues to be scratched for Brandon Manning. These kids need to play, I wish they’d just let them.
In May, Ron Hextall will be the Flyers' GM for exactly four years. Is Hexy's plan working? Is he a good GM? Did we overrate him and/or the team's overall talent?— Bryan Knight (@ProjectAvant) December 31, 2017
Man, four years. It’s flown by, huh? I’m personally still very much on the fence about Ron Hextall. There are some things he does well: drafting, dumping bad contracts among the big ones that come to mind. But he’s also a pretty suspect judge of NHL talent. No one else on earth was willing to give Dale Weise four years and yet, here we are. It’s easy to forget about Pierre-Édouard Bellemare because Vegas saved us from him, but Ron extended him, despite his being, you know, not great. And then he gave Michal Neuvirth, literally one of the worst goalies in the league, an extension and a raise. All of this is cause for concern, in my opinion.
Additionally, I’m not super happy with his attitude towards rookie talent. There’s a lot of arbitrary limits to the number of rookies he’s comfortable with on a team, how often they play, etc. Shouldn’t we just be playing the best players?
And, on a global scale, I don’t think a team can compete and rebuild effectively. The success of one has to be sacrificed for the other. By going half-in on this rebuild, I’m not sure Hexy has done this team a service. Bill Matz said it recently: he wishes Ron had just told us to trust the process. To let the team be bad because we were going to come out on the other side. Instead, he wants this team to compete for a playoff spot and for us to believe they really can get one. And if last year - and this one, so far - are any indication, that just doesn’t work.
Thanks for everyone for submitting their questions on twitter; I’m sorry I couldn’t get to them all! From all of us at Broad Street Hockey, Happy New Year! Enjoy the Winter Classic, friends.
Subject: Eagles-Cowboys snap count analysis: Sidney Jones and Nate Sudfeld make NFL debuts
Playing time tracker.
As you can see, the Eagles’ starters only played about 19 snaps. Doug Pederson planned to play them for a quarter before pulling them.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the only offensive player to play all the snaps.
Stefen Wisniewski played a good amount of the game despite missing the past two weeks with an ankle injury.
Mack Hollins played the most snaps of any skill player. He had three receptions for 25 yards on five targets. He also dropped a pass.
Nate Sudfeld looked decent in his NFL debut. Not great, but decent. Competent. He went 19/23 for 134 yards (5.8 average), 0 TD, 0 INT, and a 90.9 passer rating. Playing with backups against the Cowboys’ starters, Sudfeld sure looked a lot more capable than Nick Foles did. And Foles was playing with a starting supporting cast.
Isaac Seumalo got his first extensive game action playing at center in the NFL. He was up and down.
Will Beatty got a lot of playing time and did not look great.
LeGarrette Blount needed 21 yards to get his $300,000 bonus. He picked up 37 on nine carries.
Shelton Gibson made his first two NFL catches on Sunday. He gained a mere 11 yards.
The big story on defense is that 2017 second-round pick Sidney Jones made his NFL debut. He ended up playing 29 defensive snaps and seven special teams snaps. Jones finished the game with two tackles. He didn’t seem to be a liability in coverage but he did get beat on a double move. Fortunately for the Eagles, Dak Prescott overthrew the open wide receiver. Jones had to leave the game at one point due to cramps. He’s fine, though.
Najee Goode finished with two tackles for loss on Ezekiel Elliott. Credit to Najee, but that’s not a Goode look for Zeke.
Vinny Curry and Chris Long took the bulk of defensive end snaps with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett inactive. Steven Means also got some work in. Means logged three total tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. Beast!
Rookies Elijah Qualls and Nate Gerry saw a decent amount of playing time. Gerry had a chance to pick Dak Prescott but he couldn’t hold on. It wasn’t a routine play but it would’ve been a nice one to have.
Cool to see Bryan Braman getting some defensive playing time.
Donnie Jones - 7 (35%)
Rick Lovato - 7 (35%)
Jake Elliott - 1 (5%)
Jones had a busy day with seven punts for 299 yards. Three of them were downed inside the 20 (one at the 1-yard line) and none of them went for touchbacks. Great work by Jones.
Elliott only played one snap since the Eagles couldn’t do anything on offense. His sole snap was when Philly kicked off to Dallas to start the second half.
DID NOT PLAY
The following player(s) were active but did not play: N/A.
Subject: New Years Day Bowl Preview: 26 NFL Draft prospects to watch
Keep an eye on these names.
Happy New Years! With 2017 coming to a close, the new year will start with a bang with five excellent college football games set to play today. Between the two playoff games today and the three other stacked bowls; there will be a lot of NFL draft talent to keep track of.
Outback Bowl, South Carolina v. Michigan, 12 PM ET on ESPN2
- Maurice Hurst, Defensive Tackle, Michigan: Few interior defenders have been as disruptive this season as Maurice Hurst. Hurst is a high energy, quick twitch defender who can wreck a run game and get consistent pressure rushing the passer. He has been doing it all season, so it won’t be surprising to see him make a big impact in today’s bowl.
- Skai Moore, Linebacker, South Carolina: Since he stepped onto campus a few years ago; few players have been underrated on the defensive side of the ball like Skai Moore. At 6’2” and only 218 pounds; Moore is built like a safety and runs like one too. He is a very good coverage player and his speed also makes him valuable attacking downhill against the run and as a blitzer. Moore will have a great chance against a heavy run team like Michigan to show his size does not limit him as an every down defender and it will be fun to see what he does in his last college game.
Peach Bowl, UCF v. Auburn, 12:30 PM ET on ESPN
- Tre’Quan Smith, Wide Receiver, UCF: UCF’s explosive offense had a lot of moving parts to it, but few were more important than Tre’Quan smith and his speed. The 6’1”, 210 pound senior averaged over 20 yards per catch this year due to his down the field ability. Not only is he a burner, but his size allows him to make plays over defenders and create tough yards after the catch. Smith, like his football team, have yet to truly get the respect they deserve and he has a great chance against Auburn to show off what a gam breaker he is.
- Shaquem Griffen, Linebacker, UCF: Few stories in college football are more inspiring than the success of Shaquem Griffen. With only one fully developed arm and hand; Griffen has been defying the odds as he has been a defensive MVP for the Golden Knights for two years running. The 6’2”, 230 pound senior is a good athlete but primarily wins on effort and strength. He is a savvy player who makes an impact on all facets of defensive football and he will show today that he has what it takes to play at the next level.
- Kerryon Johnson, Running Back, Auburn: Kerryon Johnson was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers this season. The 6’0”, 215 pound junior burst onto the scene and was fundamental in the Tigers impressive season. He is a powerful, athletic running back and after being a bit beat up towards the end of the regular season; he should have his legs back and ready for what should be a high scoring game today.
- Braden Smith, Guard, Auburn: One of the best interior lineman in the country will be on display today. The 6’6”, 305 pound senior has great size and athletic ability that helps Auburn run the football with such success. Like Johnson, Smith will be fundamental in Auburn firing back in a shootout. Considering this is his last game, I’d expect a great performance.
- Jeff Holland, Edge Defender, Auburn: With Carl Lawson now in the NFL, Jeff Holland has taken over as Auburn’s primary pass rusher. At 6’2” and 250 pounds, Holland is not the biggest player but he is a high speed, high effort pass rusher who makes up for mediocre run defense with his ability to pressure the passer. Holland will need to be on his A-Game against an offense like UCF and it’ll be exciting to see how he does.
- Carlton Davis, Cornerback, Auburn: Carlton Davis has been another surprise for the Tigers. The 6’1”, 203 pound junior has been an excellent cover man this season. Today will be another tall task for Davis given the down the field nature of UCF’s passing game. If he can lock down the likes of Tre’quan Smith and company, it will be a long day for the Golden Knights.
Citrus Bowl, LSU v. Notre Dame, 1 PM on ABC
- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Plenty has been said of Notre Dame’s steady tackle. He is experienced, athletic and has very good and consistent technique. Against a tough LSU team, he will have to quiet some questions about his functional strength, but he will no doubt be a big part of the reason Notre Dame wins or loses.
- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson is the best offensive lineman prospect in this year’s class and maybe one of the best overall players, too. At 6’5” and 330 pounds, the senior is built like an NFL player and has there strength and attitude of one, as well. Nelson will be pivotal in the success of Notre Dame today and if he can grind through LSU’s defense; the Irish have a fighting chance.
- Josh Adams, Running Back, Notre Dame: In a crowded running back class, Josh Adams is among the more fun and fascinating players to watch. He is huge player at nearly 6’2” and 220 pounds but he runs with the ease of someone 30 pounds lighter. He is a true freak athlete at the position and it'll be interesting to see him run against a stingy LSU group.
- Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU: On the other offense, the Tigers have their own tremendous running back. Derrius Guice has been LSU’s main weapon two years in a row now and the athletic, hard running player is probably playing his last game at LSU against Notre Dame. Guice is LSU’s x-factor and he’s on; they have a great shot at winning.
- Arden Key, Edge Defender, LSU: Arden Key has had somewhat of a disappointing season given that there were a lot of expectations coming in. He is a highly athletic player who flashes totally dominance whenever he wants. This year his play has been more inconsistent and he has been banged up, but a big game today could make people forget about his underwhelming year.
- Donte Jackson, Cornerback, LSU: LSU always has a handful of impressive defensive backs and this year is no different. The 5’11”, 175 pound Donte Jackson isn’t the biggest player but he is a really solid coverage defender. Notre Dame has few guys they like to get the ball to down field and Jackson will need to answer that test by staying steady like he has for most of the season.
Rose Bowl, UGA v. Oklahoma, 5 PM ET on ESPN
- Mark Andrews, Tight End, Oklahoma: Mark Andrews might not be a classical tight end, but the 6’5”, 250 pound match up nightmare is going to be a game changer in the NFL. He is highly athletic and has been integral in Oklahoma’s success this season; catching 58 passes for over 900 yards to this point. Against a stacked Georgia secondary, Andrews will need make an impact. His play will heavily dictate the game’s outcome.
- Orlando Brown, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma: Both physically and metaphorically, Orlando Brown is huge presence on the Oklahoma offense. The 345 pound offensive tackle has long arms and his strength can erase someone from a game. Today he will need to play strong against a very good Georgia front so Oklahoma can move the ball.
- Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia: Roquan Smith has been dominating offenses all season but this will be his biggest test yet. The explosive Oklahoma offense will test his full ability as a defender. Smith is as good as they come in terms of linebacking prospects so he should be up to the task.
- Sony Michel, Running Back, Georgia: One piece is Georgia’s backfield is one of two talented seniors. Sony Michel is a quick, “make you miss” back who also has some power behind his pads. He will be rotated in all night against Oklahoma’s defense and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make a big impact.
- Nick Chubb, Running Back, Georgia: Nick Chubb is the leader in the Bulldog backfield and is going to do everything in his power to will Georgia to a National Title berth. Chubb is hard running with great speed and agility for a 230 pound running back. In a crowded class of backs, Chubb will be pushing this post season to be considered among the best.
Sugar Bowl, Alabama v. Clemson, 8:45 PM ET on ESPN
- Damien Harris, Running Back, Alabama: Alabama always has a crowded backfield but Damien Harris stands out as being their top runner. He is fast and powerful, not unlike a lot of his Alabama predecessors. Harris will be leaned on against a talented Clemson defense and his ability to create yardage will be integral in deciding the outcome of the game.
- Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama: Despite being an older prospect; there is still a lot to like about Calvin Ridley. The 23 year old has an NFL ready body with impressive speed and quickness to pair with a refined route running ability. Ridley will need a big game against this stingy Clemson defense if the Crimson Tide want a third straight national title appearance.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama: Minkak Fitzpatrick might be the best defensive player in this draft class. He is a versatile defender who can play any spot in a secondary and play it at a high level. Fitzpatrick’s blend of run defending ability, coverage skills and great speed make him as well rounded a defender as you could want and his complete skill set will be on display against Clemson.
- Deon Cain, Wide Receiver, Clemson: While the explosiveness of Clemson’s offense petered off since Deshaun Watson left; Deon Cain still flashed the ability of a number one wide receiver this season. He has a very nice blend of size and speed as well as the ability to make impressive contested catches. Alabama’s defense is no joke and Cain will be leaned on in the passing game to keep the Tigers offense moving.
- Mitch Hyatt, Offensive Tackle, Clemson: Hyatt is one of the more battle tested lineman in college football. He has very good size at 6’6” and plays with a great attitude. Against Alabama, it is important every offensive lineman is at his best but this will no doubt be a great test for Hyatt.
- Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson: One of my favorite players in this class; Christian Wilkins is an athletic, versatile talent that can play all over a defensive line. Wilkins is a very good run defender and creates a lot of pressure in the passing game. Wilkins and the rest of Clemson’s awesome defensive line will be the key in deciding this game.
- Clelin Ferrell, Edge Defender, Clemson: Despite only being a redshirt sophomore; Clelin Ferrell is an NFL ready pass rusher. At 6’5”, 260 pounds; Ferrell has awesome size and length to play on the edge and overwhelming speed that makes him dangerous any time the ball is snapped. Alabama has a dynamic quarterback in Jalen Hurts and keeping pressure on him will be incredibly important. Ferrell might not come out for the draft, but a strong post season might push him to declare.
Subject: The best Flyers photos of 2017
A Flyers Frese Frame special gallery of Kate’s favorites from last year
Hello, Flyers fans and hockey fans alike! It’s now been a year since I’ve joined Broad Street Hockey and I must say that it’s been an amazing experience thus far. Above are some of my favorite Philadelphia Flyers photos that I’ve taken in 2017. I look forward to another year of taking photos of my favorite hockey team and living the dream.
Subject: NFL coaching rumors: Multiple teams will interview Eagles assistants John DeFilippo and Jim Schwartz
The Eagles might be losing some coaches.
The 2017 NFL regular season schedule is over and Black Monday has begun. A number of head coaches around the league will not be returning to the sidelines with their teams in 2018.
Now that vacancies are opening up, teams are looking for replacements. And some of those replacements just might be coming from the Eagles’ coaching staff. According to reports, multiple teams are interested in Philadelphia quarterback coach John DeFilippo and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
It’s being reported that the Bears, who fired John Fox, will interview Flip this week as the Eagles have a first-round bye prior to their playoff game on January 13. Chicago is a logical landing spot for Flip since the Bears traded up to select Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft. Trubisky didn’t really have an inspiring rookie season. In fairness to Mitch, he didn’t have a great supporting cast, as was the case with Carson Wentz in 2017. Flip had a role in helping Wentz develop into an MVP candidate. Maybe he can help Trubisky develop into a good starter.
The Arizona Cardinals, who have an opening with Bruce Arians retiring, are also reportedly interested in Flip. Arizona doesn’t have a young quarterback to work with. 2017 starter Carson Palmer turns 39 next season. The Cardinals own the No. 15 pick in this year’s draft so they might not necessarily get their pick of quarterback options unless they trade up. Ian Rapoport reports Cardinals general manager Steve Keim “has had [Flip] on his radar forever.”
Losing Flip would certainly be a bummer for the Eagles. But losing good assistants is what comes with the territory when a team is successful in the NFL. Wentz is so good in his own right that it’s not like losing Flip is going to tank his career. I do think Flip could be a good hire for Chicago, though.
For more on Flip, read this great profile written by Benjamin Solak.
Now Schwartz is also being linked to Arizona. Rapoport reports the Cardinals have put in an interview request for the Eagles defensive coordinator.
It sure wouldn’t shock me if Schwartz gets hired this offseason, but the feeling here is he’s still not the most desirable candidate just yet. There’s no question he’s done some strong work with the Eagles’ defense. I just don’t think he’s a slam dunk option for teams given his track record with Detroit and the way the league is trending with offensive coach hires being more popular.
Losing Schwartz would hurt the Eagles because he’s solely in charge of the defense. Doug Pederson defers to him on that side of the ball. Some have suggested the Eagles might promote Cory Undlin if Schwartz leaves, but I don’t think that’s rooted in much logic. Would the Eagles really give a first-time defensive coordinator the keys to the entire defense? If the Eagles were going to promote within, linebacker coach Ken Flajole at least has some DC experience.
The more likely option, in this view, is that the Eagles would hire Steve Spagnuolo. He was reportedly Pederson’s preference prior to hiring Schwartz in 2016. If not Spags, the Eagles will have a number of other options. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley only signed a one-year deal with Los Angeles. The Eagles seemed to be ready to hire him as head coach before luring Chip Kelly out of Oregon at the last minute in 2013. Jack Del Rio is on the market after being fired by the Raiders. Chuck Pagano is also out there. The Eagles will have some options, and they should be able to get their pick of the litter based on the talent that’s here. Not to mention the team’s 2017 success.
MORE TO COME
With a lot of NFL coaching jobs opening up, this is the only the beginning of the NFL coaching rumor cycle. We could see Flip and Schwartz linked to other cities. We might even see Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp draw some interest. Maybe even running backs coach Duce Staley, too.
Subject: 10 things we learned from the Eagles
Final takeaways from the season finale.
The Philadelphia Eagles finished 13-3 in the 2017 NFL regular season schedule after losing to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 by a final score of 6 to 0. Here’s a look at some things we learned from this forgettable game.
1 - No one got hurt
This is the most important takeaway from a meaningless game. The Eagles have already dealt with so many injuries this year. They can’t afford to lose any more players. The only Eagles player who left the game early was Sidney Jones and that was just due to cramping.
It was nice that the Eagles got to rest some key players who have been battling through nagging injuries all season. The hope is they’ll be fresh for the Eagles’ first playoff game on Saturday, January 13.
2 - It’s hard to feel great about the offense heading into the playoffs
To no surprise, the Eagles’ offense has really struggled without Carson Wentz.
In the three games since Wentz went down for the season, the Eagles’ offense is averaging 15.7 points per game and 4.26 yards per play. For context, only two teams averaged fewer points per game in 2017. And the team with the lowest yards per play in 2017, the Colts, finished at 4.6. Philadelphia would rank dead last by a significant margin in that stat.
Doug Pederson seemingly wanted to play the Eagles’ starting offense against the Cowboys so that they could get in rhythm. It looked like that might happen when Philadelphia started their first drive at their own 23-yard line and moved to the Cowboys’ 42-yard line. But then Torrey Smith dropped a sure first down on 3rd-and-7. Nick Foles then threw a pass high of Smith on fourth down.
Smith’s drop was terrible, make no mistake about it. He’s been a liability too often this season. But there’s no excusing how poorly Foles played yet again. The Eagles’ starting quarterback finished the game with the following stat-line: 4/11, 39 yards (3.5 average), 0 TD, 1 INT, 9.3 passer rating. That’s terrible.
And, once again, it’s not like Foles faced a good defense. Dallas rank 22nd overall in defensive DVOA. Their defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, is reportedly in danger of losing his job. Dallas had nothing to play for in this game. And yet Foles looked terrible against them, just like he did against a Raiders defense that ranked 32nd by DVOA and 27th in opponent yards per play.
Foles continues to show the same issues we’ve seen all along. He doesn’t know where to go with the ball (so much for “knowing the offense”) and holds on to it for too long. He can’t regularly avoid pressure. He can’t consistently make accurate throws. He’s even struggling with something as basic as catching shotgun snaps. It’s just very hard to watch. He’s looked downright incompetent in his last two starts.
People will try to make excuses for Foles, as they always do, but the reality is he’s just been very bad. In his last 49 attempts, he has a 46.9% completion rate, a 48.2 passer rating, and 4.1 yards per attempt.
I’ve seen some try to blame Foles’ struggles on the Eagles’ scheme. That’s pretty ridiculous to me. Guys are getting open. The quarterback simply isn’t making the throws. Those are execution errors.
Moving forward, the hope is that Foles can somehow bounce back since we’ve seen him play well before. But that’s just a blind leap of faith at this point. The other hope is that the Eagles will really rely on the run game, and maybe they will. But it’s also much harder to run effectively when the quarterback isn’t much of a threat in the passing game.
3 - The defense is stepping up and that’ll need to continue
While the Eagles’ offense has sucked for the past two games, the defense has not. They’ve really rebounded from a bad outing against the Giants in Week 15. There was a feeling that Jim Schwartz’s unit would play better at home and that’s been the case.
Philadelphia has only allowed 16 total points and 4.56 yards per play in their last two games. They’ve logged five takeaways and have forced two turnovers on downs in that span as well. Those figures are even more impressive when you consider the Eagles had a lot of their backup players playing against the Cowboys’ starting offense in Week 17.
With the way the Eagles’ offense has struggled, they’re going to need to continue this defensive dominance at home. It obviously won’t be getting any easier since the teams the Eagles will face in the playoffs are significantly better than the Raiders and Cowboys.
The thing the Eagles can hang their hat on defensively is the expected strength of the team: their pass rush. Philadelphia ended the season ranked first in pressure generated.
The @Eagles defense finished the year with 41 more total pressures than any other unit.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) January 1, 2018
Only team to generate pressure on more than 40% of passing plays.
This is what can win them playoff games.
The Eagles are going to have to make games ugly and grind it out. Unfortunately, that’s not very aesthetically-pleasing football, but it’s what it’ll take to win in the post-season.
4 - Sidney Jones made his NFL debut and that’s all that matters
Sidney Jones played 29 defensive snaps and seven special teams snaps on Sunday. He was targeted twice and allowed one reception for three yards. He also got beat deep on a double move but got bailed out thanks to a bad throw from Dak Prescott.
Jones didn’t overly impress in his debut but I’d argue that’s irrelevant. The rookie corner was playing in his first NFL action with only having nine days of practice reps. It was just good to see him out there getting some experience under his belt. That should serve him well as he prepares to compete for a starting job in 2018.
It seems unlikely Jones will have much of a role in the playoffs.
5 - Nate Sudfeld looked competent in his NFL debut
Nate Studfeld (sic) wasn’t exactly “turning heads” in Week 17 but I did think he looked competent. Especially when you compare his numbers next to Foles’ performance.
Nate Sudfeld: 19/23, 134 yards, 5.8 avg, 0 TD, 0 INT, 90.9 rating, 1 rush for 22 yards
Nick Foles: 4/11, 39 yards, 3.5 avg, 0 TD, 1 INT, 9.3 rating
Foles was also playing with the Eagles’ starters while Sudfeld was not.
Sudfeld’s best throw of the day came on a play that got called back due to holding. He sidestepped a pass rusher and delivered a bullet to Marcus Johnson along the sideline. That was pretty nice. Sudfeld also showed some decent mobility while picking up a 22-yard gain with his legs. That was the second longest run by an Eagles quarterback this season.
It was a small sample size, but I think Sudfeld showed enough to legitimize the Eagles’ efforts in keeping him around as a developmental passer.
There’s already been some talk about making Sudfeld the starter for the rest of this season. It’s not the majority calling for that, to be clear, but some have suggested it.
Now, the Eagles almost certainly won’t bench Foles for Sudfeld. With that said, I don’t think it’s crazy to wish they would make that change. Although unrealistic, there’s an argument for it.
Foles has been absolutely dreadful. Sudfeld at least looked competent. Foles is also likely gone after this season; he can be traded for a savings of $5.2 million and we all know the Eagles can use all the cap space they can get. Sudfeld has more long-term usefulness as a backup to Wentz and/or potential future trade bait.
Sudfeld looked much more decisive and mobile than the statuesque Foles. The second-year passer also doesn’t look like his confidence is completely shot.
Again, I don’t expect it to happen. And I doubt it would make much of a difference either way. But I sure wouldn’t mind it. I’m just so over watching Foles be predictably terrible.
While we’re on the topic of quarterbacks, I wanted to share the results of this poll.
Should the Eagles sign Tony Romo or Colin Kaepernick for the playoffs?— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) December 31, 2017
62% of voters would rather have Tony Romo or Colin Kaepernick over Foles. The Eagles won’t be signing those guys. But the thought comes up because Foles has been so bad and the Eagles have a unique window here. One could argue they need to do something desperate to maximize their chances. You can talk about how those quarterbacks “don’t know the offense,” which is true, but you can also wonder how much Foles “knowing the offense” is really helping him right now.
It’s just depressing to think Foles could turn in another stinker and the Eagles could be one-and-done after getting the No. 1 seed. The hope is that’s not the case ... but after these past two games, it certainly wouldn’t come as a shocker.
6 - Dallas Sucks
For real, though, the Cowboys suck.
Dak Prescott is a fraud. He was crowned way too early. Some people were so adamant that he wasn’t just a product of his system. Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly the case. Prescott could end up being the Cowboys’ version of Foles: one fluke year and then a lot of mediocrity (at best). I think he’ll probably be better than Foles, especially since his mobility is a big positive going for him, but he’s just not all that threatening with his arm. In a game largely against the Eagles’ backups, Prescott posted the following stat-line: 17/30, 179 yards (6.0 average), 1 TD, 0 INT, 85.3 passer rating. Not unlike Foles, Prescott missed a lot of open receivers and left a lot of easy plays on the field.
Ezekiel Elliott was also getting shut down by the Eagles’ backup defense. He went over the 100-yard rushing mark, yeah, but it took him 27 carries to get there. That’s only 3.8 yards per carry. Zeke was getting tackled in the backfield for losses by Najee Goode.
Cole Beasley is too scared of Howard Eskin to even travel to Philly.
Dan Bailey is no longer looking like one of the best kickers in the NFL. He missed a key kick in the Cowboys’ loss to the Seahawks in Week 16. I noted that he missed two straight attempts from 44 yards out in warmups prior to the game on Sunday. Then he missed an extra point (33 yards) and a freaking 23-yarder!
The Cowboys were actually pretty dumb for beating the Eagles because they could’ve had the No. 15 pick if they lost. By winning, however, they’ll either have the No. 19 or No. 20 pick based on a coin flip. I’d argue the No. 20 pick is the worst one to have because 1) you don’t get to be in the playoffs and 2) you don’t even get a good pick. Mediocrity is the worst place to be.
7 - Donnie Jones gets the game ball
Jones was pretty busy on Sunday since the Eagles’ offense was terrible. He punted seven times for 299 yards. Three of those were downed inside the 20, including one that went out right at the 1-yard line. Coffin corner. No joke, that was probably the best play of the game for the Eagles. None of Jones’ punts went for touchbacks.
Most importantly, though, Jones provided some entertainment in an otherwise very boring game.
8 - LeGarrette Blount got his money
Blount needed 21 yards to get a $300,000 incentive bonus. He exceeded that figure by rushing nine times for 37 yards. Good for Blount.
The Eagles signed the veteran rusher to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million back in the offseason. He was inked at a time when the Eagles didn’t have a very inspiring backfield. Blount hasn’t played his best football lately but he’s still had a nice season on the whole. Good to see him rewarded for his efforts.
9 - The game was a good opportunity for bottom of the roster guys
The guys on the 53-man roster who usually don’t play a lot got to see more snaps than usual against Dallas. Here are some random observations about them.
- After being a healthy scratch for six weeks in a row, Wendell Smallwood rushed four times for six yards.
- Torrey Smith’s bad drop prompted me to call for more Mack Hollins in the offense. Then he went on to drop a pass himself. Sigh. Hollins finished with three receptions for 25 yards on five total yards. Hollins was actually Philadelphia’s leading receiving in this game, depressing as that is.
- Marcus Johnson made some nice catches. He had three for 23 yards.
- Shelton Gibson made his first two NFL catches for a total of 11 yards. Considering how much he struggled with drops in the offseason, it was good just to see he caught the ball.
- Interesting that Corey Clement only got one touch in this game. Eagles saving him for the playoffs, I suppose.
- Dannell Ellerbe now has two tackles for loss in two starts at middle linebacker.
- Rasul Douglas struggled in coverage. He had a few nice moments early in the game but otherwise he showed why he hasn’t been getting on the field more often.
- Love what we saw from Steven Means in this game: three solo tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. Means is a fun player to watch. It’s a shame he can’t get more playing time since the Eagles already have four good defensive ends in front of him. Means is a guy that Eagles offensive linemen often praise. They talk about he prepares them for games with the way he practices hard. Cool to see Means get a moment to shine.
- Speaking of defensive ends, this was heck of a game for Vinny Curry. The stats only show two solo tackles and a quarterback hit but his impact was apparent in the game. He was the one who blew up a Cowboys running attempt on 4th-and-1.
- Nate Gerry almost picked off a pass that Dak threw right at him. Would’ve been nice to see him get that one. Gerry also recorded 0.5 tackles for loss. Encouraging performance for the rookie linebacker.
- The Eagles should’ve forced the ball to Brent Celek a little more. As Les Bowen notes, he only needed two more to get to 5,000 career regular season receiving yards. Celek very well might not be back after this season.
10 - It’s OK to be honest how you feel about the Eagles
I felt the need to bring this up because some Eagle fans have been criticizing others for their current stance on the team. This really goes both ways.
The fans who aren’t skeptical of the team have been criticized for being not realistic.
The fans who aren’t super optimistic about the team have been labeled as negative.
I’ve personally been lumped into the former category. Someone on Twitter specifically said “Brandon Gowton is the epitome of what’s wrong with #EaglesNation.”
Listen. I’m not giving up on the team. I believe in the defense - they play well at home. Dave Fipp’s special teams unit is always capable of providing some nice moments. Doug Pederson had earned trust this season.
But you guys know I’ve just never been a big Nick Foles believer. And quite frankly, it’s just not enjoyable watching him play. I don’t even know how you could argue otherwise at this point. And I just don’t get this concept that “the fans need to rally around him.” What does that even mean? Am I just supposed to pretend that he’s not playing awful? I get criticized for being “negative” any time I point out his terrible stats.
The reality is the Eagles have been playing like a team that could easily be one-and-done in the playoffs. It’s possible they could play better once the post-season starts. We’ll see. But I don’t blame people for being honest about how they feel in the meantime.
If you want to be super optimistic about the Eagles, that’s your right. If you’re not feeling great about their chances, you shouldn’t be criticized for being honest. Just my take.
Anyway, we’ll next see the Eagles when they play their first playoff game on Saturday, Janaury 13. The Birds will host one of the following three NFC South teams: the New Orleans Saints, the Carolina Panthers, or the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints are the most likely opponent for Philadelphia. That’ll be a tough challenge if that’s the case.
If the Eagles win their first post-season, they’ll be going to the NFC Championship Game. If they somehow win that, they’ll be going to the Super Bowl. The path is there in front of them. Now they just need to defy the odds.
Subject: Eagles vs. Cowboys PFF Grades: Top 5 players in Philadelphia
Most noteworthy performances from the Eagles’ Week 17 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 17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Top 5 Grades:
Edge Vinny Curry, 88.5 overall grade
Edge Chris Long, 81.3 overall grade
CB Patrick Robinson, 77.1 overall grade
G Stefen Wisniewski, 76.7 overall grade
DI Beau Allen, 75.8 overall grade
Going to copy and paste what I already wrote about Curry:
Speaking of defensive ends, this was heck of a game for Vinny Curry. The stats only show two solo tackles and a quarterback hit but his impact was apparent in the game. He was the one who blew up a Cowboys running attempt on 4th-and-1.
It’s really surprising how he’s emerged as a strong run defender. That always seemed to be a weakness for Curry.
Curry finished the regular season ranked 22nd out of 109 edge rushers graded by PFF. His future with the team is unclear, but there’s no doubt he’s had a good season.
Long finished with six total tackles (four solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, and one quarterback hit. He’s been a great “backup” for this team. He finished the season 34th out of 109 edge rushers.
Robinson had one tackle and one pass defensed. He finished the season graded fourth out of 121 corners. Who could’ve seen that coming?
According to PFF, Robinson was targeted 55 times in the slot this year. Opponent quarterbacks had a passer rating of 65.2 when targeting P-Rob. Only two corners finished better in that category.
Wis played in his first game since suffering an ankle injury in Week 14.
The left side of the Eagles’ starting offensive line played the majority of the game, while the other three saw limited action against the Cowboys. Wisniewski saw 51 total snaps, allowing only two quarterback pressures and finishing with the second-highest run-block grade in the game at 77.4.
Good to know Wis is back to being healthy and effective in time for the playoffs.
PFF liked what they saw from Allen.
Allen looked a cut above the rest of the Eagles’ interior defenders. His extra experience is obviously a major advantage, and he even flashed a couple nice pass-rush moves. Selected to play nose tackle in a two-gap scheme, Allen was expected to depart with the arrival of the new coaching staff. Instead, he’s adapted his game, becoming more explosive to fit the penetrating style. Allen produced a beautiful hump move on one pass-rush snap, illustrating impressive conversion of speed to power. He’ll see important snaps in the postseason because Schwartz believes in rotating up front.
Honey Beau Beau graded 69th out of 124 defensive tackles in 2017. Nice.
Note that he’s going to be a free agent after this season.
Sudfeld just missed finishing in the top five with a grade of 75.3. If he had enough playing time to qualify for the rankings, Sudfeld would be 27th out of 41 quarterbacks. Nick Foles, meanwhile, would be 38th out of 41. Only DeShone Kizer, Brock Osweiler, and Blaine Gabbert would be below Foles. Not exactly great company.
But back to Studfeld. Here’s a look at his best throw from the game.
QB Nick Foles, 44.6 overall grade: It was another rough outing the Eagles’ backup signal-caller, as Foles dropped another snap from the shotgun and threw an ugly interception in the second quarter. Foles finished 4-of-11 for only 39 yards before the Eagles made a switch to put in Nate Sudfeld, the second-year man out of Indiana. Sudfeld was able to get the offense in rhythm more effectively than Foles, going 19-of-23 for 134 yards with 17 of those completions being thrown under 10 yards in the air.
Again, Foles can’t even catch shotgun snaps correctly. He’s failing on all levels right now.
Foles has stunk so bad in his last two starts.
CB Rasul Douglas, 30.8 overall grade: One of the few defensive players likely to see extensive action in the playoffs to see meaningful action against the Cowboys, Douglas did his case for playing time in the postseason no favors. He missed tackles throughout (two), committed a crucial penalty on third down and gave up a handful of big plays (the longest catch he allowed was for 51 yards). Overall, Douglas gave up seven receptions on 11 targets for 127 yards and a touchdown.
This just wasn’t a good game for the Eagles’ third-round pick. Douglas finished the season ranked 87th out of 121 corners.
If you were curious as to how Jones graded out, he got a 47.2. Jones only gave up one receptions for three yards on two targets but he bit on a double move that could’ve allowed a touchdown if Dak Prescott didn’t overthrow an open Terrance Williams.
Subject: Eagles News: Philadelphia
Philadelphia Eagles news and links for 1/2/18.
Let's get to the Philadelphia Eagles links ...
The @Eagles defense finished the year with 41 more total pressures than any other unit.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) January 1, 2018
Only team to generate pressure on more than 40% of passing plays.
This is what can win them playoff games.
10 things we learned from the Eagles’ final regular season game against the Cowboys - BGN
To no surprise, the Eagles’ offense has really struggled without Carson Wentz. In the three games since Wentz went down for the season, the Eagles’ offense is averaging 15.7 points per game and 4.26 yards per play. For context, only two teams averaged fewer points per game in 2017. And the team with the lowest yards per play in 2017, the Colts, finished at 4.6. Philadelphia would rank dead last by a significant margin in that stat.
Worried about the Eagles? Here are five reasons why they can still reach the Super Bowl - PhillyVoice
We touched on this earlier, but the Eagles defense is probably the number reason this team can still make it Minneapolis for the Super Bowl. Their dominance at home aside, the Birds have been stellar all season with the exception of the aforementioned road trip, one that included a pair of West Coast games against two pretty good teams in the Rams and Seahawks. In the two games since, however, they've held Dallas and Oakland to a combined 16 points, despite not getting any help at all from the offense and resting several of their starters against the Cowboys, how kept their starters in the entire game. They're going to need to keep that up going forward, because the competition is only going to get tougher – and the offense didn't do much to instill any confidence in their final performance of 2017. But the recent play from Jim Schwartz's defense, especially in a meaningless game on Sunday, is definitely a good sign.
Eagles QB Nick Foles doesn't look as confident as he says he is - Inquirer
A few years back, after Chip Kelly had traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, I had a few players and members of team personnel give some insight into why the Eagles had given up on Foles as a starter. His skill set, first and foremost, wasn’t starter-caliber, or at least good enough to consistently win games in the NFL. It had become abundantly clear to Kelly that Foles was more his 2014 version than 2013. But an additional concern, and one brought to my attention, was that Foles would sometimes let his performance or outside criticism outwardly affect his demeanor. He would get down on himself and the rest of the squad felt it. Three years later, I don’t know if Foles handles himself differently. He’s older, endured a professional low with the Rams, has been recast as a backup and has become a father.
A Weak One - Iggles Blitz
What you saw the last two weeks isn’t what you’ll see in the playoffs. I’m not saying the Eagles will come out and play great and look like the #1 seed for sure, but they will be a different team. You will have all the starters on the field. They will be rested. Fresh legs can make a difference in January. The gameplans will be geared toward helping Foles and doing what it takes to win. In recent weeks, Pederson was trying to throw passes and work on the passing game.
Vegas projects Eagles as underdogs in most divisional round matchups - ESPN
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins gave a quizzical look when asked why the fan base should be confident in this team going into the playoffs. "Why wouldn't they be?" he said. Because of the offensive showing the past two weeks. "We still won 13 games, No. 1 seed, everybody's gotta come through Philly. I don't care if you were starting at quarterback, you should be confident in that," Jenkins said.
Eagles have no time for time off - Morning Call
“Most teams, as you go on, you taper off your practices, you’re not on the field as long, you kind of take some of the reps off,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. “But as we’ve gotten rest this week and we’ve got another bye next week, we have an opportunity to actually put the pads on, and we’d like to put the pads on and get back to some of those competitions. “We feel like we’ve had some time to rest and get better. So we’re going to try to use this time to our advantage because we have plenty of things we can improve over the next two weeks.”
Donnie Jones Could Help Pants Opponents In Playoffs - PE.com
Jones finished the regular season with a 40.6 net average which is over a yard more than his career mark of 39.5 yards per punt. The greatest punter in Eagles history - Jones is the all-time team leader in gross and net averages as well as punts inside the 20 - will have a chance to add to his legacy and help this franchise win its first postseason game since 2008 in two weeks.
'He didn't back down': Philadelphia Eagles react to Sidney Jones' debut - PennLive
Jenkins, a team captain, said it was difficult for Jones to make his debut Sunday, because the Eagles had scaled back practices over the past few weeks to rest players before the postseason. He had to get himself prepared in some ways. But Jones dealt with tough circumstance all season, as he tried to grasp a playbook and new techniques before he was medically cleared to practice. “It’s tough to stay engaged when you aren’t on the film, especially for months on end,” Jenkins said. “The biggest thing was just trying to keep him engaged, trying to continue to teach him about the game, offenses, situations. But none of it is probably like the actual, real thing. So it was good to see him out there. I know it was kind of up in the air all week and then to get him his debut, it’s been a long year for him, so like I said, we are just excited.”
Eagles staying focused amid Schwartz reports - NBC Sports Philadelphia
After Sunday's regular-season finale, players were complimentary of Schwartz, but they let it be known: they're going to stay focused on winning, not the possibility of losing a coach. "The biggest thing is, none of that is of my concern," Jenkins said. "We're just trying to get to the next week. I'm not thinking about it unless he's going to be somebody else's coach next week. If he's going to be with us, then all the focus is on here. Everybody in this building is worried about winning a Super Bowl."
Final 2017 DVOA Ratings - Football Outsiders
The Eagles finished fifth overall but seventh in weighted DVOA, which accounts more heavily for recent performance.
The Bengals sent the Bills to the playoffs, plus 6 things we loved from Week 17 in the NFL - SB Nation
If I told you that the NFL season was going to conclude with a 13-2 Eagles team facing an 8-7 Cowboys team, you would have been surprised. You would have been shocked had I told you the Eagles punter was going to take his pants off in the middle of the field. That’s what Donnie Jones did when he accidentally took the field with just over five minutes to go in the first half to try to pin the Cowboys deep in their own territory.
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Subject: NFL All-Rookie Offense Team
With the NFL regular season coming to a close, there was a lot learned. With a ton of new playoff teams emerging, break out players helped boost teams from a year ago. Who were the best offensive rookies this season?
Stats: 1,699 Passing Yards, 8.33 YPA, 19 TDs, 8 INTs, 269 Rushing Yards, 7.5 YPC, 2 Rushing TDs
Deshaun Watson’s season got cut short with an unfortunate injury but he was absolutely electric when he was in the starting lineup for the Texans. The Texans averaged over 35 points per game when Watson started. If Watson can get back to being healthy next season; the Texans will be legitimate contenders.
Stats: 1,327 Rushing Yards, 4.9 YPC, 8 Rushing Touchdowns, 53 Receptions, 455 Receiving Yards, 3 Touchdowns
Hunt got off to a hot start in Kansas City and despite a midseason lull, he remained a high volume part of the offense. He ended up being a steal in the third round for Kansas City and is going to be a three down back in that offense for a long time.
Stats: 728 Rushing Yards, 6.1 YPC, 8 Rushing Touchdowns, 81 Receptions, 826 Receiving Yards, 5 Touchdowns, 1 Kick Return Touchdown.
Alvin Kamara was as electric a player as there was in the NFL this season. With over 1,500 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns; Alvin Kamara was a huge part of the new-look New Orleans Saints. With his role likely growing in the future, it will be exciting to see the growing legend of Alvin Kamara.
Stats: 437 Rushing Yards, 3.7 YPC, 2 Rushing TDs, 80 Receptions, 651 Receiving Yards, 5 Receiving Touchdowns.
Christian McCaffrey took a few games to really start making an impact for the Panthers, but he grew into a nice offensive weapon despite not being the featured back on the team. He was incredibly important in the team’s passing game and had nice moments running the football. McCaffrey’s workload is set to increase next season and it will be exciting to see him get more opportunities.
Stats: 58 Receptions, 917 Receiving Yards, 15.8 YPC, 7 ReceivingTouchdowns, 1 Kick return Touchdown.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has immediately become a weapon on the prolific Pittsburgh offense. What is so crazy is that he only turned 21 years old halfway through the season. With Martavis Bryant hitting free agency this offseason, Smith-Schuster is going to see a lot more targets next season.
Stats: 62 Receptions, 869 Receiving Yards, 14 YPC, 5 Receiving Touchdowns
The Rams were a pleasant surprise this season on offense and Cooper Kupp immediately connected with Jared Goff; leading the Rams in receiving yards this season. Kupp is an incredibly savvy player and it would not be surprising to see him maintain his spot as Goff’s favorite target in the future.
Stats: 42 Receptions, 748 Yards, 17.8 YPC, 3 Touchdowns
Keelan Cole was another receiver who led his team in receiving yards. The undrafted free agent broke out for the Jaguars and was part of the reason they’re now in the playoffs for the first time in years. He was a fantastic big play threat and it will be interesting to see him develop with such a young offense.
Stats: 64 Receptions, 722 Receiving Yards, 11.3 YPC, 6 Touchdowns
While the Giants had a disastrous season; there is some solace to be taken that they're first round pick is a damn good football player. Engram was a chess piece in the passing game. He lined up in the slot, in-line and out wide; making an impact everywhere. Going forward, he is going to be a very nice player in New York for a long time.
Despite being a second round pick, which was a surprise to me, Cam Robinson immediately made an impact for the Jaguars. While the former Alabama player had some rough spots; he flashed the dominance you want from a young offensive lineman. As he gets better; the Jaguars have edge protection for the next decade from Robinson.
Ryan Ramczyk was a great pick by the Saints at the back of the first round. He started all 16 games in his rookie year and played a big part in the Saints becoming such a dominant rushing team.
In what was an underwhelming year for rookie guards; Dan Feeney was among the more promising in the group. The Chargers had more success on the offensive side of the ball than they had in the past and Feeney had moments where he played a big role in their success. Hopefully consistency will come with experience; but there is no doubt Feeney has the ability to emerge as a steady player in L.A.
The Seattle offensive line was as bad as usual, but Ethan Pocic is a young guy who had some bright spots during the season. The former LSU center is growing into a new role and could grow into a nice player on that line. God knows they need that development.
Despite dealing with some injuries; Pat Elflein was excellent for the Vikings in his first season. The former Buckeye was a steady presence in the middle of the Minnesota offensive line and was a key player in their offensive resurgence. Once he gets healthy; Elflein will continue to be a stud blocker for the Vikings.
Quarterback: Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Running Back: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Running Back: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Flex: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears
Wide Receiver: Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tight End: OJ Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Offensive Guards: Taylor Moton, Carolina Panthers and N/A
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
It feels like a clear cut choice that Alvin Kamara is the best offensive newcomer this year. While Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette were more productive rushers and Deshaun Watson had some of the most impressive peaks (at the most important position); Kamara’s sustained efficiency over the course of the season mixed with his game breaking ability makes him an easy choice. Kamara is a weapon like the NFL has not seen in a while with upside on the levels of David Johnson or Leveon Bell in terms of being a multi-faceted threat on an offense. It’s incredibly exciting to think about what Kamara will be able to do in his career going forward.
Subject: Your Tuesday Morning Roundup
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: Whoops, we overslept
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Oh boy, we’re kicking off 2018 in a great way by being just a little late with today’s Fly By. Sorry, fam. Anyhoo, here’s hoping the Flyers’ biggest resolution for this year is to find some consistency. [NBC Sports Philly]
*And perhaps they resolved to come out of the gate hard in every game and not continue these maddening slow starts. [Philly.com]
*We spent some time this holiday weekend asking questions from our lovely readers. [BSH]
*Hart will see the ice today in the quarterfinals; here’s the full schedule of today’s action. [Habs Eyes On The Prize]
*Did you guys enjoy this year’s Winter Classic? It was a pretty good game, if you ask me. [ProHockeyTalk]
*During the second intermission of the outdoor game, we learned who will represent the USA at these Olympics. Brian Gionta will save us all. [SB Nation]
*And finally, it definitely sucks a lot that we aren’t getting NHLers at these Olympics. But we are getting stories like this one, which almost makes it worth it. [SB Nation]
Subject: You Can Be a Realist and Still Believe in the Eagles
Subject: Saints, Panthers, Falcons
Subject: Eric Rowe trade draft pick tracker: Final edition
Now it’s official.
Now that the 2017 regular season is over, the conditions of the Eric Rowe have finally been finalized.
The Eagles traded Rowe to the New England Patriots prior to the 2016 season in exchange for a conditional 2018 draft pick. If Rowe played more than 50% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in either 2016 or 2017, Philadelphia would receive a third-round pick. If Rowe played fewer than 50% of the Patriots’ snaps in both seasons, Philadelphia would receive a fourth-round pick.
In 2016, Rowe only played 43.3% of New England’s defensive snaps. In 2017, Rowe finished the season only playing 24.6% of New England’s defensive snaps.
In other words, the Eagles will receive a 2018 fourth-round pick from the Patriots in exchange for Rowe. With the Patriots expected to make a strong post-season run after entering the NFL playoff picture as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, that pick will likely be towards the very end of the fourth round.
I know a lot of people have always said “there was no way Bill Belichick was going to let that pick become a third” but I don’t agree. Rowe was well on his way to playing more than 50% of the snaps this season. The problem is he suffered a groin injury early in the season, tried to play through it, and only made it worse. Rowe ended up missing eight games due to the injury.
Rowe finished the 2017 season with three starts, 13 tackles, and two passes defensed. Pro Football Focus graded him 104th out of 121 corners this season, for what it’s worth.
There was some outrage about trading Rowe at the time of the deal and throughout the 2016 season as the Eagles’ cornerbacks struggled. Philadelphia is now in much better shape at corner, though. They’ve got a real good mix of youth and talent:
Rowe is set to be a free agent after the 2018 season so the Patriots will have to decide if they want to extend his contract or not now that he’s eligible.
Current projected Eagles 2018 Draft Picks
4th - (from the Minnesota Vikings)
4th - (from the New England Patriots)
5th - (from the Seattle Seahawks)
NOTE: The Eagles owe the Miami Dolphins a 2018 fourth-round pick from the Jay Ajayi trade. The pick they owe is reportedly whichever of their three fourth-round picks finishes in the middle. So, in other words, the fourth-round pick that’s not their best and not their worst. That exact pick is yet to be determined based on how the Eagles, Vikings, and Patriots are eliminated in the 2018 NFL playoffs. But since they’re all in the post-season, the difference shouldn’t be too dramatic. Just a technical note I wanted to include here since I’ve often say people say the Eagles traded Sam Bradford for Derek Barnett (Minnesota’s 2017 first-round pick) and Ajayi (Minnesota’s 2018 fourth-round pick). We don’t know for sure that the pick the Eagles traded to Miami is the Minnesota pick. It could be, but it could also be the Rowe pick if the Vikings go further in the playoffs. We’ll see.
Subject: Darroll Powe, Brenden Morrow, and the 2013 Draft
Paul Holmgren made a few moves in the summer of 2011. The one with the least impact on the Flyers had the biggest impact on the Penguins.
The summer of 2011 was a weird time to be a Flyers fan. After a goaltending carousel in the 2011 postseason, former team owner Ed Snider and former general manager Paul Holmgren decided the team needed a true number one goalie. Unfortunately, they concluded that their number one goalie should be Ilya Bryzgalov at the price of $51 million over the span of nine years.
Obtaining the rights to Bryzgalov was the first of five trades Holmgren made that summer in order to make cap space for the netminder’s contract. He then completed the Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades before he dealt Kris Versteeg to the Florida Panthers, which gave them a draft pick that they used to coincidentally pick a Florida native Flyers’ fans may be familiar with.
The trade with the least impact on the future of the Orange and Black was the exchange of bottom-six forward Darroll Powe to the Minnesota Wild for a 2013 third-round pick. Powe was terrible in terms of puck possession throughout his six-year NHL career, but he did provide Flyers’ fans with a beautiful goal and a wonderful beatdown. He had 22 goals, 21 assists, and 130 penalty minutes in 204 games for Philadelphia before he joined his second NHL club.
Since the return for Powe was a draft pick, Holmgren didn’t have it for too long. He
had his eyes set on bulking up the blue line for a playoff run in 2012, so in February he acquired both Pavel Kubina from the Tampa Bay Lightning and one Nicklas Grossmann from the Dallas Stars. To land this big, immobile Swede who couldn’t even spell his own name, Holmgren needed to cough up a second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft (a pick he acquired in the deal Mike Richards’ deal) and the 2013 third-round pick he had previously acquired for Powe. Grossmann played 198 games over the span of four seasons with the Orange and Black before being involved in a pretty good deal for the Flyers immediately after the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The Stars would hold on to this third-round pick for a little longer than the Flyers, but they felt the need to ultimately move the pick as well. In late March of 2013, Dallas obtained Joseph Morrow and a fifth-round pick in 2013, which was used on Matej Paulovic (don’t worry about it), but it came at a cost. After competing in 835 games for the Stars, Brenden Morrow (no relation to Joseph) was traded in the midst of his seventh season as captain of Dallas to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Along with Morrow (Brenden), the Stars gave up the well-traveled 2013 third-round pick.
Each team ultimately benefited very well from this trade. Morrow (Joseph) was used as a piece to help land Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins. Morrow (Brenden) and the 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins were swept by the Bruins during the Eastern Conference Final, but the third-round pick is still helping the Pens today.
Of the 30 players drafted in the third round of 2013, 15 have already played at least one NHL game to date and nine of those 15 have played in at least 45 games. One of those nine is Jake Guentzel, who was taken 77th overall with the third-round pick that originally belonged to the Minnesota Wild and found its way to the Pens.
Guentzel came into the NHL with a bang, as he scored two goals in his debut against the Rangers on November 21st, 2016. After he totaled 33 points in 40 regular-season games, Guentzel proceeded to have a pretty decent postseason. He scored an overtime goal to complete a hat trick in Game 3 of the Pens’ opening round matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scored four goals in the Stanley Cup Final, led the entire league in goal scoring in the playoffs, and received serious consideration to win the Conn Smythe.
At the 40-game mark this regular season, Guentzel’s point total has dropped a bit to 23 points. Hopefully for Flyers’ fans he won’t produce his second three-point game against the Orange and Black this season.
Subject: Flyers vs. Penguins preview: Kicking off the first homestand of the new year
Redemption time, baby
Well, the holidays are officially over and we’re finally back to an uninterrupted hockey schedule. I mean, at least until we hit that five day break next week. Close enough.
The Flyers kick off their four game homestand with a divisional match-up against the Penguins tonight. Their last meeting was during the ten game losing streak, and the Penguins--you guessed it--beat the Flyers in overtime. But tonight they’ll be looking to even the score.
Coming off a triumphant victory over the Lightning, the Flyers are riding high--though maybe not as high as if they had almost managed to beat the Panthers. So it goes. Brandon Manning and Michal Neuvirth have returned to the lineup, though only the former has seen playing time, since activated off IR.
By contrast, the Penguins are in a bit more tenuous of a position. Having lost their last two games, seven of their last ten, and being without all of Letang, Schwartz, Ruhwedel, and Rust, they’re undeniably a little dinged up, and hurting because of it.
And the intensity of this game can be expected to be ratcheted up, for even more reason beyond the fact that it’s a divisional rivalry. The stakes? Loser goes home in sole possession of last place in the Metro. Oh boy.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Before we start looking at outcomes, let’s dive into our three things to look for, going into tonight’s game.
1. Start strong
Are you tired of having to hear me say that this is the big thing the Flyers have to do? Because I know I’m tired of having to say it.
So the Flyers haven’t been known for their particularly strong starts to games. They’re not giving away quite as much as they were, say, during the ten game losing streak, but they still haven’t cleaned up this area, altogether. And, even dinged up, we know the Penguins still have some weapons, so the Flyers will need to make sure that they’re not giving up too many quality chances while they work to get settled into the game.
2. Penalty killing
Another area where the Flyers have struggled, of late, is on the penalty kill. But Friday’s game against the Lightning saw this making a small turnaround. Over the course of the game, the Flyers only allowed one power play goal, and looked sharper, on the whole. And while just one game is, of course, a hard sample to go by, this seems a step in the right direction--and it’s one they need to take. Depending on how this game shakes out, it may well be the type where the hardest battle is fought on special teams. If that’s the case, just like we said in the point above, the Flyers need to tighten up and make sure they’re not giving anything away. And that starts with the penalty kill.
We’ve really been talking about Elliott a lot, huh? And for good reason. He’s been receiving the lion’s share to the workload, and performing well while doing so. And it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon. The indication is that he’ll be getting the start over Neuvirth--who still hasn’t seen the ice during a game since returning from injury--and he’ll need to make sure he’s sharp. Due to both necessity and his performance, Elliott has earned the role of consistent starter; and he just needs to make sure he continues to live up to it.
The models over at Corsica have the odds pretty even for this game, but do give at least a small edge to the Flyers. Those with projections up so far have them at a high of 59 percent, and an average of 52 percent chance of winning. This seems like good news, so like, don’t mess it up, the Flyers.
Puck drops at 7 tonight. You can check out the Flyers’ projected lineup below.
Giroux - Couturier - Konecny
Raffl - Filppula - Voracek
Weal - Patrick - Simmonds
Leier - Laughton - Weise
Provorov - Gostisbehere
Hagg - MacDonald
Manning - Gudas
Subject: Checking out the competition: Pittsburgh Penguins with Mike Darnay
It’s time for The Battle of Pennsylvania (and last place in the Metro)!
Steph Driver chats with Mike Darnay from Pensburgh about the two Pennsylvania hockey teams - one in a city that founded a nation, the other in a city that puts soggy french fries on sandwiches. Topics discussed:
- What in the world is happening with the Pittsburgh Hockey Team?
- Getting back to your style of hockey, eh?
- Do you feel like this is still a rivalry?
- Kris Letang trade rumors
Subject: NFL Power Rankings 2017: Final Edition
Ranking all 32 NFL Teams.
The 2017 NFL regular season schedule is in the books. Now it's time to see where all 32 teams rank for one last time. For reference purposes, here is a link to last week's NFL Power Rankings.
BLG's FINAL 2017 NFL POWER RANKINGS
1 - Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 1) - Since they rested their starters for most of the game in Week 17, I’m not going to move the Eagles down. But there’s obviously a lot of concern with this team. Nick Foles has been horrendous. The offense can’t convert a third down to save their life. The good news is that Philadelphia’s defense continues to look strong at home. The Eagles finished the 2017 season with the most pressures of any team. Their pass rush really needs to continue to play at a high level to give them a shot in the post-season.
2 - New England Patriots (LW: 2) - After some early season struggles, the Pats settled in and finished as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Shocking, I know.
3 - Pittsburgh Steelers (LW: 3) - They beat Cleveland with their backups.
4 - Minnesota Vikings (LW: 4) - Minnesota arguably looks like the best team in the NFC heading into the playoffs.
5 - Los Angeles Rams (LW: 5) - They rested their starters in order to play the Eagles in the divisional round (or at least that’s the suspicion) but they ended up being the No. 3 seed anyway.
6 - New Orleans Saints (LW: 6) - Yikes, losing to the Bucs isn’t a good look. New Orleans is a very good team but they’re not invulnerable.
7 - Carolina Panthers (LW: 7) - The Panthers didn’t look very threatening in their final two games of the regular season.
9 - Kansas City Chiefs (LW: 10) - Andy Reid hasn’t made it to the championship round since 2008. Is 10 years a charm?
10 - Atlanta Falcons (LW: 13) - The Falcons needed to win to ensure they’d clinch a playoff spot. And that they did. Atlanta isn’t super scary but the reigning NFC champions should put up a fight in the post-season.
11 - Buffalo Bills (LW: 16) - THE BILLS MADE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 1999! Huge deal. That was the longest playoff drought in sports. Anything from here on out is gravy for them.
12 - San Francisco 49ers (LW: 14) - Jimmy G-sus is undefeated as a starter in the NFL. He’s going to get a lot of money this offseason.
13 - Los Angeles Chargers (LW: 12) - Classic Chargers season. Metrics indicate they were better than their record showed, but they still fell short of the playoffs.
14 - Detroit Lions (LW: 15) - Jim Caldwell is out in Detroit. One thing you can say about Caldwell is that his players played pretty hard for him. He should’ve been fired a long time ago but he was able to save his job multiple times because of the players’ support. But it’s clearly time to turn the page.
15 - Baltimore Ravens (LW: 9) - In order to make the playoffs, all the Ravens had to do was beat Cincy at home. They blew it. Embarrassing.
16 - Seattle Seahawks (LW: 11) - Seattle was eliminated from the playoffs by Atlanta’s win but the Seahawks didn’t even give themselves a chance by losing at home to Arizona. No playoffs for them.
17 - Arizona Cardinals (LW: 19) - Bruce Arians went out with a bang. The Cardinals played really hard for their coach in his final game before retiring. Good way to go out.
18 - Tennessee Titans (LW: 21) - The Titans stink but they barely got by the Jags and made it into the post-season.
19 - Dallas Cowboys (LW: 18) - The Cowboys’ starters struggled against the Eagles’ backups. Dallas only managed to win the game by a final score of 6-0.
21 - Cincinnati Bengals (LW: 24) - The Bengals effectively played spoiler the last two weeks. Marvin Lewis could easily be done in Cincy, but it’s still unclear if that’ll officially be the case. It’d be classic Bengals to keep him around.
22 - Green Bay Packers (LW: 20) - Green Bay’s struggles in 2017 led to the team reassigning Ted Thompson. The Packers are looking for a new GM. Maybe this one won’t ignore free agency.
23 - Chicago Bears (LW: 22) - Chicago made the obvious call to fire John Fox. Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo could be a great hire for them.
24 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (LW: 28) - Kudos to the Bucs for showing some life in Week 17 against the Saints. They made sure New Orleans ended up as the fourth seed instead of third.
27 - Miami Dolphins (LW: 26) - Lost year without Ryan Tannehil. But how good would they really have been with him?
28 - Denver Broncos (LW: 27) - Lost to Kansas City’s backups. John Elway really screwed Denver’s quarterback situation and the team paid for it in 2017.
30 - New York Giants (LW: 31) - The G-Men almost blew their shot at the No. 2 pick. If Indy hadn’t won, they’d be picking at No. 3. They got lucky that didn’t happen.
31 - Houston Texans (LW: 29) - The good news is the future looks bright for Houston once Deshaun Watson gets back. The bad news is they were hopeless without him. The Texans have the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft but they owe it to Cleveland.
32 - Cleveland Browns (LW: 32) - You know what time it is: the Browns are 1-31 since passing on Carson Wentz. Just the second team ever to go 0-16 in the regular season. And they’re still keeping Hue Jackson!
Subject: Sixers Notes: Joel
Subject: Nick Foles might not have a long leash, and other Eagles takeaways from Doug Pederson
Hear from the head coach.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson held a press conference on Tuesday and touched on a number of different topics.
Pederson was specifically asked about the team’s quarterback situation.
Q. Just to be clear, Foles is your starting quarterback going forward for the first playoff game?
COACH PEDERSON: Yes.
Some will think it’s crazy that Pederson was even asked that question, but it really isn’t considering how much Foles has struggled in the past two games. He’s been horrendous.
Unlike Foles, Nate Sudfeld actually looked competent in Week 17. He showed actual traits you can hang your hat on: mobility, arm strength, decisiveness, able to catch a shotgun snap, etc.
Still, it’s not surprising that the Eagles are sticking with Foles due to his starting experience in the league. The coaching staff clearly trusts him more than the second-year Sudfeld right now.
But Pederson did not entirely rule out benching Foles.
Q. If Nick doesn’t play any better say for a half or three quarters, is that something you would consider?
COACH PEDERSON: It's hard to say right now until I'm in that situation. Listen, it's a one-game season. It's hard to be in desperation mode, but if you are in that mode, who knows. I do know this: it's not about one guy; it's about 11 on offense, defense, and special teams. A lot of contributing factors go into winning a game.
Pederson did originally confirm Foles as his starter, yes, but the “who knows” sentiment in this reply is a far cry from “Your question is ridiculous, Nick Foles is absolutely 100% the guy no matter what.” Others observers felt the same way.
#Eagles coach Doug Pederson, asked if he'd consider switching QBs if Nick Foles continues to struggle: "If you're in desperation mode, who knows?"Foles will start, but Nate Sudfeld should stay warm.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2018
Doug Pederson didn't totally rule out replacing an ineffective Nick Foles in the middle of a playoff game.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) January 2, 2018
It's going to be quite a couple weeks until kickoff!
You might say people are reading into things too much here, but the Eagles clearly went into damage control mode after Pederson’s press conference. Pederson wouldn’t just randomly text reporters like this. This is a calculated leak.
#Eagles coach Doug Pederson just texted me after his press conference: “My guy is Nick Foles, end of story.” … That is significant.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2018
I know the question came up during #eagles HC Doug Pederson news conference about his starting QB Nick Foles. After news conference Pederson cleared up any confusion, told me flat out “Nick Foles is my Quarterback. End of story.” @SportsRadioWIP— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) January 2, 2018
Showing confidence in Foles is important for the Eagles, especially since the veteran quarterback is a guy who reportedly struggles with that. Per the Inquirer:
A few years back, after Chip Kelly had traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, I had a few players and members of team personnel give some insight into why the Eagles had given up on Foles as a starter. His skill set, first and foremost, wasn’t starter-caliber, or at least good enough to consistently win games in the NFL. It had become abundantly clear to Kelly that Foles was more his 2014 version than 2013. But an additional concern, and one brought to my attention, was that Foles would sometimes let his performance or outside criticism outwardly affect his demeanor. He would get down on himself and the rest of the squad felt it.
If Foles continues to play as poorly as he has recently in the playoffs, there at least has to be some thought of benching him after a quarter or two. Right?
The Eagles will sure hope they don’t get to that point.
And now for some other takeaways from Pederson’s Tuesday presser ...
DOUG PEDERSON IS GOING BACK TO 2013 TAPE TO TRY TO GET NICK FOLES GOING
When QB Nick Foles had his best year in 2013, Chip Kelly had him do a lot of quick throw, up-tempo type stuff. Do you consider even more up-tempo to get him into a rhythm and get him settled in quicker?
COACH PEDERSON: I've gone back and watched a lot of his tape here, [from when he was in] St. Louis, and when he was here before when I was here. I just wanted to go back and just see the types of plays. As you mentioned, the quick throw was there, a little play-action pass, the shotgun stuff. Those are all things that are in our system. We might just have to dust a few more off and get that ready to go. But that's kind of what this week is for: to get some of those ideas and thoughts down on paper and execute them this week in practice.
Doesn’t hurt for Doug to exhaust all options in this case.
THE PADS ARE GOING BACK ON AT PRACTICE AND THE PLAYERS WANTED IT TO HAPPEN
Q. Some players after the game talked about how they are actually looking forward to getting back in the pads this week. What's your plan there? Do you want to maximize that, once this week, once next week?
COACH PEDERSON: Again, it's a fine line. At the same time, this is something that the players want. It's not a punishment thing; it's not coming directly from me. It's what the players want. I listen to my guys. I think they understand that there is a sense of physicality that we have to get back to. I'm not saying we're not there because obviously football is a physical game, but I think there is a sense over the course of a few weeks when you've been in shells, pad level begins to rise, and intensity sometimes can be minimized. So you get back into pads and it sort of refocuses the guys a little bit. It's not like we're going to tackle. It's not a training-camp-type-of practice. The fact of just having them on, banging around on one another, but still protecting each other, I think can be a nice asset for us going into our first game.
Q. How many days of pad work will you do between now and the playoff game?
COACH PEDERSON: One this week and considering one more next week.
Q. And that came to you through the players' council?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah.
Q. What did they say to you?
COACH PEDERSON: We want to go in pads.
Q. Just like that?
COACH PEDERSON: Just like that.
Q. Did they explain why?
COACH PEDERSON: No. They just came to me and kind of asked if we could get back into pads. I didn't ask questions, and I said, ‘Sure.’
The Eagles have been taking it easy in practice lately since it’s late in the season. Pederson has to balance keeping guys sharp while also keeping them healthy. In this case, the players were advocating for more pad work, so that’s what happening. We’re ultimately talking about practice here, so who knows how much it really matters, but it’s cool to see the players want to maintain an edge instead of just resting.
Jay Ajayi could be poised for more playing time
Q. Do you plan on leaning on Ajayi more as your workhorse in the playoffs?
COACH PEDERSON: I think that's a possibility with what he's shown us down the stretch here and giving him rest last week, and we'll see where he is this week health-wise. I think he's one of the guys that we can rely on. Again, I don't want to get away from the things that got us to this point, too. That's the other thing is you don't want to just abandon ship on everybody else. I do think there could be a little more role for him down the stretch.
It’d be great if the Eagles can get their run game going. The thing is ... it’s hard to run when the pass isn’t much of a threat.
It’s unclear if Sidney Jones will have a role in the playoffs
Q. Will CB Sidney Jones have a role in the playoffs?
COACH PEDERSON: I don't know yet. Obviously he gives us depth now that he's activated and up. We have to see how he gets through this week and see the defensive game plan and the opponent we're playing and all that. Again, probably most of those will be game-time decisions of the seven who are going to be deactivated.
The Eagles will likely decide between keeping either Jones or Rasul Douglas on the activate game day roster. It makes more sense to keep Douglas active since he’ll likely just be playing on special teams.
Doug Pederson isn’t worried about head coaching interviews being a distraction
Q. There are reports that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo could interview for jobs this week. How do you balance getting them focused on the playoff game and still letting them focus on trying to go through the interview process?
COACH PEDERSON: Having gone through it a couple years ago myself, the one thing going for these two gentlemen is the fact that this is a bye week for us. We're not game planning specifically for a game this weekend, so it's a little bit easier from the standpoint of that. The challenge is having themselves prepared for a potential interview. That's the challenging part. At the same time, they have to balance the job they have here and making sure that we're ready for practice tomorrow and the next day. That's first and foremost. Listen, they put the Eagles first anyway and will continue to do that while they're here. It's a little bit of a fine line, but having an off week helps.
Jim Schwartz and John DeFilippo each reportedly have at least two interviews this week. They’ll be conducted in Philadelphia.
Graham suffered an ankle injury in Week 16. He’s expected to be ready for the first palyoff game.
Big V played 100% of the snaps in the Eagles-Cowboys game. He could be getting a breather.
Pederson cited Ajayi’s knee injury history as to why they’re resting him.