Subject: Eagles Injury Report: Only one player missing from practice ahead of Falcons game
Only one player sat out of Tuesday’s practice: Dannell Ellerbe. This is at least a little concerning since he’s the Eagles’ starting middle linebacker in base defense. Philadelphia needs Ellerbe healthy as they prepare to face a Falcons rushing attack that features Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
Ellerbe is listed with a hamstring issue, so resting him makes sense if that’s what it takes for him to be able to play. If Ellerbe isn’t able to suit up, look for Najee Goode to get playing time at MIKE linebacker.
In other news, Brandon Graham returned to practice as a full participant. Graham had been out since suffering an ankle injury in the Eagles’ Week 16 game against the Raiders. It’s good to see him back.
Starting cornerback Jalen Mills was full go on Tuesday. The Eagles rested him in Week 17 since he’s been dealing with a nagging ankle injury.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES INJURY REPORT (TUESDAY)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring)
RB Jay Ajayi (knee)
DE Brandon Graham (ankle)
CB Jalen Mills (ankle)
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee)
ATLANTA FALCONS INJURY REPORT (TUESDAY)
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said Julio Jones was set to be the only player to sit out of practice on Tuesday.
Jones has been listed on Atlanta’s injury report with rib and ankle issues but they apparently haven’t prevented him from playing. Or playing well. Jones had nine receptions for 94 yards and one touchdown against the Rams in the Wild Card round.
Matt Ryan reportedly missed at least a portion of practice due to a personal matter. Not injury related.
Official Atlanta Falcons injury report to be announced - check back for updates.
Subject: Eagles want (and need) to see Nick Foles be more aggressive
Needed: AIR YARDS
That’s not the word that can be used to accurately describe Foles’ performance since taking over as the Eagles’ starting quarterback, however.
Foles has been reluctant to throw the ball down the field, which is evident in his average yards per attempt: 5.43.
His longest completion since taking over as the starter has gone for 32 yards. And that play was a short swing pass to Jay Ajayi, who caught it and ran.
In other words, the throw did not help Foles accumulate many #AirYards. Neither did his longest throw in the Raiders game: 25 yards. Or his longest throw in limited action against the Cowboys: 15 yards.
Foles has repeatedly stated that he hasn’t lost confidence in himself. But talk is cheap and the evidence tells a different story. He hasn’t been standing tall in the pocket in order to take shots down field. Instead, he’s reverted to his old bad habits.
The Eagles’ coaching staff has admitted Foles could stand to be more aggressive.
Q. When you say that Foles needs to be himself, what does that look like in your mind?
FRANK REICH: Not trying to force anything. That’s a fair question. Not trying to force anything but being aggressive. He’s an aggressive -- he’s got an aggressive mind-set. I remember his first day here talking to him about how he plays the game and just picking his brain, just talking quarterback play. And I could just see his eyes light up with this aggressive mindset: “I like to throw the ball down the field. I’m an aggressive -- I play an aggressive style of ball.” So to be more specific to your question, I think that would be one example.
It’s been suggested that all Foles needs to do is “not turn the ball over.” That’s ideal, yes, but not at the cost of the offense being completely ineffective and unable to move the ball.
And it’s not even like Foles is totally incapable of chucking the rock. He doesn’t have the best deep ball, but he’s had some success with it, as we saw in 2013 when he averaged 9.1 yards per attempt. That year was obviously an outlier, but all his other seasons were signficantly better than his current 5.3 average. Even his stint with the Rams in 2015!
2012 - 6.4
2013 - 9.1
2014 - 7.0
2015 - 6.1
2016 - 7.5
2017 - 5.3
We even saw a glimpse of Foles’ deep passing success earlier this season when he unleashed a 35-yard strike to Nelson Agholor against the Broncos. It took a contested catch to make that play, but at least he gave his receiver a chance.
Foles is going to need to push the ball down field more often in the playoffs in order for the Eagles to win. Teams are going to put eight men in the box and try to stop the run. Defenses are going to try to take away Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor in the underneath passing game. The Falcons have the speed and talent do as much.
Atlanta also has two really good cornerbacks in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford. With that said, the Eagles are paying Alshon Jeffery No. 1 wide receiver money for a reason. Go give him some chances to come down with a jump ball. Or at least one. Foles targeting Jeffery twice in a single game, like he did against the Raiders, just isn’t going to cut it. Foles even admitted it on Tuesday.
Foles on connection with Jeffery: “I just got to throw it. I do trust him. I’ve seen him play enough. …It’s really just me giving him opportunities to make plays, because he will make them. He’s a super talented receiver. And that’s on me to give him opportunities to do so.”— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) January 9, 2018
And even though Torrey Smith hasn’t been very reliable or effective, he’s flashed some deep speed ability. Smith drew a pass interference penalty, which is something he’s actually good at doing, that set up a touchdown throw to Jeffery early in the Eagles-Giants game.
It was also a pass interference penalty that set up the Eagles’ final touchdown in their playoff game against the Saints in 2014. You know, the drive where Foles infamously “left the field with the lead.”
Expecting Foles to play lights out in the playoffs just isn’t realistic. The Eagles can’t just count on him to carry the team. Philadelphia really needs to rely on Jay Ajayi and the run game. Jim Schwartz’s defense REALLY needs to continue to be a lockdown unit at home.
But Foles can’t play super conservative and scared. He needs to give this team a chance to make some big plays in the passing game. The hope is he recognizes the difference between aggressive and reckless.
Subject: Thank God the Sixers Passed on Lonzo Ball and His ESPN-Enabled Father
Subject: Philadelphia Eagles sign center to futures contract
Another signing for the offseason.
Again, to be clear, none of these players have been signed to the active 53-man roster. These signings are being made for the 90-man offseason roster.
Here’s what we previously wrote about Toth.
It might not seem like it, but Toth is actually an interesting addition for the Eagles.
Toth measures in at 6-5, 310 pounds. He didn’t miss a single game in four years at Kentucky. Sports Illustrated ranked him as the fourth overall center prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. ESPN had him fourth as well. He was their No. 169 prospect overall. Nice.
Toth had some teams interested in signing him as an undrafted free agent, but a sudden back injury prevented that from happening. Toth had surgery on a disc in his lower back over the summer.
Jason Kelce had an All-Pro season in 2017, but he also turned 30 years old in November. With long-term thinking in mind, it can’t hurt to take a shot on a lottery ticket like Toth.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Halfway through!
Today’s open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*We’ve made it to bye week hump day and the midseason judgments continue! We took a good hard look at the wingers. So indepth, in fact, that we did them in bits. First up, the top line... [BSH]
*...next we take a look at the guys who’ve typically made up the middle six... [BSH]
*...and last but not least, the wingers we find on the fourth line most nights. [BSH]
*Speaking of Morgan Frost, he really is lighting the world on fire this year. Read about him, and the other kids, in this week’s Prospect report. [BSH]
*So Nolan Patrick. Maybe we should look beyond the points with this kid? [Sports Talk Philly]
*31 Thoughts, primarily focused on the trade deadline. [Sportsnet]
*Another bit of midseason NHL Awards, this time league-wide. [USA Today]
*Weird stuff always happens in hockey, stats- and standings-wise, and here are five of the most surprising things from the first half of this season. [ProHockeyTalk]
*And finally, because it’s fun to bathe in the misery of others, DGB explores which of Canada’s hockey teams is the most depressing. [Sportsnet]
Subject: Eagles News: Lane Johnson annoyed by how Philadelphia has been
Philadelphia Eagles news and links for 1/10/18.
Let's get to the Philadelphia Eagles links ...
Lane Johnson bothered that underdog Eagles ‘treated like we were the Browns’ - ESPN
It wasn’t long after that when Johnson took offense and declared a media boycott that ultimately didn’t last long. ”What bothered me was we were 12-2 [at the time] and treated like we were the Browns,” Johnson said. “It happens, but I think although we don’t like it, it’s a good motivator to have people not write good things. I think it’s the best motivator there is and you can go and change it.”
4 reasons why the Eagles can upset the Falcons - BGN
One reason the Falcons were able to upset the Rams was that along with keeping Los Angeles off the field with stolen possessions (more on that later), they ground down the clock as well. The Falcons possessed the ball for a ridiculous 37:35, reducing the the time the Rams could have the ball for. Keeping control of the ball is nothing new for the Falcons, who were 23rd in seconds per play in 2016, and were 20th this season. However against the Eagles, the Falcons should take opposite approach, at least to start the game. The more opportunities Nick Foles has, the more he can help the Falcons. When Foles has to throw a lot, he becomes a bad QB, while Matt Ryan, like most good QBs, merely becomes a decent one.
Eagles vs. Falcons: Five matchups to watch, when Atlanta has the ball - PhillyVoice
If you happened to catch the Falcons’ win over the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card round, you undoubtedly noticed Rams DT Aaron Donald wrecking shop against the interior of the Falcons’ offensive line. That was partly because (A) Donald is a beast, but also (B) the Falcons had to place OG Andy Levitre on injured reserve the week of the game with a triceps injury. The Falcons’ guards, LG Ben Garland and RG Wes Schweitzer, are the weak link of the Atlanta offense. Conversely, the Eagles’ defensive tackles are a significant strength. Timmy Jernigan was quiet down the stretch, but he should be well rested after being inactive Week 17 against the Cowboys. It is imperative that he and Fletcher Cox take advantage of this matchup and push the pocket back into Matt Ryan’s face. It might also make sense to utilize Brandon Graham’s quickness on the inside on obvious passing downs.
Win the Week - Iggles Blitz
Doug Pederson’s message to the team all year long has been to “win the week”. Whatever you do that week, do it well. And do it all week long. A bad week of practice followed by a win on Sunday isn’t what you want. You won’t sustain that formula. A great week of practice followed by a loss isn’t any good. You need to be good all week long. Last week the Eagles were able to have some good practices. They got some more rest. Injured players had more time to heal up. Coaches had extra time to work on gameplans and do some self-scouting. That’s how you win the week when you don’t play.
NFL Coaching Carousel: Matt Nagy, Jon Gruden Introduced; N.Y. or Detroit for Matt Patricia? - Sports Illustrated
In Detroit, I hear Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is the choice over Houston’s defensive boss, Mike Vrabel—but Patricia favors the Giants. If the Giants give the nod to Patricia, Detroit could be Vrabel’s job. … New Chicago coach Matt Nagy got hot at the end of the season, and Colts GM Chris Ballard—the former Chiefs director of player personnel who knew Nagy well—also was smitten with him. … Indy would seem a good fit for Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. … Players love Carolina defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who interviewed with the Giants on Tuesday, and he could be the calming guy to fix a divided and mercenary New York team. Plus, he wouldn’t balk at GM Dave Gettleman picking the team’s long-term quarterback. … Arizona is wide open. Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur could be in play there, or with the Giants. [BLG Note: Notice there’s no mention of John DeFilippo or Jim Schwartz here.]
4 stats to know as Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons prepare for divisional round game - PennLive
Falcons allowed 24 regular-season sacks, tied for third fewest in NFL. The Falcons’ offense this season wasn’t as explosive as last year, but the group still ranked eighth in total yards, thanks in part to a strong offensive line and the savviness of reigning MVP quarterback Matt Ryan. Led by Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, Atlanta remained sturdy up front and allowed just 1.5 sacks per game. In Saturday’s wildcard win, the Falcons’ pass protection experienced rare slippage, as the Rams brought Ryan down three times. On the season as a whole, though, the Atlanta often kept its quarterback upright; only the Chargers and Saints allowed fewer sacks.
Nick Foles Ready To Let ‘Er Rip Vs. Falcons - PE.com
He’s had two weeks to scout his game, look at film until his eyes bleed, energize his body and his mind, and just consider the circumstances. And Nick Foles has also answered the questions, so many questions. With just a few more days to go before the Eagles open the playoffs with a Divisional Round game against Atlanta, Foles is ready to let ‘er rip ...
Most accurate deep ball passers in 2017 - PFF
7) Carson Wentz - The biggest jump in Wentz’s breakout second season, was his work in the intermediate game, but he also improved to become one of the league’s most efficient downfield throwers. He made plays within structure, but also flashed the highlight-reel plays that had him in the MVP conversation before being lost for the season due to injury. Even missing the last three games of the year, Wentz finished sixth in the league with 912 deep yards and he had the fourth-highest percentage of deep passing attempts at 14.8 percent.
Monday Morning Digest: The Specter Hanging over the NFL Playoffs - B/R
Unfortunately for the Eagles, early forecasts call for highs in the mid-40s Saturday, veritable T-shirt weather. Single-digit temperatures won’t be a 12th Eagles defender in a game that is likely to be defined by defense, as the Eagles try to manufacture offense on the ground while the Falcons stall in the red zone. But defensive duels often come down to turnovers, fourth-down conversions and field goals. The Eagles were plus-11 in takeaways (while the Falcons were minus-2) and had a huge fourth-down advantage this season (17-of-26 converted, 4-of-18 allowed, per NFL GSIS), while 42-year-old Matt Bryant and rookie Jake Elliott were both money on long kicks and shakier on short ones this season. The Eagles have plenty of little advantages. They just lack a quarterback.
Reliving legendary hit in last Eagles-Falcons playoff game - NBC Sports Philadelphia
Somehow, Alge Crumpler held onto the football for a 31-yard gain to set up a Falcons touchdown late in the second quarter of the 2004 NFC Championship Game. It didn’t matter a bit. Never before or since has a team hit on a 31-yard-play that gave the opposing team so much momentum. ”They did score there,” Brian Dawkins said. “But it didn’t matter. We had made a statement. I had delivered a message.”
All-22: What Nick Foles can expect to see from the Falcons’ defense - The Athletic
To consistently move the ball, the Eagles have to get their run game going and rely on play-action against a very fast and aggressive Atlanta defense. If the Eagles become one-dimensional, it’s tough to see them moving the ball effectively. The Falcons’ secondary is just too good. They don’t do anything too complicated, but they play their defense and trust that their athletes are better and will play faster than the opponent.
Matt Ryan’s experience in multiple schemes has turned him into a versatile weapon - The Falcoholic
Ryan has gone from game manager, to pocket passer, to mobile play-action scrambler. At 32, he has mastered it all.
Nick Saban “covets” Giants job, says Bruce Arians - Big Blue View
Here we go again. Fresh off his fifth college football national championship with Alabama in nine years, and sixth overall, the Nick Saban to the New York Giants rumors are starting again.
Chiefs’ Brad Childress planning to retire, report says - Arrowhead Pride
Just an hour ago I wondered if Chiefs assistant head coach Brad Childress would be a potential in-house candidate for the now vacant offensive coordinator job after Matt Nagy was hired by the Chicago Bears. Turns out, Childress won’t be the coordinator — because he’s planning to retire.
Enjoy these very Jon Gruden quotes from his Raiders introductory press conference - SB Nation
Gruden gave us some insight into himself during the presser, including the fact that he has a different perspective than other coaches. “Somebody said I was insane a minute ago,” Gruden said. “It’s probably exactly right. I have a different mentality than most guys, I guess.”
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Subject: Crossing Broadcast: Look At You and Battling For Views
Subject: Carson Wentz nominated for annual award that Eagles fans can vote on
Vote for Wentz.
Carson Wentz SHOULD be recognized as the NFL MVP, but if the 2017 All-Pro team voting is any indication, he likely won’t be. And that’s dumb. The people voting are clearly way too obsessed with Tom Brady.
If the fans had any say, Wentz would stand a much better chance. Wentz actually won NFL MVP in a FOX Sports fan vote.
Now fans can also vote for Wentz as FedEx Air Player of the Year. That’s not nearly as important as MVP, obviously, but it’d still be nice to see Wentz get all the recognition he deserves for the season he had in 2017. Plus FedEx will donate $50,000 to the USO in Wentz’s name.
Wentz is going up against Brady and Alex Smith. The second-year quarterback had more touchdown passes than both of those players despite the fact Wentz got hurt in Week 14. Wentz’s numbers would’ve been even better if he finished the season healthy. It’s also worth mentioning that he missed some playing time at the end of a few games due to the Eagles being up by so many points.
Subject: Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: Top Defensemen
Our mid-season look at the Flyers’ defensemen begins with their two young cornerstone pieces at the NHL level.
Our week-long look at how the Flyers are faring at the season’s unofficial half-way point continues today with a look at the team’s seven most common defensemen this season. (You can find links to the first four parts at the bottom of this post.) Like we did on Tuesday with the team’s nine wingers, we’ll break this group of evaluations into three posts, but in the name of spreading the words around a bit in the bye week, we’ll only be posting two of them today and will save the third for tomorrow.
Here, we’ll evaluate the team’s two young stud defensemen (who happen to be nos. 1 and 2 in ice time this season on the team). A bit later in the day, we’ll look at the two rookies and how their first seasons have gone. And finally, tomorrow morning, we’ll look at the blue line’s three elder statesmen of sorts.
With that, let’s get to it.
Overall Numbers: 8 G, 12 A in 42 GP; 24:45 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 48.5% Corsi-For, 49.8% Expected Goals For, 0.79 Points per 60
In short: Provorov has continued on his way towards becoming a real number-one defensemen, with some minor question marks but also some major positive developments.
How so? Beginning around Thanksgiving of last season, Provorov — still just 19 at the time — was clearly given the responsibilities of a number-one defenseman. He was getting 23-plus minutes per night, playing against the best players on the other team, and getting time on both special teams units. The level of confidence that the Flyers had in Provorov was clear, and it’s only become more clear this season as he’s grown and as the defense around him has gotten younger.
With 24:45 of ice time per game, Provorov currently ranks 16th in the NHL among defensemen in average TOI. He’s also facing top pair-level competition (among 189 NHL defensemen with at least 300 5-on-5 minutes, Provorov is 18th in quality of competition by ice time) and has taken on a lot of PK responsibility (22nd in the NHL in total time on shorthanded).
Provorov’s been leaned on quite heavily at times this year, as different players around him have been injured. A pair of games in early November — a back-to-back in Chicago and St. Louis — embodied what Provorov’s season had been as well as anything else; in slightly more than 24 hours, Provorov played 56 shifts and 56:59 of ice time, anchoring a Flyers defense absolutely ravaged by injuries. Based on role and usage, there’s no question who the Flyers’ top defenseman has been this season.
Yeah, but: It’s weird that Provorov still isn’t driving play and that his on-ice shot and Expected Goal numbers are kinda mediocre, right? The guy clearly has the talent and physical tools to be a plus defenseman, and the team trusts him to do as much as is humanly possible. It’s a little surprising that he hasn’t turned that corner this year.
Still, though ... Much as it was the case last year, the biggest reason that the Flyers spend more time defending than attacking while Provorov is on the ice probably has to do with who he’s sharing that ice with. Last year, Provorov’s main partner was Andrew MacDonald — well-known as one who does not drive play forward in positive ways for his team.
Surely enough, MacDonald has been Provorov’s most frequent pairmate for much of the season, and even acknowledging that the team asks a lot of the two of them in terms of usage and competition, the two have struggled to drive positive outcomes while together once again. And during the month where MacDonald was out with a (likely) knee injury, Provorov’s main partner was Robert Hagg, who (as we’ll discuss later) has not been off to a hot start in terms of play-driving.
Still, if not for recent developments, the question of “is Provorov good enough to create successful results no matter who he’s playing with?” was a legitimate one. But since December 23, Dave Hakstol has paired the team’s top defenseman with its second-best defenseman in Shayne Gostisbehere, forming a true power pairing at the top of the lineup. And the results have been fantastic: in 156:33 of ice time together, the pair has collected 56.07 percent of on-ice shot attempts and 57.46 percent of Expected Goals. Pairing Provorov with a legitimate top-4 talent has done him wonders, and it should make fans even more confident that he’s going to be a big part of this team’s successes for a long time to come.
Grade: A-. If we’d given out these grades three weeks ago, I’d have put him in the B to B-plus range; someone who’s shown to be able to handle big minutes and not get butchered is valuable, but Provorov hadn’t really handled those minutes in quite the way that you’d think a future-number-one defenseman would. But Provorov’s excellent play with Gostisbehere suggests that Provorov may just be the guy we all think he is after all, and a big-time second half of the season may be in the cards for him.
Overall Numbers: 9 G, 23 A in 39 GP; 20:51 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 50.1% Corsi-For, 50.4% Expected Goals For, 1.07 Points per 60
In short: While Gostisbehere may never quite top the performance of his rookie season, his work this season has gained him the trust of his coaches and earned him a bigger role on the team.
How so? We all know Ghost’s story of his first couple of seasons. The then-rookie had the Midas Touch in 2015-16, showing off highlight-reel plays seemingly game after game and coming in as the runner-up in the Calder race behind an old man. And last season everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, as Ghost was scratched six times and had only seven goals a season after posting 17.
There’s been no real dominant narrative around Gostisbehere this season in either direction, but his third NHL season has been the one in which the Flyers have asked the most of him. Gostisbehere has seen his ice time jump up above where it was in his rookie and sophomore year. He’s held his spot on the top power play, and is the team’s clear number-two defenseman at this point in time. And the points are back, too — Ghost’s point-per-game rate of 0.82 is actually even better than the 0.71 he posted in his rookie season.
And to the eye, it appears that Ghost has made some real progress defensively, as well. Glaring errors have been few and far between, and while he’s probably been aided a bit by some good fortune (his PDO of 102.2 is probably going to drop at some point, one way or the other), pucks are going in the net behind Ghost less frequently than they ever have been. There are a lot of welcome developments in Gostisbehere’s play this season, and it seems like the Flyers trust him more than they ever have.
Yeah, but: No matter how the Flyers feel about him, Ghost still has a lot of work to do defensively, doesn’t he? Most available shot quality measures (expected goals against, expected Fenwick on-ice save percentage) paint him as below-average on this team, and despite his obvious puck-moving gifts and heavy offensive usage he’s pretty much a break-even possession and expected-goals player. Can a guy like that be your second-best defenseman?
Still, though ... Regarding play-driving, we could pretty much copy all of the things we wrote about Provorov in the last section and drop them here. Ghost’s main partners this season have been Hagg, who has been a plus defender but is such a non-factor offensively that the team gets heavily outshot when he’s on the ice, and Brandon Manning, a player who is the living embodiment of ‘just a guy’. His numbers (as we discussed) have taken a significant turn for the better with Provorov, and that should make fans optimistic about the idea that he can be a well-rounded player.
But even if Ghost never progresses past just-OK defensively, or even if he’s something of a negative in his third of the ice, he should still be a net-positive going forward based on what he provides in the game’s other two zones. Last season, when nothing was going right, it seemed like the Flyers may have lost track of that a bit. This season, it seems like they realize what they have in Gostisbehere quite well.
Grade: B+. Two seasons ago, the Flyers — despite any concerns about his defensive game — gave Shayne Gostisbehere 20 minutes a night because they had no other choice, as he rewrote a different section of the NHL record book every week or two. This season, the Flyers are giving Gostisbehere 21 minutes a night because they know he’s the second-best defenseman on the roster and they can’t afford not to. That’s a big step forward for him a year after getting healthy scratched multiple times, and like with Provorov, there’s good reason to believe the best is yet to come for him.
Previously in Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards:
- Centers (Couturier, Filppula, Patrick, Laughton)
- Top Wingers (Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds)
- Depth Wingers (Konecny, Raffl, Weal)
- Fourth-Line Wingers (Leier, Weise, Lehtera)
Subject: Doug Pederson is having Eagles players with Super Bowl rings (and Brent Celek) speak to the team this week
Doug Pederson’s “emotional intelligence” was a big selling point when the Philadelphia Eagles hired him as head coach in 2016.
Since then, we’ve seen different examples of how Pederson handles his players. The team’s 20-12 record in that span would indicate he’s done a good job in that regard.
But now things are getting more serious than ever. The Eagles are set to play their first playoff game of the Pederson era.
And in preparation for that, Philadelphia’s head coach is leaning on players who have not only been there before — but who have also won the whole damn thing. Via ESPN:
Eagles coach Doug Pederson has asked players on the roster with Super Bowl rings, including Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long and Torrey Smith, to address the team over the course of the last week or so. The message? Don’t make the game bigger than it is, but respect the opportunity at hand. “You’re not in this position too often, especially as a number one seed playing at home,” said Smith. “Don’t let it pass you by and have any regrets.”
Jenkins, Long, Smith are just a few players on the Eagles’ roster who have won a Lombardi trophy. Others include: Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Maragos, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe, and Will Beatty.
“He said, ‘It’s been nine years since I’ve been to this point,’” [Vinny Curry] said. “It’s like, ‘Damn, think about that.’ Like I said, ain’t nobody trying to sit on the couch next weekend and watch the game. That’s going to be a sick feeling. ... We’re going to leave it all out there on Saturday.”
The feeling here is the value of “championship experience” can be very overstated. I remember when people used the fact that Cary Williams won a ring with the Ravens as a selling point for when the Eagles signed him in free agency. And what did that really matter? He didn’t play well, pissed everyone off, and eventually got cut.
With that said, I don’t think it hurts for the veteran players to share their experiences and perspective with the younger guys Maybe it can help the players emotionally prepare for the playoffs.
Emotional intelligence, after all.
Subject: Your Wednesday Morning Roundup
Subject: Eagles have signs posted all around their facility to remind the team they
The Eagles are taking this underdog thing seriously.
Despite the fact that some Eagles coaches and players have tried to downplay the idea Philadelphia is embracing the underdog role against the Falcons this week, it’s very clear that’s exactly what the team is doing.
Nigel Bradham says signs are posted all around Novacare that the Eagles are home underdogs this weekend. That they are absolutely using it as bulletin board material— Rachel Micali (@RachelNBCS) January 9, 2018
And the NovaCare signage is just one example. You can tell these Eagles players aren’t happy about being the first ever No. 1 seed in NFL history to be underdogs at home.
This doesn’t sound like a team that’s ready to go down without a fight. Rather, they’re ready to pull out all the stops. Doug Pederson is showing more fire than usual. He’s also counting on the Super Bowl champion vets to share their experiences. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is advocating for Nick Foles to be more aggressive. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is calling on the fans to have a big impact on Saturday’s game.
Now, none of this means anything if the Eagles don’t PLAY like they’ve been disrespected. But you should have some hope that won’t be the case. This team is angry. This team wants to prove their doubters wrong.
Time to back it up on Saturday night.
Subject: Philadelphia Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards: Rookie Defensemen
As we had expected, two rookie defensemen made the Flyers out of camp. How have things been going in their first NHL seasons?
Earlier today, we took a long look at the 2017-18 seasons that Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have had. In this space, we’ll do the same for the team’s two rookie defensemen, Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim.
Overall Numbers: 1 G, 4 A in 42 GP; 18:49 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 45.7% Corsi-For, 49.3% Expected Goals For, 0.54 Points per 60
In short: Hagg’s earned the trust of the Flyers’ coaching staff and has proven his mettle as a good defensive player, but he needs to do much more to show that he’s a well-rounded defenseman at the NHL level.
How so? Yesterday, we discussed the rookie season of Taylor Leier, a fourth-line forward who has produced very little in the way of offense but has performed well enough defensively to be a solid player for the Flyers. In that vein, there are some similarities between Leier’s season and Hagg’s.
Hagg isn’t much of an individual offensive threat, and his play on the puck in the defensive zone has been pedestrian enough that it’s gotten in the way of the team’s ability to produce offense with him on the ice. But the big (positive) gap between his poor on-ice shot-attempt ratios and his middling on-ice Expected Goal ratios do suggest something of an ability to suppress shot quality and keep opponents out of high-danger areas, as does his Expected On-Ice Fenwick save percentage (95.15 percent, a mark that is bested among Flyers skaters by only Radko Gudas). Through 42 games, Hagg appears to be a limited player but one with some clear positive abilities. That’s a useful piece as a third-pair guy and penalty killer on a team.
The issue is that Hagg hasn’t been a third-pair guy on this team. The young Swede has been used in pretty much exclusively a top-4 role all year, and at some moments where others have been injured he’s played up as high as the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Even if we all agree that Hagg has an ability to use his size, smarts, and athletic gifts to keep players out of dangerous areas, and even though we acknowledge that the coaches have handed him pretty heavy defensive minutes (he starts shifts in the defensive zone more frequently than any Flyers defenseman other than Andrew MacDonald), there’s an argument to be made that Hagg is maybe overmatched in his current role.
Yeah, but: Does Hagg really need to be a great offensive player? That never should have been the expectation for a guy who hasn’t racked up points at really any level of play since he was in Swedish juniors. And the Flyers should have enough quality puck-movers (Provorov, Gostisbehere, Sanheim, eventually Myers) that a player who can play strong defense should be welcomed. Let him be good at what he’s good at.
Still, though ... The issue with that line of thinking manifested itself early in the season, when the pairing of Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere seemed to impress by the eye test (that’ll happen when the goalies stop 96.6 percent of shots, the way they did with those two together) but was underwhelming by most on-ice metrics available.
Right now, Hagg’s most common go-to move on the puck in the defensive zone is far and away a backhand clear along the right-side boards to no one in particular. Even if this (when it works) gives the Flyers a chance to regroup while the other team has to re-enter the zone, it’s a really difficult way to sustainably produce offense, since it doesn’t involve getting the puck to a teammate in a position where he can make a move up-ice with it.
When Hagg was in Lehigh Valley and struggled through a tough second season with the Phantoms, much was made about the fact that he needed to get back to making the simple plays. But while there’s something to be said about not overthinking things in your own end of the ice, there’s also something to be said about being able to jump-start offense from there. True shut-down defenders in today’s NHL aren’t just guys who can keep opponents out of dangerous areas once they’re in the defensive zone, they’re guys who can get the puck to teammates that will take it far, far away from their own third of the ice. Hagg’s got the first part of that equation down. Improving on the second part is the key for him moving forward.
Grade: C+. Hagg’s been given a lot of responsibility early in his career, and that’s not nothing. And it seems evident that he’s at least a good defender. What’s next for Hagg is to show that he’s a good defenseman. Improving his play with the puck should be one of the coaching staff’s big projects in the second half of the year, because if that can happen in a meaningful way, the upside is clearly there for Hagg to be the guy that they think he can be.
Overall Numbers: 1 G, 4 A in 34 GP; 15:31 TOI per game
5-on-5 On-Ice Performance: 54.5% Corsi-For, 54.1% Expected Goals For, 0.62 Points per 60
In short: Sanheim’s rookie season has surely been a frustrating one for him and the team, but it’s also been one in which he’s shown massive potential.
How so? While his fellow rookie and former Lehigh Valley teammate pretty much had the trust of the Flyers’ coaching staff from the moment he stepped on NHL ice, Sanheim is still working to get even close to that point with Dave Hakstol and company. He was scratched in three of the team’s first six games, and he’s been sat down in five of the team’s six games since the Christmas break. And throughout the season, when he has played, he’s rarely been given more than third-pair minutes, and has only very sparingly been given time on either special teams unit.
To be sure, Sanheim has shown signs of going through a learning curve. He has been somewhat indecisive defensively and has missed assignments at times, leading to goals against for the Flyers. Even though he’s very likely received some poor on-ice luck that has exaggerated the problem (while Sanheim is on the ice at 5-on-5, Flyers goalies have stopped 89.87 percent of shots they’ve faced; for most Flyers, that number is somewhere between 92 and 95), the theory that Sanheim may need some time to grow comfortable in his own end of the ice has played out.
Yet at the same time, Sanheim’s offensive and puck-moving abilities are fairly clear, even if they haven’t quite shown up in his scoring numbers (up until Sanheim scored his first goal in mid-December, it felt like fans and observers had spent nearly two months saying “he’s got to get his first one soon, right? Look at him out there”). His skating has been as advertised, and he’s been a plus player with the puck on his stick. His talent in the offensive end of the ice is evident, as he’s frequently making plays with the puck to create chances for his teammates and sometimes himself. And while yes, his work in the defensive zone needs some work, he appears to have grown more comfortable trying to generate offense and move the puck from his own third.
This was part of what made Sanheim so successful at lower levels — any time you saw him (or a teammate) collect the puck, his head would immediately snap up and he’d start looking up-ice to make a play. That was an easy thing to do when he was bigger, faster, and more talented than nearly everyone he shared the ice with; it’s a bit tougher when you’re at the world’s highest level of hockey and the reaction time you have to make decisions can be nearly instantaneous. But you can tell that he’s slowly starting to get to that kind of comfort level on the puck again.
All of that is how Sanheim’s managed to be among the leaders in Flyers defensemen in nearly every on-ice measure of play that isn’t straight-up goals. He’s second in possession and expected goals ratio, behind only frequent partner and noted play-driver Radko Gudas. A lot of good things happen when Travis Sanheim is on the ice, and the odds are that we’ll start to see that manifest itself on the scoreboard before too long.
Yeah, but: How much of the good underlying process that we’ve seen on the ice with him is actually a product of what he’s done? The coaches give him pretty easy minutes, with a lot of offensive zone starts and bottom-of-the-lineup opposition. And like you said he’s mostly been paired a lot with Gudas, who’s pretty much a lock to push play forward. When he spent some time with Manning in November and December while Gudas was suspended, his numbers dipped a bit. Is this really all his doing?
Still, though ... I’d make the case that, even though it’s not what the coaching staff ever really did with Provorov or Hagg, easing a talented rookie defenseman via a favorable situation in is probably what the coaching staff should be doing. And you can only play against the players on the ice at the same time and place as you, and while Sanheim’s been on the ice the Flyers have largely been beating those players up.
The Sanheim-Gudas pair has, I think, earned a few more minutes than the third-pair amount it currently is. When a player or group succeeds in an easy situation, the logical progression from there is to see how they fare in a slightly harder one, not question their abilities for being in an easy one. And I think the only thing holding the Flyers back from doing that (beyond their trust of Andrew MacDonald and Robert Hagg) is the fact that Sanheim’s goal-based numbers have been poor. If luck bounces Sanheim’s way in the second half and the goalies start stopping pucks while he’s on the ice (and, to be fair, a big part of that involves Sanheim improving in his own defensive zone reads), the Flyers simply won’t have much of a reason not to increase his ice time, whether it involves even more favorable minutes or some slightly tougher ones as well.
Grade: C+. Really, Sanheim’s season has been something of a polar opposite of Hagg’s, in that the on-ice results have been frustrating and that he hasn’t quite earned the coaching staff’s trust yet, but there are clear reasons for optimism that haven’t shown themselves on the scoreboard or in goal-based numbers yet. But it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see things take a significant turn for the better in his second half, as long as the coaches give him a chance to show it.
Previously in Flyers 2017-18 Midterm Report Cards:
- Centers (Couturier, Filppula, Patrick, Laughton)
- Top Wingers (Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds)
- Depth Wingers (Konecny, Raffl, Weal)
- Fourth-Line Wingers (Leier, Weise, Lehtera)
- Top Defensemen (Provorov, Gostisbehere)
Subject: Feeling the Pocket and
Subject: Gridiron Heights Sticks The Landing on Making Fun of Our Current Predicament
Subject: Claude Giroux named to the NHL All-Star Game
It’s Giroux’s fifth time being named to an NHL All-Star game.
The NHL announced its divisional teams for the All-Star Game today, and one Flyer will be making the trip down to Tampa at the end of January, as Claude Giroux has been named to the Metropolitan Division’s team.
For Giroux, this marks his fifth All-Star Game appearance. It’s a just reward for what’s been a truly remarkable bounce-back year for the captain, who enters tonight’s games tied for second in the NHL in points. Giroux missed out on the game last year in what was a down-year for him (Wayne Simmonds, of course, represented the Flyers and won All-Star Game MVP in the process), but this is his fifth appearance in the last six All-Star Games that the NHL has hosted.
There were a few noteworthy omissions from the Flyers. The one who seemed most on the fringe was Shayne Gostisbehere, who has had a rebound year of his own after a fairly tough sophomore campaign and is fourth in the NHL among defensemen in scoring. While there are a lot of deserving defensemen in the division based on their play so far this year, it would’ve been quite fun to see Gostisbehere in the 3-on-3 competition.
Jakub Voracek, who’s currently leading the entire league in assists, and arguably Sean Couturier, who’s been a point-per-game player and is in the top-5 in the league in goal-scoring, also had a reasonable case to make the roster. But in an eight-team division, a team with 11 All-Star players is going to have some snubs, and the Flyers (fifth in the division by points percentage as of this writing) were always going to be in tough to get a second selection, let alone a third or fourth.
Of course, All-Star Weekend doesn’t just feature the game itself, and we’ll have to wait and see what Giroux is asked to do in this year’s Skills Competition. The last time he was an All-Star, Giroux took part in the Accuracy Shooting competition, and was involved in the stick-handling section of the Relay. Who knows what his Alex Ovechkin-captained team will ask him to do this time.
The All-Star Game will be held in Tampa on January 28, while the All-Star Break takes place on January 26-29. Here are the full teams for all four divisions, via the NHL:
Atlantic Division (All-Star appearance)
F Aleksander Barkov, FLA (1st)
F Jack Eichel, BUF (1st)
F Nikita Kucherov, TBL (2nd)
F Brad Marchand, BOS (2nd)
F Auston Matthews, TOR (2nd)
F Steven Stamkos, TBL* (5th)
D Mike Green, DET (2nd)
D Victor Hedman, TBL (2nd)
D Erik Karlsson, OTT (5th)
G Carey Price, MTL (6th)
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, TBL (1st)
Head Coach: Jon Cooper, TBL (1st)
Metropolitan Division (All-Star appearance)
F Josh Bailey, NYI (1st)
F Sidney Crosby, PIT (3rd)
F Claude Giroux, PHI (5th)
F Taylor Hall, NJD (3rd)
F Alex Ovechkin, WSH* (7th)
F John Tavares, NYI (5th)
D Noah Hanifin, CAR (1st)
D Seth Jones, CBJ (2nd)
D Kris Letang, PIT (4th)
G Braden Holtby, WSH (3rd)
G Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (4th)
Head Coach: Barry Trotz, WSH (3rd)
Central Division (All-Star appearance)
F Patrick Kane, CHI (7th)
F Nathan MacKinnon, COL (2nd)
F Brayden Schenn, STL (1st)
F Tyler Seguin, DAL (5th)
F Eric Staal, MIN (5th)
F Blake Wheeler, WPG (1st)
D John Klingberg, DAL (1st)
D Alex Pietrangelo, STL (1st)
D P.K. Subban, NSH* (3rd)
G Connor Hellebuyck, WPG (1st)
G Pekka Rinne, NSH (2nd)
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette, NSH (3rd)
Pacific Division (All-Star appearance)
F Brock Boeser, VAN (1st)
F Johnny Gaudreau, CGY (4th)
F Anze Kopitar, LAK (4th)
F Connor McDavid, EDM* (2nd)
F James Neal, VGK (3rd)
F Rickard Rakell, ANA (1st)
D Brent Burns, SJS (5th)
D Drew Doughty, LAK (4th)
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (2nd)
G Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK (3rd)
G Jonathan Quick, LAK (3rd)
Head Coach: Gerard Gallant, VGK (2nd)
* Fan-elected captain
Subject: Gallup Poll: NFL Still King Despite Declining Popularity
Subject: Eagles Injury Report: Two players limited ahead of Falcons game
Everyone else was full go.
Dannell Ellerbe returned to practice in a limited capacity after entirely sitting out of Tuesday’s session. Ellerbe said he expects to play on Saturday. With the Falcons prone to utilize heavier personnel packages, he’s expected to see some decent playing time at middle linebacker.
There’s been some question as to what Jones’ role in the playoffs will be. My read on things is that he’ll be inactive on game day. He’s sure not going with be starting; Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby aren’t being benched. So if the Eagles keep Jones active, he’d mainly be used for special teams. And Rasul Douglas is probably better suited for that role since he has experience doing that this season. Plus Douglas isn’t dealing with a hamstring injury. Even if Jones is on the active game day roster, I wouldn’t expect him to contribute much.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES INJURY REPORT (WEDNESDAY)
LB Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring)
CB Sidney Jones (hamstring)
RB Jay Ajayi (knee)
DE Brandon Graham (ankle)
CB Jalen Mills (ankle)
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee)
ATLANTA FALCONS INJURY REPORT (WEDNESDAY)
Matt Ryan returned to practice on Wendesday after missing Tuesday’s session due to personal reasons.
Julio Jones missed the second day in a row but he’s not in danger of missing Saturday’s game. The Falcons are just resting him.
Backup linebacker LaRoy Reynolds was added to the injury report on Wednesday with a knee issue. He was limited. Reynolds ranks second on Atlanta in special teams tackles.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
WR Julio Jones (ankle)
RB Devonta Freeman (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (knee)
LB LaRoy Reynolds (knee)
QB Matt Ryan (not injury related)
TE Levine Toilolo (knee)
Subject: Eagles won
The Texans were reportedly interested in Douglas for their vacancy. They requested an interview with the Eagles executive but Philadelphia blocked it from taking place. The Eagles had the right to block it since their season is still going on. Had the Texans waited until if/when the Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs, they would’ve been able to meet with Douglas.
While there’s still time for things to change, it seems like Douglas is a safe bet to return to Philadelphia in 2018. He hasn’t been connected to any other openings around the league. And most of them have been filled at this point anyway.
Douglas is a valued member of the Eagles’ organization. It’s not always clear what he is/isn’t responsible for when it comes to personnel moves, but we do know he’s the one who sets Philly’s draft board. The Eagles have also acquired a number of players with ties to Douglas since he’s arrived in Philadelphia. Several examples include: Tim Jernigan, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Dannell Ellerbe, and Corey Graham.
Good to know Douglas is likely sticking around.