Patching Up The D: Flyers Call Up Ghost

October 26th, 2014 by Ryan Waterman | No Comments | Filed in General

On Friday, the Flyers were given crushing news to an already depleted defensive corps. The team announced that defenders Braydon Coburn and Andrew MacDonald would both miss the next month of play, with lower-body injuries. While it remains unclear the exact description of the injuries, one thing was pretty clear; the Flyers needed to make a move. Well, they did exactly that late Friday, by announcing the recall of rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Ghost will join the team immediately and will make his regular-season NHL debut tonight against the Detroit Red Wings.

Gostisbehere, 21, was the 78th overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He spent three seasons with Union College, before making the jump to the “big leagues.” In his three seasons at Union College, Ghost dazzled scouts with his ability to be an effective two-way defender. His standout moment came during the 2013 Frozen Four, in which he was honored as the MVP. Many had thought that Ghost would’ve been on the opening night roster, but he, like fellow defensive prospect Samuel Morin, was sent down just days before the opener.

This move should not only generate some buzz, but add a different element to a stale Flyers defense. Ghost’s speed and offensive abilities will take some of the offensive pressures off of the shoulders of Mark Streit. During this four-week audition, Ghost will have the chance to prove his abilities, as the Flyers deal with games against Detroit, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, and three showdowns with rival New York Rangers over that span.

Deconstructing The Phillies: Corner Infield

October 25th, 2014 by Mike H. | No Comments | Filed in Baseball, Phillies

Next up in the series is the corner infield positions. What should the Phillies do at the hot corner? Can the Phillies do anything with Ryan Howard? There’s definitely depth at the major league level, but who is the right man for the job? I’m still playing GM and keeping a running tally of the moves and roster spots being taken both in my vision and my counterpart’s. If you’re even remotely intrigued and/or agree with my overhaul, click past the jump to see where I’m going this week. Read the rest of this entry »

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Eagles Mid-Season Awards

October 24th, 2014 by Sam Shipley | No Comments | Filed in Eagles, General, NFL, TalkSportsPhilly

Even though it really isn’t mid-season for the Eagles yet, at this point in the season after a bye week it can be considered one. In this piece I will take a look at the Eagles team as a whole, giving out my mid-season awards through the first six games.

The Eagles sit at 5-1, with their lone loss coming on the road against the San Francisco 49ers in a painful two point loss. The first six games have been anything but consistent play from this team, as we have seen them start the season down 17 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that just won their first game this past Sunday. We then saw the Eagles come from behind to beat the Indianapolis Colts on the road in thrilling fashion. An instant classic NFC East battle was won by the birds against the Redskins in week three, in the return of former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Week five was almost a devastating loss as the Eagles nearly surrendered a 28 point lead against the St. Louis Rams. While in their final game before the bye, the Eagles played their first complete game, shutting out the New York Giants 27-0.

With all the injuries that have taken place, to all the drama in games, to players questioning Chip Kelly’s practice style, the Eagles still sit at 5-1. This team has showed toughness and heart over the first six games, and that will need to continue if the Eagles plan on making the playoffs, let alone going far in them.

Instead of looking forward, lets take a look back at the first six games and give out the mid-season awards:

 

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Eagles Mid-Season Report Card: Special Teams

October 23rd, 2014 by Sam Shipley | No Comments | Filed in Eagles, General, NFL, TalkSportsPhilly

In last years playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles scored a touchdown on a Nick Foles throw to Zach Ertz with 4:54 left in the game to take the lead late. They needed just one stop and they would advance to the divisional round of the playoffs. On the ensuing kickoff Darren Sproles, then a member of the Saints, had a huge kick return back to the 39 yard line which was topped off by a 15-yard penalty to start a drive that would eventually end the Eagles season.

In the same game, that the Eagles lost by two points, Alex Henery missed a field goal. If that field goal was made the game would have been differently, or at least the final Saints drive as they would have needed a touchdown to win, not a field goal.

After the game was over it was obvious that the Eagles would need to upgrade their special teams, especially at kicker.

The Eagles signed a lot of players this off-season, and most of them were under the radar signings. At least they seemed to be. Two signings that were considered under the radar were special teams specialist from the reigning champion Seattle Seahawks, Chris Maragos and Houston Texan Bryan Braman. Everyone knew why the players were brought in, and I for one was ecstatic with the Eagles front office for those signings.

Another player that was an outstanding signing is undrafted free agent fullback Trey Burton. It was clear that the Eagles were making a distinct effort to upgrade and solidify their special teams unit, which is a reflection of Chip Kelly who is a huge believer in special teams. Kelly believes that special teams is one of the most important aspects of the game, which it is, and he makes the Eagles practice it more than basically every other team in the league.

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Eagles Mid-Season Report Card: Defense

October 22nd, 2014 by Sam Shipley | No Comments | Filed in Eagles, General, NFL, TalkSportsPhilly

The Philadelphia Eagles defense has been a roller coaster over the last few years. In the last few years alone we have gone from the end of Brian Dawkins career in Philly, to the “Dream Team”, to a whole new regime that now has their own defense built through various free agent signings and draft picks.

For the last few years, the defense has always seemed to be the weakest spot of the Eagles, however, this year the defense is showing improvement.

Being a member of the Eagles defense is no easy task. With the offensive philosophy of Chip Kelly, the defense is forced to play a lot more than most teams. There are games where they are out on the field for 35 to 40 minutes, which is no easy task for any defense. The amount of time on the field allows for mistakes and a lot of exposure for opposing offenses to find holes to exploit. However, the defense has been a solid group, and has often been labeled a “bend but not break” defense as they give up a lot of yards, while the amount of points they give up doesn’t show that.

That phrase still stands true so far this year as the Eagles are 24th in yards per game (allow 380 yards per game), while they are just 13th in points per game (giving up 22 points per game).

A defensive line group that is led by young draft picks such as Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Beau Allen, and Vinny Curry have played very well. Cox has arguably been the best player of that group, as he has really shown the ability to get after the quarterback, stop the run, and has shown consistency every single week. Logan and Allen have been a good duo at the nose tackle position, as they are doing a solid job of clogging the middle and making plays. Allen was a seventh round pick in this years draft, and his play shows that he was a steal and a great find by the Eagles in the last round of the draft.

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Phillies Sign Williams

October 22nd, 2014 by Mike H. | No Comments | Filed in Baseball, Phillies

According to multiple outlets, the Phillies and Jerome Williams have agreed to a deal for 2015. Williams, 33 in December, is guaranteed $2.5M with incentives that would max the deal out at $4M. While it has yet to be verified, the incentives are most likely based on innings pitched. Could it be a sign that A.J. Burnett will decline his option for 2015? Or is Williams just competition for guys like David Buchanan, Jon Pettibone, Adam Morgan, or even possibly Aaron Nola or Jesse Biddle?

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Flyers Sluggish Start: Who’s At Fault?

October 22nd, 2014 by Ryan Waterman | No Comments | Filed in Flyers, General, TalkSportsPhilly

The Flyers are once again off to a troubling start. They finally collected their first win, five games into the season. Coming off of a wild 6-5 road-victory over the Dallas Stars, the Orange and Black must now go into battle with the Chicago Blackhawks.  While the first five games were hard, the last five are no easier. Following tonight’s battle with Chicago, the Flyers close out October with games against the Penguins, Red Wings, Kings,  and Lightning. Not exactly a cakewalk. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this season, thus far.

Most of the team’s struggles have fallen at the offenses feet. However, it may be undeserved.  The offense currently ranks third in GPG (Goals Per Game), with an average of 3.4 per game.  Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Jakub Voracek are all off to a hot start, recording a team high 7 points, in the first 5 games.  Giroux and Simmonds have recorded more than half of their points on the power-play.  Much like the offense, the power-play ranks in the top-five of the NHL. Currently sporting a 31% success rate on the man-advantage, the Flyers have been able to spread the wealth around, with nine different Flyers recording at least one point on the power-play.

While the Flyer offense has been pretty solid to start the year, there have been a few disappointments this season. Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn have had difficulty getting going, combining for 5 points. Both entered the season with high-expectations, and short-leashes, but neither has impressed thus far. Couturier has played his normal excellent-defense, while Schenn has continued to lack in that department. For Schenn, he must improve his game quickly, as a recent report suggests that without a performance turnaround, he could be on his way out-of-town.

It’s true that the offense can take its’ share of the blame, but the defense holds an awfully large chunk of it. Recently acquired Michael Del Zotto has been a solid fit, in place of Kimmo Timonen. Recording just over 18 minutes per game, Del Zotto ranks ninth amongst Flyers in ATOI (Average Time On Ice), behind the likes of Claude Giroux and Mark Streit.  Speaking of Streit, he and fellow defender Andrew MacDonald have proven that they are reliable defensive anchors, with both playing excellent hockey over roughly 24 minutes of ATOI. Just like the offense though, the defense has its’ own disappointment; Luke Schenn. Schenn is a -6 on the year so far, recording just over 16 minutes per game.  He also leads the team in penalty minutes.  Only two Flyer defenders have a + rating however, Brayden Coburn and Nicklas Grossman.

In net, Steve Mason and Ray Emery have been iffy. Mason hasn’t exactly been “solid”, recording an 0-2-1 record, with a 3.38 GAA, and a .865 save percentage. It almost looks like that concussion that Mason suffered at the end of last season, is still having some lasting effects on his play. Emery on the other hand, has shone through the cracks. Sporting a cool 1-0-1 record, with a 2.73 GAA, and a .907 save percentage.  Emery just seems to be better overall this season, moving better than Mason side-to-side, in addition to having better reflexes.

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