Devils, Rangers on Tap for Flyers Matinee Weekend

Devils, Rangers on Tap for Flyers Matinee Weekend

The sporting world's gaze is trained on the final football game of the NFL season, which kicks off tomorrow night in Indianapolis, and, alas, includes little in the way of rooting interests for Philadelphia fans. But, in addition to some Sixers action (not the best start to the weekend last night), the Flyers have a pair of divisional games this weekend, with each holding some pretty exciting mid-afternoon potential.

First up is a tilt with the Jersey Devils at the Wells Fargo Center, followed by a trip up to the Garden tomorrow. Let's get a quick look at the matchup with the Devils, who may or may not be for real in the Atlantic.

The Jerz come to town having won their last two, including a shootout W over the Rangers and a 5-3 picking of the Canadiens, both at home. Those wins followed a stretch of three losses, including the 4-1 defeat to the Flyers a week ago today.

They're in the middle of a pretty tough stretch of games, though haven't played on the road since January 14th. Tomorrow, they host the Penguins, then visit the Rangers. Pretty exciting time of year, with the Atlantic being a very competitive space and lots of divisional games on the schedule.

Through three matchups, the Flyers are 2-0-1 against the Devils this season. Wayne Simmonds has been heating up lately, and he's been an exorcist against Jersey, with two goals and two assists in three games, tied with Claude Giroux for the team lead. Scott Hartnell and Matt Read also have a pair of goals each against the Devils.

Sergei Bobrovsky will draw the start today, presumably followed by Ilya Bryzgalov against the Rags tomorrow.

The Devils will be without talented rookie blueliner Adam Larsson, who was leveled by Montreal's PK Subban on Thursday:

Katie Strang of ESPN says Adam Carter and Adam Henrique will also miss the game due to injury.

One stat that jumps off the page for the Devils? Their power play has surrendered 13 short-handed goals. Not that the Flyers should be eager to get the whistle-and-point, but if they do, maybe Cooter & Co. can make it 14. Also kinda interesting, NJD lead the league in short-handed goals scored as well, with 11. By comparison, the Flyers have scored and allowed four shorties apiece.

The Devils also sport the league's top PK percentage (89.6%).

Although no NHL team should be looked over in the classic "trap game" scenario, the Devils don't fit that mold anyway. They're a solid team with just two fewer wins than the Flyers. That's a bit inflated by their success in shootouts, but the Flyers have two big games this weekend, rather than an app and a main course.

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
Do you believe there is such a creature as the Jersey Devil?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring. 

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

About a year ago, while in Indianapolis for the combine, the Eagles cut veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans. 

Ryans has finally found his next job ... as a coach. 

The 32-year-old former linebacker has been named a defensive quality control coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff in San Francisco. Shanahan was on the Texans' staff for the first four years of Ryans' pro career. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was also on that Houston staff. 

After the Eagles cut him last Feb. 24, Ryans was out of the league in 2016 after 10 NFL seasons. He played the first six years of his career in Houston, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler, before joining the Eagles through a trade in 2012. 

While the Eagles cut Ryans after the 2015 season to save $3.5 million in cap space, they made a point to go out of their way to praise him on his way out. He was very well-thought of in the locker room and throughout the building. 

While Ryans played one season under Andy Reid, he quickly became a favorite of Chip Kelly, who frequently called Ryans the "Mufasa" of the Eagles' defense. 

Kelly didn't forget about Ryans when he went to San Francisco to coach the 49ers for the 2016 season. In fact, in Kelly's questionnaire in the NFL's 2016 information guide, Kelly listed Ryans as a player who'd make a great head coach.