Eagles excited by potential of Kelly's offense

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Eagles excited by potential of Kelly's offense

Brandon Grahams reaction to his next head coach?

Two words.

Im hyped, Graham, the Eagles defensive end, screamed into the phone Wednesday, moments after the Eagles stunned the NFL world by announcing the hiring of former Oregon coach Chip Kelly as the replacement for Andy Reid.

Similar reactions from other Eagles trickled in while the news sunk in that Kelly, the offensive mastermind who built Oregon into a national powerhouse, would be the franchises 21st head coach.

Im excited No. 1, tight end Brent Celek told CSNs Derrick Gunn. I guess Im a little shocked, just because it was first reported that he was staying at Oregon, but hes our coach now and I cant wait to see how we do, how this offense runs. Im excited to get going.

And from the defense?

Hes a successful person, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins told the NFL Network. Hes had a lot of success and anytime you have somebody like that and his desire, hes going to do whatever it takes for us to be as successful here as well.

I dont know too much about him, but from what Ive seen and just highlights, Ive heard hes someone with a lot of emotion and someone who doesnt accept not being successful.

The Eagles just finished 4-12, their worst record ever under Reid, who was fired Dec. 31 after his 14th year and hired just four days later by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kelly, whose record-setting spread offense helped the Ducks reach BCS Bowls in each of his four seasons as head coach, is considered one of the brightest, most innovative offensive minds in the game.

But there are questions about whether his up-tempo offense can succeed in the NFL, along with his expertise in fielding a championship-caliber defense and assembling an experienced staff.

For a franchise that hasnt won a Super Bowl after 51 years of existence, the hiring of Kelly -- who has never coached or played in the NFL -- is rightfully considered risky and bold.

I have no reason but to be optimistic, right tackle Todd Herremans said via text message. Thats who they initially wanted.

Kelly had met with Lurie, president Don Smolenski and general manager Howie Roseman for nine hours on Jan. 5 at a Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Ariz., one day after the Ducks bounced Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.

Kelly had also interviewed with the Browns but announced on Jan. 6 his decision to return to Oregon for a fifth season. But his change of heart led to talks reopening with the Eagles, who quickly reached a deal with their top choice.

Yeah, I was definitely surprised, especially with all of the rumors that we had heard a week or so ago about Chip deciding to stay at Oregon and not come into the NFL, Jenkins said to the NFL Network. So it was a little bit of a shock today when I heard that.

One of Kellys first big decisions will be deciding on his next quarterback.

Its assumed that the mobile Michael Vick is better suited for the high-octane offense that Kelly ran at Oregon, but Vick will be 33 and is slated to make more than 15 million as he comes off his one of his worst seasons. He also hasnt played 16 games in a season since 2006 and sat for six weeks in 2012 after sustaining a concussion.

Nick Foles, the promising rookie who replaced Vick, lacks the speed and athleticism seen from quarterbacks who played under Kelly at Oregon but caught Kellys attention when his Arizona team battled Kellys Ducks in Pac-12 Conference games (see story).

Ill tell you what -- Im glad Nick Foles is graduating, Kelly told reporters after a 2011 game between Arizona and Oregon. I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. ... Nick is a hell of a football player. That kids a warrior. Hes as good as anyone in the country.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick invited Kelly to his practices and then implemented some of Kellys offensive concepts into New Englands hurry-up offense, which led the NFL this past season with 1,191 plays from scrimmage, 31 more than second-ranked Detroit.

Celek is convinced Kellys offense will remake the Eagles into a fearsome offensive team and maximize the talent of Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson and Pro Bowl halfback LeSean McCoy.

I think it will, just from the talent that weve got, Celek said. From what Ive seen just on TV ... its exciting to watch for sure. Theyre fast paced. Theyre up-tempo. And they score a lot of points, which is what we want to do.

Jenkins seemed slightly more apprehensive, although optimistic.

Everybody of course is going to have concerns about the coach and if hes going to be able to adjust to the next level -- the difference in speed, tempo and all of the things like that, he said. What type of schemes is he going to bring in and will they adjust? All of those are going to be concerns with people but his resume, regardless of what those questions are, is pretty impressive.

Its a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and sometimes if you can just win over your players, have confidence in them and get them to fight for you, a lot of times that makes all of the difference in the world.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue on. Or at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday with John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4 but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

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Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

Flyers captain Claude Giroux has a word of advice for rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the two meet each other as opponents in this fall's World Cup of Hockey.

"The last few weeks, I told him to keep his head up," Giroux said Friday night on a conference call after both players were added to World Cup rosters.

"I'm pretty excited to go on the forecheck against him. It's pretty impressive what this kid has been able to do this year. To see it right beside him, he's got so much potential.
 
"To be on this team will only help him be better."
 
Giroux was named to Team Canada's roster, while Gostisbehere, the NHL's top rookie defenseman, was penciled in on Team North America (see story).

You may recall Giroux was overlooked by Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
 
"That was a little disappointing," Giroux said. "Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go play for them, you hope to get the call. I was a little disappointed for that. To be able to be on this team, I'm excited and I"m ready for the challenge."

Team North America is a unique blend of age 23-and-under players who will compete in the eight-team tournament starting in mid-September.

Whether the veteran athletes competing for other countries take this young stars contingent seriously on the international stage is subject to debate.

"I hope some teams would take us seriously," Gostisbehere said, "because I think we're pretty darn good. It's a different dynamic.
  
“You don’t have the veteran presence per say, but some of the guys on the team have been playing in the NHL for three years already. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also named to the tournament, playing for Team Europe.
 
“I am really surprised and excited,” Bellemare said in a statement. “I am happy that the way I played with the Flyers has helped me get a chance to play in the World Cup for Team Europe. I think this is going to be a celebration of hockey and it is surreal that I get to be in the middle of it.”
 
Both Giroux and Gostisbehere have been rehabbing at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since their hip and abdominal surgeries on May 17.

Bellemare will go into the tournament fully healthy, while Giroux and Gostisbehere will not. Giroux had reservations about undergoing surgery if it meant his exclusion from the tournament, sources said.
 
“The surgery was a little question mark,” Giroux said. “Maybe not so much for me, but for them. I don’t know what they were thinking. The rehab has gone very well right now. There’s no issue as to why I wouldn’t be ready for that tournament.”
 
Gostisbehere is no stranger to serious rehab from surgery. He missed nearly all of the 2014-15 season as a Phantom with a torn ACL in his left knee.
 
“It’s the same sort of rehab I did with my knee,” Gostisbehere said of his current rehab.  “We’re going to keep going down the line knowing something is at the end of the line for us. We gotta really focus.”
 
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which will be announced in late June, said he was humbled by the selection.
 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “The whole format of the tournament is pretty cool to see. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
The Flyers have eight players competing. Chicago has an NHL-high of 12.