Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

It wasn’t a quarterback, but
the Eagles continued to focus on offense in the second round of the NFL Draft on
Friday. Zach Ertz joins Brent Celek and James Casey in a suddenly crowded field
of tight ends for Philadelphia.

Chip Kelly’s offense is
expected to feature the tight end heavily, so despite Celek’s presence on the
roster plus the addition of Casey through free agency, adding another with the 35th overall selection was far from surprising. The belief is the Eagles will carry up to four, possibly
even five tight ends this season.

The Stanford product was
easily one of the top prospects at the position, as he was just the second tight
end to come off the board. He has good size (6-5, 249 lbs.) and strength, and
is said to be an excellent route runner. He'll also be useful in an H-back role.

Here’s the scouting report from NFL.com:


Smooth athlete
with good route quickness to create some separation and sneaky speed to get
behind the defense. Sturdy, well-built frame, adding 30 pounds of bulk and
muscle since he arrived in Palo Alto. Tough with the ball in his hands and isnt afraid to deliver hits, lowering his pads and finishing
runs. Not afraid to get physical as a blocker and gives good effort in this
area, always looking for someone to block downfield. Tracks the ball well and
does a nice job adjusting his frame to make the tough catch, extending and
plucking. Looks like he has glue on his hands with some of the catches he is
able to make. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his
routes and immediately looking for the ball out of his breaks. Nice job
deceiving defenders and finding soft spots in coverage to make something happen
after the catch, averaging over 13 yards per catch in 2012. Has experience all
over the offense for Stanford, lining up in-line, slot and out wide, but looked
most comfortable in the slot. In 2012 Ertz doubled Coby Fleeners production from the year before, earning All-American honors as a
Mackey Award finalist. Hard worker on and off the field and plans to graduate
in June.


Missed half
of his sophomore year due to injury. Must prove his straight-line speed to
scouts. Will not elude NFL defensive backs after the catch with pure quickness.
Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage
battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging
at targets instead of getting position. Nice job adding bulk to his frame, but
needs to continue to develop his strength to sustain blocks at the line of
scrimmage. Will round off some routes at times and needs to better control
himself in/out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job coming down with
contested throws and will drop some easy ones seems to
have at least one drop each game.

Ertz posted a whopping 69
receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns last year as a redshirt junior, including 11
for 106 and a score in a 17-14 win over Chip’s Ducks. It was by far his most
productive season, although he was always a threat inside the red zone, hauling in an additional nine touchdowns the previous two years despite a much smaller role.

Looking at this selection from
another perspective, Ertz and Lane Johnson aren’t just offensive players. They
are BIG, powerful offensive players. The Eagles aren’t going to just tucker
opponents out with a breakneck pace, or try to finesse their way down the
field. They want to wear defenses
down physically as well.

Geoff Mosher wrote more about the Eagles' plan at tight end earlier this week:

When the Eagles signed versatile fullback/tight end James Casey in
March, coach Chip Kelly spoke about the increase of two tight-end
formations, about the creation of a lethal tight end tag team similar to
New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Casey and
veteran tight end Brent Celek, right now, are Kelly’s vision of the
Gronkowski-Hernandez pairing. Backups Clay Harbor and Emil Igwenagu are
OK but haven’t proven themselves to be dynamic.

Hoping to emulate
the Patriots, who have stockpiled at the position, the Eagles have
closely examined this year’s college crop of tight ends, and several
league officials familiar with Kelly’s background and offense expect the
Eagles to add depth there before the end of the draft.

The downside is the Eagles
haven’t addressed defense yet in this draft even though the unit was tied for
third in points allowed last season. However, an inconsistent and erratic
offense has compounded the issues on the other side of the ball for the last
two years.

Besides, it makes sense to build
a team that suits the head coach. Whatever Chip Kelly’s vision is for this
offense, he needs certain types of players to make it work. Ertz, like Johnson
before him, fits the mold.

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

Flyers Notes: Travis Konecny sparks power play with 1st NHL goal

The kid finally has his first NHL goal.

Travis Konecny scored at 4:30 of the third period (see video) during the Flyers' 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo on Tuesday night (see story).  

His was the first of three power-play goals to erase a 3-0 deficit and get the Flyers into overtime.

First markers are always that much more special when they make a difference in a comeback victory, such as this one with the Flyers in a brutal stretch of six games in nine days.

“I am just excited that it happened,” Konecny said. “But the thing for me that was more exciting was coming back after that 3-0 [deficit] and an overall exciting night for us.”

The three power-play goals were a season high for the Flyers.

“We got going those two power plays ... our power plays set a tone,” Konecny said. “When that gets going, it makes it hard for the other team to stop us.

“It’s awesome because we know what they can do [on the top power-play unit]. They have been sticking with it and fighting the puck, whatever it’s been the past couple of games, but you know what they are capable of — you can see it the past couple of years. 

“You knew it was coming and tonight is the perfect night to get it going and I am sure that they are going to keep rolling with it.”

Schultz sits
The decision to sit 15-year veteran blueliner Nick Schultz to get Radko Gudas back into the lineup wasn’t easy but it made sense on several levels. Gudas had been suspended for six games.

First, Schultz doesn’t play on the power play, whereas Andrew MacDonald carries heavy minutes with the power play and penalty kill.

Brandon Manning? Not happening. He’s been the Flyers' best defenseman this season. Mark Streit? Doesn’t work because he quarterbacks the second-unit PP and is essentially teaching that duty to rookie Ivan Provorov.

“It’s real tough,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s part of the business and [Schultz has] done an excellent job. He’s always very well-prepared.

“We talked about what’s best for our team and we feel like Gudy going in, especially on a back-to-back, gives us fresh legs and a fresh body coming back into the lineup.”

Hakstol recently has had to switch around his defensive pairs to get more defensive coverage and consistency on the ice. For instance, moving Provorov from Streit to Manning.

He discounted Schultz’s age (34) as a true factor in the decision.

“I think the more flexibility you have, the better, whether it be for rest or for the injury situations,” Hakstol said. “First and foremost, I think we’re still looking for the true consistency that we need through our entire team, but certainly your D pairs are a big part of that. 

“Before we start getting to a comfort level of guys playing with different people, first we have to find true consistency. We’ve been pretty good, but we’ve had stretches where the consistency needs to improve, as well.”

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

Give and Go: Predicting Sixers' MVP, win total and more for 2016-17

The Sixers officially get back to work Wednesday night in their regular-season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder (see game notes).

Before tip-off, CSNPhilly.com Sixers insider Jessica Camerato and CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick run the Give and Go to break down some burning questions surrounding the team.

What is the one stat that will most define the Sixers' season?


The Sixers want to build a defensive identity and understandably so — they ranked last in the league in rebounds with a minus-518 differential and were outscored by 10.2 points per game, also last in the NBA. That being said, I am looking at turnovers this season. Last season, the Sixers were prone to throwing away points with errors. They ranked 29th (second to the Suns) with 16.6 turnovers per game. The team is down two ball handlers in Jerryd Bayless and Ben Simmons (both injured), which heightens the challenge. In order for the Sixers to get into any type of rhythm and build an offensive flow, they have to actually maintain possession.

It's got to be defense.

Brett Brown is banking on Joel Embiid being the centerpiece to the team's defense, and he better be for the head coach's sake. Embiid also better get some help from the guys around him on that end of the floor or it will be another year-long parade of bad rotations, easy buckets at the rim and wide-open jumpers. In Brown's three years as Sixers head coach, the team has ranked 29th, 20th and 30th in opponents' points per game. That has to change if the Sixers want to take the next step in their rebuild.

With an abundance of big men and Simmons eventually taking the court as the team's main facilitator, the Sixers need players that can shoot. Last season, they took the eighth-most three-point attempts in the NBA while finishing 24th in three-point percentage. That second number has to go up if the Sixers ever want to create floor space.

Who will be the Sixers' MVP?


The towering 7-foot-2 presence is going to be the dominating force on both ends. Brown intends for Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense and the offense to go through Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, whose role is restricted (knee). Embiid has shown in a small sampling of preseason games he is capable of leading the team on all sides of the floor.

Of course the answer is Embiid, but let's go another route and say Brown.

The coach got an extension last season and also received a boost in roster talent. Now he just has to figure out how the pieces fit together. That didn't go so well with Okafor and Nerlens Noel a season ago, but playing those two together was essentially the only intriguing thing about the Sixers in 2015-16, which is why Brown stuck with the pairing. With better players to mix and match this time around, I believe Brown will figure out some solid options to have the squad in better position to compete on a nightly basis.

The easy pick is Embiid, but I'm going a little outside the box with Dario Saric.

The 22-year-old Croatian showed off the versatility of his game during the preseason. He's an old school player that excels in the team game. He's what's often referred to as a "glue guy." He has skill, but the skills he lacks he makes up for with grit and basketball savvy.

What is your season projection for the Sixers?

This season was supposed to be a bridge year, the start of rebuilding. That will be delayed until the team is healthy with key players like Simmons, Okafor and Noel back at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Sixers' outlook is better than last season’s 10-win total but less than earlier projections with Simmons in the lineup. Because of injuries, I am shifting their win projection to 19.

The injury bug, starting with No. 1 overall pick, Simmons, has certainly put a damper on the Sixers' projected win total. Las Vegas odds books originally set the mark at 27½, which seemed like a long shot even with a full roster. I say they show strides but fall just shy of doubling last season's win total and finish with 19.

This really depends on the return of Simmons. Simmons will make this team so much better on both ends of the floor. Bayless' absence early will hurt this team as well. And don't forget about all the minutes restrictions. The Sixers are going to struggle early on, but if Simmons returns in January, I think this team can double its win total from last season and win 20 games.