Fantasy Buyers Beware of Shady This Season; Plus An Eagle Not Named Jai Jarrett Who Struggled Against Pittsburgh

Fantasy Buyers Beware of Shady This Season; Plus An Eagle Not Named Jai Jarrett Who Struggled Against Pittsburgh

A couple of Eagles odds and ends...

Besides
Jaiquawn Jarrett's dismal performance, the other first-team defender who
struggled in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh last week was
Brian Rolle. Currently the starter at weakside linebacker, Rolle was
often pushed around or out of position, and he was already something of a
question mark entering 2012.

All of which raises the question
whether anybody is pushing Rolle for his job. The backup would be Jamar
Chaney, who missed the game due to an injury, but has since returned to
practice. Chaney is playing in the team's nickel package, but for the
moment, we're not sure there is a position battle brewing in base
personnel.

If Rolle has another shaky outing however, it would be
wise to give Chaney a look. We've seen a lot of Chaney at middle
linebacker over the past year and change, but have not been sufficiently
impressed. Still, he's a bit bigger than Rolle, and was a far surer
tackler last year according to these numbers.

At least the other two linebacker spots appear to be nailed down.

On Lots of Defensive Ends

Darryl Tapp clearly should be the odd man out if a cut must be made at
defensive end. The Eagles currently have six defensive ends battling
where they normally carry five players. Obviously Trent Cole and Jason
Babin are the starters, rookie Vinny Curry makes the team, then there is
Philip Hunt, Brandon Graham and Tapp.

Hunt was impressive down
the stretch last season, and that carried over into this summer with a
two-sack effort against Pittsburgh. The notion that Graham isn't making
the cut is astounding given the coaches need a real chance to evaluate
him coming off of that injury, and so far so good through one game. That
leaves Tapp, who is dependable enough, but doesn't do anything
particularly great.

Whether he's swapped for some depth at
another position or a late-round pick, or even outright released, this
isn't rocket science. Tapp is expendable. They could carry all six, but
it will be tough to find playing time for everybody if they do.

Andy Likes a Full Back

Andy Reid confirmed on Thursday the Eagles will use a fullback this
season, despite how little we've seen of the position. 2011
seventh-round pick Stanley Havili continues to lead the way there.

Fantasy Owners Beware of Shady

Attention fantasy football players: it's buyer beware on LeSean McCoy
this summer. While there is little doubt the fourth-year back will have
another fine season in 2012, expecting him to duplicate or exceed last
year's numbers could be a tall task.

First and foremost, nobody
is going to miss Jason Peters more than Shady. Peters is the best in the
business at creating running lanes on the outside, then getting to the
second and third level to finish off the run. Improvements from
second-year players Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce should help the ground
attack overall, but McCoy's yards per carry will likely experience a
dip without those huge gains off-tackle. Plus, the odds of him scoring
20 touchdowns or close again are relatively low, so that's another drop
in production you can count on.

We're seeing McCoy as high as
third overall in mock drafts, but I can't endorse that. If you draft
McCoy, you're guaranteed a solid back who will receive the large
majority of his team's carries and put up decent numbers. That said,
with all the prolific players that will be available at the top, I plan
on letting someone else reach for "decent."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).