And Theyre Off: Flyers Idle for Five Days, Then What Happens?

And Theyre Off: Flyers Idle for Five Days, Then What Happens?

As of Tuesday, only the Pittsburgh Penguins had as many
games played as the Flyers in 2013, a category the Orange & Black have been
leading the NHL in since the regular season began back in January. But by the
time Philly’s run of five days off is over on Sunday, the rest of the Eastern
Conference will have caught up to them, and their view in the standings will
only be bleaker still.

At one time there might have been a debate over whether being
idle for so long would do more harm than good to the team’s cause. Sure, the
Flyers were going to be well-rested heading into the stretch, their fresh legs
potentially giving them an advantage over weary opponents as they jockeyed for
playoff positioning. However, it can be tough to maintain concentration and return
in mid-season form following such a lengthy break.

Rest assured there is no argument anymore. The Flyers cannot
help themselves by sitting at home, least of all under this compressed 48-game
schedule. Every team is going to have a chance to increase their lead or gain
ground on the Flyers, and since it’s all inter-conference play this season,
that means not a single point will be lost out west.

Philadelphia is at 27 points, which currently puts them five
out from a playoff spot. By the time they return to action though, they’ll
likely fall between a bare minimum of seven-to-nine back of the eighth seed
with only 18 tilts remaining.

To make matters worse, it will be right back into the frying
pan when the Flyers return. When they resume play on Sunday, five games in
eight days await them, including clashes with the Penguins, New York Rangers,
and Boston Bruins – the trio of rivals that just beat up on the Bullies in
succession two weeks ago.

Oh yeah, and even if they manage to top the Pens and Bruins,
with 44 and 41 points respectively they probably can’t realistically catch up
to either one of them anyway. The two points are still beneficial, but won’t necessarily
help the Flyers move up in the standings unless the other clubs vying for lower
seeds lose as well.

While the deficit is not technically insurmountable, the
Flyers’ path to the postseason has become extraordinarily difficult to see.
Unless they hit the ice on Sunday like they’ve been fired out of a cannon and
get on a big points streak, their season is effectively finished – if for all intents and purposes it hasn't ended already.

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Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Just six days after being a healthy scratch against the Packers, Nelson Agholor didn't just play against the Bengals. He didn't just start either. 

He played all 80 snaps on Sunday afternoon in the 32-14 loss at Paul Brown Stadium. 

Agholor, 23, had an awful game in Seattle a couple weeks ago and then said he was in his own head as the pressure of the NFL was seemingly crushing him. So head coach Doug Pederson gave him a day off. 

On Sunday, Agholor tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. 

With Jordan Matthews out with an ankle injury, undrafted rookie Paul Turner got significant playing time. Turner played a career-high 41 snaps (51 percent), while Bryce Treggs got just two snaps. With Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing most of the game, there wasn't much left for Treggs. 

Zach Ertz played 70 snaps and had nine catches on 15 targets. Trey Burton played 53 snaps, which was likely a result of not having Matthews. 

In the running back rotation, Darren Sproles led the way with 44 snaps, while Wendell Smallwood had 24 and Kenjon Barner had 13. Ryan Mathews missed his second straight game with an MCL sprain. 

On defense, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod played the entire game, which has been customary. 

In somewhat of a surprise, Leodis McKelvin led corners with 55 snaps (86 percent). Nolan Carroll had 51 and rookie Jalen Mills, who had been playing significant time, got just 23. 

The Eagles weren't in nickel all game, so Mychal Kendricks played 26 snaps, while Jaylen Watkins played 39. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday afternoon: 

Offense
Brandon Brooks: 80 snaps (100 percent)
Allen Barbre: 80 (100)
Jason Kelce: 80 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski: 80 (100)
Jason Peters: 80 (100)
Carson Wentz: 80 (100)
Nelson Agholor: 80 (100)
Zach Ertz: 70 (88)
Trey Burton: 53 (66)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 50 (62)
Darren Sproles: 44 (55)
Paul Turner: 41 (51)
Wendell Smallwood: 24 (30)
Brent Celek: 19 (24)
Kenjon Barner: 13 (16)
Isaac Seumalo: 4 (5)
Bryce Treggs: 2 (2)

Defense
Malcolm Jenkins: 64 snaps (100 percent)
Rodney McLeod: 64 (100)
Jordan Hicks: 63 (98)
Nigel Bradham: 61 (95)
Leodis McKelvin: 55 (86)
Nolan Carroll: 51 (80)
Brandon Graham: 49 (77)
Fletcher Cox: 47 (73)
Connor Barwin: 42 (66)
Jaylen Watkins: 39 (61)
Bennie Logan: 37 (58)
Vinny Curry: 26 (41)
Mychal Kendricks: 26 (41)
Jalen Mills: 23 (36)
Beau Allen: 22 (34)
Marcus Smith: 18 (28)
Destiny Vaeao: 16 (25)
Stephen Tulloch: 1 (2)

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

CINCINNATI — Nelson Agholor took a step forward on Sunday afternoon.

It was a baby step, but it was still a step.

The Eagles’ first-round pick from a year ago started in Sunday’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium six days after being a healthy scratch — call it a mental health day — against the Packers.

Two weeks ago, Agholor, 23, had an awful day in Seattle, after which he admitted that he was in his own head. It appeared the pressure of being in the NFL had become overwhelming.

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to sit Agholor in the Packers game, but he didn’t have much of a choice on Sunday with Jordan Matthews’ ankle injury.

“I felt good competing again, just getting the chance to lace it up and go out there felt great,” Agholor said. “I had fun doing it and now I just have to build on it.”

It wasn’t a great day for Agholor, but it wasn’t an awful one either. He tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. He was the Eagles’ sixth-leading receiver on a day when the offense struggled mightily.

But he caught the football, didn’t have a drop and didn’t have any major mental blunders. Yes, the bar is low.

“I thought it was a great time to get out there, got to touch the ball a bit, caught some passes, caught some contested ones,” Agholor said. “And now it's just about finding a way to take the next step for myself. Watch the game with a critical eye and continue to grow as a football player.”

Since the Eagles drafted Agholor with the 20th overall pick in 2015, he’s been a colossal disappointment. During Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Bengals, Agholor quietly surpassed his receiving yards total from his rookie season. In 2016, he has 287 yards on 31 catches.

Perhaps that means there’s been improvement, but not really. The Eagles were counting on Agholor to become a viable option for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and that hasn’t happened. In fact, at times, Agholor has made a negative impact.

Undrafted rookie Paul Turner, in his second career game on Sunday, caught six passes for 80 yards, both surpassing career highs for Agholor, who has been a starter since he joined the Eagles.

“The most important thing for me is to focus on me right now,” Agholor said when asked if the Eagles are giving maximum effort. “And I want to give unmatched effort and have great focus in the classroom and let it translate to football games.”

Agholor said there wasn’t some grand announcement from Pederson telling him that he was going to be active for Sunday. More or less, that announcement was inferred thanks to Matthews' injury status and Agholor’s practice load during the week.

No, it wasn’t Pro Bowl stuff from Agholor on Sunday. Four catches for 23 yards isn’t going to ever be good enough. But he was at least able to take a baby step forward.

He wasn’t too nervous either.

“I was blessed, to be honest with you,” he said. “Put the shoulder pads on, the helmet on again. The lesson that I truly thought I learned from last week was something that I loved so much, I didn't have an opportunity to do. So now, I didn't care if I just ran go-routes every play and the ball didn't come my way. As long as I got to put my cleats on and play with my teammates and play the game that I've loved for so long, I was happy about it.”