Game 15: Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning Let the Pronging Resume

Game 15: Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning Let the Pronging Resume

Most of the news in the sporting world this week has had very little to do with the actual playing of games. Unfortunately, what little we had from the field of play was a crushing Eagles defeat on Monday Night Football, wherein the only thing keeping the door from slamming shut on our hopes for meaningful football in the coming months were our now bloody fingers.

That finally changes tonight when, after a seemingly long layoff, the Flyers are back in action as they begin a road trip in Tampa. As opposed to some of the shitful teams they've played lately, the Lightning are actually pretty good despite currently sitting in the middle of the Southeast Division standings. After a terrible start to the season saw them winning just one of their first six contests, Tampa have put together a fairly impressive run of late.

Fortunately, the Flyers appear to have weathered the storm of being without their top defenseman, as Chris Pronger is expected back in the lineup tonight.

It's hard to know what to expect with Pronger. We figured he'd miss a few games to start the season, and when he was announced in the opening night lineup, the safe assumption was that his minutes would be limited. Up until taking a stick to the eye, Pronger was playing a pretty full share. His eye is said to be fine now, but it remains to be seen whether his conditioning will hold him back at all.

After returning from a broken hand—a completely age-independent injury—last season, Pronger developed troubles with his back. We can only hope that isn't the case this season, as the Flyers defense has looked lost at times without him.

They'll need to have it together tonight, facing one of the most dangerous scoring units in the league.

Months of largely baseless speculation that the Flyers might obtain the rights of Steven Stamkos this summer should be all you need to know how good he is, if you somehow haven't seen that with your own eyes. He's pocketed 10 goals in 14 games this season, sharing the Lightning points lead with distributing defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron at 15 apiece.

Of course, the Lightning attack also boasts the talents of Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone. There's quite a dropoff after Malone's 10 points in the TB production, with the next highest scorer having only 5, and Malone is currently out of the lineup with a UBI. They're still a very dangerous team with the puck though.

Through 14 games, it's been hard to find former Flyer Steve Downie's name in the box score, unless you scroll down to the penalty minutes. He's still 7 PIM behind Zac Rinaldo (49), but he may try to play catchup tonight. Of course, Rinaldo will keep his lead if the two throw down, which we're kinda hoping to see happen.

Goaltenders are expected to be Ilya Bryzgalov and Dwayne Roloson.

Photo: Marc DesRosiers-US Presswire

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in loss

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in loss

Doug Pederson’s press conference was humming along as expected on Monday morning, the day after the team’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati. 

Like he did minutes after the game, Pederson again expressed the idea that the Eagles didn’t lose for lack of effort. 

“I didn’t see any quit in the guys,” he said several different ways throughout the 19-minute session with reporters. 

The effort’s there. There’s no quit. 

Those are the types of responses we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Pederson over the last couple of weeks after embarrassing losses. And it looked like that was how Monday was going to end, with that same message being repeated ad nauseum. 

Until Pederson made a shocking admission. 

Could he honestly say every one of his players played hard against Cincinnati?

“Not everybody,” he said. “Not everybody, and that's the accountability that I talk about. You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. 
 
“But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league -- I mean, there's some teams that are better than others, obviously -- but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”
 
Not everybody. The admission of that fact is far more shocking than the reality. Fans who watched Sunday’s game will probably be able to pinpoint several plays where one or more Eagles might not have given full effort. 
 
But for a first-year head coach to come out and admit it in public is rare. Perhaps Pederson felt emboldened to say something because he’s been assured of his status within the organization (see story). On Monday, he said he “for sure” thinks his job is secure after this season based on reassurance from Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman. 
 
While Pederson said it publicly, the conversation between him and his players about accountability will continue. It’s seems unlikely Pederson will take it a step further by cutting or benching players, but his team will definitely hear the message its head coach put out on Monday. 
 
While Pederson commented that “not everybody” played hard, it seems like he’s convinced that portion of the team is the minority. Overall, he’s still convinced that guys are buying in. The reason he gave was the feedback he’s been getting back from his leadership council (a group of veteran leaders he has depended on throughout the season). 
 
Earlier in the press conference, Pederson was asked about one play in particular, when Zach Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict as Carson Wentz scrambled for a 10-yard gain in the first quarter. The video shows Ertz making an effort to avoid the linebacker.
 
“Looking at the tape and watching where Carson was scrambling of course he was heading toward out of bounds and I think he just pulled off at that point,” Pederson said. “That’s all I can say. But I’m definitely going to ask him why.”

With a 5-7 record, the Eagles’ playoff chances are all but completely gone, so the last quarter of the season will be about effort, pride and finding out who wants to be back on the team in 2017. 

To end his press conference, Pederson was asked if this Eagles team needs to be “loved up” or if it’s time for some tough love.  

“I think it's both. I think it's both,” he said. “I think there's a level of that tough love. There's got to be that accountability that I was talking about. You know, I implore and I challenge the leaders of the football team to stand up and really not only hold themselves [accountable] but the rest of the team. Listen, it's not a panic move or anything like that, but just, ‘Hey, let's just make sure we're doing things right.’ Everybody just do things right, do their jobs, do their assignments, you know, and good things are going to happen. 

“Obviously, again, it starts with me, and I've got to make sure that I'm doing it right and I'm holding myself accountable, and as you mentioned earlier with Jeffrey and Howie, if they're holding me accountable and all that, that's where it starts, and then I relay that message to the assistants and on to the team.”

Doug Pederson says Lurie, Roseman have assured him job is safe

Doug Pederson says Lurie, Roseman have assured him job is safe

Head coach Doug Pederson, whose team has tumbled out of the NFC playoff race in recent weeks, said he’s been assured by the Eagles’ management team that he’ll be back for a second season in 2017.

Pederson said Monday he meets weekly with owner Jeff Lurie and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who have told him his job is secure.

Asked if he believes his job is safe, Pederson answered, “For sure. Yeah.”

Asked if Lurie and Roseman — who, along with team president Don Smolenski, formed the search committee that hired Pederson — had emphasized that to him, Pederson responded, “Yes. Yes.”

The Eagles are 5-7 after a 3-0 start in Pederson’s first season as a head coach at any level above high scool.

And it’s not the 5-7 record that’s raised questions about Pederson, it’s the way the Eagles got there. They are 2-7 in their last nine games, and they’ve lost the last three by double digits. They’re 4-1 at home but 1-6 on the road with five straight losses.

Lurie has never fired a coach after his first season or even his second. He dismissed Chip Kelly with a week remaining on his deal, and hes fired Rich Kotite after his fourth year, Ray Rhodes after his third year and Andy Reid after his 14th season.

The last Eagles head coach who was one-and-done was Wayne Millner, who was fired and replaced by Bo McMillin 10 games into the 1951 season with the Eagles 2-8.

Sunday’s 32-14 loss to a 3-7-1 Bengals team was the Eagles’ worst this year. The Eagles trailed 19-0 at halftime and 29-0 in the third quarter.

Since their 3-0 start, the Eagles have the third-worst record in the NFL, ahead of only Kelly’s 49ers (0-9) and the Browns (0-9).

Pederson said all the feedback he’s gotten from Lurie and Roseman has been positive.

“From both of them, it's been 100-percent support on everything,” he said. “I meet with Jeffrey and Howie every week, and we discuss a lot of things and go over a lot of things, and every week it’s very positive.”

Unless the Eagles win out, this would become only the second season in franchise history they opened up 3-0 but didn’t finish with a winning record. The 1993 team was actually 4-0 before finishing 8-8.

The Eagles have never opened up 3-3 and finished with a losing record, but they’d have to go 3-1 the rest of the way to avoid that.

Meanwhile, Pederson, who has spoken lately about the Eagles’ being on a long-term building plan similar to the Raiders or Seahawks, said it’s not fair for any owner to make a coaching change after just one season.

“I just don't think, personally, you can base a guy's career on one season,” Pederson said. “I think you've got to give it time to develop. We have a rookie quarterback. We’ve got to have time to develop this quarterback. It just doesn't happen overnight.

“So by no means have they expressed anything to me, and it's been positive and very supportive.”

Neither Lurie nor Roseman regularly speaks with the media. An email for Roseman asking for a comment on Pederson's remarks was not immediately answered.