Talbot & Flyers Host Saturday's Cross-State Rivalry: JVR, Danny, Jagr Return, First Look at Grossman

Talbot & Flyers Host Saturday's Cross-State Rivalry: JVR, Danny, Jagr Return, First Look at Grossman

The Flyers' efforts to shake off a crappy start and throw seven goals on two Sabres netminders were admirable, and hey, pretty fun in the process. But that was the Sabres. The Sabres suck, despite some recent signs of life. The Flyers are supposed to beat the daylights out of a team like that. The losses to the Rangers and Red Wings won't be washed away by beating a non-playoff team,* no matter how wide the margin.

Enter the Penguins, division/conference/cross-state rivals and holders of a record that sees them just two points behind the Flyers. Now we're talking. The Flyers have had trouble getting up for the big games against the Rangers this season, something that'll need to change if they want to be more than just an interesting way to pass our time this spring. But they've had the better of the Pens in both meetings so far this season, including the memorable first visit to Pittsburgh for Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr as Flyers.

A quick look at today's storylines below.

As we discussed back on December 29th, the media really keyed in on Jagr's return to Pittsburgh, and not so much Talbot. Jagr's the higher-profile player, and there was plenty of discussion about his treatment by the Pens, their fans, and vice-versa. But Talbot is the guy who was on the team this time last year, and also the more recent of the two to raise the Cup. We enjoyed the Flyers' snagging both of them over the outstretched hands of the Pens in the off-season, and we soaked up every minute of that win, with both former Penguins scoring in it.

Remember in the first ep of 24/7 when Dan Bylsma poked a little fun at Talbot for being a scorer now? Well, Talbot continued to add to his career-best goal total this season on Thursday, potting two goals as he played a catalyst role in the Flyers' turnaround against the Sabres.

Max now has 16 goals, not far from that nice round 20 milestone most of us wouldn't have imagined when he was signed. He's a huge part of this Flyers team, playing exactly the role desired when he was inked for five seasons.

JVR and Danny to Play?
A source tells Flyers reporter Dave Isaac that James van Riemsdyk will play today, and John Boruk says Danny Briere will as well. Not sure what to expect today, but both guys could really use some jam to get their seasons on track. Jaromir Jagr also returns from illness, so the Flyers are as healthy as they've been in weeks.  

Tom Sestito will miss 6-8 weeks after a groin injury felled him in a fight on Thursday, and Zac Rinaldo is still suspended for today. Jody Shelley is a healthy scratch in favor of Kyle Wellwood. With JVR, Danny, and Jagr all presumably healthy, it's looking like a skill over scrap lineup, though there's still punch available with Hartnell and Talbot. Simmonds too, though he won't throw down if he's still wearing the scuba gear.

The Pens
I think we know enough about this team that we don't need to go into much detail here. Evgeni Malkin continues to thrive without Sidney Crosby, leading the league in scoring with just a two-point lead on Claude Giroux. Like a lot of teams in the league right now, the Pens are trading wins with losses lately. They closed out January with a brilliant run of eight straight wins, five of which came after regulation, four in the shootout. When you're talking about points in the standings won and lost on shootouts, you need look no further than the two teams in Pennsylvania.

In February, the Pens have won three and lost four, including their most recent game, a 2-1 drop to the Ducks.

They'll bring a special teams challenge to the building today, toting the league's 6th best power play and 3rd best PK unit. Pittsburgh scores at the 7th best clip, with the 11th best goals against mark.

First Look at Grossman
New Flyers d-man Nicklas Grossman won't be wearing his usual number 2 today, as that is set to be raised to the rafters early next month. Instead, he'll wear another lofty number, 8. Shortly after Paul Holmgren dealt for Grossman, the Canadiens traded Hal Gill to Nashville. Gill had been rumored to be on the Flyers' radar, and there was probably a domino effect in the two moves.

Homer has discussed liking the size of Grossman and his ability to help out on the PK. I like that he picked him up ahead of the deadline, leaving time to evaluate needs in the coming week. So welcome to Philly, Nick. You'll get a pretty good feel for the energy of the building during warmups for a Flyers-Pens game at 1PM on a February Saturday.

*Holy shit look at the standings. The Sabres are tied for LAST in the East at the moment. The East is a weird, mangled place right now. The first place team in the Southeast Division is, by rule, the three seed. The second place team (Washington at the moment) is outside the playoff bubble.

Eagles training camp Day 1 notes and observations: QB reps, Agholor and more

Eagles training camp Day 1 notes and observations: QB reps, Agholor and more

Day 1 is in the books. 

The Eagles practiced on the fields at the NovaCare Complex at 8:40 a.m. on Monday in 90-plus-degree weather. It was the first practice under new head coach Doug Pederson, who said he had trouble sleeping Sunday because of excitement and the massive thunderstorm that rolled through the area. 

For now, there are just 38 players (out of 90) in training camp. The rest of the team won’t report until Wednesday and the first full-team practice isn’t until Thursday afternoon. Pederson said the team will be in pads for the first time on Saturday. The plan is to have pads on for three days, then off one, on three, etc. 

Here are some notes and observations from Day 1: 

Figuring out the reps
Four of the 38 players in camp right now are quarterbacks: Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz and recently-re-signed McLeod Bethel-Thompson. During the spring, while Bradford, Daniel and Wentz worked with the first, second and third teams, respectively, they did split reps evenly. 

Eventually, the bulk of those practice snaps will need to go to Bradford, as he prepares to be the starter. But does Pederson have a plan during camp? 

“Well, I'm not officially there yet,” he said. “I do know this: Your first two preseason games, typically your starters don't play a ton; you're trying to save them for that third game and get them ready for the regular season. So we'll focus on the twos and threes probably a little bit more early in camp, probably give them the bulk of the reps. Then we’ll ramp the guys up who we think are going to be the starters opening day, we'll get them more reps towards the end of camp.”

Pederson on Agholor
Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor won’t be reporting to camp until Wednesday, at which time he’ll finally be asked about his involvement in an incident at a gentlemen’s club in June. He was accused of sexual assault, but the district attorney decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. 

Pederson said he hasn’t spoken to Agholor since the incident; he didn’t think it was necessary to speak to him at the time. Pederson did say the two of them will have a private chat once Agholor returns. 

“I'm still not going to comment too much on it,” Pederson said. “I just know this, that everybody, we all make mistakes, we learn from them, we move on, and we just look forward to him getting to camp and getting ready to go.”

The first three days
Training camp won’t really look or feel like training camp until Thursday, when the entire team practices together. Until then, it’s just a bunch of rookies and quarterbacks. 

Boring. 

But what does Pederson hope to accomplish during these days? 

“First of all, it's a great three days to get acclimated, number one, to the schedule,” he said. “It's great for the coaches to kind of get back into the swing of football and thinking football before we get the rest of the team in here. And then I think thirdly, just getting the quarterbacks in here and getting their arms loose and kind of getting into a full lather before they really get cranked up Friday, Saturday and the rest of camp.”

Observations
Not a ton of observations thanks to the lack of numbers in camp right now. But here are a few: 

• Credit Quentin Gause for the first kinda-hard hit of 2016 training camp. He popped Wendell Smallwood after the rookie running back caught a pass from Bradford during 7-on-7s. 

• Aaron Grymes, the former CFL cornerback, made a nice play down the left sideline to break up a Daniel pass to Marcus Johnson. Grymes has a little edge during camp right now because of his professional experience. 

• Johnson couldn’t haul that one in, but the wideout from Texas had a pretty good day, eventually grabbing some long balls. 

• Wentz, like he did in the spring, showed off the deep ball again on Monday. He doesn’t always hit those passes — and some of them are ill-advised — but he likes to throw it deep more than Bradford and Daniel. 

• Former Oregon running back Byron Marshall, who missed all of OTAs thanks to the NCAA/NFL graduation rule, had a pretty nice day aside from a fumble. He is especially good catching the ball out of the backfield. 

• Because of the small numbers in camp right now, quarterback Bethel-Thompson played some tight end on Monday and didn’t look great. At one point, a pass came his way and it looked like Gause might have interfered with him, while taking him to the ground. That red jersey doesn’t mean much when Bethel-Thompson lines up as a tight end. 

• A good sign for Smallwood: Saw him pick up a blitz without hesitation on Monday. That’s important because that’s probably the area of his game that needs the most improvement. 

• The difference in the pace of practice between Pederson and Chip Kelly is shocking. There’s just a lot fewer plays run under Pederson, who chooses to do his coaching on the field instead of in the meeting room. At one point, there was about a 30-second delay between snaps. If that happened under Kelly, his head would have exploded. 

The Daily Show has a weird obsession with the Phillie Phanatic

phanatic-dailyshow.jpg
Daily Show Instagram

The Daily Show has a weird obsession with the Phillie Phanatic

Welcome America! The 2016 Democratic National Convention rolls into Philadelphia today and that means the national media's spotlight is squarely on our beautiful and angry city.

It also means thousands of media types will descend onto Philadelphia to sample our cheesesteaks and ... I'm not sure what else, maybe check out Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

The Daily Show took this opportunity to show their love -- and totally normal obsession - with the Phillie Phanatic.

So kudos to the Daily Show for being the leader in the clubhouse of DNC peeps pandering to Philadelphians. This is solid.

Watch out, Philadelphia. @desilydic has a dark secret... #DNCinPHI #Phanatic

A video posted by The Daily Show (@thedailyshow) on

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Could be locked-in Hellickson's final start with Phils

Phillies (45-55) at Marlins (53-45)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

After three straight series losses to begin the second half, the Phillies head to Miami for three games with the Marlins. It's the second leg of a 10-game road trip that takes the Phils to Atlanta for four games later in the week.

Let's take a look at the series opener:

1. Hellickson's sendoff?
Jeremy Hellickson makes his 21st and potentially final start for the Phillies tonight in South Florida. The Marlins are one of the teams after him, so it's possible he could just switch clubhouses later this week. 

Hellickson has boosted his trade value substantially over the last five weeks, posting a 2.54 ERA with five quality starts in six tries. He enters Monday's game 7-7 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Those are better and more consistent numbers than you'll find attached to many other pitchers on the trade market, rentals or otherwise. 

It was on this day last year that Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs which turned out to be the tipping point for the Rangers, who several days later traded the Phillies six players, four of whom were intriguing prospects now thriving in this organization. Hellickson isn't going to no-hit the Fish tonight, but if he has a similarly well-timed good start, it could result in a better return for the Phils this time around, too.

Hellickson's last start was against the Marlins in the only game in last week's four-game series that the Phillies won. He allowed one run on five hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts.

Hellickson's control has been superb this season. He's walked just 27 batters in 119⅔ innings, or 2.0 per nine innings. That's nearly a full walk per nine less than his previous career rate of 2.9. It's a major reason that Hellickson has been able to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA despite allowing 19 home runs in 20 starts.

2. Scouting Cosart
The Phillies will face their former farmhand Jarred Cosart, who is 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three starts this season. It's been a troubling year for Cosart, who missed a month with an oblique injury and has spent most of the season struggling at Triple A. He had a 5.22 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 12 starts with Triple A New Orleans.

Way back in 2011, Cosart headlined the Astros' return in the Hunter Pence trade. Houston received Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana for the rightfielder. None panned out in the Astros' organization, with Cosart getting traded three years later, Singleton continuing to struggle in the minors and Santana ending up in Milwaukee.

Cosart has disappointed the most of the bunch. After going 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA in 2014, his career has taken a downward trend. He's never been a big strikeout guy despite throwing in the mid-90s, and his control has always been poor. Cosart has walked 15 batters in 14⅔ innings this season and 4.3 per nine innings in his major-league career. 

He did have success, though, in three starts against the Phillies last season, going 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 12 strikeouts to three walks in 15 innings. But this lineup is much different than that one. 

Cosart is mostly a three-pitch pitcher who uses a cutter, sinker and curveball. The cutter is his main pitch, averaging 93 mph. 

3. Injuries piling up
In the span of just a few days, Maikel Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist, Cameron Rupp was hit in the helmet and Andres Blanco fractured a finger. They've been three of the Phillies' five best offensive players this season.

Franco returned Sunday to replace Blanco, a good sign that he should be ready to go this week in Miami and Atlanta. But each Franco at-bat bears watching because wrist injuries can sap a player of his power. 

Rupp, too, could return to the starting lineup as soon as tonight after passing MLB's concussion protocol. He's hitting .276 with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and an .810 OPS in his breakout 2016 season.

4. Bourjos back to Earth
After hitting .410 in June, Peter Bourjos has hit .227 in July with a meager .263 on-base percentage. He's 4 for 36 (.111) over his last nine games with one walk, one RBI and 10 strikeouts.

Bourjos is another player the Phillies could trade this week to clear up room on the roster for Aaron Altherr and/or Nick Williams. In Bourjos and Jimmy Paredes, the Phils have replaceable outfielders who don't figure to factor too much into their future. It wouldn't simply be wishful thinking to say that by next week, the Phils' starting outfield could be Williams in left field, Odubel Herrera in center and Altherr in right.

Altherr's rehab assignment ends Wednesday. At that point the Phillies must decide whether to call him up or option him to Triple A. 

5. Almost Thompson time?
It's no coincidence that IronPigs ace Jake Thompson pitches tonight, the same night as Hellickson. Thompson would be a ready-made replacement for Hellickson in the rotation if/when Hellickson is dealt. Thompson is on a ridiculous roll at Triple A, having allowed just four earned runs over his last 62⅓ innings spanning nine starts. He's lowered his ERA from 4.23 to 2.29 over that stretch thanks to a sky-high rate of weak groundballs.

Even if Thompson were to struggle tonight, the Phillies would still likely turn to him to replace Hellickson. There doesn't seem to be much left for him to prove at Triple A, where every International League starting pitcher with an ERA even close to his 2.29 has been called up to the majors.