The Orange & Black Clearance Rack

The Orange & Black Clearance Rack

Given the pressures of the MLB trade deadline and the unadulterated chaos of the free agent market in the NFL, it's more than understandable for offseason hockey to have taken a back seat. It's out of sight, out of mind, and we've all been just a little more than distracted.

In spite of parting ways with not one, but two franchise centers, signing a number-one goalie and bringing into the fold one of the all-time greatest Flyer killers in franchise history, Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider's foundation-shaking moves have felt lost in the shuffle. Frankly, this week it's been easy to forget just how much turnover there's been to the Flyers' roster. Even I had let some of the moves slide into recesses of my mind.

Until, of course, I walked into my local Modell's last week.

While searching aimlessly for nothing in particular—I was actually killing time before a late afternoon showing of Bridesmaids—I stumbled upon an unusually forceful reminder of just how much this team has changed in the last two months.

Here's a question: What do you get when your general manager and owner decide to clean house and (damn near) start from scratch? Answer: A massive section of merchandise repping a whole mess of guys who've been scrubbed from the roster. Let's call it—as my buddy Jim so appropriately quipped—"The Clearance Line."

What am I talking about? Take a look at the pictures below. More than 2/3 of the Flyers apparel at this particular Modell's exists in support of an individual no longer on the team.

Though Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Brian Boucher and Kris Versteeg (all pictured above and below) no longer wear the Orange & Black, there's a good chance you're still wearing their merchandise. And, on the off chance you don't already own a piece of swag showing your support for a newly-minted ex-Flyer, you can pick one up on the cheap.

T-shirts bearing the name of a franchise-expatriate are now 50% off, selling for a cool ten bucks. Still, the real savings can be found on the jersey rack. While a Chris Pronger sweater is still selling for a steep $150, Mike Richards and Jeff Carters can be had for just $50 a piece.

Here's the thing, as I'm sure we can all attest, sports fans have been known to spend obscene amounts of cash on their favorite franchises. When a team is hot, so is its merch sales (If you don't believe me, take a look at just a small portion of the Phillies gear the store is hawking in the background of one of the pictures below).

Make no mistake, some of these purchases truly are an investment. Authentic threads, especially when sold around the time of a new jersey launch, will easily run their buyer a couple hundred, if not even more. As such, it makes sense that fans would want to invest in gear that's at least assumed to have some long-term staying power.

And, come to think of it, didn't a Mike Richards Winter Classic jersey seem exactly that buy only 18 months ago? The old school white and orange pattern; the memorable winter classic patch; Mike's future as a long-term captain after inking a huge contract; it all fit.

Now, less than two years after that game and two months after their dismissal, there's something about Mike Richards and Jeff Carter merchandise that doesn't seem quite right. For me, just looking at these pictures brings forth a certain disappointment, a yearning for what could, and maybe even should, have been.

On the topic of staying power, it's not uncommon for fans to wear the t-shirt or jersey of a player no longer on the team. John LeClair, Mark Recchi, and Keith Primeau are all examples of ex-Flyers still proudly supported by fans throughout the Wells Fargo Center on game nights. In the same fashion, I have no plans on retiring my Simon Gagne jersey any time soon.

The question that now comes to mind is whether Mike Richards and Jeff Carter will share that sort of legacy. Though they may not have reached the status of a Reccs or Prims or even Gags, plenty of us own their stuff. Now that they're gone, will you still wear their names, or instead relegate Richie and Carts (and company) to the back of your closet? We encourage you to share your feelings in the comments below.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't show you a picture of the merch you can still buy for full price! Set apart from the standing racks on the floor, you'll notice a skinny black stand set against the wall. This is where you'll find the goods for guys actually on the 2011 roster. And, sure enough, Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Bryzgalov t-shirts are already available for purchase.

Just as the Richards and Carter jerseys left me disappointed, the #68 pictured below left me puzzled as to the future of the team I thought I knew. Like it or not, come opening night in October, the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers will look almost nothing like the team bounced in four by the Boston Bruins last May.

With that in mind, will you consider picking up any new gear? Will this latest roster turnover affect your decision to purchase or not purchase in the future? If you're still in the market, which jerseys or shirseys do you deem the "safest" moving forward?

Finally, I'd like to send a shout out to the Modell's at the Neshaminy Mall for letting me turn all their stuff around without asking. You guys rock.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.