Latest Updates on Eagles-Browns: DeMeco Ryans, Bryce Brown, Trent Richardson, & More

Latest Updates on Eagles-Browns: DeMeco Ryans, Bryce Brown, Trent Richardson, & More

We mentioned DeMeco Ryans had been replaced by Jamar Chaney in the defense's nickel package at practice on Thursday. Following up on those reports, when practice resumed the following afternoon, Ryans was back to work in the nickel, suggesting the experiment as a three-down linebacker is not dead yet.

In an attempt to clarify just what the heck is going on at the heart of the Eagles' defense, Andy Reid only made the picture more convoluted, admitting all six of the team's linebackers will play on Sunday. So along with Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, and Akeem Jordan, apparently we'll see plenty of Chaney, Casey Matthews, and Brian Rolle as well.

“We had success with it towards the end of last year,” Reid said. “Guys know their roles. They can focus in on it. They’re all interchangeable, which is a good thing. They all know each other’s positions and have gotten reps at all positions, which works out well.”

While Geoff Mosher categorizes this as a carousel, I'll save the skepticism until we see exactly how much the subs are utilized and in what roles. I can see a scenario where Ryans gives way to the speedier Chaney in third-and-long situations, but where Matthews or Rolle fit into the equation, I'm not really sure.

>> Bowen: Eagles think they are ready to do linebacker shuffle [DN]

Dion Lewis is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, which means Bryce Brown could be the guy who carries the load behind Shady on Sunday. At this point, the only knock on Brown is his pass protection, which is a huge part of the running back's job in Reid's offense, and may convince the coaches to lean heavily on McCoy.

As a pure rusher though, the seventh-round rookie has been ultra impressive. With is fluid running style, burst, and power -- not to mention ability to catch the ball out of the backfield -- Brown looks like he may be a superior talent to Lewis. Brown carried 22 times for 122 yards (4.4 avg) and a score in the preseason, along with seven receptions for 62 ticks.

>> Bryce Brown on fast track to meaningful role [CSN]

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita got a reprieve from the suspension handed down for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal -- for now. Word is the suspensions will be reinstated eventually, but Fujita is available to play on Sunday after an arbitrator's ruling came down late Friday afternoon.

Fujita could shore up a shaky situation at outside linebacker, where the Browns were thin in the wake of the suspension and Chris Gocong's injury. However, Fujita is banged up himself, and the word is he likely won't take the field on Sunday. Minor break for the Birds, though Fujita is no game changer either.

>> Health, not suspension, could keep Scott Fujita off the field [PFT]

On the other hand, expectations for Cleveland's Trent Richardson are on the rise for this Sunday. At one point, whether or not the third overall pick would even play so soon after having a procedure on his knee was not a sure thing, and many believed if he did, the Browns would ease the back into the offense.

Estimates have changed quite a bit, and despite his questionable status, Richardson could have a full load on his plate against the Eagles. Browns GM Tom Hecker told a Canton newspaper "if he's ready to go, he's ready to go." If the Browns intend to stay in the game, they may feel the need to keep handing the ball to Richardson, partly to take pressure off of their rookie QB, partly to eat some clock, but also just because he's already got to be their biggest playmaker. Brandon Jackson will surely see some snaps as well though.

>> Interview: Browns' Heckert happy old boss sees improving team [CantonRep.com]

WR Riley Cooper and S Colt Anderson are out. Both normally contribute on special teams. Their absences could be felt if dangerous return man Josh Cribbs has a big day.

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Andrew Knapp's long homer a bright spot for skidding Phillies as rookie pushes Cameron Rupp

Hidden in the Phillies' sub-par Sunday was one bright spot: Andrew Knapp.

The young backup catcher blasted a long home run into the Phillies' bullpen that gave them an early lead they would soon relinquish in an 8-4 loss to the Reds. The long ball comes on the heels of Knapp's first back-to-back starts earlier in the week.

"The more playing time you get, the better you feel," he said. "That's just the way it goes. I'm just trying to take my opportunities and take advantage of them. Unfortunately, we didn't win today, but the more at-bats I get, the better I feel."

The 25-year-old rookie was handed a prime opportunity in the second inning with two men on and one out. Starter Scott Feldman put him behind 0-2 with consecutive fastballs and tried to put him away upstairs. Knapp stayed poised and laid off both pitches, waiting for a mistake.

And the mistake came with a belt-high curveball that Knapp barreled 434 feet for a three-run homer.

"I wasn't really looking for it," he said. "I knew he liked to throw it with two strikes. It was kind of in the back of my head. But I was just looking for something out over the dish. He was pounding me in, but I was going to make him beat me away. I thankfully got that one out in front a bit."

Knapp is now 53 at-bats into his MLB career and has an impressive .264/.371/.509 batting line with three home runs and seven RBIs. He's played well enough to push starting catcher Cameron Rupp for more playing time and earn himself some extra starts beyond day games after night games.

"I feel good," Knapp said. "I'm learning a lot. Each at-bat in itself is its own thing and you can't really have much rollover. At the same time, the more I get in there, the better I feel and the more experience I get. So I feel good so far."

Rupp has been solid at the plate, although he dealt with some issues defensively last week. As Knapp got consecutive starts, Rupp sat out both Tuesday and Wednesday against the Rockies. He rebounded with a three-walk game Thursday afternoon.

With Knapp swinging the bat well, manager Pete Mackanin hopes it will only push Rupp to level his game up.

"Competition is great for pitchers and for position players and I think it's good," Mackanin said. "Knapp hit that home run today. He's been swinging the bat pretty well, catching pretty well and that's only, in my opinion, going to make Rupp better."

On Friday, Mackanin said he would give Knapp more playing time, looking to possibly split starts between Rupp and Knapp at four and three starts, respectively, per week. That's how it worked out during this past homestand.

The manager was unsure what the upward limit on Knapp's starts could be, but he was pleased about his catching situation despite the team's overall issues.

"Cam hasn't been swinging the bat that well lately, but they're both going to get playing time," Mackanin said. "Cam will get the brunt of the playing time. For me, it's a great situation. Now we have two guys that we think a lot of."

Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

Nico Hischier recounts meteoric rise in draft stock as Flyers do their homework

WINDSOR, Ontario -- Ever since the Flyers shot up the selection order at last month’s NHL draft lottery, prospect and Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier has been familiarizing himself with the Flyers' organization.

The Flyers entered the lottery with just a 2.2 percent shot at the first overall pick after finishing the season with a 39-33-10 record but climbed 11 spots from the 13th selection to No. 2 in the draft, which takes place June 23-24 in Chicago.

“I know it’s a sports city — they have the NHL, NBA and all those sports,” Hischier said Saturday at the Memorial Cup. “It’s a really nice city and I know Mark Streit played there and Jakub Voracek played in Halifax as well.”

The Flyers' brass has wasted no time familiarizing themselves with the 18-year-old, who spent this season playing with the Mooseheads in the QMJHL.

“We had already a little meeting together, but I think at combine we’ll see each other again,” said Hischier, who is ranked second amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. “It was just that they want to know me better as a person. They asked me some personal questions and that’s about it.”

A native of Naters, Switzerland, Hischier grew up playing soccer. He was also an avid skier and snowboarder before his older brother, Luca, turned him on to hockey.

“I used to ski a lot,” Hischier said. “First skiing, and then snowboarding, but my brother played hockey, he’s four years older than me, then I just wanted to play hockey as well.”

Last season, Hischier followed his brother to Bern, where he played 15 games in the Swiss pro league with several former NHLers while he was coached by current Senators bench boss Guy Boucher.

The six-foot, 174-pound center registered one assist in his brief stint with the club but gained valuable experience in the process.

“I think that helped me a lot because they’re all older guys and they gave me some good tips, too,” he said. “I really could learn from them and it’s great that I could play with them.

“I think I learned a lot (from Boucher). He brought Canadian hockey to Switzerland, I think. His practices were hard and I could really learn from him.”

Halifax used the sixth selection at last year’s CHL import draft to pick Hischier, and after a little convincing, the lanky forward made the decision to make the move to North America.

“I just came to Canada to try to become a better hockey player and I worked hard,” he said. “I had great teammates, and Halifax is a great organization.”

Adjusting to the smaller rinks in North America admittedly took time for Hischier, but he adapted well leading all CHL rookies in scoring with 38 goals and 48 assists in 57 games. On Saturday, he was named the CHL’s rookie of the year (see story).

“I think I improved my game in the corners,” Hischier said. “You have to dump more pucks over here on North American ice, and chase the puck more behind the net. At the end, I would say my play in the corners (improved the most).”

Growing up, Hischier watched former Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk closely, trying to model his game after the Russian forward.

He spent time this season playing both the wing and center positions and isn’t afraid to go to the net hard despite his slender frame. His offensive talents coupled with his ability to play both ends of the ice is what caused his draft stock jump from 26th on ISS Hockey’s rankings in November to a top-three position in January.

Internationally, Hischier made a splash at this year’s Under-20 world junior tournament in Toronto and Montreal, scoring a team-leading four goals and seven points in five games.

The highlight came in the quarterfinals where Hischier nearly single-handedly upset the Americans, scoring two goals in a 3-2 loss.

The performance led to a glowing review from U.S. coach Bob Motzko.

“He was the best player we’ve seen in this tournament,” Motzko said following the game. “We tried all four lines against him and I thought he was playing every shift because every time he got out there, the ice was tilted. It was the first thing we said when we got into the locker room: ‘That’s the best player we’ve seen in the tournament.’”

After the Mooseheads' first-round playoff exit, Hischier once again donned his country’s colors, registering one assist in five games at the U-18 tournament.

However, he skipped out on an opportunity to represent Switzerland at the senior men’s tournament in favor of relaxation.

“It was really important (to recover),” he said. “I went a couple days away from Switzerland to the beach (in Italy) and just relaxed. It was really great. Had to refill my tank and it was just great.”

Hischier will get another opportunity to meet with the Flyers’ front office this week in Buffalo at the NHL’s scouting combine. It’s believed Hischier could make the jump to the NHL in the fall, but he knows he still has some work to do this summer to make his dream come true.

“Get some pounds on, I want to get stronger,” said Hischier. “I think that’s the most important thing and I work hard towards that.”