Senior Bowl Storylines: Kelly begins rebuilding process

986387.jpg

Senior Bowl Storylines: Kelly begins rebuilding process

MOBILE, Ala. -- Chip Kellys first major step toward rebuilding the Eagles and putting his stamp on the team begins Monday as he, general manager Howie Roseman and the teams army of talent evaluators gather here for Senior Bowl week.

Day 1 begins with a 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST practice (2:30 to 4:30 p.m. for folks back East) for the South Team, which is where the Eagles contingent will convene. The North Team practices from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Practices run through Thursday morning and conclude with a Friday walk-through and Saturday game.

Its unlikely that the Eagles will find their next first-round pick here, as several of the top-rated seniors (Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Manti Teo) have decided that the game isnt worth their time or can improve their draft stock.

For the first time ever, two juniors who fulfilled four years of college were permitted to attend, including Alabama 335-pound offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, a second-team All America, and Syracuse offensive tackle Justin Pugh (6-5, 297). Both are projected first-rounders.

Here are some developing storylines for the Eagles as Senior Bowl weeks gets ready to start.

Defensive coordinator, please?
Chip Kelly is still assembling his staff, and for some reason the Eagles are still not even admitting that theyve hired anyone other than Kelly. As far as we know, Kelly hasnt yet found a defensive coordinator. Giants linebacker coach Jim Hermann reportedly just pulled his name out of the ring (see story), so the search goes back to Square 1.

Pat Shurmur. Explain.
The pairing of Kelly and new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur seems a little awkward given Shurmurs pedigree in the West Coast offense and Kellys expertise with the spread. Plus, any prior connection between the two coaches is unknown. Its not yet known if Shurmur will be here in Mobile, but perhaps Kelly can make sense of the hire when we get the chance to chat with him.

4-3 or 3-4?
When he met the media last week Kelly said he hadnt yet evaluated the personnel on the roster and therefore couldnt make any judgments on what kind of defensive alignment he plans to employ. Now that hes had some time to watch tape and pick the brains of Eagles staff (both outgoing and incoming), he might have a better idea (see 3-4 draft options).

Name that quarterback
Nick Foles? Mike Vick? Geno Smith? Alex Smith? Bueller Bueller Its important that Kelly has an idea of where he wants to go at the games most important position and whether not that franchise cornerstone is currently on the roster. E.J. Manuel, from Florida State, is one of the more mobile quarterbacks here in Mobile that Kelly might be eyeing closely. North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon is apparently one to watch this week.

Judgment Day
This is a monumental offseason for Roseman, who for the first time in his front-office career has to evaluate players with an eye toward Kellys philosophy rather than Andy Reids. Roseman and Kelly dont have much time to get on the same page about the kind of players Kelly needs for his system so you can rest assured that the two will huddling up very frequently from now until draft day.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH -- The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Nerlens Noel was essentially the beginning of The Process.

Acquired in a draft day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, Noel was the last player remaining of those who were on the team when Brett Brown took over as head coach of the Sixers. Drafted No. 6 overall out of Kentucky, Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL.

That gave Brown the opportunity to work closely with Noel, most notably on his shot.

"Personally, I spent a lot of time with him," Brown said pregame Friday. "To have a whole year where you could help grow his shot. And talk about a total rebuild."

Noel on Thursday was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a top-18 protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. The return doesn't seem great, but there are larger factors at play.

Noel is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. With the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the roster, the center position was (and still is, frankly) crowded. The chances of the Sixers' retaining Noel weren't great. Especially if a team had signed him to an exorbitant offer sheet.

Brown was naturally close to Noel, but understands the business side of the decision.

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said. "[The Mavericks] have brought him in to grow him to try to be a starting center. That does equal a commensurate paycheck. He will be rewarded if that's the way it plays out.

"That wasn't gonna happen here. It wasn't gonna happen here. And so when you really study salary caps, really study design of teams and really study how to grow a program so you're not caught positionally, it was gonna be hard to allocate that amount of money to a five spot."

Brown got some more tough news when he learned No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons won't play this season. A scan taken Thursday revealed that Simmons' Jones fracture, suffered in early October on the last day of training camp, has not fully healed (see story).

Brown, being the consummate optimist, brought up his experience with Noel in is his rookie season of how a player can still develop despite not getting on the court.

"I'm disappointed for lots of reasons that he isn't going to be able to play," Brown said. "I played text tag with him as he was going to the scan. I felt like when your wife is having a baby, pacing around, wondering, 'What's gonna happen? What's the result of the scan? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be?' I don't mean to get too dramatic, but there's a level of anxiety that you wonder, 'What is the result gonna say?' And when it came back with the result, it caught me off guard. It really wasn't something personally I was expecting."

Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo addressed the media Friday to disclose the news on Simmons. He also explained his thinking behind the Noel trade, which mostly hinged on Noel's impending restricted free-agent status (see story).

Brown was sad to see one of his original developmental projects go, but understood the business side of the decision.                     

"I thought he did a really good job," Brown said of Colangelo's press conference. "That is the truth. So it's connected with emotion and reality that we say goodbye to Nerlens."