Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Philly March Madness: (2) Tim Kerr vs. (15) Carlos Ruiz

Over the next few weeks at The700Level, we'll be posting poll matchups as part of our Philly March Madness competition. Examine the cases of the two fine Philadelphia athletes below, and cast your vote at the bottom as to which you think should advance to the next round. And as always, feel free to explain your selection and/or debate the choices in the comments section.


(2) Tim Kerr

Imagine Scott Hartnell. Now imagine the complete opposite, and you have Tim Kerr. The beauty of Kerr, a three-time All-Star who from 1983 to 1987 might have had the most dominating four-season stretch of any Flyer in history, was the serenity that existed in him while mayhem reigned around him (usually due to his presence). At 6-3, 235, he was a mountain of a man, particularly in his era. And his greatest asset was almost neanderthal in concept: Stand in front of the net, and wait for the puck. Except as Kerr parked himself in front, particularly on power plays, opponents threw every short of plastic explosives at him in futile attempts to stop him. You could build a bonfire visible from space with all the sticks snapped over his back (and yes, they were still wooden sticks back then). They would hook, crosscheck, slewfoot, punch, butt-end … to no avail. You couldn’t knock Kerr off his skates. His balance was amazing, and his ability to endure the punishment was epic. He scored 224 goals in that four season stretch. Of the 58 goals he had in 1985-86, an NHL-record 34 came on the power play. Two players have come within 10 goals of that record in the past decade; it’s as air-tight as DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

Kerr suffered a season-scrapping injury in 1987, came back the following season and threw up 48 more goals. But the pounding he took for his relentless decision to make the area three feet in front of the goalie his own took its toll. He didn’t play more than half a season over the next four years and retired when he was 33. However, it is impossible not to marvel at what Kerr did on the ice, for he had to know it would come at the expense of longevity.

Oh, one more thing: Tim Kerr was not a fighter. However, on the handful of occasions an opponent pushed him over his long threshold of patience and prompted him to drop the gloves, it was a scene from a gore film. No Flyer -- not Dave Brown, not Donald Brashear, not DAVE SCHULTZ -- could devastate a man with his fists like Tim Kerr. But Kerr knew he was more valuable as a mountain instead of a volcano. --Dennis Deitch

(15) Carlos Ruiz

Philadelphia loves to watch an unknown player emerge from doubt and/or mild obscurity to become a major contributor, and over the past three seasons, Carlos Ruiz has done just that. In 2007, he began to show he could work well with a pitching staff, aided by the mentoring of Jamie Moyer, and he also showed particular strength defensively. In 2008, with the Rod Barajas era over after just one injury-shortened season, Ruiz continued his development as a catcher and was a vital part of the Phillies’ World Series run. I’ll never forget watching him from the fifth row on the first base side in game 3. He had homered early in the game, but the moment that stands out was his dribbling, bases-loaded, walkoff infield single that somehow found enough daylight to score Eric Bruntlett despite Joe Maddon having seven fielders within the cutout. Game 3 was in the books, and Chooch’s status as a folk hero was cemented. He was the man calling some masterfully pitched games from behind the plate—a Panamanian with an almost entirely American-born staff (11 of 12)—and he also came up big at the dish under the brightest spotlight.

Over the past two seasons, particularly in 2010, Ruiz has continued growing as a catcher and is now considered one of the best in the game, even adding some offense. He caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game and his playoff no-hitter, and to hear Halladay tell it, Doc was just a guy doing as his catcher directed. His play on the final out of the no-hitter was a thing of athletic beauty, quickly getting out to a dribbler with the bat in the way, then firing it over the baserunner’s shoulder, just in time to make history. While some of the best-known prospects fizzle out when they get to the big leagues, if they make it at all, Ruiz spent eight seasons in the Phillies minor league system with most fans hardly knowing his name. Now you can’t go to a game without hearing it shouted by 40,000-plus. --Matt P.

Who should advance to the next round?online surveys

Results So Far:

East Bracket:

(1) Julius Erving (91.8%) over (16) Von Hayes (8.2%)
(8) Simon Gagne (77.9%) over (9) Seth Joyner (22.1%)
(5) Eric Lindros (70.3%) over (12) Eric Allen (29.7%)
(4) Randall Cunningham (77.6%) over (13) Shane Victorino (23.4%)
(11) Cole Hamels (82.1%) over (6) Mark Recchi (17.9%)
(14) Tug McGraw (51.1%) over (3) Moses Malone (48.9%)
(7) Darren Daulton (74.0%) over (10) Andrew Toney (26.0%)
(2) Chase Utley (93.5%) over (15) Andre Waters (6.5%)

Midwest Bracket:

(1) Mark Howe (60.2%) over (16) David Akers (39.8%)
(9) Rod Brind'Amour (73.6%) over (8) Rick Tocchet (26.4%)
(5) Brian Westbrook (93.3%) over (12) Jayson Werth (6.7%)
(4) Mike Richards (85.1%) over (13) Trent Cole (14.9%)
(6) John LeClair (89.2%) over (11) Clyde Simmons (10.8%)
(3) Jimmy Rollins (75.8%) over (14) John Kruk (24.2%)
(7) Lenny Dykstra (51.9%) over (10) Dave Poulin (48.1%)
(2) Allen Iverson (83.1%) over (15) Jeremiah Trotter (16.9%)

West Bracket:

(1) Mike Schmidt (96.9%) over (16) Keith Byars (3.1%)
(9) Wilbert Montgomery (59.4%) over (8) Jeff Carter (40.6%)
(5) Ron Jaworski (83.5%) over (12) Bobby Abreu (16.5%)
(4) Ron Hextall (94.1%) over (13) Andre Iguodala (5.9%)
(6) Mike Quick (59.8%) over (11) Hugh Douglas (40.2%)
(3) Brian Dawkins (98.3%) over (14) Scott Rolen (1.7%)
(7) Maurice Cheeks (51.9%) over (10) Eric Desjardins (48.1%)

Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Just six days after being a healthy scratch against the Packers, Nelson Agholor didn't just play against the Bengals. He didn't just start either. 

He played all 80 snaps on Sunday afternoon in the 32-14 loss at Paul Brown Stadium. 

Agholor, 23, had an awful game in Seattle a couple weeks ago and then said he was in his own head as the pressure of the NFL was seemingly crushing him. So head coach Doug Pederson gave him a day off. 

On Sunday, Agholor tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. 

With Jordan Matthews out with an ankle injury, undrafted rookie Paul Turner got significant playing time. Turner played a career-high 41 snaps (51 percent), while Bryce Treggs got just two snaps. With Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing most of the game, there wasn't much left for Treggs. 

Zach Ertz played 70 snaps and had nine catches on 15 targets. Trey Burton played 53 snaps, which was likely a result of not having Matthews. 

In the running back rotation, Darren Sproles led the way with 44 snaps, while Wendell Smallwood had 24 and Kenjon Barner had 13. Ryan Mathews missed his second straight game with an MCL sprain. 

On defense, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod played the entire game, which has been customary. 

In somewhat of a surprise, Leodis McKelvin led corners with 55 snaps (86 percent). Nolan Carroll had 51 and rookie Jalen Mills, who had been playing significant time, got just 23. 

The Eagles weren't in nickel all game, so Mychal Kendricks played 26 snaps, while Jaylen Watkins played 39. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday afternoon: 

Offense
Brandon Brooks: 80 snaps (100 percent)
Allen Barbre: 80 (100)
Jason Kelce: 80 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski: 80 (100)
Jason Peters: 80 (100)
Carson Wentz: 80 (100)
Nelson Agholor: 80 (100)
Zach Ertz: 70 (88)
Trey Burton: 53 (66)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 50 (62)
Darren Sproles: 44 (55)
Paul Turner: 41 (51)
Wendell Smallwood: 24 (30)
Brent Celek: 19 (24)
Kenjon Barner: 13 (16)
Isaac Seumalo: 4 (5)
Bryce Treggs: 2 (2)

Defense
Malcolm Jenkins: 64 snaps (100 percent)
Rodney McLeod: 64 (100)
Jordan Hicks: 63 (98)
Nigel Bradham: 61 (95)
Leodis McKelvin: 55 (86)
Nolan Carroll: 51 (80)
Brandon Graham: 49 (77)
Fletcher Cox: 47 (73)
Connor Barwin: 42 (66)
Jaylen Watkins: 39 (61)
Bennie Logan: 37 (58)
Vinny Curry: 26 (41)
Mychal Kendricks: 26 (41)
Jalen Mills: 23 (36)
Beau Allen: 22 (34)
Marcus Smith: 18 (28)
Destiny Vaeao: 16 (25)
Stephen Tulloch: 1 (2)

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

CINCINNATI — Nelson Agholor took a step forward on Sunday afternoon.

It was a baby step, but it was still a step.

The Eagles’ first-round pick from a year ago started in Sunday’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium six days after being a healthy scratch — call it a mental health day — against the Packers.

Two weeks ago, Agholor, 23, had an awful day in Seattle, after which he admitted that he was in his own head. It appeared the pressure of being in the NFL had become overwhelming.

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to sit Agholor in the Packers game, but he didn’t have much of a choice on Sunday with Jordan Matthews’ ankle injury.

“I felt good competing again, just getting the chance to lace it up and go out there felt great,” Agholor said. “I had fun doing it and now I just have to build on it.”

It wasn’t a great day for Agholor, but it wasn’t an awful one either. He tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. He was the Eagles’ sixth-leading receiver on a day when the offense struggled mightily.

But he caught the football, didn’t have a drop and didn’t have any major mental blunders. Yes, the bar is low.

“I thought it was a great time to get out there, got to touch the ball a bit, caught some passes, caught some contested ones,” Agholor said. “And now it's just about finding a way to take the next step for myself. Watch the game with a critical eye and continue to grow as a football player.”

Since the Eagles drafted Agholor with the 20th overall pick in 2015, he’s been a colossal disappointment. During Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Bengals, Agholor quietly surpassed his receiving yards total from his rookie season. In 2016, he has 287 yards on 31 catches.

Perhaps that means there’s been improvement, but not really. The Eagles were counting on Agholor to become a viable option for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and that hasn’t happened. In fact, at times, Agholor has made a negative impact.

Undrafted rookie Paul Turner, in his second career game on Sunday, caught six passes for 80 yards, both surpassing career highs for Agholor, who has been a starter since he joined the Eagles.

“The most important thing for me is to focus on me right now,” Agholor said when asked if the Eagles are giving maximum effort. “And I want to give unmatched effort and have great focus in the classroom and let it translate to football games.”

Agholor said there wasn’t some grand announcement from Pederson telling him that he was going to be active for Sunday. More or less, that announcement was inferred thanks to Matthews' injury status and Agholor’s practice load during the week.

No, it wasn’t Pro Bowl stuff from Agholor on Sunday. Four catches for 23 yards isn’t going to ever be good enough. But he was at least able to take a baby step forward.

He wasn’t too nervous either.

“I was blessed, to be honest with you,” he said. “Put the shoulder pads on, the helmet on again. The lesson that I truly thought I learned from last week was something that I loved so much, I didn't have an opportunity to do. So now, I didn't care if I just ran go-routes every play and the ball didn't come my way. As long as I got to put my cleats on and play with my teammates and play the game that I've loved for so long, I was happy about it.”