Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On September 11

With the Eagles starting their season last week and the Phillies trying to remain relevant during the final few weeks of their season, it’s easy to overlook the Flyers, who open training camp this week.

The Flyers opened rookie camp on Monday, with the full-roster training camp beginning on Friday. The Flyers don’t waste any time getting down to business. Their first preseason game is Sunday (1 p.m.) against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

This season is supposed to be the next step in the Flyers’ progression. A big part of that progression will depend on the defense. If the Flyers’ young defensemen get better, the team will get better.

The young defense is headlined by Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov. Gostisbehere is on the cusp of being one of the NHL’s best offensive defensemen. Provorov appears to be on a path to becoming one of the NHL’s best all-around defensemen. Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg should be better in their second NHL seasons. There also is an opportunity for Phil Myers to make the roster. Other than the 25-year-old Gostisbehere, the other players mentioned are between 21 and 23 years old.

There are a few veterans on the blue line. Radko Gudas and Christian Folin, who was signed as a free agent, will be counted upon for their experience, as will Andrew MacDonald, who is likely to miss the start of the season due to a “lower body injury” suffered while working out. But you know what you’re going to get from MacDonald and Gudas, and you hope that Folin will be a steady presence. How much the defense improves depends on the development of the young defensemen.

Youth is also important on offense. A potential source of significant improvement is second-year center Nolan Patrick, who will turn 20 years old next week. Travis Konecny, 21, also has plenty of room to improve his overall game. Center Morgan Frost could also make a run making the roster, and he should have plenty of opportunity to play because Sean Couturier’s knee injury will keep him sidelined.

A familiar face who is back in the fold is James van Riemsdyk, who was signed as a free agent. JVR, who will turn 30 on May 4, is an important piece in making sure the Flyers are still playing when he celebrates his birthday, but the most important piece in the Flyers’ progression is the development of their young defensemen.


RECEPTION ISSUES: The Eagles’ 18-12 victory over the Falcons in the NFL’s season opener Thursday couldn’t hide their obvious problems at receiver. Nelson Agholor caught eight passes, but only gained 33 yards on those receptions. The only other pass caught by a receiver was a 10-yarder to DeAndre Carter. Veteran Mike Wallace stretched the field with some deep routes, but he didn’t catch a pass.

With Alshon Jeffery needing at least a few more weeks to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, the Eagles are extremely thin at receiver. It doesn’t help that second-year receiver Mack Hollins is on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least the first eight games of the season. Preseason sensation Shelton Gibson, in his second season, didn’t have a catch against the Falcons, although he might benefit from more opportunities.

Recognizing their shortcomings, the Eagles signed three receivers to their practice squad. They signed Dorren Miller, Reggie Davis and Braxton Miller, a former Ohio State quarterback. There also reports that they worked Breshad Perriman, a bust with the Ravens after being drafted in the first round in 2015, and Kamar Aiken, who was in Eagles training camp.

Tight end Zach Ertz led the Eagles in receiving yards (48 on 5 receptions) during the victory over the Falcons. But the Eagles are going to need more production from their wide receivers in order for their success to continue.


DEFENSE DOMINATES: The Falcons failed to score a point during three trips inside the red zone against the Eagles. Although the Falcons’ questionable play-calling is certainly a factor, credit must be given to the Eagles defense. Led by Fletcher Cox, the defense forced quarterback Matt Ryan to throw earlier than he wanted to, which helped the already-tight coverage. On opening night, the defense clearly was ahead of the offense.


RODGERS’ HEROICS: The Packers’ season seemed in jeopardy Sunday night when Aaron Rodgers, playing his first game since last October, injured his left knee when sacked by a heavy Bears rush. With DeShone Kizer, who failed as the Browns quarterback, turning the ball over twice, the Packers’ opener certainly seemed lost.

But Rodgers, who limped off the field and was taken to the locker room on a cart, returned after halftime and led an amazing comeback. Despite avoiding putting pressure on his left leg when he could avoid it, Rodgers helped the Packers erase a 20-point deficit while posting a 24-23 victory.


BEWARE OF BUCS: One of the biggest surprises during the first week of the NFL season was the Buccaneers’ 48-40 victory over the host Saints. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, 35, completed 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns. Perhaps the Eagles would have been better off facing the Bucs with suspended quarterback Jameis Winston under center.


RELATIVE SUCCESS: I can’t take credit for this line, but I’m going to repeat it. By tying the Steelers, 21-21, the Browns are off to their best start since 2004.

The tie snapped a 13-year losing streak in season openers. The Browns still haven’t won a game since Christmas Eve of 2016.


IMPRESSIVE DEBUT: Saquon Barkley gained 106 yards rushing, including a 68-yard touchdown run, during his first NFL game. The fact that he accomplished that much against the Jaguars, who have one of the NFL’s top defenses, makes his debut even more impressive (although the Jaguars won the game, 20-15).


NO EXCUSES: I have read numerous explanations for Serena Williams’ behavior during her loss to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open women’s final. Sexism appears to be the most prevalent excuse as celebrities and columnists line up to support Williams.

All of this is nonsense. Williams was penalized during the match because of her behavior. The initial penalty was for receiving coaching during the match. That has nothing to do with sexism. But then Williams began to berate the umpire. She escalated the situation by criticizing the umpire, including personal insults, during changeovers between games. In other words, Williams received additional penalties, including the loss of a game, because she chose to escalate the situation.

If Williams is looking for someone to blame, she needs to look in the mirror. The penalties imposed upon her weren’t about sexism. The situation was about a frustrated player – Osaka won the first set, 6-2 – losing her cool and conducting herself in a completely inappropriate manner.


STATING THEIR CASE: After needing overtime to defeat Appalachian State in its season opener, Penn State bounced back with a 51-6 domination of host Pittsburgh. The Nittany Lions held a 14-6 lead after a competitive first half, but blew the game open with a 37-0 edge during the second half.

Penn State moved up from 13th to No. 11 in the AP college football rankings after Saturday’s victory. The Nittany Lions need to be careful not to overlook Kent State this Saturday and then Illinois the following Friday. That would enable them to be 4-0 when they host Ohio State, currently ranked fourth in the nation, on Sept. 29, and then Michigan State, currently ranked 25th, on Oct. 13.


TEMPLE OF DOOM? When Temple made its schedule, the Owls were probably figuring on being 2-0 heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland. Instead, after narrow losses in both games, Temple is looking at a potential 0-5 start.

Beating the Terrapins, who upset Texas in their opener, on their home field will be a difficult task. The Owls then get Tulsa at home, but it’s a Thursday night game. It may take the Owls a little longer to recover from Maryland than it will for Tulsa to recover from its game with Arkansas State. The following week the Owls visit Boston College, so an 0-5 start isn’t out of the question.


MAKING AN IMPACT: The Union (12-11-4), 5-0-1 in their last six games, can take a big step toward securing a playoff spot Saturday when they host Montreal. The Union have a game in hand on the Impact (11-14-3), so a victory would push Montreal, which occupies the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, further back. On the other hand, a Montreal victory would bring it within one point of the fifth-place Union, as well as presenting an opportunity for New England and D.C. United, the first two teams outside of the playoff picture, to gain ground.


PLAYOFF FIELD SET: The 16-driver field for NASCAR’s playoffs is set. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who have dominated the circuit this year, lead the playoff field. Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. is a shade behind Busch and Harvick. Brad Keselowski, with two straight wins, is the hottest driver entering the playoffs.

There is some turnover in the playoff field. Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. missed the playoffs after participating in them last year. (Matt Kenseth also didn’t return to the playoffs, but he’s a part-time driver this year.) Newman finished 16th in the standings, but didn’t qualify for the playoffs because Austin Dillon, 18th in the standings, won the Daytona 500. A victory trumps total points unless the driver isn’t in the top 30.

The rest of the field consists of Clint Bowyer; Joey Logan; Kurt Busch; Chase Elliott; Ryan Blaney; Erik Jones; Kyle Larson; Denny Hamlin; Aric Almirola; Jimmie Johnson; and Alex Bowman. Johnson did not win a race this season and finished only ahead of Dillon and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Bowman among playoff participants. Jones, in his second year as a full-time driver on NASCAR’s top circuit, qualified for the playoffs for the first time.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 30 years, never threw a tantrum similar to Serena Williams’ meltdown at the U.S. Open during his brief competitive tennis career as a youth.

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