Eagles Wake-Up Call: Where’s the Love For Graham?

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham.Through two games, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham has been on the field for 13 snaps.

He’s had seven opportunities to rush the passer, and the coaching staff has credited him with five hurries. Phillip Hunt, meanwhile, has one hurry in 16 opportunities. Darryl Tapp has zero hurries in 25 chances.

So it seems reasonable to expect Graham to get more snaps, right? Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the Eagles generally reward players who perform.

Graham, however, seems to be a special case. The coaches have been reluctant to offer him much praise publicly, apparently wanting to make sure the former first-round pick knows he has to still earn everything he gets. It goes back to the preseason, even. When Jason Babin missed time with a calf strain, instead of moving Graham over to left defensive end with the first group, Cullen Jenkins shifted over to end.

When Reid was asked last week if there were enough snaps to go around for Graham and the defensive linemen, he was cautious in his response.

“That’s what it comes down to. So, [for Jim Washburn], that’s a tough thing to juggle there,” Reid said. “You have nine guys and they’re all putting in positive snaps. So, it’s important that Brandon just continues to keep pushing. It’s a good problem to have, I guess I’d tell you. We’ll just see if that increases or not as we go on here.”

Juan Castillo had a similar answer later in the week.

“The thing is, we talked about this last week and he did get more plays than he did [the week before] and he did well,” Castillo said. “But it is a competition. You have nine guys that are starters, and they’re all fighting to get more playing time. They’re all fighting to see who will be in that third-down package. They’re all fighting to see who’s going to be on that alpha package, who’s first, who’s second. So it is really competition and it starts out in practice. You know yesterday we had a good practice. Today we’re trying to practice hard and fast, and that’s the key to rehearsal for Sunday. That’s where it kind of goes into it depending on how many reps he gets.”

Tough to know exactly what to make of that response also.

One obvious factor here is that the defense has been playing so well – getting off the field on third downs and avoiding long drives – that Washburn hasn’t had to rotate linemen as much. The first-team defensive ends (Babin and Trent Cole) have stayed on the field more. Castillo often says they have nine guys who are starters, but that’s not really the case. Cole and Babin have played 90 and 85 snaps, respectively, through two games – significantly more than Tapp (42) and Hunt (30).

As always, we question and discuss Monday through Saturday. We get answers on Sunday. That’s when we’ll find out if the coaches have seen enough from Graham to reward him with more playing time. Or whether he’ll continue to be the ninth man in the rotation.

WHAT YOU MISSED

DeSean Jackson was fined $10,000 for throwing a punch during Sunday’s game.

Here’s the second Eagles-Cardinals cheat sheet, examining how Michael Vick and the offense match up with Arizona’s D. I’ve got some more All-22 shots in there. And if you missed the first cheat sheet, which looks at the Eagles’ defense vs. Kevin Kolb and company, click here.

Ron Jaworski thinks the Eagles are going to get all they can handle.

Jeremy Maclin has been ruled out for Sunday.

And good stuff from Tim on a potential Nnamdi Asomugha-Larry Fitzgerald showdown.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Eagles bloggers are doing an outstanding job with their All-22 posts. Derek Sarley from Iggles Blog breaks down LeSean McCoy’s 1-yard touchdown. Brian Solomon of McNabb or Kolb shows how Fletcher Cox is making an impact. And Jimmy Kempski of Blogging the Beast takes a look at the Eagles-Cardinals matchup.

Kolb is expected to start Sunday. But there’s at least a chance he won’t be under center. ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox tells the story:

Kevin Kolb has a bit of a problem. His wife, Whitney, is nearly 38 weeks pregnant. She is so close to giving birth to the couple’s third daughter that Kevin asked Whitney to postpone Friday’s doctor’s appointment until Monday, he said, to avoid accelerating the process.

Kolb has an important football game to play Sunday, one that’s not about revenge against the team that traded him or anything superficial like that. But it is a meaningful game, for him and the 2-0 Cardinals. It is another chance for Kolb, who is expected to start with John Skelton nursing a sprained ankle, to make a positive impression. It is a chance to improve to 3-0. And yes, all things being equal, he would like to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

But if things start happening and baby girl No. 3 won’t wait, “I’m not going to miss the birth of my child,” Kolb said. “If it happened Sunday morning, I’m not missing it.”

COMING UP

The Eagles are in Arizona, but we’ll continue with our coverage leading up to the Week 3 matchup.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.