Eagles Wake-Up Call: Graham Breaking Out
From the third quarter of the Saints game on November 5 to the second quarter against the Bengals 37 days later, the Eagles went without a single turnover.
Brandon Graham was the last member of the defense to generate one –jarring the ball loose from Drew Brees in the second half in New Orleans – and was the one who brought the slump mercifully to an end Thursday. It came on Graham’s second sack of the night. The defensive end got to Andy Dalton as he was winding up to deliver a throw and knocked the ball loose for the waiting Trent Cole. Replays concluded that Dalton’s arm was not yet moving forward, allowing the play to stand.
The Michigan product finished with a career-best 2 1/2 sacks and was a big bright spot in an ugly 34-13 loss to Cincinnati.
Graham had a tough time getting snaps early in the season but consistently made the most of them, and slowly became a bigger part of Jim Washburn’s rotation. He was named the starter when Jason Babin was released following the loss to the Panthers. In the three games since he has amassed four sacks, seven quarterback hits and four tackles for a loss.
“You get to go out there and be free,” said Graham of being the starter. “Your coach has a lot of confidence in you. If he didn’t now I know he does.
“As long as I keep bringing the same attitude and effort like I’m coming from behind. I feel like I’m still the No. 2 guy and I’m still trying to prove myself. That’s going to be me until I’m done playing.”
Graham was hampered by injuries for much of his first two seasons and has been unable to escape the shadow cast by Jason Pierre-Paul, who was drafted by the Giants two spots after Graham and already has collected 27.5 sacks, a Pro Bowl appearance and a Super Bowl ring. Graham, in comparison, has 8 ½ sacks for his career.
This season is more of a fair fight. Graham now has 5 ½ sacks on the season compared to JPP’s 6 ½. He has a ton of ground to make up, but it can at least be said that Graham is starting to flash some of that first-round ability.
“I’m trying to step into that role of being a leader for next year,” said Graham. “Trent taught me a whole lot, Babin and those guys, just looking up to them and trying to be a leader because I really want us to go to the playoffs. I haven’t been in the playoffs since I’ve been here — my first year I got hurt when we went. I want to be in the postseason trying to go for a championship.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Sheil gives his instant observations from Thursday’s 34-13 loss to the Bengals.
Nick Foles took a step backwards against the Bengals.
The defense seems to be responding to the end of the Wide-9.
The Eagles changed courses and decided to give Mike Patterson the $150,000.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Dan Graziano talks Bryce Brown in his wrap-up:
The bloom is off rookie running back Bryce Brown as well, after his fourth fumble in four starts in place of LeSean McCoy. Brown ran extremely well in his first two games, totaling more than 300 rush yards. But he barely factored in the game plan Sunday, and he had a tough time against the tough Cincinnati defense Thursday. And of course, he fumbled, which is obviously a big problem for him. He’s got major talent, but the fact that he didn’t play much college football at all is showing up in the cavalier way in which he carries the ball. If it doesn’t improve, his future in the game will be short.
It does not appear that Andy Reid will take time off after the season. From Michael Silver at Yahoo!:
Despite a 4-9 record that includes an eight-game losing streak, despite the personal tragedy of his son’s death this summer, despite 14 years grinding on the job in Philadelphia, despite all signs pointing to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie firing him at the end of this season, Reid still wants to coach and doesn’t want to take any time off.
In his 14th year with Philadelphia, Andy Reid is the longest tenured head coach in the NFL.
“That’s not where I’m at,” he said Tuesday when I ran the idea of a one-year sabbatical by him as he left the practice field following a midday walk through in preparation of Thursday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. “No. Listen, I’m a coach. I don’t hide that from anybody. This is what I do. And I enjoy doing it. I love every day of it. I sure like winning more than losing, but I also am very privileged to be a coach in the National Football League.”
Reid takes the podium at noon. We’ll have it all covered for you.