Eagles Wake-Up Call: An Opportunity For Graham
Brandon Graham‘s fifth season with the Eagles is nearing its end. The rookie contract that has tied him to Philadelphia — for better or for worse, in good times and in bad — is about to expire.
Most of the good has come of late. Graham has made peace with the ghosts of expectations unmet and has adapted to his new position to become a productive part of the Eagles’ attack. He has 5.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 14 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles on the season while playing a shade under 40 percent of the snaps.
Somewhat apropos of the way his pro career has gone, Graham’s playing time is set to spike just as the sand threatens to drain out of the hourglass. Trent Cole is expected to miss at least one week with a broken hand, meaning Graham jumps into the starting lineup for the first time since 2012.
“This is a big opportunity for me to really show what I can do with more snaps. I’m excited to just be able to go compete and get better with my teammates,” said Graham.
The Eagles have an interesting decision coming up in regards to their former first-round pick. Beyond Connor Barwin, the outside linebacker position is a bit unsettled. Cole’s base salary is slated to jump from $5 million to $10 million next season. In an ideal world, Marcus Smith II would have proven capable of taking on a starting role opposite Barwin, but that never happened. All considered, Graham seems like a pretty attractive option.
“My biggest thing is finish the season right,” said Graham. “Either the last two games or we make the playoffs, whatever it is. And then hopefully next year I’ll be starting. That’s my goal. My goal is to be the best I can and hopefully next year be starting.”
Be starting here.
Or just be starting?
“Be starting here. I want to be here. I do. Because when I hear stories of where people came from, I’ll be like, ‘Man, we have it good here.’ And I’m not really trying to leave nothing good.
“I do have to think about what fits me – I mean, I believe this system does – but I just want them to believe that I can be the guy. That’s the biggest thing. We all have to be on the same page.”
Synching up has been a big part of the issue since Graham joined the team in 2010. He has played in multiple schemes and under four different defensive coordinators. There have been injuries and position changes and various other obstacles. With his contract set to expire, he has a final opportunity to show that he is worth another round of investments.
“I think I’m capable of just being a great player at my position,” he said. “That’s just my mentality. I’m trying to be great every time I hit the field.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Jeremy Maclin sticks up for his fellow receivers, talks about relationship with DeSean Jackson.
“We set him back by moving him inside.” Marcus Smith back at his original position.
“There are issues in Philadelphia beyond the QB spot.” National media weighs in on the Eagles.
Sheil with a player-by-player review of the Eagles’ offense.
“I think people are playing us a lot deeper than they did last year.” Chip Kelly on why the deep ball hasn’t been there.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
According to Aaron Schatz of ESPN.com and Football Outsiders, the Eagles have a 35 percent chance of making the playoffs.
The Eagles blew it big time Sunday night, as their playoff odds plummeted by more than half, from 79.2 percent last week to just 35.3 percent this week. While neither Washington nor the Giants are a difficult opponent, the Eagles have to play both games on the road. The main thing keeping them alive is that they would win a tiebreaker over the Cowboys no matter whether both teams finish 11-5 (16.3 percent of simulations) or 10-6 (7.8 percent of simulations). The Eagles will be rooting very hard for Indianapolis this week.
Peter King asked around about Marcus Mariota.
Here’s the impression I got from the NFL people: Mariota is not as good a prospect, or as no-doubt a quarterback, as Andrew Luck was in the 2012 draft. But he’s a more accurate thrower, and better in the pocket, than Robert Griffin III was in that same draft.
One general manager who scouted college quarterbacks this fall said: “He has the intelligence you want in a quarterback, and the work ethic. When he came back to school this year, it was basically Heisman or bust, and it was Final Four [the new college playoff system] or bust. He accomplished both. You need to give him time to breathe, time to adjust, to the pro game. You don’t want him to be the kind of guy you’re penciling in to start opening day, because he’s not playing in a classic pro-style offense in college, and you don’t want him to come in relying all on his athleticism. I also think he evolved this year as a passer. He stayed in the pocket longer. When I watch now, I see a quarterback going through his progressions more. Less impulsive.”
We’ll speak to Kelly at 11:40 before practice.