Weekend Reading: Brandon Graham Almost Released By Chip Kelly
With week two of training camp wrapping up this weekend, here’s a roundup of the most interesting stories about the Eagles:
First, a roster move. After practice yesterday, the Eagles announced the signing of wide receiver Deon Long to bring the roster back up to the maximum of 90.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 5, 2016
Long signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent last year before spending time with the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams on their practice squads. The Rams, now playing in Los Angeles, cut him last week.
Brandon Graham spoke about the new 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz will implement, but also shared an interesting nugget in an interview with Pro Football Focus.
For a former first-round pick, it hasn’t been the easiest road for Graham an NFL player. Injury hit hard early in his career, and a succession of different schemes saw him sitting behind established veterans waiting for his chance. Even his starting season a year ago almost never happened.
“Chip [Kelly] was going to let me go at one point, because he liked another guy, Travis Long, over me. And Travis got hurt last preseason game, and I stayed and balled out and I became the starter—and the rest is history.”
But for a player that’s seen a relatively short end of the stick at times throughout his NFL career, Graham is actually almost grateful for the setbacks, because it means he plays with something to prove.
“I think they always just make it hard for me, but it’s good, because I keep that chip on my shoulder.”
Jordan Hicks is the sixth best breakout prospect in the league, according to Rivers McCown for ESPN In$ider.
6. Jordan Hicks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
450 defensive snaps, third-round pick (2015), age 24
As with Henry Anderson‘s knee, Hicks’ season-ending pectoral injury preserved his eligibility for this list. Hicks played an immediate role for the Eagles, with the highest run-stop rate among all linebackers on the team last year. Going forward, he projects as a true three-down linebacker. The only question: Can he stay on the field? Hicks lost two seasons at Texas to hip problems and an Achilles injury. This is starting to become a trend, and it’s the reason he’s a bit lower on this list even though he has top-five talent.
The Eagles have the eighth best backup quarterback situation with Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz, opines Will Brinson of CBSSports.com.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
Depth chart: Chase Daniel , Carson Wentz
If this list were based on how much backups were being paid, the Philadelphia Eagles would be No. 1 by a longshot. After investing big money into Sam Bradford this offseason, the team also gave Daniel a large contract to be the primary backup and then went out and drafted Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick. If the rookie plays, things have gone very south. But Daniel is a good, if overpaid, option behind Bradford, a player with a history of not staying healthy. Daniel’s knowledge of Doug Pederson‘s offense is a huge plus obviously.
With the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrining the Class of 2016 in Canton this weekend, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com thinks that former Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens should be enshrined.
1. Terrell Owens, wide receiver
Owens was one of the most productive and feared receivers of his generation, finishing his career in 2010 with the second-most yards (15,934), second-most touchdowns (153) and fifth-most receptions (1,078) among receivers in NFL history. (Randy Moss surpassed Owens’ touchdown total before retiring in 2012.) It’s true that receiving statistics have ballooned in this generation as the NFL has leaned toward passing offenses. But Owens — who spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers and later played for the Eagles, Cowboys, Bills and Bengals — stood above almost all of his contemporaries. Despite an outsize personality that offended some, it is simply a matter of time before Owens is elected.
Speaking of Owens, he was a guest on The Dan Patrick Show and said that he could still be a solid receiver at 42, from Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
Appearing on Thursday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show (guest-hosted by the guys from The Drive on 910 FOX Sports in Phoenix), Owens said he can still play at a high level.
“I could insert myself somewhere strategically with a good offensive coordinator throughout the season,” Owens said. “I would say anywhere [form] 800 to 1,000 and that’s on the shy side.”
He specifically mentioned the Rams as a potential candidate, because: (1) he’s in L.A.; and (2) “I don’t even know who their receivers are.”
Still, it sounds as if Owens won’t be pushing it very hard for a job with the Rams.
“At this point in time in my career that’s not a focus of mine . . . but if they needed me for whatever reason, I would do my best to get into [game] shape,” Owens said. “I understand it would be more so for a mentorship role, but at the same time I would still like to compete and get something out of it.”
Former Eagle Brian Westbrook has reportedly been removed from CSN Philly’s “Postgame Live” program and will not return to the network, according to Rob Tornoe of Philly.com.
Westbrook has been an analyst at CSN Philly since 2013. According to a spokesperson, the network is making changes to their Eagles pre- and postgame shows “in order to bring fresh voices and perspectives,” but said the running back hadn’t been fired.
“We value our relationship with Brian and offered him another opportunity with the network, which he declined,” the spokesperson said. “We wish him the best and hope to work with him again.”
Westbrook says CSN Philly offered him a 30 minute show on Thursdays, which the running back declined. No word yet on who else may not be returning to CSN Philly’s gameday coverage.
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com gives his wide receiver fantasy projections for the Eagles.
Rec yds: 985
Rec TDs: 7
Rush yds: 0
Rush TDs: 0
Fumbles lost: 1
Fantasy points: 138.5
Rec yds: 617
Rec TDs: 5
Rush yds: 0
Rush TDs: 0
Fumbles lost: 0
Fantasy points: 91.7
The Eagles will have a different look, as Doug Pederson takes over as the new head coach. He served as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2013-2015, but Andy Reid did most of the play calling. Still, fantasy fans should note that just one wide receiver (Jeremy Maclin, 2015) has ever finished better than 44th in fantasy points at the position during those three years. Furthermore, Kansas City wideouts averaged just seven touchdowns a season as a unit under Pederson. … In 2015, Jordan Matthews led the team in targets, catches, yards and touchdown catches. Of course, 60 percent of his yardage and all but one of his touchdowns came in the final nine contests.
The position to watch at training camp comes on the defensive side of the ball, pens Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com.
The Eagles unloaded last year’s marquee addition, Byron Maxwell, and added lower-level free agents Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks, who played for coordinator Jim Schwartz in Buffalo. They appear to be in the lead for both cornerback spots for now, but Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe and rookie Jalen Mills will all be in the mix during the preseason.
UDFA wide out Paul Turner is a great underdog story to root for, from David Murphy of the Daily News.
For five years, Turner followed this trajectory: redshirt at LSU, seldom-used receiver who recorded no statistics at LSU, did not play because of NCAA transfer rules, 42 catches for 514 yards at Louisiana Tech, 45 catches for 657 yards at La. Tech. Now, after barely a week of camp, an NFL staff has identified Turner as one of the ones who might belong. He’s earned a nickname – “P.T.” – and an unsolicited name-drop from head coach Doug Pederson in a post-practice news conference.
After practice Wednesday, a curious bystander sidled up to Turner as he walked off the practice field and asked him to explain. At LSU, he came in with a crop of receivers that included Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, with a stable of running backs that included or would come to include Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Spencer Ware. Some family issues arose that prompted him to move back to Monroe to be closer to mom Paula and grandmother Rosielee. His backbone, he calls them, with a smile on his face. At Louisiana Tech, he was a consistent contributor on a team that featured a fourth-round draft pick at running back (Kenneth Dixon, now with the Ravens) and an all-conference performer at wideout (Trent Taylor, who is mentioned as a potential midround pick in 2017).
It isn’t a remarkable story, but that’s what makes it remarkable. We’re raised to believe in a certain meritocratic order to things, in bootstraps and gumption and the inevitable rise of the cream. But when you look at the long list of undrafted rookies who went on to long NFL careers, you will find that most of them were not overachievers as much as they were victims of earlier circumstance. There is a certain amount of situational dependence inherent in life. The better you are, the harder you work, the greater your odds of finding that right fit. Yet however good your tango, there’s still the matter of finding someone who will dance.
After a pro day in which the featured attractions were Dixon, defensive tackle Vernon Butler (a first-round pick of the Panthers) and quarterback Jeff Driskel (a sixth-rounder), Turner remained in contact with the Eagles.
“You don’t have many opportunities,” Turner said. “When they come, you have to make the best of them. Catching is something that you’re here to do.”