Tag Archives: Brandon Graham

10 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into Training Camp

If you followed on Twitter earlier this morning, I shared ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

While this isn’t considered part of our 44-day series, stuff like this is fun to do on occasion and will surface every now and then. Be it predictions or random thoughts, a post is a good way to expand on 140-character tidbits.

Below is our first edition of 2015:

  1. Cody Parkey is really good. It’s theoretically hard for a rookie to only miss four kicks and be even better in Year 2. He’s capable of it. Note: There isn’t much else to add here. It was clear that Parkey’s leg was tired toward the end of last year, never having been through a 16-game season before. Still, Parkey was 8-for-10 on field goals beyond 40 yards out while also consistently putting kickoffs in the end zone and should again set the bar high in Year 2.
  2. Marcus Smith is not. Odds may be against me, but I’ll stick to my prediction that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Note: Most roster projections will have Smith on the team, but it’s less of a slam dunk than people think. Smith doesn’t play special teams, and while part of that can be chalked up to the unit being so good last year that they didn’t need the services of a rookie, there’s no room for the first-round disappointment if he doesn’t show major strides from a pass-rushing standpoint in camp.
  3. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford will both have good seasons, but I am much more confident in Foles having one than I am Bradford. Note: Foles, in what was perceived to be a ‘poor’ season last year before getting hurt in early November, was still more productive than Bradford has been in some of his better seasons. A lot of excuses have been made for Bradford, and some of them, including a lack of skill position talent around him and a poor offensive line, hold water, but many assumptions have also been made about a career year in a quarterback friendly system that are less than a guarantee.
  4. Re-signing Brandon Graham was probably the correct decision, but I am concerned about how he holds up in a full-time starter role. Note: Graham, to his credit, has shed the ‘bust’ label that was stuck on him early in his career but has still never played more than 43% of a team’s total snaps during the season. The goal of free agency and player personnel decisions is ultimately to pay more for what you think you can get in the future and less so what you got in the past, and that’s what the Eagles did here. Let’s hope it was a wise investment.
  5. If Graham can play, this is the best Eagles front-7 since early Jim Johnson days, and it has the potential to be even better than that. Note: Kiko Alonso has a chance to be the best Eagles linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here. Consistency is a question, but this unit should be a major strength.
  6. Vinny Curry will be extra hungry this season, and if he puts his napkin on his lap, Billy Davis might even let him have a second dessert. Note: After playing sparingly as a rookie during the 2012 season, Curry has improved year-by-year, first with four sacks in 2013 and then reaching nine last year to go with four forced fumbles in an increased role on the defensive line. Bet your friend that he gets double digits this year and thank me in mid-December.
  7. There’s two NFL coaches I would take over Chip Kelly, and both coached in the Super Bowl last year. Could make a case for Harbaugh/Tomlin too. Note: Considering 15 other coaches have won playoff games and Kelly hasn’t, folks could certainly have a bone to pick with this one. Still, I think there are some who if starting a team right now would take Kelly as their coach in a heartbeat. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, by the way, won a combined 29 games in their first two seasons as NFL coaches. Kelly, by himself, has won 20 after taking over a 4-12 squad.
  8. The Eagles opener scares the shit out of me. They have really struggled against Dallas at home. Lose to Atlanta, and you’re looking at 0-2.  Note: The Eagles are 2-0 in season openers under Kelly, although last year’s was certainly far from perfect with the 17-0 halftime deficit to the Jaguars. Hopefully the record stays unblemished as playing a division opponent on short rest who you can’t beat at home recently would be a scary task.
  9. Nelson Agholor will have a better rookie season than Jordan Matthews did last year, and concern about wide receiver depth is overblown. Note: We’ll get more into this during our series. Coop Dawgy is not good and ideally will lose playing time rather quickly, but the rookie from USC should ease the pain of Jeremy Maclin’s departure.
  10. I don’t know if the Eagles are better than last season, but I’m semi-confident they’re not worse, and for the time being, that’s alright. Note: Part of me is worried that Kelly reshuffled chairs on the Titanic as opposed to ultimately strengthening a roster that needed strengthening, but I don’t believe he made them worse. That, all things considered, is not an awful situation in early August.

Five Numbers I Would Like to See When Eagles-49ers Concludes Tonight

Conventional wisdom suggests the 49ers are set up to win today’s game, but as I mentioned earlier this morning, it eerily reminds me of when these two teams met in Week 4 of the 2011 season.

I would not at all be shocked if the Eagles lost today, and thankfully, being 3-0 allows them to drop a game on the road against a perceived tough opponent, but in my season predictions I picked them to escape with a narrow but epic victory, so I will obviously stick with that.

Here are five numbers that I hope to see in the box score when this NFC showdown concludes in about nine hours:

  1. LeSean McCoy averaging four yards per carry — This may be lofty given the Eagles makeshift offensive line, but should McCoy find room on the ground for essentially the first time this season, the offense could be deadly. The Nines held Andre Ellington and Matt Forte in check, but DeMarco Murray averaged 5.4 in the season opener. Hopefully a breakout performance from Shady is coming.
  2. Less than 45 rushing yards from Colin Kaepernick — Between Chad Henne, Andrew Luck, and Kirk Cousins, the Eagles have not exactly faced fleet-of-foot quarterbacks. They see a mobile one today in Kaepernick. Not having Mychal Kendricks won’t help their chances, but keeping him from using his legs could go a long way.
  3. At least two turnovers forced by the Eagles defense — The Niners have played two full games with zero turnovers but had four in their home loss to the Bears two weeks ago. Kaepernick has thrown some costly second half interceptions in the past. Do it again, Malcolm Jenkins.
  4. Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, and my dude Zach Ertz combining for 200 plus receiving yards — This trio combined for 227 yards last week against the Redskins, and doing it again would be something else. Should that happen, I like the chances of Nicky Foles remaining the NFL leader in passing yards. Nicky Foles
  5. One sack from Vinny Curry or Brandon Graham — This duo was fantastic in the preseason, but the numbers have not shown up after three weeks of regular season play. Furthermore, the Eagles have not had a sack since Week 1 against the Jaguars, but Kaepernick has been sacked at least once in every game. Hopefully the former trend reverses today and the latter holds true.

There you have it. We got four, 45, two, 200, one, and hopefully leaving San Francisco undefeated and rockin the best record in the NFL.

Five Numbers I Would Like to See on the Stat Sheet when Eagles-Colts Concludes

If you have read anything else or follow me on Twitter, then you already know this, but I want this one bad tonight.

The Colts are my Super Bowl pick, and I really like Andrew Luck, but I want to see Nick Foles beat him head-to-head. Just like last week, I will roll out some numbers that I believe could key an Eagles road victory in Indianapolis tonight.

Against the Jaguars, we only hit on two out of five numbers but were very close on two others. Around midnight tonight, we will go back and evaluate whether or not the goals were reached, so without further ado, let’s introduce them.

Here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in the box score after the final whistle tonight.

  1. Less than 45 rushing yards for Trent Richardson — Richardson was fantastic at Alabama and had sky high potential coming out of college but has mostly been a bust so far. One way to solve Andrew Luck is to make the Colts offense one-dimensional. The Eagles run defense did a nice job against Toby Gerhart last week, limiting him to 42 yards on 18 carries, but I have seen them make average running backs look above average in the past. They are very capable of keeping Richardson in check, and doing so would grease the wheels for a win.
  2. No more than one turnover for Nick Foles — Between two fumbles and a red zone interception in the first half last week, Foles was responsible for three turnovers. I do not think the Eagles have to crush the turnover battle to win tonight, but losing it by two like they did against Jacksonville would be less than ideal. You got this, Nicky.
  3. Jeremy Maclin with 90+ receiving yards — Maclin had a great opener with four receptions for 97 yards, including a 68-yard go-ahead touchdown. Even the most cynical of Eagles fans had to be happy for him. Now, it is just a matter of turning in those performances consistently. There should be room to throw against the Colts defense, and two nice games in a row would be an awesome start to the season.
  4. At least 14 first half points — The Eagles do not have to come out firing completely on all cylinders, but they will not be able to survive another first half shutout tonight. If they win the coin toss, Chip Kelly normally likes to defer so they begin the third quarter with the ball after being afforded halftime adjustments. Fourteen points after the first 30 minutes should have them at the very least within striking distance.
  5. Andrew Luck sacked three or more times — The Colts offensive line is not known to be a particularly strong unit, and Luck was sacked by the Broncos three times in the opener. The Eagles got Chad Henne for three sacks in the opener last week, and a good amount of Billy Davis’ blitz packages seemed to be getting home. If Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks, or someone else can put Luck on his back a few times, the Eagles chances of leaving Lucas Oil Stadium 0-2 will greatly increase.

I wanted to put something in here about LeSean McCoy, but you just expect him to have good games at this point in his career, so it almost seems like a waste to highlight that. McCoy still managed to average 74 yards even with the offense sputtering last week, and I do not think it is out of the question for him to go over the century mark tonight even with no Evan Mathis along the offensive line.

There you have it. This is what I will be looking for in about 14 hours: 45, one, 90, 14, three, and hopefully a nice 2-0 record along with sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Checking Back with the Eagles Numbers I Wanted to See

One last post before I catch a few hours of sleep.

Before the game, I discussed five numbers that I wanted to see in the Eagles box score when the season opener concluded yesterday.

More context is available here, but these were the numbers.

  1. Less than 21 points scored by the Jaguars
  2. Nick Foles sacked no more than two times
  3. At least 50 receiving yards for Zach Ertz
  4. A minimum of one tackle for loss by Fletcher Cox (and hopefully more)
  5. No less than 1.5 combined sacks for Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham

How did we do? Were they achieved?

1. Yes — It looked like it would be difficult at first, and the Eagles needed some help from their special teams unit, but the defense held the Jaguars to only 17 points, and none in the final 44 minutes.

2. No — Foles was sacked five times in the first half and fumbled twice. This is a concern, and we will attempt to go more in depth on it later, but he was not sacked at all in the second half so hopefully some progress made there by both him and a makeshift offensive line.

3. Yes — Ertz only caught three passes, but similar to teammate Jeremy Maclin, he made them count, posting 77 yards. Nice start for the breakout candidate.

4. No — Cox did not have a tackle for loss, but he was tied for the team lead with six tackles and looked active throughout the game, culminating in a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery in the final minute. Would need to watch some tape but thought the third-year defensive lineman played well.

5. No — No sacks for either player, but Graham did have two tackles for loss and both guys looked solid throughout the contest. Interested to see how Pro Football Focus and some other sites grade them out.

Two out of five certainly isn’t perfect, but I think you could make a case for some caveats with two of the other three.

We’ll think of some more numbers and do this again a week from now before the Eagles and Colts meet on Monday Night.

You the Real MVP, Eagles Special Teams

Between Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin, there are no shortage of offensive and defensive contributors to credit for the Eagles come from behind victory yesterday against the Jaguars, but it may not have been possible without the performance of the special teams unit.

The Eagles lost seven contests last season, and special teams were a big factor in at least four of them with the Chargers, Chiefs, Vikings, and Saints game all coming to mind. Yesterday, Dave Fipp’s unit helped swing momentum and steal one.

We already have spent a ton of time talking about how Cody Parkey was awesome. I have no idea what this kid is going to turn into, but counting the preseason finale, he is now 5-for-5 on field goals with three longer than 50 yards.

The 51-yard kick to tie the score in the fourth quarter looked like it would have been good from 55 or 56. His kickoffs were also insane.

Game # Opponent Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position  Average Starting Field Position 
1 Jaguars 1 Yes Yes 20 20
1 Jaguars 2 Yes No 13 16.5
1 Jaguars 3 Yes Yes 20 17.67
1 Jaguars 4 Yes Yes 20 18.25
1 Jaguars 5 Yes Yes 20 18.6
1 Jaguars 6 Yes Yes 20 18.83
1 Jaguars 7 Yes No 13 18

Before Parkey stole the show though, there was Brandon Bair, blocking a Josh Scobee 36-yard field goal attempt that the Jags kicker likely makes 98 out of 100 times as long as he gets it off. At the time, it would have put the Jaguars up 20-0.

But wait, there’s more! Darren Sproles averaged 15.5 yards on punt returns. We knew this already, but Donnie Jones was just ridiculous. He had six punts, and five of them pinned the Jaguars inside their own 20. One landed at the Jacksonville one on a great special teams play by Brandon Boykin, and the only punt not inside the Jaguars 20 was attempted from the Eagles own 12.

Here is Jones’ day in chart form:

Punt Number Ball Spotted Before Punt Ball Spotted After Punt Net Yards
1 Eagles 37 Jaguars 11 52
2 Jaguars 40 Jaguars 11 39
3 Eagles 12 Jaguars 47 41
4 Jaguars 39 Jaguars 9 30
5 Jaguars 49 Jaguars 10 39
6 Jaguars 44 Jaguars 15 29

On four of those kicks in Jaguars territory, Jones didn’t have a ton of margin for error, and still got the job done. The Jaguars only scored three points off of Jones’ punts as the other 14 were the result of Eagles turnovers.

Perhaps it will not be smooth sailing for 17 weeks, but when the worst thing you can say about the special teams is Darren Sproles calling for a fair catch when he had room to run, things went pretty damn well.

Hey, Eagles special teams:

Real MVP

Five Numbers I Would Like to See on the Stat Sheet When Eagles-Jaguars Concludes

As far as Eagles openers go, today is kinda weird for a multitude of reasons.

First off, it is against an AFC opponent. Second, it is at home — the first time the Eagles have begun a season at Lincoln Financial Field since 2010, and last but certainly not least, pretty much everyone — myself included — expects them to win and to win comfortably.

That is a bit unusual for Week 1 games in the NFL. The birds are the trendy pick in survival pools around the country today and have the biggest spread on any game, entering as 10.5 point favorites over the Jaguars.

In ways, it speaks to how far the Eagles have progressed considering they were in essentially the same position as Jacksonville back in December 2012. The Eagles were 4-12, and the Jaguars were 2-14. Both teams would pick in the top four of the draft and had to hire new coaches. The Eagles went with the super innovative Chip Kelly while the Jags gave the job to Gus Bradley, who might have been minutes away from being the Eagles coach had Kelly opted to stay at Oregon.

Kelly turned things around immediately as the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East while Bradley went 4-12 in his first year running the show.

What does this all mean? It means that later today will hopefully allow us to grade the Eagles on style points as opposed to just scoring more points. A Week 1 victory is a Week 1 victory, but how the Eagles hopefully do it might provide a little more insight about them as the season gets going.

With that said, here are five Eagles numbers that I hope to see in a box score come 4:15 p.m. today.

  1. Less than 21 points scored by the Jaguars — In its first four games last season, the Eagles defense gave up 27, 33, 26, and 52 before settling into a nice groove. Facing Chad Henne and a young Jacksonville offense gives Billy Davis’ unit a nice opportunity to start fast and feel good about itself as Andrew Luck looms in Week 2.
  2. Nick Foles sacked no more than two times — Everyone is going to be focusing on Foles’ interceptions — or hopefully lack thereof — following his insane 27:2 ratio last season, but one part of his game that he can improve upon is taking less sacks that cost the Eagles field position. Foles was sacked more than two times in six starts last season, and the Jaguars have some solid pass rushers in Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who were part of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last season. Hopefully Allen Barbre proves to be an adequate replacement for Lane Johnson and strides are made today.
  3. At least 50 receiving yards for Zach Ertz — I have ‘the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em’ down for 60 receptions, 800 yards, and eight touchdowns. For my dude to achieve that yardage number, he would theoretically need to turn in 50 yards each game. He exceeded this mark three times last season and should see more snaps now after looking like an absolute stud in the preseason. Do the damn thing, Zach.
  4. A minimum of one tackle for loss by Fletcher Cox (and hopefully more) — Cox is a player I will be keeping my eye on early on. The third year pro is playing in a two-gap scheme when he really belongs as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but he can be so good. Cox really flashes at times but will then turn invisible for a few weeks. Toby Gerhart and his 231-pound frame is not the easiest guy to bring down behind the line of scrimmage, but I would be hella pumped if Cox could show some consistency and do it at least once today.
  5. No less than 1.5 combined sacks for Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham — I really want to set this at 2.5, but I’m holding back because I am unsure how many snaps each player will see. These two are quite possibly the best pass-rushers on the team but neither one starts because similar to Cox, they are leftovers from the Andy Reid regime and not exactly scheme fits in Davis’ hybrid 3-4. Still they looked hungry in the preseason. Zane Beadles is a nice player, but the Jaguars’ offensive line is not particularly strong. Curry and Graham might be the Eagles best shot at making Henne uncomfortable. Feed them, Billy Davis. Let them have extra dessert.

There you have it. That is what I will be looking for in about 15 hours: 21, two, 50, one, 1.5, and hopefully a nice W to begin a really fun season.

The (Tons of) Good, The (Bit of) Bad, and The (Holy Crap that was Downright) Scary

I cannot think of a more appropriate title for the 31-21 beatdown that the Eagles just administered to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I will inevitably leave one or two things off this list that you believe belongs (feel free to let me know in the comments), and I unfortunately do not have video or pictures to document the plays, but I wanted to get some quick hitters out there.

Let’s hit it and go through each category:

The Good: 

  • Nick Foles’ quick slant to Jeremy Maclin for a first down on the initial touchdown drive.
  • Foles’ completion to Riley Cooper on a slant late in the first quarter for a first down.
  • LeSean McCoy looking explosive on an outside zone read.
  • Maclin catching six balls(one less than the Steelers team combined) for 43 yards in the first half (Much more on him later)
  • Brent Celek making epic catches while losing his helmet — Still chugging along after seven years
  • My dude Zach Ertz being my dude with two nice catches for 24 yards.
  • The double screen to McCoy on the first touchdown that completely baffled two of the game’s best defensive minds in Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau.
  • Darren Sproles looking like he still has a ton left in the tank, averaging 5.33 yards per carry.
  • Malcolm Jenkins finishing plays with a few nice pass breakups — Part of the reason they signed him for his coverage skills.
  • Nolan Carroll erasing the memories of Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh with an interception.
  • Vinny Curry hungry.
  • Brandon Graham hungrier.
  • Marcus Smith more comfortable throughout the third quarter.
  • Alex Henery hitting a 36-yard field goal late in the second quarter. (I wish this was all I had to write about him)
  • Henery putting kickoffs in the end zone. Cody Parkey also putting kickoffs in the end zone.
  • Mark Sanchez threading the needle to Trey Burton, looking like one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
  • Ed Hoculi (His presence more than how the game was actually called)
  • This picture SmoothiesChip: “Yo dawgy, nice drive, we getting smoothies after the game, what flavor you want?” Nick: “Doesn’t matter to me, coach, just trying to be the best smoothie eater I can be every day. Appreciate you asking for my input though.”

The Bad

  • Foles’ interception right to Troy Polamalu on a screen pass gone wrong when Sproles fell.
  • A few running plays blown up, specifically McCoy losing five yards on the fourth play of the game.
  • A few drops by Cooper on what appeared to be catchable passes from Foles. Haul those in, Coop Dawgy.
  • On the other side of that, Foles was juuust a hair off on a few balls, specifically a wheel route to Sproles that would have gone for a touchdown.
  • Antonio Brown lighting up the Eagles backups.
  • Curtis Marsh
  • Yellow flags, yellow flags, and more yellow flags.
  • Brian Baldinger calling Allen Barbre “Barber” again.
  • Henery inexplicably missing a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. I said he would win the job, so I need to stick to my guns there, but the leash just got way shorter. We officially have a problem. I am researching free agent kickers as I write.

The Scary: 

  • LeSean McCoy had an x-ray on his thumb after scoring a sweet touchdown. Thankfully doesn’t appear to be an issue.
  • For a moment, it looked like Jeremy Maclin’s season ended before it started as he planed his foot and crumpled to the ground in the second quarter. Thankfully, as the broadcast went to commercial and Eagles Nation held their collective breath, Maclin walked off the field under his own power and returned the next series to make a few more receptions. I can’t pretend to go inside a player’s head, but I imagine if I were Maclin, I would be rather scared every time I made a hard cut. Unfortunately, I think we are in store for a few more scares like that this season. Let’s hope they are just that — Brief scares and nothing more.

Pretty eventful for a preseason game. Do not be misled by the final score. The Steelers put together some nice drives in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles at one point held a 31-7 lead as their backups on offense marched down the field against the Steelers defense.  (Specific stats here if you desire them)

Overall, the offense got us pumped up, the defense eased a few concerns, the supposed starting kicker jeopardized his job in the fourth quarter, and the number one wide receiver nearly gave us a heart attack.

We’ll have more to talk about later, but this seems like enough to digest and think over for now.