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Eagles Allen and Graham looking forward to next season

Of the Eagles with something to prove in 2012, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen are near the top of the list.

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo predicted that Eagles safety Nate Allen eventually will be a Pro Bowler. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo predicted that Eagles safety Nate Allen eventually will be a Pro Bowler. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)Read more

Of the Eagles with something to prove in 2012, Brandon Graham and Nate Allen are near the top of the list.

Graham was a first-round pick and Allen was taken in the second round of the 2010 draft. Each will have an asterisk on his 2011 campaign because each played after suffering serious knee injuries late last year. Neither has shown Pro Bowl form - Graham hardly played at all - but it's hard to expect that level of performance after the surgeries each endured.

Their third seasons, though, will be key measuring sticks for them and for general manager Howie Roseman, who made Graham and Allen his first two picks.

Graham, a defensive end who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 12, 2010, and needed microfracture knee surgery in the offseason, has absorbed most of the criticism.

Taken 13th overall and brought in to pressure quarterbacks, he constantly is compared to Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants end who was drafted two slots later and exploded this year with 15.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl nod.

Graham has not shown that kind of potential, but, to be fair, he had three sacks in 13 games as a rookie, compared to Pierre-Paul's 4.5 in 16.

Because of his injury, Graham was always going to be a long shot to contribute in Year 2. He spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list and has played in just three games.

"I'm going to put all my money in the bank in the offseason, and it's going to show next year," Graham said this week. "I knew it was going to take almost a whole year for me to get feeling real good."

Graham knows that the spotlight, and the pressure, is on.

"You're a first-round guy, you want to get out there and show what you're made of, but sometimes it does take patience," Graham said. Next season, he knows, "no more excuses, got to get it done."

Allen, who suffered a torn patellar tendon after making 13 starts as a rookie, has had more of a chance to show progress and has improved as the year has gone on. Shaky early and eventually benched, the safety has rebounded, particularly over the last month.

"As the season went on, I started to get more and more confidence in my knee and started feeling good with it," said Allen, who was taken with the 37th pick in 2010. "I knew that's just something that was going to take some time."

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo predicted that Allen eventually will be a Pro Bowler.

"That's the goal going into every year: Pro Bowl and Super Bowl," Allen said.

For both Allen and Graham, a full offseason with coaches should remove one more impediment. Both were learning when they arrived for minicamp as rookies, then they were restricted by the NFL lockout and rehabilitation heading into their second years. For Year 3, there should be no excuses, only an answer to the question of whether the Eagles made smart choices.

Vick: Proud of DeSean

Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson exchanged a brief handshake at the quarterback's locker Friday after completing what may have been their last practice together.

Vick said he hopes to play with the dynamic wide receiver again next season, though it's far from certain that Jackson will be back since his contract is expiring after a rocky year.

"We were just out at practice, and you could just see the glow and the sparkle in his eyes now as far as him being out on the field with the guys, having fun, dominating," Vick said. "I'm just excited and happy for DeSean for the way he's handled himself and conducted himself throughout everything, so I think it'll all take care of itself."

Jackson shook his head no when asked to stop to talk to reporters.

"I'm hoping, that's all I can do," Vick said of his future with the receiver. "I don't make any decisions, but hopefully everything will work itself out."

Samuel out

Asante Samuel may also have played his last game as an Eagle. He has been declared out for Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury. Many expect Samuel to be traded in the offseason to clear space at cornerback.

LeSean McCoy is listed as questionable, but coach Andy Reid said he expects the running back to play. McCoy needs 203 yards to break the team record for rushing yards in a season.

"A lot of things have to go right for me to get it, but I'm going to go out and play my heart out," McCoy said.

He added: "The main thing is winning and kind of go out on a good note. It would be even sweeter to get the record, though."