Eagles Notebook: Eagles' LB Graham might start vs. Redskins
Brandon Graham has played well as a backup outside linebacker this season. He might replace injured starter Trent Cole.
BRANDON GRAHAM might start this week, and no one has been cut or fired.
Graham's last stint as a starter came in 2012, when Andy Reid cut Jason Babin and then fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn, freeing Graham from the bench. Graham, the team's 2010 first-round draft choice, then managed four sacks in six starts. But the following offseason brought Bill Davis and a 3-4 defense. With Connor Barwin signed to play one outside linebacker position, Graham got stuck behind Trent Cole, who currently sits second on the franchise's all-time sack list behind Reggie White.
Cole broke his left hand in Sunday night's devastating loss to Dallas. He apparently will have surgery, something a source close to the situation said would bring a risk of incision infection if he were to play this week. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said yesterday he didn't think he would have Cole this week, but, "I think he'll be back the next week if he's not in this week."
Cole, his hand bandaged, told reporters yesterday that his availability Saturday at Washington was "up in the air." He has missed only four games in 10 seasons.
Cole has 6.5 sacks this season, Graham 5.5, though Cole has played 750 snaps to Graham's 402. Graham has become a much better run defender than he was a year or two ago.
Davis said if Graham starts and Cole doesn't play, "our rotation will be a little more limited." First-round rookie Marcus Smith, an inside linebacker since injuries caused him to be moved in Week 3, yesterday practiced back at outside linebacker, his original position. Davis said he "set [Smith] back by moving him inside, but we needed that because of all the injuries we had inside."
Davis reiterated that in the long run, Smith will be a better outside linebacker from having played inside and learned the calls, but in the short run, "we have stifled his development a little bit because of what we had to do."
Smith said he is glad he expanded his defensive knowledge by learning the inside role.
"I think, actually, my development has grown, from me being inside" Smith said. "I'm a lot smarter football player now."
Smith indicated he definitely thinks he'll get some rotational snaps this week. He was active against Dallas but did not get on the field.
Graham, meanwhile, said: "It's not going to be much of a drop-off. They trust in me just as much, to relieve him and Connor. I'm excited to bring the same intensity [as Cole.]"
Graham has not had an easy road - yes, the Eagles could have drafted Earl Thomas - but he has been one of the season's success stories.
"At the end of the day, I'm still here. A lot of people would have never thought that I'd still be here. I'm excited, man," he said. "Just go hard. Just do my job, do the best I can, as hard as I can."
In Jeremy Maclin's five previous seasons, he never got the opportunities he has grabbed this year, while catching a career-high 78 passes for 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns. Not coincidentally, those previous seasons were played in the shadow of DeSean Jackson.
This week, Maclin and the Eagles will renew their acquaintance with Jackson, who has 50 catches for 957 yards and five TDs for the Redskins.
"We've spoken a few times this year," Maclin said yesterday. "I don't know how people perceive the relationship . . . We're cool. No hard feelings either way. But at the end of the day, he's in Washington now and we're here."
On Monday, Maclin tweeted a graphic attesting to the accomplishments of the Eagles' 2014 receiving corps.
"I think that's all I'm trying to tell anybody - we're playing football, we're here, he's there, and that's the end of the story," Maclin said.
LeSean McCoy tweeted a video of himself holding up a Jackson cutout, McCoy imitating his buddy's voice, asking for the ball.
The Eagles know they lead the NFL with 34 turnovers and have a minus-nine turnover ratio. They know that's a huge reason why they are out of the playoff picture, unless they get some help from other contenders losing.
"We keep coaching not turning the ball over," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said yet again yesterday. "We keep coaching ball security. We keep coaching all the things that we know are necessary. It's a key factor in winning and losing ballgames. I've been places, and everybody on our coaching staff has been places, where there were years you didn't turn the ball over much, you got turnovers on defense, the ratio was good. Then there are years they happen, and you keep coaching against it."
The Eagles have nominated Connor Barwin for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year award . . . Bill Davis said a healthy Robert Griffin III looks more now like the RG3 of 2 years ago. "I think he's comparable. If you watched him jump in that Giants game [Sunday], he was flying around. He looked like he was energetic about his runs, and it looked like a different guy. He had some time to rest and some time to heal. I think he's getting closer to what he once was than what he had been lately, with all the controversy surrounding him."