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Eagles' Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham won't give it a rest

CONNOR BARWIN has played 811 of 919 defensive snaps this season, which is the most of any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

CONNOR BARWIN has played 811 of 919 defensive snaps this season, which is the most of any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

The Eagles' other outside 'backer, Brandon Graham, is in uncharted territory, having already played a career-high 651 snaps in the first 12 games in his first full year as a starter.

"Every time I try to take them out, they both get at me," Bill McGovern, the team's outside linebackers coach, said Thursday. "That's the kind of competitors they are. They want to be on the field all the time. And you don't see a drop in their play from the start of the game to the end of the game."

To be honest, McGovern doesn't try very hard to take Barwin and Graham out because, well, he doesn't have a whole lot of other options.

There is Marcus Smith, and then there is Marcus Smith, and then there is Marcus Smith.

Smith, the Eagles' thus-far-disappointing 2014 first-round pick, has played just 79 snaps this season. He has all of one tackle. His most memorable moment this season was one he'd like to forget - neglecting to stay home and protect the backside on a 43-yard reverse by Ted Ginn in a 27-16, Week 7 loss to Carolina.

"He keeps working at it," McGovern said of Smith. "He progresses every time. He's made some plays on special teams. He's gotten better at outside linebacker. But the problem is he has to beat out those other two guys to get on the field and get more reps. And that's not easy."

McGovern is being kind. The truth is, if the Eagles had any confidence at all in Smith, he'd be playing at least 20-25 snaps a game, if only to give Barwin and Graham an occasional breather.

"Marcus has gotten double-digit reps in the last two-three games," McGovern said. "There are other things we do in our substitution packages where we're able to give them a blow and give them a chance to get out of the game a little bit.

"If it was affecting them, we would address it more. But it's not affecting them."

Both Barwin and Graham are having solid, if not spectacular seasons. They've combined for 12 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. Each of them had two sacks of Tom Brady in last week's 35-28 win over the Patriots.

Graham, the Eagles' 2010 first-round draft pick, also has forced three fumbles.

Barwin is used to iron-man duty. He hasn't missed a game in five years. Played 1,046 snaps last year and 1,158 the year before.

"They gave me a couple of plays off at practice today," Barwin said jokingly.

Barwin played through a quad injury earlier this season, but otherwise has managed to stay off the injury report.

"I feel good," he said. "It says something about our coach, Bill McGovern, and the way we work with him to get ready to play on Sunday. And it says something about our strength staff and what we do training-wise and how we take care of our bodies outside of football."

McGovern said he had a "frank conversation" with Graham in the spring and talked to him about the importance of getting his body prepared for the rigors of being a 16-game starter. Prior to this year, Graham had never played more than 525 snaps in a season. He had to go from being a quarter-miler to a marathoner.

"He's really taken to it," McGovern said. "His actions speak for him. Brandon's usually one of the first guys here in the morning. And he's backed it up on the field."

Graham, who played last season at around 275 pounds, is down to 264 this year

"They told us before the season that we were going to be playing a lot of snaps," Graham said. "I told (McGovern) I'd make sure I was in the best shape I could be in.

"I'm just proud of myself as far as keeping my weight down and being able to go out there and give it my all each play without being tired. In previous years, I'd be sucking wind and could barely get off the field. And I wasn't even playing full-time. This year, I'll be out there for a long drive and I don't even feel that tired."

Chip Kelly and the Eagles will head into the offseason with an extensive shopping list. Unless you are a cockeyed optimist and believe that the light eventually will go on for Smith, an outside linebacker to rotate with Graham and Barwin absolutely will be on that list.

Until then, the Eagles just have to hope that they are able to stay in one piece.

Scouting the draft

Another look at some of the top prospects in the 2016 draft. This week, an NFC scout breaks down Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker, both projected first-rounders:

Treadwell, 6-2, 210: "He has everything but speed," the scout said. "I compare him to Jarvis Landry. He's got size, hands, route-running skills, avoid (ability) after the catch. He's not going to knock anybody's socks off when he runs at the combine and at his Pro Day. He's not going to run in the 4.4s. But he reminds me of a taller version of Landry. You watch Jarvis, he has so much avoid. That's this kid's game too rather than running away from you. He plays outside at Ole Miss. I think you'll be able to use him inside or outside at this level. His size helps him. I think he'll probably run in the mid-4.6s in his predraft workouts, but that's fast enough."

Decker, 6-7, 315: "I think Decker is a right tackle in the pros. I think he could play left in a pinch. But he's not as athletic as you'd like a left tackle to be. He's played a lot of ball and is very experienced. He knows angles. He's a good run-blocker. A good pass-blocker. Not exceptional at either. He's the type of guy who, if he's going up against a good edge speed rusher, he'll know the angle. He can redirect if the guy tries to counter and go underneath him. His feet are really good. But if you're comparing apples to apples, they're not as good as (Ole Miss' Laremy) Tunsil's. He's got a stronger lower body right now than Tunsil. Decker will be a middling left tackle. But I think he'll be much better off and flourish on the right side. If a team is picking somewhere around 10 or 15 and needs a tackle, I don't think (his limitations at left tackle) will have an impact. If you need a tackle, you'll take him and figure out where he's best later."

Figuring the Eagles

* The Eagles blitzed on a season-low 13.5 percent of the Patriots' pass plays last week. Just eight times in 59 pass plays (not including a late-game spike). Bill Davis used a three-man rush 12 times. That's just eight fewer than he used in the first 11 games combined. Tom Brady completed just five of 11 passes for 51 yards and an interception against a three-man rush. Three of the Eagles' four sacks of Brady and both of their interceptions came with three- and four-man rushes. Brady had a 64.3 passer rating when the Eagles rushed three or four. In the Eagles' first 11 games, opponents had a 97.2 passer rating against three- and four-man rushes.

* The Eagles are 27th against the run and 23rd in yards allowed per carry. In the last nine games, opponents have averaged 4.7 yards per carry against them. Much of the damage has come early. Opponents have averaged 6.7 yards per carry on their first five rushing attempts, 4.3 on the rest. Remove the Tampa Bay game from the equation and it's 6.8 and 3.8.

* The Eagles are first in the league in punt coverage. They've held opponents to 4.4 per return - 3.6 in the last nine games. They haven't given up a punt return longer than 10 yards since Week 3.

* Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez have combined for just four rushing first downs this season. Twenty-four quarterbacks have more, including Eli Manning (five), Matt Cassel (five) and Joe Flacco (six). The quarterbacks with the most rushing first downs through 12 games:

* The Eagles are last in the league in red-zone defense. Opponents have converted 31 of 43 red-zone opportunities, or 72.1 percent, into touchdowns. That includes 24 of their last 28 trips inside the 20. That's the highest red-zone touchdown percentage in Bill Davis' three years as defensive coordinator. The Eagles had a 55.3 defensive red-zone percentage in 2013 and 58.1 last season.

* In the last four games, Eagles wide receivers have combined for just 87 yards after the catch on 34 receptions.

* The Eagles already have given up 28 touchdown passes this season. The only team that has allowed more is the Saints (35). Eighteen of those 28 TD passes have come in the last five games. Opponents have a 107.9 passer rating against the Eagles in the last five games, 79.1 in the first seven.

* Running back Darren Sproles leads the Eagles in third-down receptions with 16. Slot receiver Jordan Matthews is second with 14 and tight end Zach Ertz third with seven. The team's outside wide receivers have combined for just 18 third-down catches. A breakdown of the Eagles' 64 third-down completions:


* "I like the fact that we are going to Philly because you can get a good cheesesteak and all that stuff. Should be good. There's Pat's and Geno's right across from each other. I'm gonna make sure I go to both of them so they don't get upset at me." - Bills coach Rex Ryan, on playing the Eagles

* "I think we're a 1 percent chance or something. That's not real good odds. It's kind of like the 'Dumb and Dumber' deal: So we still have a chance?" - Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, on his 5-7 team's chances of making the playoffs

* "I'm a veteran in this league and I know I need to protect the ball, and it just got away from me. It's the nature of the game. I feel like I'm a big threat in this league and I've been proving that for years to come."- Redskins' DeSean Jackson, on his fumble on a fourth-quarter punt return in Monday night's loss to the Cowboys that set up a Dallas touchdown


* The Steelers have scored 30 or more points in four straight games. It's the first time they have ever done that.

* The 49ers' 26-20 win over the Bears in Chicago last week was the first time they've beaten the Bears in Chicago since the 1989 NFC Championship Game.

* Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown needs just seven more receptions to become the sixth player in NFL history with three consecutive 100-catch seasons. The record is four by Marvin Harrison.

* One hundred games have been decided by seven points or less this year. That's the most through 13 weeks in league history.

* The Cardinals have a league-best plus-150 point differential. Entering Thursday night's game, they had ve scored 382 points and given up 232. The Bengals are second at plus-138.

This and that

* The Eagles have committed 15 false-start penalties this season, including seven by right tackle Lane Johnson. Johnson had just six false starts in his first two years in the league. Four of his seven false starts have come on the road - two at Carolina and two at Dallas. But he said crowd noise wasn't the reason for the false starts since the Eagles use a silent count on the road. "Two of them were when the tap was missed," Johnson said. "The center (Jason Kelce) didn't get the tap (to snap the ball) from the guard (Matt Tobin). Sometimes the guard will line up too far from the center and he'll miss the tap. All I see is him reaching over to tap him and I'll go. That's my cue. So I've had two of those. On the other ones, the d-ends get such a good get-off that if you don't get a good jump, you're going to give up a sack in this league."

* Earlier this week, a reporter asked Bills coach Rex Ryan about Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense. He had an interesting response. Said Ryan: "I think there are times when you see how effective it can really be and it just gets you on your heels, gets you discombobulated. But if you go three-and-out, that puts your defense kind of at risk. So there's good things and bad things with it. Obviously they know what they're doing. They're even doing the old college deal where they look at the sideline now. You know, the one that every single fan hates. I'm just putting it out there. Nobody likes seeing it. But they do it."