Brandon Graham making Eagles fans forget about Earl Thomas

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Brandon Graham making Eagles fans forget about Earl Thomas

Brandon Graham has been through so much in his eight years with the Eagles.

He's gone through three head coaches, five defensive coordinators and six position coaches. He missed most of a season with an injury. He missed most of a season riding the bench. He was blasted for years by fans who wanted Earl Thomas instead.

And Graham is still here, still always smiling and playing better than ever.

“We’ve been here a long time," Graham said. "I’m just happy to be a part of this. I’m just happy that they stuck with me and now we’re out here and we put a team together and now we’re trying to take advantage."

Sunday was a significant game for Graham. After recording either 5½ or 6½ sacks four times in his career, he set a career high with his seventh sack of the season.

Graham was asked after the game if he knew he had set a career high and he just started laughing.

“Yeah, you know I did," he said. "I was happy, you know? We were talking about it on the sidelines. Like, man, the most I ever had was 6½. Now I have seven. Now I just have to keep it going and we have to keep winning. That’s it."

These are happy times for Graham.

He's got a 1-year-old baby, he's got a huge contract, he's got a career high in sacks, he's playing better than ever, the Eagles are 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak, and he's headed for the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

“Man, it feels good," Graham said. "Man, it feels like things are looking up. Now it’s just all about winning. Just keep winning and everything else will take care of itself. And just keep on playing hard."

The Eagles' defense, now up to sixth in the NFL in yards allowed and third in points allowed, has held four straight opponents under 240 yards for the first time since 1954.

Sack No. 7 was typical for Graham, the product of sheer hustle and determination.

Graham strip-sacked Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky early in the third quarter Sunday, and even though the ball was recovered by Bears offensive tackle Bobby Massie, it gave Graham 36.0 career sacks and snapped his career high of 6½, set in 2015.

"It's not just what he does on the field," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He's an engine for us. He practices with a lot of energy. He's fun to be around in the meeting room. 

"He's always talking football. If he's in line there at lunch, he's not talking about what's on Instagram, he's talking about the matchup that week and things like that. He's a respected player on our team."

Graham now ranks eighth in Eagles history with his 36 sacks and within range this year of Andy Harmon (39½) and Seth Joyner (37).

The only players on the roster who've been here longer than Graham are Brent Celek, in his 11th year, and injured Jason Peters, who's in his ninth season with the Eagles.

"Man, it's special to me to be able to not only be the captain of this team but still be playing good, and for them to still depend on me to still be here, because a lot of guys I came in with aren't here, and I'm the only one left," he said.

"So it's special to me, and I don't take it for granted. I just try to go out there and do my job and bring people along to my party and have fun."

Graham had 15 sacks in three years under the Chip Kelly/Bill Davis regime, but he said because the practices these days aren't as long and intense, the players are able to get more out of them and be more productive.

“I feel like the practices ain’t as taxing and then we’re able to just take care of our body and just (give) relentless effort each and every practice," he said.

"And it’s not hard to get motivated because our team, man, I’m telling you, we’ve got a good team and we have a team that understands that we have to get practice in and we have to practice hard in order for it to show up on the field."

Graham turns 30 this spring. He's earning $6.5 million on the third year of a four-year extension he signed in 2015 that runs through next year, and that seventh sack earned him a $250,000 bonus, and two more will earn him another $250,000. A trip to the Pro Bowl or first- or second-team All-Pro honors will earn him another $250,000.

"I take care of my body a lot more," he said. "For me, getting hurt (earlier in his career), I learned I wasn't taking care of my body like I needed to. 

"A rookie coming in, (you're) thinking, 'Hey, I could just show up at any time because I'm young,' but people kept telling me to get into a regimen and stick to it, and now that's what I do. I stick to what I do each and every week, and it's been paying off for me."

Film Review: Eagles go back to same play with Nick Foles


Film Review: Eagles go back to same play with Nick Foles

Arguably the best and worst play in the Eagles' 43-35 win Sunday over the Rams came on the same call from Doug Pederson. 

The interception in the first quarter and the key 3rd-and-8 conversion late in the fourth were nearly identical. Carson Wentz was the quarterback for the first one, Nick Foles ran the second. 

Give credit to Pederson. The play clearly didn't work the first time, but he went back to it at a pivotal moment in the game. That's trusting the play and trusting the backup quarterback. 

Let's first take a look at that early interception: 


It's 3rd-and-5 from the Eagles' 30-yard line. Wentz is in shotgun with LeGarrette Blount flanking him. One tight end on the same side. Alshon Jeffery at the top of the screen, Torrey Smith at the bottom. Nelson Agholor (circled) is being given a cushion by Rams cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman. The aptly named cornerback is the Rams' slot corner in their nickel package. 

The running back and tight end stay in to block, which creates a lot of room in the middle of the field for Agholor vs. Roby-Coleman. Wentz is locked in. The Eagles need to get to the 35-yard line for a first down, so Agholor reaches the top of his route at the 39, before cutting back. 

You can see there's not much of a window here, but this is a back shoulder throw that has to be perfect. 

It's a tight window, and although Wentz hits Agholor in the hands, Roby-Coleman is able to get a paw in there to deflect it to Kayvon Webster, who broke toward the play. Webster picked off the ball on the deflection and the Rams took over in Eagles' territory and scored a few plays later. 

So the play didn't work the first time. Had the throw been absolutely perfect and if Agholor could have made a great catch, it would have. But this is a play that has to be perfect to work. 

The next time, it was. 

This probably looks pretty familiar. It's 3rd-and-8 from the Eagles' 23-yard line. With 1:52 left in a two-point game, they know if they pick up this first down, they can pretty much run down the clock and escape Los Angeles with a win. This is huge. 

Same play. This time, Foles is in shotgun with Blount next to him. The tight end on the same side; both will block again. Jeffery and Smith are the wideouts. But we'll focus on Agholor (circled). He's against Roby-Coleman again and has that cushion. 

Foles is locked on Agholor, just like Wentz was in the first quarter, but there's just not much separation. Really, there's no separation. Roby-Coleman plays this really well. 

Foles needs his pass to be absolutely perfect. He needs to put it in a spot where only Agholor can catch it. 

How's this for perfect? 

On this particular play, Foles actually threw a better pass than Wentz did in the first quarter. Now, Foles obviously isn't going to be Wentz, but this pass should at least give fans some confidence. 

And confidence isn't lacking. At an absolutely pivotal moment of the game, Pederson went back to a play that produced an interception the first time. And he went back to it with his backup quarterback who hasn't really played much all season. It was gutsy, it worked out and it shows the head coach's confidence in his new QB.

On Wednesday, Pederson pointed out Foles and Agholor were able to complete this pass after not working together all week or all season. All those reps have been going to Wentz. Now, Foles will get the chance to work with Agholor and the other starters the rest of the way. 

Report: Carson Wentz has surgery on torn left ACL

Report: Carson Wentz has surgery on torn left ACL

Carson Wentz underwent surgery Wednesday on his torn left ACL, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

The surgery was performed by Dr. James Bradley, a Pittsburgh-based orthopedic knee specialist, per Mortensen.

The typical recovery timetable for an NFL player with a torn ACL is 9-12 months. 

Two days after Wentz suffered the depressing injury in Los Angeles, he was at the Eagles’ practice facility Tuesday helping Nick Foles game plan for the Giants, even though it was the players’ day off (see story).

While Wentz recovers, the Eagles anticipate he’ll put on his “coaching hat” and do what he can to assist the offense.