Eagles

Despite big effort, bench awaits Curry, Graham

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Despite big effort, bench awaits Curry, Graham

CHICAGO -- It seems backwards, doesn’t it?

Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are two of the Eagles’ best pass rushers, but they both come off the bench. Curry’s four sacks last year ranked third on the defense. Graham, who played in very small doses, had three sacks last season, but Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the best pass-rushing outside 'backers per snap.

Graham and Curry were disruptive forces again in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Bears at Soldier Field (see Instant Replay), with Curry sacking Jordan Palmer and Graham’s pressure leading to an interception.

And both came off the bench.

And they’ll continue coming off the bench.

In a game that’s all about the quarterback -- and the guys who hit quarterbacks -- the Eagles are keeping ceilings on two of their most promising quarterback-hitting weapons. This is team that ranked 31st last year in sacks per pass attempt against them.

“We’ll see,” Curry said. “Right now, it don't matter what it is. My thing is, man, when I step on the field I want to help my team win and just keep showing I’m a key player.”

It was impossible not to notice the difference in defensive intimidation when the second unit replaced the first against the Bears.

The starters barely touched Jay Cutler, who converted three 3rd-and-longs on a 13-play, 69-yard touchdown drive in the first. Cutler completed 7 of 10 passes on the drive for 80 yards and connected with tight end Zach Miller (not the former Raider and Seahawk) on a 10-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-7.

Then Cutler left, Palmer entered, the Eagles subbed in their second team and suddenly the complexion of the game turned.

On the very first play of the second quarter, Curry barreled through scrimmage and ransacked Palmer on 3rd-and-8 for an eight-yard loss. On the Bears’ next possession, Graham bolted around left tackle Michael Ola and clobbered Palmer as the quarterback heaved a pass downfield that wound up in Nate Allen’s hands.

Strangely, when asked about his second string’s effort, coach Chip Kelly mentioned rookie Beau Allen and practice squad incumbent Brandon Bair as two guys who stood out. He called Allen a “disruptive force” and said Bair seemed to be “flying around.”

Graham and Curry?

When asked about them, Kelly said he needed to see the tape.

“There was one time they didn’t block Vinny at all,” Kelly said. “A couple of times they let a couple of guys come free. Travis Long, they called him hitting the quarterback in the head, but he was unblocked on a couple plays.

“There was one play I think Brandon and Vinny were in the backfield after the snap, I don’t think either of them got touched, but it could have been a move by them. I’ll have to check that out.”

Curry’s personal scouting report seemed slightly more enthusiastic.

“I feel like I was awesome,” the third-year pro said. “For the most part I felt like technique was really, really good. I think I played really hard, but I also think the whole unit played hard.”

Graham said his pressures were a byproduct of having Kevin Greene, a five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker who played 15 NFL seasons, helping out the coaches this past week in camp.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Graham said. “I wish I could have sacked [Palmer], (caused a) fumble. But it was still was a turnover, no matter what.”

No matter how well they play this preseason, Graham and Curry probably won’t get any closer to the starting lineup. Curry is behind defensive ends Cedric Thornton, an outstanding run defender, and 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox. Graham is stuck behind veterans Trent Cole and Connor Barwin.

But if they keep hitting quarterbacks, it’ll be hard to keep them off the field on all passing downs.

“I don't want to get ahead of myself,” Graham said. “I’m trying to go harder than I was last year. Consistency is the big thing with me. If I can stay consistent … I’ve got a spot. It’s just all about me staying consistent.”

Weekly meetings helping Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz get on same page

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Weekly meetings helping Doug Pederson, Carson Wentz get on same page

It doesn't seem like such a big deal at first. The head coach and quarterback get together and talk? 

So what?
 
Doug Pederson said Saturday it is a big deal and said his wide-ranging weekly 1-on-1 shoot-the-bull sessions with Carson Wentz have become an important part of Wentz's success as a quarterback, Pederson's success as a coach and the Eagles' success as a team.
 
Pederson said before practice Saturday morning that every Thursday night -- or Friday night the week of a Monday night game -- once most people have left the NovaCare Complex, he and Wentz sit down and just talk.
 
"We kind of talk about a lot of things," he said. "A little bit about football and a little bit about life."
 
The Eagles are 5-1 going into their huge Monday night showdown with the Redskins at the Linc, and Wentz and Pederson, both in their second year, are both enjoying considerable acclaim. 

Wentz, with 13 touchdown passes and three interceptions, is having an MVP type of season so far, and Pederson is an early favorite for Coach of the Year.
 
They're clearly on the proverbial same page, and Pederson said something as simple as a weekly brainstorming session with nobody else around is a key part of that success.
 
“I think it’s important for myself as a play caller and (Carson as) a quarterback that we kind of get on the same page," Pederson said.
 
"I want to hear his thoughts from the week of practice and he wants to hear my thoughts. We spend maybe 10 or 15 minutes talking football and the rest of it is we’re talking deer hunting stories. He loves to deer hunt and all that and I do too. I talk about my days in Green Bay with Brett.
 
"It’s just that time where he and I can just sort of take a deep breath and exhale and really kind of get on the same page going into the game basically. I think it’s important we continue to do that."
 
Pederson said he and Wentz met individually occasionally last year and earlier this year, but in recent weeks the Thursday night sessions have become a regular and important part of his and Wentz's regular routine.
 
Obviously, the head coach and quarterback meet all the time, but Pederson said these sessions are a unique opportunity because it's late in the week, it's just the two of them and the conversations aren't just limited to football.
 
“Andy (Reid) would do it during the week, not necessarily 1-on-1 at night or anything like that, but he would pull Alex (Smith) aside during the day," Pederson said.
 
"I know back when Donovan (McNabb) was here, even then he would have conversations with him. Marty Mornhinweg would do it with Michael Vick.
 
"I’ve been around coordinators or play callers who have done that with the quarterback. I just think it’s important that that line of communication is open, the dialogue is there and I want to make sure he and I are seeing the same things going into those games."

Eagles Injury Update: Hicks, Kendricks should be OK; Darby questionable

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Eagles Injury Update: Hicks, Kendricks should be OK; Darby questionable

It's still unclear whether or not the Eagles will have Ronald Darby for Monday night's game, but at least they'll have their linebackers. 

Both Jordan Hicks (calf) and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) will be OK to play against Washington on Monday night, head coach Doug Pederson said. 

"Both of them will practice today," Pederson said on Saturday morning. "They're both doing well. Just to get a couple extra days of rest. And Mychal has actually practiced all week. Jordan's been the one we've kept out. Both of them will go today and we'll get a better understanding of where they're at but they'll be fine for the game."

Hicks, Kendricks and Darby were the only three Eagles who were limited in Friday's practice. 

Darby (ankle) will be listed as questionable for the game, but earlier in the week Pederson said "stars have to align" for the cornerback to play this week. The 49ers game on Oct. 29 is probably more likely. 

Darby, who dislocated his right ankle in Week 1, returned to practice for the first time this week. 

"[Darby has] looked well. It's just day by day with him," Pederson said. "We'll get through today's practice with him. Obviously, have limited his reps during practice. He is doing well and we'll get through today and tomorrow to make a decision for [the game]."

The Eagles will practice on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. and the injury report will come out later in the afternoon.