Eagles

Eagles 2017 training camp position battle: Defensive end

Eagles 2017 training camp position battle: Defensive end

Coming off the best year of his seven-season NFL career, go ahead and pencil in Brandon Graham as a starter at defensive end.
 
While his sack number (5½) wasn't nearly high enough, it also wasn't indicative of the type of season he had. Graham, a former first-round pick who took years to come into his own, was extremely disruptive in 2016 and was named as a second-team All Pro selection.
 
So he's a starter.
 
But Connor Barwin was released after the season, and there are several candidates to replace him in the starting lineup: Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Derek Barnett.
 
Either way, there will be some sort of rotation, but it's unclear exactly how this rotation will work. The best chance any of those guys to earn playing time is to win the starting gig.
 
We'll start with Curry. The Eagles tried to give Curry the chance to start last season. They started last spring with Barwin and Curry as the starters, but Graham simply outplayed Curry and never gave up the job. After signing a $46.5 million contract last offseason, Curry played just 43 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps.
 
And even when he played, the production wasn't there. Curry finished the year with just 2½ sacks, his lowest total since he didn’t get any as a rookie in 2012.
 
Next up is veteran Long, 32, who joined the team on a two-year deal this offseason. He's coming off a Super Bowl win with the Patriots, but it's unclear just how much he has left in the tank. Unless Long comes in and really outplays Curry and Barnett, it seems more likely that he'll be a depth piece. The Eagles would probably much rather have one of their younger players win the job.
 
That leads us to Barnett, the rookie first-round pick out of Tennessee. The 14th overall pick broke Reggie White's Volunteers sacks record in college, and he did it without eye-popping combine numbers. Instead, he did it with his incredible bend and textbook technique.
 
The good news for the Eagles is that technique should translate to the NFL, and Barnett doesn't seem like the type of kid who will rest now that he's heard his name get called on draft night. During the spring, he was a handful for right tackle Lane Johnson, who is one of the best right tackles in the league.
 
Perhaps the biggest question isn't just who starts, but where?
 
Last season, Graham was able to be productive as the Eagles' left defensive end, which meant going up against right tackles, while Barwin struggled against better left tackles. In the NFC East, that is a big deal because of Dallas and Washington, which have two of the best left tackles in the NFL in Tyron Smith and Trent Williams. That means that in four of 16 games — a quarter — the Eagles' right defensive end will face off against an All Pro left tackle.

Nigel Bradham catches a break in loaded gun case

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AP Images

Nigel Bradham catches a break in loaded gun case

It's been a positive few weeks for Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham.

He had arguably the best game of his NFL career in Week 6 against the Panthers, and he is now no longer facing second-degree misdemeanor charges for a legal issue dating back to 2016, Miami-Dade County court records show.

Bradham had a court date at 9:30 a.m. Monday; he was presumably represented by his attorney. 

TMZ Sports first reported that charges were dropped. 

Bradham, you'll remember, was arrested around this time last year at Miami International Airport for carrying a loaded weapon in a seldom-used zippered compartment of his backpack. 

"How does that happen?" Bradham said last year. "I forgot — it's as simple as that."

He's now off the hook.

"The state had no case against him and they found that it wasn't something he should be criminally sanctioned for," Bradham's attorney, Adam Swickle, told TMZ, also adding that Bradham had a valid concealed weapons permit.

The incident did prompt defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to offer maybe his best quote.

"You do dumbass things," Schwartz said, "pretty soon, you're going to be labeled as a dumbass."

In July, Bradham also avoided punishment for a felony battery charge he faced for an altercation with a Miami hotel worker in July of 2016. This July, he entered a deferred prosecution program to avoid jail time and to stay out of court. 

Without the legal issues hovering over his head, Bradham is playing his best football.

Rob's Rants: Sixers' issues, weak Week 7, Romo a future coach?

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USA Today Images

Rob's Rants: Sixers' issues, weak Week 7, Romo a future coach?

Fresh off a weekend that saw the Sixers drop two ugly games and an NFL Week 7 card that stunk to the high heavens, we are locked and loaded with plenty of ammunition and a prediction mixed in for the latest Rob's Rants. 

Sixers' start
I'm not in panic mode like some Sixers fans after their 0-3 start. They've played three teams that finished seeded 1, 2 and 3 respectively last season in the Eastern Conference in the Wizards, Celtics, and Raptors. Two of those games were on the road.

They have a difficult early schedule and won 28 games last season. However, there are some troubling early trends. Let's start with Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. There's great debate among some regarding Fultz's ugly looking shot. Ugly may be too kind. There are those who believe a shoulder injury is the cause of his changing his form. And there are others who fall in the camp that it's in his head, nothing physical.

Count me in the latter corner. As overly cautious as this organization has been since the Process started, there is no way they would put him out there if this was anything remotely serious. My guess — and it's just that — is that either Fultz or someone in his camp decided to tinker with his form for whatever reason. Why? I have no idea. Things were going pretty well for him. First overall pick, averaged 23.2 points per game in his lone year in college. He shot 47.6 from the floor and 41.3 from three-point range. His shot wasn't broken. His range, vision and handle are what made him the ideal fit in the Sixers' minds to play here alongside Ben Simmons. And they gave up a lot of to move up two spots to get him.

Fultz needs to go back watch his college highlight reel and forget about what's taken place since summer league action. The fact that he and Simmons refuse to shoot anything 12 feet or beyond in an NBA game is a massive issue.

The flip side of the duo's reticence to pose an outside threat is Joel Embiid's allergic reaction to going inside. He shot the ball pretty well last season from three (36.7 percent). We've seen the soft touch and the range, especially for a 7-foot-2 behemoth, and it's a nice complement to his game. But he's fallen way too in love with the jumper in general. He's 0 for 10 from three and shooting just 35 percent overall. That should never happen. Embiid blamed his teammates for not getting him the ball in the post after the Celtics loss. Sorry, big fella, it's not on them, it's on you to get to the block to get fed. Take advantage of that incredible combo of size and agility. Shooting threes and ill-advised drives where you turn the ball over need to stop. This one may be easier to correct than Fultz.

Two other bones to pick. The Sixers have been outrebounded in all three games, including the two Embiid played. That's want, that's effort. Whether we like it or not, Embiid is going to miss games — be it back-to-backs, coach's decision or whatever. The team can't just lay down like it did Saturday in Toronto. A 36-point defeat is unacceptable and embarrassing now that they have an actual NBA lineup, unlike years past. It's not panic time, but it is time to see more from this team.

Weak Seven
I love the NFL, it's my favorite sport. Even when the Eagles don't play like the last two weekends, I still thoroughly enjoy the Sunday action. But there is no way to polish this turd of a Week 7. The large majority of the games stunk, flat out. In 10 of the 14 games, the average margin of victory was 18.7 points. Three teams were shut out and three more scored seven or fewer points. You had matchups such as Jaguars-Colts, Chargers-Broncos, Bears-Panthers, Rams-Cardinals, Cowboys-49ers. You get the picture. Even Sunday night's matchup between last year's Super Bowl combatants, the Falcons and Patriots, turned into a dud. I get that because of injuries and underachieving, they can't all be instant classics. But this was bad. Even the NFL Redzone couldn't quell the stink coming off this dreck. The troubling thing is it wasn't just this past weekend, there's far more bad than good out there. People can blame player protests or cord-cutting for the ratings being down but maybe it's as simple as the product is not as good.

Coach Romo
As much as it pains me to say, Tony Romo is a good announcer. He is insightful, on top of the game and has juice. Does he over-talk at times? Yes. There's an art as both a play-by-play and color analyst to letting things breathe sometimes and Romo needs to learn this. This is only his first year. With time, he'll grasp this concept if he chooses to continue down this road. But the more I listen, the more I think his future is not in the booth but back on the field. Not as a player, but as a coach. His ability to predict and read defenses and his feel for situational football lend me to think coaching will be in his near future. He is beloved by Jerry Jones, and if the Cowboys fall short of the postseason this year or next, it would not surprise me a bit if Jones convinced him to take over the Cowboys. Jones has the deepest of pockets, so money will not be an issue.