Eagles Film Review: Brandon Graham's monster day against Vikings

Eagles Film Review: Brandon Graham's monster day against Vikings

Through six games, Brandon Graham looks like a Pro Bowler.

It’s hard to even imagine he’s the same guy who was once ridiculed by the fan base so much his mother refused to wear his jersey to games for fear of repercussions.

While Graham is in the middle of his best NFL season, his game against the Vikings on Sunday was his best of the year. He finished the game with three combination tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and five quarterback hits.

Five quarterback hits.

To put that into perspective, that’s the same amount of quarterback hits he had during the entire 2013 season, when it looked like his days in Philadelphia might be numbered. For the 2016 season, Graham has 10 quarterback hits, one shy of his career high. And there are still 10 games to go.

He was a constant force against the Vikings and their depleted tackles at the Linc. Here’s a look at just how disruptive he was:

It didn’t take long for Graham to start wreaking havoc against the Vikings. This is his first quarterback hit of the day and it comes at the 11:24 mark in the first quarter. He’s going up against right tackle Jeremiah Sirles (6-6, 315), who had absolutely no chance.

Aside from this individual matchup, Sam Bradford has a pretty decent pocket to throw from. But Graham just runs right through Sirles to get to the quarterback. Bradford’s pass, as a result of the pressure, was underthrown and incomplete.

This was probably Graham’s biggest play of the day. The Vikings had the ball on the Eagles’ 6-yard line on 3rd-and-goal. They probably figured the worst that could happen here was an incomplete pass and they’d still get three points. Nope. Graham lines up real wide in Jim Schwartz’s wide-9.

In this still shot, it actually looks like T.J. Clemmings might have a decent block against Graham, but look at the leverage. Clemmings is on his heels and Graham is low as can be. He’s about to throw a 309-pound man aside like a rag doll.

Once Graham pushes Clemmings away, he has a clear shot at Bradford in a hurry and he takes it. Graham clearly changes the throw, which ends up in the hands of Rodney McLeod in the end zone. With this play, Graham simply took points away from the Vikings.

On this play late in the third quarter, the Vikings come out with seven on the line, so you’d figure they’d be able to stop Graham, who’s lined up on the left side again.

But just after the snap, Sirles leaves Graham to help toward his left, TE Kyle Rudolph leaves the line to run a route and Zac Kerin pops out to block a blitzing Malcolm Jenkins. That leaves running back Matt Asiata to block Graham, who has momentum going toward the quarterback.

Graham tosses Asiata aside and gives himself a clear path to Bradford. On this play, give credit to the quarterback. He felt the pressure coming but was able to deliver a 14-yard pass to Stefon Diggs to get a first down. He paid the price from Graham though.

On the last play we’ll look at, Graham actually wasn’t awarded with a quarterback hit. This was his strip sack where he didn’t hit Bradford, but did bat the ball away. This time Graham is again lined up on the left side against Sirles.

On this play, he doesn’t go straight through the lineman. Instead, he uses a little quick swim move and goes around him outside. Sirles’ job was to push Graham wide enough and he didn’t come close to doing it.

Graham gets to the quarterback so fast, it almost looks like he gets in Fletcher Cox’s way. Graham went a little wide here, but was able to reach back with his right hand as he went by and knock the ball loose for his fourth sack of the season.

No, Graham isn’t Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul. And for the first time in his career, Eagles fans should be fine with it.

Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants


Nick Foles may not have full protection vs. Giants

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this weekend, but they might not be able to protect him as well as they hope. 

Starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski will officially be listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of an ankle injury. 

Wiz had to leave the Rams game in the first half and did not return. He missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday. 

"We'll see where he's at today," head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday. 

After Wisniewski came out of the Rams game, he was replaced by Chance Warmack, who was then replaced by Isaac Seumalo. 

It sounds like Warmack will have the first chance to play this weekend if Wisniewski can't go. 

"We've worked Chance at that position this week," Pederson said. "Isaac has obviously gotten some reps really at all the positions but that would be the most logical."

Seumalo actually began the season as the team's starting left guard after he won the position in the offseason. From there, Warmack got the first crack at replacing him when he was benched, but Warmack couldn't keep the job, eventually giving way to a rotation before Wisniewski simply took over. The line has been much better since Wiz took over the starting job in Week 3. 

Alshon Jeffery and Steven Means, who both missed Thursday's practice with illnesses, will be back on the practice field on Friday. Both should be fine for this weekend's game. 

The Eagles will practice outside in 28-degree weather on Friday as they prepare for Sunday's outdoor game at MetLife Stadium. 

No word on the condition of the recycling can Jason Kelce kicked inside the bubble after getting cleated on Thursday. At least the outdoor practice will give it another day of rest. 

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

USA Today Images

Lucky for Nick Foles, his go-to guy is back

Nick Foles won't see many familiar faces when he makes his first start for the Eagles in over three years, but at least one of his go-to receivers is still around.

Foles hasn't been in the lineup for a week, and the Eagles quarterback is already getting reinforcements. Zach Ertz cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday and is expected to play against the Giants on Sunday, adding a valuable weapon to the offense, and reuniting a dynamic duo in the process.

"I feel good, ready to go," Ertz said Wednesday following his first practice back. "Tough week last week obviously not being able to play, but it was the right decision at the time and I'm excited for this week."

Ertz was a rookie when Foles took over as the starting quarterback in 2013, posting a modest 36 receptions for 469 yards and four touchdowns. Yet Ertz really only began to flourish once the job belonged to Foles permanently.

The fifth-year tight end — perhaps on his way to his first Pro Bowl this season — even caught his first NFL touchdown from Foles.

"That was a long time ago, against the Raiders when he was fricking throwing everyone touchdowns," Ertz said this week. "We had a lot of good games together."

Their connection was almost instantaneous. At the time, Brent Celek was still the starter at tight end and getting the bulk of the snaps. Ertz still managed to catch five touchdowns in the Eagles' remaining nine games, including one against in the Saints in the playoffs. Ertz had five or more receptions three times during that span.

"That's my first year in the league, his second year in the league," Ertz said. "He was playing at an unbelievable level. He's still the same quarterback, and we're excited to have him."

Their rapport continued into 2014. Ertz had 25 receptions for 358 yards with two touchdowns when Foles was lost for the season with a broken collarbone.

Ertz acknowledged a quarterback change at this stage of the season can be difficult. Clearly, It's not uncharted territory, either. Even when Foles finally nailed down the job in '13, it was already Week 9, after weeks of going back and forth with Michael Vick.

It took time for the Eagles to make the right decision under center, but they eventually got it right, and it wound up being a historic season. Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game against the Raiders, and made NFL history at the end of the season with a 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The transition from Carson Wentz to Foles may not go that smoothly, but Ertz has reason to feel confident everything will be fine.

"It's definitely not the easiest thing switching quarterbacks, but there's a lot of familiarity with Nick," Ertz said. "The coaches understand what Nick does well. (Eagles coach Doug Pederson) has been with him for a long time.

"With Nick, he throws such an easy ball to catch that there's not a real adjustment period in terms of catching the ball. Some quarterbacks throw a tough ball to catch, but Nick's ball is really easy to catch and it makes it easy for receivers."

Foles already survived his first relief appearance, and that was without Ertz. With the tight end and security blanket inactive against the Rams, Foles was able to lead the Eagles on two scoring drives that ended with field goals, including the game-winner.

Again, that was sans Ertz. Imagine what Foles might be able to do with one of the Eagles' top receivers.

Ertz has 57 receptions for 663 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He was on pace for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns earlier in the campaign but missed a game for the concussion, and another with a hamstring.

Maybe Ertz can still get there over the final three weeks with Foles at the helm. He certainly isn't afraid to push the ball down the field anyway.

"He loves the slinging the ball," Ertz said. "That's what he's been doing his whole career.

"He's a great quarterback. We're excited to have him. I don't think there's anybody else in this situation that we would rather have."

Either way, Foles-to-Ertz is going to feel like a blast from the past. Maybe that connection can help keep the Eagles rolling in December and through the playoffs.