Brandon Graham

Giants a pushover? Brandon Graham warns Eagles not so fast

Giants a pushover? Brandon Graham warns Eagles not so fast

Brandon Graham sees the film, just like everybody else sees the film. He sees the stats, just like everybody else sees the stats. He sees the standings, just like everyone else.
 
And he keeps reminding his teammates not to get caught up in any of it.
 
"As the leader, I'm trying to make sure everybody just has the mindset of, 'Let's just do what we do,'" Graham said. "If we prepare well, we'll play well.
 
"Don't worry about what the stats say. Don't worry about what they've done in the past. Just go out there and let's do us and we'll figure everything out Sunday as we play."
 
The Eagles face the Giants at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Linc in their home opener. The Eagles are 1-1 but looking for a 2-0 NFC East start.
 
The Giants are 0-2 and have one touchdown, 13 points and just 503 yards of offense after losses to the Cowboys and Lions.
 
The last team to score one touchdown in its first two games and reach the playoffs was the 2003 Eagles.
 
"We're trying to not focus on how they struggled because they're not going to struggle against us unless we make them," Graham said. "Unless we go out there and do what we do. And that's what we try to preach each week.
 
"Because you get excited sometimes when you see other teams doing what they do, but it doesn't ever work out the same way you know when you play a certain team. You think you're supposed to beat them because this team beat them and you beat that team? But it don't matter. On any given Sunday, and that's the truth."
 
The Giants are allowing a sack every 11.4 pass plays, fifth-worst in the NFL. The Eagles are recording a sack every 11.8 pass plays, third-best in the NFL.

They should feast on this O-line (see 5 matchups to watch).
 
The Eagles have won 13 of the last 17 meetings with the Giants. When the Eagles record two or more sacks, they're 7-1 vs. the Giants since 2009.
 
The Giants, last in the NFL in rushing this year, have just four rushing TDs against the Eagles in the last 14 meetings. 
 
The Giants have only four offensive touchdowns in five games at the Linc since 2012.
 
"We're going to try to beat them while they're down, but we know they're going to fight because it's us," Graham said. "That's why I love this game. Because it don't matter what we did last week, we've got another opportunity to make up for last week, get better at what we didn't get better at.
 
"I'm sure that's their mindset. We know they want to get back in the winning column and we just don't want it to start with us."
 
Graham has 2½ sacks so far, Fletcher Cox has two and Tim Jernigan 1½. Mychal Kendricks and Chris Long also have sacks for the Eagles.
 
On Sunday, Vinny Curry will draw struggling Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers.
 
But really, this entire Eagles defensive line has played well so far.
 
Last year, like this year, the Eagles started out fast up front. The defensive line had 12 sacks in the first four games then recorded just eight in the next eight games.
 
Graham said the key to maintaining that pressure this year will be forgetting who is getting the sacks and just concentrating on playing sound team ball.
 
"I think we kind of got away (from that)," he said. "We were stressing too much about the sacks instead of just working together.
 
"Right now we're just focusing on just working together. Working together as a group. And if we do that, the sacks are going to come if we are where we're supposed to be.
 
"I think it's just nice because everybody's not focused on me and Fletch. Everybody's focused on Vinny and Timmy Jernigan and Chris Long, DB (Derek Barnett). We have a bunch of guys who can come in and get the job done as well as the first group."
 
Graham and Cox will always be the focus of opposing offenses. But unlike last year, when they were really the only legit sack producers up front, they have help this year.
 
"They kind of still slide to me and Fletch, but when Timmy got his sack, they started sliding Timmy's way," Graham said. "Then when I got my sack because I had 1-on-1 with my guy. they started sliding my way.
 
"It's up to whoever gets the 1-on-1 to make the play. I try to take two so I can help one of my guys get a 1-on-1 and get freed up. Hopefully, it's Fletch because I know if he gets a 1-on-1 you know he's going to dominate every time.
 
"I feel the same way about everybody in this group. For me, I'm not really worried about if I get doubled or tripled, because I know somebody's open. I just hope they make the play."
 
The Eagles can go a long way toward knocking the Giants out of the NFC East race early with a win Sunday.
 
The Eagles are just 4-7 in their last 11 home openers.
 
"It's big," Graham said. "We're trying to go 2-0 in the NFC East and 2-1 overall.
 
"When you look back on seasons, you can't let games like this slip. When teams are down like this, they're going to give us their best shot, so we've got to be ready."

Roob's 25 Random Points: South Jersey RBs, Lane Johnson and the race to 300

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Roob's 25 Random Points: South Jersey RBs, Lane Johnson and the race to 300

South Jersey running backs, Shady and Chip, comedy from Jeff Lurie, success with Lane Johnson, RG3 and what do DeSean Jackson and Caleb Sturgis have in common (the answer is not nothing!).

Sure sounds like a 25 Random Points is on the way!

1. Brandon Graham has developed into one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers. Nelson Agholor certainly looks at least like a serviceable NFL wide receiver. Two first-round picks, two guys quickly labeled busts, two guys who had big roles in the Eagles' opening-day win Sunday in Washington and certainly figure greatly in the Eagles' hopes to end their playoff drought this year. Every player in the NFL progresses — or doesn't — at a different rate, and there are so many factors that go into whether a guy has immediate success. How good a scheme fit is he? How does he adjust to life away from home, perhaps for the first time? How does he handle suddenly having a ton of money? How quickly can he process the massive amount of information thrown his way and transform it into plays on the field? There are so many reasons the NFL draft is an inexact science and why every year players who looked so dominating in college struggle to find their way. Everybody handles all these factors differently. Some are stars from Day 1. Some never make it. Some take years. The Eagles' draft history is littered with the Leonard Renfros, Bernard Williams and Fireman Danny's who never figured it out. But it's always wise to err on the side of patience because today's bust could be tomorrow's stud. This all struck me this week because I got so many tweets about Donnel Pumphrey, with people - understandably - assuming that once he goes on Injured Reserve it's the last we'll ever see of him. But as Howie Roseman pointed out a couple weeks ago, if you like a player enough after watching his film, interviewing him, going to his pro day, tracking him at the Combine and bringing him into your facility, why would you release him after a few sluggish preseason games? You trust your scouting and stick with him because that guy who looked so bad in his rookie preseason could turn out to be an important piece of your puzzle in the future. Pumphrey is out for the year with a torn hamstring, but I would just caution people against writing him off. Or writing off any rookie, no matter how over-matched he looks. These things can take time. Graham and Agholor are evidence of that.

2. Doug Pederson said on Friday, "We have to run the ball better." In other words, we have to stick with the run because you can rarely establish a running game when your lead back has seven carries in the first 16 minutes of a game and then three carries in the next 35 minutes. The Eagles' 58 rushing yards in Washington were their second-fewest in an opener since 1972 (they had 51 in Atlanta in the 2005 opener). On Sunday in KC, they'll face a Chiefs defense that did allow 124 rushing yards to the Patriots in the opener, so you'd think the Eagles can get something going on the ground. If they don't, I don't know how they beat this team. If they do, at least they have a chance.

3. For the record, there have only been three instances in Eagles history where they've had fewer than 60 rushing yards in each of their first two games -- 1940, 1962 and 1971.

4. For all the talk about Colin Kaepernick being out of the NFL at the age of 29 and just four years after leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl, it's way more remarkable to me that RG3 is out of the league -- and wasn't even in a training camp -- at the age of 27. Robert Griffin III, who started against the Eagles for the Browns on opening day last year, certainly has had a tough run of injuries since his amazing rookie year in 2012, but unlike Kaepernick there isn't a single non-football reason for a team to at least bring him into a camp. He's not a distraction, he's never been in trouble. RG3 hasn't been a special player in a few years and maybe the injuries he suffered starting that second year in Washington have left him simply unable to function as an NFL quarterback anymore. But I have a hard time believing there are 85 or 90 better quarterbacks in the league than RG3.

5. Nice win for Sean McDermott in his NFL head coaching debut last weekend, and his bell-cow was none other than LeSean McCoy, who had 110 rushing yards on 22 carries and added five catches for 49 more yards. Shady now has 29 career games with 100 rushing yards and a 5.0 average, and only 12 other running backs have had more before their 30th birthday (eight of those 12 are in the Hall of Fame). Shady also increased his career yards from scrimmage total to 12,043, which is 13th-most in NFL history by a player before his 30th birthday. And 10 of the 12 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

6. Hey Chip, what were you thinking omg???? 

7. I just heard the worst song I've ever heard, and it's called "Panic Cord" by someone named Gabrielle Aplin.

8. Anyone who parks in front of a restaurant or take-out joint and leaves his car running while ordering food and then waiting 15 minutes till its ready, car idling, blocking people, interfering with traffic, polluting the neighborhood, when there is a parking space available within 500 feet, should lose his license for a year. Do it again and lose your license for five years.

9. In 2008, Andy Reid drafted DeSean Jackson, and in 2009 he drafted LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. Then he goes to Kansas City and drafts Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt in the first five years. Talk about having an eye for skill players. Now, Reid isn't the GM in Kansas City, but he certainly has a say in personnel, and his knack for spotting gifted running backs, receivers and tight ends is remarkable. He's got a pretty good track record for quarterbacks, too, and while the jury is obviously still out on Pat Mahomes, if he's as good as advance notice, the Chiefs are stocked at the skill spots for the next decade.

10. Also interesting that Reid has drafted two running backs with the last name Hunt in the third round. Tony rushed for 25 yards in his career. Kareem rushed for 148 yards in his first NFL game.

11. The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 13 of their last 14 games. The only exception was the Dallas game the last day of last season when the Cowboys played their scrubs much of the game.

12. Since July 16, the Phillies are 27-30, which isn’t great, but it’s respectable. The Phillies were 30-60 through 91 games, a historically bad .333 clip, and with the lineup now filled with promising young bats, they’re playing .474 baseball since. That puts them 17th out of 30 teams in winning percentage over about two months. I know it's a mistake to put much credence in meaningless wins. But what I like is that during that 57-game span, the Phils are hitting .268 (seventh-best in baseball) with a .773 OPS (ninth-best). The problem is they also have a 4.73 ERA during that span, which is 20th-best. But the bats are there. Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Freddy Galvis, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera all have at least 50 RBIs, and going into play Saturday night Nick Williams needed two to get to 50. The last time the Phils had six guys 27 or younger with 50 ribbies in a season? It was 2001 (Bobby Abreu, Marlon Anderson, Pat Burrell, Travis Lee, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins). Before that it was 1893 and 1932. So this is a rare group. If the Phils can surround Aaron Nola with a few more capable starters (Corey Seidman has more on that), this could be a very good baseball team in two years.

13. I hate when people try to be clever and say an old guy is like "88 years young!"

14. I wouldn't mind seeing Corey Clement get some carries.

15. Speaking of Clement … you know what's amazing? How many insanely talented running backs South Jersey has produced. Franco Harris (Rancocas Valley) is a Hall of Famer. Ron Dayne (Overbrook) set the NCAA career rushing record at Wisconsin. Lydell Mitchell (Salem) had a brilliant NFL career, with three straight Pro Bowls and the most yards from scrimmage in the league from 1973 through 1978 for the Colts. Mike Rozier (Woodrow Wilson) was the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner for Nebraska. Avon Cobourne (Holy Cross) rushed for over 5,000 yards at West Virginia -- ninth-most in NCAA history when he graduated -- and went on to have a tremendous career in the CFL, where he was 2009 Grey Cup MVP. Gordie Lockbaum (Glassboro) was third in the 1987 Heisman balloting after playing running back and safety for Holy Cross and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Wali Lundy (Holy Cross) set an ACC record with 52 rushing touchdowns. William Greene (Holy Spirit) was a first-round pick of the Browns in 2002 after an All-America career at Boston College. Albert Young  (Moorestown) once held the South Jersey rushing record and had a very good career at Iowa. Adam Taliaferro (Eastern). Shonn Green (Winslow Twp.) was a consensus first-team All-America at Iowa and spent six years in the NFL. Jonathan Taylor (Salem) ran for 2,815 yards and 35 touchdowns -- just as a senior -- in high school and is off to a torrid start as a freshman at Wisconsin, with 438 yards, five TDs and an 8.3 average in three games, including the Badgers' win over BYU Saturday. Isaac Redman (Paulsboro) spent parts of five years with the Steelers after rushing for over 5,000 yards in high school and a Boise State-record 3,300 yards. And then there's Clement, who ran for 6,245 yards at Glassboro before a great career at Wisconsin. What a list!

16. On Wednesday night, I had the thrill of a lifetime when I got the chance to play keyboards with the band Illinois at Union Transfer when they opened for Mondo Cozmo. When I walked on stage and Illinois singer Chris Archibald introduced me, and everybody started yelling, "Roooooooob," I can't even explain how good that made me feel. I love everybody.

17. This shouldn't be possible, but Caleb Sturgis and DeSean Jackson have scored the exact same number of points in an Eagles uniform. 234.

18. Also fascinating probably only to me is that Sturgis, who's only been the Eagles' kicker for a couple years (and is now hurt), is tied for the second-most 50-yard field goals in franchise history. Sturgis is actually 7 for 11 from 50 and out since joining the Eagles after Cody Parkey got hurt early in 2015. David Akers made 15 50-yarders in 32 attempts and Tom Dempsey was 7 for 16, but Akers played in 188 games, so he made a 50-yarder once every 12 ½ games. Sturgis has seven in 30 games as an Eagle, so he's averaging one every 4.3 games. Dempsey actually averaged one every 6.7 games.

19. Since the start of his NFL career in 2013, the Eagles are 30-21 when Lane Johnson plays (.588) and 5-9 when he doesn't play (.357). They've only lost one game with Johnson in uniform since Doug Pederson became head coach -- that 24-23 loss at Detroit last October. The last game the Eagles lost at the Linc with Johnson on the field was against the Redskins in 2015 -- Chip Kelly's last game as Eagles head coach. Lane is good.

20. Since McCoy in 2011, only two Eagles have made a Pro Bowl in their first three seasons in the NFL -- Parkey and Nick Foles. From 2000 through 2007, seven Eagles did that -- Trott, Donovan, Westbrook, Lito, Michael Lewis, Shawn Andrews and Trent Cole. Young home-grown talent. That's how you become an elite team.

21. My pal John and I decided back in December we would have this little competition in 2017 where we would actually have a race to see who could see 300 bands the fastest. John and I, both being huge live music fans and stupidly competitive, quickly set some ground rules for what became known as #TheRoadTo300. You could only count a band once, no matter how many times you saw them. To count a band, you had to stay for at least four songs. Unless it was at a festival with multiple stages, in which case you only needed two full songs. We both got off to fast starts with the seven January triple bills at the Boot and Saddle for a variety of terrific local charities. We both hit 100 in March and 200 in June. He cleaned up at Boston Calling, I cleaned up at the Havertown Festival. We hustled obsessively at the XPoNential Festival to see as many bands as humanly possible, even bands we hate. We even started a blog where we post rankings of all the shows we've seen in 2017 along with several other lists. So what's the latest? Going into Tuesday, he will be at 298 and I will be at 297. And he's going to see a triple bill at the Fillmore Tuesday night and I'm headed to World Café Live, where there are two bands upstairs and two downstairs. So after 8½ months and literally hundreds of bands, the winner will be determined by whether the second band at the Fillmore finishes its fourth song before the third band at World Café finishes its fourth song. It could come down to a matter of minutes. Maybe even seconds. It's going to be tough for one of us to lose this race! But you know what? We still have 3½ months left. There's always #TheRoadTo400!

22. Get this: The Chiefs are 4-13 in Week 2 since 2000, tied with the Lions for the worst Week 2 record in the NFL during that span. Like that one? (The Eagles are 8-9 in Week 2 during that span.)

23. After the Eagles-Redskins game in Landover, Maryland, Sunday night, I headed over to the nearby Amtrak station, New Carrollton, Maryland, to wait for my train back up to Trenton. Now, New Carrollton is the worst train station you can imagine. Not only is it a dank, filthy, gloomy rat-hole, there isn't a single bench in the place. Nowhere to sit. Nowhere. How do you have a major train station along the Northeast Corridor that serves both Amtrak and regional rail with nowhere to sit?!?! So with some time before my train and tons of work to do, I had no choice but to plop down on the wretched concrete floor of the musty corridor leading to the escalators that go up to the train platforms, get out my laptop and start working. Other than the laptop, I must have looked like a homeless dude sitting there on the floor surrounded by my weathered backpack and a bottle of water. A few minutes later, there was a commotion around the corner and I saw some cops clearing the entire corridor of pedestrians and travelers, although they somehow missed me. A few minutes after that, the Eagles walked by. The entire team. And front office. I had forgotten the team travels from New Carrollton to 30th Street Station following games in Washington via an Amtrak charter. Here they were arriving by bus at the station to board their private train. First guy to notice me plopped down on the floor? Jeffrey Lurie. He looked over at me, shook his head in mock sympathy, reached into his pocket, and started to hand me a dollar! One of the funniest things I've ever seen.

24. Seriously, how do you have a train station that serves about 10,000 riders per day and doesn't have one freaking bench?

25. I made a good honest attempt at seeing all 32 performers on four stages at the seventh annual Havertown Music Festival last weekend. Fell short but still saw 28 of the 32. Here's my Top 10: 1. Matthew Sweet, 2. I Think Like Midnight, 3. Somerdale, 4. The Weeklings, 5. Skip Denenberg, 6. Jonny Drucker, 7. Jesse Gimbel, 8. The GTV's, 9. Dennis Selfridge, 10. The Barrel Fires.

Eagles-Chiefs 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Chiefs 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles were able to take down Washington in their opener but things don't get any easier. 
 
Now, they'll face a Kansas City team that knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1. And Andy Reid has an extra few days to prepare; he usually uses those extra days to perfection. 
 
There will be plenty of familiarity on both sides of the field Sunday, but the bottom line is that the Eagles are going to a tough place to play against a really good team. It won't be easy to pull off a win. 
 
If they do, it'll likely be because they won these matchups: 
 
Kareem Hunt vs. Eagles run defense
Hunt fumbled on his first NFL carry but then rebounded to have one of the best performances from a rookie we've ever seen. Hunt picked up 246 yards from scrimmage (148 rushing, 98 receiving) — the most ever in an NFL debut. He also had three total touchdowns. 
 
So the Eagles will have their hands full. They'll need a team effort to bring him down. In his debut, Hunt forced eight missed tackles and averaged 4.0 yards after contact per attempt, according to ProFootballFocus. 
 
For the most part, the Eagles bottled up Washington's running backs in Week 1 with one major exception. Chris Thompson's 29-yard touchdown reception featured several missed tackles. The Eagles can't give Hunt extra chances as a runner or a receiver. 
 
Alshon Jeffery vs. Marcus Peters 
Jeffery didn't have a great debut with the Eagles and he didn't even face off against Josh Norman all day. Jeffery had just three catches for 38 yards against Washington and missed a couple of jump balls that would have been tough catches — but that's why they paid him. 
 
The Chiefs will certainly miss Eric Berry the rest of the season, but they still have Peters, one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Eventually, the Eagles hope Sidney Jones will follow in Peters' footsteps to be a great corner from the University of Washington. 
 
Tyreek Hill vs. Jalen Mills
Mills had a pretty good game Sunday. He picked up his first career interception and made a huge play on a jump ball in 1-on-1 coverage against Terrelle Pryor (see story). But the Eagles are definitely going to miss Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle). With Darby out, Mills is now the Eagles' top corner, but he simply doesn't have the same speed. A few times last Sunday, Pryor was able to run right past Mills. 
 
Now, Mills is about to see a whole different kind of speed. NBC did a great job explaining just how fast Hill is when they said his high school 200-meter time would have placed him sixth at the Olympics in Rio in 2016. That's nuts.

Jason Kelce vs. Bennie Logan 
We all know Kelce seems to struggle against some of the bigger and more powerful nose tackles in the league. Logan fits that bill, although the two know each other pretty well. They went against each other in practice for years, so they should both know each other's tendencies. This will be fun to watch. 
 
Mitchell Schwartz vs. Brandon Graham 
Graham had two sacks in the Eagles' opener last week and has a chance to do even more damage Sunday in Kansas City. He'll face off against Chiefs right tackle Schwartz, who had a decent opener himself but is coming off a year in which he gave up nine sacks, tied for the most among all offensive tackles, according to ProFootballFocus. There will be a chance to get pressure on the other side, too, against left tackle Eric Fisher. 
 
Bonus matchup: Student vs. teacher
I didn't want to include this in the five because Andy Reid and Doug Pederson are both offensive coaches, so it's not like their units are going to go against each other. But they're still facing off. This is a battle between Reid, who really gave Pederson his career, and Pederson, who owes him a lot. As CSN's Reuben Frank pointed out, Reid is 8-3 against his former assistants and is 3-0 against them since heading to Kansas City (see story). This one is even more unique because Pederson isn't just one of Reid's former assistants, he's one of his former players.

Timeouts are going to go fast in this game. 
 
"Yeah, obviously it's a tough task," Pederson said. "[Reid's] teams are always well-prepared. They're a disciplined group. You see that, very consistent in how they go about their preparation during the week. And listen, it just comes down to the preparation and hard work for them, and that's what he's done in his past. And I think sometimes, in my position, I don't want to put any added stress or pressure on myself to go perform."