Corey Graham

Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

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Eagles add more depth with 'monster' LB Dannell Ellerbe

New Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is not your average midseason signing. This is a playmaker with eight years of NFL experience, and a starter for the Super Bowl champion Ravens in 2012.

Ask any player in the Eagles’ locker room who knows Ellerbe or really studies defense, and they’ll tell you the same thing. This is not just any street free agent.

Ellerbe represents a huge upgrade for the Eagles.

“Dominant player from what I remember in Baltimore,” Eagles safety and former teammate Corey Graham said on Monday. “Running through linemen, very physical, very aggressive. Flat-out beast. We used to call him ‘Eller-beast.’

“When he was out there and when he was healthy, he’s a monster.”

Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham even went so far as to liken the addition of Ellerbe to the club’s recent trade for Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi.

“It’s the same situation as when we got the running back,” Bradham said. “We’re just adding depth and trying to get stronger as a team as we’re keeping this thing going.”

Unlike Graham, Bradham never played alongside Ellerbe, nor had they so much as met each other before. But Bradham would tell you he “knows” Ellerbe very well from following his career with the Ravens, Dolphins and Saints.

“Linebackers know linebackers,” said Bradham, who added Ellerbe made a “key impact” in Baltimore’s last world championship. “We need him.”

There’s no question the Eagles could use the help at linebacker. Both Bradham and Mychal Kendricks have been spectacular, but depth became an issue after Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending injury.

Of course, if Ellerbe is the solution, why was he a free agent to begin with? Why is he now playing for his fourth NFL team? He turns 32 years old in a matter of weeks and has never earned an invitation to the Pro Bowl or any other notable accolades, so how good can he be?

Ellerbe’s issues are primarily injury-related. He played one game in 2014, six games in 2015 and nine games in 2016.

Most recently, Ellerbe missed time with a broken foot, which he says has been healed for quite awhile.

“I was healthy enough to play going into training camp,” Ellerbe said. “The whole time I’ve just been working out and getting in shape, staying in shape.”

Otherwise, there’s no denying he can contribute if he’s finally 100 percent. Undrafted out of Georgia in 2009, Ellerbe has started 42 NFL games, recording 368 tackles, 10½ sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also has 48 tackles, one forced fumble and one interception in 10 playoff appearances.

“When he’s healthy, he’s very explosive, very smart,” said Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, another former teammate in Baltimore. “He understands defenses very well, and he can be a great playmaker for us.”

Bradham was willing to go out on a limb and predict Ellerbe would be successful for the Eagles.

“He’s going to have an impact,” Bradham said.

“For us following the game for some time, we’ve all seen him play. He’s a physical, hard-nosed linebacker. He has speed. He’s going to be a great addition for us, and he added depth. We’re even deeper now.”

As far as Ellerbe’s role, that is yet to be determined. For the time being, he isn’t locked in at middle or outside linebacker for the Eagles, though he’s primarily played weakside as a pro. He may not play at all initially.

The way Bradham and Kendricks are balling, there’s no need to force Ellerbe into the lineup, either.

And while Ellerbe says he hasn’t played special teams since he was with the Ravens in 2012, he’s ready to assist in whatever phase he’s called upon. There’s no concern about rust, despite not having practiced or seen game action since last December.

“I don’t think I’ve ever sat out this long, but when you’re born to do something, you pick it back up real quick,” Ellerbe said. “It’s like riding a bike.”

The Eagles aren’t just getting a quality linebacker. Based on accounts from his former teammates, Ellerbe is a quality person as well. Smith called Ellerbe a “great addition to the locker room,” while Graham said the newcomer will fit right in.

With the Eagles’ record at 8-1, team chemistry seems almost as important as talent these days. Ellerbe checks off both boxes.

Free-agent additions this time of year typically amount to picking off the top of the trash heap, pure depth signings, or future stashes. It’s not often a team in the Eagles’ position is able to nab a player of this caliber.

Whether Ellerbe is the game-changer his teammates remember or his ability has eroded with time and injuries, one thing is for certain: The Eagles are leaving no stone unturned in 2017. Adding another motivated athlete with a championship pedigree can’t hurt.

5 minutes with Roob: Corey Graham still playing great football at 32

5 minutes with Roob: Corey Graham still playing great football at 32

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles safety Corey Graham:

Roob: We’re here with Eagles safety Corey Graham. Welcome to Philadelphia.
 
Graham: Glad to be here.
 
Roob: I didn’t realize when you missed a game earlier this month you had a streak of 159 straight games played plus six playoff games so 165 consecutive games. A little hammy, how tough was it to see that streak end?
 
Graham: It was tough. You don’t want to think about stuff like that too much but obviously, things happen. You are thinking like, 'It's just a little hamstring, I can play through a hamstring,' and you don’t want to miss a game or anything like that when you haven’t missed one. I tried to play through it the game before and that is when I messed it up a little more and tore it. It wasn’t smart for the long haul.
 
Roob: You've been around the league and you played on some different teams, what is the feeling you get in this locker room? You have been on a Super Bowl team. What do you think so far? The team is doing well.
 
Graham: Very impressed. Offense, defense, special teams. Guys are flying around and are very upbeat. We are a great team. We need to stay on pace and we need to continue to work our butt off. Don’t get too high because things can always start out great and things can get bad. We just have to take it one game at a time and not believe all of the hype and the noise going on outside of this locker room.
 
Roob: I've got to ask you about probably the best game you ever played. Correct me if I am wrong. Playoff game against Denver in the AFC Conference semifinals in 2012, you had two interceptions off Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer, one was a pick-six and the other was in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. You went on to the semifinals and then won the Super Bowl (with the Ravens). Was that the greatest game you ever played?
 
Graham: An NFL game, yes. I had a better game in high school. It was my greatest NFL game because it was on the big stage and everything was on the line. We knew we had to win the game and I was just glad I was in position to make some of those plays. That’s how it goes sometimes. It was a great experience and I was glad we were able to go on and win the whole thing. It was a great ride, I loved being a part of that team and I loved everything I could do to help.
 
Roob: It was a little surprising Buffalo let you go since you played well last year. You were on the street a lot longer than a lot of people expected. How difficult of a process was it in the offseason leaving there and not really knowing where you were going to end up and then you came here and fit in real quick?
 
Graham: It was difficult being released because no one wants to get released. But when it was all said and done, I could have signed with someone right after, but I wanted to wait and spend some time with my family. That is why I prolonged it a lot until the end of July. Being released by the Bills in my hometown and wanting so much to go to the playoffs and end that streak. That was one of my biggest goals and to not accomplish that, it sucked.

Roob: You are in Year 11 now and you have played your best football in your 30s. You've made a Pro Bowl as a special teamer. As far as playing safety and defensive back, what still drives you in Year 11?
 
Graham: I love the game. That is the reason why I signed here. I wanted to be part of a good team and a good organization. I love being around the guys. We're having a lot of fun right now and we're enjoying the game of football. I just want to go out and make a difference and that’s what pushes me. I want to be great, enjoy the game and play it the right way. When all is said and done we want to win. The last few years in Buffalo, we didn’t make the playoffs those three years. Leaving Baltimore after winning the Super Bowl and going home and not winning sucks. And no one wants to be a part of that. No one wants to lose. I want to win.

Eagles Injury Update: Fletcher Cox (calf) out vs. Chargers; Kenjon Barner to return punts?

Eagles Injury Update: Fletcher Cox (calf) out vs. Chargers; Kenjon Barner to return punts?

The Eagles are flying to Los Angeles on Saturday morning for their game against the Chargers. 

Fletcher Cox won't be joining them. 

The Eagles' best defensive player will be officially ruled out for Sunday's game with a calf injury he suffered in the first half against the Giants, head coach Doug Pederson said. 

Is this a multiple-week injury for Cox? 

"He's actually feeling better today," Pederson said. "I don't think so, personally. When I mentioned day to day, it's really day to day with him. He is feeling better, though, even today."

Cox has missed practice all week. 

In addition to Cox, DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist), Corey Graham (hamstring), Jaylen Watkins (hamstring) and Ronald Darby (ankle) have also been ruled out for Sunday. 

Rodney McLeod (hamstring) and Jordan Hicks (ankle) are listed as questionable but both practiced in full all week and are expected to play. 

Without Cox and Vaeao, the Eagles are down to three defensive tackles. That likely means the Eagles will use defensive ends like Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham inside in certain situations. 

"There's a lot of flexibility here," Pederson said. "We haven't made a final decision yet on that. We'll get through today's practice, have a few more conversations with Jim (Schwartz) and Chris (Wilson) and go from there."

Meanwhile, it seems likely newly re-signed running back Kenjon Barner will be returning punts for the Eagles this weekend. Darren Sproles is done for the season and Torrey Smith has a big role on offense and doesn't have as much experience as a returner. 

This could be Barner's job to lose. 

"He's looked good," Pederson said. "We're continuing to work even some of the other guys on the roster there. He's got confidence, I've got confidence in him. He's done it before, so he's done a nice job."