Eagles

Brandon Graham activated from PUP list

Brandon Graham activated from PUP list

The Eagles will get a little boost as they begin their workweek today. Their Super Bowl hero is back.

Brandon Graham, who has been on the Active/PUP list since the beginning of training camp, has been activated and will practice Monday, less than three weeks from the start of the regular season.

In recent weeks, Graham has been spotted working with trainers on side fields, but now, he’ll get a chance to join his teammates as they begin to gear up for Week 1.

Graham, 30, had surgery this offseason to help heal a high ankle sprain he suffered on Christmas night against the Raiders. Yes, that’s right, he made the biggest play in Eagles history — the strip sack on Tom Brady — with an ankle injury that eventually needed surgery.

“I never won a championship,” Graham said in July about playing through the injury last year. “To be able to be on this team that we had, there’s no way I’m not going to be a part of it. So I did all I could.

“If I didn’t feel good, I wouldn’t have done it. Sometimes the medicine helps it, too. Sometimes it doesn’t. But you just have to be smart.”

In Graham’s absence, Chris Long has been the starter at his left defensive end spot and Derek Barnett has been the starter at right defensive end. Michael Bennett has been working with Josh Sweat on the second unit. The Eagles are incredibly deep at defensive end and Graham might still be their best one.

This will be Graham’s ninth season with the Eagles and he’s entering the final year of his contract. He hasn’t been shy about his desire for a new deal and while de facto GM Howie Roseman has been very complimentary of Graham, a new deal hasn’t gotten done yet.

Graham’s career has been interesting. He was considered a bust for the first few years of his career after being a first-round pick and just recently came into his own. He had the best season of his career in 2017, piling up 9½ sacks and was also extremely stout against the run.

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Rams stun Saints in OT with Greg Zuerlein's long field goal, advance to Super Bowl

Rams stun Saints in OT with Greg Zuerlein's long field goal, advance to Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — Greg Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal in overtime and the Los Angeles Rams, helped by a huge missed call by the officials, advanced to the Super Bowl with a 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game Sunday.

The stunning finish came after New Orleans got the ball first in the extra period. Under pressure, Drew Brees fluttered up a pass that was picked off by John Johnson III, who was able to hang on to the interception while falling onto his back.

Johnson hopped up and celebrated by doing with the "Choppa Style" dance popularized by New Orleans rapper Choppa, whose namesake song had become a Saints' rallying cry.

The Rams weren't able to do much offensively, but it didn't matter. Zuerlein, who had already delivered a tying 48-yard kick with 15 seconds left in regulation, booted through the winning field goal from just inside midfield with plenty of room to spare.

"It's unbelievable, man. I can't put it into words," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "The defense played the way they did to force it to overtime. The defense gets a pick and Greg makes a 57-yarder to win it. That was good from about 70. Unbelievable."

The Superdome, which had been in uproar all afternoon, suddenly turned eerily silent. It was the first home playoff loss for the Saints with Brees and coach Sean Payton, who and been 6-0 in those games since their pairing began in 2006.

The Rams (15-3) and their 32-year-old coach, Sean McVay, capped a remarkable rise since moving back to Los Angeles three years ago. The team will be appearing in its first Super Bowl since the 2001 season, when the "Greatest Show on Turf" was still in St. Louis.

It was another bitter end to the season for the Saints, who lost the previous season in the divisional round on the "Minnesota Miracle" — the Vikings' long touchdown pass on the final play of the game.

This time, New Orleans (14-4) squandered an early 13-0 lead and couldn't overcome a blown call in the closing minutes of regulation, when the officials failed to flag a blatant pass interference penalty on Los Angeles Nickell Robey-Coleman inside the 5.

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Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

The Eagles' season is over, but it's not the end of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations.

The plan at running back, Jason Peters' future, some surprising Tom Brady stats — it's all here!

1. How bad was Wentz this year? 
I keep hearing how bad Carson Wentz was this season, and while I agree he was inconsistent at times and generally too slow to get started, the bottom line is that even hampered by a knee that wasn’t 100 percent and a broken bone in his back, he still had a higher passer rating than Jared Goff, Andrew Luck, Brady, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers. He played 11 games and was very good in nine of them, mediocre in one of them (Indianapolis) and terrible in one of them (New Orleans). Look for yourself at his season game by game. You’ll be surprised. There’s no doubt in my mind that with a full, healthy offseason, he’ll be a top-five QB in the NFL next year.

2. The plan at running back 
We’ve talked a lot the last week about the Eagles’ running back situation, and I wrote about it a few days ago. I feel strongly that the Eagles need to attack running back with one of their second-round picks, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t welcome a free agent as well. Honestly, I think the Eagles could use one of each. As far as I’m concerned, everybody currently on the roster with the exception of Corey Clement starts out fighting for a roster spot. They need to completely make over the position. Not one defensive coordinator in the NFL sat in a meeting this year and said, “Hey, we have to account for the Eagles’ running backs.” They need weapons.

3. Figuring out which free agents to keep 
It’s interesting when you look at the list of the Eagles’ 17 free agents that there’s not one they have to bring back. There are a few you’d like back, a few who may be back simply because they’re hurt and have nowhere else to go and a few who you wouldn’t mind back if the price is right. But there’s not one who the Eagles are desperate to keep. Even Brandon Graham, as much as most of us love him, is a 31-year-old defensive end who had 4½ sacks last year. What this does is give the Eagles a ton of leverage. They don’t have to overpay to keep anybody. They can set a price, and if that guy wants more, they can move on. It’s a real position of strength.

4. The curious case of Jordan Hicks
Hicks is one of the more intriguing of those 17 free agents. He’s only 27, and we’ve all seen what kind of player he can be when he’s healthy. He actually had his best game of the year against the Saints last Sunday. But he can’t stay on the field. If he had stayed healthy this year, he would have been a pretty sought-after linebacker in free agency. But nobody is giving him much of a bonus considering he’s now missed significant time in three of his four NFL seasons — 21 of a possible 64 games in his career. I sure wouldn’t get into a bidding war for a guy that misses a third of his team’s games. But if nobody else wants him and you can bring him back at minimum wage or close to it? I’d do it in a second because the ability is there.

5. With the 25th pick in the draft, the Eagles take ... 
I’ll be shocked if the Eagles don’t go defensive line in the first round.

6. One for the fire Jim Schwartz crowd
Take a look at the Eagles’ five playoff opponents the last two years and how many points they averaged during the regular season and how many they scored against the Eagles:

2017 Falcons — Averaged 22.1, scored 10
2017 Vikings — Averaged 23.9, scored 7
2017 Patriots — Averaged 28.6, scored 33
2018 Bears — Averaged 26.3, scored 15
2018 Saints — Averaged 31.5, scored 20

Four of the five scored at least 10 points fewer than their season average, and they averaged 9½ points fewer per game against Schwartz’s defense than during the regular season. The one team that increased was led by the greatest QB ever.

Jim Johnson is the greatest defensive coordinator in Eagles history, and his units allowed 16.7 points per game in the playoffs, which from 2000 through 2008 was 4.4 points per game below the NFL average of 21.1.

Schwartz’s defenses have allowed 17.0 points per game in the playoffs in an era in which the scoring average is 22.5, so that’s 5.5 points per game below the average.

7. Some surprising Brady stats 
Check out Brady’s history in road playoff games:

• He’s thrown just eight TDs with eight INTs and completed 57 percent of his passes in seven career road games.

• He’s lost his last three road playoff games and hasn’t won on the road in the postseason since 2006, when the Patriots beat the Chargers, 24-21, in San Diego.

• He’s lost his last three road AFC Championship Games and hasn’t won a conference title game on the road since 2004 in Pittsburgh.

• Mark Sanchez has more career road playoff wins than Brady. David Garrard has a higher road postseason passer rating. Donovan McNabb has more road playoff touchdowns.

• Brady’s career postseason passer rating is 93.1 in Foxboro, where he’s 20-3. At neutral sites, it’s 98.0 and he’s 5-3. On the road, it’s 75.9 and he’s 3-4.

8. Pondering Peters' future 
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am Peters will be back at left tackle next year. Peters, who turns 37 next week, did leave some games early this year, but he also played 973 snaps — 80 percent of all the Eagles’ offensive snaps this year. When he was out there, he was solid, and although it’s not ideal, I’ll take Peters 80 percent of the time over anybody else. The Eagles would save about $5.1 million in cap space by releasing him, but Peters’ 2019 salary — $7.75 million — is middle of the pack for left tackles and certainly not prohibitive. Halapoulivaati Vaitai isn’t the answer. Jordan Mailata is a year away. It’s easy to say the Eagles should move on from him. It’s a lot harder to explain how.

9. On Alshon Jeffery and the interception
I was thinking about the Saints playoff game and what the Eagles’ chances would have been if Jeffery had caught that pass. It would have probably given the Eagles a 3rd-and-5 at the Saints’ 22-yard line. The Eagles were 7 for 17 this year on 3rd-and-5, which is 41 percent, and they were also 1 for 2 on 4th-and-5. So they basically had two 50 percent chances to convert, which is a 75 percent shot.

Now, what if they had a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20? That happened six times this year, and the Eagles scored three TDs and three field goals on those drives. Of course they wouldn’t have attempted a field goal this time, and they kicked the field goals on 4th-and-8, 4th-and-13 and 4th-and-15, so I’m going to say it’s a 50 percent proposition to score a touchdown with a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20. Factor in that the Saints were 23rd in the NFL in red-zone defense and Foles’ career red-zone numbers — 41 TDs, 5 INTs — and my entirely non-scientific conclusion is that, if converting a 3rd-and-5 with two chances is a 75 percent chance and then getting seven points from 20 yards out is a 50 percent chance, the Eagles had about a 38 percent chance to win if Jeffery caught the ball.

It would have been fun to watch Nick Foles try, but the odds were against the Eagles even if he caught it.

10. Predictions 
I’m going with both home teams today. Chiefs 37, Patriots 33, and Saints 31, Rams 27.

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