Brandon Graham on Eagles' trip West: 'It's our season right here'

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Brandon Graham on Eagles' trip West: 'It's our season right here'

They've played two winning teams all year, and now they'll play two more in eight days.

It's safe to say that how the Eagles fare on their upcoming two-game West Coast road trip will go a long way toward determining whether they earn home-field advantage or one of two first-round byes in the NFC playoffs.

"It's big," Brandon Graham said. "It's our season right here. This is where we kind of separate ourselves.

"If we're going to get that bye like we want, we've got to go out there and we've got to win."

The Eagles have faced the fewest winning teams of any NFL team. They lost by seven to the Chiefs in Kansas City back in Week 2 and beat the Panthers four weeks later in Charlotte, N.C.

They fly to Seattle Saturday and face the 7-4 Seahawks at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at Century Link Field.

They'll fly to Los Angeles after the game and practice in Anaheim all week before facing the 8-3 Rams Sunday at L.A. Coliseum. The Eagles learned Tuesday that the Rams game won't be flexed and will remain at 4:25 p.m. Sunday.

Then it's back to Philly after the game, arriving at some point early on the morning of Dec. 11. Then up to the Meadowlands that weekend to finish the three-game road swing against the Giants.

"I think this is just going to be a good test to see where we're at as a team," Rodney McLeod said. "Going on the road for two weeks, it's a different type of road trip. So there'll be a lot of adversity around us and a lot of distractions so it's going to be critical for us as leaders on the team to make sure we're focused and to make sure we're preparing just the same, regardless of the circumstance.

"So I think in that aspect, it's going to test us, but I think we're going to be ready to go out there and just try to prove that we are a legit team and are able to win on the road. Last year, we struggled on the road, and we've done well this year on the road, but it's going to be two good tests playing up in Seattle and then going to L.A. to play the Rams."

This is the first time the Eagles will play consecutive games on the West Coast since 1986, when they lost in Seattle on Nov. 23 and beat the Raiders in Oakland — at L.A. Coliseum — a week later. Head coach Buddy Ryan kept the team in Anaheim that week.

In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Eagles often spent entire weeks away from Philly.
Ryan took the team to Arizona during the bye week before the Fog Bowl in 1988 and to the Falcons' complex in Suwanee, Ga., before a home playoff game against the Rams in 1989.

In 1995, because of bad weather in Philly, the Eagles practiced at Dodger Town in Vero Beach, Fla., for a week between a playoff win over the Lions and a loss in Dallas.

"We're coming up on two good tests, away games, two good opponents, but I think right now we're just trying to keep our head down, keep improving and find out how good we really are," Jason Kelce said.

"You look forward at this point to playing the best teams, especially the best teams in the NFC because it's getting later in the season and we're trying to find out who we really are and establish where we need to get better and where we need to improve."

The Eagles aren't back at the Linc until they face the Raiders on Christmas evening.

The last time the Eagles beat winning teams on the road in consecutive weeks was in 2009 when they beat the Giants and Falcons back to back.

But with real road trips involving air travel, they have never in franchise history beaten winning teams in consecutive weeks on the road.

"The next couple of weeks, we have our work cut out," Carson Wentz said. "We have a couple of West Coast [games] that we're looking forward to, and those are good football teams ahead of us as well. The next three on the road will be a good challenge for us."

The Eagles are 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak and they're 4-1 on the road, with three straight wins. Their last four-game road winning streak came in 2013, and the last time they won five straight away from Philly was a nine-game road winning streak over the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

"It's a good test to see where we're at as a team, that's for sure," Kelce said.

"Right now we've got one loss on our record, it was an away game, and now we've got two away games against two of the best teams in the NFC. This is going to be a good test to see where we're at, to see how we handle it. I'm just looking forward to seeing how our team does."

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

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5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

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Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Carson Wentz has done some of his best work behind closed doors, far from any TV cameras or adoring fans, with just a trainer or two and maybe a few teammates in the room.

While Nick Foles has enjoyed the banquet circuit these last few months and all that comes with being Super Bowl MVP — national TV appearances, a book deal, life as a celebrity — the guy he replaced has had a pretty good offseason himself.

It’s just that nobody has seen it.

For Wentz to do what he did at these spring minicamps — compete in a variety of individual and team drills and look comfortable, fluid and confident six months after hobbling off the field at LA Coliseum with a towel covering his head — speaks volumes about this kid.

We know he’s a competitor on the field. We’ve all seen it. But rehabbing a shredded knee is different.

Throw a touchdown pass, and you instantaneously hear 66,000 fans roaring their approval.

Extend your range of motion by one degree and you get a trainer telling you, “Good. Now do it again 50 times.”

We can talk all day and night about how Wentz has attacked his rehab, but now we’re seeing the fruits of his labor. And it’s impressive.

It takes a certain type of motivation and determination to keep grinding away when nobody is cheering you on and the moments of true progress are fleeting and measured in millimeters.

We saw Wentz out there at practice taking five-step drops, firing dimes to Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor in 7-on-7s and sprinting the length of the field under the midday sun.

What we never saw is what it took to get there.

It’s been about six months since Wentz tore his ACL and LCL.

That means probably about 150 days where Wentz has driven from his home in South Jersey to the NovaCare Complex at dawn and pushed himself through hour after hour of drills to regain his strength, his mobility, his speed, his endurance, his agility.

And then he’s back the next day to do it all over again.

We’re so used to athletes getting hurt and rehabbing it’s easy to forget just how grueling it is, and the fact that Wentz has made the progress he has since Dec. 10 is astonishing.

He’s taken that same ferocious competitive spirit we saw the first 29 games of his career and used it to fuel his rehab.

A month ago, there was no reason to think he’d be cleared to do anything at OTAs and there he was running, throwing, competing and looking every bit like the Carson Wentz we watched evolve into a legit MVP candidate the first 14 weeks of last season.

And if that doesn’t mean he’s ahead of schedule, I don’t know what does.

At this point, I’d be shocked if Wentz isn’t the Eagles’ opening day quarterback in 2018.

There’s always the possibility of a setback. Maybe he doesn’t get completely cleared quite in time to face the Falcons on Sept. 6. But the progress he’s made already has to make every Eagles fan feel confident and encouraged.  

Since he got hurt, Wentz has put the same remarkable level of energy and effort into rehabbing that he put into preparing to play football every Sunday.

Think about Wentz’s 2017 season.

Everything was going perfectly. The Eagles were on top of the football world. He was putting up numbers that were unprecedented for anybody other than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Before Foles was on anybody’s mind, the Eagles were a Super Bowl contender.

And then disaster.

We’ve all seen Wentz when things are going well. He blossomed into a superstar in front of our eyes.

But you really learn the most about a person when things aren’t going well. When they face adversity. What are they really about? How will they respond?

Wentz has definitively answered those questions.

We didn’t see Wentz in those long, lonely, arduous rehab sessions, but we can see the results.

While Foles was out winning the Super Bowl and taking all the bows, Wentz was doing everything humanly possible to make sure he’s ready to lead the Eagles to another Super Bowl title this year.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against him.

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