Eagles

Finally healthy, Brandon Graham confident sack drought will end soon

Finally healthy, Brandon Graham confident sack drought will end soon

There’s a big giant zero next to Brandon Graham’s name on the Eagles’ 2018 stat sheet, and he admits the lack of sacks got to him.

Graham, whose strip-sack of Tom Brady at the end of Super Bowl LII is one of the two biggest defensive plays in franchise history — Chuck Bednarik sitting on Jim Taylor at the end of the 1960 NFL Championship Game was pretty big, too — is 0 for 4 this year.

Four games, zero sacks.

Other than 2011, when he didn’t play till November, this is the first time in Graham’s career he hasn’t had at least one sack the first month of a season.

Graham had a career-high 9½ sacks last year but missed all of training camp following offseason ankle surgery and didn’t start practicing until a week before the opener.

I think early on I was pressing a little bit to try to get them, and I wasn’t being me. Now I feel like, ‘Don’t worry about that, just go out there and win the game and all the other stuff will come. That’s what I did last year and 9½ just so happened to be the number. Coming off the injury I wanted things to kind of pick up where they left off last year but that’s not realistic. You’ve got to put in the work. I put in the work but I didn’t get camp. I didn’t want to make excuses but I was really pressing trying to get a sack to get on the board but sometimes it doesn’t come like that because you’re fighting yourself too hard or pushing yourself a little too hard and not letting it come naturally.

Graham is seventh in Eagles history with 38½ sacks, although his close friend and teammate Fletcher Cox — who has three sacks — is gaining and now only 1½ behind. Both are within range of Andy Harmon, who’s in sixth place with 39.

Graham said he finally feels 100 percent after starting his preseason a full month after everybody else.

“I feel real good right now,” he said. “It’s cool, everybody right now [is saying], ‘Brandon Graham this and that,’ but I know what’s going on. 

“It was tough. When you don’t have camp, you have to kind of get camp as these games go and now I feel like me. I feel where I want to be. I feel explosive and well-rested and I’m ready to be the best Brandon Graham I can be.

“When you don’t worry about them, they come.”

As a team the Eagles the Eagles are in the middle of the pack with 11 sacks. 

Disappointing.

Their four vaunted defensive ends have a combined 4½, with Derek Barnett recording 2½ but Chris Long and Michael Bennett with just one apiece and Graham still blanked.

Cox, Barnett and linebacker Jordan Hicks (1½) are the only Eagles with more than one sack.

The Eagles rank 14th in the league with a sack every 6.9 pass attempts. They rank fourth in defensive line payroll with $41.6 million allocated in 2018 salary cap expenditures.

For Graham, Sunday’s game against the Vikings should be a great opportunity. The Vikings have allowed 13 sacks, including four each of the last two weeks.

And Graham said it’s not too late for him to reach double figures. Or more.

“We have 12 games left,” he said with a laugh. “One a game, you know what I’m saying? You can still get 12.”

Graham does have five hurries and four tackles for loss. He's been sound against the run.

But defensive ends are measured by sacks. There's a lot at stake. The Eagles are 2-2, the defense is struggling and the Eagles need more pressure. 

And he's in a contract year and defensive ends don't get paid for stopping the run. 

He knows the sacks have to start coming soon. 

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DeSean Jackson says white teammates ‘stepped up’ with public statements

DeSean Jackson says white teammates ‘stepped up’ with public statements

Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce are among the group of Eagles who have released statements in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and subsequent protests around the country, using their platform to speak out against institutional racism and racial injustice. 

Speaking to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark on Tuesday, DeSean Jackson made it clear that he’s proud of his high-profile white teammates. 

They stepped up. They made their voice be heard,” Jackson said. “They used their platform, they used their resources, they used everything they could do to reach out and say I might not know what it feels like to be racially profiled, I might not know what it’s like to grow up in the inner communities and these areas that you guys face on a daily basis, where we’re scrutinized for the color of our skin. 

“They might not understand that, but they are stepping up to the plate and saying fair is fair and right is right and wrong is wrong. The stuff that we’ve been seeing is wrong. They don’t support that.

On Monday, during the Eagles’ virtual team meeting, Jackson gave such an impassioned speech about his own life and tribulations as a black man in the United States, that it motivated Kelce to speak up.

Kelce, one of the longest tenured players on the team, said he felt an obligation to post to social media after hearing Jackson’s message.  

“If I motivate him to step up and use his platform man, I appreciate that,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, when I spoke, I spoke off of how I feel. I can’t change how my heart feels.” 

On Tuesday afternoon, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie released a statement of his own, saying he’s “repulsed” by racial injustice and vowing to use his platform to effect change. 

Lurie spoke to the entire team on Monday. His words and his statement meant a lot to Jackson. 

“You gotta think, the owners are billionaires. They have so much influence in the world,” Jackson said. “They have so much equity. They have so much power to where if they make a stance, the it’s gonna trickle down to the lower totem pole. I feel like a lot of times they go silent because it’s politics or they might lose this sponsor or they might look crazy in the light. But it’s like, none of that stuff can even come into your mind because we are dealing with people losing their lives. … 

“I feel like Jeffrey Lurie did a great job of speaking out and speaking up. Because I feel like if he does it, then you’re gonna have the rest of the other 31 owners and that’s going to trickle out to basketball owners, baseball owners. It has to be a trigger effect.”

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DeSean Jackson’s impassioned plea based on own experiences

DeSean Jackson’s impassioned plea based on own experiences

DeSean Jackson said he fears for his life every time he gets pulled over by police and said he understands the frustration the black community is experiencing today but also made an impassioned plea for unity and togetherness amid the violence, looting and hate.

In a powerful 30-minute interview with John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Jackson spoke bluntly about his own experiences with racism and his thoughts about how we as a country can move forward.

(Since I was) growing up as a kid, I can’t tell you anytime that I’m in the car and a police officer stops me or pulls me over how afraid I am that if I move wrong or I make a wrong gesture I might be shot and killed,” Jackson said. “It’s just built up so long of seeing senseless killings so it’s like every time I’m pulled over I’m afraid it might happen to me. And for me, I have three boys that I raised, and I can’t tell you how much I’m afraid for them to grow up in this world that we’re living in now. I have to protect them. I have to teach them on love and doing the right thing, but if you tell me that the people who are supposed to protect and serve us, they’re not serving and protecting us. I’ve seen a disturbing video where a lady was actually pulled over and she wasn’t African-American and the lady was frightened for her life. She was so scared. and the police officer was like, ‘You don’t have to worry about us killing you, we only kill black people.’

Just think being an African American person what that does to your mind. What that triggers. Every time you have an encounter. That’s why I’ve always felt the way I’ve felt that way about police. I can’t stand them. For so long we’ve always been messed with. If I’m driving a nice car and I get pulled over, for what? Excuse me, I’m not supposed to be driving this car? Oh, I look like I can’t afford this car? Why do I have to be profiled? … It’s crazy, man. I just feel bad for my kids they have to be raised in this era, man.

Jackson grew up in the Compton section of Los Angeles and said as bad as things were there, he’s even more scared now.

One hundred percent, man,” he said. “Growing up, police messed with us. Don’t get me wrong, they pulled you out of your car, they searched your car, they did all that stuff. But it’s a different fear I have now. The fear I had in the past was I have a chance of probably going to jail, I have a chance of them searching my car and planting some drugs or planting a gun. But now what I’m seeing is police killing. In the past five years or however many years it’s been, man, it’s hundreds and hundreds of killings. Senseless killings. I’m worried for my kids more than when I was growing up.

Jackson spoke about the high rate of crime and violence in black communities riddled by poverty, poor schools and chronic unemployment and how programs are needed to remedy the root of the problem.

“The opportunity is not there,” he said. “People are stuck in that zone that they’re in because we don’t have the opportunities. We don’t have our parents setting up mutual funds and money and investments for us so when we turn 18 we’re able to go out and start our own thing. We don’t have that. So that’s going to have people sitting in the hood and sitting in the corner store selling drugs and doing stuff and killing people because they have more than I have. It’s crazy. But that’s the issue that we’re dealing with. If we’re able to outreach and put programs in these (places) and develop a curriculum to help these kids out, you might not be able to save the whole world, but you might be able to save 100 lives, you might be able to save 200 lives. As long as you start somewhere. But right now we don’t have that.”

Jackson has always been active in the community, whether he was playing for the Eagles, Redskins or Buccaneers, and he said once he returns from Florida to Philadelphia he plans to be continue working to bring people together as much as possible.

“Don’t tear down the community,” he said. “Don’t destruct what we’ve built up so long to get to where we’re at now. Let’s figure out ways to come together, man. I just want to let everyone know I’m feeling the pain. I’m in pain. And were going to get through this. It might take time, but we’re going to get through it. Let’s do it together as one and everybody love. One love, one community, one race. We’re going to stick together for the better.”

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