Eagles Droppings 8/24: Graham To Start, Akers Is Fine, King Bashes Samuel And McNabb Hurt And More
By Lance Epstein
Graham Starting On Friday:
As rookie DE Brandon Graham arrived at the NovaCare Complex today, he had a pleasant surprise waiting for him. The surprise was not seeing his name with the No. 2's on the depth chart, but instead was with on first-string defense.
"When I came back and I seen the depth chart, they had me (with the) ones, one regular, so I was right in front," Graham said. "A lot of people say I'm small, but I feel like I'm one of the strongest guys out there.
Last Friday, starting DE Juqua Parker had a nice game, but nothing to write home about. Also, it was obvious that the Eagles starting front four needed an extra boost that Graham could only give them if they were going to consistently get pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. In that Bengals game, Graham recorded his first sack of his NFL career and had three tackles in which two were for losses.
While Graham is the starter for this Friday's game, it is unknown whether he is locked in to the starting left defensive end's position for the regular season. He is still expected to split time with Parker considering the Eagles like to rotate everyone in and out on the line, not named Trent Cole. Nonetheless, Graham knows he must continue to get better and improve, otherwise he will be back with the twos.
"It was exciting," Graham said. "I just know that now I’ve gotta keep it."
Certainly, Parker is still a valuable asset to the Eagles since he can still be effective getting to the quarterback. Needless to say, it was going to take a bad camp by Graham for him to keep his starting LDE job. Graham allows the Eagles to only rush four, still get pressure and improve their secondary.
With Graham now in the starting lineup, it should be interesting to see if Cole begins to see less double teams since Graham is a threat on the other side. Ultimately, if Graham continues to develop at the rate he is, then the Eagles defense should definitely be a top 10 defense this year.
Aker Is OK:
Yesterday, reports surfaced saying that kicker David Akers injured his heel. Special teams coach Bobby April made it a point at his press conference to say that Akers will be fine and ready to go against the Chiefs.
Currently, Akers is 8-for-8 in the preseason and his kickoffs have been better than in previous years. Most Eagles fans overlook the kicker position, but there has not been a kicker in this league who has been with the same team longer than Akers. He is reliable and is in the best shape of his life. Remember the last time the Eagles dealt with an Akers injury, LB Mark Simoneau was forced to kick extra points. While it was humorous, it is not something the Eagles want to see.
SI's King Praises Some, Bashes Samuel:
Every Monday, SI.com's Peter King has his Monday Morning Quarterback, where he talks about his point of view on certain topics and has detailed observations. This week was no different, but there were a lot of Eagles mentioned in his article.
First is the bad news coming from the story. In a recent interview with Wilmington News' Geoff Mosher, CB Asante Samuel sounded off about the lack of respect from his former head coach Bill Belichick.
"I ain't never said it, but Belichick, I felt like he had a thing for me. He had something against me. I have no idea why. I know in my heart ain't nobody out there doing what I'm doing.''
While Samuel's believes he is worth the $9 million a season for his services, King thinks otherwise.
"That's absurd. Belichick simply didn't value a corner who didn't tackle well as being a $9-million-a-year player. Smart move on his part," King wrote. "Samuel's a very good player, but he isn't near what all-around corner Darrelle Revis or Namdi Asomugha are, and his awful fourth quarter against the Giants helped cost the Patriots what would have been a Super Bowl title. Teams throw at Samuel far more than they throw at Revis or Asomugha."
Without a doubt, King hit the nail on the head with this one. Yes, Samuel is a top five cornerback in the league, but he is not worth the money he is being paid.
In arguably the two biggest games of the 2009 season, Samuel came up small and managed to ignore his defensive coordinator in the process. In the two games against Dallas, they picked on Samuel's inability to make a tackle. The Cowboys consistently threw screens (running back and wide receiver) to his side of the field to pick up first downs in critical junctures of the game.
Furthermore, Samuel might have a high interception total, but he also gives up a lot of plays as well. On the stat sheet, Samuel's nine interceptions are impressive. On the flip side, he was burned down the field at least twice a game and botched tackles, which killed the Eagles defense and led to the highest point total in nearly five years by an Eagles defense (not all him, but he was a contributing factor).
Do the Eagles need Samuel? That is a no brainer this year. Keywords in this sentence would be “this year.” Expect the Eagles to draft a cornerback high in next year's draft with Samuel turning 30 and owed a ton of money. It would surprise no one if this were Samuel's last year in Philly especially with rookie Trevard Lindley's style being mirroring Samuel’s game.
King also had something to say on the Michael Vick front. King had another very astute observation, when he claims Vick has looked rusty.
"Except when he ran, Mike Vick looked very rusty against the Bengal backups? I know he got pressure, but a couple of his throws were floated, and poor decisions," he wrote.
Again, King was on target (pun intended). Vick has been a turnover machine in the first two preseason games. Of course, his line play has been horrible (except for Austin Howard), but he is making poor decisions with the ball. Even though Mike Kafka had a bad game against the Bengals as well, he has looked better than Vick and he is a rookie.
Do not worry Eagles fans King did have some positive things to say about the Birds. He praised CB Dimitri Patterson and DE Brandon Graham. Additionally, he saw a big season in store of Brent Celek.
"With a potentially shaky Eagles offensive line, I see Brent Celek catching 85 balls and taking some downfield opportunities away from the good receiver group," he wrote. "Dimitri Patterson, the free-agent corner from Tuskegee, and Brandon Graham, the first-round pick from Michigan, impressed Friday for Philadelphia in Cincinnati. How about Graham busting through the middle for a tackle-for-loss from a tackle slot in the Eagle nickel?"
The only problem with King's prediction on Celek is that if the Eagles offensive line is shaky like he is insisting, then wouldn't it mean Celek will be asked to stay in to block more? Nevertheless, the Eagles offense line appears to be getting healthier with Todd Herremans returning and Jamaal Jacskon practicing, so Celek could be in for a big season.
Lastly, King compared WR/PR Chad Hall to former Eagles RB/KR/PR Reno Mahe. Do not know if that was a complement or not or if Hall needs to find a job at Chickies & Petes since he might get cut.
McNabb In A Walking Boot
On Monday, CSNWashington reported that former Eagle and now Redskin QB Donovan McNabb was wearing a boot on his left foot. He apparently sustained the injury against the Baltimore Ravens during their preseason game on Saturday.
According to Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan, he was unaware that the injury was serious enough to warrant a walking boot.
"I really didn't know how bad it was," Shanahan said. "I still don't really know how bad it is. He's getting treatment. We'll just kind of figure it out day-by-day."
Nonetheless, McNabb did practice on Monday and Tuesday, but was forced to wear an air-cast out onto the practice field. This could have been the reason for his inaccuracy in the game against the Ravens. In that game, McNabb was 11-26 for 206 yards with an interception.
On the other hand, maybe this is the reason that the Eagles decided to trade him. This marks another performance against a top-10 defense, where McNabb has been inaccurate with his throws and struggled to put up points.
In McNabb's defense, some of the throws were drops by the wide receivers, but he did not help himself out either. He had a sure touchdown that was grossly underthrown and if it is on the money it is seven.
Moreover, the Eagles might have noticed on tape that for the first time in Mcnabb's stellar career, he needed their wide receivers more than the wide receivers needed him since Kevin Kolb was able to perform at a high level. Still, look for McNabb to have a good year, but do not be surprised if Kolb puts up better numbers.
Update: McNabb is no longer using a walking boot according to CSNWashington.
Safety Jackson Rehabbing:
The saddest news of the Eagles offseason was S/CB Marlin Jackson tearing his Achilles tendon in OTAs after coming back from two torn ACLs in the previous two seasons. Today, Jackson met the media for the first time. Jackson said he was ready to move on with his career and anxious to get back onto the field next year. Here is hoping he can resume his career.