Brandon Graham reminisces about the time he was in Marcus Smith's shoes

Brandon Graham reminisces about the time he was in Marcus Smith's shoes

The fact that Brandon Graham is still a member of the Philadelphia Eagles is a mild surprise. Virtually every analyst agrees he’s not a good fit for a 3-4 defense, and quite a few—myself included—speculated he could be traded over draft weekend.

Didn’t happen. But the Birds did go ahead and take Marcus Smith in the first round, in case there are any doubts about the club’s direction at outside linebacker. Now, Graham sounds a lot like a man who is just trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

A couple of reporters noted Graham initially refused to speak to members of the media after OTAs on Thursday, but he eventually relented. And, in typical Brandon Graham fashion, he said all the right things.

He sees what’s going on though. After all, he’s been in Smith’s shoes before.

Fans might’ve forgotten the Eagles moved up to No. 13 overall in 2010 to select Graham, if only the player people wanted the team to take there (He Who Shall Not Be Named) hadn’t turned into a perennial All-Pro. Oops.

It’s revisionist history anyway. Graham was enjoying a solid rookie season until he was struck down by a torn ACL. The injury required microfracture surgery to repair, which made for a longer rehabilitation.

By the time Graham was back up to full speed, the Eagles had signed Jason Babin to take his place on the defensive line opposite Trent Cole. Babin’s star quickly faded, but Andy Reid’s finally fizzled, too, ushering in Chip Kelly, Bill Davis, the 3-4, Connor Barwin—now Smith.

So if you can detect a hint of frustration in Graham’s words, even as he tells reporters he’s ready to compete and wants to be in Philly, you can probably understand.

Interestingly enough, Smith told reporters he’s been learning Barwin’s role, not Cole’s. That’s not necessarily an indication of the long-term plan, but it would seem to leave the door open for Graham to spell Cole for the time being.

The reality, however, is Graham could potentially start at defensive end in a conventional 4-3 alignment. Yes, he only has 8.5 sacks over the last two seasons, but in such limited playing time, that doesn’t give us a true sense of how valuable he is.

According to metrics site Pro Football Focus, Graham ranked seventh among 3-4 outside linebackers in 2013 in pass rush productivity, a stat that combines sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rush attempt. In 2012, PFF had him No. 1 among 4-3 defensive ends in the same category. (Minimum 25% snaps.)

Graham is better than most people realize, largely because he doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to show it. Would he have the same impact if he were playing every down? It’s impossible to say, but he deserves a shot.

A shot it doesn’t appear he’ll ever get in Philly, no matter how much he wants it.

I still think there’s a reasonable chance Graham could be moved at some point over the summer. A team that’s thin on pass-rushers or suffers an injury at training camp may be willing to make a move as the regular season approaches.

Should that happen, it seems like it will be a bittersweet day for Graham. Players want to come to Philadelphia and play for Chip Kelly—key word being “play” though. Graham is doing everything in his power, but the Eagles keep on dropping roadblocks in his path.

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4

Associated Press

Instant Replay: Coyotes 5, Flyers 4


Two bizarre goals less than two minutes apart ruined a special night for the Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.
Martin Hanzal scored a tie-breaking goal simultaneously while teammate Jakob Chychrun was being pounded in a fight with Brayden Schenn during a 2-2 game.
Then, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov tackled Brad Richardson, who fell into goalie Steve Mason for a shorthanded goal that counted after review for interference.
That’s one way of losing as hockey game, 5-4.
Notable goals
Brandon Manning, who has been outstanding on both sides of the puck, tried an ill-advised clearing pass up the high slot and it was picked off by pinching defenseman Oliver Edkman-Larsson for a quick turnaround shot to make it a 2-0 lead.
Goalie report
A huge save on Anthony Duclair in the first period by Mason after a turnover from Andrew MacDonald. Mason didn’t look great on the fifth goal. Rushes to the net were a problem in front of him.
Power play
The Flyers scored three against Buffalo. In this one, they had five scattered shots over their first three power plays. That's not going to get it done. But they did get it done on their fifth power play with Schenn diving with his stick extended hit the ice as he tipped Shayne Gostisbehere’s point shot home to tie the game, 2-2. The Flyers were 2 for 8 on the power play.
Power-play points
Claude Giroux leads with six overall.
Penalty kill
There was no Boyd Gordon in this one to take PK draws. That went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Roman Lyubimov had a nice shorthanded move for a possible scoring chance but couldn’t complete it.
Big hit
You've got to like Sean Couturier upending Duclair during the opening minutes of play along the left boards. Duclair later had a fine assist on Jamie McGinn’s goal that gave the 'Yotes a 1-0 lead.
Ryan White had a goal that made it 5-3 late in the game.
Third line
The new third line with Nick Cousins centering Schenn and Dale Weise scored in the second period. All three picked up a point with Cousins banging home the Schenn rebound to make it a 2-1 game.
Chychrun lost to Schenn, who had sent Michael Stone to the boards hard with a legal shoulder check. Stone still assisted on Hanzal's goal that began the madness that saw Arizona get two quickies.
Injured: Forwards Scott Laughton (knee) and Michael Raffl (abdominal pull), defenseman Michael Del Zotto (knee). Healthy: forward Gordon and defenseman Nick Schultz.
Up next
The Flyers will practice Friday at Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J., and host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

Report: Sixers exec Jason Wiley led meeting on national anthem issue

The Sixers' meeting on Thursday to address the national anthem situation on opening night was led by VP of Content and Integrated Marketing Jason Wiley, John Gonzalez reported.

Wiley and team executives decided not to have Sevyn Streeter perform the national anthem because she wore a "We Matter" shirt, according to the report. The team had concerns Streeter would have further protests. 

A member of the Sixers' dance team performed in her place.

Wiley helped book Streeter, according to the report, and had previously worked for Bad Boy Records and had music industry contacts.

CBS3 reported Thursday that Streeter had signed a contract that barred her from making a political statement during the performance (see story).

The Sixers discussed the incident and are considering options on how to address it (see story).

“I think the team, not only do we want to speak up on the matter that happened yesterday, but I feel like we’re now starting to push, like it’s not just about saying something, it’s about making a difference,” Nik Stauskas said. “It’s about going out there and doing something. So we don’t really know what we’re going to do yet, but I know a lot of guys on this team are eager to go out there and make a difference one way or another.”