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.

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

Carson Wentz named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week

As Carson Wentz rolls out of bed, he wins an award. Brushes his teeth, wins an award. Eats breakfast, award.

This time, the Eagles' rookie quarterback has been named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for his performance against the Steelers in a 34-3 Week 3 win.

Against the Steelers, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.9 passer rating. He beat out Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott, Browns CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun and teammate Wendell Smallwood.

This is the second time in three weeks that Wentz has been named the NFL Rookie of the Week.

Here are the awards Wentz has won so far this season:

- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 1
- NFC Offensive Player of Week 3
- NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for September
- NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 3

Wentz won't have any chances to win more awards this weekend as the Eagles are on their bye. They'll play again on Oct. 9 in Detroit.

Tonight's lineup: Howard batting 5th with Herrera batting 3rd

Tonight's lineup: Howard batting 5th with Herrera batting 3rd

Ryan Howard is batting fifth to begin his final series with the Phillies.

The 36-year-old first baseman, who has donned red pinstripes for 13 seasons, did not play in Thursday's 5-2 loss to the Braves, but he is expected to start all three games against the Mets this weekend.

The Phillies have a lot of speed at the top of the lineup, even with Roman Quinn likely done for the season. Cesar Hernandez leads off with Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera right behind him. The trio lead the Phillies in steals with a total of 59 this year. Herrera has 25 while Hernandez and Galvis each have 17.

If you're wondering, Howard has not stolen a base this season, but he was caught stealing once. He hasn't stolen a base since June 26, 2011, before his Achilles injury. He only stole more than one base in a season in 2008, when he swiped eight bases.

Cameron Rupp returns to the lineup at catcher. He'll bat right behind Howard, followed by Jimmy Paredes and Aaron Altherr in the corner outfield.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Jimmy Paredes, LF
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Alec Asher, P

And the Mets lineup:
1. Jose Reyes, 3B
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
4. Curtis Granderson, CF
5. Jay Bruce, RF
6. T.J. Rivera, 2B
7. Lucas Duda, 1B
8. Rene Rivera, C
9. Robert Gsellman, RHP