Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

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Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

Almost a week after the Eagles dropped the hammer on the NFL’s most prolific deep threat, people are still scratching their heads, still trying to make sense of why Chip Kelly abruptly cut the cord with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson.

The franchise’s continued silence outside of a cursory statement that explained, well, nothing has only fueled some out-there theories about the hidden intentions behind coach Chip Kelly’s decision to nix Jackson from the roster.

One widespread opinion that grows louder by the day is that the Eagles are somehow guilty of racial preference, having severed ties with Jackson just a few weeks after handing wide receiver Riley Cooper a five-year deal with $10 million in guaranteed money.

Cooper, if you didn’t know, is white. Until this past summer, when the world learned via social media that he flung a racial slur at a black security officer while attending a country music concert, Cooper was barely a household name in the Delaware Valley.

Jackson, who is black, has also encountered off-field issues. Some of them were detailed in an NJ.com story last week that outlined the receiver’s association with friends who are alleged gang members, but Jackson had already cultivated a reputation for irking management with immaturity and an ugly contract dispute.

Now that Jackson has freely walked to the division-rival Redskins, fingers are pointing at the Eagles’ braintrust -- Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie -- accompanied by accusations of racial bias.

Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, who grew up with Jackson in Los Angeles, seemed to echo the sentiment when he suggested, in a piece for MMQB, that the Eagles showed less tolerance for a punk receiver than a known racist.

“What did they do to Riley Cooper, who, if he’s not a racist, at least has 'ties' to racist activity?” Sherman wrote. “They fined him and sent him to counseling. Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn.”

It’s a convenient argument for those still struggling to come to grips with Jackson’s departure and subsequent signing with the rival ’Skins. But it’s not a rational debate. It’s baseless and groundless, mainly because it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison more rooted in resentment and anger than actual logic.

Instead of comparing Jackson’s situation to Cooper’s, shouldn’t the current regime’s history of dealing with troubled players come under the microscope?

If the Eagles are more tolerant of transgressions of white players, why were they the first team to reach out to Michael Vick and then sign the tarnished superstar out of prison, and then re-sign him to a $100 million contract just three years later?

If the Eagles treat black players with legal issues more harshly than white ones, why didn’t they punish Jason Peters for his drag racing arrest last offseason? Charges were eventually reduced and Peters paid a fine. Why was Peters -- who has been arrested twice since joining the team -- given a monster extension last month, making him the team’s highest-paid player?

LeSean McCoy intentionally sought to embarrass and humiliate the mother of his child on Twitter last offseason, inviting his followers to chastise her while Kelly was still decorating his office. All Kelly did was give McCoy the most carries of his career and repeatedly express his admiration for his Pro Bowl halfback.

Last I checked, McCoy’s not on the trading or cutting block.

Juqua Parker, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson, Stacy Andrews, King Dunlap -- just a few former Eagles who were involved in minor legal trouble during their careers, each one black and each having their paychecks authorized by Lurie. None was disciplined or abruptly kicked off the team without explanation.

If you want to bury the Eagles for their awkward handling of the situation and mysterious silence since Friday, go ahead. It’s fair and justifiable. The charade Kelly staged last Wednesday in Orlando at the owners meetings warranted every roll of the eyes it drew.

But to suggest that race played a part in Kelly’s decision to keep Cooper and remove Jackson is to ignore the basic fact that Cooper is a one-time offender who was welcomed back into the locker room by several of his teammates and Jackson showed a repeated pattern of bothersome behavior.

Jackson gave former coach Andy Reid one migraine after another and the team still rewarded him in 2011 with an extension that paid out $18 million in guaranteed money. How many teammates have publicly rallied against the decision to jettison Jackson? Still waiting for one.

If another racial slur ever drips from Cooper’s mouth, the organization should kick him to the curb immediately. If they don’t, it’s fair to play the race card.

Until then, the dots don’t connect.

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award, and the first Eagle to win the award since Jeremy Maclin in Week 9 of the 2014 season.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.