Despite big effort, bench awaits Curry, Graham

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Despite big effort, bench awaits Curry, Graham

CHICAGO -- It seems backwards, doesn’t it?

Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham are two of the Eagles’ best pass rushers, but they both come off the bench. Curry’s four sacks last year ranked third on the defense. Graham, who played in very small doses, had three sacks last season, but Pro Football Focus rated him as one of the best pass-rushing outside 'backers per snap.

Graham and Curry were disruptive forces again in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Bears at Soldier Field (see Instant Replay), with Curry sacking Jordan Palmer and Graham’s pressure leading to an interception.

And both came off the bench.

And they’ll continue coming off the bench.

In a game that’s all about the quarterback -- and the guys who hit quarterbacks -- the Eagles are keeping ceilings on two of their most promising quarterback-hitting weapons. This is team that ranked 31st last year in sacks per pass attempt against them.

“We’ll see,” Curry said. “Right now, it don't matter what it is. My thing is, man, when I step on the field I want to help my team win and just keep showing I’m a key player.”

It was impossible not to notice the difference in defensive intimidation when the second unit replaced the first against the Bears.

The starters barely touched Jay Cutler, who converted three 3rd-and-longs on a 13-play, 69-yard touchdown drive in the first. Cutler completed 7 of 10 passes on the drive for 80 yards and connected with tight end Zach Miller (not the former Raider and Seahawk) on a 10-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-7.

Then Cutler left, Palmer entered, the Eagles subbed in their second team and suddenly the complexion of the game turned.

On the very first play of the second quarter, Curry barreled through scrimmage and ransacked Palmer on 3rd-and-8 for an eight-yard loss. On the Bears’ next possession, Graham bolted around left tackle Michael Ola and clobbered Palmer as the quarterback heaved a pass downfield that wound up in Nate Allen’s hands.

Strangely, when asked about his second string’s effort, coach Chip Kelly mentioned rookie Beau Allen and practice squad incumbent Brandon Bair as two guys who stood out. He called Allen a “disruptive force” and said Bair seemed to be “flying around.”

Graham and Curry?

When asked about them, Kelly said he needed to see the tape.

“There was one time they didn’t block Vinny at all,” Kelly said. “A couple of times they let a couple of guys come free. Travis Long, they called him hitting the quarterback in the head, but he was unblocked on a couple plays.

“There was one play I think Brandon and Vinny were in the backfield after the snap, I don’t think either of them got touched, but it could have been a move by them. I’ll have to check that out.”

Curry’s personal scouting report seemed slightly more enthusiastic.

“I feel like I was awesome,” the third-year pro said. “For the most part I felt like technique was really, really good. I think I played really hard, but I also think the whole unit played hard.”

Graham said his pressures were a byproduct of having Kevin Greene, a five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker who played 15 NFL seasons, helping out the coaches this past week in camp.

“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Graham said. “I wish I could have sacked [Palmer], (caused a) fumble. But it was still was a turnover, no matter what.”

No matter how well they play this preseason, Graham and Curry probably won’t get any closer to the starting lineup. Curry is behind defensive ends Cedric Thornton, an outstanding run defender, and 2012 first-round pick Fletcher Cox. Graham is stuck behind veterans Trent Cole and Connor Barwin.

But if they keep hitting quarterbacks, it’ll be hard to keep them off the field on all passing downs.

“I don't want to get ahead of myself,” Graham said. “I’m trying to go harder than I was last year. Consistency is the big thing with me. If I can stay consistent … I’ve got a spot. It’s just all about me staying consistent.”

NFL Notes: Gareon Conley claims rape allegations are 'completely false'

NFL Notes: Gareon Conley claims rape allegations are 'completely false'

CLEVELAND -- Former Ohio State football star Gareon Conley says he plans to skip attending the NFL draft in person on Thursday and decried allegations that he raped a woman as "completely false."

No charges have been filed as police investigate claims made by a 23-year-old woman that he assaulted her in a Cleveland hotel on April 9. Conley was named in a police report that details the allegations but no information has been forwarded to prosecutors.

Conley said in a statement Wednesday that he believes the allegations are an attempt to ruin the draft experience for him and his family.

The woman told police Conley raped her in the bathroom of a hotel room after they met in the elevator and she agreed to go back to his room.

Conley's attorney says the cornerback, projected to be a first-round pick, plans to speak with police about the incident after the draft.

Raiders: Marshawn Lynch comes out of retirement
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Marshawn Lynch is coming out of retirement after agreeing on a two-year deal with the Raiders that paved the way for a trade to his hometown team in Oakland.

Lynch passed a physical Wednesday and agreed to a restructured two-year contract. Those were the final steps needed before Seattle could trade his rights along with a 2018 sixth-round pick to the Raiders for a 2018 fifth-rounder.

NFL Network said Lynch would get a $3 million base deal this season, with a chance to make an additional $2 million if he rushes for at least 1,000 yards.

Lynch had been slated to make $9 million this season if he came out of retirement. With Seattle unwilling to pay that amount and Lynch only wanting to play for the Raiders, finalizing a trade was simple once Oakland was able to re-do Lynch's contract.

Lynch also must apply to the NFL for reinstatement from the retired list before he can play with the Raiders (see full story).

Packers: Veteran OL Jahri Evans signs
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have signed veteran offensive lineman Jahri Evans as they look to fill a hole up front left by the departure of free agent-right guard T.J. Lang.

Terms of the agreement were not announced Wednesday by general manager Ted Thompson.

The 33-year-old Evans joins the Packers following 11 seasons in New Orleans, where he played 169 regular-season games since being drafted in the fourth round in 2006. The 169 games are the most played by an active NFL offensive lineman in that span.

After blocking for Drew Brees in New Orleans, the durable Evans figures to be the favorite to replace Lang after the Pro Bowl guard signed with the Detroit Lions last month.

Evans has been voted to six Pro Bowls.

Jets: 5 players waived to trim roster on eve of draft
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets have waived running back Brandon Burks, wide receiver Darius Jennings, long snapper Josh Latham, linebacker Jeff Luc and defensive lineman Julien Obioha.

The team announced the moves Wednesday as it trims its roster on the eve of the NFL draft.

The Jets, who have 76 players under contract, have seven picks in the draft -- including No. 6 overall. Teams can carry up to 90 players on their rosters until training camp, when there are cuts to 75 and then 53 to start the regular season.

Burks was active for the Jets' season finale and had two carries for minus-4 yards.

Obioha spent last season on injured reserve, while Jennings was on New York's practice squad late in the season.

Luc signed a reserve-future deal in January. Latham was signed in February.

Giants: Manning attorneys say he didn't provide fake memorabilia
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey -- Attorneys for New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning are trying to convince a judge that the dealers suing the two-time Super Bowl MVP tried to pressure him to settle a memorabilia lawsuit by releasing select notes that weren't related to the disputed goods.

Emails released by the court on Wednesday were part of a motion seeking sanctions and legal fees against one of the plaintiffs' attorneys after he released an email from Manning in 2010 that seemed to indicate he provided fake memorabilia rather than authentic game-used goods.

Manning angrily denied those allegations last week.

The lawsuit revolves around two pieces of equipment: a backup Super Bowl helmet from 2012 and another from the 2007-2008 season.

The memorabilia dealers suing Manning released a note sent by Manning to team equipment manager Joe Skiba, asking for two helmets that "can pass as game used," (see full story).

Haason Reddick's draft ascension to culminate in his backyard

Haason Reddick's draft ascension to culminate in his backyard

Live draft coverage begins Thursday at 5 p.m. with Philly Sports Talk and continues until midnight on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App.

DeShone Kizer, who played against Haason Reddick in 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field, needed just one word to describe the Temple product.  

"Stud," Kizer said at the Shriners Hospital for Children on Wednesday at an NFL PLAY 60 event.

"Absolute stud. You've got to game-plan for him. He was playing at a higher level than you would expect a Temple football player to play at. We knew we were going to have to do whatever we could to stop him. He balled out against us. That took a whole team for us to go up against a guy like him, (Tyler) Matakevich in that fourth quarter to try and win it all."

Temple would have upset the Fighting Irish that night if it wasn't for some late game heroics from Kizer. 

Kizer connected with Philadelphia product-turned Houston Texan Will Fuller on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 2:09 left in the game as Notre Dame won, 24-20.

"They came out and they fought," Kizer said. "They were an undefeated team going into that game, it was Halloween night, Will Fuller's back home, and the way that game finished was obviously a good showing of what the season looked like all year." 

Reddick racked up four tackles in that game, including 1½ for a loss. As Reddick reflected on his career at Temple, he said that game against Notre Dame, the Penn State game in 2015 and the 2016 game against Memphis were some of the games that put him in the national spotlight. 

Reddick has taken that spotlight and continued to rise up NFL draft boards since the start of the draft process.

"I feel like I was under the radar," Reddick said. "They still truly don't understand the hard work that I put in to get here and really what type of player I am. But that will all change soon."

The former Temple walk-on has been projected as a mid-first-round pick. 

The Eagles hold the No. 14 overall pick in the draft Thursday night but haven't been linked to Reddick as much as other prospects like Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

But with Conley and Foster each reportedly slipping because of off-the-field issues, Reddick might be an option for the Eagles at 14.

Reddick said Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole has met with him a couple of times leading up to the draft.

If selected by the Eagles, Reddick would already be familiar with Lincoln Financial Field since Temple plays its home games there. It's where he led the Owls to the American Athletic Conference championship in 2016.

"The process has been a crazy ride," Reddick said. "To be able to hear my name called on Thursday, God willing if that happens, it would be beautiful, man. It would be a great way to end this first chapter and start getting ready for the next one."