NFL draft: Breaking down Eagles' division rivals

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NFL draft: Breaking down Eagles' division rivals

We know how the Eagles' draft picks stack up, so here's a look at the rest of the NFC East:

New York Giants
The Giants surprised a lot of their fans by passing on Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald and Notre Dame OL Zack Martin at No. 12 to select LSU WR Odell Beckham. And while I believe addressing either their offensive or defensive line was their top priority, it's hard to argue with taking a playmaker like Beckham.

The Giants lost Hakeem Nicks to the Colts this offseason, and giving Eli Manning more weapons may help him bounce back after an atrocious 2013 season. On the flip side, this draft was so deep at WR, New York may have been smart to grab either Donald or Martin at No. 12 and wait until the second or third round to load up on offensive weapons.

I loved their second-round selection, Colorado State offensive lineman Weston Richburg. He played center in college but can move out to guard if they need him to in the pros. Richburg was my top center in the draft and should start immediately.

They reached a bit for Syracuse DT Jay Bromley in the third round, but he should be able to contribute immediately as a run-stuffer.

Fourth-rounder Andre Williams, a RB out of Boston College, could be a workhorse in time, but may be a short-yardage back behind Rashad Jennings in the near future. Hard to not like a guy who ran for 2,177 yards in 2013.

The Giants failed to address their hole at tight end, but after the first four came off the board, I didn't see any candidates who would be much of an impact player.

The Giants' draft was solid and hinges on whether Beckham can make a big impact on an offense that often stalled out in 2013.

Washington Redskins
Redskins fans rejoice!

This was the last draft the 'Skins endured under the debilitating 2012 RG3 trade with St. Louis. But just to rub things in, with the picks the Rams got from Washington for the second overall pick in the 2012 draft (obviously used to draft Robert Griffin III), St. Louis was able to select the following players (thanks to some additional wheeling and dealing): DT Michael Brockers, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Alec Ogletree, WR Stedman Bailey, RB Zac Stacy and OT Greg Robinson. A very nice haul indeed.

With that out of the way, despite not having their first-round pick (would have been second overall), the 'Skins came away with some decent pieces in some needed areas.

In the second round, the 'Skins traded down with the Cowboys from No. 34 (Dallas selected Boise St. defensive end Demarcus Lawrence) to No. 47 (and received Dallas' third-round pick, No. 78) and selected Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy. I have always liked Murphy just based on the tenacious play -- the guy just doesn't stop coming, and his 15 sacks in 2013 led the nation. But the more I watched him, the more I didn't think he would be a guy who could get to the QB consistently in the NFL. He's just not that quick off the ball, and most of his sacks were effort sacks.

But with Brian Orakpo most likely leaving next season, Washington's thought process is understandable. I just may have stood pat at 34 and taken Lawrence instead, but Murphy is the kind of player you want to battle with every week and could turn out to be a poor man's Ryan Kerrigan.

In the third round, the 'Skins addressed a porous offensive line by drafting Virginia tackle Morgan Moses (No. 66) and Nebraska guard Spencer Long (No. 78). I thought Moses had first-round talent; he should be able to step in at RT immediately, displacing the inconsistent Tyler Polumbus, and be a backup to LT Trent Williams as well.

Long, who has been injury-prone over the past two seasons, could replace Chris Chester at RG if he's completely healed from an MCL tear he sustained last season. I would have been more impressed if the 'Skins grabbed Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson instead (he went three picks later to the Raiders at No. 81).

The Skins' last pick of consequence, at least in my eyes, was Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland. A tough, stout corner, Breeland adds quality depth to a thin secondary. I thought Breeland could have gone as early as the late second round, so good value there.

The Redskins added good depth and two or three potential starters despite not having a first-round pick. Nothing sexy here, just solid across the board.

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys disappointed a lot of people by passing on Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel at No. 16. Not only did they pass on perhaps the biggest wild card in the draft, but they also instead made the first-round's most boring pick in Notre Dame OT Zack Martin. But boring doesn't mean bad, and Martin should plug in to Dallas' offensive line either at RT or LG and make them a whole lot better. Jerry Jones actually made a smart decision here.

In the second round, Jones swapped second-round picks and gave up his third-round pick to Washington to select Lawrence at No. 34. I like Lawrence, and with all the top safeties off the board, grabbing one of the rare pass rushers in the draft made sense for them even if it meant paying a steep price.

The rest of Dallas' draft was a mixed bag. A reach in the fourth round for Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens, who they probably could have gotten much later in the draft, was followed by the acquisition of pick No. 148 from the Lions in exchange for No. 158 and No. 229 so they could select Pitt WR Devin Street.

I think they would have been much better off staying where they were and selecting either Princeton DT Caraun Reid or Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis. Baylor S Ahmad Dixon (No. 248) and Oregon CB Terrance Mitchell (254) in the seventh round could prove to be great depth picks.

The Boys got two nice pieces in the first two rounds in Martin and Lawrence, but with the number of picks they had I would have liked to have seen more guys who can make impacts sooner.

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."

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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 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 Wentz 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, a record for rookies.

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

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