Brandon Graham had his rookie season ruined by a torn ACL. The Eagles wisely showed patience this summer and left him on the PUP list, which meant that Graham could work out, but not practice.
That changes today. Graham will be out on the practice field. The Eagles then have 3 weeks to decide whether to put him on IR or add him to the roster.
Andy Reid said that this week will be Graham’s version of Lehigh. This is his first chance to do actual football activities since his injury in December. We have to keep our expectations realistic. Graham will be rusty physically and in terms of football stuff. He has to get used to getting hit again. He has to get used to hitting other guys.
Graham wants to play Sunday night. The Eagles are going to take it slow. They can’t fully evaluate him until later in the week. Today will be the first practice. Tuesday is an off day. Graham will then practice on Wednesday and Thursday. The team has to see how he looks in the 3 practices and they also have to find out how his body reacts. Is his knee sore? Going from workouts to a game in the span of a week might be asking too much.
I expect the Eagles to think big picture here. They remain very high on Graham. Remember that Jim Washburn coveted him in the 2010 draft. He thinks Brandon can excel in his system (as do I). Graham would become the 5th DE. He would take the place of Phillip Hunt in the rotation.
I assume that Trent Cole will be back on the field this week. That moves Tapp back to backup RDE. Jason Babin and Juqua Parker have the left side under control. I’d love Graham to get JP’s snaps. Juqua still isn’t close to 100 percent from his ankle injury. He can function, but hasn’t shown much burst.
The reporters who have gone to practice have watched Graham working out on his own throughout the season. They have mentioned that he looked pretty good. That’s encouraging, but it is only one step in his recovery. The real test is how Graham handles football practice. His knee will be tested this week. The Eagles will evaluate him at the end of the week and will move accordingly.
It won’t surprise me if they wait another week before making a decision. Again, think long term. Don’t rush Graham back. You’ve got 3 weeks. Make a decision you can live with. And the decision could be that putting him on IR is the way to go. We know guys can struggle when coming off ACLs. Stewart Bradley wasn’t close to 100% last year. Now here’s the crazy part to that. His problems were more mental than phsyical. He actually ran and moved well, but you could see that he didn’t trust his knee. And he had a full year to get healthy.
Graham has the right attitude, but talking a good game and then actually doing the right stuff on the field are two different things. I hope he’s the exception and not the rule. I’d love him to play well this week and come right back to the team. The key is making sure he’s truly ready and we’re not using rose-colored glasses.