It wasn’t what Amari Cooper said to Brandon Graham two Sundays ago, it was the expression on his face. The Cowboys top wideout looked helpless, alone on an island, as seventh-round rookie Ben DiNucci succumbed to the Eagles’ vicious pass-rush. Graham notched one of four Philly sacks and 10 quarterback hits in a dominating 23-9 victory.
But it wasn’t DiNucci that drew Graham’s full wrath. No, he dug into Cooper who apparently had some sad “body language,” per ESPN’s Tim McManus, as shutdown cornerback Darius Slay locked him down all night. Cooper finished with just one catch for five yards even after Slay left the game with a bum ankle and gave way to undrafted rookie Michael Jacquet.
“I knew the rap sheet on him. His body language is bad, so when you see his body language [worsen] I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m about to get him.’ So I started talking to him,” Graham told ESPN. “He was gone. He’s like, man, I can’t wait until Dak Prescott gets back. That’s the type of face he had.”
The Eagles don’t blitz often but when they do they almost always get home. The team ranks third-best in the NFL in sacks (28) and Graham is the maestro in the trenches. The stud defensive end is on pace for 14 sacks this year, a mark that would shatter his career-high of 9.5 in 2017. Graham is searching for his first-ever Pro Bowl nod as well as All-Pro honors and another Super Bowl ring.
“That’s always been a goal of mine, get up on that Pro Bowl wall,” Graham told reporters on Oct. 29. “Really, this year, I’m trying to go All-Pro too. I’m trying to do it all. I’m trying to get a ring and, like you said, get some individual accolades because of how I’m feeling.”
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Nice Guy Off the Field, Monster On the Field
Anybody who has ever spent a brief minute with Graham can testify to the fact that he’s one of the nicest guys in the room. Scratch that, in life.
(Editor’s note: this reporter had the pleasure to spend a day at Graham’s high school and chronicle his good deeds).
Personal stories aside, Graham’s infectious personality is obvious to everyone and his teammates see it every day out on the practice field. Take Rodney McLeod, for example. The Eagles starting safety put it best when he called the 265-pounder the “nicest guy” until he gets on that field. Then, a switch goes off and he becomes a “monster” — and a guy who enjoys some fun trash talking.
“He gets out on that field and he turns into a monster,” McLeod told reporters on Monday, “and constantly talkative, and I think he calls everybody a little boy. Whether it’s the running back or the offensive tackle — and it’s intimidating, I think, as a player to hear it from a guy who can back it up. He brings it every day, whether it’s in practice or in the Super Bowl.”
Ahh, yes, the Super Bowl. No one in Philadelphia will ever forget Graham’s epic strip-sack on Tom Brady which sealed not only that game but the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
“I called it the play before,” Mike Barwis, Graham’s personal trainer said last year. “My buddy said, ‘Oh gosh, here comes Brady’ — I coached at Michigan and Tom is a wonderful man — and I turned and looked at him and said, ‘I bet Brandon Graham turns around and gets a sack.’”
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