Eagles Players Talk Sloppy Practices, Reveal ‘Elephant in the Room’

Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox

Getty Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are two of the most vocal leaders on defense for the Eagles.

Remember that bombshell NFL Network report about “sloppy practice habits” focused solely on Carson Wentz? Right. The Eagles have since diffused the situation and the reporter has walked back his comments. However, Brandon Graham revealed that the team’s practices haven’t been all that crisp in recent weeks, calling it the “elephant in the room” and promising players were going to start “policing themselves.”

The Eagles were called for 11 penalties for 74 yards last week versus New York, a stat everyone agreed is uncharacteristic and unacceptable. Philadelphia is tied for eighth-worst in the NFL for total flags (56 for 449 yards) and their 6.2 flags-per-game are tied for sixth-worst. So it hasn’t been pretty and Graham has decided to start holding people accountable. It’s probably long overdue nine games into the season.

“I think it starts definitely with practice because some of the stuff that is showing up out there, I mean, if we’re just being real with ourselves, it’s happening in practice,” Graham told reporters on Wednesday. “Jumping offsides, pre-snap penalties, false starts, people dropping balls, us not getting off the rock — it’s all stuff that we just need to hone in on as a team. I think we’re doing a good job addressing that elephant in the room because if you kind of just want to say, ‘OK, everything gonna be alright, everything gonna be alright … but now we’re at a point where you know that stuff is affecting us and we got to clean it up.”

Penalties are inexcusable. Here are a few of the bigger ones in 2020, via Football Database: false starts (10), delay of game (3), offsides (4), offensive holding (5), defensive holding (6), pass interference (7), unnecessary roughness (5).

“Penalties will kill you. They will hurt you bad in the game,” cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “They mess up the field position and field position is one of the biggest things in the game. It’s definitely showing up in practice. We got to nip it in the bud … from the smaller details to the bigger details.”

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Leaders Telling Teammates to ‘Police Themselves’

The Eagles’ concerning string of lackluster performance can’t be attributed to effort, according to Graham. The hulking defensive end said players have been working hard, but they haven’t been playing smart or necessarily on the same page. It’s time for guys to start “policing themselves” in practice and fixing the mistakes when they happen.

“We want to win. This is what it’s going to take, so let’s correct it. Let’s get it right. Let’s stop settling and saying, ‘I got it next time.’ Nah. We’re going to get it right now. Getting people wanting to police themselves even more. That’s going to start happening, man.”

Graham said if he jumps offsides during practice, then he needs to “get out” and punish himself. For example, cornerback Darius Slay does 10 pushups every time he drops an interception. None on Wednesday, though.

“You got to look at yourself in the mirror first and see what you’re doing wrong in practice,” Slay told reporters. “Stuff like that was happening all week at practice and then it shows up on Sunday.”

One more thing, don’t go pointing fingers at the head coach. Doug Pederson has been pounding the message all year about playing disciplined football. Now it’s on the team leaders to monitor it on the practice field.

“It starts with him [Pederson] first in the meetings, starts with him telling us what he expects and then it’s on us when we hit that field to make sure we policing stuff with what we see because he can’t see everything,” Graham said. “Us, as players, as the leaders of the team, we get together all the time, just in the locker room, just talking about what we need to get done. You might hear something that Doug said in the team meeting room that resonated and it just kind of got us like, ‘Man, we got to get back to that.”

Shaun Bradley, Rudy Ford Miss Practice

The Eagles enjoyed the cleanest injury report of the year on Wednesday. Only two players were missing from practice: linebacker Shaun Bradley (illness) and safety Rudy Ford (hamstring).

Meanwhile, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and left tackle Jason Peters both sat out the afternoon session after taking one of their allowable maintenance “rest days.” Both veteran players were technically listed as “limited participants.”

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