Eagles Add Corey Graham in August Again
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Last year it was August 3, this time around it was two days later than that but the result remains the same: Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz can sleep more soundly moving forward.
For the second consecutive summer, Philadelphia has added veteran safety Corey Graham to the roster in early August, a move that makes the back end of the defense far more versatile.
Graham, who turned 33 the day the Eagles reported to camp this year, was a key part of the team's Super Bowl run last season as the third safety and lynchpin to Schwartz's ability to move Malcolm Jenkins all over the formation.
Graham's understanding of the defensive game plan and ability to play assignment-sound football is something that would have been hard to duplicate with Tre Sullivan, the former undrafted free agent in 2017 who was attempting to make the leap from the practice squad to backing up Jenkins and Rodney McLeod this season.
“It was a blessing to have Corey back there," safety coach Tim Hauck, a long-time NFL player at the position himself, admitted to 973espn.com back in the spring. "Having a veteran who doesn’t need a lot of reps and has seen all of the situations and all of the pressure to just step on the field is a comfort level for us."
The comfort level was probably more necessary this season than last because Graham's return really bolsters two positions -- the third safety spot along with the nickel back role.
Without Patrick Robinson, the Eagles have rolled a number of bodies through the slot this spring and summer with two untested players -- Sidney Jones and De'Vante Bausby -- emerging as the leading candidates. The break-glass-in-case-of-emergency player in the slot since the days of Chip Kelly, however, has always been Jenkins, who has proven he can do it at a high level.
If Schwartz is uncomfortable with any of his young options now he can simply insert Jenkins into the slot with Graham holding down the safety position next to McLeod.
The ultimate goal, however, is to be able to use Jenkins all over the back end.
"I always get jealous because I don't get any reps at the slot during camp because we are evaluating," Jenkins said. "I probably won't get any until we get close to opening Week 1 but we'll see. Hopefully, for us, it will be a good problem to have if one of these one guys emerges as a strong point in the slot. Patrick Robinson played well for us last year which kept me out of the slot. Selfishly I wanted to be there but it made us so much better as a defense to have me move around to different places."
Having Graham, who played 36 percent of the defensive snaps in the 2017 regular season which increased to 60 percent in the playoffs (spiking at 84 percent in the Super Bowl), gets Schwartz closer to that goal.
“Developing the third safety is essential," Hauck explained. "The guy is going to play, it’s just a matter of time. That third guy needs to be very reliable. ... With Corey, it wasn’t an issue bringing him into the game. It came down to trust. As coaches, it’s hard putting an unknown on the field when you don’t know what outcome is going to be."
To Eagles also signed 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end Gannon Sinclair on Sunday and waived undrafted rookie free agent safety Ryan Neal. Also waived/injured was tight end Adam Zaruba.
The big body of Sinclair was added because veteran TE Richard Rodgers is currently not practicing due to an upper-body injury.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen