Brandon Graham said today that he expects to be ready to play against the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 30 when the Eagles defensive end is first eligible to come off the Physically Unable to Perform List.
"I'm very confident I'll be ready and I'll be playing Dallas," Graham said. Earlier he was a touch less optimistic: "It's not set in stone but I'm not trying to go on [Injured Reserve], so I'm going to be out there."
If Graham goes on IR his season would be officially over. The Eagles 2010 No. 1 pick is trying to come back from a knee injury suffered last December when he tore his ACL. The knee also required microfracture surgery.
"In five more weeks we'll know for sure," Graham said. "Right now I'm feeling real good and just when Week 7 comes we'll really know what's going on. But today, man, I feel really good."
Without Graham the defensive line got off to a strong start, recording five sacks against the Rams on Sunday.
"It's been frustrating because I know I'm going to behind a lot when I get there," Graham said.
Despite a rough start and some clamoring from fans and media types, Andy Reid said that Casey Matthews is the still the Eagles' starting middle linebacker.
Matthews anchors a linebacker corp that saw the Rams run for 154 yards in Sunday's Eagles victory. The last three quarters were significantly better than the first, when St. Louis running backs gained 104 yards on the ground.
"We're getting to a point where it's starting to come natural," Matthews said.
Matthews was on the field for the majority of snaps even though he doesn't usually play in the nickel. Brian Rolle typically plays more nickel alongside strong-side linebacker Jamar Chaney, but the Eagles wanted to focus on stopping the run. Rolle said that he's been splitting more repetitions with weak-side starter Moise Fokou in the first-team base defense.
"I'll probably get worked in the rotation a little more this week with the base," Rolle said.
The Eagles travel to Atlanta to face a strong running team in the Falcons. Running back Michael Turner ran for 100 yards on ten carries last week even though the Falcons fell to the Bears, 30-12, on the road. Will Atlanta, in light of Sunday's performance, go right at the Eagles' young linebackers?
"If I was them I would probably run at our linebackers, to answer your question," Chaney said. "But they ran at the Bears linebackers last week, too, and had pretty good success."
Turner is one of the strongest tailbacks in the NFL, although the Eagles did limit him to 45 yards on 15 carries in last year's 31-17 home victory.
"We know he's going to be tough to bring down," Matthews said. "He's got thick legs and he knows how to use them."
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has a sprained ankle, defensive end Darryl Tapp has a pectoral sprain and quarterback Vince Young has a hamstring strain. All three will not practice today. Reid said they were all "day-to-day."
Reid said that Joselio Hanson would be the nickel corner if Rodgers-Cromartie can't go against the Falcons and that Phillip Hunt would likely be activated if Tapp is sidelined Sunday.
Reid also said that Winston Justice is still progressing in his recovery from off-season knee surgery. Justice missed all of training camp and the preseason and lost his starting right tackle spot to Todd Herremans. He did not dress at St. Louis.
"Do I want to start? Of course, everyone wants to start in the NFL," Justice said. "I think I want to be healthy, too."
Dion Lewis vowed to improve his kick returning. The rookie tried to return two kickoffs on Sunday even though both went fairly deep into the end zone. He took one back to the 12, and the other back to the 13.
"I wasn't over-anxious, it was the first time I did it," Lewis said. He said the coaches said he should have taken a knee rather than return the first.