Here’s a nod to someone who was pretty good for these Philadelphia Eagles.
Let’s set the mood here. Once upon a time, an Andy Reid-led team was trying to do the impossible, replace Brian Dawkins. It was 2010. Philly traded up in the first round of that year’s NFL Draft, and there they sat at number 13. We thought the plan was to take Earl Thomas, the highly-touted safety out of Texas. Heck, Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock (he was a draft analyst on the NFL Network at the time) even stated that they were trading up to possibly take Earl Thomas.
What did the Eagles do? They did what they normally did in the first round of any draft under Andy Reid’s watch. They took someone who played in the trenches. On this occasion, they went with a smallish defensive end from the Michigan Wolverines named Brandon Graham.
That pick was and, sometimes, still is questioned. Thomas looked like a Hall of Famer early and will be a shoo-in for Canton, Ohio once his playing days are over. Graham was a slow starter but caught fire later. The two safeties that Philly did pick up during that draft, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, were pretty good, but they’d never go on to be mentioned of some of the great Eagles of all time.
Sometimes, we spend so much time thinking about what they didn’t do that we forget there were some highlights. Allen, who was taken in the second round (37th-overall) wasn’t an all-star, but he was a lot better than he was given credit for being. During his 75-game run with the ‘Birds’ (that includes 70 starts), Allen racked up 330 tackles (264 were solo), four sacks, 30 pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and ten picks. That includes his rookie campaign, where he missed three games but appeared in 13 games with 13 starts. The result? 48 tackles with 42 solo stops, two sacks, eight pass breakups, a forced fumble, and three picks.
The seventh-rounder and the final of Philly’s 13 draft choices from that same draft class, Kurt Coleman, would wind up being the better pro, but in the end, neither would hold a candle to Brian Dawkins (or Earl Thomas). Both were better than they’re often given credit for being, but what might they have been if Jim Johnson hadn’t left us early? We’ll never know, but it does make the imagination wander.