Originally written on Eagles Eye  |  Last updated 11/4/14
"Smile" was a mysterious album produced and recorded by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys long ago that never got distributed by Capitol Records. It allegedly was the Beach Boys' greatest musical achievement. For some reason it got hung up in contract disputes and red tape. Brian Wilson's declining health at the time did not help. "Smile" was also once a great defensive end and speed rusher who played for Michigan and briefly for the Philadelphia Eagles. He got derailed by some weight issues and also extended rehab time away from the game due to microfracture surgery. But unlike the Beach Boys', Brandon Graham's "Smile" is back in distribution.                   Brandon Graham can smile again...drafted #1 by the Eagles in 2010 (10th overall) out of Michigan, 6-2, 265, it looked like his career was headed nowhere coming out of a disastrous year in 2011. Graham came through with 2.5 sacks in Thursday night's 34-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, giving him 4.0 in his four starts. And it seems the more he plays, the better he gets. Thursday was the first time he wasn't constantly rotated in with other defensive ends. He played almost every snap in this one, when the Eagles' pass defense was perhaps better than it had been all season. "I feel more confident," Graham said. "I feel like I am back in my Michigan days. I knew it would take a little time to come and settle down. Now, I just go out there and do my job and try to do the best I can. That last game was just one of those days [when] I felt comfortable." His teammates certainly appreciate it. And even though this season is already a write-off at 4-10, I'm smiling because of Graham's resurgence...and because so many other young players are coming through at a high level of performance in 2012. There's much more good than bad on this "bad team"... "When you're making plays that Brandon's been making," DeMeco Ryans said, "you get your confidence back. And now you're seeing his confidence is there and he's hard to stop. He's a problem for a lot of offenses, and it's fun to see. I enjoy watching him." Fletcher Cox is another guy that makes me smile. Cox, their first-round draft pick last spring, has 5.5 sacks, third among NFL rookies, and is just as stout against the run. "He is a beast," Graham said. "He knows his moves and everything the coaches tell him to do in practice, it's working. He is more comfortable and settled, just like me. He feels like it's like college all over again. We were just talking about that. We just have to go out there, have confidence and do our jobs. That's what he is doing." Said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles: "[Cox is] playing back to how he used to play in college. He's getting more comfortable, so he's getting better as it goes." Mychal Kendricks at WILL makes me smile. In the two games Kendricks has played on the weak side, after spending the first 12 on the strong side, he has contributed 11 tackles and four pass breakups. "He had a couple of nice breakups yesterday in nickel coverage," coach Andy Reid said Friday. "On one of them he was covering the tight end and was spectacular, which was the SAM [strong side] linebacker position, the same one before the switch. But at WILL [weak side], he looks more comfortable. That's kind of his natural position. I thought he did a good job there for the most part ." Other guys that make me smile: DE Vinny Curry, Damaris Johnson at PR, K Alex Henery, DE Trent Cole (he's still got it!), WR/ST Riley Cooper (he's getting better), RB's Bryce Brown and Dion Lewis (each has something to contribute to depth at RB), MIKE  DeMeco Ryans, and yes---even DRC (you know when he's motivated he's a damn good cover guy---wonder if the Eagles should re-sign him?---I say yes)... If you bring in the right coaching staff with the best-fit system for getting the most out of these guys, and you have a fluid personnel infusion with a good draft and maybe a high-profile free agent signing or three, you might be smiling too in 2013. Honorable Mention "SMILES"---  Reid indicated that safety Colt Anderson has played so well the last two games that he will remain the starting free safety ahead of Kurt Coleman. ... Reid also praised cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for their efforts against the Bengals. ... Cornerback Brandon Hughes was hospitalized after the game with a lung contusion, but has since been released. ... Tight end Brent Celek, who sat out the game with a concussion, should be ready to play again against the Redskins. As for Nick "Shaggy" Foles? No, I'm not smiling yet...but he's off my Hate list. He's made strides but he's very far away from being a ready for prime-time player. The best thing he's brought to the Eagles offense so far is the absolute necessity for Coach Marty to dumb down his game plan. This has in essence enabled Marty to use his pieces in the running and screen games more effectively than ever. But Shaggy's intermediate and deep throws make me cringe. They do not make me smile. Those passes are supposed to spin...not wobble.  

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