PHILADELPHIA - Few have experienced the highs and lows in Philadelphia like veteran defensive end Brandon Graham.
And none have done it with the smile and effusive energy of the former first-round pick out of Michigan who somehow turned from 'why didn't we draft Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul?' into the longest-tenured player on the Eagles and the architect of the most important play in franchise history, the strip-sack of Tom Brady that essentially sealed Super Bowl LII.
In his 11th NFL season, Graham has again been one of the NFL's top edge players despite the team's 3-8-1 record, ranking as No. 9 overall according to ProFootballFocus.com.
Graham was a late-bloomer, however, with injuries and poor coaching schemes once putting him into a place where he thought he might be cut for the forgotten Travis Long, a Chip Kelly favorite whose career was stalled by consecutive ACL tears.
It wasn’t until Graham's sixth season that he turned into the staple where opposing coaches game plan with him in mind.
"I'm worried about Brandon Graham," Browns coach and Philly-area native Kevin Stefanski said when bombarded with questions about facing his hometown team before a Week 11 matchup.
While the circumstances are flipped for quarterback Carson Wentz, who excelled early in his career before taking a nosedive this season and being benched for rookie Jalen Hurts for Sunday's game against New Orleans, no one has more experience in handling adversity when it comes to the outside noise like Graham.
“Try not to worry what people are going to say because only you know what’s going on and how you fix it,” the 32-year-old defensive end explained when asked what advice he would offer Wentz. “And how you fix it is really working on the things that you need to get better at, and the things that tend to come up all the time."
Accountability starts with an honest self-scout, according to Graham.
"For me, it’s, I need to get off the ball faster," he said. "I need to start doing that for myself. When people start to tell you what they see, from the outside in, it’s on you to make those decisions. Continue to keep on working hard. Continue to keep on building where you’re weak."
Graham noted that Wentz already has the luxury of understanding what worked for him.
“You definitely know you can get to where you used to be because there’s a lot of confidence that we all still have in Carson. We’ve seen it," Graham noted. "We know it’s just on him to go out and keep working like he does."
Working hard and annoying the haters is easier said than done but that's the only path forward for Wentz whether it's in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
"So don’t worry about what the naysayers say," said Graham. "It doesn’t matter because you’re the one who can change what people are saying by how you work. That’s what kept me here, how hard I worked and how hard I tried to flip that negative and turn it into a positive.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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