From the time Brandon Graham entered the league in 2010, he worked toward becoming a starter for the Eagles.
That finally happened last season, although he’s now back to coming off the bench for the Eagles this year.
But the veteran, entering his seventh NFL season, said he doesn’t care. In fact, he quite likes the rotation new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is implementing at the defensive end position. The Eagles have three starting-caliber defensive ends, but Graham thinks there will be plenty of snaps to go around.
“Enough sacks and everything for everybody out there, as long as we keep it going,” Graham said on Tuesday, as the Eagles kicked off OTAs. “Like Schwartz said, we’re not trying to tire people out early on. We’re trying to play in December, January, February, so we have to make sure we’re doing what it takes.”
Graham said he won’t have to worry about saving himself if the rotation works. He can go hard for several plays and come out, while someone else comes in and goes just as hard.
As the Eagles began OTAs on Tuesday, Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry worked with the first-team defense at defensive end, while Graham and Marcus Smith worked with the second team.
All four players were outside linebackers in Bill Davis’ 3-4 system last year, but are now defensive ends in Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3 system. They're the "fastballs" in this defense. Curry signed a big deal to return to the Eagles in the offseason and is considered to be a much better fit in a 4-3, which explains why he has dethroned Graham as a starter.
Only two can start, but all three of the team’s top defensive ends will play this season.
“Obviously, you want to be number one, because you get your name called at the beginning of the game,” said Graham, who started a career-high 10 games in 2015. “Your family hears ‘Brandon Graham, Michigan,’ stuff like that. But other than that, man, if you go out there and do what you do and we’re winning, it doesn’t matter.”
While Graham isn’t exactly sure how the rotation will work once games start, he thinks maybe they’ll sub after four or five plays, and he expects Schwartz to move the ends around, from right to left.
Either way, he definitely sees the advantage of having a rotation. Graham thinks it will prevent “wear and tear” on his and his teammates’ bodies.
“I’m not sure (how the rotation will work), but I know he wants us fresh all the time that we're out there,” he said. “I don’t think we have selfish guys. I think people, when they get tired, want a blow. We just have to pick up where they left off and don’t be the weakest link out there.”