In the whirl of news surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday with the changes to the team’s front office, the fact that it was the last day of OTAs for 2012 took a backseat. And I mean waay in the back.
There are many compelling storylines to follow this offseason with the Eagles. One in particular is that of DE Brandon Graham and his fight for redemption. The 2010 first-round draft pick for Philadelphia has not lived up to expectations because of an ACL injury sustained during his rookie season and took most of 2011 to recover from micro fracture knee surgery. Before the injury, Graham had 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in 13 games (6 starts).
The criticism of Graham and his lack of production has been loud. He knows that people view him as a bust and has said that he will use that chip on his season to fuel his success this season. And it seems to be working.
Graham’s performance in practices thus far has impressed those who join him in battle–his teammates.
Fellow end Darryl Tapp thinks that Graham looks as healthy as he did as a rookie, when he turned heads at Lehigh.
He looks like the Brandon that first came in here. Brandon probably had the greatest training camp for a rookie that I’ve ever seen in my life. That first year he came in on fire, killing everybody in one-on-ones, giving great effort.
DE Trent Cole sees himself in Graham and loves the drive and determination he sees.
He’s a great player. He’s gonna be a great player. He’s one of those guys, he reminds me of me and Jason [Babin]. He gets after it. He gets after it every down. I’m expecting a lot out of him. He’s going to be a big key to our success.
He’s a very motivated guy. He wants to get after it and win.
Tapp thinks that Graham’s time alone rehabbing last year during the lockout, then hearing the constant comparisons of his own (lack of) production to that of the Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, caused Graham to mature as a person.
It seems like this past offseason, when we had that time alone to ourselves, he got in a quiet closet and found himself in my opinion.
Will Graham’s return to health, paired with a matured perspective, make for the player we’ve been waiting to see on the Eagles defensive line? If the words of his veteran teammates mean anything, then Graham very well be able to stand up and face his critics this season where it matters most–on the field.
Brandyn Campbell is writer and founder of the Eagles blog Philly Sports Muse. Follow her on Twitter at @sports_muse and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/phillysportsmuse.