For the Eagles to be competitive this season, they’re going to have to play better defensively, and that means plugging in new parts–and relying on rookies to implement defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s schemes. A major move forward was made Thursday night when the Eagles inked first-round draft choice Brandon Graham to a 5-year deal. It’s vital for rookies to absorb as much as possible of McDermott’s system during training camp, because they’re certainly going to be tested while learning on the go during the season. Getting in early is a big bonus.
The Michigan defensive end will now join second-round pick Nate Allen, the choice the Eagles took from the Washington Redskins in the Donovan McNabb trade, in the Eagles’ fold. It looks as if Allen has already been penciled in as the starting free safety, trying to plug the gaping void the Eagles left when they let Brian Dawkins sign with Denver.
As for the 6-2, 268-pound Graham, who the Eagles traded up 11 spots and grabbed with the 13th overall selection, he comes across almost like a Hugh Douglas clone. He played with a high motor for the Wolverines, earning second-team All-America accolades as a senior in 2009 after amassing 64 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. An All-Big 10 selection in both his junior and senior campaigns, Graham was also named the Bo Schembechler team MVP in both of those seasons, becoming the first defensive player in school history to win the award twice in a career. The 22-year-old Graham played in 47 games (28 starts) in his four-year career, finishing second in school history in both sacks (29.5) and forced fumbles (8) while compiling 138 tackles and 56 tackles for a loss.
“It feels good,” Graham said. “Because I really wanted to get to training camp and Coach [Andy] Reid really wanted me to get to camp and now it’s time to show them why they picked me. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m ready to go.”
“I’m really glad that we were able to work well with Joel Segal on getting this deal done,” said Eagles’ team president Joe Banner. “We’re really excited to get Brandon on the field tomorrow in time for the start of the first full-team practice.”