Eagles rookie defensive end Graham in a rush to have an impact

Brandon Graham leaps over a tackling dummy.
Brandon Graham leaps over a tackling dummy.
Posted: August 04, 2010

BETHLEHEM - The most noticeable figure on the practice fields at Lehigh since full-squad workouts began last Friday - What's that? No, not counting the electric cart that ferries injured players off the field - has been Brandon Graham.

Anybody worried about the first-round rookie defensive end coming in a few days late and maybe not being sharp right away can stop now. Graham has been a beast, full-bore every snap, showing the same energy that fuels him as he pops out of the fieldhouse at lunchtime and shakes the hand of every waiting reporter.

"He looks like he's going to be a good football player," Eagles coach Andy Reid said, with typical eloquence. "Does he have some things he has to learn? Absolutely. He is an explosive guy. That you can see, and he's got very good athletic ability and instincts, and now it's just a matter of mastering a few of the different techniques that you need to play at this level that you don't necessarily need to use at the college level. Sometimes you get away with one or two types of pass rush at the college level. Here you've got to put a combination together that you can throw at the tackles. He's working on those things, and by the end of camp here he should have a pretty good repertoire."

Last night, by the way, a source close to the situation confirmed that Graham's 5-year contract with the Eagles will earn him about $22 million, with about $14 million of that guaranteed. Last year's 13th overall selection, Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo, reportedly got $20 million over 5 years, with a little more than $12 million guaranteed.

Usually, Graham plays left defensive end on the second defense, against the first offense. This means Winston Justice is getting quite the workout.

Justice noted that Graham, listed at 6-2, 268, but actually standing maybe a fraction of an inch over 6-foot, has more of a squat, powerful build than your typical NFL d-end. (When he checked in to Lehigh, Graham said he now weighs 278.)

"It's something we're not really used to seeing," Justice said yesterday. "He has speed, he has quickness, and he has power. It's a battle every time we go against each other. He's a shorter guy. He doesn't rush like the other defensive ends rush; he's a different type of player . . . He's more into [your body], he uses a different type of moves. But he's a good player."

Asked for someone he might compare Graham to, Justice said: "He's kind of like a shorter [Dwight] Freeney [listed at 6-1]. You're going to quote that and you're going to make his head really, really big now. You don't need to make his head big, seriously."

When Graham was asked about Freeney, he said: "What I feel about that, one day I want everybody to say to somebody else, 'You're going to be the next Brandon Graham.' That's what I want 'em to say. That's why I go out there every day with a chip on my shoulder, until I'm done playing football."

Reid said Graham's low center of gravity has served him well so far against the run, as well as pass-rushing.

"You know what, he's done very well with that. He's very strong in the lower body. He's very strong in the upper body, too; his lower body, he's got a nice anchor there, and good core strength, and understands how to use his hands and arms and plays with separation on the linemen."

In a one-on-one drill yesterday, Graham broke through untouched, past center/guard Mike McGlynn. McGlynn agreed that Graham has talent, but he said he also benefits from being brand-new.

"We've played against all these guys for a long time; we know the ins and outs of [Brodrick] Bunkley and [Mike] Patterson, Trevor [Laws], all those guys. You go against a new guy, and you don't really know what he's going to give you," McGlynn said. "It's like a knuckleballer coming up. But he's working his tail off. He's a good player; he's a first-round pick. He's doing a good job so far."

Graham's strategy seems to be to get low and use his hands to keep the o-lineman's hands off him, which is crucial for a d-end, who tends to be outweighed considerably by the guy blocking him.

"He knows how to use his hands and use his leverage to his advantage, get underneath those tall tackles," guard Max Jean-Gilles said.

"I just be a wild man," Graham said. "That's it. Just go out there and knock them hands down. That's the biggest thing. Because playing with those guys and those long arms, I know I gotta get close on 'em. My speed coming off the ball, that's the first part of it. Every time, I just try to key the ball and just make sure I get off, and the rest of the stuff just comes naturally."

Birdseed

Jeremy Maclin's hyperextended knee was the big injury news of the day, but center Nick Cole sat out the afternoon session with minor knee swelling, the team said . . . Hamstrung running back Mike Bell worked out briskly with trainer Rick Burkholder on an adjacent practice field yesterday afternoon. Andy Reid said Bell "should be back here within the next few days," a timetable he said would also apply to wide receiver DeSean Jackson (back) . . . Right guard Stacy Andrews sat out the morning session with a shoulder problem but participated in the afternoon . . . The team backed off on the full contact yesterday, after 3 days of hitting . . . Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon remains sidelined with a concussion, return unclear . . . Hamstring victims, cornerback Asante Samuel and tight end Martin Rucker, "will start running here pretty quick," Reid said, but cornerback Macho Harris has a more serious strain.

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

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http://twitter.com/LesBowen.

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