Eagles' Graham says he's 'a different guy'

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Sorry for the delay between posts. Been a busy morning here of post-walkthrough interviews at Philadelphia Eagles camp. We will have a full slate of stuff as the day goes on, including continued leftovers from my trips to Giants camp and Redskins camp. But since we just got done talking with Eagles third-year defensive end Brandon Graham, I thought I'd share a few things from that interview.

The news hook here is that defensive end Trent Cole is out with a swollen AC joint and defensive end Jason Babin is out with a calf injury. Babin's out a few weeks, and Eagles coach Andy Reid said he had no idea how much time Cole would miss. One of the consequences of these injuries is that Graham, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft who missed 16 games in his first two seasons due to a knee injury, will practice as a first-team defensive end this afternoon. And he is fired up about it.

"Just keep watching," Graham said. "I'm going to try to make as many plays as I can. I feel like I'm in great shape, and that's half the battle. My knee, it was holding up last year, but really it was kind of stopping me from being able to go all-out because it was still mental for me. Now I'm just going to go out there and play. I'm going to be out there diving on piles. You're going to see a different guy."

The defensive end injuries have one silver lining, which is that it gives the Eagles a chance to get extra reps for their key reserves. Graham and Darryl Tapp are likely to get the first-team reps today, with the possibility of defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins moving outside for a few and making room for some of the reserve defensive tackles to get their first-team reps.

Graham is a guy on whom lots of folks will have their eye in 2012. Even once Cole and Babin come back healthy and regain their starting roles, the Eagles hope Graham is healthy and productive enough that he'll have a role in their defensive line rotation. People have short memories in the NFL, and it's easy to forget Graham was viewed as a top-13 talent coming out of college just two years ago.

Yes, the pick has been ridiculed because the Seahawks drafted Earl Thomas at 14 and the Giants took Jason Pierre-Paul at 15 and my goodness couldn't the Eagles have used either of those guys the past couple of years while Graham was sitting out. But it's not as though Graham would have dropped into the sixth round if the Eagles hadn't picked him there. His ability was not in question at the time. The only issue he's had is his health.

He now says that's fine, and he's surprised himself by being in better physical condition than he even realized. He's in his second year learning his position under Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and he's eager to put the stuff he's learned into practice. For a young man whose career obviously hasn't gone the way he would have expected it to go thus far, he's a remarkably upbeat and positive guy. And if he can stay healthy, the Eagles have every reason to believe he can be a major addition to their defense in 2012. This is a team that had 50 sacks last year and would like to find a way to get more.

"I've got a lot of confidence now because I know what to expect," Graham said. "I've been here three years now, and shoot, all I'm working on right now is just being able to go every play, every snap. Because I'm feeling like how I was in college. Everything is calm. You know what to expect. You know the schedule. Now I can just go out there and play."