It was an impeccable occasion for Corey Graham’s debut practice as an Eagle, as it was the team’s final Open Practice of Training Camp. Over 36,000 fans were in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday morning and the Eagles’ newest safety got his first preview of the league’s most passionate fan base.
“It’s amazing man. Everything since I’ve been here has been amazing so far. From the players, from the coaches, the fans, the atmosphere I mean it’s amazing,” Graham said. “I really enjoy it. I look forward to having the opportunity of playing in front of these fans.”
Graham comes to Philadelphia after having spent his last three seasons in Buffalo. The 11-year veteran wasn’t cagey either about admitting his reason for signing with Eagles. The answer was actually quite simple: defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Schwartz and Graham reunite after spending a year together in Buffalo back in 2014. While under Schwartz, Graham registered a career-high 15 passes defensed to go along with two interceptions and 84 tackles.
“We did very well that year, it was a good year for us in Buffalo. It’s a simple defense. He allows you to play very fast. You don’t have to overthink or anything like that, so he just wants you to get out there and play fast, make plays,” Graham indicated. “I enjoyed playing with him, I’m happy to be back here with him. I’m just glad they’re giving me this opportunity.”
The Buffalo, New York native enters a safety group headlined by the dynamic twosome of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Schwartz hinted during a press conference before Sunday’s practice that with the added depth at the position the Eagles could implement a three-safety package, a move the defense made out of necessity last year but now choose to employ by choice.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I watched a lot of film on those guys. These guys are ballplayers man, it’s a special group," Graham said. "I look forward to just trying to add whatever I can to it. “
One of the many upsides to Graham’s acquisition is that he – much like many of the Eagles’ players this season – vaunts versatility. Throughout his career, he’s spent a sizeable portion of time at the corner and safety positions, was a 2011 Pro Bowl selection as a special teams player. Luckily for Schwartz, he has the rest of Training Camp and all of preseason to evaluate where he thinks Graham fits best.
“We’re going to start him off at safety, but one of the things we like about him is he is a multidimensional player,” Schwartz praised. “But you know, the thing is with our safeties, and I think you guys see it with Malcolm and you see it with Rodney at times, those guys are matched up on wide receivers quite a bit. So I think we'll be able to see some of those things without even playing him at corner. But I think we'll be open to everything. You don't want to close your mind to anything.”
No matter where he lines up, Graham believes he fits in Philadelphia. His signing with the Eagles didn’t materialize out of thin air as he and his agent were in talks with a number of NFL teams. However, it was the fans, players, and the presence of Schwartz in Philadelphia that lured Graham into inking the deal.
“It’s a great locker room. I was actually surprised at so many guys coming up, everybody introducing themselves, all the coaches. Like the little things that you notice when you go to teams and stuff like that, I’ve already noticed here how different it is,” Graham remarked.
“It’s a great city, an up-and-coming team and I think we have an opportunity to be special.”