Rookie first-round pick Brandon Graham has already gotten plenty of attention for his play throughout training camp, where he's impressed with his apparent readiness to step in right away and make an impact as a pass rusher and in the run game at defensive end.
Graham has been working with both the first and second teams at left defensive end and as the left defensive end with the first-team nickel defense. But even though Graham has gotten rave reviews from his teammates and coaches alike, he'll finally get a chance to show his skills for real in tomorrow night's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Graham's first game as a professional.
"I just want to show that I'm ready, that I'm ready to go out there and compete and go out there and make plays," Graham said in advance of tomorrow night's contest. "I'm just wondering what I can do, wondering how it plays out. I know how it was in college, so I'm just waiting to see if it's going to be the same way when I get out there."
Even though Graham was a dominant defensive end in college -- he notched 29.5 sacks in his Michigan career, good for second-best in school history -- he already feels there's been a vast improvement in his game since coming to the NFL.
"I feel like I've gotten a lot better, learned all the techniques that they taught me, learned all the plays that they've thrown at me," Graham said. "I'm ready to go out there and just play the game like I know how to play."
In that sense, Graham is excited to try out some new pass-rushing toys he's learned for the first time.
"I learned a lot of new stuff," he said, "stuff that will help me out a whole lot that I thought I had down in my game but I really didn't until I got here."
Graham's teammates have been impressed with how well he's jumped into the action as a rookie, and he's especially caught the attention of the two starters inside.
"I've seen young guys that have come in and do things that really you can't do too much but just be amazed," said starting defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. "Brandon is just a natural in his pass rush technique."
"Brandon is a phenomenal pass rusher and he's a smart player," echoed Mike Patterson, Bunkley's partner in crime at defensive tackle. "He always wants to learn and ask questions."
One thing Graham has already picked up is avoiding brash predictions that could only get him in trouble. When asked for a forecast of what he'll do tomorrow night, Graham sidestepped the question like a wily veteran.
"I'm just trying to make as many plays as I can," he said, "then after the game we'll talk about what I did."
--Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:00 p.m., August 12