The rookies are back in town at the NovaCare Complex for the first time since the post-draft mini-camp as they prepare for the rookies and selected veterans Organized Team Activities this week, and all eyes are sure to be on the new guy with the constant smile who insists on shaking everyone's hand.
On draft night, the Eagles sent the 24th overall selection and two third-round picks to the Denver Broncos in exchange for the 13th overall pick, where they selected Brandon Graham, a defensive end from the University of Michigan. So Graham comes to Philadelphia with big expectations on his wide shoulders, which is to be expected when a team moves up to grab a player. But those expectations don't bother Graham because his goals are just as high.
"My expectations are, I'm trying to win rookie of the year," Graham said after a morning workout. "I'm trying to win a championship my first year. I'm trying to contribute to help my team get to where we need to be, and I know we're all going to work hard for each other. That's the biggest thing, just fight for each other. I believe we're going to get there."
That kind of unfettered optimism is to be expected from a first-round draft pick, but Graham's insistence can make a believer out of anyone. The proof will have to come on the field though, where Graham will be charged with improving one of the team's weaknesses last season.
After a period of self-analysis, the front office decided that upgrading the pass rush was the team's highest priority this off-season. Early on in the draft process, they saw Graham as a player who could significantly help the effort to get after the quarterback, and so Graham will be expected to make an impact from day one. He likely won't be charged with starting right away since the Eagles still have a deep line that includes Juqua Parker, he of the eight sacks a season ago, and off-season import Darryl Tapp, along with third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. But that depth and competition is something Graham welcomes.
"It's going to bring out the best in a lot of people because I know how the competition was in college that helped me out a whole lot," he said. "By my senior year, I was the person people wanted to go against because they knew I would make them better. I was just happy that a lot of people here, they compete until the last snap, the last whistle of the practice."
Pre-draft, Graham was considered by some analysts to be more of a prospect as a 3-4 outside linebacker because of his perceived lack of size. At 6-foot-2, 268 pounds, Graham can look like a mismatch against mammoth offensive tackles. Until the ball is snapped, that is.
"They question it, but that's motivation for me," he said. "I overcome it just by having a high motor and getting to the ball. I know I have a lot going against me just on my size alone, but I let them know that if you go 100 percent, it's all about mentality. My mentality is to get to the ball and disrupt things out there. I've been doing it all my life and it's been paying off for me."
Not to mention, there's an advantage to having that low center of gravity.
"My leverage," Graham said, when asked what his biggest strength was. "Being able to get under those big tackles and using my hands real well, real fast and get them in the chest so I can control them and get off blocks."
"I always ask offensive linemen, 'What's the one thing you hate about short defensive ends?' They say, 'I hate bending my knees trying to get you.' If you play up high with me, I know I have you every time."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 8:30 a.m., May 18