Sure, the Detroit Lions have been rebuilding for a decade now. Just 12 wins in the last four-plus seasons. The last winning record was the 2000 campaign.
But defensive end Brandon Graham understands that you can't afford to look past anyone. Even as a rookie he understands that. Why?
"All you have to do is look at the Michigan-Appalachian State game," Graham said. "You can't overlook anybody."
Ranked No. 5 in the nation and playing what was supposed to be a cupcake opponent in the season opener at home, the Wolverines were handed one of the biggest upset losses in college football history by a I-AA (FCS) opponent.
The Eagles' first-round pick knows the Lions' woes quite well. He grew up a short drive from Ford Field. His high school, Crocket Tech, won the city championship on Ford Field in Graham's junior year. According to Graham, about 1,000 friends, family and acquaintances will be on hand to watch him play Sunday.
Graham admits that it's going to be a special game for him.
"This is not another game for me, especially because a lot of people would have liked to see me in Detroit," Graham said. "It's going to be fun for me. I'm going out there and I'm trying to win, hometown or not. I play for the Eagles now."
And the fans won't have to wait long to see Graham play. He was in for 52 snaps last Sunday against the Packers and registered a tackle and two quarterback hurries. Graham didn't just play defensive end. He said that he lined up for about half of those snaps at defensive tackle. The Eagles utilized the nickel pass defense quite often against the Packers' vaunted passing attack.
"I didn't expect to play the three (-technique, lining up on outside shoulder of the guard) that much," Graham said. "The three-technique might look hard, but it's not that hard. It's just really helping me get freed up for a one-on-one because coach (Rory Segrest) believes I can't get blocked one-on-one so I'm going to go out there and prove it to him every time."
And Segrest might be right. On one snap, Graham blew past Packers guard Josh Sitton before he could get out of his stance.
Graham, however, did get his welcome to the NFL hit by Packers tackle Mark Tauscher.
"You really have to use your technique on these guys," Graham said. "It looked like I was about to make the play and he came out of nowhere."
While he thought he was going to be more winded with all of those snaps, Graham showed the hard work put in during training camp and the preseason paid off.
"I guess we were really prepared for it. That was a good thing," Graham said. "That was a lot of plays for my first game. I thought I did good for my first one."
For the second one, Graham gets to put on a show for his hometown crowd. But he also plans to keep those cheering for the home team disappointed.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 10:45 a.m., September 16