They already know a lot about each other, with plenty more to come. King Dunlap and Brandon Graham have lined up on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage enough to provide a good evaluation, at least to this point. And Dunlap, a third-year offensive tackle trying to take another step forward in his young career, is plenty impressed with the progress Graham has made in a very short time.
"He isn't as quick off the ball as Trent (Cole, Pro Bowl left end) is, not yet," said Dunlap, who saw plenty of Cole in his previous two Eagles seasons. "But he's not far behind. He's getting there. Brandon has gotten a lot better in the short time he has been here. He's using his hands better and he is so fast off the ball. I'm impressed."
Dunlap is a project of his own, having seen limited time at left tackle -- last year, in a tough outing against Oakland and veteran Richard Seymour -- and he knows where he has to be to make it to this 53-man roster. Dunlap has added weight and strength in the off-season and is now 330-plus robust pounds. He is a better football player than he was last year. The Eagles are looking at him as a right tackle as well as his left tackle experience, so Dunlap has a strong understanding of what a quality defensive end in the NFL must bring to the table.
And Graham is bringing it.
"The first camp we had after the draft, he was feeling his way around, so it was hard to tell. Now you see him coming off the ball, working his moves and feeling a lot more comfortable. He's a lot smarter and he is setting up his moves better. He has definitely gotten better, and I think he will learn from watching Trent and J.P. (Juqua Parker) play. Brandon will continue learning. He's a smart guy and he will study those players and that, combined with his talent he has, is going to make him a great player.
"He's a first-round draft pick. You see the speed. He is very legit."
These are the kinds of battles within the battle that make for good roster competition. Dunlap wants to be more versatile as he competes to win a job as a backup tackle. He wants the coaches to have confidence in him in case something happens to Jason Peters or Winston Justice. Dunlap has lived in the off-season conditioning program and he is a much-improved player.
Dunlap has the benefit of working against an array of ends through the preseason. The combat will only make him better. For the Eagles, one of the larger please-happen items is Graham showing he is ready to contribute as a rookie.
"I feel totally different from that first camp," said Graham. "I'm out there playing a lot faster. I'm out there voicing the calls, and I'm just happy that I'm making progress each day. I'm seeing that what coach Segrest (Rory, defensive line coach) wants me to do is working. If I do what he tells me to do, it works. I'm also learning the tackles, and King and I know each other, so that helps.
"I feel like I've picked it up fast. I'm happy to be running with the ones (starters) in this camp and I'm trying to be a leader out there. It's been a great experience for me."
Most of Graham's practice is spent with the rest of the defensive linemen in a cluster. They work on combinations, hand and feet placement, stunts and games that Segrest wants them to perfect. It is repetition upon repetition, and it is a necessary part of the learning curve for Graham and his fellow young -- and new -- Eagles.
Next week, the entire team takes part in the voluntary Organized Team Activities. It remains to be seen whether Graham will line up as a starter -- Parker is the incumbent, and he ran with the ones in the post-draft camp -- but the time spent with the entire team together will be invaluable for the rookie. Sometimes you can tell if a rookie is overwhelmed by the moment. Graham clearly is not. He conducts himself with great poise and confidence, and the smile that he arrived with at the NovaCare Complex remains. Both Graham and safety Nate Allen, a second-round draft pick, have been abundantly mature in their early days here.
The draft class is off to a promising start, but we all know that spring is not the time to make final evaluations. Still, it is undeniable to ignore Graham's early success.
"I'm just working hard and going with it, trying to absorb everything I can," said Graham. "This is where I want to be. I have a lot of work to go here, but I'm going to do it with a smile and enjoy myself. I'm just starting out, feeling my way around. It's coming to me, and I love it."