The first thing Brandon Graham wants you to know is that he’s healthy. And that, in and of itself, means the world for an edge rusher who relies on his burst off the line of scrimmage to gain an advantage against offensive linemen.
One year ago, in the post-Super Bowl euphoria, Graham was recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in the Christmas Night victory over Oakland and that he played through the rest of the glorious season. Graham admitted late in the 2018 campaign that the injury lingered in the post-surgery months and that he never really came all the way back until December.
Now, the skies are blue. And when the Eagles return from this break to report to the NovaCare Complex for 2019 Training Camp, Graham is going to be ready for success.
“I’m in a great mood,” he said as the team finished its mandatory minicamp in June. “It’s been a great offseason for me.”
Sure has. Graham is the father of two children, one born earlier this year, he signed a contract extension just prior to free agency to stay with the Eagles and he is training for 2019, rather than rehabbing an injury from the previous season.
With the changes the Eagles have had at defensive end – Michael Bennett was traded to New England and Chris Long retired, and the Eagles brought back Vinny Curry in free agency and selected Shareef Miller in the 2019 NFL Draft – Graham is the undisputed leader in that room. The team’s first-round draft pick in 2010, Graham is the energy rod for a defensive end group that wants to play downhill, disruptive defense.
“We’re gonna get after it,” new defensive line coach Phillip Daniels said, “and Brandon is the guy who helps get us going. He’s always upbeat. He’s always ready to get to work. I think he’s in great shape and he looks great. I’m excited to get to work with him in camp and really take this up a notch.”
Entering his 10th season, Graham is coming off a year during which he played 72 percent of the defensive snaps, recording four quarterback sacks. Graham upped his production in the two-game playoff season, chipping into excellent defensive performances with 1.5 quarterbacks sacks. It’s the one that got away – the bouncing football that Graham was unable to recover early in the game against New Orleans – that still nags at Graham, but he’s always done a great job of looking forward with optimism.
“I think we have a chance to do something special, but we also know that we’ve got a lot of work to do and that it’s a long, long season,” Graham said. “I’ve seen what we did in the offseason. Bringing in a guy like Malik (Jackson, defensive tackle) sets the tone for the entire defensive line. The way he works and how he plays, that right there is a good example for all of us.
“We have a lot of hungry players here. You have to look ahead, but at the same time, we feel we left some business on the field last year in the playoffs. So, we’re just trying to put it all together and make us another run. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Graham is in line to start and finish his career in Philadelphia, something that is vitally important to him and to the Eagles. He resisted the temptation of testing free agency and instead signed to stay No. 55 in Midnight Green. The stars are aligning for a big season to come.
In the meantime, Graham has his hands full with two young children and his family in Detroit. He is making sure to stay in great shape, knowing that it all starts on July 24 (report date to the NovaCare Complex) and there is little time to slow down after that.
“We’re going to be pushing to be great. That’s our goal. Be great,” Graham said. “I think we’ve got a lot of pieces, but that all has to come together. For me, I just want to keep getting better and better. I can’t believe that this is my 10th year. So much has happened. But I feel young and I’m full of energy.
“Once we get it started, I’m going to be going out full speed. Then we’ll see what we have for real.”