A joyous sight: Brandon Graham once again unleashing havoc
Friday night marked a momentous occasion for players like the rookies who stepped onto the field in game action – albeit the preseason – for the first time.
It was also a splendid evening because the longest-tenured professional athlete in the City of Philadelphia looked as spry as ever.
Defensive end Brandon Graham made his return to the field 327 days after rupturing his Achilles in nearly the same area of the field.
No. 55 got low and exploded out of his stance, using his unique leverage at 6-foot-2 and his raw energy to push the pocket. Motivated by the fact that he's 34 years old, Graham is on a mission to play at the Pro Bowl level he did in his last full season of 2020.
"It felt good being with the guys," Graham said after the game. "Just being in the locker room before the game, it was just that feeling when you know you're going to play the game. Because I used to be in that locker room just getting the boys encouraged because I knew I wasn't going to play until the following season. To be here now, I'm just enjoying the moment."
Don't tell Graham that Friday night's preseason game was meaningless. Not whatsoever.
A special homecoming for Kyzir White
A native of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, linebacker Kyzir White flashed his playmaking ability in his preseason debut for the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
On the Jets' opening drive, White perfectly read and intercepted a Zach Wilson pass intended for wide receiver Corey Davis. White, known as a speedy linebacker in his first four NFL seasons with the Chargers, dashed to the Jets' 20-yard line after a 27-yard gain. The Eagles tacked on a Jason Huntley touchdown to extend their first-quarter lead to 14-0.
"I was just a hole player, and I was playing visual on (Wilson)," White said. "I saw it in his demeanor where he was going to go with the ball. Just tried to spring and make a play on it."
Apparently, White knew something big was in store before the game. Fellow linebackers Nakobe Dean and Haason Reddick said White called his shot before the game.
"Getting my feet wet. Family and friends in attendance, so I always want to go out there and put a show on," White said. It's definitely a good start for me, but I've got to keep building and keep getting better each and every day."
Jordan Mailata comes to the defense of his QB
When it was pointed out to him that he was wearing a Jalen Hurts T-shirt in the locker room after Friday night's preseason opener, tackle Jordan Mailata beamed with pride over the Eagles' starting quarterback, making sure the cameras around him got a glimpse of the threads.
Just a few hours earlier, Mailata came to Hurts' defense after the quarterback was leveled out of bounds by Jets linebacker Quincy Williams drawing a flag. Mailata immediately ran over to let Williams know that he had no business messing with his quarterback.
"There's no room for dirty play in the NFL, especially not to my QB," Mailata said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for Jalen, and I think it's just natural for us to defend our QB."
The Eagles hosted the New York Jets for a little Friday night football in the preseason opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
Cam Jurgens fills in nicely at center
The Eagles' center on Friday night got out in space on screens and displayed the rare athleticism that fans have come to know from that position over the years.
However, it wasn't the veteran ironman Jason Kelce. It was second-round pick Cam Jurgens, who stepped in as Kelce is recovering from an elbow cleanout procedure earlier this week.
"They've been doing that with Kelce for years," Jurgens said about playing in space. "It's a great system to be in. I feel like that's stuff I excel at."
Saddled between Sua Opeta at left guard, who started for the injured Landon Dickerson, and Isaac Seumalo at right guard, Jurgens helped lead the offense down the field 80 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, a 22-yard reception by tight end Dallas Goedert from quarterback Jalen Hurts.
"I haven't played football in a while. Get into a game and you score on your first drive; nothing better than that," Jurgens said. "Especially your first game in the NFL, that's pretty surreal."
Jurgens appreciated that the veterans have made him feel at home since the start of Training Camp. He was comfortable making the calls. On the sideline, the All-Pro Kelce was there to offer his perspective of what was happening on the field.
As good as the debut was, Jurgens is not thinking of trying to fill the shoes of one of the greatest linemen in franchise history.
"Yeah, I'm not thinking about that," Jurgens said. "I'm just thinking about how to go out there and play the best game."