This off-season, the Eagles made a concerted effort to improve their pass rush. Gone from last year's team are defensive ends Darren Howard, Chris Clemons and Jason Babin. In their place are rookie defensive ends Brandon Graham, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Ricky Sapp, along with imported veterans Darryl Tapp and Alex Hall.
But will any of those players start? Well on the right you've got Pro Bowler Trent Cole; he's obviously not going anywhere. And while Graham is expected to make an early impact, likely as a pass-rushing specialist in third-down situations, he's not atop the depth chat at left defensive end. That status belongs to Juqua Parker, who has become the forgotten man of sorts on the defense.
Parker, 32, is the oldest position player on the team, but that doesn't mean he's no longer productive. Parker was second on the team last season with 8.0 sacks, the highest total of his nine-year career. So excuse Parker if he's not yet willing to cede his starting spot to the rookie first-round pick just yet. And yet, Parker is also willing to impart whatever veteran wisdom he can on his precocious young teammates.
"I think they're coming along pretty good," Parker said smiling, following it up with the coy statement: "We're going to be pretty decent this year."
The influx of young legs along the defensive line should have a positive impact on Parker this season, as it will allow the 6-foot-2, 250-pound veteran to keep his own legs fresh and maximize his reps. In the second season under defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, Parker expects a defense that ranked sixth according to Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA metric to make a significant step up this season.
I expect us "to play fast and just be around the ball like we've been doing and also to enjoy playing the game," Parker said.
The defense should begin to come together this summer during a training camp that is 23 days long, almost a week longer than last season. And while Parker acknowledges the necessity and benefit of the intense Andy Reid training camp, especially with such a young team, that doesn't mean he's exactly excited about going through the grind.
"It's much longer this year," he said. "I'm not really look forward to it, but everybody has to go through it so it's okay."
Until then, Parker will spend the next month or so working out so that he'll be in shape when he does arrive in Lehigh and spending time with his family. And that's exactly what his parting advice was to his new teammates.
"It's going to be a long, long training camp," Parker said of what he told the rookies," so just be prepared."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 6:45 p.m., June 19