A defensive lineman's job is equivalent to a continuous pre-COVID ride on SEPTA during rush hour – a lot of contact. Every play, he's hit by one or two offensive linemen, who are sometimes helped with the block from a tight end or a running back.
That makes his ability to play well game in and game out invaluable. The Eagles have two defensive ends in their history, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, who define the word reliable.
"Thank God that He's given me all the ability to be able to go do my job every day," Graham says. "And for me, I've got to make that choice to do it every day. So, I'm thankful for that and the people that I got to meet along the way, that helped me during the hard times."
"You know what you mean to the team and you know how much you give to the team as a player," Cole says. "I've always been told I bring a contagiousness with my motor. How I'm going to go and the way I played, how aggressive I played. People feed off that."
Cole spent 10 seasons with the Eagles from 2005-14, and until last Sunday, held the franchise record for most games played by a defensive lineman – 155. In Philadelphia's win over New Orleans, Graham played in his 156th game as an Eagle.
"It's just a number," Cole says. "He knows what he needs to go do. He needs to go out there and be the best that he can be and get as many sacks as he can get, and as many tackles as he can make. And make sure that he leaves with no regrets."
Cole's advice is similar to something a young Graham would have told himself.
"Make sure that you don't take no days for granted," Graham says. "Make sure that you practice hard every day, and just have fun. Enjoy that moment of being in the league for whatever season it is."
The two were teammates for five seasons after Graham was chosen in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Cole was in his sixth year, and Graham quickly impressed the veteran.
"Everybody's different, but there's one thing. Brandon's an aggressive player," Cole says. "He has that, 'I want to go get it. I want to win.' He has that winning mentality, 'I'm not going to be beat and I'm going to beat anything that's in front of me or whoever that competes against me.'
"He's not going to let off. He doesn't care what it is, or any time of day, he's coming. He's going to come with everything he's got."
Cole's playing style could have been described the same way.
"When I'm lining up against somebody, I'm not worried about him. I'm competing with myself. I'm not in competition with an opponent," says Cole. "I remember when Chip Kelly (became the Eagles' head coach in 2013) saying something like, 'We won the war, but we have to win the battle.' And when he said that, I already had that mentality and it kind of brought me back to where I come from and coming into the league and playing football, in general.
"I was always a tougher guy from grade school, all the way through high school to college to the NFL. I competed against myself. I was going to see how far I could take myself. I wanted to be successful as much as I could and there was no limit to how much I could be successful. That was just something that was instilled in me.
"That's how I thought. Every day's a new day. Every game's a new game. If I did good this game, OK, I'm going to outdo what I did this game going into the next game and try to outdo that performance."