Brandon Graham said today he is the starting left defensive end for this week's preseason game against Kansas City. In the long run, regardless of who starts, the first-round pick probably will continue to split snaps with veteran Juqua Parker, who sat out practice today with an ankle sprain, but the official recognition of Graham's strong preseason play is significant.
"That's what training camp is, an opportunity to check out different combinations, evaluate personnel, and see where we're best," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said after practice. "In this case, Brandon's going to have a shot to start, and we'll take a look at it from there."
McDermott stressed that Parker isn't going anywhere.
"He has a huge role on this defense," McDermott said. "J.P.'s played great football to this point. Like I mentioned earlier in camp, I believe he set a career high in sacks (with 8) last year. We've got two good football players at that position."
Asked if he feels any different now as a starter, Graham said, "A little bit - like more is expected of me. It's good to hear coach (Andy) Reid be on me a little more. It's like now I know they see that I have the potential to really do something great here. I'm starting to see it a little bit more, and I want to make sure I just continue to keep making strides."
Earlier, Graham, listed at 6-2, 268, said: "A lot of people say I'm small, but I feel like I'm one of the strongest guys out there." He said earlier in training camp he had bulked up an additional 10 pounds.
Graham has gotten a lot of work inside lately, as a pass-rushing tackle, similar to ex-Eagle Darren Howard. Graham said he likes the fact that playing inside sets you up one-on-one with a guard, rather than outside against a possible double team.
Graham said he walked in Sunday, the first day of practice after Friday night's preseason game at Cincinnati, and saw he was with the first team on the defense's depth chart. The depth chart released Monday to the media still reflects Parker as the starter.
Meanwhile, David Akers' injured heel should be fine for KC, special teams coordinator Bobby April said today, but Akers again did not practice..
April also talked about the competition for the kick return spot. Ellis Hobbs had the job last year when his season ended early, with a neck injury. Quintin Demps could be the guy, perhaps to guard against injury to Hobbs, who is expected to start at corner.
April said that despite the kickoff coverage problems the Eagles have had, he really likes this rookie class, from a special teams perspective. "They're learning all the time," he said. "Some of the guys don't have a whole lot of experience at this."
April said rookie corner Trevard Lindley has been especially impressive, that without some of the plays Lindley has made, "we'd REALLY be talking about kickoff coverage."
Eagles safety Marlin Jackson, on injured reserve since tearing his Achilles' tendon in a June OTA workout, spoke to reporters today for the first time since his injury. Jackson, disconsolate at the time, was trying to come back from ACL injuries that ended his 2008 and 2009 seasons prematurely.
Jackson said he has recovered his range of motion but is working to strengthen the calf, immobile for weeks after the surgery.
"I needed to get that out," Jackson said, when asked about his loud lamentation after he went down. Jackson sat on the NovaCare indoor facility turf, yelling in protest as trainers and coaches tried to comfort him. "So I could move on past that and get back to continue to work -- when you work on something for so long and so hard, then you can have it taken away like that, it's going to be an emotional thing. I don't think it's healthy to try and hold that in. There's no reason to. You've got to let it out and let it go so you can move on."
The only thing I found really interesting in that Donovan McNabb GQ interview was his contention that the Eagles organization didn't support him vociferously enough against his critics, even in his early years. I covered McNabb from 2002 until the April trade with Washington, so I'm missing a few early chapters there, but basically, that's about 180 degrees from the way I experienced it.
The way I remember things, Andy Reid was often faulted for not being frank about McNabb's occasional less-than-stellar performances. There might have been some instances where things could have been handled more adroitly -- I remember Reid once telling me he thought he'd let the T.O. McNabb-trashing campaign go on too long, before getting T.O. out of the locker room -- but overall, I really don't see that complaint. It's as over-the-top as some of the criticism was.
The complaint reinforces my feeling that McNabb had an overwhelming, beyond-the-norm need to be "the guy," the face of the franchise, and that it really, really bothered him anytime there was the slightest hint that might not continue to be the case. I've long felt the drafting of Kevin Kolb in 2007 fundamentally changed McNabb's relationship with the organization, more than it needed to.
McNabb's GQ lament almost sounds like he thought the Eagles could have stopped all those people from writing and saying bad things about him, which is just silly.