INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the biggest problems for the Eagles recently has been drafting big-time defensive players. While the Eagles passed on Jason Pierre-Paul -- who has gone on to become a star with the Giants -- high picks such as Brandon Graham and Jaiquawn Jarrett have made little impact and Nate Allen has been up and down, at best.
Back at the Combine, where presumably general manager Howie Roseman will again be looking at players who could upgrade the defense, he talked up the possibilities for his recent picks, and called on each to improve in 2012.
"To tell you that we know exactly what they’re going to be at this point, they know that they’ve got to step up their game and they’re looking forward to it, but the work ethic is there. They want to be great players and we’ve seen it out of them," Roseman said, speaking specifically about Graham and Allen.
On Jarrett he said: "You get a guy in like that who's a rookie and doesn’t have a lot of offseason and maybe it’s a bigger adjustment than we thought. He's been in lifting already and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder and what we’re really looking to see and we’ve told him is the nastiness, the stuff that we saw in college that he had and playing fast and I think that’s a product of knowing what you’re doing."
Unless Graham, Allen and Jarrett show improvement, the 2010 and 2011 trio could follow in the footsteps of other recent disappointing defensive picks such as Trevor Laws, Victor Abiamiri, Steward Bradley and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
Roseman, though, noted that Graham and Allen have been slowed by injuries after what he said were fast starts, and hopes that Jarrett will improve with a full offseason to prepare. Much of the discussion with reporters focused on Graham, the 13th overall pick in 2010.
"We have high expectations for Brandon Graham," Roseman said. "When he came into training camp he was unbelievably productive, in fact he became a starter because of his production in training camp."
But an early high ankle sprain -- "that's a tough injury," Roseman said, was followed by a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"We knew this year was going to be a struggle for him," Roseman said. (Allen, too, suffered a serious knee injury as a rookie and was slowed last season).
As to why the Eagles chose Graham over Pierre-Paul, Roseman elaborated on some recent comments about that big decision in 2010.
"We went into the draft knowing that those two were going to be very good players. What sold us on Brandon was his production. He was productive for four years, he was a two-time team captain, he played in a big-time conference, and that’s not taking away from any other defensive ends that were drafted, but we felt very comfortable that he fit what were trying to do on defense, great character guy, he had the work ethic to succeed."
Graham, in particular, is aware of the JPP comparisons and "sees that out there and he wants more for himself."
While Graham and Allen have at least showed glimpses of what they could be, Jarrett hardly saw the field in 2011, despite the Eagles' need for safety help, and made little impression when he did play. He was invisible on special teams. Roseman made clear that the team expects more and said he believes a full offseason will help Jarrett be the big-hitter the team touted when they picked him.
"The more he’s around, the has an offseason, the better chance he has of being that kind of player," he said.