Brandon Graham eager for 'big day' with pads

Brandon Graham said it will be a big test to see what he can do with the pads on. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – There are few Eagles more excited for hitting to begin on Saturday afternoon than Brandon Graham, the 2010 first-round pick who has underachieved in his first two seasons with the team. And after a particularly forgettable 2011, Graham views the start of hitting as the start of 2012.

“It’s a real big day,” Graham said after Saturday’s practice. “It’s going to be a real test for me. I’m hyped, excited for it.”

Graham impressed on the first day of camp, which he viewed as a testament to the shape that he’s in. The caveat, of course, is that most players look good in individual drills and without pads on. Graham obviously has talent; otherwise, he wouldn’t been drafted where he was. He needs to apply that talent, though, and that is what awaits this season.

“I look good when we’re doing it out in individual,” Graham said, “but when team comes, that’s where I need to get better at it.”

Graham has only 16 tackles and three sacks in two seasons, mostly because of a knee injury that eliminated almost the entire 2011 campaign. When Graham was asked for a breakout player on the Eagles this season, he quickly answered “Brandon Graham,” before letting out a hearty laugh.

But the enthusiasm for 2012 is palpable for Graham. He said he might run all the way to the tunnel in celebration of his first sack. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo described Graham as motivated to prove naysayers incorrect in their assessments of him, a sentiment that Graham concurred with. But that is only meaningful if it is applied to the field, and Graham views the beginning of that process as Saturday’s first practice with pads.

“I know what I can do, and I know what I’m going to do,” Graham said. “I’d like to show it today because it’s a little glimpse of what I’m going to do this year.”