Graham is ready to 'cause havoc'

Signed at last, the Eagles' defensive end and top draft pick reported in time for the first full-team practice.

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Brandon Graham worked with the second team at left defensive end, behind veteran Juqua Parker.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Brandon Graham wore his trademark smile that Eagles fans will see often this year and the 54 jersey he hopes quarterbacks get to know.

After signing his contract early Friday, Graham joined his new teammates at Lehigh for the first full-team practice of training camp.

Clearly understanding what he was drafted for, Graham wrote on his Twitter account Thursday night, "I'm about to cause havoc and kill QBs!!"

Graham worked with the second team at left defensive end on Friday, behind veteran Juqua Parker. The two, along with trade acquisition Darryl Tapp, are likely to battle for playing time, although coach Andy Reid stressed that he values having multiple defensive ends he can rotate into games.

"I know it is a business and everybody, at the end of the day, wants to be out there and be that guy," Graham said. "I know I got to step it up, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to go out there and be in my [play]book every night."

Parker, who has nine years in the NFL, knows many eyes will be on him because of the Eagles big investment in Graham. The team traded three picks in order to move up and select Graham 13th overall.

Parker said he would stay focused on his own game.

"I really don't care who they bring in here, and I'm pretty sure that the people they bring here don't care about me," Parker said of the competition. "If my game falls off, then OK, but I don't see that happening [any] time soon. I know they drafted somebody. I know he's going to have to get some type of playing time. . . . I don't have no problem with it as long as I get playing time."

Tapp also sounded prepared to fight for a spot.

"If you're not gunning for a starting job, why play? Nobody wants to come out here to be a second person," Tapp said. Even if a player falls short, he will still end up in good shape for the season with that mentality, he said.

No matter who starts, it appears likely that there will be opportunities for any defensive end on the roster.

"You know my feeling on the defensive line. If I can come out of there with eight guys that can play, two at each spot, I'm great with that," Reid said. "If there's more, the more the merrier. You can't have enough good defensive linemen. So I like to rotate those guys and throw those fastballs at the offense."

Graham sat out three days of practice that were for rookies and just a few veterans due to his contract talks but said he was eager to join the team.

"I talked to players every day, just to let them know that I wished I was there, let them know that I'm not being selfish, it's just the business part of it, and they understood," he said. "I just felt bad because I wish I could be out there and I don't want to feel like I'm better than anybody."

He said fellow rookie defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim kept him updated on camp and advised him to arrive in shape and with his playbook well-memorized.

Graham, in the end, missed no hitting and no practices with pads.

He said his agent, Joel Segal, told him that he wasn't realistically going to make it to the rookie portion of camp as contract negotiations across the NFL dragged on. Graham said his goal was to arrive at the same time as the veterans, when full-scale practices and hitting begin.

While the missed time was relatively small, some of the rookies who have been here said they learned much from having more practice repetitions and time with coaches.

Graham, however, was not worried about the time missed. He said he stayed in shape by working out with his former teammates at Michigan as he tries to win a bet to tighten his stomach and shed the "fatboy" nickname his college teammates gave him.

Despite any extra bulk he may have carried, Graham made his name in college as a speed rusher who could race around offensive linemen and get to the quarterback.

He said he wants to work on his technique more now that he is in the NFL. He has six weeks to do it before the games count.

 


Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214

or jtamari@phillynews.com.