As the Eagles go through spring workouts, Brandon Graham says he has no limitations.
Roughly eight months removed from rupturing his left Achilles tendon, the 34-year-old defensive end said he’s “doing everything” without issue as the team holds some offseason workouts ahead of OTAs.
“I feel like there hasn’t been a drop-off or anything,” Graham told reporters Wednesday. “Just now, it’s [about] getting into shape shape.”
Graham missed all but two games last season after suffering the season-ending injury against the San Francisco 49ers last September. He was coming off a career year in 2021, and the Eagles’ defensive front struggled in his absence.
The sack production was second-lowest in the league last season and they were just middle-of-the-road against the run. Part of the low pressure numbers was because of Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon preferring off coverage that lets quarterbacks get the ball out quickly, but even third-and-long situations didn’t often yield results for the defensive front.
The unproductive pass rush was one of the biggest question marks going into the offseason and general manager Howie Roseman put significant resources into improving it. The Eagles signed free agent edge rusher Haason Reddick to a three-year contract worth up to $45 million and drafted former Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with the 13th overall pick in the draft last week.
Reddick, 27, had double-digit sacks in each of the last two years with Arizona and Carolina since being moved from inside linebacker to edge rusher. Davis projects more as an early-down player against the run right now, but has some upside as a pass rusher thanks to his size and athleticism.
Graham said he was optimistic about Davis’ potential role on the defensive line, noting the 6-foot-6, 341-pound rookie he called “big boy” should command plenty of attention from interior offensive linemen.
“It gives us great depth,” Graham said. “I’m excited for big boy because he’s going to be taking two or three people with him, hopefully, and taking a lot off of us.
“That’s a big boy for real,” Graham added. “That’s another Jordan Mailata [the 6-8, 365-pound offensive tackle], but on the defensive side. Just can’t wait to see him, man. Can’t wait to kind of pick his brain, see what he knows. From Georgia, watching him, you see it. This boy’s explosive, this boy can run. It’s just all about making sure he can do that at a high level.”
The Eagles used four-man fronts under former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, but Gannon gravitated more toward odd fronts at times in his first season with the team.
Davis mostly played nose tackle in an odd front at Georgia. While the Eagles believe he can play other spots on the interior of the line, Graham noted he’ll give the defense the flexibility to run a true 3-4 front.
“You’ve got big boy up the middle because, 3-4 defense, you need somebody that can take two, maybe three sometimes,” Graham said. “You just want the best available players at positions that we know we were probably weak — not as good, because I went down last year, injuries always happen, you just want to make sure you have depth. ... I think we addressed a lot of that.”
If the Eagles do continue using plenty of odd fronts, Graham could settle in as a 3-4 defensive end at times, lining up directly over offensive tackles or in the “4i” technique shaded just inside of the tackle. At 6-2, 265, he’s better suited for that spot than Josh Sweat or Ryan Kerrigan, who Gannon used there at times last season.
When they start the game with four down linemen and three off-ball linebackers, Graham might not be featured in the starting group for the first time since 2015, depending on whether the team uses Reddick as a defensive end.
Graham said he’ll be fine if he isn’t starting, just as long as he can prove he’s still capable of contributing to the group.
“I’m with whatever,” he said. “For this being my last year, as far as on my deal, I just love the depth that we got. I just want to show that I can still play and I can help this team win. I’m 34, I still got a lot to prove because I didn’t play last year, but I know my role can change and I’m cool with that.”
Graham said he didn’t contemplate retirement during his grueling rehab process; instead he spent the offseason to this point envisioning himself winning the NFL’s comeback player of the year award.
If the Eagles won a Super Bowl next season, it would give him “something to think about,” regarding retirement.
He also spent a couple of days sweating out the team’s decision to release Cox while they worked out a new contract that pushed salary cap ramifications into future years. The two have shared a defensive-line room since 2012 and could be entering the final year of their partnership, something that isn’t lost on Graham.
“I know it’s a business at the end of the day,” Graham said. “I thought it was more so money stuff, but I was nervous at first, I’m not going to lie. Me and Fletch been together for a long time, man. If anything, I love that we all got another year together and I’m just going to keep cherishing the moments.”