Brandon Graham can bench-press 225 pounds in 28 repetitions faster than any other outside linebacker on the Eagles. He can push a 20-pound medicine ball in an allotted amount of time farther than anyone else at his position.

Connor Barwin called Graham "probably the strongest guy on our team." Asked to name an intangible the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Graham has that offsets what he lacks in length, coach Chip Kelly said: "His power."

If it weren't for his strength, along with some freakish athleticism, the stout Graham probably wouldn't be back for a sixth season in Philadelphia. Kelly got rid of most of the last vestiges of the Andy Reid-Howie Roseman era this offseason, including Graham's predecessor, Trent Cole.

And it seemed likely for a time that Graham, who doesn't match all of Kelly's size-specific parameters, would also depart. He struggled in Year 1 of the transition to a 3-4 defensive front, but by Year 2 he had become one of the more productive outside linebackers in the league, per snap.

"I just thought that it was going to be really tougher for me to get out there because I would hear [about my size] . . . but I wanted to prove to [Kelly] that I'm just as good as somebody that's taller than me," Graham said. "As long as I get the job done the same way, what else could you ask for?"

But Graham was drafted to be a 4-3 defensive end. His size and skill-set seemed better-suited to rushing the passer and defending against the run from a three-point stance. If he was hitting free agency, as he did in March, wasn't he more likely to get better offers from 4-3 teams?

"That was in the back of my mind when we first hit free agency," Graham said Friday. "All I was worried about first was if they wanted me back here, because I know what we have here, how special it is. . . . And then I was thinking, 'Man, if it [doesn't] work out here, I'm definitely going back to a 4-3.' "

But the Eagles wanted to retain Graham, especially after they couldn't come to a (cheaper) agreement with Cole, who signed with the Colts and their 4-3 defense. Cole and offensive lineman Todd Herremans - the two longest-tenured Eagles before they were released in the offseason - will face their old team Sunday in the preseason opener.

And Graham, who is now the fourth-longest-tenured Eagle, will be on the other side of the field. Cole didn't exactly fit the Eagles' outside linebacker mold, either. But Kelly isn't dogmatic, and besides, he said, Graham crossed off most of the requirements.

"The only thing he's short [in] is just height, but weight-wise he does; arm length he does; and strength numbers we look at, he does," Kelly said. "He fits all of those. He's just not the height that you want. But I think his arm length and his power and his weight are exactly what we're looking for."

Graham's arms are actually not long. He was measured at 321/4 inches at the NFL combine in 2010, which was in the 27th percentile for outside linebackers. The 6-4 Barwin (331/8-inch arms) and the 6-5 Bryan Braman have Kelly's desired length for the position, especially when it comes to setting the edge from a two-point stance.

But Graham, who had 131/2 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles last season, was able to use his strength against edge run blockers.

"He can really set an edge and turn the ball back inside, especially in the run game," Kelly said. "Sometimes when you're taking a shorter outside linebacker, you worry about them being able to set the edge, but he's outstanding at that."

The Eagles want their outside linebackers to, in order of importance, set the edge, rush the passer, and drop into coverage. Graham worked to improve as a run defender, but getting after the quarterback has always been his bread and butter. And his height - a generously listed 6-2 - has hardly been a detriment.

"Being short at this position is a plus for me, because a lot of guys don't like to bend down," said Graham, who had 51/2 sacks last season. "There's a lot of guys that I go against that are 6-6, 6-7, but I feel like I can hang with them because I'm as strong as them."

Graham said he routinely wins power output contests the Eagles hold in the weight room. It's never about how much but how fast or how far. Barwin, who grew up in Detroit around the same time, said Graham's physical exploits were renowned even when he was in high school.

"I remember hearing about him growing up in the same area," Barwin said. "He was always physically superior. It's really no different now. He's probably pound-for-pound the strongest guy on our team, which makes a huge difference on the field."

Endurance will be the next test for Graham. He played 43 percent of the snaps last season, up from 27 percent in 2013, but he also had fewer special-teams responsibilities. Cole played 69 percent last season, and the Eagles aren't deep at outside linebacker after Travis Long's season-ending knee injury and uncertainty about Marcus Smith.

"I know I can be an all-down guy," Graham said. "It's just all about can I stay out there long? Can I keep the intensity up? . . . That's my challenge for myself."

He keeps winning challenges. Why not another?

@Jeff_McLane