April 19, 2017

Brandon Graham discusses the state of the Eagles' D-line, and some prospects he likes

Eagles NFL

In case you haven't been following Philadelphia Eagles draft coverage over the last few months, the consensus opinion is that the Birds' two biggest needs are cornerback and defensive end. Read any mock draft and you'll pretty much only see those two positions covered, in addition to the occasional running back.

Brandon Graham, however, does not think that defensive end is a need.

"I’m gonna go with the guys I got in my room right now," he said to reporters at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday. "We always treat (new additions) like family, but I feel like we can get it done with the guys in our room right now."

Graham is the only defensive end "in his room" that observers can be reasonably sure will be a good player in 2017. A look at our projected defensive end depth chart:

Defensive end 
 LDEBrandon Graham Vinny Curry Steven Means 
 RDEChris Long Marcus Smith Alex McCalister 

That's certainly not the worst group, however, in the Eagles' defense, it is imperative that the front four are able to get to the quarterback on their own, as Jim Schwartz does not like to blitz often.

Newly acquired Chris Long is 32, Vinny Curry had a disappointing 2016 season after signing a lucrative contract, and Marcus Smith is heading into the final year of his contract after cementing his status as a draft bust over the last three years. Graham was asked about his defensive end teammates.

• On Chris Long: "This is his style of defense that he's playing. It's not going to be too much of a dropoff (from Connor Barwin)."

• On Vinny Curry: "Vinny's been working hard. I can tell just looking at his body. He's looking real lean, he's looking ready. His mindset is a lot different than last year. He's going into it with a positive attitude. I think for him, he's going to make that leap that we've all been waiting for, and that he's been waiting for."

• On if Marcus Smith can be a guy who gets more involved in the defensive end rotation this year: "I see how hard he's worked. Once we get to camp you really see that flash of who's going to be that guy (to step up), because everybody looks good in OTAs. It's good that everybody comes in, in shape. But camp is really when you can get a good base of what people's mindset is going to be for the year. Are they going to quit when they get tired, or are they going to be that same guy that they were last year, or are they complacent with the same things they did last year? You can just tell with what some people do after practice, what some people do during practice. I'm just waiting to see who that guy is going to be (to step up). Ask me that question again during camp, and I can probably give you a good light of who that guy is."

Graham acknowledged that he watches a lot of college football, and listed a few draft prospects that he likes.

"I like (Tennessee's) Derek Barnett," said Graham. "I've been looking at some of his highlights. I like (Demarcus) Walker from Florida State. He's pretty good. He beat us up at Michigan in the bowl game. I like (Jordan) Willis from Kansas State. I like him. Those three is who I've been watching, because they're big guys, and they're relentless, and they're effort guys."

If the Eagles do indeed draft a defensive end, Graham would not mind.

"I wouldn't be surprised," he said. "I want to bring in whoever is going to help us win. I've been here eight years. I want to be a part of something great, and that's bringing a championship to Philly. Whoever they feel is a fit at that position, I'm just excited to bring them in and welcome them."

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