August 25 Philadelphia Daily News
“BETWEEN THE sidelines, it might not make a big difference. Brandon Graham and Juqua Parker always figured to split time at left defensive end. Which one gets designated to take the first snap of the game is a technicality.
But the symbolism is striking. Graham, the first-round rookie from Michigan, will start Friday night’s preseason game at Kansas City. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott acknowledged under questioning that this is not because Parker has an ankle sprain, which kept him out of practice yesterday. It’s because Graham has had an excellent training camp.
“It’s about an overall vision for the defense,” McDermott said. “It’s about getting guys on the field that we think are our future and will help us make plays and help us get to where we want to be as an organization.”
Since Andy Reid took over the Eagles in 1999, only defensive tackle Corey Simon (in 2000) and safety Macho Harris (last year) have been Week 1 rookie starters on defense. Right now, it sure looks like Graham and second-round rookie safety Nate Allen will double that total, when the Birds take the field against visiting Green Bay on Sept. 12.
This move reinforces the youth-movement theme that has dominated the Eagles’ offseason and preseason. Parker, 32, was the only over-30 starter on McDermott’s defense this year. In fact, if 30-year-old center Jamaal Jackson doesn’t make it back from his knee injury for the opener, the Eagles probably won’t start anybody who isn’t a 20-something, excluding kicker David Akers and punter Sav Rocca.
“It’s a new situation for us,” McDermott said. “But it’s also a credit to the organization, a credit to the players and the coaches at the same time” that two rookies are ready to start.
Someone asked Trent Cole yesterday what it’s like, having Graham at the other d-end spot.
“It’s great,” said Cole, who tends not to be real wishy-washy on such matters. “I see greatness. I see us having a great time this season, flying around the ball, making plays, sacks, celebrating after sacks. I see it all; I can picture it right now. We’re going to be patient; make our way through this preseason, and see what happens during the season.”
Asked if he feels any different now as a starter, Graham said, “A little bit – like more is expected of me. It’s good to hear coach Reid be on me a little more. It’s like now I know they see that I have the potential to really do something great here. I’m starting to see it a little bit more, and I want to make sure I just continue to keep making strides.”
Graham said the change was made before Sunday’s practice, the first since the Eagles’ preseason game at Cincinnati, in which Graham played very well, working inside as a pass-rush tackle and outside as an end.”
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