Jul 242010

July 23 Inquirer

Even when he was clear across the country, Darryl Tapp had an eye on Philadelphia.

“I used to watch the Eagles all the time. I loved their defense,” said Tapp, a defensive end who moved from Seattle to Philadelphia in a March deal. “It’s kind of ironic that I got traded here.”

Tapp, a greagarious lineman who wears a goattee that dangles from his chin, said he loved the team’s aggressive schemes so much so that in Seattle he watched film on the Eagles defenders.

“They let guys go play ball and get after it right now,” Tapp said.

But as eager as Tapp is to join the Eagles’ defensive attack, the Virginia Tech product will have to fight through a crowd to earn playing time this year. One of the toughest training camp battles figures to play out at defensive end, where the Eagles have acquired a bevy of new bodies to go along with last year’s starters, Trent Cole and Juqua Parker.

After picking up Tapp in March, the Eagles moved up in April’s draft to snag another speedy pass rusher, Brandon Graham, with the 13th overall pick. Two rounds later, they nabbed quiet but feisty Washington defensive end Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. In the fifth round, they chose Ricky Sapp, a Clemson speedster who could play linebacker or on the line. In another trade, they landed Alex Hall, a lanky linebacker from Cleveland who has also worked with the defensive line.

“We just felt like we kind of needed to retool [the defensive line] a little bit,” Reid said.

“We firmly believe here that you start with the lines, you want to make sure that they’re strong. If they’re strong, both offense and defense, then the rest of your team will be strong.”

The new names are all looking up at Cole, a Pro Bowler who led the team with 12 1/2 sacks last year, and Parker, who had eight sacks and, at 32, is the most experienced position player on a young team.

“You can’t forget, there’s always somebody that wants your spot and wants your job,” Cole said of the looming competition.

These next few weeks will determine who gets their shot.

Seemingly out of the mix is Victor Abiamiri, who has been beset by injuries and is trying to recover from microfracture surgery.

While the training camp drama typically revolves around who starts, Reid said he is looking for depth that allows him to rotate his defensive linemen and keep them fresh.

“Like hockey, you want two lines, and you want to throw fastballs at the offensive line,” Reid said.

Graham, who cost the Eagles three draft picks, faces the most scrutiny and is expected to push Parker for a starting slot opposite Cole.

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