Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are two of the best defensive linemen in franchise history with the former still a key part of the deepest defensive line rotation in the NFL in Year No. 14 and the latter still leading the interior defensive line room despite the presence of budding superstars Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter.
“Heck, yeah,” Graham said this week when asked if the young defensive linemen have rejuvenated the crafty old vets. “I see Fletch going out there balling because he sees those boys on his butt, and I know for me, too. Even for me being in year 14, I know I don’t have long left, but I won’t make it easy for you, either.”
The Eagles have gone five deep on the edge through the first three games with Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Graham, Derek Barnett, and rookie Nolan Smith. They are even deeper inside with Cox, Davis, Carter, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, and Kentavius Street.
The depth has lightened the load for the veterans, enabling them to still have their fastballs late in games.
“Right now, I feel like I haven’t played too much of the season even though I played some plays,” said Graham. “I just feel like I’m the ace in the hole waiting to be played when it comes. I feel it will come at the right time and I know for me I’m just enjoying every moment of it because we’re already in October.
“Time is flying.”
Through three games Graham has 55 reps, behind the starters, Sweat (131) Reddick (128), and ahead of Barnett (41) and Smith (19). On the interior Cox (126) is still leading the charge followed by Carter (89), Davis (73), Williams (73), Tuipulotu (21), and Street (16).
Graham has embraced stepping back a bit from star to closer.
“I try to block out the noise,” he said. “Yeah, I might not be playing as much but I love pouring into the young guys. I had my time. I might get a moment where I get a sack here or there or a strip sack, and I love that, but right now I’m just more focused on trying to make sure the guys are ready, making sure stuff I see I help them out.
“I just want to win another (Super Bowl).”
Graham is also intent on paying his time and success with this organization forward and is hopeful that the baton will be grabbed by the young stars with the cycle reproducing time and time again.
“They motivate me because I know they’re the ones up and coming,” Graham said of the young talent. “I want to show them how you practice, how you do stuff, just how you’re supposed to take care of your business so when I come back I’m like, ‘hey, I hope you boys are doing the same thing I was doing,’ passing it on because that’s the only way you’re going to be better.
“Open your heart and want so see somebody else win, too, better, because when they win, you win.”