The recent news out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is that Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin has suffered a partial tear in his calf muscle, which will sideline him for a minimum of two to three weeks.
Fortunately for the Eagles, this injury occurred during training camp, and Babin should definitely be at full strength by the time the start of the regular season rolls around.
What this really does more than anything, though, is to open up chances for the backups, none more so than Brandon Graham. Graham was a first-round pick of the Eagles in the 2010 NFL draft, as the Eagles traded up to the 13th overall selection to draft the University of Michigan standout—passing on Jason Pierre-Paul in the process—and Graham has done very little so far to make the team feel good about its selection.
He registered three sacks in limited playing time as a rookie and then tore his ACL late in the season and began 2011 on the PUP list, then didn’t register any sacks in the three games in which he did play. Graham’s 1.5 sack per season average really isn’t anything to brag about, although he did suffer a very serious injury in his rookie campaign and it took him some time to rebound.
That being said, there are no more excuses for Graham. He was picked in the first half of the first round of the ’10 draft, and he should be racking up double-digit sacks in no time.
The Eagles picked defensive linemen with each of their first two picks in the 2012 draft—first taking University of Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and then selecting University of Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry in the second round. Maybe Andy Reid is sending Graham a message that he is moving on from him after his two disappointing campaigns thus far, or maybe he is just stockpiling his defensive line full of talented bodies, as has been a trademark of Reid’s during his tenure as the team’s coach.
It’s likely the latter of the two, but Graham will now be given an opportunity to work with the first team defense in training camp with Babin out. He is surrounded by star teammates on the defensive line in Cole, Cox, Cullen Jenkins and quality backups in Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon, Darryl Tapp, Curry and Phillip Hunt.
Graham doesn’t need to register 12 sacks and six forced fumbles to be considered a success in 2012, but he does need to make major strides, or it may be impossible for him to shake the bust cries that will surely follow him everywhere he goes.