In the 2010 offseason the Philadelphia Eagles have surrounded themselves with young veteran and rookie top-end talents on the defensive side of the ball, specifically the defensive line, to take some of the pressure off two-time Pro Bowl DE Trent Cole.
As we all know, the Eagles selected a premier rookie talent at the left end position in Brandon Graham after trading with the Denver Broncos, sending their 24th overall pick and both third round picks (70th and 87th) to move up 11 spots to No. 13 in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
They also added Washington product Daniel Te'o-Nesheim with the 86th overall pick, who Eagle fans should not overlook, and second round prospect Ricky Sapp out of Clemson, who remarkably slipped to the fifth round. Sapp can also be a potential linebacker but is better suited as a DE in a 4-3 defensive scheme.
They also acquired former Seattle Seahawks DE backup Darryl Tapp in a trade that involved Eagles backup DE Chris Clemons and a 2010 fourth round draft pick.
I figured Tapp to be the starter opposite of Cole—that is, until the draft.
Tapp, entering his fifth year, is another defensive end who is on the small side (6'1", 270 lbs.) for the position. That did not stop him, however, from producing nice numbers as a backup on the Seahawks roster.
In his four-year stint with the Seahawks, Tapp notched 186 tackles (149 solo), 18 sacks, eight forced fumbles, and two INTs, one of which he returned for six.
Even said, there isn't a molecule in my body that tells me Eagle fans won't see Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as their starters at defensive end in 2010, and if that is in fact the case, how much better will Cole be?
Notice I said "will" and not can!
If Graham can become the type of threat we all hope he will become, opposing defenses will no longer be able apply a double-team on Cole. Graham is already being compared to Cole or former Eagle Hugh Douglas for his size (6'1", 268 lbs.) and also his style of play.
Since Cole has always been double-teamed since day one and still has become a two-time Pro Bowler, just think of how seemingly effortlessly he will be able to get to the quarterback now that he won't be double-teamed.
Cole isn't the only one who will benefit from Graham's presence, however. Brodrick Bunkley, who is a five-year veteran, and Mike Patterson, entering his sixth season, could also benefit from him as well, which would be an added bonus to say the least.
In 2009 Bunkley had only one sack on five QB hurries, and Patterson had 1.5 sacks on six QB hurries.
Both players need to show signs of improvement in their pass-rushing game in 2010, and having Graham in the mix should make both of them better. If they don't, seventh round pick (243rd overall) Jeff Owens could end up seeing some legitimate playing time in his rookie season.
The Eagles also have DT Antonio Dixon (6'3", 322 lbs.) who really opened some eyes in 2009 when he got a chance to get on the field last season. Dixon originally joined the league as a rookie free agent in 2009 of the Washington Redskins before being cut in the roster trim.
However, Cole is the one who will be benefited the most by having as a true complement a pass rusher like Graham, who also attacks the run game nicely.
The same could be said for Graham as well.
Since he does possess a terrific skill set and is coming to a team like the Philadelphia Eagles, who already have one Pro Bowl DE, as long as Graham can learn the playbook, he should be successful in the Eagles defense.
Mini-camp is just a short time away, when the Eagles will get their first true look at Brandon Graham, and then fans will be able to see for themselves at this year's training camp, which is always held at Lehigh Valley.