“I think linebacker is where I’m going to be — outside linebacker,” said Graham in a phone conversations with Birds 24/7.
Graham says he played at around 270-275 last season. He is in the process of trying to get down to around 260 so he can move better in space.
It has been a while, but the former first-round pick does have some experience at linebacker. He played MIKE in high school at Crockett Technical, and was considered one of the top linebacker prospects in the country by his senior season.
He was moved to defensive end at Michigan, though, and has had his hand in the ground ever since.
“Brandon was a middle linebacker so he’s been up on two feet, he’s done it before,” said new Eagles outside linebackers coach Bill McGovern. “What we want to find out is, if a guy can stand up and go, great. If a guy can stand up and go and drop, even better. If a guy can do it all, that’s what you want.”
Chip Kelly, on record as saying he prefers a 3-4, has been reluctant to commit to a defensive scheme for 2013 because he wants to see what his players’ capabilities are first. Part of his evaluation process will be figuring out whether guys like Graham, Trent Cole and Vinny Curry can be asked to drop into coverage.
As Sheil has done an excellent job explaining, one or more of these players can be used in a “Predator” role if the Eagles deploy a 4-3 under, where they would be almost exclusively rushing the passer. The opposite outside linebacker would be asked to drop more; same for a traditional OLB post in a 3-4.
Graham is confident he can adapt to whatever is asked of him.
“I think once I get in the groove it will come natural for me,” he said. “I’m just trying to be prepared for whatever. At the end of the day I am a ballplayer – I’ll adjust and find a way to get out on the field.”
Graham is again working with his former trainer at Michigan Mike Barwis, who helped transform him into the world’s strongest Eagle last offseason. The intense training regimen, which includes a healthy dose of boxing, built the foundation for his bounce-back 2012 season after a disappointing, injury-riddled start to his career. Motivated to keep the arrow pointing upwards, he took virtually no time off and was back in Barwis’ gym by mid-January.
Interestingly enough, Graham trains with LaMarr Woodley. The Steelers standout also played defensive end at Michigan, and was able to make the transition to a 3-4 outside linebacker in a big way. Graham has long been eager for the Eagles to switch over to a 3-4, in part because he sees the success his friend has had in the scheme.
Prior to the 2010 draft, analyst Mike Mayock compared the two.
“I kind of like him at 3-4 outside linebacker,” said Mayock of Graham. “The first time I put a tape on, he reminded me an awful lot of Woodley. They both were tremendously stout against the run and they had some explosion getting up the field.”
Mayock was not alone – there were plenty of experts that believed Graham was best suited for a 3-4. It looks like we’ll have the opportunity to see if they were right.
Graham has demonstrated some versatility in the past. In high school he was not only the team’s middle linebacker, but also played on the offensive line, got some totes at running back and was served as the punter and kicker as well.
A fun video below showing the last time Graham had “linebacker” attached to his name.