Graham Preparing For Move To Linebacker

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham.In another sign that some version of the 3-4 is on its way, Brandon Graham is preparing himself this offseason for a change of position.

“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.

  • Sensei

    I really wish Graham had another season in a traditional 4-3 to build off of his momentum from last season just curious to see what he would have done

    • xlGmanlx

      Same, but I just have a feeling this regime will be better equipped to squeeze even more production out of what looked live a very promising season to build off of. I look at it like we have an idea of what he can become, lets see what Chip and Co can do to take him to the next level.

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

      If you enjoy seeing a disruptive component on a defense, you would have loved watching Graham play DE at Michigan. Graham was a stand out in the Big 10. There was no question why the Eagles drafted this kid, shame he got hurt, but he’s doing well now. Eagles fans can put away any concerns about what Graham is going to give you week in and week out. I’m just hoping that Curry has the same kind of fire in his belly. Graham and Cox coming from the same side, if Cox gets one on one blocking, he’s going to be a hail storm in another year. Cox and Graham could be a solid combination.

  • xlGmanlx

    I don’t doubt he can make it work. Chip is about having the best players on the field, I hope Graham can continue to build on his success from last year and be open to whatever Davis has in mind for him. He was clearly the best player on the field besides Cox last year.

    • morgan c

      FACT

    • masseaglefan

      agreed

    • http://www.facebook.com/matteuwh Matteuw Hines

      I still laugh how people were calling him a bum. I know the guy was hurt but you could clearly see the talent that the guy had. I was disappointed that it took him so long to get on the field last season because I always thought he was better than Babin.

      • limodriver27

        It all reflects from the top of the coaching staff. Reid’s mind was scrambled, starting from training camp and the moves he made made us scratch our heads. I also hope the kid gets a fair shake this time around.

        • BrickSquadMonopoly

          Ya I don’t even know how people consider Andy Reid a good coach after all of his questionable decision making and inability to make in-game adjustments. Doesn’t take a genius to know Shady=run the ball.

  • Andy

    After all that work bulking up now he’s got to slim down!

    • http://www.facebook.com/matteuwh Matteuw Hines

      I thought he actually slim down from the previous season where he was approaching 3 Bills.

  • JofreyRice

    He does have a very similar body type to Lamarr Woodley. Maybe he can excel as an OLB. Hopefully he’s one of the last “fastball” DE’s, and they start going for taller guys that can disrupt passing lanes, lock out blockers, and interfere with the QB’s throw, even if they don’t get the sack.

    I think the Predator role is going to be Trent Cole’s to lose. They just extended him, and are going to want to see if Cole can put some play out there to warrant his paycheck. I think 2nd rounder Vinny Curry will be the backup and eventual replacement.

    • ICDogg

      This is one of the advantages of having a new coaching regime: they don’t have to start Cole if they don’t want to.

      I said it before, I’ll say it again, I think Cole is a nickel pass rushing end. That is almost half the snaps, so it’s far from a meaningless role. Graham is the right OLB or predator. Curry might be our SAM or LOLB, or at least he will get the opportunity to compete for one of those roles.

      • http://www.facebook.com/matteuwh Matteuw Hines

        Yeah i’ve been thinking about it more and more lately but I have a hard time believing that Trent Cole has a future on this team. Vinny Curry is young, you have Mychal Kendricks who I would like to see rush the passer, then you have Brandon Graham, and if you bring in Dion Jordan, that only further squeezes out Cole. We have to get some interior LBs and a NT.

        • ICDogg

          I think a guy like Cole may excel in a reduced role. It’s not like I want him there to take up space. It’s that I think he can still get to the quarterback, but I don’t think he can do it playing every snap anymore. He still knows what he is doing, and does not give up on plays. He gives his all. So he is also a leadership presence.

          I think Curry may be able to play in coverage some of the time. He has the measurables and hasn’t been beat down in the NFL yet. I would try him out at SAM/LOLB. They also need at minimum to draft someone else for that role to compete with him, though not necessarily at pick #4 of the draft.

          Graham, I think, has to be in the plans, and the only position that makes sense for him is ROLB or “Predator” if we do the 4-3 under.

          • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

            If Curry is capable of playing in coverage and you’re looking to put your best players on the field, Curry has to play inside next to Ryans. You hide Curry inside, realistically he may be your worse cover man, but you turn him loose to play the run and blitz from the inside from time to time. He can play well in traffic he has exceptional moves and hand movement. However, it’s a big “if” he’s capable of staying with a man between the hash marks in pass defense.

            The key is who plays Nose Tackle.

          • ICDogg

            Kendricks has to play inside with Meco.

            Curry is always going to be more of a pass rusher than a coverage guy, but we’re looking to see if he can do a little of both.

        • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

          I haven’t seen in Dion Jordan what the projections expect. I would dare to say if you suited Jordan up right now he couldn’t touch a Quarterback in the NFL with average offensive line play.

          I don’t see how these lofty expectations on what Dion can bring to the Eagles originated. It’s definitely not evident on tapes where Oregon played quality opponents. It’s just not justifiable this kid is a top 10 pick.

          • Wilbert M.

            I totally agree. The highlights I saw showed Jordan bouncing off offensive linemen.

      • JofreyRice

        Gosh, I just don’t know. The Eagles organization, paying a guy 6 million or whatever they’re paying him in a part time role? I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I will have to see it to believe it.

        • ICDogg

          Cole is a sunk cost. His base pay is 3.5M. His bonus has already been paid and his cap figure keeping him is actually less than it will be if they trade or cut him.

          At the same time, the decision whether to and how much to play someone has to be in the hands of the new coaching staff, and they can’t be bound to the past notions of who is supposed to play and who isn’t.

          • UKEagle99

            I have to agree, unless Trent brings it in training camp he’s going to become a situational player. Chip may not have wanted total control over player personnel but he will say who trots out on to the field at game time and who goes in off the bench. Vinny & Brandon should be motivated, this is their big chance.

          • Wilbert M.

            I wonder how Cole would feel about playing special teams…..

      • theycallmerob

        Maybe with Graham and Curry’s role reversed? Or (and this is really wishful), they both have enough cover skills where either one is a threat to rush on any given play. This would be supplemented beautifully by bringing in a S in the draft who can start right away and also cover tight ends.
        Such tactics would seem to play very well into Kelly’s projected emphasis on confusion and disguise.

      • Token

        Cole would be cut before this season if his cap hit wasnt higher than keeping him. Im sure they would trade him if someone is willing to give them a late rounder.

        • ICDogg

          I’m pretty sure they could trade him for a late rounder if they wanted to. The Flyers would still be on the hook for more cap space than ifi they kept him on the team, though, since only the base pay would be saved and the proration for the bonus for the rest of the contract would be added to the Flyers’ cap.

          • Dave

            I didn’t know Cole could Skate? He must be pretty intimidating coming at you in the orange and black!

          • ICDogg

            lol, I think I was watching the Flyers at the time I posted that.

  • B-West

    Strange that these two were in the same workout program, Woodley just got ripped for not being in shape. It was an anonymous player, so take it for what its worth.

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/blog/eye-on-football/21726715/anon-steeler-says-lamarr-woodley-awful-wasnt-in-shape

  • borntosuffer

    I see why he is not kicking anymore. Check out that approach on the FG.

  • Eoin Cunningham

    With the engine he’s got and his desire to light up a RB as much as a QB I’m pretty sure you could put Graham at Safety and he’d still give it 110% effort and find a way to make it work. Really hope it works out for him, he deserves it.

    My question now is, is there hope for Casey Matthews? He played with Oregon so there is a connection, could he end up playing Buck?

    • illadelphia21

      The only hope I have for Matthews is hoping he gets cut and we get a true ILB 2 learn under Ryan’s! Loving Bostic in the 3rd and wishing we somehow get another 3rd and pick up Collins, who’s only now coming 2 light cus of the combine but has been my sleeper pick along a/ Cornelius Washington since January.

      • JofreyRice

        Collins is very impressive. I think he could be a special player, as a rush linebacker in a 3-4, but it seems like the Eagles have that position covered. We really need a guy that has some more coverage ability, too.

        I like your thinking of adding more linebackers, and agree it would be great to have more picks. It’s weird that most drafts, they have all these picks stockpiled in the middle rounds, and this one, that’s actually really deep, they have nothing but their own picks. I don’t know about using a 3rd rounder on a backup ILB, though. I’d be cool with them spending a pick on PSU’s Mauti, or Iowa State’s AJ Klein, sometime in the 4th or 5th.

        • GGEAGLe

          yeah I agree. Our choices are very narrowed in my oppinion given that we have 3 predators on the roster, 4 if we keep Hunt….and I don’t feel comfortable having a single one of them run with Witten in coverage twice a year…..The OLB we AQUIRE has to be able to be a GAMECHANGER rushing the passer AND in coverage…I don’t really see how we can even live without DION JORDAN…his skill set is as essential to our defense as air is to humans lol…..and today, we don’t have a single player on this roster that can provide what he provides.

          • Wilbert M.

            Dion Jordan is an impressive athlete and I think he’d be good in coverage. But, after watching his highlights, he isn’t a very impressive pass rusher and he’s not a textbook tackler. It’s a shame we don’t have all those 3-4 guys that Andy stupidly drafted over the years (Gocong, Teo’Nesheim, Sapp, etc.).

  • ICDogg

    The only apprehension I have with Graham (who I think made a big step this past season) is that he did have some pretty serious microfracture knee surgery and I have no idea whether he’ll be able to be good in coverage as a result.

  • DunedinEagle

    All I can say is Jim’s cheesesteaks will be doing less volume this offseason.

  • deg0ey

    I do kinda wish people would stop confusing a 4-3 under and a 3-4 with ‘predator’ OLB. I know Davis made that mistake in one of his interviews, but it doesn’t mean we have to keep up with it. By definition a formation in which one of the ends is in a two-point stance is not a 4-3 because it only has 3 down linemen.

    For the sake of clarity, a 4-3 under is the defensive front Dallas will use this season as the basis for Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 or that Jim Johnson preferred during his time in Philly.

    The system that Davis prefers is a 3-4 that borrows pass rushing concepts from the 4-3 under. Or, for comparison, a similar D to the one Wade Phillips used in Dallas and currently uses in Houston.

    • JofreyRice

      You should re-read Sheil’s article explaining Davis’ philosophy. Sheil did a great job of using quotes from Carroll & Davis that basically lay out the fact that the terms 4-3 under and 3-4 Predator are interchangeable. Regardless of stance, it’s the same gap concepts. NT and LE are 2 gapping, and RE (Leo/Elephant) or ROLB (Predator) and open side DT are both positioned to exploit 1 on 1 blocking. The Strong side LB is up on the line, next to the LE, on the other side, which can make it look like a 5-2 formation. The SILB is your thumping runstuffer (Ryans), and the WILB is the guy you free up to flow to the ball–something Kendricks will do very well, IMO.

      Jim Johnson used a 4-3 under front at times, but very little else looked like anything Monte Kiffin ran. His D’s resembled the fire-zone stuff Lebeau does with a more traditional 3-4 more than they did Kiffin’s IMO. Johnson’s scheme was really unique, though–he ran both a 1 gap thing with the DTs, then changed it to 2 gap after the playoff loss to the Saints where Deuce McAllister ran all over the team for ~180 yards.

      I’d agree that there are some concepts that are similar to what Wade Philips does, but he runs so much dime in that defense (40% of the snaps), with a traditional 4-down lineman look, it’s kind of its own thing, as well.

      • GGeagle

        each coach calls positions different things: pRedator/Leo/elephant…iLB,mike,Thumper,Buck backer….I love how someone is saying that Billy Davis confused what he calls a position in HIS DEFENSE!!! he can call the predator whatever he wants, it’s his defense, his terminology….He can call the predator Dorothy as far as I’m concerned! Go back and read Shiels piece on billy Davis defense…I’m not breaking it down again for the 15time

        • deg0ey

          He can indeed use whatever name he likes for that position, but so long as his defense contains such a position, it cannot be a ’4-3 under’. It’s a 3-4 with an OLB (by whichever name you wish to call it) that is almost exclusively a pass rusher.

          • nicksaenz1

            The Predator can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up. The key is the ability to use this as a disguise. It’s a 4-3 under or hybrid 3-4/4-3 because of the versatility that is provided by mixing the looks to confuse offenses, based on the very fact that he could the Predator could be in a 2, 3, or even a 4pt stance. Again, all about versatility in the disguise.

          • ICDogg

            yep. No point in spending much time on what it should be called. There’s just not enough information in the name to be very helpful.

            In my book it’s a 3-4 variant, since you’re calling the tackles ends now, and the ends linebackers.

          • nicksaenz1

            exactly. sadly, some people need things defined in absolutes

      • deg0ey

        Right, but a 4-3, by definition, has 4 linemen with a hand on the ground and 3 linebackers. If you’re running a 4-3 under as Davis described it, you have 3 linemen with a hand on the ground. Therefore, it cannot be a 4-3. Just because Davis used the wrong term doesn’t mean that we have to.

        • JofreyRice

          I think you’re getting a bit hung up on semantics that Billy Davis, himself probably doesn’t care about. Whether the guy has his hand on the ground, or is in a 2 point stance, is less important than the fact that all the gap concepts are the same between the 4-3 Under and 3-4 Predator. No matter what you want to call it, the Right side end/lb rushes the QB 85-90% of the time, but can drop out unexpectedly to create confusion. The players in the 3 point stances have the same roles and responsibilities. The 3 non-rush linebackers have the same roles and responsibilities. I think that’s the key to the whole thing, much more than who is standing up and who has their hand on the ground. Did you watch Atlanta, int he NFCCG? They’re a 4-3 team, right? Well, to beat the read-option, Nolan had John Abraham in a 2 point stance for the majority of that game. Presumably, to give him a better look into the backfield, right at the snap.

          I think it’s conceivable that Cole, as the Predator, will be more comfortable in a 3 point stance, and Davis will decide he’d be more effective like that.

          I’d agree with you that it’s not a typical 3-4, but I’m not ready to say Davis is misspeaking when he’s saying it’s a 4-3 under front.

          • deg0ey

            I just feel like if there’s going to be phrase to describe the defensive front that Billy Davis prefers (which ’4-3 under’ is becoming) I’d rather it be one that accurately describes what he wants to do, rather than one that instantly brings to mind the 2002 Buccaneers.

            I mean, I get the sense already that this D is going to be repeatedly described as a 4-3 under by people that seem to think that no other team uses such a scheme and that the term accurately describes the entire defense rather than just a small part of it (in the same way they did with the ‘Wide 9′ the last couple years).

            It’s possible that I’m getting hung up on semantics, but if the good reporters are already starting to be vague with their terminology then the bad ones are gonna be insufferable by the time the season starts.

            And, for what it’s worth, I’d be reasonably confident in Davis’s D looking more like what we’ve seen from (his former boss) Wade Phillips in Dallas and Houston than what Pete Carroll’s doing in Seattle.

  • illadelphia21

    I’m starting to warm up to Klein. Bostic just happens to be my favorite ILB prospect who has size and actual athleticism. And I don’t just mean athleticism for the position or for a guy his size, but real undeniable speed and agility. And he loves to mix it up. Like some I think Cole is or rather should be done w/ his age and yrs of wearing down towards the end of the season. I see no reason to keep him other than his ridiculous contract.

    And I do not trust Curry to be able to drop back and cover. The guy spent his time at Marshall w/ his hand in the dirt. I could see him backing up graham or competing w/ him for the starting spot. This draft is so deep w/ D talent that the eagles would be stupid not to take advantage of it, especially w/ the way our D has played for the last 2 seasons.
    We all would get pissed at how Andy would use a player the wrong way by putting them in a position that he thought they had potential instead of what they were comfortable w/ or could actually do. So the eagles FO should learn from that and not try and put square pegs in round holes. That means bye Mr. Cole or least hit the bench until obvious passing situations and please for the love of God no 3-4 DEs under 290.

    • UKEagle99

      Why Trent in only passing situations? To purely reduce his reps I can understand but By and large he plays the run pretty well. The only major knock on him is he wears down and disappears as the season wears on and you need him most.

      • illadelphia21

        Trent played nothing well last year and has been fading for awhile now. I personally would love to see him traded, despite the cap hit. I’d be cool if the eagles got @ least a 5th for him but nothing less. So if they can’t trade him and he doesn’t fit what w/ what they’re trying to do, yet they know he still is a good player who will give his all, they should use him in ideal situations for his skill set and sparingly so he doesn’t have to much of a load. If that makes sense?! Worked for graham last year.

        • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

          Trent played injured last year, he just had surgery to correct some problem with his hands. Trent needed a better rotation, he’s a hustler I could see how he wore down in the latter stages of the season. The Offense has to put some weight locating Cole, you have got to know where he’s at on every drop back play and that opens up opportunities for his team mates. Even at 30 Trent could still be a hand full and disrupt an Offense.

      • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

        Trent Cole is a good solider. Trent can still hurt a team. It may be best to cut down on his plays, and let him finish a game when those Tackles, kick slid in pass protections isn’t so fresh to keep up with Cole. Give Cole 10 quality pass rushing attempts in the 4th Quarter. He’ll raise hell.

        • UKEagle99

          Don’t get me wrong I’m not wanting to give up on Cole, I can see how reducing his reps would maybe help his game in Dec & Jan. i just wanted to make the point that he plays the run very well. He didn’t have a good year last year but I’m not sure who did. Actually I suppose you can make an argument for Cox, Graham, Ryans, Kendricks and Boykin.

  • therealpistolp

    Trent was never great..he has always been consistently good…until last yr…I don’t think he’s done but I can’t see him standing up,,,or dropping into coverage!! He complained everytime mcdermott made him drop…I just don’t see the fit…or curry for that matter…those guys are 4-3 ends..I think graham can make it work..but that’s more because hope he can lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/matteuwh Matteuw Hines

      I wouldn’t exactly agree with that statement. Has he been the best Dend in football? No, but the guy has been a great all around DE for awhile. His last season wasn’t so great but in a league where you have pass rush specialists, Trent Cole was one of few Complete DEs who could play the Run equally as well as rushing the passer.

  • hoping chip is not a dip

    he won’t make it as a linebacker, too slow, won’t play well if he lightens up. This will be his last year here
    love how the media including this site and Reuben Frank keep telling us what a great coach/talent evaluator Andy Reid is/was….but then they say we have to get rid of 75% of the roster…duh…doesn’t that tell you morons that Fatso sucked at both game decisions and player selection..

  • hope chip is not a dip

    funny how Kapadia and McManus remove any comments that are critical of themselves or derogatory to their buddy – Andy Reid
    my point is the media still loves Andy Reid…but doesn’t mention that 50% of the players he put on this roster cannot play for a winning team…but they prefer to spin that its because of the new system.

  • GGeagle

    *****ATTENTION!!!! CHECK THIS OUT BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!*****

    Not sure how many caught this last night
    This is from Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog:
    “Hey ya’ll, I work on the show “Path to the Draft” on NFLN while also writing and doing draft analysis over on BattleRedBlog.
    Just wanted to give you guys a heads up the Eagles front office has expressed (though not publicly) to us that Dion Jordan is at the very top of their board, and that if he is there at number four he will be the Eagles first round selection. He obviously has strong ties to Chip Kelly, his old DC, and the Eagles new D-line coach, and fits well in the Eagles new 3-4 front. I personally believe Jordan is the best defensive player in this draft, so rest assured that you guys will getting an absolute stud on April 25th. Congratulations!”