Brandon Graham looked comfortable on the first snap.
He stood up on the right side next to Trent Cole, who was at defensive end, and rushed the passer off the edge.
The next play, however, required something different. Graham found himself matched up against Jason Avant on the left side. Seconds after the ball was snapped, the converted outside linebacker was chasing the veteran slot receiver from behind. Nick Foles’ pass landed in Avant’s hands for a 40-yard touchdown.
On the third snap, Graham was back again on the right side. But this time, instead of rushing the passer, he matched up in coverage against the running back, and the ball wasn’t thrown his way.
In addition to learning their responsibilities in the base defense, Graham and Connor Barwin are also adjusting to a variety of tasks in the Eagles’ 3-3-5 nickel package.
Chip Kelly has warned repeatedly not to draw any depth chart conclusions in May.
And he has a point.
Practice is about getting players acclimated to the offensive and defensive schemes. Reps, reps and more reps.
Having said that, there were a few surprises on Monday, the first time practice was open to the media.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the positions of note.
“I was known as a guy in college that you don’t really screw around with,” said Kelce. “I’m not trying to toot my own horn at all, but a lot of guys on the defensive side kind of feared that. They didn’t want to get into a scuffle with me. But I can remember vividly one play with Connor where I got into him and I started jawing off at him. I can’t repeat what he said, but it got to the point where he was like, ‘You don’t want to screw with me, Kelce! I’m crazy, too!’
“He is that kind of guy where he ain’t afraid of nothing.”
Since the start of free agency, the Eagles have added nine new players, but only one true pass-rusher – Connor Barwin.
Much of the offseason focus has been on rebuilding the secondary, but Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and company still have work to do in bolstering the front seven – specifically, the defensive line.
Before we take a look at what areas still need to be addressed, let’s look at what the Eagles have on their current roster.
The Eagles’ signing of Connor Barwin last week led to some angst among a portion of the fan base.
Why sign another outside linebacker? What about Trent Cole? Brandon Graham? Vinny Curry?
And to a certain degree, that’s a fair question. The simple answer is that the Eagles saw value in Barwin, especially when you consider he’s only 26 and commanded just $8 million in guaranteed money. He’s played in a 3-4 before, was a second-round pick in 2009 and has an 11.5-sack season (2011) under his belt.
But the real answer might require a look at the bigger picture. It’s true that we don’t know exactly what Chip Kelly is going to run offensively or defensively. We look at what he did at Oregon, we look at some of the trends in the NFL, we assess personnel, and we make educate guesses.
One assumption that seems reasonable is that the Eagles will run an up-tempo offense. And if that’s the case, the Eagles will need bodies on defense.
It is important to remember that the offseason makeover is not yet complete. Free-agent signings and trades are still possible. The draft is more than a month away. But here is our best crack at how the defense would look with the roster in its current form.