Kinda makes you wonder if Andy Reid’s Training Camp format may need to be adjusted in the future… but… for now, the initial damage is still containable…
The Eagles head into Thursday with their entire starting defensive line sidelined by injuries, a potentially troublesome situation if some guys don’t recover as expected. But with Jason Babin (calf strain), Cullen Jenkins (hamstring) and Trent Cole (shoulder strain) out of the picture temporarily, it gives the coaches a chance to better sort out the logjam behind them.
On Wednesday, for example, Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham, who each battled through lingering injury problems a year ago, were able to get almost all of the first-team DE repetitions at training camp.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham (54) tries to muscle past center Dallas Reynolds (66) at their training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem on Wednesday. (MICHAEL KUBEL, THE MORNING CALL / August 1, 2012)
A first-round pick in 2010, Graham might have the most to prove. He wrecked his knee near the end of his rookie season and needed microfracture surgery to repair it. He was never the same last season, and his contributions on game days were minimal.
Graham has come into this camp healthier than ever before. And the injuries to Babin and Cole mean he’ll probably start the team’s first preseason game next Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“That’s going to be the first time for me to show them what I’m going to do in the games,” he said, “and that’s how I’m taking it — like it’s my first step to where I want to be and hopefully it goes exactly how I planned it to go, how I envisioned it to go. All I can do is work hard, and that’s what I’m going to do and we’ll see when that day comes.”
Graham also knows he must forge his own identity, which is why he laughed when asked if he is more like Babin or Cole. “I’m more of a Brandon Graham,” he said. “But those guys are great players. Everybody’s got their own unique things about themselves. I feel like I’m just trying to get better just with my run game and just get better in all areas. So I’ve just got to keep doing what [defensive line] coach [Jim] Washburn asks and I can’t wait. I just can’t wait.”
Tapp, on the other hand, followed up a strong training camp with an excellent season-opening performance in a romp over St. Louis last year. Tapp had a sack, four tackles and three hurries before tearing a pectoral muscle and missing the next three games.
Then, just as he started to round back into form from that, he broke a rib in a game at Miami on Dec. 18. “It was frustrating in that aspect last year,” Tapp said, “but like I said, I know what to expect in this defense, I know what Coach Washburn wants. The biggest thing now in training camp, especially the way Coach Reid runs a tough training camp, is taking it quick ourselves and get our legs back so we can go out there and just play.”
Tapp views the injuries to the starters as more of an opportunity for the lesser-experienced ends who are battling for what probably will only be three roster spots behind the starters.
“It’s good work for all of us, yes,” Tapp said. “I kind of know what to expect because Coach Washburn rotates us regularly. But it’s very good for like Phillip Hunt and Vinny Curry and Monte Taylor…”
Taylor, however, also will be out for awhile after suffering a concussion on Wednesday.
The defensive tackle group is in a similar situation as the defensive ends, provided Cullen Jenkins, who went for an MRI on Wednesday night after injuring a hamstring in practice, is not out for an extended period. DT Mike Patterson has already been ruled out indefinitely after the surgeon who repaired tangled blood vessels in his brain was not satisfied with how the skull was healing.
This means more work than expected for Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon, Ollie Ogbu, Cedric Thornton and rookies Fletcher Cox and Frank Trotter.
Meanwhile, it was Military Appreciation Day at Lehigh, and an appropriate day for former USAF officer Chad Hall to shine…
Hall, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former second lieutenant stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City, shaved his head at midfield as an effort to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. He was joined on the field by 300 members of the five branches of the U.S. armed forces as part of the team’s annual Military Day at training camp.
“I’m really just trying to take our minds off us and really appreciate these guys and what they do for our country,” Hall said Wednesday. “We’re fighting on the field, but it’s so minuscule to what these people do for us. They’re overseas fighting for our freedom every day.”
After practice ended, members of the military joined Eagles backup quarterback Trent Edwards, guard Evan Mathis and several other players in shaving Hall’s head. The last person to take hold of the razor was Wounded Warrior Project representative Shane Parsons, a retired sergeant with the U.S. Army.
Six years ago, Parsons was on a mission in Rhamadi, Iraq, when anti-coalition forces attacked his convoy. A roadside bomb detonated under his Humvee. Parsons, now 26, suffered a severe anoxic brain injury. He also suffered three cardiac arrests, underwent 15 operations, and eventually had both legs amputated above the knee.
Kinda puts the current “injury crisis” of the Eagles in perspective, I think… and certainly re-defines the term “tough training camp”…