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Often overlooked LB Brandon Graham making his mark in Philadelphia

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PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham heard the same rumors everyone else did all offseason.

"That I was going to be traded, yeah I heard those, too," Graham said after Friday's practice.

Graham wasn't traded before or during the May draft, as expected. It probably didn't soothe his feelings any when the Eagles spent their first-round pick on a pass-rushing linebacker in Louisville's Marcus Smith.

"I understand the business part of it," Graham said. "If something had happened I would have gone with it. But as a person, as a player, I'm glad it didn't. I want to be here. I like it here. I like what coach (Chip) Kelly is doing here. And I want to be a part of it."

The trade the Eagles didn't make might have been one of their better offseason moves. With Smith still finding his way, Graham is the top backup at both outside linebacker spots behind Trent Cole and Connor Barwin.

In last Sunday's opening win over Jacksonville, Graham had four tackles, two for a loss, coming free to throw running back Toby Gerhart for a 3-yard loss — twice.

"I was happy with my game, but there are still some things I can do better," Graham said. "It's getting there."

This is Graham's second year in transition from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. It's a move he wasn't afraid to make because coming out of Michigan in the 2010 draft there were several teams who felt he was more suited to play as a stand-up pass rusher.

"I would say it was about half and half," Graham said. "Some 3-4 teams worked me out as a linebacker, so yeah, I was ready for the transition."

What Graham wasn't quite prepared to handle was the expectation that comes with being a first-round pick. He understands it better now and has even mentored Smith, who is going through the same tribulations.

"People have high expectations, for sure," Graham said of being a team's No. 1 pick. "You're a No. 1 pick, they want you to go out and be a star immediately."

Graham started six games as a rookie and had three sacks before missing the end of the season with a knee injury that also forced him to sit out most of his second year.

He came back in 2012 to start six games again and shared the team lead in sacks with 5 1-2. Last year, his first in coordinator Bill Davis' 3-4 scheme, he came off the bench in all 16 regular-season games and the wild-card game against New Orleans. He had four sacks, including one of Drew Brees in that playoff game.

This year, after a strong preseason, Graham is becoming a key for the Eagles in different defensive looks. He expects to be on the field often Monday night against Andrew Luck and the Colts.

"He's a good option," Davis said. "It's having three solid players there. You just want to make sure now that any of the three that are in there can play and roll and they are going to produce. But we are very pleased with Brandon. He had a solid game, he really did."

NOTES: Rookie WR Josh Huff (shoulder) and backup tackle Matt Tobin (ankle) remained the only Eagles out of practice Friday. ... Kelly said he was hoping RB Chris Polk, who missed last week's game as well as the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, could be ready Monday night. Polk practiced all week. ...Last week the Eagles dressed seven offensive linemen and had to use all seven when starters Alan Barbre and Evan Mathis went down with injuries. Kelly said that doesn't mean he will dress eight linemen this week.


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