One of the keys to Chip Kelly‘s success this season will be the ability to transition on both sides of the ball. This is the first massive change in fourteen seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles. Players are cross training and learning new areas of responsibility. In the first full-team practice, Brandon Graham and Trent Cole both showed signs of rust.
Graham finally came on last season as a defensive end, posting 30 tackles and 5.5 sacks. His effort quieted the conversation on him being a draft bust. Now he is learning the outside linebacker position. Cole had a less effective 2012 season (three sacks) and must see this new position as a chance to keep his job. Both men struggled in practice. Csnphilly.com quoted Graham:
“Sometimes the stuff [doesn’t] come together as quick as you would want it,” Graham said after practice. “But I think the way we’re working every day, the sky is the limit for us. We got the motor. We got everything that’s going for us. We just gotta make sure we’re setting up our drops and doing the little things coach wants us to do.”
Cole followed saying, “I’m getting there. I do feel comfortable [in pass coverage], but I wanna get better. I just gotta take it one practice at a time. I don’t know what I’m playing yet. I don’t know if I’m playing [defensive] line or if I’m playing linebacker. But I’m practicing at both. Pretty much to me, I gotta go out there and be an athlete.”
Neither player’s statement is a shining endorsement. Billy Davis needs a solid core of linebackers for his defense to work. Connor Barwin is the only pure outside linebacker on the team. Davis must ease these growing pains and get Cole and Graham on board. The team can’t afford another season of being burned by tight ends and, without improvement, there may be some surprising cuts by September.