Eagles’ Brandon Graham eager to play role of mentor for rookie Derek Barnett

Derek Barnett holds his Eagles jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2017 NFL draft. (Getty Images)

Last year, the Eagles relied heavily on their first round draft pick, quarterback Carson Wentz.

It appeared as though Wentz relished the opportunity and grew, with pains at times, as a rookie starter in 2016.

This year’s first round pick for the Birds, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, will have different expectations and a different role to fill for the Eagles.

Instead of being an expected franchise savior thrown into the fire, defensive end Barnett will enter Jim Schwartz’s offense as a member of the pass-rushing rotation alongside three other first round picks: Fletcher Cox, Chris Long and Brandon Graham.

“For us older guys, we want to help the young guys come in and feel comfortable,” Graham, 2010’s 13th overall pick said after OTAs this week. “When I am out there with a young guy like Barnett, I want to help as much as I can because, for me as a rookie, I had Trent Cole. He made it a lot easier and I want to pass it forward.”

Along with former second-rounder Vinny Curry, the quartet of first round defensive ends give the Eagles plenty of depth at the position. It also takes a little pressure off of Barnett, who was flashing his quickness during his first formal practices in Philadelphia.

“I am happy because we always need help on the line,” Graham said. “We have a good rotation going. We like to play eight to nine guys [including the interior defensive tackles] and [Barnett] is definitely trying to help. He can bend, he can get around those tackles and now it’s all about working on his technique and getting him to do exactly what the coaches what.”

“To come right into a situation where you have a lot of help and it’s not like, ‘He’s a first rounder, we have to slide to him and take care of him,’ there’s a bunch of problems on this defensive line and I am excited.”

Graham had a breakout year in 2016, though he tallied just 5.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus ranked him as their second best pass-rusher last season thanks in part to his ability to hurry the quarterback. Graham is hoping the team will be able to post more sacks in the stat book with their potent line next season.

“With the help we got, them hurries are definitely going to turn into sacks,” Graham said. “With the defensive backs we feel like we will get a lot of time and when we get a lot of time we will get there. With the line that we have there is going to be a lot of disruption.”

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