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Graham, Cox embracing new roles on defense | Locked On Eagles

Both the aging Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox are facing taking on new roles with the Philadelphia Eagles defense.

PHILADELPHIA — In the twilight years of their careers, Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are both facing the harsh truth of being an aging professional athlete.

Whether you are a star or a role player, the circle of life in sports is inevitable. Father time is undefeated.

Some athletes fight it off longer than others, but it takes a lot of sacrifice and adjustment.

Some stars don’t accept this fate. They think they can do the same things at 33 that they did at 23. They get frustrated when their team drafts and/or signs their eventual replacement, and they don’t accept their new roles.

That hasn’t been the case with Cox and Graham. The two longest-tenured members of the Eagles defense appear to be all in on their new roles with a new-look team.

For the majority of their 10+ seasons with Philadelphia, Cox and Graham have been the most important pieces of a defensive line that has been a top unit many times in that span.

Graham was the most consistent pass-rusher off the edge who became a folk hero when he strip-sacked Tom Brady in Super Bowl 52, winning the Eagles their first ever Lombardi trophy.

Cox was the top presence on the inside and outside of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, he was the most disruptive tackle in the league for at least five seasons.

It is likely that won’t be the case anymore in 2022.

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Graham is now 34 years old, coming off of a torn Achilles suffered in the beginning of the 2021 season. The Eagles handed out three-year contracts to two young edge-rushers in Josh Sweat and Haasson Reddick this year, likely pushing Graham’s role to a rotational third defensive end.

The front office also got out of their multi-year deal with Cox, adjusting to a new, one-year contract. They then traded up in the 1st round of the 2022 NFL Draft to select Georgia DT Jordan Davis. With Javon Hargrave and Milton Williams also part of a deep DT rotation, Cox won’t be looking at the same amount of snaps he’s had the majority of his career.

Cox could find a bigger role on another team in 2023, as could Graham if the Eagles move on next offseason. But you can tell these two love being Philadelphia Eagles. There is a sense of pride they carry with them when they put on their winged helmet.

It is why both are still among the most vocal leaders of the locker room. It is why Cox would be willing to mentor his eventual replacement in Jordan Davis.

“I want to be able to share a lot of information with Jordan and I know he'll get it,” Cox said. “I know it's a lot for him. He's a rookie. I've been in that same position before, when guys have kind of taken me under their arms and kind of led the way.

The Eagles could move on from Graham after 2022, but if it was up to him, he’d like to play out his contract through 2024 and finish his career in midnight green. Regardless of his role.

“We’d see how it works out, but I’d probably end up playing 14 [years] instead of 15,” Graham said. “My goal is to finish on 15 if I could, as an Eagle.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these two Super Bowl heroes have been selfless and adjusted to their new reality. Even with their reduced role on the field in 2022, Graham and Cox will be crucial to a deep run this season.

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