August 28, 2023   5 MIN READ

Animal Instinct

Brandon Graham: Birds Rookie Jalen Carter Emerging Into Force


Brandon Graham, entering his 14th season as an Eagles defensive end, has seen his fair share of standout linemen come and go through South Philadelphia during his long career.

Since he joined the Eagles in 2010 as the 13th overall pick, Graham has teamed with at least 10 Pro Bowl pass rushers, including Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox, Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Javon Hargave, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Robert Quinn.

After watching Eagles first-round pick Jalen Carter, a defensive tackle from Georgia chosen ninth overall, compete this spring, Graham is convinced he’s about to see another dominant force emerge.

Jalen Carter

GETTY IMAGES: Eagles rookie DT Jalen Carter has the makings to be dominant, says Brandon Graham

“He knows what’s at stake, he’s knows he’s a first-round pick and there’s a lot of pressure on him,” said Graham, no stranger to the scrutiny of being a first-rounder. “But he he handled it well. Every day I’m always talking to him, trying to get him riled up even though it don’t take much to rile him up.”

Graham, during his press conference, said Carter will soon realize that opponents “are going to be scared of you, man” as he keeps refining technique and getting acclimated to game speed.

“I’m loving the name ‘Baby Rhino’ because, that boy, he is a ram,” Graham said. “If you get him all the way in shape he’ll be able to go every time and you’ll defintely have people who don’t want to see him every week.”

In other words, Carter is going to be a problem, sooner than later. He just needs to keep his focus on football.

Graham, who’s seven sacks from eclipsing Clyde Simmons for third all-time in Eagles history, almost fizzled out after his first two seasons were marred by injuries, poor production and some off-field concerns.

So far, he’s encouraged from what he’s seen from Carter, who came to the Eagles shrouded in controversy after the Georgia product was sentenced to 12 months probation for reckless driving and racing stemming from a January crash that killed a former teammate and team staffer.

Carter, 21, also scared NFL teams when he reported to his Pro Day heavier than expected and only participated in position drills, leading to some pre-draft reports that Georgia coaches weren’t upset to see him go.

The reputation led to Carter, considered a top-three talent, slipping in the draft. The Eagles, believing in their culture, traded up to ninth overall to land him.

Graham said team personnel chief Howie Roseman approached him after the draft to encourage him to look after Carter and be a guiding light for the troubled prospect.

Graham said he already planned to take Carter under his wing, “because of who I am.”

“They ain’t even have to say anything about that,” Graham continued. “Howie – what he said to me, he said I believe the culture around here will definitely surround Jalen with that love, and whatever they were talking about him it wasn’t even spot-on what people were saying about him.

“He came in right away and was just open when he got here. It’s been great ever since. The stuff of the field? I know he’s gonna grow. We all had to grow when we was younger. I did some silly stuff. For the most part, I try to give him a little game and he takes what he want from it, and just let him know my story and where I’ve been and try to get him not bump his head like I did in certain areas.”

Graham attributes his marriage, among other better life decisions, as part of his turnaround.

He survived the Chip Kelly era and multiple switches in defensive alignment to become a Super Bowl here, a Pro Bowler at 32, and his first double-digit sack season last year at 34.

He’s told Carter to make sure he surrounds himself with the right people.

“I told him to make sure you know what’s important,” he said. “The job right now is playing football, trying to get some money for your family, trying to have success as player because I’m sure you don’t want to be labeled anything other than te great player that you are right now.”

Carter didn’t play much during the preseason. Getting used to playing long stretches could be an early obstacle, as his former college teammate Jordan Davis – the Eagles’ first-round pick in 2022 – discovered the hard way. He also still has some legal issues to clear.

At Georgia, the defensive line was so deep and talented, linemen rotated frequently to keep fresh.

Once he gets conditioned to NFL speed, Carter will put on a scary showcase, Graham promised.

“You’re going to see when he makes a play, that boy definitely gonna let you know,” Graham said. “I can’t wait to see him in his element.”

– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for

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