- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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As Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com reported Tuesday, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin has a strained calf muscle and could miss the entire preseason. Now, if he can get back in time for the regular season, this isn't devastating. Babin's role in the defense isn't overly complicated -- he lines up wide and tries to sack the quarterback -- and so the missed practice time isn't going to be a major issue for him. They will want and need him back, of course, but they won't rush him and risk further injury.
In the meantime, Sheil Kapadia writes that defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and defensive end Brandon Graham have been getting the reps at left defensive end in place of Babin. Two different cases that speak to the type of depth the Eagles have on their defensive line.
Graham is the most interesting potential beneficiary of Babin's missed practice time. The Eagles' first-round draft pick in 2010, Graham has been kept off the field by injuries for nearly all of his brief career. If he is finally healthy, more time with the first team defensive line should give him a chance to show what he can do and give the Eagles a chance to figure out what they can expect to get from him as part of their defensive line rotation once Babin returns. He was believed to be the most polished pass-rusher in that year's draft, and while others have clearly surpassed him while he's sat out injured, there's no reason to believe he can't contribute if he can stay on the field.
Jenkins is, of course, one of the Eagles' starting defensive tackles. But his remarkable versatility is one of the main reasons the Eagles signed him as a free agent last year. During his time in Green Bay, Jenkins played defensive tackle and end in a 4-3 as well as defensive end and even some outside linebacker in a 3-4. If Graham can't handle the work of being Babin's replacement and rookie Vinny Curry isn't ready for those reps, the Eagles can feel very good about sliding Jenkins outside and replacing him inside with someone like Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri, Fletcher Cox, etc. The Eagles' depth on the defensive line, even with defensive tackle Mike Patterson still recovering from offseason brain surgery, is one of the strengths of their roster.