Last year was a rough one for defensive end Brandon Graham.

He was slow coming back from offseason knee surgery and he struggled trying to live up to expectations as a former first-round pick. He played in just three games and didn’t record a sack.

Graham had to hear media and fans talk about how the Eagles could have drafted Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants -- who had 16.5 sacks last season -- instead of him.

Now, after another offseason to recover, Graham is eager to show the Eagles didn’t make a mistake when they took him 13th overall in 2010.

“This season is all about redemption,’’ Graham said. “Injuries happen in this game and you have to deal with it. I’ve worked hard the last two years to get back to this point and now I’m ready to take the next step."

Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said Graham is behind numerous veterans, but he’s catching up quickly. More than anything, Castillo likes Graham’s attitude coming into his third season.

“He has a chip on his shoulder,’’ Castillo said. “I’m excited for what he’s going to do this season.”

Castillo said Graham’s problems last season were mental and physical. There was no offseason program because of the lockout and Graham didn’t get a lot of reps in training camp because his knee wasn’t 100 percent. So, the longer the season went on, the more he fell behind.

“Football is mostly muscle memory -- if it’s not natural, it’s not going to happen,’’ Castillo said. “That’s something Brandon had to deal with.’’

The Eagles’ starters at DE last season were sack masters Jason Babin and Trent Cole, with Darryl Tapp and Phillip Hunt as reserves. Those four return and the Eagles added Vinny Curry in the draft, taking the DE from Marshall in the second round.

So, Graham has plenty of competition.

“It’s been a long road and I’m not at the end of it yet,’’ Graham said. “But I know I can play this game, I know I can contribute to this team and I’m hungry for another chance to show what I can do.”

For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Philadephia Eagles from blogger Kevin Noonan, follow@CBSSportsNFLPHI.