Eagles Film Review: Brandon Graham's monster day against Vikings

Eagles Film Review: Brandon Graham's monster day against Vikings

Through six games, Brandon Graham looks like a Pro Bowler.

It’s hard to even imagine he’s the same guy who was once ridiculed by the fan base so much his mother refused to wear his jersey to games for fear of repercussions.

While Graham is in the middle of his best NFL season, his game against the Vikings on Sunday was his best of the year. He finished the game with three combination tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and five quarterback hits.

Five quarterback hits.

To put that into perspective, that’s the same amount of quarterback hits he had during the entire 2013 season, when it looked like his days in Philadelphia might be numbered. For the 2016 season, Graham has 10 quarterback hits, one shy of his career high. And there are still 10 games to go.

He was a constant force against the Vikings and their depleted tackles at the Linc. Here’s a look at just how disruptive he was:

It didn’t take long for Graham to start wreaking havoc against the Vikings. This is his first quarterback hit of the day and it comes at the 11:24 mark in the first quarter. He’s going up against right tackle Jeremiah Sirles (6-6, 315), who had absolutely no chance.

Aside from this individual matchup, Sam Bradford has a pretty decent pocket to throw from. But Graham just runs right through Sirles to get to the quarterback. Bradford’s pass, as a result of the pressure, was underthrown and incomplete.

This was probably Graham’s biggest play of the day. The Vikings had the ball on the Eagles’ 6-yard line on 3rd-and-goal. They probably figured the worst that could happen here was an incomplete pass and they’d still get three points. Nope. Graham lines up real wide in Jim Schwartz’s wide-9.

In this still shot, it actually looks like T.J. Clemmings might have a decent block against Graham, but look at the leverage. Clemmings is on his heels and Graham is low as can be. He’s about to throw a 309-pound man aside like a rag doll.

Once Graham pushes Clemmings away, he has a clear shot at Bradford in a hurry and he takes it. Graham clearly changes the throw, which ends up in the hands of Rodney McLeod in the end zone. With this play, Graham simply took points away from the Vikings.

On this play late in the third quarter, the Vikings come out with seven on the line, so you’d figure they’d be able to stop Graham, who’s lined up on the left side again.

But just after the snap, Sirles leaves Graham to help toward his left, TE Kyle Rudolph leaves the line to run a route and Zac Kerin pops out to block a blitzing Malcolm Jenkins. That leaves running back Matt Asiata to block Graham, who has momentum going toward the quarterback.

Graham tosses Asiata aside and gives himself a clear path to Bradford. On this play, give credit to the quarterback. He felt the pressure coming but was able to deliver a 14-yard pass to Stefon Diggs to get a first down. He paid the price from Graham though.

On the last play we’ll look at, Graham actually wasn’t awarded with a quarterback hit. This was his strip sack where he didn’t hit Bradford, but did bat the ball away. This time Graham is again lined up on the left side against Sirles.

On this play, he doesn’t go straight through the lineman. Instead, he uses a little quick swim move and goes around him outside. Sirles’ job was to push Graham wide enough and he didn’t come close to doing it.

Graham gets to the quarterback so fast, it almost looks like he gets in Fletcher Cox’s way. Graham went a little wide here, but was able to reach back with his right hand as he went by and knock the ball loose for his fourth sack of the season.

No, Graham isn’t Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul. And for the first time in his career, Eagles fans should be fine with it.

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett was with the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2013, and he was with the Seahawks the next three years when they were supposed to but never did again.

He knows how hard it is to win it twice. If the Seahawks, with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and company, couldn’t do it, who can?

Bennett thinks his new team is on the right track.

“They’re not complacent,” he said. “You look at most organizations. They win, they think that’s it, that year. But this team is pushing and moving pieces and finding our weaknesses and making them better, and I think that’s how you prepare to win [again]. 

“I think they’ve done a great job of it and me being an addition is something that I think is a great move.”

The Eagles, who won Super Bowl LII six weeks ago, acquired the 32-year-old Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end in each of the last three years, and a seventh-round pick from the Seahawks last week in exchange for receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.

Bennett was there in 2013, when the Seahawks went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket before losing, 28-24, to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

The Seahawks were one yard from winning. But that final sequence shows just how hard it is to repeat. The last NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. The last NFC team was the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

“When you come to the NFL, you want to hold that Lombardi,” Bennett said. “A lot of people can get Pro Bowls, a lot of people can get a lot of different things in the NFL when it comes to contracts, but not a lot of people can hold that Lombardi, and when you hold it, it’s something that’s very dear. 

“It’s like you’re holding your child and being able to caress it and hold it and it’s yours and it’s something that you really value, and I think for me, that’s what it’s really about. 

“To come into an organization and you look around and everybody wants that. First thing I talked to Howie (Roseman) about was, the first thing he said is, 'I want to go back,' and when you hear somebody say something like that, you feel it, and I felt it through the phone and I felt the vibe, so for me, that’s what it’s really about.”

Bennett was asked what he learned from Seattle’s failure to repeat its 2013 success and how that might help the Eagles find their way to a second consecutive championship.

“I kind of go with the Nelson Mandela approach: ‘You never really lose, you either win or you grow from situations,’" Bennett said.

“And I think we were just growing as a team. We were a young team, we were having so much success, I was on a team full of superstars every single day. There were never enough cameras, every commercial was somebody on my team. So it was just us growing and I think we all just wanted to continue to grow. 

“As you know, in this league, it’s hard to get back to those moments and be able to win those games. Things happen, people get traded, new players come in, things change. I don’t think it took a toll on us, we just move on season to season and try to be the best players we could possibly be.”

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”