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.