Over the next three weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 20 most important Eagles for the 2021 season.
9. Brandon Graham
It seemed like everyone was happy that Brandon Graham finally made his first Pro Bowl in Year 11 last season.
Just don’t think it was a career achievement award. Graham can still play.
Still an absolute bowling ball of a game wrecker, Graham last season had 8 sacks, 13 TFLs, 46 tackles, 16 QB hits and two forced fumbles. He’s been a consistently dominant player for the Eagles since becoming a full time starter at left defensive end back in 2016.
While Graham isn’t always the flashiest player and has never reached double digit sacks in his career, you really need to look beyond sack totals to understand how disruptive and steady Graham has been both as a pass rusher and a run stuffer.
You sometimes need to take ProFootballFocus grades with a grain of salt but they do offer us a way to view edge players through a lens that isn’t sack totals. And Graham has consistently shown his worth since becoming a starter.
Here’s where he ranks among edge players league wide the last five seasons:
Early last season, it looks pretty obvious that Graham would get to his first Pro Bowl but his pace cooled significantly in the second half of the season. Here’s a look at Graham’s splits last season:
First eight games: 7 sacks, 25 tackles, 9 TFLs, 11 QB hits, 2 FF, 1 FR; Eagles record was 3-4-1
Last eight games: 1 sack, 21 tackles, 4 TFLs, 5 QB hits; Eagles record was 1-7
Obviously, the Eagles in general really struggled in the second half of the season but those struggles definitely coincided with the drop-off in stats for Graham. He was still a good player in the second half but cooled down.
With the Eagles in 2021, Graham will be part of an impressive rotation that includes Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan and defensive end and Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Hassan Ridgeway and Milton Williams at defensive tackle.
You can argue that Graham is less important on a team with such a deep rotation, especially after the addition of Kerrigan, but Graham is still a key player for the Eagles. And while sometimes leadership can be overblown, Graham’s attitude is contagious and refreshing, especially for a team in an admitted rebuilding phase with a new head coach.
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