There’s a big giant zero next to Brandon Graham’s name on the Eagles’ 2018 stat sheet, and he admits the lack of sacks got to him.
Graham, whose strip-sack of Tom Brady at the end of Super Bowl LII is one of the two biggest defensive plays in franchise history — Chuck Bednarik sitting on Jim Taylor at the end of the 1960 NFL Championship Game was pretty big, too — is 0 for 4 this year.
Four games, zero sacks.
Other than 2011, when he didn’t play till November, this is the first time in Graham’s career he hasn’t had at least one sack the first month of a season.
Graham had a career-high 9½ sacks last year but missed all of training camp following offseason ankle surgery and didn’t start practicing until a week before the opener.
I think early on I was pressing a little bit to try to get them, and I wasn’t being me. Now I feel like, ‘Don’t worry about that, just go out there and win the game and all the other stuff will come. That’s what I did last year and 9½ just so happened to be the number. Coming off the injury I wanted things to kind of pick up where they left off last year but that’s not realistic. You’ve got to put in the work. I put in the work but I didn’t get camp. I didn’t want to make excuses but I was really pressing trying to get a sack to get on the board but sometimes it doesn’t come like that because you’re fighting yourself too hard or pushing yourself a little too hard and not letting it come naturally.
Graham is seventh in Eagles history with 38½ sacks, although his close friend and teammate Fletcher Cox — who has three sacks — is gaining and now only 1½ behind. Both are within range of Andy Harmon, who’s in sixth place with 39.
Graham said he finally feels 100 percent after starting his preseason a full month after everybody else.
“I feel real good right now,” he said. “It’s cool, everybody right now [is saying], ‘Brandon Graham this and that,’ but I know what’s going on.
“It was tough. When you don’t have camp, you have to kind of get camp as these games go and now I feel like me. I feel where I want to be. I feel explosive and well-rested and I’m ready to be the best Brandon Graham I can be.
“When you don’t worry about them, they come.”
As a team the Eagles the Eagles are in the middle of the pack with 11 sacks.
Their four vaunted defensive ends have a combined 4½, with Derek Barnett recording 2½ but Chris Long and Michael Bennett with just one apiece and Graham still blanked.
Cox, Barnett and linebacker Jordan Hicks (1½) are the only Eagles with more than one sack.
The Eagles rank 14th in the league with a sack every 6.9 pass attempts. They rank fourth in defensive line payroll with $41.6 million allocated in 2018 salary cap expenditures.
For Graham, Sunday’s game against the Vikings should be a great opportunity. The Vikings have allowed 13 sacks, including four each of the last two weeks.
And Graham said it’s not too late for him to reach double figures. Or more.
“We have 12 games left,” he said with a laugh. “One a game, you know what I’m saying? You can still get 12.”
Graham does have five hurries and four tackles for loss. He's been sound against the run.
But defensive ends are measured by sacks. There's a lot at stake. The Eagles are 2-2, the defense is struggling and the Eagles need more pressure.
And he's in a contract year and defensive ends don't get paid for stopping the run.
He knows the sacks have to start coming soon.