Brandon Graham is playing faster because he’s playing slower.
Bear with me. That actually makes sense.
Graham, now in his 11th year, is still learning how to be a more effective pass rusher, and those late-career lessons are paying off in the best season of his life.
Graham goes into the second half of the season just 2½ sacks off his career high of 9½, set in 2017.
How did a guy drafted in 2010 take his game to another level in 2020?
“I think it is learning how to rush a lot better,” Graham said Wednesday. “I was missing a lot of sacks [in the past]. I'll come in so fast and all it takes is a quarterback just [to] step up just a little bit and I'm sliding off of him.”
Graham, 32, said by slowing down he’s not overrunning potential sacks like he did earlier in his career. He’s a more patient pass rusher, and he’s now reacting to what the quarterback is doing in the pocket instead of charging after him 1,000 miles an hour.
It’s paying off.
“I feel like I'm playing a lot faster, but the game has slowed up even more for me,” he said. “And you know, being able to get there, I've been able to get there sometimes because of my teammates, sometimes because I beat the tackle. And they've just been coming to me, but I am appreciative and I'm just having fun, man, in Year 11. And I think there is more to come."
Graham’s seven sacks are fourth most in the NFL and his most ever at the midway point of a season. He’s had at least one sack in five of the last seven games.
"You know, I feel really good,” he said. “I feel like I've done a lot of good things this season, and yes I do feel like it's starting to become one of those seasons I can remember. So I’ve just got to keep putting that work in. I try to take care of my body every day. And man, I'm just giving it everything I got.”
Graham has been around so long he was teammates with Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Stewart Bradley and Mike Patterson.
He’s fourth in Eagles history with 57 sacks, trailing only Reggie White, Clyde Simmons and Cole.
His 7.0 sacks this year are only two behind NFL sack leaders Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett.
If Graham gets three more sacks, he’ll become only the third player in NFL history to record his first double-digit sack season in his 11th season or later.
The first two are linebacker Mike Vrabel — the current Titans head coach — who had 12½ sacks in 2007 in his 11th season, and edge rusher Calvin Pace, who had 10 sacks with the Jets in 2013, also his 11th year in the league.
Is this the year B.G. hits double digits and gets to his first Pro Bowl?
"I mean, who knows?” he said. “I'm feeling really good where I am right now. You know I try not to put a number on it, but right now, double digits, yes, it's in my [sights] for the first time and I want to make sure that I just keep on working. Not trying to go out there and reach and [do anything] different than I have been. Just let the plays come to me.”
The way he’s been playing, the question isn’t will he get to 10. It’s how far past it he's going to go.