The Eagles defense has undergone quite the overhaul this season with a lot of love being paid to the defensive line. Jordan Davis and Haason Reddick could be pillars of this unit for years to come, but there’s one stalwart who could benefit greatly from this year’s talent intake. That main is Brandon Graham.
The party ain’t over yet for Brandon Graham
Brandon Graham was drafted by the Eagles in 2010. After persevering to shed the early ’bust’ label, BG became the heart and soul of the franchise. If the Eagles want to increase their win total from last season, they will need to rely on the 34-year-old to get another year of solid play.
There are a number of factors as to why.
Stop the Run
There’s no denying that Graham is the team’s best edge defender when playing the run. Even before suffering a season ending injury last year, Graham had made some excellent plays up front that put both the Falcons and 49ers in tough situations offensively.
Against both the 49ers and Falcons, Graham was a big reason the defense gave up less than 200 yards passing.
Directly after his injury, the Eagles gave up 160 yards rushing against Dallas and over 228 against the Chiefs. The loss of Graham was significant when looking at the overall numbers directly after his injury occurred.
With the additionS of Haason Reddick, Nakobe Dean, and Jordan Davis, it’s fair to question if teams try to attack the Eagles outside the tackles.
Without good defensive ends, the Eagles will be susceptible to such plays. While Josh Sweat continues to develop into a solid player, the Eagles don’t really have any other option outside of Graham to wall off the other side.
Without Graham, the Eagles defense struggled against the better teams in football. It’s up to Graham to continue to play at a high level.
The Key to Rushing QB’s….is Patience
If you didn’t get the reference to the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer…well, I can’t help you.
Graham has put up very consistent numbers since 2016. Yet even when he was healthy last season, the Eagles only had one total sack through the first two games. Last season, the Eagles were 31st in the league in sacks. Add Haason Reddick to that mix and that number should be a lot better this season.
If the Eagles’ defense is going to be anywhere better than they were last season, it will be because Graham can take advantage of a more free-flowing defense that gives him winnable matchups on a routine basis as opposed to having to carry the load of the entire unit. Everyone eats.
What about the Depth?
While the Eagles have excellent depth on the interior of their defensive line, the outside is less than ideal.
Outside of Graham and Sweat, the second pair of defensive ends is Tarron Jackson and, you guessed it, Derek Barnett.
The guy who not only has more penalties committed in five seasons with the team than sacks and played terribly during an option year worth $9.5M. The guy whose Head Coach literally said ”it’s always him!” after his billionth offsides penalty during a Monday Night Football game.
Yep – that guy!
In the end, the Eagles cannot survive a full season where Derek Barnett is starting because of an injury to either Sweat or Graham. While the Eagles may be able to circumvent an injury here or there with Davis, Hargrave and Cox all being freak athletes, it’s pretty clear that the team needs Graham to be available and to also play at a high level so Barnett isn’t put into situations where the team needs him to do more than he is capable of.
All in all
The defensive line, and specifically the edge rushers are going to determine just how good this Eagles team will be. And while Josh Sweat can be counted on as a starter and Haason Reddick can be used all over the field, if Brandon Graham plays at a high level, this Eagles team will go very far this year.
Durability, execution, and production will ultimately determine if the Eagles “key to succes” is capable of dominating in year 13.
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