Graham is Looking to Take the Next Step
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - What a difference a year can make.
After six underwhelming seasons in which more Eagles fans cursed the organization for not taking Earl Thomas or Jason Pierre-Paul in the 2010 NFL Draft, Brandon Graham finally developed into what Philadelphia thought he would be when the organization moved up to take him at No. 13 overall, one spot before Thomas went to Seattle and two ahead of JPP to the New York Giants.
Rewind to last April and the talk around the NovaCare Complex was that Connor Barwin and the recently re-signed Vinny Curry would be the top two options on the edges of Jim Schwartz's defensive line with Graham mixing in as a rotational player.
In hindsight, it was B.G. who stepped up and was one of the better edge players in the NFL, earning second-team All-Pro honors, while Barwin, now deposed to Los Angeles, and Curry were disappointments.
Asked what comes next for him on Tuesday, Graham talked like any good pass rusher would.
"My next step," he said, "is to make sure that I get the quarterback."
Sacks are one of the more overrated stats in professional football and Graham finished 2016 with a pedestrian 5 1/2 but he pressured the quarterback more than any other player in the league, amassing over 40 hurries.
Often it was Graham or Fletcher Cox blowing up the opposing offensive line but without the other parts of the pass rush doing its job, quarterbacks could often climb the pocket or flush outside to avoid danger.
The Eagles hope the addition of Tim Jernigan and Chris Long help alleviate that but Graham also took his share of the blame for the lack of raw sack numbers.
"I think I missed a lot of sacks last year," Graham admitted. "I'm just making sure I work on my technique. When I look back at it, it's just sometimes when I miss. it's because I wasn't as violent as I should have been."
One thing never questioned regarding Graham is the trademark energy and effort he brings to everything whether it's sitting in front of the podium in April or rushing Eli Manning in December.
"The effort is there," Graham said. "It's really just taking that next step of being the technician."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen