Graham Wrecked Vikings’ Game Plan
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Early this season, we’ve said time and time again on The Sports Bash that Brandon Graham was "playing" at a Pro Bowl level.
Part of that tempered assessment spawned from the narrative that Graham was always regarded as a bit of a disappointment after being taken as the No. 13 overall pick in the 2010 draft, one spot ahead of where Seattle selected Earl Thomas and two spots before the Giants snared Jason Pierre-Paul.
You can officially stop being upset at that pick because in his seventh NFL season, the light has turned on and Graham has developed into one of the NFL’s best edge defenders, single-handedly wrecking Sam Bradford’s return to Philadelphia on Sunday by destroying backup right tackle Jeremiah Sirles.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Graham had eight total pressures on Sunday, along with his strip back and now has the highest pass-rush productivity rate among 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL.
The Michigan product has come a long way from the offseason when he was penciled in as the third defensive end behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. Through six games B.G. has been the Eagles’ best defender -- yes, even better than Fletcher Cox.
Against the Vikings, other dominant performers were safety Malcolm Jenkins, who produced four hurries on ten blitz opportunities and middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had his most productive game of the season.
Safety Rodney McLeod also brought his A game and Connor Barwin rebounded from an awful performance against Trent Williams with a solid effort against lesser tackles in T.J. Clemmings and Jake Long.
The offense was far less successful and to no surprise, Carson Wentz had his worst game as a professional against a tough Minnesota defense. The rookie did not complete a pass that went 10-or-more yards down the field (0 for 6) as the Vikings eschewed the blitz for the most part and played coverage.
The offensive line -- particularly Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce -- was solid but the skill-position players couldn’t do much against Minnesota’s back seven with the most successful being Josh Huff and backup tight end Brent Celek.
Eagles’ targets had three more drops on Sunday, bringing their season total to 11.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen