Is Brandon Graham Ready to Breakout?
All the talk about Brandon Graham's make or break season in 2012 after two disappointing seasons has mostly been a break this season after the Eagles 2010 first round pick played just 13 snaps all season
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo talked about Graham, who showed the ability to play in the backfield last week in limited time on Thursday. He stated that Graham has improved in both game play and in practice and the desire to get Graham more playing time – he had five quarterback hurries in just seven plays last Sunday – and noted the depth of the position is one of the reasons Graham has had issues getting on the field.
“The thing is we talked about this last week and he did get more plays than he did [the week before] and he did well," explained Castillo. "But it is a competition. You have nine guys that are starters and they’re all fighting to get more playing time. They’re all fighting to see who will be in that third-down package. They’re all fighting to see who’s going to be on that alpha package, who’s first, who’s second. So it is really competition and it starts out in practice. You know yesterday we had a good practice, today we’re trying to practice hard and fast and that’s the key to rehearsal for Sunday. That’s where it kind of goes into it depending on how many reps he gets."
But his play in limited time is not going unnoticed, which means it could finally be a chance for Graham to get some more playing time, but it's certainly not a guarantee.
"You saw Brandon Graham come in and give us some great snaps in there," said head coach Andy Reid. “That’s what it comes down to. So, [for defensive line coach Jim Washburn], that’s a tough thing to juggle there. You have nine guys and they’re all putting in positive snaps."
Graham has 19 tackles and just three sacks in two season, playing in just 18 games, which qualifies as underperformance based on his status as a first-round pick. But Reid said Graham just needs to keep working.
"It’s important that Brandon just continues to keep pushing. It’s a good problem to have, I guess I’d tell you. We’ll just see if that increases or not as we go on here.”
Going back tot he 2012 draft, the Eagles took Graham with the 13 pick in the draft, two picks later the Giants selected 2011 All-pro Jason Pierre Paul. Pierre Paul has 22.5 sacks, including 16.5 last season, so the comparison will always be there since Pierre Paul was on the board when the Eagles took Graham.
While Pierre Paul has flourished, other high drafted ends from the 2010 draft have struggled, just like Graham.
Derrick Morgan was the 16th pick that year but tore his ACL and has been a bust so far in Tennessee with just five career sacks. Jerry Hughes was taken by the Colts in the second round, but in three season he has just two sacks. Koa Misi, another second round pick by Miami has just 5.5 sacks in three season.
It wasnt until Carlos Dunlap who was taken at pick 54 in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals, has 14 career sacks even though he hasn't played a game this season - he was another guy Eagles fans talked about drafting in 2010, but some off-field issues surrounded him.
Of course, that doesn't mean graham will be a bust, but he is behind starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin, plus Phillip Hunt, Darryl Tapp and even Cullen Jenkins, who shifts over to end at times have played more snaps then the former first round pick, so topping double-digit sacks this season seems like a longshot.
But the aforementioned names, if nothing else, show that at least some highly drafted ends have done what Graham is trying to do: erase the bad taste of a disappointing start with a breakout season in year three.