Brandon Graham has had an up and down career with the Philadelphia Eagles since he was drafted out of Michigan three years ago in the 2010 NFL draft. There is reason for optimism among Graham supporters, however, as down the stretch last season when he finally got a solid number of snaps after defensive end Jason Babin was released, Graham finally started to show why he was a high first round pick.
Graham exploded in the final five games of the season finishing with four sacks during that span and garnering more pressures on the quarterback than any other defensive end on the roster. He uses an effective bull rush to get to the QB as his upper body strength and explosiveness are off the charts. When his head was finally in gear towards the end of the season as a starter, opposing right tackles had no answer for the third year man.
Graham, who is used to playing in the 270-275 range, has trimmed down to 255 in new defensive coordinator Billy Davis‘ 3-4 hybrid defense so that he can be more effective dropping into coverage. This defense will require Graham to play with his hand in the dirt as well as standing up which are things he has not done since he played in a 3-4 when he was a Wolverine. Being the fine athlete that he is, I believe Graham should make the transition rather smoothly to 3-4 outside linebacker, and Davis is going to rely on him to get after the QB as well as cover the big tight ends in the NFC on occasion.
Graham had a promising rookie campaign before it was cut short by a severe injury when he tore his ACL. He struggled to even get back on the field the following year, but two years out from that potential career threatening setback he demonstrated why he was a first round pick in 2010. Graham has the strength and natural pass rushing skills to thrive in this new pressure based defense. I think he can be the Eagles’ biggest pass rushing threat in a 3-4, and if he parlays his success of late last season into this upcoming campaign, defenses will have to account for him on every snap. Graham seems focused and determined to once again prove his doubters wrong in what he calls a make or break type of year for him. Right tackles beware.