Eagles Wake-Up Call: The Graham/Pierre-Paul Comparison

It’s pretty much impossible to have a discussion about Brandon Graham in this city without mentioning Jason Pierre-Paul.

You know the story by now, but just in case you didn’t start following football until 20 minutes ago: The Eagles traded up to the 13th spot in the first round in 2010 to draft Graham. The Giants took Pierre-Paul two spots later. Pierre-Paul was a first-team All-Pro last year with 16.5 sacks and has a Super Bowl ring. Graham has been fighting for playing time and has yet to play in a postseason game.

But as Tim detailed yesterday, Graham is coming on strong. He has four sacks in four games since replacing Jason Babin as the starter at left defensive end. Against Cincinnati, Graham turned in a 2.5-sack performance that included a forced fumble.

A reader recently e-mailed me, asking for a Graham/Pierre-Paul comparison. Initially, I thought that would be a silly exercise, but after the crunching the numbers, I came away surprised.

The table below shows pass-rushing opportunities, sacks, QB hits, sack rate and pressure rate. Pass-rushing opportunities and QB hits are tracked by Pro Football Focus. Sacks are tracked by the NFL. And I calculated the last two columns. Sack rate is the frequency with which each player has notched a sack. For example, eight sacks in 100 chances would translate to a sack rate of 8.0 percent. Pressure rate is the frequency with which each player notched a sack OR a QB hit.

Let’s take a look:

Pass-Rushing Chances
Sack Rate
Pressure Rate
Brandon Graham1775.563.4%6.8%
Jason Pierre-Paul4286.531.6%2.3%

As you can see, Pierre-Paul has had 251 more opportunities to rush the passer, yet he has just one more sack. Graham has sacked the quarterback on 3.4 percent of his chances; Pierre-Paul 1.6 percent. Graham has notched either a sack or QB hit on 6.8 percent of his chances; Pierre-Paul 2.3 percent.

Now, before you go accusing me of working as Graham’s agent, we have to point out a few things. One is that defenses game-plan for Pierre-Paul. He can single-handedly dominate a game. We’ve seen that on several occasions. He also had 16.5 sacks last year. In other words, Pierre-Paul is on the radar of opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators every week. He’s also the superior player against the run. If you asked GMs around the league which player they’d rather have, they’d all say Pierre-Paul.

Having said that, the numbers show that Graham’s been impressive and productive in his own right. Against the Bengals, he was going up against former first-round pick Andre Smith, who’s having a really good season. But Graham got the better of him all night and was disruptive throughout.

Graham figures to see plenty of snaps in the final two games. This will be a comparison we’ll revisit at the end of the season, and likely for years to come.


Tim’s got the rundown from Andy Reid’s press conference, including the latest on LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick.

Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t like that the Bengals were passing the ball at the end of the game.

Here are five leftovers from Thursday night’s game, with notes on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Nick Foles and others.

A look at Eagles snap counts, including Tommy Brasher tightening the D-Line rotation.


Eagles players took to social media to share their thoughts on the tragedy in Newton, Conn. Here’s a roundup of some of their Tweets:


The Eagles get the weekend off. We’ll be posting new content as usual.

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  • Johngiam

    Sheil. Thanks so much for this article..been asking for a statistical comparison of pressure percentage between JPP and graham since graham was balling in the year with limited snaps. I very much appreciate this article. Sheil and Tim always deliver for the PEOPLE!
    Thanks again guys! Love your work

    • Johngiam

      All year I have been asking for this statistical comparison between the two. GRAHAM has arrived!!! I no longer need these stats to prove a point that he has been balling all year. few players have made the most of whatever snaps they were given this year the way graham has. I was BLOWN away It was Andre smith that we was dominating. Graham was basically an unblock able wrecking ball of chaos for most f the game Thursday…and it wasn’t against some back up chump. Then again, graham has been doing this all year long, in very limited snaps of course. No one will ever tell you that they would rather have graham then JPP, but People can no longer call graham a bust either. If he keeps playing like this, we will forget about Earl Thomas in no time
      Keep it up graham! Very proud of the kid, to go through all the adversity and come back strong like this. Def shows some moxxy!!

  • TXEaglesFan

    Pierre-Paul has definitely not been as dominant this year. Some of it might be game planning and increased double teams, but I think he is either injured or has let the early success go to his head and not played with as much passion.

    • Johngiam

      Mentally, as in loving the game, competitive fire, the desire to be great and work for it…..even at this stage I trust Graham more in that regard then JPP…I’m sure the eagles do also and that’s the main reason they passed on JPP..then again, at those times howie was only drafting players off of senior bowl performances, so not surprised they went with graham, since he dominated that game. You know they couldn’t draft earl Thomas. Ow dare they give the fans what they want lol. So if graham continues to play as well as he has. I mean that was a damn good tackle he just dominated the other night…and I mean completely dominated. Eye stat sheet did not do justice to the impact cox, graham, cole had on that game….then I will stop drooling over JPP

  • 1972

    Stay healthy brandon. youll be seeing alot of double teams next year. hopefully curry develops on the other side. we havent had to good bookend d lineman in a long time

    • Johngiam

      Here’s the thing..I don’t even know how you are going to double graham, once Cox develops into one of the most disruptive forces in football! He typically lines up next to graham and commands double teams already just about every play. For teams to commit 4players to block those 2 guys is huge for our 2013 line backing core of Manti teo, Dameco Ryan, and mychal Kendrick’s lol to fly around and make plays. Love the way they are starting to use Kendrick’s as the WIL to missile himself into the backfield and disrupted plays allowing teammates like fletcher or Vinny to clean it up! That’s good football right there. If Vinny develops into his full potential, and down the road we get another young impact tackle to pair with cox…WATCH OUT! With Manti Teo, we are two abover average safety and a starting corner to replace Nmandi away from becoming a special defense. Wish Tommy Brasher would stay on for another year..but a chance at that becomes even more slim with Andy moving on.

      • Anebriated

        The combine will be big for Te’o. Biggest question about him is does he have the speed to keep up with NFL caliber players. If anything he would probably take over for Demeco in the middle

        • Johngiam

          No way man! Take over for Dameco in three years maybe. Like you said, the combine will be huge for him, but I get this feeling that he will pleasantly surprise people. Dameco is the perfect MLB.. In today’s nfl with caveman pass catching freak tight ends, as long as his speed is legit, toes coverage skills are wasted not playing him as the SAM. When Dameco gets old then you slide Manti in the middle. As long as Manti measures like a first round talent at the combine, I really hope to snatch him up

  • Wilbert M.

    We shouldn’t have Pierre-Paul OR Graham. We should have Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas. When we traded up to the 13th pick, 99.9% of the world thought we were taking Thomas. But, Andy had to be smarter than everyone else and not take the obvious pick. Now we have a surplus of DE’s and not a single NFL caliber safety.

    • Johngiam

      Surplus of Dend? We are lucky to have 3 dens going forward Graham I trust more so going forward then any other Dend on our roster. Of course I want Earl tho,as just like everyone else, but Graham can still turnout ti be a fantastic I pact player in this league and lesson the low of not drafting Earl. man I really love his game. I watch the damn Seahawks just to watch him play. It still hurts

    • morgan c

      eh, thomas isn’t as great as everyone pretends. could we use him more than graham? yes. but the dude isn’t ed reed 2.0 so let’s just calm down. browner and sherman are what make that secondary work, not thomas.

      • Brian

        Thank you. Earl Thomas = plight of the Eagles fan.

        Did you guys also know that Tom Brady was drafted after we picked that bum John Romero? Oh, the humanity!

  • bostonianguest

    In addition to the fact that jpp has been on the radar of all game planners, he has also played in more varied situations than Graham. Graham has been a 3rd down guy for most of this year. Its easier to rush up field than to have to read the play. Plus… Like I said, more rush opportunities.

  • xlGmanlx

    This just proves a point, the right HC, right defensive scheme, the igg’s could be competing for the NFC east next year. If Cox progresses like he has all season and Curry gets online, the front four will be set for a while – Graham, Cox, Thornton, Curry. We pick up Te’o and we could be set at the front seven for a while.

  • Matthew Donaldson

    One thing that JPP does that Graham does not is block down passes at the line. Those are just about as important as a sack or a pressure.

  • Philly_Bigz

    …and brandon graham has arrived…

  • MAC

    Funny all the fans that called Brandon Graham a bust after an ACL tear at end of rookie year where are ya? I swear half these readers/fans are so ridiculous. If it was up to them guys would get a 10 game tryout in NFL at DE. It’s ok to be criticle of these guys, but do not use words like bust and terrible when a guy has only played 10 games. Most of these fans are same ones deciding Foles is next Brady or next Hoying. We don’t know yet bc not enough of sample size.


    • Johngiam

      Brandon graham is the second rated defensive end in all of football right now. True story