Brandon Graham, Four Years Later

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
At the very beginning of Training Camp 2010, when Brandon Graham was brand new to the scene and the possibilities were endless, he emerged from the training facility at Lehigh University and was greeted by a large group of reporters lining either side of the walkway.

A wide grin on his face, Graham treated it almost like a receiving  line, and shook hands (or even hugged) each member of the media as he made his way to the parking lot.

When a reporter commented that his reaction was different than most, Graham responded, “I’m going to do things differently.”


The scene on Thursday stood in sharp contrast to the one that unfolded some four years ago. Following practice at the NovaCare, a number of media members were hanging out in one of the hallways when Graham walked out of the weight room and towards the exit. As the throng followed him out Graham continued to walk, yelling back with a smile on his face, "I can't.  Y'all are going to get me in trouble."

Eventually he was surrounded, and relented.

Now 26 and entering his fifth season in the NFL, Graham has reached a pivotal point in his career. He is in a contract year. The more he produces, the more attractive he becomes -- whether it be to the Eagles or other potential suitors across the league. There was some question as to whether Graham was going to change addresses this offseason. Some in his camp were hopeful that he would be heading to a team that ran a 4-3 defense  and there was some buzz about a potential trade, but nothing came to fruition.

Did Graham ever talk to Chip about it?

"No, no. I don't talk about it because it's not my place," he said. "I feel like they want me here because I'm still here. All the rumors or whatever it is, that's just rumors. But you know, if that was something that they wanted to do, I would have been gone."

With Graham still in Eagle green, the question becomes: how does he fit? At Thursday's practice he was running with the second team at right outside linebacker behind Trent Cole, while first-round pick Marcus Smith played LOLB with the third team. There's no reason Graham can't be part of Billy Davis' rotation, especially while Smith gets a acclimated to the NFL. During the first year of his transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, he played just 27 percent of the snaps per Pro Football Focus and finished with four sacks and 18 hurries.

"I think he obviously has the skill set to rush the passer and set the edge.  And when he's been in there, he's been productive.  The issue is that the other guy's really productive, too," said Kelly.

"How many times can you get them all on the field together?  If you put Brandon in, do you take Trent out; if you put Brandon in, do you take Connor  out?  It's really the pecking order.  I think both our depth at outside linebacker, we've added to it by adding Marcus Smith and Bryan Braman.  But I feel confident we're better at that position right now than we were a year ago because of who we added."

Besides being more familiar with the system, Graham believes he's poised for a bigger year because he has his weight where it's supposed to be -- at around 265. "Last year I was really dealing with weight issues," he allowed. "This year it hasn't really been a problem. I'm able to move around a lot better. I know the defense, I know what he's looking for in practice. I've just been excited the whole year, just trying to show him that with a year under my belt I can show you that I can take it to another level."

Graham said he didn't have any negative reaction to Smith being drafted and welcomed the competition. It wasn't that long ago when he was the new pass rusher on the block with a bright future in Philly ahead. Things haven't gone exactly according to plan, and maybe he's not as innocent when it comes to the media and other aspects of the league anymore, but the optimism and the smile remain intact.

"I feel good, man. I feel like I can adjust to anything," he said. "And this year I'm more fast-paced because I know the defense. And I just want to show those guys that I really want to be here because I love Philadelphia, I made it my home, and I would be sad if I had to go."

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  • Brandon Boykin, LOL

    Really rooting for Brandon Graham. He probably has no future here, and I hope he can earn a future elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for his future to be a bright one here. It just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

  • TripSquadMonopoly

    I really think its time for Cole to move on more than anybody.

    • Tommy McCabe Jr

      I hate to even agree cuz I love Cole in Eagle green but you may be right. I think its time for Graham to take over. That would be a best case scenario for more than one reason. With Smith practicing at LOLB (Barwin’s side-makes the wheels spin hearing that) ya wonder if they feel like Barwin is on the back 9 already. If that ends up carrying merit, then they have to find out if Graham can play OLB. Gotta figure out if they need to find another OLB in the draft next year in addition to Ryans’ eventual replacement.

      • imnotsorryisaidthat

        agreed cole is a weak link and over paid.like grahams motor and physicality

  • Rick H

    I just don’t get why Curry & Graham do not play more. You watch the games and they get to the QB and make plays in general… Billy Davis impressed me last season and I was not a fan of his. He proved me and a lot of people wrong. However these guys can play! Puzzling…

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      difference between making the few plays we fans catch on the t.v. screen, vs. the mistakes they make in scheme that show up on film to the coaches. Even doing the right things the wrong way will often earn little favor.
      Plus, it was very clear last year neither one was better than the starter at their position

      • Richard Colton

        The Curry dilemma – we see A) the constant QB pressure and B) the lack of playmakers on this defense and wonder why he doesn’t play. Coaches mutter something about scheme and “gap discipline” and people assume its a conspiracy.

        • cliff henny

          hopefully it was he’s sub package guy and ’13 was about getting guys in place with base. anything over 3rd and 5, Curry needs to be in there. let Logan and Thornton do the heavy lifting on 1st and 2nd, then go sub package crazy formations

          • Richard Colton

            especially when they play those even-fronts. I love when Curry gets in there, but like Rob said – he’s got to do everything right.

          • cliff henny

            yup, Rob’s right. but, we have to remember guy was either 4-3 D-end or OLB. doubt anyone on team had as large of position or role change. see how much he’s used this year, like most, i’m hoping alot. do think kelly want to do 1 thing like SEA, play like 20+ defenders.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Well if Cary gives up the catch on 3rd down much like he did for the better part of last season, we’ll definitely need to rotate defenders a ton. Guys like Barwin & Ryans will get OLD quickly if they continue at their current pace. I blame that on both lack of depth behind them but also the additional time the defense was on the field certainly added to that. If we can decrease the 1st down conversions & spell those guys it will go a long way. The good news is we do have some troops that can come in with those sub packages and inject some much needed speed and athleticism.

        • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

          yea, that’s my issue with stats like PFF in these discussions, since raw numbers supplant any consideration of scheme or supporting cast. I like the place those have in the conversation, but it’s absurd that Brandon Graham comes out as a top5 pass rusher in the NFL by efficiency, or whatever it is. Football is too different from baseball (where every team plays RF the same way, SS the same way, etc.) to let stats tell story

  • DirtyWaters

    Fastball. High motor.

    • cliff henny

      was. that darn microfracture surgery. took all the steam out of his motor.

      • Always Hopeful

        Seems like a programmatic non fit now. Still rooting for him though. Maybe he becomes “Hugh Douglas” for a 4-3 team.

        • Johnny Domino

          He’s maybe a bishslap away from that.

  • cliff henny

    there’s talent busts and injury busts, and he’s the latter. now caught up in the scheme whitewash. if he couldnt get Cole off the field for any of his 1000 snaps, not sure he’ll get more of an opportunity with Braman Smith and Long floating around now. will they bury him on depth chart to save 1.7m in dead money (3.4m in ’14 and 1.7m in ’15)? doesnt seem worth it if it means losing developemental LB like Long, who sounds like they are really high on. hope some teams breaks down and tosses a late pick, maybe 4-3 team gets rash of injuries. careers are so short, seems unfair to have a guy ride pine due to scheme.

    • Tommy McCabe Jr

      Seeing as Graham’s younger, cheaper and most likely more adept to dropping into coverage than Cole, maybe Cole traded to a 4-3 team would help all parties involved. I have to believe Cole carries more value to a 4-3 team since he’s proven.

      • jmkrav

        Coles salary is too big. Most teams wouldn’t trade for a 10mil DE who ayes OLB the previous year with only moderate “perceived” success

        • Tommy McCabe Jr

          A team that Is considered to be “right there” in terms of getting to the SB this season and has a DE go down might. Especially when hed be in the 5-6th rd pick area.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      hypothetical for you, numbers man—
      if jerrah called tomorrow and offered you a 5th/conditional 4th next year for Graham, would you pull the trigger?

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Lol… I know the question is not for me, but I’m not helping JJ in his cause to rebuilding his defense. The compensation is not quite good enough to sell my soul to the devil.

      • cliff henny

        i’d say ‘yes’ before he started the conditional part. graham seems like a good eough guy, dealt crappy hand w/ injuries, coaches and scheme changes. but, he isnt changing fortunes of dallas’ D.

  • Richard Colton

    Always liked the kid, and between the injury, scheme change, and revolving door at defensive coordinators, he hasn’t been lucky. That said, we drafted him to be a difference maker up front. He never became that.

    Bust.

    • Always Hopeful

      Harsh reality. Even in light of challenging circumstances. Will JPP make us “what if…” this year? We already know what Earl Thomas is…ugh.

      • Richard Colton

        I’ll pass on him. JPP is the guy people were talking about a few years ago, but he’s kind of flamed out. Fun fact – 14 of the first 22 guys taken in the 2010 draft have made at least one pro-bowl. BG not on the list.

        • borntosuffer

          I get no “fun” out of that fact – more like a fuct fact.

        • MediaMike

          JPP sucks. He was a flash in the pan in 2011, graded out worse than Graham in 2012, and is generally not interested in the physical upkeep necessary to keep nagging injuries from derailing his career.

  • Andy

    I like Brandon Graham. Seems like he’s been around forever but he’s still a young guy. Hopefully he gets a legitimate chance to contribute in Philly this year but either way he is going to get another shot with a 4-3 defense next year and will be a great value pick-up for someone.

  • Glenn

    I think Brandon Graham has a great chance to impress this organization at the ROLB position. He is extremely talented, and produced last year when given the opportunity. He has had a tough go so far between the injury and regime changes. I think he will look more comfortable with his responsibilities, especially pass coverage. Hopefully, with a year under his belt, he will show he has a bright future. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the ROLB of the future, and replace Cole as the starter after this year. Especially after seeing Marcus Smith taking all of his snaps at LOLB.

  • Reasonableeaglefan

    He’s one guy I will really follow after he leaves town. I’m so curious to see if he can thrive in the right scheme. For awhile I was convinced he would, now I’m starting to doubt that. I think the way Curry flashes in limited opportunity shows he has real talent, just a poor fit. Graham almost never catches my eye when he gets out there.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I’d agree with that last statement for last season, but not so much in ’12. Graham was showing some flashes in ’12, which is what had everyone excited about him and then made last year look like a letdown or a bad scheme fit.

      • Reasonableeaglefan

        I kind of forgot how he played in ’12, and the advanced metrics on him were really encouraging. But considering how little pressure Cole was generating in the first half of last year, and how few snaps they were willing to give Graham on passing downs, I think we know how buried he really is on this team. Buried to the point they spent their top draft pick on an OLB. The real surprise would be if he remained Cole’s main backup with Smith opposite. That might give him a chance to make some plays and earn that next opportunity elsewhere. Right now I picture Smith as a “swing” OLB, with Graham picking up the scraps.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I agree that Smith will most likely be the primary backup at both sides. But I want to see how the remaining practice sessions go and where they have him take reps before I come to determine where he’ll play this season. It would be a real bummer and odd if they kept Smith as the backup to the left side only behind Barwin, unless they had plans to move Barwin to the right side or into the middle. I’ve got my eyes locked in to the LB & CB positions more than anything else.

          • Reasonableeaglefan

            I agree that putting him on the left side would be a disapointment. Plus, I’ve never viewed Barwin as a true predator. I’m most curious about LB and the Nate/Earl battle. I’ll be watching Watkins, but I think he’s a year away.

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Yeah, LBs are a few notches higher up on my list than CBs this year. I’m just curious to see if Watkins can become that playmaker on the outside we’ve lacked. It’ll be really exciting to have playmakers emerge in all 3 phases of the defense. Might be a year away from that (Boykin, Smith & Watkins), but it’ll be interesting to see flashes of that this year.

  • Dave S

    Thanks for that one Andy. How much of Kansas City remains uneaten?

  • Guest

    “Wow man, that’s a pretty classy comment you got there. Are you sure you’re an Eagles fan?” – every national media idiot everywhere

  • Hanibal Luis

    Oh BG, what could’ve been. At least you weren’t a McDougle.

    • Johnny Domino

      I’m sure he’s gut shot by that remark.

      • Hanibal Luis

        Badum-dum

  • MediaMike

    Brandon Graham was 100% wrecked by a knee injury (started by an un-punished by Tyson Clabo) and Sean McDermott’s horrible coaching. Using Graham in pass coverage and at DT did nothing to help him grow and develop. Just as he was dominating on a % of snaps basis in 2012, he winds up in a system not suited to his skills.

    I really hope this guy gets a 2nd chance to be the dominating every down 4-3 DE he can be somewhere else.

  • brett

    Honestly I’m gonna switch the conversation to the MLB. I honestly think Ryans gets waaaay too much snaps. I was really impressed with najee Goode last year and i don’t know why nobody talks about him the way he played in special teams and played solid against washington and half of green bay.

  • Amar

    He wants to be here, its up to the coaches and himself to make sure he keeps producing at the highest level.
    Look at his college highlights tape, man was beast. Hope that happens soon.