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 ChancesSacksHitsSack RatePressure 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.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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