Philadelphia Eagles: Can Brandon Graham heat up down the stretch?

(Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)
(Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images) /

With the defensive line (almost) back to full strength, can Brandon Graham recapture his 2017 form over the Philadelphia Eagles’ final six games?

Most players go all out in the final year of their contract in the hopes of securing a new deal the following offseason, but unfortunately, that has not been the case with Brandon Graham so far this season.

After putting together his most complete season in recent memory for the Philadelphia Eagles in route to their eventual Super Bowl championship, Graham has been surprisingly quiet so far this season.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s played bad, quite the contrary, as Graham was recently named the most complete defensive end in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (via The Eagles Wire), but still, it’s hard not to notice that his numbers are down from the season before.

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After logging 9.5 sacks, 14 QB hits and 47 tackles in 2017, Graham has only gotten home three times so far this season, while recording eight QB hits and 27 tackles. If this trend continues, Graham will finish out the season with about 5.5 sacks, the same total he’s had in 2012, 2014, and 2016.

Does this mean 2017 was an outlier a la Connor Barwin‘s 14.5 sack performance in 2014, or could Timmy Jernigan‘s exclusion from the roster after undergoing surgery during the offseason have allowed opposing coordinators to turn their focus to Graham and neutralize his ability to get around the edge?

Fortunately, we may not have to wait much longer to find out, as Jernigan is scheduled to return for the Eagles week 11 against the New York Giants, restoring Jim Schwartz‘s four-man rotation to some semblance of normalcy.

Now granted, the team will still be without Derek Barnett, as he went on IR following a shoulder injury in Week 7, but still, Jernigan’s addition should free up players like Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Michael Bennett to get more one-on-one opportunities in the box, and allow the team to get more pressure by collapsing the pocket.

The best relief for a diminish secondary? Good pressure up front, and boy could they use some pressure against certified sitting duck Eli Manning, as the Eagles’ secondary is depleted.

Fortunately, Graham has sacked no quarterback more over his nine-year NFL career.

With a trio of brand new cornerbacks potentially set to make their first-ever starts in midnight green in De’Vante Bausby, Cre’von LeBlanc, and Chandon Sullivan, the Eagles just can’t sit back and allow quarterbacks time to make something happen.

No, if the Eagles are going to 5-6, and return to one game back in the NFC East, the team is going to have to find a way to get pressure up front, and need someone, anyone to step up and make a stand.

As one of the team’s five captains, Graham needs to step up and set the tempo for the Eagles’ regressed defense. With Jernigan back in the fold, he still certainly gets more opportunities to face off against the Giants’ troubled offensive line one-on-one, and be able to get into the backfield to give Manning and rookie phenom Saquon Barkley fits at the Linc.

Next. Eagles need Carson Wentz to match performance from first meeting with Giants. dark

While only time will tell if Brandon Graham can double his current sack total over the last month and a half of the NFL season, let alone finally break into double digits for the first time in his career, if he’s still serious about getting a new deal done this offseason, this is the perfect opportunity to prove his value to the Philadelphia Eagles.