Philadelphia Eagles: Losing Brandon Graham is a morale killer

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Brandon Graham is the heart and soul of the Philadelphia Eagles.

He’s the team’s longest-tenured player, a team captain, and one of those rare players who have spent more than a decade in a midnight green uniform.

Since going 13th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, BG has played for four different head coaches – five if you count one game of Pat Shurmur – in multiple different defensive schemes and even tried his hand at outside linebacker during the Chip Kelly-era.

Graham has gone from exciting prospect to draft bust to fervent fan favorite through a decade-plus of hard work, and through it all, he’s remained a steady pocket collapser who has found a second life as an interior rusher on obvious passing downs.

But now, a mere two games into his 12th NFL campaign, Graham’s season is over, as he suffered an Achilles injury versus the San Francisco 49ers that will hold him out of action indefinitely.

*sigh* talking about stacking Ls on top of Ls.

Losing Brandon Graham is going to hurt the Philadelphia Eagles’ morale.

As crazy as it may sound, the Philadelphia Eagles have been preparing for life after Brandon Graham for some time.

They drafted Derek Barnett to eventually fill his shoes in 2017, did the same with Josh Sweat in 2018, and secured the services of Milton Williams – arguably the player whose game closest mirrors Williams – in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft to eventually take up number 55’s mantle.

Well, let’s hope eventually is now, as he’ll surely be relied on a whole lot heavier than many would have predicted to fill the shoes of the eventual Eagles Hall of Famer.

Now granted, could the Eagles look to address the position with some of the stragglers left on the free agency open market? Sure. Veterans like Ezekiel Ansah and Vic Beasley are both available, as is PFF favorite Boise State rusher Curtis Weaver, but none of those players are going to immediately slot in and replace BG.

No, even if claiming Weaver off of the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad is a no-brainer, the Eagles will have to largely replace Graham in-house with Milton, Barnett, Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan, with a little extra help from 2021 sixth-round pick Tarron Jackson, who wears Vinny Curry’s old number 75.

That, my friends, is easier said than done.

You see, Graham isn’t just your run-of-the-mill 33-year-old edge rusher. He’s the Eagles’ defensive line leader, their most versatile rusher, and a rare bit of levity in a league that at times takes itself way too seriously. While Graham can still fill many of those roles without being an on-field contributor, as he’ll surely remain in Philly and help out as best he can in a mentorship role, the Eagles are very much going to miss his stoutness against the run, his savviness versus the option, and his ability to attack the quarterback from any tech zero to way out wide.

If there really is no such thing as a moral victory in the NFL, Graham’s absence is unquestionably a moral loss.

Next. How Josh Sweat’s extension affects Derek Barnett. dark

Injuries are an unfortunate part of the NFL. They happen to every team, some more than most, and can completely change the tenure of a season for better or worse. Even if the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line is better positioned to weather losing a starter better than most, it’s never easy to say goodbye to an on-field leader and expect to actually get better as a result. Unless Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, and Milton Williams can seriously step their game up to honor their fallen teammate, it’s hard to categorize this as anything other than a crushing blow.