The Sports Daily > Eagles Eye Blog
Rating Brandon Graham’s prospects for 2013…

We're in that "dead" period of the Eagles news cycle, but don't relax too much… Remember, becoming a winner again is about grinding it out… And right now, we as fans are grinding it.

The Jason Peters thing? No biggie to me… just grind it out. Gee, big surprise that the local Monroe, Louisiana cops are watching the multi-millionaire country boy's every move! Wow, is their police chief named Roscoe? And those guys have messed with the Peters boys for a long time now. It's like the Dukes of Hazzard down there. Someone's just jealous…And as IF they didn't know that Jason Peters' biggest off-field passion in life is to restore and rebuild old classic cars?  Oh yeah, they knew…

Anyway, nice to know Jason's reconstructed achilles tendon can still handle a clutch pedal…and/or an accelerator pedal.

The only legitimate football article about the Eagles I have researched in the last two days comes from Pro Football Focus, and it features DE/OLB Brandon Graham.

The article is by Ben Stockwell and is entitled

Pass Rusher Profile: Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Graham

It's worth a quick read.

The "focus" of the article is part-time, rotational pass rushers in the league.

Some teams use a pass-rush rotation to maximize the situational play of each player, while others run to a "pitch count" to ensure that they are always fresh on the field or protected from potentially aggravating old injuries. The Eagles are one of these teams.

Two players who fall into this category of "rotational pass rushers" were the focus for Ben Stockwell's edition of the Pass Rusher Profile examining two of the most productive but perhaps under-used pass rushers in the last two seasons: Carlos Dunlap and Brandon Graham.

"Dunlap and Graham both entered the league as part of the 2010 draft class but have as yet failed to nail down the sort of workload that might have been expected from them. In Graham’s case this can be in large part attributed to a torn ACL which derailed his career towards the end of his rookie season. After a promising rookie season where he shone when given the chance in a crowded Eagles’ defensive line rotation Graham re-emerged in 2012, finally clear of injury, and was the only pass rusher to record pressure more frequently than Von Miller."

"In Dunlap’s case the under-use is to an extent harder to understand and appears more down to a coaching decision than any area where he may be short of productivity. Dunlap is without question the Bengals’ best pass rusher and whilst he might not have put up the sack numbers in the last two seasons he has led the Bengals in terms of Pass Rushing Productivity both years. Even with his run defense being far from a weakness, Dunlap is still not entrusted with a full-time starting role, splitting snaps with the likes of Robert Geathers who is no better a run defender than Dunlap and a sizeable downgrade when the opposition drops back to pass."

The overall volume of pass rushing opportunities might have precluded these two from yet entering the league’s elite pass rushers, but in terms of efficiency they have shown that they are ready to handle that leap.

The article goes on to examine the various specialties and talents of each unique player, then seems to give the edge to Graham for biggest future upside. It sounds real nice…

Both pass rushers are to an extent known quantities, both have proven that in well-managed or situational roles they can be tremendously productive, but there is a great unknown yet to come of whether they will be entrusted with — and able to grasp — the opportunity to play a more extended role in their respective defenses.

"For Dunlap, the Bengals have the air of a team on the brink and with the opportunity there to really press on and become contenders. To do that the perceived wisdom is that the offense led by Andy Dalton needs to take a step forward but outside of Geno Atkins the defense really lacks a consistent play-making presence and one has to wonder whether now is the time for the Bengals and Mike Zimmer to roll the dice, give Dunlap an extended role in the defense and see if he can spark some more big plays alongside Atkins."

Too much of the time the Bengals’ defensive line is filled with players like Domata Peko and Robert Geathers doing nothing more than occupying space and offering very little in the way of penetration. The Bengals have the talent to get more aggressive and try to make things happen.

"For Graham there are perhaps bigger question marks, just as he appeared to be answering questions about his return to health the Eagles new coaching staff are introducing a 3-4 defense where the role of many players holding over from the previous scheme is unclear. They aggressively (and in my opinion, unwisely) went hard after Connor Barwin in free agency which presumably will leave only one starting spot open to a host of players, including Graham, converting from defensive end to outside linebacker… unless they get “creative” and run a 4-2-5 nickel defense with two edge rushers like Graham and Trent Cole having their hand on the ground in sub packages."

Now in my opinion that's where the conversation gets interesting…

Though the switch to a 3-4 may sound like a frame shift for the Eagles there is no reason that, with sub packages overtaking base defenses as the most used by NFL defenses, Graham couldn’t find himself in a situation by which he is labeled as a 3-4 outside linebacker but spends as much or more time rushing the passer with his hand on the ground.

I know, it's still early, but that's a concept I can grind on…