Graham on the Rise?

Posted: February 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 62 Comments »

Peter King’s new site, The MMQB, has been a good source of information since it began last fall. He hired smart, talented writers. They do their research and write informed pieces.

That said, I’ve been scratching my head since reading this piece from Andy Benoit…his list of breakout defensive players for 2014. Benoit lists Cedric Thornton and Brandon Boykin, who I think both emerged in 2013. I realize that me being an Eagles fan makes me know the team better than the average fan, but both guys made big plays in nationally televised games. Okay, maybe I’m being picky here. It is nice to see Ced and the Boyking get some national publicity.

Benoit also put Brandon Graham on his list.

It wasn’t supposed to take this long for Graham to emerge; the Eagles drafted him 13th overall in 2010. But his development was halted by a late-2010 knee injury, and he never quite found a niche in the 4-3 schemes that Andy Reid’s defensive coordinators ran. In Billy Davis’s hybrid 3-4, Graham operates primarily as an outside linebacker (though he’s also been effective lining up with his hand in the dirt). He should see more playing time with Trent Cole coming off a somewhat inconsistent 2013 campaign. And if he can’t take snaps from Cole, he’ll take them from someone else. Simply put, Graham will be the Eagles’ most dynamic pass-rusher in 2014.

I don’t get this at all.

Benoit watches the All-22 tape on a regular basis. He knows his stuff. But sometimes he and I see things very differently. This apparently is one of them.

Brandon Graham never showed me anything this season that would make me think “I can’t wait to see him in 2014.” Graham had his moments, but there is a reason I think OLB is the number one need for the Eagles this offseason. Graham didn’t show me enough to think that he can be the primary rush LB in a 3-4 defense.

I hope I’m the wrongest wrong in the history of wrongs. I’d love Graham to be the answer at OLB. That would allow the Eagles to use their resources on other positions and overall upgrades. I just don’t think that’s going to be the case. If Graham had really caught the coaches eyes, he’d have gotten more playing time as the season went along. I don’t think his snaps went up in any significant way during the season.

In terms of production, Graham didn’t show much. He had 3 sacks and 5 hurries, per the Eagles official stats. Vinny Curry had 4 sacks and 11 hurries.

Graham did most of his rushing from ROLB or RDE. In the past, he was more productive when rushing from the left side. I don’t know that Graham, post-microfracture surgery, has the athleticism to consistently beat LTs. Going up against RTs can be far different.

If the Eagles asked my advice, I’d tell them to trade Graham to a 4-3 team. The guy can play. No one disputes that. But he just doesn’t seem like a good fit for the Eagles anymore. Graham lacks the size that Chip Kelly prefers. Graham is awkward when he’s got to drop back, which is part of playing OLB in the 3-4. And he’s going to be a free agent at the end of 2014. Does it seem likely that the Eagles would re-sign him?

Maybe Jerry Azzinaro and Bill McGovern think Graham will take a major step forward. If so, then hold on to Graham. He’s only going to net a 5th round pick or so. I just think you only keep him if you feel it is likely that he’s a better player this year. If not, move on and go find a young LB you want to develop or a veteran LB that is a better fit for the scheme.

As much as I want Graham to pan out and become a key player for the Eagles, we have to be realistic. Just doesn’t feel like it will happen in this scheme.

* * * * *

I will talk a lot about fit this offseason. To me, that is one overlooked part of player success. Guys must be in the right system. Mike Vrabel began his career as a Steeler. He played there for 4 years and never started a game. The Steelers know a thing or two about OLBs, but Vrabel just didn’t fit their version of the 3-4. Vrabel then went to the Patriots and had an amazing career.

Carlos Emmons began his career with the Steelers. He started his final 2 years there, but failed to stand out. The Eagles signed him to be the SAM in a 4-3 and Emmons flourished.

There are just going to be times when players don’t fit. That doesn’t mean your scouts did a bad job. That doesn’t mean your coaches did a bad job. Player evaluation involves a lot of projection. You’re going to miss. That’s true for all teams.

If a lot of players that leave your team find success elsewhere, then you do have problems with scouting and/or coaching.

The one X-factor is character. Look at the difference in Aqib Talib as a Buc and a Patriot. Everyone knew he could play. He needed to be in the right environment to pan out. Think about DRC. He started off pretty well in 2012, but fell apart when Juan Castillo was fired. By the end of the year, he was as useless as playing me at corner (hard to jam receivers while holding a PBR and bag of Funyuns). Then DRC goes to the Broncos, a stable, winning team and has a good season. He just doesn’t handle adversity well.

Hopefully the Eagles will get back to being a team that has the environment that brings out the best in players.


  • planetx1971

    One of the very many things I’ve been so excited about personally in this regime change is just that. It really feels to me that we’re on the fast track to being a team players WANT be on & one that has an environment to help guys excel. The end of the Andy era very quickly had me realizing just how much I had taken that for granted for the first 3/4 of said program.

    • ICDogg

      Well certainly this is an attractive destination for offensive players, but I don’t know if it is that for defensive players.

      • Anders

        why not? we got the 2nd best OLB and one of the top CB in Williams (CB market was bad last year). Williams admitted he went for the money, but so does just about every player. It is the reason why players keep signing with the Redskins or the Raiders

        • ICDogg

          If the money’s right, just about anywhere is an attractive destination. But this is a difficult defense for a player to shine in.

          • Anders

            How is this defense hard to shine in? Outside of DL everybody has simple roles

        • anon

          Cary Williams didn’t even start on the ravens. His first comment coming here was pretty accurate — no one respects us. I think it’s better this year but…

    • Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

      I mean, everyone always wanted to play for Coach Andy, right up until the end.

  • SunShine

    I hope Graham can turn the tide. Obviously, this year is going to be monumental in determining whether he can the OLB position effectively. He seems to have the right attitude about it. We shall see

    • ICDogg

      Anything’s possible but I really just have a hard time thinking he will ever excel in this system.

      • SunShine

        I feel the same way. At best I think he can be a situational guy.

  • Bob Brewer

    “The guy can play.”

    I remember when they drafted him, Didinger thought Graham was a 3-4 guy. Now he’s a 4-3 guy.

    I think he’s a can’t play well guy.

    • ICDogg

      I think he’s a guy who has never realized his potential as a result of bad knees.

      • Media Mike

        Tyson Clabo chopped the crap out of Graham’s knee and the Eagles plea to the NFL for punishment was rejected. I f-ing hate Clabo’s guts for chopping Graham’s knee and wrecking his career thus far.

        • Michael Winter Cho

          Damn, MM, you were right, someone is on a mission with the downvotes.

          • Media Mike

            Yeah, totally bizarre.

    • A Roy

      Concur with Dogg. He was a beast at MI and looked to be someone special until he got hurt. Since then, it’s been a question of how far back he can come and how well he fits the scheme. If they can trade him for a late 4th, early 5th, I’d do it at this point.

    • Media Mike

      I’d also like to add that Graham was not used in a consistent manner by idiot McDermott as a rookie and that severely impeded his development. It seemed like every we saw Graham in 2010 he was playing pass D in a zone drop or being lined up at DT. How is a guy supposed to develop a full range of pass rushing moves at DE under those circumstances? Graham coming off of that knee surgery had a lost 2011, but came back in 2012 and was the best player in the division at getting pressure on the QB in relation to his pass rushing opportunities. He then had to walk into an entirely new system in 2013 under Davis. Graham has never been given a fair shot at excelling. I hope Benoit is correct.

  • Sokhar20

    From the Cedric Thornton entry:
    “The undrafted fourth-year pro is primarily a strongside defensive end in Philly’s one-gap style 3-4”
    The fact that they can’t tell we run a two-gap scheme rather than a one-gap might be indicative of why they somehow think Graham will break out for us next season–i.e., they’re not really paying much attention at all.

    • Patrick

      It really does say it all doesn’t it? Nobody should put much into Benoits opinion, since its obvious that he either doesn’t have a very good understanding of football or just didn’t actually do the research, because some of those statements are just plain wrong. If you read the parts about the CBs, Benoit doesn’t really mention anything. He mentions Boykins is good against rub routes and that Gratz plays big, but how is that analyzing players in a fashion that allows you to speak out on breakout players?
      Its almost as bad as the “reporters” who say something mind numbingly obvious, instead of doing actual work. How often do you hear/read Heath Evans or Jamie Dukes go:
      “Hey listen to me, I just spent a lot of time watching some Eagles tape. The reason they were good were because were because they had, get this, 5 offensive linemen on the field when they had possession of the ball, sometimes they would even block defenders. Its crazy, but college boy Kelly made it work this year. Next year these gimmick plays will get dominated though”.

      Sometimes I wonder how these people got their job. Makes me praise the lord and everything else for the fact that we have T-Law.

      • Anders

        Benoit is a big tool. He has zero clues about the Eagles. He once did an off season break down on the Eagles where he forget several players and included several player who was cut the year before.

  • Insomniac

    Speaking of Talib..he banged the table for Blount and the Pats ended up trading for him. We’re still a fairly young team that drafted players who know some of the guys in the draft this year. Bennie Logan and Ertz played at two powerhouses that could have targets for us. Could a little more input from ex-teammates have some effect this year?

    • BreakinAnklez

      2nd year players should not be impacting who we draft.

      • Insomniac

        Because knowing someone who you’ve played with for a year or two doesn’t mean shit right?

        • Mac

          I think one of Howie’s paradigms is to leave no stone unturned.

        • Michael Winter Cho

          Look at who the players vote for Pro Bowls and things of that nature. Most of the time they just go for the big names.

          • Insomniac

            You don’t get the point do you? Same thing can be said for coaches who also vote for of all these all star games. Do I need to remind you of Jim Washburn?

          • Michael Winter Cho

            My point is simply that players are not the best talent evaluators.

        • BreakinAnklez

          No. But we have a scouting department for a reason. If they’ve already completed their scouting and just doing some wrap up and want to ask how they were in the film room? Fine. But no, I generally do not want our players providing input on the draft.

    • Media Mike

      There are quite a few quality names from LSU and Stanford in this draft. At the very least Logan and Ertz can help out with some scouting.

      • Insomniac

        Or at least offer an opinion on them. They’ve played together for quite some time so that has to mean something.

    • Not to mention Kelly (oregon), Azz (oregon), Stoutland (bama), Mike Dawson (BC), Lovett (Texas Tech), McGovern (BC), and Minter (Kentucky). Those guys recruited and coached players at the best conferences, should be nice bonus scouting for the next 2 years or so.

  • Baloophi

    “Hard to jam receivers while holding a PBR and a bag of Funyuns.”

    TOMMY LAWLOR – CB – Appalachian State

    Strengths: A prolific coverage man who shows great ability to handle any story thrown his way. Comfortable typing on an island, Lawlor led a patchwork Eagles media group through a tumultuous 2012 campaign and rebound 2013 season. Displayed elite skills at this year’s Senior Bowl, easily compensating for the athletic and moral deficiencies of teammate Jimmy Kempski. A beer milkshake???

    Weaknesses: More a technician than natural athlete, Lawlor sometimes loses track of quicker receivers, especially if an “Airwolf” rerun is on or someone posts a GIF of Megan Fox slowly getting out of a pool. Needs work on ball-skills – more of a pudding-hawk. Lacks the hand strength to consistently intercept passes after years of typing out reasons why the Eagles shouldn’t trade multiple #1 picks for Brian Urlacher.

    Projection: While every team in the NFL has a clear need for his superior coverage skills it’s possible Lawlor hears his name called after lesser-talents from big-name programs like ESPN, SB NATION, and PHILLY.COM.

    • ICDogg

      Well, he’s no Trash Can, I’ll grant you that.

      • A Roy

        And I don’t think he’s tall enough to be a fly swatter…

    • Rambler

      Top notch analysis. You really nailed it. And has anyone ever noticed that Lawlor and Kempski sounds like a cut rate ambulance-chasing law firm?

    • SteveH

      Ouch, Bleacher Report even.

      I think he’s worth a 5th round flier. Has a high ceiling if he gets his PBR use under control.

      • A_T_G

        Ah, if only alcohol was an actual PED, instead of one that makes you think it is while under its influence…

      • SunShine

        Browns Management >>> Bleacher Report

    • Michael Winter Cho

      My God, Airwolf!? Amazing!

  • austinfan

    Right now fit is a problem on the Eagles because they’ve made so many drastic changes in one season and they’re just figuring out who belongs. But fit also shows the importance of continuity, AR knew who fit his system, JJ knew who fit his defense, Belichick has no problem there, the Steelers have been playing pretty much the same system for two decades on defense.

    I think life is much easier for Howie because he knows what his coach wants at every position, sometimes you have to make compromises, but usually if you know what the coach desires, you can set your draft board with confidence.

    Graham isn’t a good fit, Curry may not be unless they think he’s worth it as a top role player (and I see people wanting to pay Bennett $7M to fill Curry’s role? What’s with that?). Best to move on ASAP and get the players you want.

    Linval Joseph would be a great fit, only question is price.

    If you could package Graham and Curry for Jordan that would be a great move for both teams, we’d get a top OLB prospect, Miami would get two guys who can play 4-3 DE, and Curry could swing inside on passing downs. Jordan is a lousy fit as a 4-3 DE, but a great fit as a 3-4 OLB.

    Avant isn’t a good fit because he’s not going to get YAC. Chip isn’t into reliable but limited players. Cooper is a good fit because he gives you a guy who can run block but also make big plays down the field.

    • bridgecoach

      I agree with each of your points. Well said.

    • Media Mike

      Jordan would be extremely difficult for Miami to trade in year 2 of his rookie deal because of the dead money it would create. Although first round picks no longer make ungodly money in relation to vets, their deals are structured in a manner that makes them very unpalatable to move prior to the end of 3 years or so. Also, isn’t Miami also in a 3-4?

      • deg0ey

        Nah, they’re running a 4-3; that’s why it was such a surprise they drafted Jordan in the first place. They’re (barely) using him as a 4-3 DE; he played 338 snaps last season. I know he wasn’t 100% during pre-season, but even so, that’s pretty much nothing for a guy picked 3rd overall.

        To give some context, here are some Eagles snap counts from last season:

        Brandon Graham – 331
        Vinny Curry – 322
        Clifton Geathers – 254
        Roc Carmichael – 220

        Maybe they like Jordan and decided that his injury kept him from learning the scheme as well as they’d like. Or maybe they eventually figured out what everybody else knew already; that Jordan is about as good of a fit for a 4-3 as Graham and Curry are for a 3-4.

        I agree with your point that you’d rather not trade a guy so soon after drafting him (especially in the first round) but if you’re gonna get minimal production out of him anyway then maybe the sensible decision is to admit you messed up in the draft and trade him for players that will actually improve your team moving forward.

        • anon

          They are going to try and turn him into an end — won’t even play this year.

        • Media Mike

          Thank you for clearing that up. I was under the impression they were still in 3-4 down there.

        • Anders

          It is sorta of a surprise, but the bigger surprise is they want him at DE instead of as a SAM lb. He makes sense as a SAM, but not as a DE

  • bubqr

    Andy Benoit is a pompous hack. I just pulls stuff out of his ass with his arrogant style A LOT. I was happy to see him out of FO.

    Funny note: Who knows who is the current record holder for 3-cone drill at the combine?

    Our own Jeff Maehl!

    • A_T_G

      I don’t want to pass judgement on your personal life; if you enjoy pulling stuff out of guys asses and are comfortable sharing, more power to you. This might not be the forum, though.

      • bubqr

        Took me 5 minutes before I got this… I know what Freud would think of my typo.

        • A_T_G

          I am glad you got the joke. I saw there was a down vote shortly after I commented and hoped you hadn’t taken it the wrong way.

        • SteveH

          I’m trying to figure out what the arrogant style would look like.

  • phillychuck

    Wanted to share a mock draft…I’ve just started doing these things; thought this one was pretty good:






















    • deg0ey

      That’s from the fanspeak draft simulator thing, right? I think I won at that game the other day when I got this:

      22. DT Louis Nix
      54. CB Bradley Roby
      86. WR Brandon Coleman
      118. OLB Adrian Hubbard
      150. S Tre Boston
      157. RB De’Anthony Thomas
      214. OG Andrew Norwell

      • phillychuck

        We seem to be getting D. Thomas almost every time I see an Eagles’ fan play that simulation…I think I got Coleman in the 4th one time…I’d take your draft for sure.

        • deg0ey

          Yeah, DAT is definitely a popular choice although I came very very close to taking Michael Schofield there instead (in which case I would likely have grabbed Dri Archer in the 7th as an alternative to DAT).

      • Anders

        I hate Coleman and Hubbard, so you lost imo 😛

        • deg0ey

          I don’t think Hubbard is particularly good either tbh, but I was conscious of the fact I hadn’t grabbed an OLB yet and, at that point in the draft, he was definitely the best one left on the board. I’m cool with reaching for need in the 4th.

          Coleman, on the other hand, is a guy that fascinates me. His hands and route running aren’t great and, to be honest, it all comes down to his combine performance for me; if he runs a 4.4 or 4.5 then I’d take a chance on him in the 3rd for his upside (get him on the JUGS machine with Avant for an hour a day and he’ll be fine 😛 ) – that said, if he’s not as fast as I’m hoping then fine; I’ll take Herron with that pick instead.

          What I actually wanted in this draft, though, was to be able to trade back from 22 into the early-mid second round for Attaochu. That way I’d have been able to look elsewhere in the 4th and maybe pick up an extra 3rd.

          • Insomniac

            Coleman and Hubbard could be poor college players but NFL studs. However, it’ll be a long road for them to reach their potential. I don’t have any problems with either players at later rounds.

          • Anders

            In general bad college players never become great NFL players. Even the late round gems was more often very productive college players as well

  • FrenchEagles

    About MMQB: they’re doing good stuff… But Andy Benoit… It’s been a few years that, every time I read a thing he writes about the Eagles, I seriously doubt he watched a single game. Very Very bad source when talking about judging players. Very bad. I could search the articles he wrote last off-season about the Eagles, it was hilarious or really sad, depending on how you see that.

    • Anders

      what about hilarious sad? you know here you know it is sad, but cant stop laughing?

  • Joseph Ryan Lawson

    I feel bad for this guy, he’s starter quality and gives his all. Penetrates well too, can really get after the qb if given the chance. Trade him!