Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate: Brandon Graham


Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Up next on my Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate mini series is outside linebacker and former first round pick Brandon Graham. In this mini series, I’ll discuss each player that has a chance to breakout next season and give my thoughts on whether I think they will breakout or not. An average player may breakout by earning substantial playing time and taking his opportunity whereas a good player may breakout by becoming great.

I previously looked at Josh Huff and Marcus Smith and you can find them here. This time I’ll look at Brandon Graham who you could argue already had his breakout season last year. However, I would argue he didn’t breakout because in order become a household name around the NFL you need to have more than 5 and a half sacks. Also, he could only get a four year $26 million contract with $13 million guaranteed but he wanted $30 million over four years with $20 million guaranteed.

Why he will breakout: 

His sack numbers don’t reflect just how dominant Graham was as a pass rusher last season. Per Pro Football Focus, Graham had 39 quarterback hurries, the 4th highest out of all 3-4 outside linebackers despite playing only 524 snaps. Connor Barwin only had 29 hurries yet had 14.5 sacks.

If Graham has another season like last year, his sack numbers will almost certainly go up.

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When you consider that Graham’s snap count could almost double next season, his sack total could easily double. If Graham gets more than 12 sacks next year, he will start to gain national recognition as a pro bowl level pass rusher. I think he is already at an extremely high level but sadly his sack numbers do not support that argument just yet.

Some of us are expecting Marcus Smith to play the role that Graham played last season with Vinny Curry and Travis Long possibly getting some snaps at outside linebacker too. I don’t think either of them will take that many snaps away from Brandon Graham though. I think he could easily play 1000 snaps and at the very least will play the 834 snaps that Trent Cole played last year. That’s over 300 more than he played last year. Graham has legit talent and he will make use of his increased playing time.

Why he won’t breakout: 

Maybe Graham will face similar problems that he faced last year, he could be unlucky with his sack numbers. He could yet again get a number of quarterback pressures but not convert them into sacks. It seems unlikely this would happen again but you can argue that he wasn’t very good at finishing the play last season. Some players are better at finishing the play than others and converting pressures into sacks.

If Grahams sack totals don’t dramatically increase but he continues to be a great pass rusher, he still wouldn’t have had his breakout season. He could still be seen as a very good player but he still wouldn’t be seen as a great pass rusher in the eyes of the national media. To take his game to another level Graham needs to finish the play when he hurries the quarterback more often.

I think Graham is a fantastic player but we have never seen him start a season before as an outside linebacker. Last year I thought he was clearly better than Trent Cole yet he still played 300 less snaps. Could he struggle with fatigue? Playing every down is a lot different to being a specialist pass rusher like he was last year. He will have to play more snaps and make more tackles and even cover occasionally. Maybe he will wear down and become less effective as the season progresses. He isn’t great in coverage either and as a starter he will be asked to do more of this which could affect how many snaps he plays.


I don’t think there is a bigger Brandon Graham fan than myself. I wrote about why the Eagles should pay him what he wants a few months ago here and I recently ordered myself a Graham jersey. I think he will breakout and have more than 10 sacks next season and gain national recognition as being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. With Chip’s sport science, I can’t see why Graham wouldn’t be able to handle an increased workload and he looked good when he played a full game in week 17 last season. Graham’s lack of ability in coverage shouldn’t affect his play much, Trent Cole and Graham only spent a combined 182 snaps in coverage all of last season. I think this time next year we may see Graham’s contract as an extremely good deal.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles Breakout Candidate: Marcus Smith

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