The bar has been set very high for one of the Eagles’ best (yet sneakily most under-the-radar) pass-rushers. Brandon Graham, who inked a three-year, $40 million deal last February, recently confirmed his goal for 2019 was to register double-digit sack totals.
“This year, it’s a double-digit (sack) year,” Graham told reporters back in June, via NJ.com. “That’s my goal. Go ahead and let them know I’ve still got a lot in the tank.”
The comment seems innocent enough, especially for a guy who was a half-sack away from achieving that total in 2017 when he finished with 10 sacks. Graham has never been one to brag despite being one of the most feared and stabilizing forces on the Eagles’ defensive line. Consider this stat: Graham is one of only four edge rushers who has tallied 50 total quarterback pressures since 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. The other three on that list? Von Miller. Khalil Mack. Ryan Kerrigan. Graham has also recorded a pressure on 16-percent of his career pass-rushers, the third-best mark since 2006.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson famously referred to Graham as the “heart and soul” of not just the Eagles defense, but the whole team.
”He’s kind of the heart and soul of this football team,” Pederson told reporters. “With his energy every single day, what he brings to the defense, what he brings from a leadership standpoint, it’s pretty impressive that he’s played this long.”
Graham Has Been Working Out Like a Freak
The “heart and soul” was recently down in South Florida working with his long-time trainer Mike Barwis, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach who founded the Barwis Method in 2011. Barwis’ methods rely on bioenergetics and showcase his degrees in exercise physiology and athletic training to apply science to his training programs. He’s worked with NFL stars like Richard Sherman and Ndamukong Suh, while hosting the popular Discovery Channel show “American Muscle.” Coincidentally, Barwis is a Philadelphia native.
“Where I first started training with Mike I weighed 300 pounds,” Graham told Sports Illustrated in 2014. “Now I weigh 265 pounds. You tell him what you want to do and he will work you towards that goal.”
Barwis recently posted a video of one of Graham’s training sessions and captioned it by saying: “People just don’t realize how good Brandon Graham has been for the Eagles over his career. We’ve been seeing that greatness day-in, day-out every time he steps in our Center.”
While Graham’s sack totals were down last year – four sacks versus the 9.5 in 2017 — he was always buzzing around the quarterback and played on 72-percent of the defensive snaps. His 76 pressures were the second-most on the team, plus he finished with a career-best 40 quarterback pressures/hits in 2018. With the return of Vinny Curry to the edge-rush rotation, Graham should see more time lining up on the outside in 2019 and that means plenty more chances for sacks. The 31-year-old has high expectations heading into his 10th NFL season.
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“We’re going to be pushing to be great. That’s our goal. Be great,” Graham told reporters, via Dave Spadaro. “I think we’ve got a lot of pieces, but that all has to come together. For me, I just want to keep getting better and better. I can’t believe that this is my 10th year. So much has happened. But I feel young and I’m full of energy.”