Anyone who watched the Eagles on Amazon Prime’s “All or Nothing” series last year found out quickly that Brandon Graham likes to run his mouth. In a good way, not in a demeaning or annoying way. Graham, who ranks fifth all-time for sacks (54) in franchise history, likes to have fun out there — and playfully rib opponents. Just ask Tom Brady.
So it should come as no surprise that Graham has been interrogating new Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave about the unique personalities in the Steelers’ locker room. Hargrave spent his first four NFL seasons in Pittsburgh before cashing in on a $39 million contract in Philly this offseason. While the prized free agent hasn’t yet made a major impact for the Eagles’ defense — half a sack on 99 defensive snaps in three games — his advice on how to best trash-talk the Steelers could prove invaluable.
“I try to figure out what type of person that each guy is, that Hargrave can remember,” Graham told reporters on Thursday. “I think he does a good job of, you know the way I play, I like to talk so I wanted to see who I could talk to.”
Graham was half-joking because he knows the Steelers pose a stiff test, especially with their ground game. They rank eighth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (139.7) paced by power running backs James Conner and Benny Snell.
“And then on top of that, the running backs,” Graham said. “They downhill, it’s a power running game and these boys do a good job of playing together. They can say that about us [Eagles defensive line], too. It’s going to come down who’s more physical, who can tackle, who can break tackles, I guess, for they sake.”
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Eagles Top in Sacks, Room for Improvement
The Eagles-Steelers matchup will pit the two best teams at sacking the quarterback in 2020 against each other. They use two very different methods, too. Pittsburgh brings a more blitz-happy front, while Philly picks their spots and lets the coverage dictate how much pressure to bring. Both styles have been extremely effective.
The Eagles lead the entire NFL in sacks with 17 through four games this year, including pummeling Bengals rookie Joe Burrow to the tune of eight sacks and 18 quarterback hits. But the Steelers are right behind them with 15 sacks in only three games after their contest versus Tennessee being postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
As good as the Eagles have been, Graham thinks they can be better. Especially with reinforcements on the way. Remember, Hargrave and Derek Barnett missed all of training camp and Vinny Curry hasn’t played since Week 1.
“I feel like we’ve been doing some great things so far but I feel like there’s room for improvement,” Graham said. “We got to make sure we take over these games a little more because I feel like we haven’t even hit it all the way yet. Hargrave is finally now feeling really good … Derek Barnett, same there. Vinny’s back. It’s up to us to take it to another gear.”
Don’t Forget About Big Ben Roethlisberger
It all starts with stopping the run, according to Graham, but that doesn’t mean you can sleep on Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback has two Super Bowl rings and might have a bust waiting for him in Canton when it’s all said and done. Roethlisberger isn’t as mobile as he used to be, although he can still use his legs in a pinch.
“He’s not nervous at all,” Graham said. “He’s real calm when he’s moving around, likes to sidestep, he’s real good in the pocket and he can make all the throws. We got to make sure we at least disrupt him first and then if you can’t get him down, hold him up — make sure he can’t throw the ball so they can blow the whistle dead.”
The man known as Big Ben has 1,361 career rushing yards, but only 11 this year. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Roethlisberger remains a staggering body to take down once he gets outside the pocket. They need to account for him at all times.
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