Eagles’ Brandon Graham leads one of NFL’s best defenses

Posted on December 15, 2022

The less Brandon Graham plays, the more productive Brandon Graham plays.

The 34-year-old defensive end has played only 334 of the Eagles’ 842 defensive snaps (39.6 percent). He has used that time wisely.

Graham has 8.5 sacks, second on the team behind Haason Reddick’s 10. Graham had three sacks, one forcing a fumble, in the 48-22 beatdown of the Giants on Sunday.

  • “I said on the radio … that he was made by God to rush the quarterback,” coach Nick Sirianni said.

He has the second-highest edge rusher grade, according to Pro Football Focus, at 91.2, right behind the Browns’ Myles Garrett (92.8) and ahead of the Cowboys’ Micah Parsons (91.1).

  • “I’m just happy at this age to still trying to stay relevant, and stay helping the team,” Graham said.
  • “Everybody knows our strength is pass-rushers, and how hungry we all are. We’re just trying to get out there and make them count.”

If you look at the Eagles’ season as a whole, obviously Jalen Hurts playing like the league MVP is a huge reason Philly is an NFL-best 12-1. But the Graham-inspired defense might be an equal partner in the team’s success. The Eagles’ offense is ranked third in the NFL; the defense is ranked second. Stats don’t mean everything, but they mean something.


Graham and the Eagles’ defense have a challenge Sunday against the Bears’ extremely mobile quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears are only 3-10 but Fields’ breakaway speed and field awareness could produce some uncomfortable moments.

Quarterbacks haven’t been Graham’s only targets. He has 28 tackles, 13 quarterback hits, nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He won his second NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, the eighth time an Eagle has won in 14 weeks.

  • “What he’s done coming off the [Achilles] injury and the role that he’s taken on, he feels good, and he goes out there and he produces, like all of our guys,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
  • “But that’s why I like the rotation of that room, because it keeps those guys fresh so later in the game they’re not tired and they can go win at a high level.
  • “BG has done an excellent job, as all those guys are, and he’s producing at a high level, which honestly I’m really not surprised by that. I expect him to go in and win, and he does.”


Graham is a Philadelphia icon for one play — the strip-sack of Tom Brady toward the end of Super Bowl 52. But Graham’s story isn’t just that defining moment. He built an enviable career on the field and in the locker room, where he is a captain and one of the team leaders.

Graham should be a lock for the Eagles’ Hall of Fame. You can make a persuasive case the Brady hit alone would be enough for induction. When you add his production and longevity — and what he has meant to the team and community — how can he miss?

Last week, Graham was the Eagles’ nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, the league’s most prestigious off-the-field honor.

Graham was the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft from Michigan. He has played 174 games in 13 years, with 67.5 sacks, 444 tackles, 137 quarterback hits and 21 forced fumbles.

Fun fact: Graham is the city’s longest-tenured professional athlete, an unlikely feat for a guy who has been getting hit and dishing out hits for so many years.


Last year, the Eagles were 31st in sacks with 29. This year, they lead the league with 49. Philly’s second-ranked defense includes the top-rated pass defense and 18th-ranked run defense. They are seventh-best in points allowed.

The Eagles’ defense *leads* the NFL in:

  • Takeaways (24)
  • Interceptions (15)
  • Opponent yards per play (4.75)
  • Opponent yards per passing attempt (5.34)
  • Passing yards allowed per game (178.1)
  • Opponent passer rating (76.3).

Sacks grab attention but the Eagles have stopped two powerful running backs the last two weeks. The Giants’ Saquon Barkley, who was playing with a neck injury, was held to 28 yards. The week before, the Titans’ Derrick Henry was stuffed and held to 30 yards.

  • “Getting off the rock was number one … and we wanted to play on they side of the ball,” Graham said about the strategy against the Giants.
  • “Everyone was taking care of the run first before we started playing for the pass.”


Graham amazingly has come back from a torn left Achilles suffered in Week Two of the 2021 season, an injury that sometimes ends careers, especially those of older athletes.

The Eagles have floated the possibility of Graham winning the league’s Comeback Player of the Year. The idea isn’t far-fetched, but Graham might not play enough snaps to overcome Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.

  • “Man, he’s a special guy,” Sirianni said. “He’s a special team leader. He’s a special player, and he’s a special person … 
  • “He’s just such a good, positive player out there on the field for us, and I’m glad he’s one of our captains and he’s leading us out there.”
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Chuck Bausman

Chuck Bausman is an Eagles writer for Iggles.com. Chuck formerly was the Executive Sports Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Executive Sports Editor of the Courier-Post in South Jersey. He learned how to cuss by watching Philly sports.

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