Eagles analysis

After comeback season, Graham still a very important Eagle

Brandon Graham is 35 now and in a rotational role but he's still a vitally important Eagle

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota
21. Reed Blankenship
20. Brandon Graham

What Brandon Graham did in 2022 is nothing short of amazing.

At 34 years old and coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2021 season, Graham became a rotational player but still managed to have one of the most productive seasons of his long career. He hit double digits in sacks, picking up 11 while starting just one game.

From 2012 through 2021, Graham averaged a sack ever 99.5 snaps. Last season, he averaged one every 43.1 snaps.

And now that Graham is returning for his 14th season at age 35, it’s still pretty hard to doubt him.

Graham was a free agent this past offseason but it would simply feel wrong if he played anywhere else. So instead of chasing a payday, the longest-tenured athlete in the city took a one-year, $5 million deal to run it back in 2023. For a while now, Graham has said his goal was to play 15 years in the NFL and he’s getting awfully close to doing that, all with the team that drafted him in the first round back in 2010.

There’s no question the Eagles benefit from Graham’s fun-loving personality and his leadership.

But make no mistake about it, the Eagles aren’t keeping Graham around for those reasons. They brought him back because they think he can still play and they still need him in 2023.

While Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat return as the two starting edge rushers on this team, Graham is still the No. 3. This year, though, he will be pushed by first-round rookie Nolan Smith, who came in at No. 25 on this year’s most important countdown.

The Eagles have a new defensive coordinator in Sean Desai but the Eagles, from an organizational perspective, value rotation on the defensive line. They have for a really long time.

There were 19 players in the NFL last season with double digit sacks and of those 19 three Eagles were in the bottom five in snaps:

1. Josh Uche: 374 snaps (11.5 sacks)
2. Brandon Graham: 474 snaps (11 sacks)
3. Josh Sweat: 587 snaps (11 sacks)
4. Quinnen Williams: 690 snaps (12 sacks)
5. Javon Hargrave: 712 snaps (11 sacks)

That rotation works. The Eagles finished with an NFL-best 70 sacks in 2022 and even if they can’t match that ridiculously high number this year, pass rush is still going to be vitally important. And if they get the same kind of production from Graham again in such limited snaps, it’ll go a very long way.

And if Graham can stay healthy, he’ll also hit a major milestone this season. He has played 178 games in an Eagles uniform, which ranks fourth in team history. David Akers is the franchise leader with 188, so that’s definitely in play in 2022.

1. David Akers: 188
2. Brian Dawkins: 183
3. Harold Carmichael: 180
4. Brandon Graham: 178

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