Playing inside on the defensive line is nothing new for Brandon Graham.
Heck, the biggest play of Graham’s career came when he rushed from the inside and forced a fumble against Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
But after not playing a ton inside this season, we saw an uptick in those reps on Monday night against the Giants in a 33-25 win. And on Wednesday, de facto defensive coordinator Matt Patricia explained why.
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“I think last week as we were trying to get ready to go and look at some certain packages and situationally where we thought we could utilize some of his ability and maybe, he's a little bit — he's really strong, he's powerful, he's explosive, he's got great quickness,” Patricia said.
“And sometimes inside if you're a guard or a center, big-guy matchups are different, and then all of a sudden, another guy comes in there and that’s a little bit of a different pass set for you. And you have, from an offensive line standpoint, if you're a guard you're trying to take, whether you call it the two technique set, three technique set, there's a four-I wide set, there's a two-I set down inside.
“So you take those different sets, you practice through the course of the week, you work on them versus certain bigger guys that you may see inside whether it's Fletch (Cox) or Jalen (Carter) or Jordan (Davis), whoever it is, and then all of a sudden you get a little bit of a different skill set in there, and it gives you a little bit of a different problem against maybe something that we see that we could take advantage of or use to our benefit in those deals and those sets become a little bit different now for that guard in there. Short space, quickness, all that stuff inside, working with the centers. Especially when we are trying to affect the pocket in a certain way, we just thought that matchup would be a good change up.”
Based on ProFootballFocus’s detailed position stats, about 11 of Graham’s 29 snaps (37.9%) came inside on Monday night. For the entire season, just 11.6% of his snaps have come inside.
With 14 years of experience in the NFL, Graham knows what it takes to play pretty much any position on that defensive line.
And he especially knows what it’s like to rush from a spot where typically bigger players roam.
“Everything happens faster on the inside,” he said.
After a career-high 11 sacks last season, Graham’s numbers are down a bit in 2023. In 15 games, he has 3 sacks, 6 QB hits and 12 tackles. But he’s also played less than he did a year ago.
Graham, 35, played 43% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2022. That is down to 32% this season. He went from averaging 27.9 snaps per game to 21.9 this season.
But Graham can still be a useful player even in Year 14 and he has trust in Patricia’s plan for him.
“Wherever they put us, I believe that the coach is going to put me in a great position,” Graham said on Wednesday. “If he believes that I’m supposed to be in a certain spot, I mean, I’m gonna go out there and play. We trust (Matt) Patricia. He’s seen a lot and I know that he’s not going to put us in a bad position. It’s his name on that too. I trust him.”