Hold On, You’re Going Home: Part One
The offseason is almost over for the Eagles as we near the start of (not so) voluntary workouts, which start April 21st. There’s also that little, totally under-hyped thing called the draft on the way. Instead of blathering about needs that we all know I’d rather discuss the players that should get the boot before the regular season starts. I’ll be doing this series in installments because I said so. Wanna fight about it?
The first player on this list actually really hurts. However, as much I don’t like it, it’s time for Brandon Graham to move on. Graham, who was the Eagles first pick in the 2010 draft, is no longer a fit with this team.
The initial intent was to land a pass rushing force on the opposite side of Trent Cole in the 4-3. It worked. Despite a slow start to his career and a torn ACL, Graham was one of very few bright spots for the 2012 Eagles. In fact, he was utterly dominant. Take a look at the numbers according to PFF:
|Name||Total||Run Def.||Pass Rush||Pass Cov.||Overall||Run Def.||Pass Rush||QB Sk||QB Ht||QB Hu||BP||Tks||Stops|
With about 300 less snaps than Cole, Graham nearly matched him in every category and would have far surpassed him if given the same playing time. To go even further, Graham’s grade of 31.6 was not only the best on the defense but put him as the second best 4-3 defensive end in the league behind only Cameron Wake. It’s also worth noting that he was in pass coverage only once that entire season.
Part of the issue is that Graham’s a classic example of an Andy Reid player. At 6’2, 275 lbs. he’s a smaller, “high motor” pass rusher with the ability to explode past tackles off of the snap. He’s not a guy like Clifton Geathers who at 6’8 340 is a lumbering force that outsizes most of the game’s biggest tackles.Consequently, Graham’s move to outside linebacker was a necessary step in the 3-4 transition.
That’s where the root of the issue lies. Graham isn’t most valuable in coverage. He’s a pass rusher at heart, which is why the Eagles need to move on. There’s still a good number of teams that play a 4-3 in the NFL and with the (disappointing) trend of pass-happiness ends like Graham are still valuable commodities.
The Eagles understand this considering that they offered the Miami Dolphins Graham and a second round pick for Dion Jordan-—a sensible trade on paper. Jordan, who is a more natural 3-4 outside linebacker, in exchange for the 4-3 oriented Graham. Everyone wins. The only problem is that pride and money likely held up the deal.
For the Dolphins, Jordan was their 3rd overall selection a year ago. Not many teams have the guts to turn around on a player that quickly. Then there’s the fact that if they were to part with Jordan it would result in a cap hit of roughly ten million. They have enough publicity issues as is.
So with Graham not a fit here and unlikely to end up in Miami, where’s a reasonable fit for him? Unfortunately, two of the best options are in the division. The Cowboys and Giants run a 4-3 and could use an upgrade in the pass rushing department. Don’t expect Graham to be sent to either rival though.
This isn’t like the McNabb situation where the Eagles saw the end of the road. The team knows that Graham is a good player. Otherwise a first round pick would have been included in the Jordan offer. Consider Graham less like the bully that becomes a janitor and more the nerd who will own your company. He’s a player.
So where else is left? Oakland is a possible landing spot following the departure of Lamarr Houston as is Cincinnati after losing Michael Johnson. I also think Atlanta is a good fit given the average play of an older Osi Umenyoria coupled with an aging offense.
Don’t get too comfortable this training camp Brandon Graham. Odds are you’re going home.
PS. Something about the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys in that cover of “We’re going home” screams Rick Astley. I just had to get that out there.
Posted on April 13, 2014, in Eagles, Posts, Vince Quinn and tagged Andy Reid, atlanta, Brandon Graham, Cincinnati, dion jordan, Eagles, Falcons, Miami, oakland, roddy white, sacks, steven jackson, trnt cole. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.