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July 14, 2017

What they’re saying about the Eagles: Brandon Graham was better than you thought last year

Eagles NFL

Pro Football Focus is a site that attempts to quantify the performance of individual NFL players, and if you have read them before, they don’t believe that raw sack numbers are the be-all, end-all in terms of evaluating pass rushers.

And to them, there is a player on the Eagles roster who gets underrated by sacks more than anyone in the entire NFL: Brandon Graham.

Graham – an edge defender who’s primary job is to rush the quarterback – finished this season ranked ninth overall in PFFs Top 101 Players despite tallying just six sacks. Yep, you read that correctly. We considered Graham to be one of the 10 best players in football last season despite ranking 18th among his position group alone in sacks. Why? Because despite the low sack total, Graham absolutely wrought havoc in the pocket last season, lots of it.

PFF’s general reasoning is fairly logical, as simply generating pressure is a huge positive for a defense: QBs who are pressured have a much lower passer rating and are much more prone to throwing interceptions. And anybody who watched the bulk of the 2016 Eagles schedule wouldn’t argue that Graham played very well most of the year. Earl Thomas, who?

Still, it wouldn’t hurt if he got the Eagles’ top pass-rusher got the QB on the ground a few more times this season:

Graham finished with 83 total pressures, the second most among all 4-3 defensive ends, trailing just Olivier Vernon, who required 156 more pass rush attempts than Graham to tally 86 pressures. Graham didn’t have a single game where he recorded multiple sacks in 2016, but he had nine games where he recorded at least five pressures, including a Week 8 performance where he abused a typically impenetrable Cowboys offensive line to the tune of 11 pressures

Eagles news and coverage at PhillyVoice

We’re in full Eagles training camp preview mode:

1.    Quarterback: Carson in Charge.

2.    Running back: How do the touches get divvied up?

3.    Wide receiver: With Alshon Jeffery, the Eagles certainly improved on the outside. But they certainly still have a bunch of questions out there.

4.    Tight end: Can Zach Ertz transfer some of that meaningless late-season production to Eagles games that matter?

Other Eagles news, notes and analysis from around the web

Carson Wentz: Eagles can go worst to first in NFC East: Darrin Gantt

Wentz is correct that the Eagles do have a real chance to win the NFC East, but they certainly won’t be favored ahead of at least the Cowboys and Giants:

“We just have to now go put the work in and go make things happen. We have high expectations, . . . 7-9 is never good enough. I never want to be done after the regular season again. That doesn’t sit well with me and it never will. We definitely have high expectations to be playing into January and then hopefully get hot and see what happens.”

Evaluating Ertz: Tommy Lawlor, Iggles Blitz

In offering a detailed Ertz scouting report, Lawlor feels that the Eagles tight end needs to become a more physical player:

Ertz has the potential to be an outstanding player, possibly even a star TE. The problem is that Ertz doesn’t always play to his potential and he’s been prone to some big mistakes. There is no question of talent. He simply must become a more consistently physical player. The size, skill and athleticism are there. He is lacking in toughness and physicality, although there are times when he shows flashes in those areas.

2017 NFL Preseason Divisional Power Rankings: John Breech, CBS Sports

Jimmy keeps saying that the NFC East is overrated, and here is another case where it is ranked as the best division in football:

As for the Eagles, no one is going to remember Carson Wentz's late-season regression if he gets off to a hot start in 2017, and there's a good chance that's going to happen now that the Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and LeGarrette Blount to Wentz's offensive artillery. The NFC East feels like the one division where any team could win it and then end up in the Super Bowl.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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