Brandon Graham deserves Comeback Player of the Year consideration
Brandon Graham is an all-time Eagle. From his infamous strip sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl 52, to his countless clutch plays over the years, BG will go down as one of the best defensive ends to ever wear midnight green.
At 34 years old and in his 13th NFL season, Brandon Graham is on pace to have a career year. It’s a remarkable feat, even more so when you consider the Eagles defensive end tore his Achilles just over a year ago.
He’s playing under 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2022, which is unusually low for the veteran pass rusher. Regardless, he’s made the most out his 167 defensive reps this season.
BG has racked up three sacks, 15 combined tackles, seven quarterback hits, while totaling 15 pressures through six weeks. That puts him on pace for roughly nine sacks, 21 quarterback hits, and 45 pressures.
Per Pro Football Focus, Graham has the fourth-highest defensive grade of any edge defender in the league, earning a 90.0 mark. He trails Myles Garrett, Maxx Crosby, and Micah Parsons; three of the best overall defensive players in the entire league.
His 85.0 pass rushing grade ranks 10th out of 111 qualifying edge rushers. Though Graham’s running mate, Haason Reddick, has a higher pass rushing grade at this point, BG leads the team by a wide margin in pass rushing win rate. On the season, Graham has won 24.88 percent of his pass rushing battles, according to PFF. Reddick sits behind him at 17.15 percent, while Josh Sweat comes in at 15.23 percent.
BG continues to be a force against the run as well, posting a 73.4 run defense grade this season, good for 22nd out of 104 edge defenders. He’s also accumulated nine defensive stops (a PFF stat that records tackles they deem as a “loss” for the offense).
Oh, and Brandon Graham also took home the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award after his 2.5-sack outing against Washington in Week 3.
Although Giants RB Saquon Barkley is the clear frontrunner to win Comeback Player of the Year by season’s end, Brandon Graham has a strong case of his own.
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Brandon Graham’s odds to take home Comeback Player of the Year
Entering Week 7, Brandon Graham is a long shot to win Comeback Player of the Year in the eyes of the oddsmakers.
Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Graham has +10000 odds to take home the award. Barkley is the heavy favorite, sitting at -225. Behind him, we have Geno Smith (+550), Derrick Henry (+1000), and Christian McCaffrey (+1200).
The case for Brandon Graham to win the award
It may be hard to upend Barkley for Comeback Player of the Year, but it’s not impossible.
Barkley’s case is pretty cut and dry. He’s dealt with numerous injuries since his outstanding rookie campaign in 2018. From 2019-’21, Barkley suited up for only 57 percent of New York’s games. This season, he’s remained healthy thus far and is currently second in the league in rushing yards with 616.
The kicker, he also leads the league in touches at 140, which puts him on pace for approximately 420 touches by the end of the year. That would be a career-high for Barkley and it certainly doesn’t bode well for his longevity.
He’s already dealing with a shoulder injury that he sustained against the Packers in Week 5. It didn’t prevent him from suiting up this past Sunday, but it did force him out of the game throughout the contest.
The point being, Barkley may not have enough juice to sustain his heavy workload and remain healthy the entire way this season. To be clear, no one’s hoping for that. Barkley’s resurgence has been a great story to kickoff this NFL season. But the fact remains, Barkley hasn’t proven he can stay healthy for an entire season.
Brandon Graham, on the other hand, hasn’t missed anytime yet this season and with his limited role, the chance of injury is much lower than Barkley.
He’s also one year removed from a devastating injury; an injury that can potentially derail a career for any professional athlete, let alone a 34-year-old defensive end. Barkley only missed four games last season with a low-ankle injury.
Barkley and his Giants are a great story. Even as a rabid hater of all things Giants, I can admit that. But BG’s Eagles are currently the lone undefeated team in the league and he’s an integral part of Jonathan Gannon’s defense. Aside from maybe Darius Slay, Graham has been the most consistent presence on that side of the ball for Philly.
We saw what his absence from the lineup did to this defense last year. The Eagles were second-to-last in sacks in 2021. With BG back in the fold, the Eagles have racked up 17 sacks thus far, good for seventh-most in the NFL.
Brandon Graham may not have the overall stats to upset Barkley for Comeback Player of the Year, but there’s no doubt he deserves consideration.
In an alternate universe, BG’s career could have been finished after his injury last season. He could have hung up the cleats and no one would have questioned it. In our reality, he did the complete opposite. He was ready to go by the start of training camp, he hasn’t missed a game yet, and he’s been the most consistent defensive lineman on the roster.
Even if he doesn’t take home the award, the man deserves some sort of recognition for the kind of year he’s having.
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo