Brandon Graham Making Eagles Fans Forget About Earl Thomas

Brandon Graham has been through so much in his eight years with the Eagles.

He's gone through three head coaches, five defensive coordinators and six position coaches. He missed most of a season with an injury. He missed most of a season riding the bench. He was blasted for years by fans who wanted Earl Thomas instead.

And Graham is still here, still always smiling and playing better than ever.

"We've been here a long time," Graham said. "I'm just happy to be a part of this. I'm just happy that they stuck with me and now we're out here and we put a team together and now we're trying to take advantage."

Sunday was a significant game for Graham. After recording either 5½ or 6½ sacks four times in his career, he set a career high with his seventh sack of the season.

Graham was asked after the game if he knew he had set a career high and he just started laughing.

"Yeah, you know I did," he said. "I was happy, you know? We were talking about it on the sidelines. Like, man, the most I ever had was 6½. Now I have seven. Now I just have to keep it going and we have to keep winning. That's it."

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These are happy times for Graham.

He's got a 1-year-old baby, he's got a huge contract, he's got a career high in sacks, he's playing better than ever, the Eagles are 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak, and he's headed for the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

"Man, it feels good," Graham said. "Man, it feels like things are looking up. Now it's just all about winning. Just keep winning and everything else will take care of itself. And just keep on playing hard."

The Eagles' defense, now up to sixth in the NFL in yards allowed and third in points allowed, has held four straight opponents under 240 yards for the first time since 1954.

Sack No. 7 was typical for Graham, the product of sheer hustle and determination.

Graham strip-sacked Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky early in the third quarter Sunday, and even though the ball was recovered by Bears offensive tackle Bobby Massie, it gave Graham 36.0 career sacks and snapped his career high of 6½, set in 2015.

"It's not just what he does on the field," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "He's an engine for us. He practices with a lot of energy. He's fun to be around in the meeting room. 

"He's always talking football. If he's in line there at lunch, he's not talking about what's on Instagram, he's talking about the matchup that week and things like that. He's a respected player on our team."

Graham now ranks eighth in Eagles history with his 36 sacks and within range this year of Andy Harmon (39½) and Seth Joyner (37).

The only players on the roster who've been here longer than Graham are Brent Celek, in his 11th year, and injured Jason Peters, who's in his ninth season with the Eagles.

"Man, it's special to me to be able to not only be the captain of this team but still be playing good, and for them to still depend on me to still be here, because a lot of guys I came in with aren't here, and I'm the only one left," he said.

"So it's special to me, and I don't take it for granted. I just try to go out there and do my job and bring people along to my party and have fun."

Graham had 15 sacks in three years under the Chip Kelly/Bill Davis regime, but he said because the practices these days aren't as long and intense, the players are able to get more out of them and be more productive.

"I feel like the practices ain't as taxing and then we're able to just take care of our body and just (give) relentless effort each and every practice," he said.

"And it's not hard to get motivated because our team, man, I'm telling you, we've got a good team and we have a team that understands that we have to get practice in and we have to practice hard in order for it to show up on the field."

Graham turns 30 this spring. He's earning $6.5 million on the third year of a four-year extension he signed in 2015 that runs through next year, and that seventh sack earned him a $250,000 bonus, and two more will earn him another $250,000. A trip to the Pro Bowl or first- or second-team All-Pro honors will earn him another $250,000.

"I take care of my body a lot more," he said. "For me, getting hurt (earlier in his career), I learned I wasn't taking care of my body like I needed to. 

"A rookie coming in, (you're) thinking, 'Hey, I could just show up at any time because I'm young,' but people kept telling me to get into a regimen and stick to it, and now that's what I do. I stick to what I do each and every week, and it's been paying off for me."

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