He doesn’t get the questions about Earl Thomas anymore.
Brandon Graham just gets questions about Brandon Graham these days. And that's fine with him.
Graham is off to the hottest start of his seven-year career, and on Sunday, he put together what might have been the finest game of his career in the Eagles’ 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).
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Graham, back at his natural defensive end position after three years at linebacker in Bill Davis’s 3-4 scheme, had three tackles, a ridiculous five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble to go with his fourth sack in six games (see Roob's 10 observations from the win).
Just six games into the season, Graham is only 2 1/2 sacks shy of his career best of 6 1/2, set in 2015.
He’s played for three head coaches and five defensive coordinators since the Eagles made him the 13th player taken in the 2010 draft and is now playing the best football of his life.
“Yeah, this is the most consistent stretch for me,” Graham said at his locker Sunday after the Eagles improved to 4-2 by battering the previously undefeated Vikings.
“That’s my thing. Being consistent. I’m in year seven now, and I’ve got to stay consistent from here on out, because all I’m doing is getting older, and I want to make sure I stay around.”
Graham laughed at that, but it’s really remarkable what he’s been through to get to this point.
He's been here so long he played on Andy Reid’s last NFC East-championship team. Only Jon Dorenbos, Jason Peters and Brent Celek have been here longer.
He’s had some decent years – 5 1/2 sacks as a part-time starter in 2012, 12 sacks over the 2014 and 2015 seasons playing out of position as a 3-4 linebacker – but so far, this year has been different.
On a team with Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, Graham may be the Eagles’ defensive MVP so far.
He’s been that consistently good.
“It’s been the best (stretch of my career), and I feel like I trust my preparation, I trust my teammates, I do the best job that I can and they kind of feed off me and I feed off them.
“Little do they know but I really look up to a lot of the guys on this team because I respect how they work and they respect how I work, and they go together.”
“We were out there having fun,” Graham said. “We know Sam doesn’t like to get hit and we tried to hit him within the rules as much as we could, and I think it kind of got to him a little bit.”
Graham is eighth in the NFC in sacks but has played one fewer game than a lot of the guys ahead of him.
He now has 27 ½ career sacks, which ranks 16th in Eagles history. Another 5 ½ will put him ahead of Jerome Brown (29 ½), Juqua Parker and Mike Mamula (31 ½), Corey Simon (32) and Kenny Clarke (32 ½) and into the all-time Eagles top 10.
Graham credits the return to the 4-3 as the biggest factor in his quick start.
“If I had the 4-3 before, I think it would have been sooner,” he said. “But I think just with me being happy with the scheme, and then with our coach (defensive line coach Chris Wilson), with our (coordinator Jim Schwartz), there’s just so much that comes into play.
“I love our position coach, and I love Jim, because he’s going to shoot you straight and going to tell you the truth. When we messed up last week, he was on us. He called us out. Zero sacks? Come on D-line. I took that to heart.”
Double-digit sacks has always been a goal for Graham, and six more would make him only the sixth player drafted by the Eagles to record 10 sacks in a season (Dennis Harrison, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Andy Harmon, Trent Cole).
But Graham isn’t thinking that far ahead. He’s just thinking of practice this week and the Cowboys Sunday.
“I’m going to stay humble and keep working,” he said.
And keep making people forget Earl Thomas.