Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Graham's production as a rookie

How productive was Brandon Graham as a rookie? The numbers compiled by one stats-based site might surprise you.

Graham's production as a rookie

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Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham recorded only three sacks during his rookie season. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham recorded only three sacks during his rookie season. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)
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Time to take a break from all the defensive coordinator talk - for one post at least.

I recently noticed that Eagles rookie Brandon Graham was named to the All-Rookie Team over at Pro Football Focus. Here's what they wrote:

Quite clearly wasn’t ready to start in Week 1, and he was far too one-dimensional a player to play the run. Graham did improve before his season ended, and maintained his pass rush throughout to finish the year as the most productive rookie pass rusher (37 total pressures).

Graham had three sacks last season, but if you're a regular reader, you know I emphasize that sacks don't always tell the full story. If a player has a sack on one play but gets no pressure the rest of the game, was he really effective? What if another pass-rusher forces several bad throws and turnovers, but doesn't pick up a sack? That doesn't always get measured.

Still, I found it curious that Graham made the team ahead of some other players, who on the surface looked like they were more productive. Joining Graham on the defensive line of the All-Rookie Team were Oakland's Lamarr Houston, Detroit's Ndamukong Suh and Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy.

Here's a look at sack totals by the top rookie defensive linemen:

Player
Sacks
Ndamukong Suh 10.0
Carlos Dunlap
9.5
Lamarr Houston
5.0
Jason Pierre-Paul
4.5
Tyson Alualu
3.5
Geno Atkins
3.0
Brandon Graham
3.0
Gerald McCoy
3.0


I e-mailed Sam Monson over at Pro Football Focus to get his take on why Graham graded out so favorably by their metrics. He explained that by their numbers, Graham was far more effective than you might think. PFF totals up sacks, QB hits and other pressures to properly measure the effectiveness of a pass rusher. Here's how those overall numbers compare:

Player
Total Pressures
Ndamukong Suh 41
Houston
40
Graham
37
McCoy
26
Pierre-Paul
24
Dunlap
24
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Per PFF, Graham had seven hits and 27 pressures in addition to his three sacks. The only two rookies who had more were Suh and Houston.

But Graham also played fewer snaps than either of those guys. According to PFF, Graham had 271 chances to rush the passer, so he had a pressure once ever 7.3 snaps. For Houston, that number was once every 8.3 snaps. And for Suh, it was once every 14.1 snaps.

The numbers are interesting. As someone who watched and re-watched all of Graham's snaps last season, I was surprised. I thought he was OK during his rookie season, showing flashes of being an effective pass rusher, but also disappearing at times. And Graham obviously has work to do against the run.

By my unofficial count, he played about 45 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps. Graham was active for the first 13 games before tearing his ACL against the Cowboys. He started the first four games, and then again in Weeks 11 and 12 when Juqua Parker was sidelined with an injury.

According to team stats, he had 13 hurries, second on the Eagles to Trent Cole. Parker had 12, and Darryl Tapp had 10.

One of the first things I thought of when the Eagles announced that they had hired Jim Washburn was how he could help Graham. Of course, with Graham recovering from the ACL injury, we might not know the complete answer to that question until 2012.


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About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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