Pro Football Focus recently unveiled their top 50 players heading into the 2019 NFL season. A total of three Philadelphia Eagles made PFF’s list. Here’s a look at the rankings, along with some thoughts.
41. Edge Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles: Sacks don’t tell the whole story for any player in the NFL, and no player epitomizes that more than Graham. He’s only recorded double-digit sacks in PFF’s system once (2017) but has been as consistent as they come from an overall pressure and pass-rush grade standpoint. He has recorded 45 or more pressures in six of his last seven seasons in the NFL and has earned 81.0-plus pass-rush grades in five of them.
I think some might be sleeping on Graham heading into 2019. There’s no denying that Philly’s Super Bowl hero didn’t have his best season in 2018. Graham’s four sacks ranked tied for fourth lowest in his career. But it was apparent that Graham wasn’t operating at 100% last season. He had ankle surgery last May and he missed most of training camp ahead of the 2018 campaign. And even in a “down year,” Graham still finished last season with the most quarterback hurries of any edge rusher. He also ranked 27th out of 109 edge rushers in PFF’s pressure rate.
The Eagles are clearly counting on Graham to bounce back or else they wouldn’t have re-signed him to a three-year contract worth $40 million back in March. There’s reason to believe the 31-year-old will age well considering his game is based on power and not just speed. Graham should also have a lot of tread left on the tires considering he didn’t become a full-time starter until 2015.
The Eagles really need Graham to continue to be a force off the edge in 2019.
24. C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles: Kelce’s four-year overall grade (91.1) ranks fourth among the 94 interior offensive linemen with at least 2,000 offensive snaps played since 2015, and his 93.4 run-block grade ranks first among the same group of qualifiers. Most recently, Kelce earned a career-high 88.0 pass-blocking grade in addition to his 80.7 run-blocking grade in 2018. He also earned a 94.6 run-blocking grade throughout the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017, a single-season mark that ranks first in the PFF era (2006-18) among qualifying centers and one that landed him PFF’s top run-blocker award in 2017. From PFF’s Mike Renner following Kelce’s stellar 2017 campaign: “A combination of Pederson scheming more to Kelce’s strengths and Kelce getting stronger flipped the All-Pro switch once again inside the Eagles center. He’s been dominant in the run game, from the first snap to the last, with only one sub-par graded game all season.”
It’s easy to take for granted just how good Kelce has been for the Eagles. He’s critical to their success. You can make the case he’s the team’s most irreplaceable player outside of Carson Wentz. Think back to any point Kelce has missed time. The Eagles had their worst season in recent history when Kelce tore his ACL in 2012. The team had their worst defeat in recent history when Kelce got hurt early into the Eagles’ 48-7 loss to the Saints.
The Eagles are fortunate to not have lost The Bearded Wonder to retirement this offseason.
4. DI Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles: It’s a shame that Cox plays in the same league as Donald; he’d be the unanimous decision for top defensive interior if it weren’t for the Rams superstar. Cox’s pass-rush win rate in 2018 (20.9%) is the fourth-best single-season mark of any defensive interior in the PFF era. And his 91.2 pass-rush grade this past season, another career-high for the big man, also ranks inside the top 10 among qualifiers since 2006. From PFF’s Austin Gayle in his latest feature on Cox comparing him and Donald: “Among the 125 interior defensive linemen with 500 or more pass-rush snaps since 2015, Donald ranks first in pass-rush grade (95.9), total pressures (375) and pass-rush win percentage (22.1%). Cox ranks second behind Donald in all three metrics. And the trend continues, as Donald led all at his position in pass-rush grade in each of the past four seasons (2015-18). Cox ranked second two of the years (2017 & 2018) and third in another (2015).”
Cool to see Cox getting recognized as one of the league’s very best players.
Cox had a strong season last year despite playing next to guys like Haloti Ngata, Treyvon Hester, Bruce Hector, and “T.Y. McGill.” Now Cox is primarily going to be lining up next to the likes of Malik Jackson and a healthy Timmy Jernigan. Teams aren’t going to be able to double Cox as easily. And if they do, Jackson and Jernigan should be able to take advantage.
The Eagles’ interior pass rush unit has the potential to be incredibly disruptive.