PHILADELPHIA – Nick Sirianni confirmed on Monday that defensive end Brandon Graham ruptured an Achilles and will miss the rest of the season.
The news was slightly better for right guard Brandon Brooks, who has a strain of a pectoral muscle.
The Eagles head coach said that Injured Reserve is a possibility, but the injury won’t end Brooks’ season. Brooks has shown the ability to heal and rehab quickly after suffering Achilles injuries of his own in two of the last three years, but it’s too early to speculate on how much time he will miss.
The two veteran players suffered their injuries in the second quarter of Sunday’s 17-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Graham's injury came in his 50th straight start, which was the second-longest active streak for a DE in the NFL.
“Obviously, we’re going to miss the heck out of BG,” said Sirianni. “He is the heart and soul of this team. Look forward to guys stepping up, different guys leading, and just a continued role for Fletcher Cox to lead. I think he’s a great leader. He’s been sharing that with BG, now he gets to take over that on the field to help run that defense.”
Graham's injury leaves a vacuum in the danger he presents on the edge and as a leader, and also puts his future with the team in limbo.
The longest-tenured Eagles player, arriving in 2010, Graham has voidable years left on his contract through 2026 but has a salary cap hit of $9.66 million in 2022. That's too much for a player who will turn 34 next April coming off a serious injury.
"Only thing that came into my mind was 'OK, you have an uphill battle now because you're not getting any younger,'" said Graham Monday night on his radio show broadcast on the Eagles' flagship station, 94WIP.
"On top of that, this was going to be the year that I was going to show that I still have some miles. Either way, I'm still excited for what's to come. We don't know what the future holds. I know that I'm going to work my butt off to get back, I'm going to work my butt off to make sure I give everything I got to the team on the sideline and help this team as much as I can.
"I'm telling you, I'm coming back with that chip (on my shoulder) and we'll see what happens. If I'm not ready, I'll make that decision when it comes, but right now I'm feeling like I love football, I love the game, just everything about it. If anything, I know I have one year left, hopefully."
Josh Sweat figures to be the one to step in as a starter, though he played just 28 defensive snaps against the 49ers.
His limited role was somewhat surprising since he had just signed a three-year contract extension for $40 million with a guarantee of $26.9M on Saturday.
“With some of the packages you play against, they were in more 21 personnel, 12 personnel, so that just forced a couple different packages for us to be in,” the coach said. “He’ll play more. Looking back on it he should play more there, too, but that was a design of what packages we were playing against the 49ers. “
Meanwhile, Derek Barnett, another player who needs to rise to the occasion with Graham out, played 45 snaps. Barnett, however, has a tendency to play outside the boundary of the rules.
He was called for a personal foul that negated a third-and-15 and gave San Francisco a first down late in the game. It was Barnett’s eighth personal foul call in his career, six of which were unnecessary roughness penalties and two roughing the quarterback violations.
The penalty was also the 20th of his career, which is now more than the 19.5 sacks he has since being drafted in the first round in 2017.
“I can’t speak to anything in the past, obviously any personal foul is an unacceptable foul that happens after the ball is out of bounds,” said Sirianni. “That’ll be addressed just like it is throughout the entire organization after a win or a loss.”
Veteran Ryan Kerrigan will also need to step up, though the free-agent signing from Washington hasn’t been very visible in two games, so far.
The Eagles could also move rookie Milton Williams to the outside from defensive tackle. The Eagles cross-trained Williams inside and outside during training camp. Rookie Tarron Jackson is also someone who could step in for some plays.
“When you lose a good player like Brandon Graham there are many different hats that Brandon wears that a lot of us have to be ready to step in and fill the void,” said Sirianni. “…It’s not just a one-man show, it’s going to take all of us to replace a good player like him.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.