There has been a lot of questions on Jimmy Graham. How to use him? Should the Seahawks trade him? Should the Seahawks cut their losses and let him go? Why isn’t he targeted in the Red Zone? Why isn’t he as productive as he was when he was with the Saints?
The most intriguing question of all of these is how to use Graham. It was well known when Graham came to the Seahawks that blocking wasn’t his forte. Catching the ball and scoring touchdowns is what made him one of the best tight ends in football.
But let’s think about how New Orleans used Graham in their offense. In 2013, Graham had 86 receptions, 16 TD’s, averaged 14.1 yards per catch and 76 yards per game. 67% of the time during the season, the Saints lined him up as a wide receiver to take advantage of the mismatches created lining up against smaller cornerbacks instead of linebackers. Doing this gave the Saints an absolutely lethal weapon in the Red Zone.
Remember, after the 2013 season, the Saints wanted to place the franchise tag on Graham as a tight-end. Graham argued that he had more snaps as a wide receiver and should be paid accordingly. He even forced an NFL arbitrator to rule on the dispute. He lost and the Saints were able to franchise him at the tight-end level which paid significantly less than wide receiver.
That aside, let’s talk about how Drew Brees threw to Graham in the five years they were teammates. Brees took advantage of Graham’s 6-7″ height, his 6-7″ wingspan and his 10″ hands along with his 3′ vertical jump and threw passes that only he could go and get. Let’s also remember that Graham was an outstanding basketball player and was a fierce rebounder so going up and fighting for passes was second nature to him.
How do the Seahawks use him? As a traditional tight-end that needs to block in a run-first offense.
Yes, I know that Graham finished with nearly a 923 yards last season along with 6 TD’s. But a lot of those yards were when the Hawks were behind or the game was out of hand.
With the Saints, Graham’s 5 years stats were outstanding. His average for each category:
Receptions-77.2 Yards per Season-950.4 Yards per Catch-12.18 Yards per Game-60.52 Touchdowns per Year-10.2
In his two years with the Seahawks, there is a significant drop in several categories, based on the average with each team:
Receptions: 56.5 (-20.7) Yards per Season-764 (-186) Yards per Catch-13.4 (+1.22) Yards per Game-60.52 (-4.17) Touchdowns per Year-4 (-6.2)
How should the Seahawks use Jimmy Graham? In my opinion, make him a wide receiver. You say he doesn’t have the speed? Between 2008 and 2012, the average 40-yard dash times for wide receivers was 4.55 seconds. Graham’s time in the 40? 4.53 seconds so he has the speed.
The average height of an NFL cornerback is 5’10” tall. At 6’7″, to go along with his leaping ability and huge wingspan, having him at wide receiver would be a huge mismatch, something that NFL offensive coordinators look for in every situation. And with his rebounding experience from basketball and his 10″ hands, he will win more battles for the ball than lose them.
What does this do for the Seahawk offense? Quite a bit actually. It can still be a run first team if that’s what they want. But consider when they do have to go to a 3 or 4 wide receiver set in long yardage situations. Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham out wide with Tyler Lockett and/or Doug Baldwin in the slots. You can’t double team any of the receivers because all can catch the ball and all can create havoc after the catch. You would force the defense to drop eight and if by some chance all of the receivers are covered, there is 3rd down specialist C.J. Prosise out of the backfield.
Added bonus to that is you get a real tight end in Luke Willson and Nick Vannett in the offense who can actually, you know, block and help the offense line in the run game.
Don’t like any of those options? Then I suggest you do what Jim Moore of 710 Sports says: Trade him for a top tier offensive lineman or multiple high round draft picks to use for the offensive line. I couldn’t agree more with Jim Moore on this. I also agree with Moore on getting sick and tired of hearing about Graham’s potential when the Seahawks don’t know how to use him, in particular, Russell Wilson. If you watch game tapes of when Graham was with the Saints, Drew Brees put it in places that only Graham could get. He threw it up high over the defender’s heads and let Graham’s basketball instincts take over.
Wilson? Throws passes at Graham’s hips and knees where they are difficult to catch and in the reach of anyone covering Graham. And don’t give me that crap that Wilson is too short to find Graham. Brees is only 6’0″ tall, just an inch taller than Wilson. While Wilson may have the better arm between the two, I’d be inclined to take Brees in a 2-minute drill simply because he knows how to use the weapons he has…and he used Graham brilliantly.
Graham was brought to Seattle specifically to improve scoring in the Red Zone. In 2015, Graham’s first year here, the Hawks were 16th in the NFL in Red Zone scoring. Last year, the dropped to 25th. The Saints, over the same 2 years were 9th in 2015 and 3rd in 2016. So it’s not just Graham, it’s the plays. Over the past 10 years, New Orleans has been in the top 10 in Red Zone scoring except one year: 2010.
Seattle, in that same 10 year span, has been in the top 10 only once: 2007. So let’s not put the lack of Red Zone production all on Jimmy Graham or Russell Wilson. Let’s look at the consistently unimaginative play calling in that area by the offense coordinators…and since 2011, that falls on the shoulders of Darrell Bevel. Comes up with some nice play designs between the 20’s but once in the Red Zone, he will switch to conservative play calling that leads to field goals instead of touchdowns.
I like Jimmy Graham but the Seahawks are wasting him…either move him to wide receiver and create the mismatches that all NFL coaches crave for or trade him to shore up the offensive line.