Tag Archives: Drew Brees

Seattle Seahawks – What To Do With Jimmy Graham

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.

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

running-lion

The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?

 

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.

Russell Wilson Is A System Quarterback – Myth or Fact?

All he does is win games.
All he does is win games.

So I am going to weigh in on the Russell Wilson contract issue again.  But I am going to try and look at this from a different perspective.

About six years ago, I wrote an article for the Bleacher Report called The Myth About A System Quarterback.  At the time, I was writing under the pseudonym of Seattle Lion Fan.

According to Wikipedia, a system quarterback is defined as “is an American football quarterback who flourishes under a particular offensive system, specifically one that focuses on passing.”

Under another definition, a system quarterback could be defined as one that is successful but not talented.

I, for one, believe that every quarterback in the NFL is a system quarterback.  Each team has its own system whether they drafted a quarterback that fit the direction the head coach wants or they built a system to exploit the talents of a quarterback.

I think the best example of this was when the Miami Dolphins, then coached by the great Don Shula, took Dan Marino.  Shula made six Super Bowl appearances, going 2-4 in those games.  His teams from 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1982 were all keyed by a run-first offensive strategy, including the undefeated team of 1972.

That all changed when Dan Marino, drafted in 1983 and became the full-time starter in 1984 when he threw for over 5,000 yards and threw 48 touchdowns.  Shula recognized what he had in Marino and built a system around him which in my eyes, makes Marino a system quarterback.

Another great example is Joe Montana.  Bill Walsh needed to find the perfect quarterback to run his West Coast offense and in 1979, Walsh found him in the third round.  Montana, coming out of Notre Dame, was not your prototypical quarterback.  But Walsh kept saying is that “all this kid does is win.”

Four Super Bowl wins in a span of 13 years with San Francisco as well as never losing one puts Montana in a very elite class.  Many, myself included, put him as one of the greatest quarterbacks to have played the game.

In both of these examples, each quarterback fit the system designed by the coaches…one had a system built for him (Marino) and the other was a perfect fit for a system already in place (Montana).

In Pete Carroll’s system, he needed a quarterback that had the capabilities to:

  • Have lots of mobility but still look to throw
  • Take care of the ball on their possessions
  • Make smart and intelligent plays
  • Be the leader on offense
  • Make the big play when needed.

Russell Wilson fills each of these needs very, very well.  How can you argue when all this kid has done in his past three seasons as the Seahawk quarterback is win?

  • Three straight post-season appearances.
  • Two straight Super Bowl appearances (and it should have been two straight wins!).
  • 36 – 11 regular season record over three seasons.
  • Career passing percentage of 98.6 over those three seasons and averaged 100.6 over the last two years.
  • Has not missed a game in those three years.

I truly believe that Russell Wilson is the best fit for this Seahawk offense.  Is there another QB worth a damn that can do better than Wilson at this point?  Tavaris Jackson?  Been tried and he could do no better than 7-9.  Granted he didn’t have Marshawn Lynch as a running back but even with Beast Mode, I doubt he do much better than 9-7.  T-Jack is a turnover machine and checks down way too much.

Wilson fits the system that Carroll has designed.  Wilson needs the Seahawks and the Seahawks need Wilson.  What the question is now is what is the magic number to get the deal done?

The top seven highest paid quarterbacks (listed is guaranteed salaries, not the total contract) according to Sports Cheat Sheet:

  1. Colin Kapernick – San Francisco:  $61 Million
  2. Matt Ryan – Atlanta:  $59 Million
  3. Tom Brady- New England:  $57 Million
  4. Drew Brees – New Orleans:  $55 Million
  5. Tony Romo – Dallas:  $55 Million
  6. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay:  $54 Million
  7. Jay Cutler – Chicago:  $54 Million

So tell me, out of these seven quarterbacks, which one would you take over Russell Wilson?  If I had to pick, it would most likely be Aaron Rodgers.  Why?  Because he is a 6’2″ version of Russell Wilson…or to be more accurate, Russell is a 5’11” version of Rodgers.

Imagine how successful Rodgers would have been if he had the caliber of running back such as Marshawn Lynch as well as the defense of our beloved Seahawks!  Rodgers would be out of fingers with Super Bowls.  And yet, hardly anyone batted an eyelid when Rodgers signed one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL.

I agree, you take away Lynch and Russell would be a different QB.  But I believe that he would still be successful because Wilson can adapt to compensate for the loss of a great running game…he would adapt to the changes in the system.

Russell Wilson deserves to be paid as one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league simply because of what he has shown what he’s done over the past three seasons.  Does he deserve to be the highest paid?  If he can get it, more power to him.  But this is one player the Seahawks cannot say “next man up!” because they don’t have a player of his caliber to take his place.

Pay the man, he deserves it.