A review of the film of the Seahawks game at Green Bay appears to show it could have been pretty easy for Jimmy Graham to have a pretty normal-looking stat line.
The Seattle Seahawks’ use of Jimmy Graham in Sunday’s 27-17 loss at Green Bay has become a pretty big conversation topic in the 48 hours or so since the game.
As was well-reported on Monday, coach Pete Carroll said he wouldn’t be surprised if Graham were frustrated with making just one catch for 11 yards in a game his team lost given how Graham is a competitor and wanted his team to win and with the Seahawks falling to 0-2. Basically, pretty much what you’d expect a coach to say.
Since then has come a a fairly talked-about video from Bleacher Report stating that Graham hates his role with the Seahawks and wonders why the team traded for him.
As that video noted, and others have reported, Graham wasn’t available to the media after the game in Green Bay. It may be worth noting that Graham also didn’t talk after the Seahawks’ season opener at St. Louis when he caught six passes and had a touchdown — which are fairly regular Graham-like stats — with the word around the team being that Graham simply doesn’t want a lot of media attention at the moment.
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So maybe Graham’s interview status Sunday in Green Bay means something and maybe it doesn’t.
Regardless, I decided to review every Seahawks’ offensive play (and specifically the passes) of the game against Green Bay on the NFL.com Game Pass coach’s film and see if maybe there was more to learn about how the team used Graham in that game.
My main takeaway? That it probably wouldn’t have been that hard for Graham to have had a pretty typical Graham-like game.
There’s always some danger in assuming that when you watch the film you know exactly what the play was and where the quarterback was supposed to be looking, and what the coaches may have concluded afterward about what should have happened.
But from my review of it, it seems that it would have been pretty easy for Graham to have had another three or four catches, at the least.
Why didn’t he? As Carroll said Monday, there doesn’t appear to be any one single reason. On a couple of plays, quarterback Russell Wilson looked elsewhere and made decisions to throw to a different receiver, plays where I imagine the coaches would say upon review he should have looked to Graham. On a couple, it looks like Wilson made the right decision to look away from Graham, even though Graham appeared wide open.
And on one, a possible touchdown to Graham in the third quarter, there was a penalty that benefited the Seahawks but also appeared to disrupt the timing from the start. That play, now easily forgotten, was a third-and-10 at the Green Bay 10 on Seattle’s first drive of the third quarter. Green Bay jumped offsides and Wilson threw in traffic to Graham, who never had a chance to make the grab. The play was negated due to the penalty and not officially credited as a target to Graham. But the play is clearly designed to go to Graham from the start, and had it worked, the conversation today might be a lot different. Instead, Seattle got a new play at the 5 and scored on a Wilson pass to Fred Jackson.
Here are a few other observations from reviewing the film:
— Carroll said Monday that four of the first five pass plays were designed to go to Graham. That’s hard to tell definitively looking at the film — the first play of the game, for instance, was a screen to Tyler Lockett that went for no gain and doesn’t appear to have many other options. But certainly some of the initial plays were intended for Graham. Seattle’s second pass of the game, for instance, was a play-action pass out of I-formation to fullback Derrick Coleman for no gain. Graham, who lined up on the line with his hand down, runs down and out and appears double-covered, with Wilson throwing to Coleman after appearing to look for Graham. Graham also appeared wide open on what was Seattle’s third pass play of the game. But Wilson instead chose to throw to Doug Baldwin for 32 yards — Graham ran a crossing route that likely would have gone for about half that total. Graham was then targeted on what was Seattle’s fourth pass of the game, an incompletion down the right sideline. Graham was single-covered on the play by safety Sean Richardson. A perfect pass might have resulted in a completion but Richardson’s coverage was pretty good (the end of that play is pictured above).
— If there was a real obvious missed opportunity to Graham early on, it came with 12:40 in the second quarter when Graham appears to break wide open down the middle of the field. Wilson instead threw incomplete to Jermaine Kearse down the right side. The Packers were in zone coverage on the play and Wilson had plenty of time, but maybe just needed to wait another beat or two for Graham to break open. That’s maybe the kind of thing that will come with more time together.
— Something else worth noting is that it’s not as if the Seahawks didn’t try to get the ball to the tight end Sunday. Luke Willson had four targets of his own making two catches for 36 yards. On both of Willson’s receptions, Graham appears open, as well, but Wilson instead throws to Willson — on each, for what were gains longer than would have been gotten by throwing to Graham. Those were a 12-yard gain on the first play of the second quarter and then Willson’s diving one-handed grab for 24 yards on the first play of the second half. If Graham was peeved, his actions after the second Willson catch don’t indicate it as he quickly threw up both arms and sprinted upfield to celebrate with Willson — that was the play where Willson ran straight down the seam while Graham ran a shorter crossing route. So yes, maybe it could be argued Graham should be running Willson’s longer routes on such plays. Wilson also threw twice to Willson when Willson was heavily covered, and maybe someone might argue that’s also an issue, that Wilson needs to throw more to Graham even if he appears covered. Wilson, though, could hardly be blamed if maybe he feels a little more comfort at the moment throwing to Willson in such situations than he does to Graham (not saying that’s the case, but that if it is, it would make some sense given their history working together).
— After Seattle scored to make it 13-10 and stopped Green Bay, Graham caught his lone pass of the game on the first play of Seattle’s next series, an 11-yarder. That drive ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin in which it appears Wilson first looks to Graham — who appears open at about the 5 on a curl-in — before throwing to Baldwin in the end zone.
— Another missed chance to Graham came on the first play of Seattle’s next drive, when the Seahawks got the ball at their own 20, ahead 17-16 late in the third quarter. Graham, lined up on the line, appeared to break open over the middle. But Wilson threw instead to Baldwin for five yards. It was a safer pass and resulted in a completion but Wilson maybe could have hit Graham for a little bit of a longer gain.
— Seattle simply didn’t have the ball much in the fourth quarter, running only 11 plays — six of which were on the drive in the final minutes after the Packers went ahead 27-17 and the game was essentially over. The only other drive was the one that ended in the interception on the screen pass.On the play before that, Wilson appears to look for Graham running down the left sideline. But Graham was double-covered and Wilson hesitated and then took off running the other direction, gaining 13 yards. That’s the play on which J.R.Sweezy was injured. Then came the ill-fated screen pass (and as an aside, that’s the only play of the game in which Alvin Bailey played, stepping in for Sweezy after he jogged off).
— The discussion of Graham today has also led many to note that it was inevitable that his numbers would drop moving from the Saints to the Seahawks. The Saints, recall, threw it 63 percent of the time in 2014, the fifth-highest ratio in the NFL. The Seahawks, meanwhile, threw it 48.41 percent, a lower pass-run ratio than all but one other team (Houston). Those numbers have narrowed a bit so far in 2015, though, with the Saints throwing it 66 percent of the time in starting out 0-2 while the Seahawks are throwing it on 58 percent of plays. In an ideal world, Seattle’s pass-run ratio will drop. But a review of the Green Bay film appears to show that there could still be plenty of opportunities for Graham.