The Seahawks are in a position that was hard to imagine when they traded for Graham this offseason: They are the NFL’s worst team in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on a league-worst 29 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
RENTON — Before he had played a game for the Seahawks, tight end Jimmy Graham talked about his success near the end zone in the most basic terms.
“My mind-set?” he asked, repeating the question. “Honestly, I’m just bigger than everybody, so it’s easy.”
But the Seahawks are in a position that was hard to imagine when they traded for Graham this offseason: They are the NFL’s worst team in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on a league-worst 29 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
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“That’s really a point of emphasis for us to turn that thing around,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We want to leave those numbers in the past.”
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For all the good the Seahawks did last year, one of the areas in which they struggled was in the red zone; they scored touchdowns 52 percent of the time, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Graham was brought in to improve that.
Graham has been one of the NFL’s most prolific touchdown catchers over the past five years, and he is particularly lethal in the red zone. Of his 53 career touchdown catches, 42 have been in the red zone. And of those 42 touchdowns, 28 have come inside the 10-yard line.
Graham has just two touchdowns this season — he hasn’t had less than nine in the past four years — and only one of his touchdowns was in the red zone.
“We’d love to give him some more looks in the red zone,” Carroll said. “For all the obvious reasons.”
The obvious reasons being that Graham is 6 feet 7, 265 pounds and a former basketball player who can jump high and shield defenders with his body.
“That may be one of the biggest things, just the size we have down there when things start to get tight,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said this year.
In New Orleans, Graham wasn’t singular in the ways he scored in the red zone. He caught jump balls on fades. He beat smaller defenders on slants. He worked the seams and middle of the field.
“As offensive coaches, we’d be game-planning and we’d be in a goal-line meeting trying to figure out what play we’d put on,” said Carter Sheridan, a former Saints offensive coach. “And it was always like, ‘Our best goal-line play is throwing the ball up to Jimmy Graham.’ ”
In Seattle, he hasn’t had many chances. The problems have been variable.
The Seahawks haven’t been in the red zone nearly as often this season as last year. They are averaging two red-zone trips per game, and opponents have scored 21 more points than the Seahawks on their red-zone visits.
In some games Graham has had chances to make a tough catch and didn’t (at the end of the half against the Bears, for example). And in some games quarterback Russell Wilson has had Graham one-on-one and didn’t give him a chance to make a play.
Either way, Carroll said, “Offensively we just didn’t do well enough, didn’t take advantage of our opportunities being down there.”