Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham flashed the potential that a connection could bring with quarterback Russell Wilson by picking up 6 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the 49ers.
It started at practice, before, during and after, with pass after pass after pass. That’s how Seahawks coach Pete Carroll sees it. All that time, all the shared work in obscurity between quarterback Russell Wilson and tight end Jimmy Graham, all of that exploded against the 49ers on Sunday.
“I think you can see the benefits of Jimmy and Russell throwing,” Carroll said. “They’ve thrown thousands of balls together in preparation for this.”
If nothing else, Sunday was a reminder of Graham’s immense talent, the special traits that have landed him in Pro Bowls and enticed the Seahawks to trade for him. That’s the baseline assessment of Graham’s performance: six catches, 100 yards, one touchdown, one amazingly difficult catch.
The upshot brims with more potential. Graham and Wilson, now having known each other for more than a year, are capable of forging the connection that drifted in and out last year: there one game, absent the next.
“There really is something to chemistry between receivers and quarterbacks,” Carroll said. “There’s really something there, and particularly with Russell, who’s such a thoughtful guy. It’s so important for him to have a sense of who he’s playing with.”
Wilson is particularly cerebral, and as instinctual as he appears on the field, he is meticulous and detailed leading to that point.
Graham is a different target than Wilson has had. He is 6-foot-7 and excels in traffic and congestion. Just watch the 40-yard jump ball Graham stole and then secured among a couple of defensive backs.
It takes a deep trust to give Graham a chance when he isn’t open. Drew Brees and Graham mastered that connection after years together in New Orleans; Wilson and Graham were still trying to find it during their first year together in Seattle.
Just this past week, Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of the Graham-Wilson connection, “I wouldn’t say it’s outstanding, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad.”
Granted, Graham’s 40-yard catch in traffic came after the 49ers jumped offsides, eliminating any risk. But there were smaller highlights to take away: Wilson hitting Graham over the middle when Graham had a defensive back draped on his back, Graham getting open when Wilson rolled out of the pocket.
“It just takes time,” Carroll said. “It’s not automatically you play and everything is exactly the same. We see that now. I hope you guys can understand that that was a great lesson to see that right before our eyes. Now you see the benefit of all of the time… It’s getting those guys together, getting their minds together so that they could really do something special when they got out there finally.”
The Seahawks’ offense came alive last season even without Graham, but that shouldn’t diminish what Graham can add.
He exhibited that on one play in the second quarter, when Wilson chucked the ball and Graham ripped it down from a San Francisco defensive back 40 yards later.
“That was savage,” tight end Luke Willson said.
It was just last Sunday, after the defeat against the Rams, that Graham proclaimed, “I feel like a beast.”
He looked like it against the 49ers. He had the 15th 100-yard game of his career and his second with the Seahawks, and what we’ll find out is if it was truly the beginning of an enhanced partnership between Wilson and Graham in year two.
“There’s no doubt in my mind when Jimmy is out there,” Wilson said.