Seahawks QB Russell Wilson said Thursday all of the work he did in the off-season with Jimmy Graham is paying off in increased success in the red zone.
That the Seahawks are getting the ball this season as easily and often as they are to Jimmy Graham in the end zone only adds to the question of why it took so long.
For two years Seahawks fans and observers around the NFL wondered why the team seemed to struggle so to throw it Graham’s way when close to the end zone.
Suddenly, no player in the NFL is being targeted in the red zone as often as Graham.
To cite one stat that makes that case, Pro Football Focus this week reported that Seattle has thrown the ball to Graham inside the 5-yard-line 12 times this season — no other player has been targeted more than seven times.
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That has led to a record-setting season for Graham, whose eight touchdowns this season has already set a franchise record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end — six have come from inside the 5-yard-line, including one from the 1-yard-line last Sunday at San Francisco.
There is one pretty practical reason why Seattle is going more to Graham — the Seahawks aren’t running the ball as well as in past seasons so they are throwing it more than ever. Russell Wilson’s 411 passing attempts this week are the most of any quarterback in the NFL
And that’s been a particular issue in the red zone as Seattle has just four rushing touchdowns this season — three by Wilson.
But simply going to Graham more doesn’t totally explain why the Wilson-to-Graham connection has been more successful this year.
If there’s a really eye-catching secret to that, though, Wilson isn’t saying.
Asked Thursday why things with Graham are working better this season Wilson largely repeated what he has said previously — that increased off-season workouts are paying off.
“Yeah, I think it is just continual work, really,’’ Wilson said. “With Jimmy and I, we are super, super close. We are best friends and stuff, but also I think this offseason, we were able to really spend a lot of time together throwing. He came to LA and we got tons of training in then with a big group and then also just together as well. I think that individual time but also that group time was really crucial.
“. … Also, Jimmy is arguably one of the best tight ends to ever play the game and so for the first two years, I thought we did good. We always have high expectations. We still have even higher expectations for the rest of the season, but the reality is that he got bumped and bruised and that was an unfortunate situation and so he really had a great offseason. He was really, really hungry. He worked every day.’’
Asked to describe the workouts, Wilson said: “We watch a little bit of film and then a lot of it is just you going out in the field and just one-on-one or just throwing and doing a lot of stuff together and then also working out together some, too. He is a lot bigger than me, so his workouts are a little bit different than mine, but it’s one of those things that that constant work is really, really crucial and so we have been determined all year to try and be great and I think Jimmy is doing a phenomenal job doing that.”
It’s added up to what Wilson described as being about as tight of a partnership as he could have with a receiver.
“Well the chemistry is great right now,’’ Wilson said. “It can’t get any better really. You want to keep it going and keep focusing on ways to get him the football and also same thing with Doug (Baldwin) and same with Paul (Richardson) and Tyler (Lockett) and those guys. Like I said, it’s really kind of simple. Tons of work. And it’s just like baseball. You get tons of at bats and you just get used to the pitcher, catcher relationship. All of that is really critical. It’s sports, so the more you play with guys, the even better flow that you find and we are definitely in that flow state right now.”