The real question concerning Jimmy Graham isn’t “when will be he game ready?” The real one is “will he help the Seahawks when he is?”
The question everybody’s asking is “when will he be game-ready?”
They want to know when Jimmy Graham, the most talented tight end in the NFC, will be cleared to wear a Seahawks jersey when the snaps actually count. The curiosity spiked Wednesday when Graham practiced for the first time since tearing his patellar tendon last November, tickling every fan at the VMAC pink.
But the real question concerning Jimmy isn’t “when will be he game-ready?” The real one is “will he help the Seahawks when he is?”
There is no denying that a healthy Graham has been one of the game’s more dynamic pass-catchers since the turn of the decade. His height, hands and hops made “just go out and get open” a legitimate NFL play call.
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When the Seahawks traded for him two springs ago, people wondered less about whether they’d return to the Super Bowl and more about whether they’d cover the spread when they did. Then, something happened: The season started.
Buried beneath the story lines involving Kam Chancellor and the team’s fourth-quarter collapses was the fact that the offense went stagnant. More specifically, the Seahawks were helpless in the red zone early in the season, a problem Graham’s “jump ball” capabilities would theoretically solve.
As for Jimmy’s week-to-week production? Not disastrous, but not divine. You don’t expect a guy who had 26 TD catches the previous two seasons to have just two for his new team.
But hey, this was a new system — a run-first offense with a scrambling quarterback that would require any new acquisition to adjust. And that was a challenge that took some time to figure out, right?
“I wouldn’t see it that way. I think we were doing a good job of getting him involved,” Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, emphasizing the fact that Seattle doesn’t throw nearly as often as New Orleans did. “With Doug (Baldwin) and Jermaine (Kearse) and Tyler (Lockett) and Jimmy (Graham) and Luke (Willson), we don’t feel like we have to force-feed it to anybody.”
It’s one thing to say that, though, and another thing to actually practice it. When you have a player of Graham’s stature on your roster, it’s hard to limit his targets and feel as though you took full advantage of your weapons.
That’s why some speculated the Seahawks were actually better — or at least more free-flowing — with Graham out last year. There’s certainly an argument for that. In the first 13 quarters after Jimmy’s injury vs. the Steelers, Russell Wilson threw 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions to cap a five-game winning streak and punctuate one of greatest individual stretches ever.
That, however, very well may have been coincidence. The way Wilson was throwing then, he could have led the Huskies to an NFL victory or two. Let’s not forgot about Graham’s seven-catch, 75-yard performance that proved to be the difference in the Seahawks’ win over Dallas. Let’s not forget about his eight-catch, 140-yard performance in what should have been the difference vs. Carolina, either.
If a team can’t figure out how to improve with Jimmy Graham in the lineup, they deserve any shortcoming they experience. But that doesn’t mean said shortcoming might not still occur.
Graham deflected a question about an individual adjustment period last year, choosing instead to answer it from a team perspective. He also spoke as though it were an isolated incident.
“I think across the board it was a rough start for all of us. … Every season has its own challenges,” Graham said. “It’s just a different mentality, and just a different mindset this year. You know all the guys are bonded and everybody’s one, so I don’t think you’ll see that this year.”
We’ll see. Training camp is a breeding ground for optimism.
All we know right now is that Graham is finally working out with his team again.
His return Wednesday signaled that his knee is a whole lot better. Whether he’ll make the Seahawks better remains to be seen.