Asked about the potential impact of new tight end Jimmy Graham on his offense, Seattle Seahawks coordinator Darrell Bevell said “ the sky’s the limit.”
Come on, coach; Graham can’t jump quite that high.
Although, Graham did appear to be head and shoulders above the typical Seahawks tight ends during the Hawks’ organized team activity Tuesday.
With sessions often focused on play in the red zone, the Seahawks had a chance to see Graham in an area where he was expected to be an immediate upgrade.
Was he ever.
Scoring often on a variety of routes, displaying his versatility, Graham showed why he’ll be such a coverage nightmare for defenses.
Each one of his touchdown grabs in the noncontact sessions were punctuated by a punishing spike of the football, which at first drew some hoots from the defense.
But after a few times, players from both sides of the ball were racing up to give leaping chest bumps.
Why? This guy is such an obvious difference-maker. It took only a few plays to see that Graham is an elite athlete with a long, easy stride, deceptive speed, and surprising agility for a man 6-foot-7, 270 pounds.
He takes the difficult and makes it look easy.
With his background as a college basketball player, Graham is so adept at finding openings to make the pass easier on the quarterback and offers the fallback option of being able to just jump up and snag passes that nobody else can reach.
Asked about his success in the red zone, Graham kidded that it’s because he’s “bigger than everybody else.”
But that’s selling himself short. Well, maybe not short, but it’s not giving himself credit for his route running and sure hands.
Graham knew when he was traded from New Orleans that he’d see far fewer targets, as the Seahawks have built their identity on a run-first scheme.
Fine by Graham, who stressed: “I’m all about team.”
I’d have to look back through the quote sheets, but I don’t recall former high-profile receiver Percy Harvin ever make that claim during his brief and expensive stay in Seattle.
It cost a first-round draft pick, along with center Max Unger, but the Seahawks became considerably more threatening on offense when they landed Graham. He had 99 catches in 2011 and 16 touchdown grabs in 2013. The Seahawks tight end reception record is 55, by John Carlson, and last year, they had four tight ends combine for a total of six TDs.
Graham felt the need to make a positive impression on his new teammates — not just as a target in the end zone — saying it was important they see that “I’m a good guy.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson said the Hawks already “love his demeanor.” The connection between the two grew tight immediately, and last week, when Graham’s longtime manager and mentor, Tamara Meyerson, died, Wilson accompanied him to Florida for the services.
The rapport between Wilson and Graham could influence this team’s success for years to come. It could not have gotten off to a better start.
“I’ve watched, as a player, and seen his approach throughout the years,” Graham said. “But to walk in the building and see his character and truly get to experience who he is as a man has been awesome. Last week, what he did obviously meant a lot to me and my extended family.”
Graham was impressed immediately by the camaraderie in the locker room, but also the way “the players run the team.” He meant that in terms of taking accountability, and pushing each other to compete and practice hard.
“It feels like I’m back in college, that’s how close it is on this team,” he said.
That’s also why even the defenders were quick to start congratulating him for good plays: He’s going to help them win a lot of games.