By Danny O’Neil
“Person of Interest” is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent. This week, it’s New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.
With 946 receiving yards in 11 games, Jimmy Graham is on pace for the most prolific season by a tight end in NFL history. (AP)
• Position: Tight end, two-sport stud
• Height: 6-7
• Weight: 265
• Age: 27
• Experience: Fourth season
Graham has replaced Antonio Gates as the NFL’s patron saint for converted basketball players, and he paved the way for a prospect like Julius Thomas, whom the Broncos drafted out of Portland State.
Graham played one season of college football at Miami before he was drafted in the third round by New Orleans, and halfway through his rookie season, quarterback Drew Brees could tell the Saints had something special.
“He was doing some freakishly athletic things,” Brees said.
He was just getting started. Graham has led the Saints in receiving yards each of the past two years, and he has a chance to have one of the best receiving seasons for any tight end in NFL history.
Through 11 games, he has caught 65 passes for 946 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. That puts him on pace to break Rob Gronkowski’s record for single-season receiving yardage by a tight end, which was 1,327 yards in 2011.
Graham has more touchdown catches this season than two different teams in the NFL, and he ranks ninth in the league in receiving yardage, the only player at his position in the top 20. He presents, quite simply, one of the most unique strategic challenges the Seahawks will face this season.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Graham. “He’s a ball-control catcher and he’s a downfield threat that causes problems. They use him in numerous ways. They use him inside and outside. He plays as a wide receiver.”
Seattle has a similarly wide array of options for defending Graham.
Do the Seahawks stick with their standard defensive playbook and trust a linebacker like K.J. Wright or a safety like Kam Chancellor to be able to stay with Graham or do they utilize their rare size at cornerback to put Richard Sherman on Graham the same way he was assigned San Francisco’s Anquan Boldin in Week 2?
Carroll – understandably – wasn’t all that eager to provide the details of his defensive plans.
“We have to cover him in multiple ways,” Carroll said. “It takes everything that we have to slow a guy down like this.”