Jimmy Graham fitting in, standing out during nice start with Seahawks
Jun 5, 2015, 12:35 PM | Updated: 1:01 pm
RENTON – The result was the same each time, no matter the route he ran or the defender who tried helplessly to cover him. Jimmy Graham was unstoppable as he caught one touchdown pass after another from Russell Wilson on Tuesday, making some of them look easy and punctuating all of them with emphatic, leaping spikes that drew cheers from his offensive teammates and jeers from Seattle’s defenders.
At one point, linebacker Bobby Wagner sprinted toward Graham with a smile that made it obvious he was only feigning disapproval in good fun.
“That’s just what I do,” Graham said afterward about the celebrations, though he could have just as easily been referring to all the touchdown catches that proceeded them.
This was merely a no-contact, no-pads practice in early June, which usually isn’t a time to draw conclusions. But what was evident from the 11-on-11 portion of the Seahawks’ Organized Team Activity and the media availability that followed was how dangerous of a weapon the Seahawks have in their new tight end, the rapport he’s already developed with his quarterback and how comfortable he seems to be in his new setting.
Graham fitting in
Tuesday’s OTA was the second that has been open to the media but only the first of which that has included Graham, who was absent last week following the death of a woman who had been a central figure in his life. That Wilson missed the first OTA in order to accompany him at the funeral in Miami meant a lot to Graham and his family, he said, as did the support he received from the rest of the organization.
Even before that, Graham had been appreciative of the way he’s been treated by his new team.
“This place has exceeded my expectations,” he said. “By far.”
Perhaps the ease with which Graham appears to be fitting in has exceeded some expectations as well. That was a question when the Seahawks acquired Graham back in March in a trade with the Saints. Not only had he been previously confronted by Bruce Irvin and called out by Michael Bennett, he was coming to Seattle with a reputation that didn’t exactly align with the Seahawks’ culture of toughness.
But what was seen and said Tuesday supplemented already ample evidence that Graham has been – and felt – welcomed in Seattle.
Luke Willson, for instance, couldn’t have had a more positive assessment of Graham’s first few months with the Seahawks when he was asked about his fellow tight end last week on “Danny, Dave and Moore.”
“Since Jimmy’s been here, all he’s had is a great attitude. He’s been a great teammate and just a hard worker. So from that sense he’s fit in great with everyone,” Willson said. “Everybody loves the guy, which is a big deal, especially when you’ve got a star like Jimmy. But again, he’s been in here all day every day working hard. And again, great guy to be around.”
Back in April, Graham and Irvin poked fun at their pregame altercation from the playoffs two seasons ago by pretending to square off while being held back by teammates. Irvin posted the photo of the staged encounter on his Instagram account.
“That was a real fight,” Graham joked on Tuesday. “Nah, that’s just how this team is, honestly. They just have a good time. It honestly feels like I’m back in college. That’s how close each and every person is on this team. The way this team is and the way this team is run is how it should be for the NFL. It’s such a sense of family here and brotherhood. It’s been incredible. It really has.”
Graham is what’s known in football as a matchup nightmare. He’s faster than most linebackers and, at 6 feet 7 and 270 pounds, he’s bigger than any defensive back. Just ask Seattle’s Marcus Burley, who looked like a point guard trying to win a jump ball against a center as he defended Graham on one of his touchdowns, a fade in the corner of the end zone that was caught with ease.
Graham figures to help Seattle’s offense in a number of ways, most notably in the red zone. The Seahawks ranked 20th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency last year, reaching the end zone on a little over half of their trips inside the 20-yard line. Seattle’s leader in touchdown receptions? Running back Marshawn Lynch, who had four of them. Enter Graham, who has averaged 11.5 touchdown catches over the last four seasons.
It’s no secret why.
“He’s got an unbelievable catching range,” Wilson said. “When he wants to go up for it he can go up for it and as you guy saw today, a couple of times today, just very physical to the football.”
This time two years ago, the Seahawks’ prized offseason acquisition was getting off to a rocky start in Seattle. Percy Harvin experienced issues with his hip and ultimately needed surgery. He missed most of his first season with the Seahawks, clashed with teammates and was sent packing a year and a half after he arrived.
Safe to say that Graham’s introduction has been much more promising, Tuesday’s practice being just the latest example.
“Jimmy looks great as you saw today,” Wilson said. “He’s an unbelievable talent and it’s great to have him. He’s a great added addition to what we already have. We’ve gone to two Super Bowls in three years and we’ve had a lot of great players and we’ve had a lot of guys who have made a lot of great plays, and to add him is something special.”