The Seattle Seahawks made one of the biggest moves of the offseason when they traded a first-round pick and center Max Unger for tight end Jimmy Graham.
Although it was a steep price, Graham was seen as an immediate fix to perhaps the Seahawks’ biggest weakness – a lack of go-to receivers for Russell Wilson to throw to.
Last season, Doug Baldwin was the only Seahawks receiver to have over 800 receiving yards, and no Seahawks receiver had over five touchdowns. Graham, one of the NFL’s best pass-catchers, could fix that.
Through three weeks, the results have been underwhelming. While Graham has been far from bad, and most everyone expected his production would dip because of the Seahawks’ run-heavy system, Graham still doesn’t look like the dominant force that could take the offense to a new level.
In three games, Graham has 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. His targets have fluctuated, going from eight in Week 1, to two in Week 2, and back to eight in Week 3.
The Seahawks have acknowledged these issues. After Week 2, in which Graham finished with 11 receiving yards, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he thought Graham was disappointed in his lack of targets, but that the Seahawks are mindful of getting Graham involved.
“It’s not that we’ve missed the value of Jimmy as a player. We love him. He knows the calls. The ball didn’t get there.”
“I think he is [frustrated]. I think he’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants to help us win. I don’t think there’s any question about it. I would feel that, too. He’s worked hard. He’s great about it. He wants to do everything he can to help us. I don’t have any doubt about that.”
Russell Wilson didn’t think Graham was frustrated, but also said they want to get Graham the ball more, and his low production in Week 2 was merely incidental:
“Jimmy had a great first game. The second game we were looking for him. We had a couple penalties and a couple things happen when we were trying to get him the ball in those particular plays. That kind of took away from it.”
“I mean obviously (we’re) looking for him. He’s such a huge target – you want to get him the football. Like I said, he got six catches in the first game, and we still want to get him more catches. We want to get everybody catches.”
In Week 3, Graham’s production went back up with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Again, part of this has been a role change. As ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia explained, the things the Seahawks are asking Graham to do are considerably different than when he was with the Saints and practically acted as wide receiver. Kapadia broke down some numbers:
- Graham lined up in the slot 42% of the time with the Saints, but has lined up in the slot just 20% of the times with the Seahawks. Graham was a “traditional, in-line tight end” just 37% of the time with the Saints, but has been in-line 65% of the time with the Seahawks. Graham blocked on the line 28% of the time with the Saints – that number is up to 38% with the Seahawks. Graham was thrown to 26% of the time by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, but has only been thrown to 18% of the time with the Seahawks.
And while Seattle isn’t expected to break scheme simply because Graham is now on the team, some of this goes against conventional wisdom. In a relative down year with the Saints last year, Graham finished with 85 catches, 889 yards, and 10 touchdowns. After three weeks, he had 24 catches for 254 yards and two touchdowns. And this was considered a down year because in 2013 he finished with over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. The man can be a pass-catching monster.
The Seahawks’ lack of passes for Graham is odd considering that Marshawn Lynch has struggled this season. While the Seahawks still rank sixth in rushing offense, according to Football Outsiders, their passing offense is just 23rd.
This could just be an adjustment period as Wilson, Graham, and Seattle’s coaches all figure each other out, but in the early going, the Graham acquisition, one of the most exciting in the NFL offseason, has been surprisingly flat.