For the New Orleans Saints, success has come in many forms over the course of the last five years. Whether it was achieving an NFC Championship appearance in 2006 or winning the ultimate prize in 2009, one thing is for certain: every member of the Black and Gold has contributed in some way. Many of these players burst onto the scene and become starters right off the bat, with the greatest examples being RBs Reggie Bush and Mark Ingram, S Malcolm Jenkins, and DT Sedrick Ellis. Others simply wait for their time to shine, and when an opportunity presents itself, they take full advantage. This was the case for Marques Colston, formerly a seventh-round pick, as he got a chance in the limelight and never turned back. Now, it appears as though Jimmy Graham is doing the same.
Whenever the 6’6 tight end for the Saints makes a catch or key block, the average fan watching at home cannot go two seconds without hearing the same sentence uttered from the commentator: “Graham’s a big guy; he was a basketball player at the University of Miami.” Yes, we get it by now. Jimmy Graham made a name for himself while at “The U” as a dual-threat athlete in both football and basketball, and his physical attributes translated well into the NFL. But instead of reiterating the same old story, I’m here to tell a different one. One that will hopefully bring to light the monster who is Jimmy Graham.
In 2010, a Hurricane blew into New Orleans. It was silent, and it hadn’t realized its potential yet, but with each coming Sunday, it slowly grew stronger, smarter, and more dangerous. It began to make landfall in stadiums all over the country, and what was left in its path was a trail of fallen linebackers and a plethora of embarrassed safeties. Some even say that they saw Sean Payton crack a smile, but others simply confuse that for a smirk, for he knew the explosive force that he had under his control.
Did I over-do it? I don’t believe so.
When it comes right down to it, Graham is everything that a productive offense wants in a tight end. To start, he’s 260 pounds, and he easily towers over some of the taller defenders in the game today. Secondly, he’s as physical as they come (think of a young Tony Gonzalez). And lastly, he translates well into an offense that is built around the pass.
Although typing out every adjective in the book to describe Graham sounds like a fun idea (not really), one can take a peek at his stats and tell that the 24-year old is the real deal.
In his rookie campaign, where he was first overshadowed by the likes of veterans Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas, Graham still put up decent numbers for a third-round pick, catching 31 passes for 356 yards, five TDs and 21 first downs. For the season, he averaged 11.5 yds/reception, and with that, a new star was slowly being born. This type of production from the rookie out of Miami allowed the Saints to say “goodbye” to Shockey, who found a new home with the rival Carolina Panthers. And because of that, Graham had the opportunity to make his presence felt as the starter during the 2011 season.
So how has he done so far?
So far in 2011, Graham has 32 receptions (In other words, he has one more reception in 2011 than he did all of last season, and it’s only Week Six.) for 496 yards, three TDs and 26 first downs. He’s currently averaging 15.5 yds/reception. To put it simply, he’s taking full advantage of his time as the number one TE.
The best part about his production? His highest level of production usually occurs in the second half of contests. In the latter half of games this season, Graham has 19 receptions for 356 yards and two TDs, as he is averaging 18.7 yds/reception. Also, the majority of his production comes on first down, as he has racked up 12 receptions for 218 yards and a TD. And finally, he has truly been a force to be reckoned with in the red zone, making three catches for ten yards and two TDs.
One would say that Graham is impossible to cover, and his QB tends to agree. "He's a freak of nature," Brees said. "That's what he is." Even Saints head coach Sean Payton believes the kid may one day reside in Canton, Ohio, as one of the greatest TEs to ever play the game. With that being said, how does he currently stack up against the best to ever step onto a playing field?
For that, we must look to Tony Gonzalez, the current TE for the Atlanta Falcons. Graham has drawn several comparisons to Gonzalez over the last year-and-a-half, and the numbers show why. In Gonzalez’s first two seasons, he had 92 receptions for 989 yards and four TDs. He averaged 10.9 yds/reception.
If the numbers hold true, then Graham could be even better in the long run. In Graham’s first two seasons (Remember, though, that we’re still only in Week Six, so there’s still plenty of damage to be done.), he’s hauled in 63 passes for 852 yards and eight TDs. He has averaged 13.5 yds/reception. In conclusion, he’s on pace to be even better than Gonzalez, and with a QB like Brees, the sky is the limit.
So call him what you want. Some have given him the nickname, “The Big Easy.” Others refer to him as “Graham Cracker” (which I still don’t understand). I’ve even heard the name “Hurricane Graham.”
As far as I’m concerned, though, he’s simply “The Monster from Miami," and he’s only just getting started.Back to the New Orleans Saints Newsfeed