One of the greatest anomalies during the Aaron Rodgers era is the lack of production from the tight-end position with an exception of Jermichael Finley in 2009 (676 yards and 5 TDs) and 2011 (769 yards and 8 TDs). Last year, Martellus Bennett didn’t work out as he ended up retiring at the end and this year Jimmy Graham has become an after-thought in NFL tight-end lore.
It wasn’t long ago where Jimmy Graham was putting up elite receiver numbers in a Saints offense which he didn’t see below 80 receptions and 120 targets in a single season. At one point, he aggressively rejected being called a tight-end because he wanted to be paid elite NFL receiver money.
Since being traded to Seattle, Jimmy hasn’t seen close to those numbers even though he almost had a 1,000-yard season in 2016 and had 10 TDs last season. Despite, Seattle historically not fielding tight-end friendly offenses, Jimmy still found a way to somewhat flourish in 2 out of the 3 seasons he was there.
With the Packers, he has seen his lowest number of receptions, one of his lowest numbers of targets and lowest number of TDs, which a huge reason why the Packers signed him was because he’s a big-bodied endzone threat. His lack of use has made him a forgotten NFL star and it’s not because of the Packers offense or Rodgers not liking to throw to his tight-ends.
Remember, he was brought in to be Rodgers’ go-to touchdown weapon as he’s a huge 6-7 guy who’s had 4 double digit TD seasons in his 8-year career. In his own once possessed thoughts, he’s a giant receiver who lines up and goes down the field like so and that’s someone who benefited Drew Brees and Russell Wilson tremendously. With Green Bay, he hasn’t benefited or made a difference for Aaron Rodgers one bit, in fact he has almost been a detriment to the offense. Aaron Rodgers’ only two interceptions this season are both from reflections off the hands of Graham including the one that ended his record streak of most passes with an interception. A lot can also be said about the overall performance of the offense this season. That’s why Mike McCarthy isn’t coaching anymore.
Jimmy Graham is far from being the single reason the Packers offense was disappointing this season. A big reason is the offensive line struggling and being banged-up all year. Jimmy Graham isn’t renowned for being a great blocking tight-end much like Aaron Jones isn’t renowned for his ability as a blocking runningback. Because of this and minor injuries he hasn’t found himself on the field as much as he should. Since the protection of Aaron Rodgers is so bad, especially with Graham on the field, Rodgers doesn’t have enough time to let Graham get down field and be Jimmy Graham. His yardage and receptions are hindered compared to his years in Seattle and New Orleans where his strengths were used as a significant weapon.
Apart of Jimmy Graham’s falling off can be contributed to the Packers misusing him, injuries and the overall disappointing production of the offense. His first year in Seattle is much like his season this year. He only had 2 TDs, 605 receiving yards and 48 receptions in 11 games played. The following 2 years in which he didn’t miss a single game, he had 16 TDs, over 1400 yards receiving and over 120 receptions. This indicates to me that much like Green Bay, Seattle in Grahams first year didn’t know quite how to use him in their offense and he missed 5 games due to injury. After that, despite Seattle and Russell Wilson not historically having tight-end centric offenses they finally found a way to utilize his strengths because he’s Jimmy Graham. With a new head coach and a probable remodeling of the offensive line, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Graham have a bounce back season especially because Rodgers needs him to be that big-play touchdown threat. As long as he’s healthy, wants to play and the new coach has an ounce of sense on how to use an athletic, physical freak, he’ll play a major role in that offense.