Cory's Corner: The anatomy of a tight end

Quarterbacks are easily the most important position in all of sports. The amount of information they are required to process in mere seconds before getting pulverized speaks for itself.

But the most versatile position in the last 20 years is the tight end. They have been lined up on the line of scrimmage, wide on the outside, in the slot and even in the backfield. It started with Tony Gonzalez, matriculated to Antonio Gates and now we’ve got Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Those guys didn’t just make offensive coordinators become folliclely challenged, they were or are unguardable.

And that’s why the Seahawks decided to trade two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger for a gamechanger. Because that’s exactly what Graham is. He forces defenses to roll coverage around and puts guys into precarious situations. Graham’s versatility was so pronounced that he argued that he was a wide receiver instead of a tight end last summer, which would’ve given him another $5 million.

The trade has meant that the Seahawks have gotten worse as an offensive line. Losing a solid center means the offensive line not only has to find another leader, but must figure out how to protect Russell Wilson.

But Graham is perfect for Wilson, and he’s the main reason why the Packers could lose this game. With Clay Matthews expected to play more snaps with the loss of Sam Barrington, safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Sean Richardson will likely get the responsibility of shadowing Graham all night. Graham has six inches on Clinton-Dix and five inches on Richardson.

But the amazing catching radius isn’t why this new crop of huge pass catchers is nearly invincible. They are tough to tackle. It’s incredibly rare to see either one of these four go down thanks to one defensive back. And in the case of Gronkowski, he just churns his legs like a 4x4 truck zipping through mud.

And of course that’s the perfect storm for the Packers. Green Bay has had its share of tackling issues. Ever since 2012, the number of missed tackles has gone up. From 68 in 2012, 116 in 2013 and 120 in 2014. Four of this year’s eight missed tackles hail from the secondary — and two of those are from Clinton-Dix.

Graham may have said that he will be block 75 percent of the time, but that would be a waste. Having him on a roster, means you have options. If the Packers’ defense goes into a jumbo package by anticipating a run, all Graham has to do is split out wide and grab a jump ball. Unless the secondary brings a folding chair or if the defensive line makes it tough for Wilson to plant and throw or gets in the way of his vision, Graham will usually win 50-50 balls.

The Packers thought they had one of those versatile threats in Jermichael Finley. However, he never caught enough balls consistently to be relevant. And Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura were solid, but would never be confused with a wide receiver.

But just because the Seahawks have Graham doesn’t mean the game is lost. It all depends on how they use him. If they confine him to just seam routes and other routes down the middle, they won’t get as much mileage out of him if they split him out wide just to see what kind of coverage he receives.

If the Packers don’t have an answer for the new-age Mr. Multipurpose, it will be a long evening.

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (25)

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Hematite's picture

September 19, 2015 at 07:42 am

I doubt that Sean Richardson and HaHa are going to be the answer when it comes to effectively defending Graham.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 19, 2015 at 10:21 am

And that scares the sh*t out of me. I'd say swallow pride and double team him. Their other WRs SHOULD be able to be left in single coverage

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olwig420's picture

September 19, 2015 at 02:00 pm

How can we double team him and have a scout for Wilson and stop the run and cover receivers all at the same time?

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Koosh's picture

September 19, 2015 at 07:56 am

Jesus, you underestimated Finley...

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 19, 2015 at 04:58 pm

Yeah the writer totally glosses over Finley, and Keith Jackson for that matter. Finley was a great target and completely underrated piece for the Packers. Even if he wasn't targeted as often he caused nitemares for Defensive Coordinators.

Apparently he doesn't remember either. But Jackson ran a 4.4 40 and was a major deep threat, before the new age of TE. He was a prototype of the TE position and a great receiver. Till Favre Jackson didn't have very good QB play or OC to take advantage of his abilities.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 19, 2015 at 08:15 am

I'm much more worried about Lynch running all over us and Wilson scrambling than I am worried about their pathetic passing game. They don't have one good down the field target. JImmy Graham is an awesome TE, but he's not going to catch 12 balls for 180 yards and 2 TDs tomorrow night.

The Seabags are going to try to protect their vulnerable defense by playing keep away. And it just might work.

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efox2011's picture

September 19, 2015 at 08:25 am

I cannot, in good conscience, put Jimmy Graham in the same league as Gronk. Gronk has played the position at a significantly higher level than I've ever seen before. Great as he's been at times, Jimmy Graham just isn't that level of player, nor is he close. Graham is a one-dimensional player, as you alluded to, and he has also been the beneficiary of coverage by linebackers and safeties when he's been most successful. When the Pats put Talib on him, erased. You can't erase Gronk. Graham is essentially just a tall wide receiver. He's listed at 6'7'' 265, but he doesn't play nearly that big. I don't know if the Packers can match up with him, he's still a very large, athletic guy trying to catch passes, but the Packers should be disappointed in themselves if he's the guy that wins Seattle the game.

As some of you probably guessed, I thought that trade with New Orleans. was really dumb. I know Tom Cable can coach, but it's not like that line was full of world-beaters around Unger.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

September 19, 2015 at 08:32 am

I might be as bold to say Gunter here, heck can he do any worse than the rest. Something has to work, this article made me think maybe Seabucks have a chance.

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Since'61's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:03 am

Graham will make some plays but I thought that the Packers handled Gronk pretty well when they played NE last season. If they handle Graham as they handled Gronk they will be fine. Lynch is the key to Seattle's offense. If Lynch is stopped Wilson becomes a passer and he is not a very good passer especially behind a weak OL.
BTW, on this date in Packer history, 50 years ago, 9/19/65, the Packers opened their 1965 season with a 41-9 win over the Steelers at Lambeau. That win was the beginning of a 3 year run in which Lombardi's Packers would go 38-9-2, (.809 winning %)including the post season, winning 3 consecutive NFL titles and the first 2 Super Bowls and earning sports immortality. Are we at the beginning of another such run? Who knows, but 50 years ago today we had no idea what the next 3 seasons would bring. A victory over Seattle this week will be a nice start. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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porupack's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:16 am

Yep. I agree with you Cory. Its what I wrote comments in last couple posts. the Heavy-weight fight will be CMIII v JG. Will be a great match.
1) Let Lynch get his rushing yards, just so long as Seattle RBs don't get receiving yards in check down passes. 2) keep RW on the move but limit him to short yards, 3) Sandwich JG with Goodsen and CMIII. Do those 3 things, then GBP forces 2+ picks and the win.

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J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:43 am

Wait.. Your answer to cover Graham is Demetri Goodson? ? Did he play even one snap in coverage last season? If he did, I sure didn't see it. I sure haven't seen him in coverage this year yet either. So, has he played anything but ST? This is the guy you want to share coverage responsibilities for Jimmy Graham? This is crazy talk.

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vj_ostrowski's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:47 am

Why use Goodson when it was Randall that played over 60 snaps last weekend?

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4thand1's picture

September 19, 2015 at 09:59 am

Maybe after they torch Goodsen the Pack will cut him? Thats the only logic I can see to put him on JG.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 19, 2015 at 10:45 am

You are too funny, man. Hahahaha!

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4thand1's picture

September 19, 2015 at 10:03 am

We have to get our TE more involved.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 19, 2015 at 10:46 am

I think they will. Especially in the middle. I also think Adams will be targeted a bunch against Sherman. Bring on them double moves.

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Allan Murphy's picture

September 19, 2015 at 10:29 am

Man up one on one's if you can't do it go home .......

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AK Cheese's picture

September 19, 2015 at 11:58 am

If you assume Wilson has time, Graham will catch some balls. If we get after him, DATONE that be you, not so many.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm

What makes a great TE so important is that no matter what the defense does, it is wrong or at least not optimal. If the TE lines up to block, the D puts in the big bodies only to watch the TE split out or just run a route, creating a mismatch. If the D plays some sort of sub- package, the big TE does some in-line blocking and we watch Lynch run wild.

Finley was a willing blocker, but he was just so-so at blocking. He did enough to create mismatches, but something of the dual threat was missing. Richard Rodgers can't block, so he is just a big WR w/o the speed or even the catching radius of a Graham or Gronk, though he does have great hands.

To my mind, if Bulaga is out at RT, it means that Quarless should play a lot, with Rodgers in on 2 TE sets only. Of course, GB might plug Rodgers in at TE next to Barclay, ignoring my opinion that he does not yet have that skill set, or simply realizing that Q himself isn't that much better at pass or run blocking.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 19, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Why does everyone think Richardson is the answer covering TE? The Packers have never used him in that way. He wasn't used in coverage in college either. Matthews Clinton-Dix and Burnett are the best and really only options. Have to give up the fallacy that Richardson will ever be used that way. He's been in the NFL going on 4 yrs, it's not going to change at this point.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

September 19, 2015 at 04:04 pm

Everyone?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 19, 2015 at 05:15 pm

As a note, I am not a fan of the 50/50 pass to a TE. If we have some ball-hawking DBs, I'd be fine with Wilson tossing ten 50/50 passes to Graham if our DBs come down with 2 or 3 of them. INTs kill drives.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 20, 2015 at 04:11 am

Here is an interesting article on Graham's limitations as a blocker:

http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/green-bay-packers-seattle-seahawks-ji...

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croatpackfan's picture

September 20, 2015 at 05:41 am

My humble opinion: Jimmy Graham will not be factor in today's game! Why? Wilson will not have time for accurate throws!

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 20, 2015 at 11:05 am

If Seattle continues to line Graham in line as a TE, they will give the Packers a huge advantage. Look for him away from the formation more this week than against the Rams stellar front 4. Seattle cant run the ball w Graham as a TE.

Playing at Lambeau instead of Seattle will limit the pass rush of Seattle. Theie DE especially thrive getting off the ball and in Sea the opposing OT cant get out of their stance quickly. This is a major reason their D isn't nearly as good od the road. The pass rush isnt nearly as quick or effective.

Love to see Sherman in the slot on Cobb. If Cobb beats the jam at the LOS Sherman will be toast. Cobb is much to quick and elusive for Sherman in the open field.

Packers W. 27-20.

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