Graham out to 'prove a lot of people wrong' in second season with Packers

-- While 2018 may have been a disappointing first stint with the Green Bay Packers for Jimmy Graham, the tight end is expecting a rebound of sorts in his second season with the team.

One thing he may not have to worry about is where he fits in the Packers' reconstructed offense, engineered at the hands of first-year head coach Matt LaFleur.

"I fit everywhere," Graham told Kelly Price of NBC26 over the weekend at his second annual charity cornhole challenge. He's entering the second season of a three-year, $30 million dollar deal he inked with the team in last year's free agency spending spree.

Graham was one of two tight ends the Packers brought aboard last spring, along with Marcedes Lewis. While both proved to mostly be non-factors in 2018, Graham had his bonus picked up this offseason and Lewis was re-signed to a one-year deal.

Playing within a new offense could help elevate the entirety of the tight end position, including third-round pick Jace Sternberger, who couldn't ask to be in a better situation behind a pair of veterans.

"Last year was disappointing for everybody," Graham said. "I'm not used to losing. I don't think anybody here is. And for me, it was not a good year. I'm completely focused on putting my best foot forward and being the player that I am: scoring down in the red zone and being that big threat on third down. I gotta get back to that."

For as sub-optimal as Graham's play seemed to be during the regular season, his 636 receiving yards were the most by a Packers tight end since Jermichael Finley's 767 in 2012. The reality is, however, is that he was signed to be the formidable red zone threat capable of replicating Jordy Nelson's production. The Packers released Nelson just prior to adding Graham.

Alternatively, Graham seems to ascend in the second year of whichever team he's playing for. In his second season with the New Orleans Saints, he improved by nearly 1,000 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In his second season with the Seattle Seahawks, his numbers jumped by over 300 yards and four touchdowns.

"I take it serious. It's something that eats at me every day, just not making the playoffs and sometimes not making the plays that I should've."

The Packers finished with a 6-9-1 record with minimal production from their tight end group, but the offense failed to consistently play at an even respectable level on a weekly basis. Several factors played into this, including the tibial plateau fracture and sprained MCL in quarterback Aaron Rodgers' knee that hindered him throughout the year.

While Sternberger is expected to be the tight end of the future for the Packers' offense, expect Graham to take a significant chunk of the snaps early in the season while the team accommodates itself to running a new offense.

"You better believe I'll be ready. We all had our ups and downs, obviously, there was a lot going on last year for all of us. But all of that is in the past. I know the player that I am and I know that I still have juice, I know I can still run. I'm going to go prove a lot of people wrong."

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (45)

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TheBigCheeze's picture

June 02, 2019 at 05:45 pm

"I'm gonna go prove a lot of people wrong."......or prove a lot of people RIGHT!!!!!

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4thand1's picture

June 02, 2019 at 05:52 pm

Just become the threat your supposed to be.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 02, 2019 at 05:56 pm

People are gonna see what they want to see.

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CoachJV's picture

June 02, 2019 at 06:04 pm

I'm betting he comes around this year. I think his chemistry with Arod will improve, and LaF schemes will open Jimmy up for some nice play. We might even see him line up in the slot sometimes. It will be interesting to say the least...

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NickPerry's picture

June 03, 2019 at 06:01 am

I'm there with you Coach JV.... McCarthy's offense has never really been a offense in which the TE thrive. Hell I used to bash Thompson because McCarthy actually went public for a "Seam Stretching TE" when at the end of the day I'm not so sure McCarthy knew really how to use one if he had one. Hell the 2 most famous or great plays to the TE under McCarthy were a Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers and the other to Cook in the Playoff game against Dallas to set up Crosby. That play was more of a school yard play where Rodgers told Cook what to do and where to be.

Jimmy is getting old and he won't be what he used to be...NO ONE is at 33 who plays TE or WR. BUT I highly doubt he puts in a 2nd season like last season which actually wasn't as bad as most suggest.

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Coldworld's picture

June 03, 2019 at 04:29 pm

I will be happy if he is right. I recall the “touchdown” against the Vikings called back for a BS penalty in the home game. Graham didn’t look slow then.

I hated that they played him with the splint to the extent they did. It obviously impaired his ability to catch. In the end zone that is critical in particular.

I share the hope that the new scheme will make better use of TEs (among others). I hope Graham lives up to his own expectations. We will see.

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4thand10's picture

June 03, 2019 at 08:52 pm

Jason written was still getting 700-800 yards at 33. Tony Gonzalez finished his final season at 37 with 853 yards. In 2014 Antonio Gates was 34 and had 800+ yards. Last year when Hunter Henry got injured...they dialed up Gates again and dude it 40+ now. Jimmy Graham is in this category of TEs. Everybody put it on Graham when the facts were that we had 2 rookie WRs and an injured Cobb.Football is a total team sport Findlay had the luxury of Jennings, Jones and Nelson.. and he still didn’t break 800 yards .ANY one of those guys were capable of playing WR1 in their primes. Jimmy didn’t have any of that help and it was a new system for him and he still put up 634. Oh, and an injured AR. 33 or not, I’m not going to sleep on Graham . If he comes up on my pick for FF ... I’ll be picking him.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2019 at 02:23 am

Of course one could argue that Finley had to share targets with Jennings, Driver, James Jones, and later with Jennings, Nelson, and Cobb, all of whom deserved targets.

One could argue that due to tons of talent AR spread the ball around a lot and depressed the individual stats of each of these players.

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Coldworld's picture

June 04, 2019 at 06:45 am

Agreed re Finley. I still don’t see how that truly reflects on Graham since that offense was not out of synchronization and was led by a two legged Rodgers behind a healthy and stronger O line (as a whole unit). Two sides of the same coin.

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Samson's picture

June 02, 2019 at 06:08 pm

He seems to have the right attitude. --- He turns 33 during season 2019. ... This is where the problem may ultimately exist.

However, a rejuvenated offense led by MLF & staff just might give Graham another year of above average TE play. --- I'm still convinced MM & his cronies were the crux of GB's issues the past two seasons.

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hobowilly's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:20 pm

thank-you! you are so right about the MM lead static team and i'd add how did MM use Lewis last year? Did he scheme A. Jones enough? Could he gotten more out of Janis offensively? How well did he mesh with coach Joe and how did he go about making adjustments during the game, not just after half time? nuf shared.....we are now steadily moving forward both offensively and defensively! Go JG go and let's watch who evolves as #2 and #3 WR....i can't wait but i'd bet a pretty penny GB climbs up the stats offensively now they're out to employ more balance, let's just pray 3 RB's can remain basically healthy to allow; wouldn't be surprised if GB picks up a cut veteran RB that can contribute prior to season start

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IceBowl's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:38 pm

Samson,

You say ...... "I'm still convinced MM & his cronies were the crux of GB's issues the past two seasons."

Do you write for the bleacher report or something?? Who cares if you are convinced, or the anonymous sources were real?? No evidence!! No credibility!!

Graham has to learn another new system. The good news is that he seems like he wants to prove himself. That is a hard to beat quality.

But stop with your "convinced" rantings. Cuz I'm convinced your supposition is baseless.

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PeteK's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:06 am

Lets be fair, AR injuries might have contributed to some of that.

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Bure9620's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:02 pm

Graham's overall production was not that terrible. 55/636 11.7 ypc. He only had 2 TDS which is strange as he was brought in as a red zone target. But Rodgers does not throw many 50/50 contested throws in the red zone, or many at all. It will be interesting to see how Graham is used this year in a more TE "friendly" scheme. I am guessing 57 for 720 and 5 TDs, somewhere in that ballpark.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:13 pm

That would be fine. I don't think Graham was as horrible as some people think.

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Coldworld's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:03 am

600 odd yards is not terrible for a starting TE even if no hand injury and an offense that could get onto and stay on the field. It may not be his contract cost great, but the vast majority of teams would be more than happy with that production from TE 1.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 02, 2019 at 09:16 pm

He was doubled a lot in the Redzone early in the year. As you note, Rodgers is reluctant force the ball and Adams was just destroying the CBs for the points. When Cobb was hobbled early in the year the play options were reduced and Allison was gone for the year. This season Graham sees more
one-on-one sets. With Equan and MVS getting better, I would go five wides
and fire the ball. They just need to stay healthy.

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Ferrari Driver's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:02 pm

In his younger days, he was a well above average player, but this is a young man game and his legs are not going go any faster this year and those minor injuries that keep popping up are not going to heal any faster.

The head and heart may be willing, but Father Time doesn't care.

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cheesehead1's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:19 pm

I didn’t like us signing him in the first place. He’s slowed down, dropped too many passes and more injuries...Neverthless, I wish him nothing but the best and hope LaFleur can get him and Lewis back on track.

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Rossonero's picture

June 02, 2019 at 07:35 pm

He'll tumble in a lot of fantasy drafts, but count me in as one who believes he'll bounce back in a big way this year.

I like him as a sleeper -- 2nd year to gain chemistry with Rodgers and out of McCarthy's stale offense. Thanks for the stats too, Zach. Very interesting to see him bounce back in his 2nd year with each team he's been on.

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CAG123's picture

June 02, 2019 at 09:13 pm

Y’all mention his age but fail to realize the TE position isn’t necessarily a young mans position Jared Cook, Witten, Gates, even Delanie Walker all have been impactful well after 30. I think he’s going to be just fine this year I can see his numbers being in 700 range with about 5-8 TDs.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 02, 2019 at 09:31 pm

Tony Gonzalez. Too bad, Ted didn't try to make a more aggressive move for him before the Falcons offered their trade. He would have put the Pack into another SB. He played 17 seasons. Ben Watson will be 38. He won't be a stats guy but sometime this season, especially at playoff time he will make a key play to turn the game around.

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Coldworld's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:09 am

I think the speed decline is overrated in his case. It is, in my opinion, a case of finding a simple, plausible answer to the lack of game changing plays rather than something based on actual tape.

Reminds me of the Gary can’t have a motor because he looks so good in highlights he can’t have been playing on most plays supposition.

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Since'61's picture

June 02, 2019 at 09:39 pm

Less talking more results, that what is needed. Thanks, Since ‘61

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sam1's picture

June 02, 2019 at 10:34 pm

Make or bust year for Graham, if he doesn't produce he will be gone! Seems as simple as that! Time will be telling!

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Lphill's picture

June 03, 2019 at 05:40 am

Strange but I’m starting to feel like McCarthy was just going through the motions as if he was expecting to get fired years earlier I think he was just out of fresh ideas and having a strained relationship with Rodgers didn’t help either , probably should have been gone after the Seattle meltdown, time now to move forward with fresh ideas and it seems like it was long time coming.

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Coldworld's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:16 am

I think he knew that he had run out of ideas. He had just reached the end of the road in GB. Exacerbated by roster decline and his refusal to inject new blood, he had not got stuck in a rut but buried in it.

Bringing back Philbin to revitalize the scheme was, in hindsight, a classic example. Could have shaken things up with a young up and coming mind but that would have shaken up the comfort level. Instead looked to the past. That’s always a more risky choice than people assume. That is, however, the kind of choice that revives a coach or any leader. MM went the wrong way. He is now on sabbatical and we get so see what a younger mind can do as HC.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:39 am

Insecurity. Surest sign was he had to remind us that he was a successful football coach. All down hill after he never really took ownership after Seattle.

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Coldworld's picture

June 03, 2019 at 04:31 pm

Good point. Wonder what made him so insecure late in his tenure.

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Dzehren's picture

June 03, 2019 at 06:58 am

Graham has lost a step and at times looks like age & injuries caught up with him.
That being said, he still will have a role with GB in 2019 & expect MFL to get the most out of him unlike MM.

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PeteK's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:23 am

I'll take a Richard Rodgers 2015 season out of him( 58 receptions, 8 TDS.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

June 03, 2019 at 08:47 am

BTW, the random apostrophe was for Leotis.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 03, 2019 at 09:01 am

Thanks. Doug. I appreciate the nod. (nice haircut, btw)

Jimmy Graham looked slow last year. Jason Witten was always slow. Jason Witten got open. Consistently. Be like Jason Witten.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

June 03, 2019 at 08:41 am

I’m guessing that the first few games as the offense get’s introduced and expanded weekly, AR will need some security blanket plays/players. I’m also guessing this could be where Graham is most valuable. He could be AR’s go-to guy while things get sorted out.

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stockholder's picture

June 03, 2019 at 09:40 am

I still like the Graham Signing. They were lucky to sign him. The packers just had to many other problems to pick on this guy. I see positive things still for Graham.

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LambeauPlain's picture

June 03, 2019 at 09:43 am

The indicator of future performance are past results. And the past is often prologue.

Graham turned in great, improved season in his second season with the Saints and Seahawks....I expect he will for the Packers too. And 2018 was the best season for a Packer TE since Finley. So for me....glass is half full and perhaps will be overflowing in 2019.

Here is what I think is very valuable...it is rare when a talented, productive rookie TE gets to learn from one of the best TE receivers (JG) and TE blockers (ML) in the NFL!

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wildbill's picture

June 03, 2019 at 06:45 pm

Have to agree that in his two previous teams he showed much improvement in his second year. Maybe quit sending him on those two yard under routes to the sideline. He has to make the catch, turn his hips, and break a tackle for any chance at a good gain. Richard Rodgers would run the same routes and I would laugh because as a defense I would give you that all day. Anxious to see how he is utilized in the upcoming year.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 04, 2019 at 02:34 am

Would you like to address his third season in Seattle, in which his yds/rec dropped to 9.1, his yards per target dropped to an atrocious 5.4, and his catch rate dropped to a sub 60%?

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Coldworld's picture

June 04, 2019 at 07:18 am

Graham had success in Seattle largely came as a result of a combination of quality scheming by the offensive coordinator to get him open and let him use his size and height. He hasn’t really ever been a great adjuster mid route. It seems to me that he thrives with a QB who puts it where Graham expects it and let’s Graham go get it, not by trying to juke more agile DBs. That really is no tight end’s forte.

If I recall, in 2017 the Seahawks’ line had Wilson running for his life regularly and improvising. Some parallels with a hobbled Rodgers and the GB O line last year. Leaving aside the hand injury, we asked Graham to do a lot of deep routes and had a ton of broken plays. That’s when Graham has to adjust rather than just used his size and physique. One could argue very strong parallels between the two years.

Add that to the fact that MM refused to scheme any player open, typically ran only 3 receivers and teams did not fear the run because the runner was either not on the field or they felt the likelihood of a run was not sufficient to shift from a pass focus and Graham got almost as much attention as Adams. The difference is that Addams is made for juking out of coverage.

Moreover, A lot of Graham’s targets were not high throws designed to have him use his size, but low it away from his body extension types due to inaccuracy as a result of Rodgers being hobbled or a rushed release.

This happens when the pocket is collapsing too quickly, when the D can be confident of that a couple of players are the real threats and when you ask a TE to be a ballerina rather than a man mountain with hands.

Injuries and line issues were present. The predictability of the calling, the lack of a sufficiently credible threat to run, or even set variety led us to ask Graham to run a ton of improvisational deep routes and fight through heavy DB coverage in the end zone.

In essence both Seattle 2017 and the Pack in 2018 ended up using Graham in exactly the way least likely to play to his strengths while asking him to play against his weaknesses. Moreover, that would have been true were he 25 as much as at 30. Some of that was a side effect of injuries, some a hole in the roster, but a lot of that was purely poor scheme and coaching. But then MM never believed in plays for players, he believed the player should adapt to the scheme.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 05, 2019 at 01:42 am

I am giving you points for assembling a decent argument.

I think Graham improved over his last year in Seattle because AR is better than Wilson and because AR liked Davante and Graham and distrusted his other receivers. [This ties in with my Finley comment wherein I noted that Finley wasn't going to put up big stats with Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Cobb and Jones demanding and deserving targets; that is, last year AR focused on Davante and Graham and that improved their individual stats.] However, I am always open to an argument that McCarthy was terrible in his later years.

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NitschkeFan's picture

June 03, 2019 at 04:37 pm

I really don't like the few trolls we get on this site. They are constantly negative about almost every subject that is discussed.

I wanted to mention that because I am not a troll and not a negative guy. I think the Packers have real potential to be much much better this season.

But... Graham looked awful to me last season. He was so slow that he could not gain separation. His blocking was some of the worst I have ever seen by a starting TE. His hands and drops looked very mediocre. And now he is a year older.

A lot of posts here blame MM and the system. Maybe that was part of it. Maybe that was a big part of it.

I hope I am totally wrong on this, but I do not have any expectation that Graham will be better this year. Not faster, not a better blocker, and not able to make tougher catches.

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IceBowl's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:17 pm

NitschkeFan,

Don't blame MM as many here do. Dumb. The players play.

I was a mediocre player that made my bones not making mistakes. Not being Graham last season.

What makes every player good to great is their desire, which I hear Graham bursting at the seams to tell everyone. I don't think he is a fraud (been fooled before). All signs point up, but the game time will tell.

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draftpete's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:27 pm

I agree that Graham has gotten slower w/age but I do believe that he will improve this year mainly due to the offense play calling being different along with an improved O-line.. Remember that the o-line had issues which caused Aaron to have to move out of the pocket more often causing disruption on his initial reads. Let's give the new system and personnel a chance before calling for the hook on any given player.

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IceBowl's picture

June 03, 2019 at 07:38 pm

draftpete,

I guess what you do not remember is that ARod didn't throw to many wide open receivers.

Still befuddles me to this day. I hope his play answers that question, because it has not been answered otherwise.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

June 03, 2019 at 08:51 pm

Just score TDs Jimmy. Just TDs !!!

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