RENTON, Wash. — Jimmy Graham reached over the top of the shorter safety, hauled in the touchdown pass from Russell Wilson and immediately turned and spiked the football.
Sure, it was only the fourth training camp practice for Graham with his new team, and the catch was made over a defensive back not likely to be around for the regular season. But the sight of Graham using his athleticism and size to haul in a TD from Wilson is one the Seattle Seahawks want to see regularly.
“What an exciting addition for a club and everyone can feel it,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ve got some things we do that he fits right in with. There are a couple little tweaks we do and we’ve done with him in the past, and it’s just going to be building the connection. But it is going to be done.”
Graham’s early debut with the Seahawks has been exactly what was expected. On a team already loaded with talent and coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances, everyone understand the unique talents that were added when Graham was acquired from New Orleans via trade in March.
He’s the biggest pass catcher on the field with the athleticism and body control that is rarely seen among tight ends. The loudest cheers from the training camp crowd sitting on the grass berm Monday were for Graham’s catch.
“To have a guy like Jimmy Graham added on to our team and then the rest of the guys that we have as well, it makes it exciting,” Wilson said. “It makes our offense really, really hard to stop and it’s already been hard enough to stop.”
There are significant differences between what Graham will do in Seattle and what he was asked to do in New Orleans. Blocking was rarely a priority with the Saints because of their pass-happy offense led by Drew Brees. Graham said the past couple of seasons he was “pretty banged up” by midseason, so being a pass catcher was the priority.
With the Seahawks, blocking is a priority on par with making receptions.
“It’s very important for me to be a part of that here because that’s about 75 percent of the offense here, and if you have a back like (Marshawn Lynch), you want to be in there on those explosive runs and you want to be part of that,” Graham said.
Graham also knows that pass plays will no longer be static with Wilson as his new quarterback. One of Wilson’s strengths has been his ability to improvise and keep plays alive when the blocking breaks down. Graham has spent time learning Seattle’s scrambling rules and where exactly he needs to get on the field when Wilson gets out of the pocket.
“This offense, from what I’ve seen on film, when they’re special, obviously it’s when they’re running the ball, but No. 2 it’s when (Wilson’s) extending plays like that,” Graham said. “And for me, I love it, because normally I’m the biggest guy on the field, so hopefully I draw the most attention from him.”
Because Seattle doesn’t throw nearly as much as New Orleans, measuring Graham’s success will largely come from his production as a third-down receiver and how he affects the Seahawks’ red-zone production.
“Third-and-10 is when I’m going to make my money, and that’s when I’m going to have to be special for this team,” he said.
Graham isn’t winning at everything with the Seahawks. He lost, of all things for the former college hoops player, a basketball challenge in the Seahawks’ team meeting on room Monday morning before hitting the practice field. Graham claimed it’s because of the low ceiling affecting his shot.
“I felt like Shaq shooting. So, yeah, I actually lost today, Graham said. “Hopefully one day we can get a dunk contest in there, and I can guarantee I won’t lose that one.”