Packers wonder what Jimmy Graham's role will be

Green Bay — The toughest question the Green Bay Packers face this week as they prepare for the New Orleans Saints defense is whether tight end Jimmy Graham will be just a decoy again this week or his old self.

Graham suffered a shoulder injury against Tampa Bay in Week 5 and hasn't been close to himself since.

The Saints were lucky enough to have a bye the week after Graham bowed out in the second quarter against the Buccaneers, but when Graham returned Sunday against Detroit, he was a non-factor. It was apparent he was being used more as a decoy than anything.

He was targeted twice by quarterback Drew Brees but did not have a reception. On Wednesday, Graham was listed as a limited participant in practice.
"He looks better this week than he did last week," Brees said in a conference call. "The shoulder will continue to get better. I'm not worried or concerned in that regard. Jimmy is a tough guy.

"He's had to play through a lot in just his short career. He's battled multiple injuries over the course of many seasons. I know he's going to give us whatever he can. We'll see what that is."

Before he got hurt, Graham was off to another good start. Despite no catches last week and just two against Tampa Bay, he ranks third among all tight ends in the NFL with 34 catches for 376 yards and three touchdowns.

Since 2011, no other tight end can match Graham's numbers. He has 304 receptions for 3,883 yards and 39 touchdowns. The reception total ranks fourth among all players in the NFL during that span.

If the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham, who played in 120 games for the University of Miami basketball team before giving football a try, is doing better, the Packers have themselves a matchup problem. They can try to match Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Micah Hyde against him, but all three would need help to match Graham's speed.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to be ready to defend the healthy Graham and then see which Graham materializes once the game starts.

"Jimmie Graham is a tough matchup, no doubt," coach Mike McCarthy said. "How you play him, that's really what the game is for. But he's a very talented individual just as far as the way he attacks the middle of the field.

"They use him down the boundary and on the corner routes, too. But he's definitely someone that you have to be smart with."

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