Jimmy Graham

Following in Jimmy Graham’s footsteps, two Miami hoop players turn to football

JimmyGraham
It’s becoming something of a Miami tradition for basketball players to suddenly take up football with hopes of becoming a star tight end.

Jimmy Graham did it and has gone on to become one of the best players in the NFL at his position as a member of the New Orleans Saints.

Now two more Hurricanes are looking to follow in Graham’s footsteps.

Erik Swoope, an athletic 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward who averaged 5.0 points and 2.7 rebounds per game last season, has decided to enter his name into the upcoming NFL draft – even though he’s never played organized football at either the high school or college levels.

“I’m excited to enter my name in the NFL Draft and pursue a professional football career,” he Tweeted on Tuesday.

At least one team appears to be taking Swoope’s bid seriously. The Denver Broncos gave him a private workout last week.

Like Swoope, Hurricanes teammate Raphael Akpejiori is also exploring the possibility of playing football. The 6-foot-9, 241-pound forward has announced his intention to play tight end for Miami’s football team as a graduate student next fall.

Akpejiori, a native of Nigeria, averaged 0.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his final season of college basketball.


Bookmark and Share
(acc.blogs.com)
Comments

Is Erik Swoope the next Jimmy Graham?

NFLU2009
Miami’s Erik Swoope is following in the footsteps of a former Hurricane, Jimmy Graham. Swoope officially declared for May’s NFL draft Tuesday.

Erik Swoope @eswoope21 “I’m excited to enter my name in the NFL Draft and pursue a professional football career.”

The four most productive NFL tight ends in 2013 each have basketball backgrounds. The list doesn’t even include the Denver Broncos’ Julius Thomas, who played basketball at Portland State before turning to the gridiron his final year on campus.

As a forward for the Hurricanes, Swoope averaged 2.6 points during his career. Swoope’s time in Miami is defined by his athleticism, leadership and rim-rattling dunks.

At 6-5 and 220 pounds, Swoope is an impressive specimen, but he’ll need to add weight to play tight end in the NFL. Swoope lost 20 pounds prior to his senior season, according to Miami’s official website. If Swoope can play at 240 to 250 pounds, he’ll be more effective.

Swoope will inevitably be compared to Graham, because they came from the same school. However, the better comparison is to Antonio Gates. Swoope, like Gates, didn’t play football at the collegiate level. Swoope never even played football at the high school level. Whereas Graham, Thomas and the Cleveland Browns’ Jordan Cameron all played at least one season of college football before making the leap to the NFL.

But that doesn’t mean teams aren’t interested in Swoope. NFL teams now scout basketball programs for the types of talent that could possibly translate.

The Denver Broncos, for example, already struck gold with Thomas, and they may attempt to do so a second time who worked out Swoope last week.


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Loomis: No deadline for Graham deal

JimmyGrahamSaints
BATON ROUGE, La. -- New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis shot down the notion Wednesday that the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham will aim to strike a new deal by the middle of this month.

A report by Pro Football Talk last month cited a source as saying the two sides would try to reach a long-term contract agreement before the April 22 deadline for Graham to file a grievance over his franchise-tag designation. Graham was officially designated as a tight end, though it’s expected that Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton will file the grievance to argue that he should be considered a wide receiver based on where he lined up most often last season.

“Look, I’m always optimistic. But there’s no deadline here,” Loomis said when asked if that April 22 date was being used as a target.

Loomis, who spoke to the media while attending LSU’s pro day, declined to give any specific updates on how talks are developing with Graham. But he seemed to indicate that the pace hasn’t picked up much since the Saints first placed the franchise tag on Graham more than a month ago.

When asked for the most rational way for fans to look at the situation, Loomis cracked, “Well, when does training camp begin?”

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Loomis continued. “That’s a two-way street. You know, you guys [in the media] have been through this lots of times. I think all of us would rather have things done sooner rather than later, but it doesn’t always happen that way. So we’ll keep going, well keep at it in the process. Obviously we want to have Jimmy Graham on our team when training camp begins, and I am sure he wants to be with us.

“So we’ll just keep plugging away at the process. He’s got a great agent. And all his people, they know what they’re doing, and so do we. Hopefully we’ll come to a conclusion at some point.”

Saints owner Tom Benson gave a similar response during the NFL meetings last month when asked about the timetable for a new Graham deal, suggesting that he wouldn’t be surprised to see talks drag out like they did with franchised quarterback Drew Brees until July two years ago.

However, the potential grievance could throw a wrinkle into things.

If Graham does file a grievance, then his case would eventually be heard by a third-party arbitrator, who would be agreed upon by the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association. If that arbitrator agrees that Graham should be considered a wide receiver, his franchise-tag salary would soar from $7.05 million to $12.3 million.

That decision would give one side tremendous leverage in its long-term contract negotiations. So it remains possible that both the Saints and Graham’s camp would ultimately prefer to work out a deal on their own terms before it reaches the point of an arbitrator’s decision.

One way or another, Graham will almost certainly become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, surpassing Rob Gronkowski’s $9 million average with the New England Patriots. The biggest question is whether Graham’s deal will be closer to $10 million per year or $12 million.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Packers Annual Checkup: Sam Shields

SamShields2
Sam Shields, cornerback
Season stats: 15 games (902 snaps; 90.1 percent of total defensive snaps), 61 tackles, nine missed tackles, zero tackles for loss, zero sacks, four interceptions, zero forced fumbles, 16 passes defensed, 11 stops (solo tackles that resulted in offensive failure); targeted 84 times in coverage, allowing 42 receptions for 664 yards, four touchdowns

ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 0.4 (ranked No. 8 out of 26 Packers defensive players; ranked No. 52 in the NFL among qualifying cornerbacks)
Best game: Week 15 win at Dallas (played 74 of 74 snaps; one interception, three passes defensed, five tackles, one missed tackle, two stops; targeted 10 times in coverage, allowing four receptions for 67 yards; 2.9 PFF rating)

Worst game: Week 1 loss at San Francisco (played 79 of 81 snaps; zero interceptions, two passes defensed, nine tackles, one missed tackle, two stops; targeted 10 times in coverage, allowing five receptions for 116 yards, zero touchdowns; minus-2.0 PFF rating)

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were ...  Exceeded

Looking live: The Packers began offseason training activities in May 2013 without Sam Shields. Dissatisfied that Green Bay had only offered him a second-round restricted free agent tender (worth $2.023 million), Shields didn't show up at OTAs. "I wish Sam was here," coach Mike McCarthy said May 21. But in early June, after having already missed two weeks of practices and with no other great options available to him as mandatory minicamp approached, Shields signed the tender. On June 4, the usually quiet and reserved Shields was vocal about his negative feelings regarding the tender. "I wanted to get paid; it didn't happen," Shields said that day. "I didn't get what I wanted," he added. Shields again skipped out on OTA practices in mid-June. Shields was ranked No. 17 on FOXSportsWisconsin.com's pre-training camp "Most Important Packers in 2013" series. When training camp began, despite being unhappy with his contract status, Shields arrived with something to prove. "The thing I like about Sam, he's got that edge to him," McCarthy said. However, McCarthy added, "but he's rusty; I think that's expected." The rust wore off quickly though, as Shields was named one of Green Bay's starting cornerbacks before the end of training camp. But Shields, perhaps understandably for a player who went undrafted out of college, didn't use that starting nod to get too comfortable. "I'm not going to sit here and say this is my starting position," Shields said Aug. 21. "I've still got to grind each and every day."

Upon further review: Shields had been a good player for the first three years of his NFL career, but 2013 was a breakout season for him. He was tasked with defending many of the league's best wide receivers and performed well in most of those matchups, including against Detroit's Calvin Johnson in Week 13 and against Cincinnati's A.J. Green in Week 3. Wins by Shields against those two receivers is especially impressive given that he's six inches shorter than both Johnson and Green. Shields used to make up for other weaknesses in his game simply because he's so fast. But Shields was much more than just a speedster in 2013. His cover skills have evolved to a point where he does so many other things well that his speed is just a bonus. Before a hamstring injury took Shields out of the games in Weeks 11 and 12, he had gotten to a point where he was arguably the second-most important player on Green Bay's defense (behind Clay Matthews). Shields had a couple bumps in the road throughout the season and hasn't earned unanimous praise from national media and scouts yet, but certain plays are more important than others, and he had one of the Packers' biggest plays of the year. With Green Bay's season on the line, trailing the Cowboys on the road in Week 15 and Dallas inexplicably still throwing the ball despite being up by five points with less than three minutes to go, Shields fully extended his arms on a pass to Miles Austin across the middle of the field and snagged it for a season-saving interception.

Overall 2013 grade: B-plus

Status for 2014: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers' active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. There's no way that Shields can be dissatisfied with his contract any longer after signing a four-year, $39 million extension as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. It's more money than Shields would have gotten a year earlier had he re-signed as a restricted free agent, and it should keep him in Green Bay through his 30th birthday. Shields is just entering the prime of his career and has been continually getting better every year. Though the Packers have a very good group of cornerbacks, Shields could be the leader of that group soon, especially if Tramon Williams departs after his contract expires next year. With the money that he's now owed, Shields had better be ready for multiple matchups every season with the great group of NFC North wide receivers.


Bookmark and Share
(foxsports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham not happy with enforcement of dunk rule

JimmyGrahamSaints
It sounds like Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham has no problem spending some of his money next year paying fines.

That’s because the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, told the “Dan Patrick Show” on Tuesday that the league will penalize any players who dunk the ball over the crossbar of the goalposts. Graham famously made it a tradition to perform that very celebration after each of his 44 career TD grabs (including the playoffs).

Upon hearing the news, he reacted defiantly, saying via Twitter: “I guess I’ll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year! #funpolice.” He also attached a picture of himself elevating to dunk the ball over a crossbar at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome — a superimposed image of a referee was positioned in front of him as if to block it.

More than 2,000 people retweeted Graham’s message and photo within 20 minutes of originally posting them. He later deleted the tweet but then re-sent it.

Banning dunks will not be a new rule, Blandino explained. Officials will just make it a point to enforce an existing regulation prohibiting the use of the ball as a prop for celebrations.

“Using the ball as a prop or any object as a prop, whether that’s the goal post, the crossbar, that ... will be a foul next season,” Blandino told the Patrick show, according to NFL.com.

Graham knocked the crossbar and goalposts askew and caused a slight delay during a Saints win at Atlanta on Nov. 21. Few doubted Tuesday’s revelation was a direct consequence of that celebration.

It was the second time Graham had made the crossbar in that same end zone lean to one side after a dunk. He did the same thing on a two-handed jam following a 21-yard TD in 2011.


Bookmark and Share
(theneworleansadvocate.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham likely to land long-term extension before grievance deadline

JimmyGrahamSaints
There were a number of issues at play when the New Orleans Saints slapped Jimmy Graham with the franchise tag at the beginning of this month.

At issue at the time was whether or not Graham would be designated as a tight end or wide receiver as far as how his franchise tag number would be calculated. Once he was determined to be a tight end for the purposes of that process, the next important deadline was April 22nd. Graham has until that day to file a grievance about the aforementioned tight end designation.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the process will never reach that point. Florio reports that the Saints and Graham will come to an agreement on a long-term deal before Graham has a chance to file that grievance.

Per a league source, the current expectation is that the Saints and Graham will finalize a long-term contract before Graham pulls the pin on a grievance grenade.”

Though there are not many tight ends with the unique skill set of Graham, there is still an emerging trend in the NFL where teams use more and more of these hybrid type players at the position. In that sense he might not be the first player to deal with this type of situation. Luckily for him and the Saints, it sounds like there is a good chance Graham will land the long-term deal he desires before things have the chance to get ugly.


Bookmark and Share
(fansided.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham's TD celebration in danger

JimmyGrahamSaints
Orlando, Fla. - The post-touchdown stunt show by New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham may eventually become no more.

There has been discussions to ban a player from dunking the football over the goalposts during the NFL owners meetings, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Monday afternoon. McKay said there's no proposal on the table for these meetings and so no vote can occur to bar the touchdown celebration, but the committee will have further discussions later in the week.

McKay witnessed firsthand how a dunk on a goalpost could force a delay in a game.
bendy_medium

McKay is the Falcons' president and CEO and watched as Graham's two-handed jam bent the goalpost in the Georgia Dome during the Saints' 17-13 win over Atlanta in Week 12 last season. Stadium work crew brought out a ladder to fix the goalposts forcing a small delay in the game.

Pro Football Talk first reported the possibility last weekend. Graham responded to the news via Twitter saying, "NOOOO!" after teammate Thomas Morstead referred to the potential rule change as "The Jimmy Graham rule."


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Saints' Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham: 'Be patient'

JimmyGrahamSaints
Drew Brees knows how Jimmy Graham is feeling, perhaps more than any player in the NFL. Two seasons ago, Brees and the New Orleans Saints had a protracted contract standoff after the Saints placed the franchise tag on him.

Brees didn't sign the tag, and wound up missing offseason work before the sides came to a long-term deal. Around The League sat down with Brees during his visit to NFL Network, and asked him what he's told Jimmy Graham about the process.

"I just told him be patient," Brees said. "Don't get frustrated. Don't take it personally. It's part of the deal and it's hard and ... you just want it to be over. You want certainty. That's the hardest part."


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Drew Brees confident Saints' Jimmy Graham 'will be ready' Week 1

JimmyGrahamSaints
ORLANDO — New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees says he has "no doubt" tight end and teammate Jimmy Graham will be on the field for Week 1, no matter how his franchise-tag fight plays out.

Running back Darren Sproles won't be there, though. And Brees made clear in an interview with two reporters Tuesday at the NFL Players Association's annual meetings that Sproles is one key part of the Saints offense they won't be able to replace.

"I think a Darren Sproles only comes around once in your lifetime, in my career and in everybody's career," Brees said of the quicksilver back, whom the Saints traded to the Philadelphia Eagles last week for a fifth-round draft pick.

"There may be another one 15, 20 years from now. But there's not many guys like Darren Sproles. He's a special player. He's a special person. He's a special teammate."

The Saints planned to cut Sproles, 30, if they couldn't deal him rather than pay his $3.4 million base salary this year on the heels of a 2013 season in which he had just 824 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.

They're clearing space in part because they need to re-sign Graham, 27, who is headed for either a lucrative contract extension or a grievance hearing on his claim the franchise tag should pay him like a wide receiver, not a tight end.

"Listen, I know Jimmy will be ready to play, whether that means he's coming in tomorrow, April 21st or August 21st," Brees added. "I know Jimmy Graham will be ready to play, and he'll be a big part of our offense and a big part of our team for a long time. I'm very confident that will work out."

Brees, 35, speaks from experience. He sat out all offseason practices in 2012 after getting the franchise tag, then signed a five-year, $100 million contract weeks before training camp began.

"Since I've been through it just two short years ago, you just know it's part of the process," Brees said. "You can't take any of that personal."

Nor can Brees take it personally the Saints cut ties with receiver Lance Moore and several members of the defense — cornerback Jabari Greer, safety Roman Harper, linebackers Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma — that helped lead them to a Super Bowl win after the 2009 season.

Safety Malcolm Jenkins signed as a free agent with the Eagles, who gave Sproles a new three-year, $10.5 million contract with $5.5 million in guarantees soon after the trade.

Sproles "was one of the tougher ones for me, just because I was heavily recruiting him to New Orleans during the (2011) lockout," said Brees, who also played with Sproles for the San Diego Chargers in 2005.

"So I feel like that was my guy, that was my pick, and I wanted that to last forever. But unfortunately, it didn't last forever."

Only six players remain from the Saints' Super Bowl team: Brees, offensive linemen Jahri Evans and Zach Strief, punter Thomas Morstead, running back Pierre Thomas and receiver Marques Colston.

"It's tough, because a lot of those guys I've played with for eight years," Brees said. "Eight years, which is rare. I'd say that's very rare in this day and age, to have that amount of time with a group of guys.

"You become very connected during that time, so it's always hard when you get to this point. It's going to be a new team in a lot of ways, a lot of young guys stepping up into roles that maybe they haven't been in before and it's where the new leaders emerge."

The Saints also made one bold move in free agency, signing safety Jairus Byrd to a six-year, $54 million contract that included $26.3 million in guarantees. In a salary cap league, deals like that often can't happen without trimming some veteran fat.

"Unfortunately, that's part of this game," Brees said. "That's the business of football. Sometimes, you love it and sometimes you hate it."


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham 'shocked and disappointed' at Saints

JimmyGrahamSaints
It's been a tough offseason for New Orleans Saints fans. They've had to say goodbye to Super Bowl heroes like Lance Moore, Will Smith, Roman Harper, Jabari Greer and Jonathan Vilma. They learned Friday that Darren Sproles is out too.

It's been a tough offseason for one of their best players, too:

“Wow unbelievable. Shocked and disappointed on everything that's gone on this offseason.”

Graham, of course, has his own issues with the team. He's trying to negotiate a long-term contract, and isn't happy that he was given the franchise tag at the tight end position. (His agent will argue he deserves to be paid like a wide receiver.)

Graham also might be feeling a bit guilty. He knows that some of his good friends were cut, in part, in order to free up salary cap room so that they could pay Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Packers official laughs off run at Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
When the New Orleans Saints used their franchise tag on Jimmy Graham, it seemed to ensure the star tight end would be catching passes from Drew Brees for at least another season.

Yes, the tag's nonexclusive nature allows other teams to bid for Graham's talent in free agency. But the cost would be absurd -- two first-round draft picks in addition to a contract rich enough to scare off the Saints.

It's hard to imagine a team willing to gamble on its future for the reward of a tight end, but perhaps Graham is special enough to warrant an exception.

"I think the only players more valuable than Jimmy Graham are three or four quarterbacks," one AFC general manager told Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report. "That's it."

According to Freeman, "word is beginning to leak" throughout the NFL that at least one team will make a play at obtaining Graham, pricetag be damned.

The Green Bay Packers -- who are very realistically in the market for a tight end -- are unlikely to emerge as a potential suitor. A Packers official told Freeman the idea of giving up that much for a tight end was "dumb, beyond dumb ... won't happen."

You have to think the Packers are far from alone in that sentiment, regardless of how productive Graham has been in his brief career. Still, the Saints have left the door open a crack.

Now we get to find out if there's a team with the guts to barge in.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Packers might be wise to make an offer to Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
The NFL franchise tag may as well be a ball and chain for prospective free agents who receive it. After all, most teams are unwilling to pitch them proposals knowing it will cost two first-round draft picks if the club that owns the tagged player’s rights refuses to match an offer sheet.

Might Jimmy Graham be a rare exception to the rule?

The New Orleans Saints have franchised the all-pro tight end, who is the primary target of Drew Brees’ and Sean Payton’s aerial circus. In all likelihood, a deal will eventually get done to keep Graham in The Big Easy, though probably not before he and the front office go through a seemingly unnecessary spat as to whether his tag should carry the tight end value ($7.1 million) or more lucrative wide receiver figure ($12.1 million) since Graham spends much of his time split wide.

But while the impasse lingers in New Orleans, other teams are surely considering whether it makes sense to pursue a player who led the NFL with 16 TD grabs in 2013 and might be the league’s premier mismatch player.

There may be one club perfectly positioned to make a run at Graham — the Green Bay Packers.

Here’s why:

1) With Jermichael Finley headed to free agency and his medical prognosis uncertain anyway, Green Bay has a need at the position. No. 3 wideout James Jones is also probably on the way out a year after Greg Jennings defected. QB Aaron Rodgers’ once vast array of aerial weapons seems to be dwindling.

2) GM Ted Thompson has the ability to pay Graham. Though he generally loathes bringing in outside players, Thompson seems open to it this year as he sits on more than $30 million in cap space. That’s probably enough to extend WRs Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, buy a few parts for the defensive line and still make Graham an offer in the six-year, $70 million range to make him the league’s best-paid tight end. (The six-year extension Rob Gronkowski signed in 2012 averages $9 million per season, the current benchmark at the position.)

3) Thompson has earned enough goodwill — including a title in 2010 — and proven a savvy enough talent evaluator that he can probably sell the move to his fan base. Rodgers is in the prime of his career and having a weapon like Graham would theoretically make the offense even more explosive. Thompson can easily brand Graham as Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2014, a trade most teams would gladly take, he just has to be comfortable giving away that second Round 1 pick in 2015 — which will probably be a low first rounder anyway given the Packers’ track record – for a roster that boasts a nucleus as good as any organization’s. Locking up the tight end for a half-dozen years or so would also provide more security than a four- or five-year rookie contract.
Graham would cost a lot of cheese, but he’s the rare non-quarterback who could be worth it.


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Loomis ‘sure’ Saints can reach deal with Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Rain and cold may have ruined the Mardi Gras of Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, but the fear of not being able to reach a long-term deal with tight end Jimmy Graham had no effect on his day.

Loomis, speaking on the SiriusXM Blitz with Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon, said he thinks New Orleans can reach an agreement with Graham to keep him with the Saints for a long time.

“The negotiations are in the process, and Jimmy has been a great player for us for the last four years,” Loomis said.

“Look, I had hoped, and I’m sure he had hoped, that we would come to some conclusion on a longer-term deal before this, but we haven’t yet, and hopefully we will.”

Graham, who had 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns, received a nonexclusive franchise tag from the Saints last weekend. The nonexclusive tag gives him the freedom to negotiate with other teams, but a team must give the Saints two first-round picks if they sign him.

A point of contention between Graham and the Saints since the end of last season was how to classify his position in terms of a new deal, because there is a huge difference in pay for a player who is classified as a tight end as opposed to player who is classified as a receiver.

The NFL Management Council concluded Monday that Graham was to be classified as a tight end and set his salary at $7.053 million for next season with the franchise tag. If Graham were classified as a receiver, his salary would have been set for $12.132 million for next season.

Loomis isn’t sure that happens next in regards to the position classification of Graham.

“We haven't been through this process of that before,” Loomis said. “Look, all we do is franchise him, and then it’s out of our hands.”

According to NFL rules, Graham and the Saints have a deadline of July 15 to work out a new contract. If Graham and the Saints don’t reach a new deal by then, he can play under the franchise tag for 2014 or sit out.

The last day for Graham to sign a franchise tender is Nov. 11.

“I don’t really like to speculate about ‘Hey, what’s going to happen a month from now or three months from now or longer than that,’ ” Loomis said. “I think this: This is a process. A lot of teams have been through it. A lot of players have been through it. And it’s going to be, obviously, unique to Jimmy and us in terms of this particular one. But we’ll just let it play out, and I’m sure we’ll get something resolved.”


Bookmark and Share
(theadvocate.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham to join USO Tour

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW YORK — All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Pierre Garcon and punter Brandon Fields will join a USO tour of U.S. military bases in Asia.

The Saints’ Graham, Redskins’ Garcon and Dolphins’ Fields will spend one week as league ambassadors to the troops. It’s the first such tour for all three players.

The NFL and USO have combined on such visits for 48 years. In 1966, the NFL teamed with the USO and became the first sports organization to send players to Vietnam and other parts of Asia.


Bookmark and Share
(dailycomet.com)
Comments

NFL sets Saints TE Jimmy Graham's franchise tag at $7.05M

JimmyGrahamSaints
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.

The designation was released Monday after the deadline passed for NFL teams to use franchise or transition tags on players becoming free agents.

Because Graham often split out from the offensive line as a receiver would, there have been questions concerning whether the NFL's collective bargaining agreement calls for Graham to have a receiver's tag, worth $12.1 million. Graham still could file a grievance, leaving an arbitrator to decide which tag is appropriate.

Graham caught a team-leading 86 passes for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.


Bookmark and Share
(katc.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham gets franchise tag

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints have placed their franchise tag on Jimmy Graham in order to protect the club's rights to its star tight end through next season.

The move means Graham, barring a holdout, likely will play for New Orleans next season for no less than the tight end franchise tag of $7.04 million.

It is also possible, under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, that Graham could be tagged as a receiver because of how often he lined up at that spot. That would carry a tag of $12.3 million.

The Saints used their non-exclusive franchise tag on Graham, leagues sources told ESPN, meaning he can sign with another team willing to surrender two first-round draft picks as compensation to New Orleans.

Under the non-exclusive tag. the Saints would have a right of first refusal, allowing them match any offer sheet and retain Graham for the specific amount by the signing team.

The move, confirmed by team spokesman Greg Bensel, was expected as the two sides attempt to work out a long-term deal.

Graham also weighed in on his Twitter account.

“Confirming it's officially Franchisefriday... TAG ... I guess I'm it...”

Graham and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, likely will file a grievance through the players' association, asking that Graham be considered a receiver because he lined up out wide or in the slot on 67 percent of his snaps last season.

It's a significant distinction, and a favorable ruling would give one side serious leverage in long-term contract negotiations.

The Saints are adamant that Graham is a tight end. As general manager Mickey Loomis said recently, "Isn't that what we drafted him as? Isn't that what he made the Pro Bowl as? That's what we see him as, a tight end."

Graham's camp would counter that the league's collective bargaining agreement specifically states the franchise tag designation is based on the position "at which the franchise player participated in the most plays during the prior league year."

A neutral third-party arbitrator would be agreed upon by the NFLPA and the league's management council to hear arguments.

Graham, a third-round draft choice in 2010, has quickly emerged as one of the most prolific tight ends in the league. During his four-year Saints career, he has 301 receptions for 3,863 yards and 41 touchdowns -- including a league-high 16 touchdown catches last season.

At some point, Graham will almost certainly become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, surpassing the $9 million average salary of New England's 2012 contract extension with Rob Gronkowski. However, Graham's side may seek well more than $10 million per year, a total that would be more in line with what wide receivers who put up similar stats are paid


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham demanding 12 million per season?

JimmyGrahamSaints
Fox Football Daily is suggesting Jimmy Graham is demanding $12 million per year salary.

@LarryHolder: RT @FFD: Jimmy Graham and the Saints remain several million dollars per season apart according to @MikeGarafolo.

@LarryHolder: RT @FFD: According to Mike's sources, the Saints are willing to make Graham the highest paid TE in the NFL. Graham wants roughly $12mil per yr.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Saints, Jimmy Graham remain 'several millions apart' in contract talks

JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham appear to have made little to no headway on contract talks with the franchise tag deadline looming March 3.

The two sides are several millions of dollars apart in contract talks, according to Fox Sports. The Saints are willing to make Graham the highest paid tight end in the NFL, but Graham is looking for roughly $12 million per season, according to the report.

This tussle should come as no surprise and coincides with the argument of whether Graham should be paid like a tight end or a wide receiver. NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported several months ago the Saints slid over multiple contract offers to Graham to no avail.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been staunch in his stance that the team will place the franchise tag on Graham as a tight end if there's no long-term deal by the deadline. NFL Network reported Graham's camp, led by agent Jimmy Sexton, will file an immediate grievance claiming Graham should be tagged as a wide receiver based on the percentage of snaps Graham has received in a wide receiver role.

The franchise tag figures for a tight end and wide receiver aren't concrete yet as the NFL has yet to set the 2014 salary cap, but the difference between being dubbed a tight end or wide receiver could vary by about $4.5 million in favor of a wide receiver.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski set the tight-end barometer when he signed a six-year extension two years ago with the deal reportedly maxing out at $54 million.

"That's not for me to decide," Graham said nearly two weeks ago when asked if he should be considered a wide receiver or a tight end. "I'm going to do, and I'm going to play, whatever I'm asked to do. It's that simple."

When asked where he stood on his contract talks with the Saints, Graham said at the time, "For me, I'm just standing. I take everyday one day at a time. I'm just going to wait and see what happens because that's where it's at."

From the looks of negotiations, the Saints and the 2013 NFL touchdown reception leader aren't standing too close together with less than a week left before the tag deadline.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham debate tough to predict

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- We’re now one week away from the deadline for NFL teams to place the franchise tag on players. So sometime between now and March 3, the great debate over whether the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham should be considered a tight end or wide receiver will officially kick off.

I checked in recently with NFL business analyst Andrew Brandt -- a former executive with the Green Bay Packers and a former agent -- to see if he had any inkling how that debate might play out. Like most everyone else on the subject, Brandt said it’s too hard to predict what an arbitrator might rule.

“It’s new to me, too,” said Brandt, who pointed out that his former team had a similar case after he left with tight end Jermichael Finley in 2012 -- and they agreed to a meet-in-the-middle compromise before their debate reached an arbitrator.

Brandt said he could understand the argument for calling Graham a receiver by strictly reading the language of the collective bargaining agreement, which says the franchise tag designation is based on the position “at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.” Graham lined up 33 percent of the time against the line last year, 45 percent of the time in the slot and 22 percent of the time out wide.

But Brandt said he also believes the Saints have a strong argument that Graham's versatile role matches the modern job description of a tight end.

“It’s more about the definition of the tight end in 2013 than where he lines up on every play,” Brandt said. “So that’s gonna be interesting.”

If Graham is considered a tight end, the Saints can maintain his rights by offering him a one-year franchise-tag salary that is projected to be around $6.8 million this year. However, Graham’s camp is expected to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association, asking a third-party arbitrator to rule that he should be considered a wide receiver instead. That would require a one-year franchise-tag salary of around $11.6 million.

That's a significant difference. But Brandt said the bigger issue is how the franchise tag will affect the negotiations on a long-term contract.

“Listen, the way I see this whole thing is the tag number is a temporary dispute. The real issue here is the long-term deal,” Brandt said. “And when you negotiate a long-term deal, like any negotiation, you come up with comparables. To me the bigger issue here is not the tag, but when they are negotiating, are they using (the contracts of tight ends) Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates? Or are they using (receivers) like Larry Fitzgerald and Percy Harvin? That’s the question I have. I think the tag issue is kind of a red herring issue.”

Gronkowski is the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, with an average salary of $9 million per year -- ahead of guys like Jason Witten, Davis and Gates, who earn a little more than $7 million per year. Conversely, the NFL’s four highest-paid receivers (including Fitzgerald and Harvin) earn at least $12 million per year.

Brandt said a favorable ruling on the franchise tag would certainly give one side a great deal of leverage in the long-term negotiations.

Either way, though, Brandt believes the franchise tag itself is a great leverage tool for all NFL teams.

“I think the franchise tag, even at the high level, is an incredible management weapon,” Brandt said. “It takes your best free agent off the market. And you get to June or July and guys looking at a one-year deal or whatever you want to offer long term. People look at the franchise tag as just about holding a guy for a year. I think the bigger issue is giving you leverage in negotiations.”


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Drew Brees tries to smooth over Saints-Jimmy Graham riff on Twitter

JimmyGrahamSaints
Now that Super Bowl week has passed, Drew Brees doesn’t have a desk to jump on and profess his love for Jimmy Graham. In its stead, he has taken to Twitter to help smooth over the whole Saints-Graham-franchise tag mess going down in NOLA.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, here’s a cliff notes version: the Saints are expected to put a franchise tag on Graham in order to negotiate a longterm contract. Though his official position is tight end, Graham wants to be franchised as a wide receiver. He would make roughly $6.8M for one year under the tight end designation; $11.6M as a receiver. The argument being that Graham is the team’s best receiving option, thus he should be paid more.

Brees comes in because he makes a boatload of money ($11M in 2014; $19M in 2015; $20M in 2016), which hamstrings the Saints from signing other star players (Graham) to lucrative deals. However, Graham is Brees’ best weapon, and the QB needs his big target.

So how do you cut through all the lawyers, contracts, negotiations and egos: by posting well-intentioned, kinda weird recruiting messages on Twitter, of course.

.@TheJimmyGraham looking shredded ..On 3/9/06..beat Clemson 66-63 in the ACC Tournament pic.twitter.com/XOjsyAc0zZ” My guy JG rockin dbl zeros!
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) February 19, 2014

“@TheJimmyGraham: Out the house stretch my legs. @Yoloboard pic.twitter.com/VmEZy5DVkF” look forward 2 paddling w u in Nola this offseason JG!
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) February 19, 2014


Bookmark and Share
(gamedayr.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham: ‘I’m A Football Player’

JimmyGrahamSaints
Last week, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham helped kick off NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans at an adidas NBA All-Star Charity Event in the French Quarter, hanging out with and signing autographs for 30 kids from the local Kingsley House. After finishing up with the kids, we grabbed Graham to ask him briefly about his contract situation.

Graham, the top free agent in the league this offseason, is likely to be franchise-tagged by the Saints—the only question is whether he’ll be tagged as a wide receiver or a tight end. The franchise tag essentially pays a player the average of the top few salaries across the NFL at his position, meaning that if Graham is tagged as a tight end, he’ll make considerably less money in 2014 than he would if he were labeled a wide receiver. And, for a guy that lines up out wide even more than he does inside, he might feel like he’s owed those extra millions.

In fact, it was even reported that his camp is ready to file a grievance if he’s franchised as a tight end. On the subject of how he reacts to speculation about WR vs. TE, and what’s going to happen with his franchise tag and his contract, Graham told us simply:

“As far as that goes, I don’t pay attention to what people call it. I play and I get lined up, and I do what I’m told. I’m a football player, who’s going to go out there and make a play and try to help us win.”

Beyond that, Graham said only that he’ll have to wait and see how things play out. Meanwhile, he’s prepping for a March 1 USO trip to Afghanistan to show love to the troops, and looking forward to flying—yes, he’s a licensed pilot—daily around Florida and the East coast when he gets back. Graham says he only watched a little bit of Super Bowl XLVIII, admitting that it was tough to watch the Seahawks triumph.

“It’s tough to watch any football game when you’re not in it,” he said. “They’re a very good team, they have amazing players. What they’ve been able to do with that team out there, and stack all those good players, is pretty special. A lot of teams are going to patent what they’re doing after that. The game was over fairly quickly in that one.”


Bookmark and Share
(tddaily.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham wide receiver? Free agent plans on filing grievance if Saints franchise tag him as tight end

JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Saints are likely hoping they'll be able to count Jimmy Graham as a member of the team next season, but if Graham has it his way it will cost the franchise far more money.

Graham is expected to receive the franchise tag from the Saints, which would pay him the average salary among the top five players at his position. Graham is nominally a tight end, which would mean New Orleans owes him $7.9 million. Graham, however, is making noise about wanting to be franchise tagged as a wide receiver, which would pay him about $16.8 million.

Any fantasy football player will say that Graham is a tight end, but franchise tags are decided on what percentage of plays an individual player lined up at a position. This would make Graham's case as a wide receiver rather strong; he lined up as a wide receiver on 67 percent of his snaps and caught 68 passes in that role.

NFL.com's Ian Rappaport tweeted the following message regarding the subject: "No progress yet for Jimmy Graham and #Saints. If, as expected, he's tagged as a TE, expect an immediate grievance to be tagged as a WR."

The issue could mean a great deal for the Saints, who don't necessarily have the greatest salary cap situation in the league; in fact Overthecap.com projects them to currently be at $12 million over the salary cap without either of Graham's franchise numbers counting towards the estimation.

Aside from quarterback Drew Brees, Graham is the most important player on the team. His size, speed and catching ability set him apart from just about all other receiving options in the NFL, and his ability to line up on the line of scrimmage or out wide make the Saints offense nearly impossible to game plan for.


Bookmark and Share
(sportsworldnews.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham not worried about Saints contract talks

JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Saints parted ways with four veterans this week in part to prep for the inevitable signing -- or franchise tagging -- of Jimmy Graham.

The tight end isn't fretting about when a contract will get finished.

"For me, I'm just standing," he told The Times-Picayune when asked where he stands on negotiations. "I take every day one day at a time. I'm just going to wait and see what happens because that's where it's at."

The Saints cut corner Jabari Greer, safety Roman Harper and defensive end/linebacker Will Smith on Wednesday, and announced that they would not re-sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Those moves saved the Saints around $16 million, but more cuts are likely.

How far under the cap New Orleans must get to re-sign Graham remains a question mark. If it comes down to a franchise tag, the contention about whether the 27-year-old is designated as a tight end or a wide receiver will be important.

"That's not for me to decide," Graham said at a charity event Thursday. "I'm going to do, and I'm going to play, whatever I'm asked to do. It's that simple."
Graham will not leave New Orleans, that much is clear. However, we're just getting started down the bumpy road that ends in a contract being signed.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham reportedly wants top-5 WR money

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham is looking to get paid, and that’s bad news for the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints and Graham could end up in a standoff this offseason because Graham is looking for a long-term contract from the team. New Orleans has already said that they will franchise tag Graham if the two sides are unable to agree on a deal. Graham has said he is not keen on the idea of the team tagging him.

One major dispute that could arise if the franchise tag becomes a real possibility is whether Graham is categorized as a wide receiver or tight end. The best wide receivers are paid more money than the best tight ends in the league — the difference in value of a franchise tag for a wide receiver and tight end last year was $4.5 million. Even though he was drafted as a tight end and is listed as a tight end, Graham lined up as a traditional tight end last year just one third of the time, according to Pro Football Focus. Graham was split out frequently as a wide receiver and reportedly will try to make the argument that he should be paid as a receiver.

According to NFL reporter Jason Cole and former sports agent Joel Corry, Graham wants top-five wide receiver money.

If Graham’s camp holds firm on that stance, there could be a huge dispute between the two sides. The Saints are already over the salary cap, so paying Graham an extra $4 million on the franchise tag would be a big deal.


Bookmark and Share
(larrybrownsports.com)
Comments

What happens if Jimmy Graham fights TE tag?

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- This much we know: If the New Orleans Saints and free agent Jimmy Graham don't reach a long-term agreement in the next three weeks, then the Saints will use the franchise tag on him. And that will almost certainly set off a groundbreaking battle over whether Graham should officially be considered a tight end or receiver.

But who will win that battle? That's anyone's guess.

Count longtime former NFL general manager Bill Polian among the many observers who consider this debate too close to call.

"That would be an arbitrator's decision, and I wouldn't have any idea what he would decide," said Polian, who now works as an analyst for ESPN.

Polian, however, does think it could serve as an incentive for both sides to find common ground before it ultimately reaches a hearing date.

"In the end, you'd obviously like to reach an agreement without setting a precedent," Polian said. "There's an old saying that when you put an issue in hands of a third party, then there's a possibility that neither side is happy with the result."

Here's how the process would work: If the Saints franchise Graham as a tight end, he and agent Jimmy Sexton could then file a grievance through the NFL Players Association, claiming that Graham should be considered a wide receiver instead. Then the decision would be in the hands of a neutral third-party arbitrator agreed upon by the NFLPA and the NFL Management Council.

Obviously a lot would be riding on the arbitrator's decision. The difference in a one-year franchise tender between tight ends and receivers this year is projected to be around $6.7 million vs. $11.5 million (though it hasn't been finalized yet).

More importantly, the ruling will give one side much greater leverage in the long-term contract negotiations.

As Polian said, there are two reasonable schools of thought the arbitrator would have to weigh:

1. The union will argue that it's a "black and white" issue, that Graham lined up in the slot or out wide for 67 percent of his snaps last season. And according to the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tag designation is based on the position "at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year."

2. The Saints' counter-argument would be that it's part of the modern tight end's job description to line up in a variety of positions, including on the line, in the slot and out wide. Although Polian said Graham isn't a "traditional tight end," he said most teams now differentiate between blocking tight ends and receiving tight ends.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham was one of 11 tight ends in the NFL last year who lined up more than 50 percent of the time at those traditional receiver positions. Only three of them were full-time starters. But the other two were Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (67 percent) and San Diego's Antonio Gates (52 percent) -- which is noteworthy since those two players have always been considered as tight ends for the purposes of determining franchise-tag salaries.

Other starting tight ends who blur the line between tight and receiver include Tampa Bay's Timothy Wright (49 percent), Cleveland's Jordan Cameron (49 percent), Carolina's Greg Olsen (48 percent), Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (47 percent), St. Louis' Jared Cook (47 percent), New England Rob Gronkowski (47 percent), Chicago's Martellus Bennett (46 percent) and Indianapolis Coby Fleener (46 percent).

In recent years, free agent tight ends Finley and Cook threatened to fight the same battle -- but they ultimately weren't franchised.

In 2008, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs filed a grievance to be considered as a defensive end. But before an arbitrator ruled, all parties made an agreement to split the difference between the two salaries and consider him a defensive end-linebacker. However, the language in that deal made it clear that it pertained only to Suggs and not to any future issues.

Polian didn't offer an opinion on whether the Saints should try to avoid letting this case reach an arbitrator. He said each team and each case is different. And he said the NFL Management Council would also weigh in with counsel on what the legal issues are, what precedents might be relevant, etc.

Polian added that a looming hearing could put pressure on both sides to get a deal done – like with any labor negotiation.

But that will be easier said than done in this case. The only thing harder than determining Graham's official position will be settling in on his fair market value.

Graham, who has averaged 90 receptions, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past three years, is expected to become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, surpassing the $9 million per year the New England Patriots gave Gronkowski in an extension two years ago. However, Graham could push for more than $10 million per year, more in line with what top receivers make -- especially if he wins the franchise-tag battle.

One way or another, these two sides should make history at some point this offseason.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham’s franchise-tag designation pits practicality against letter of CBA

JimmyGrahamSaints
Soon, the Saints will apply the franchise tag to tight end Jimmy Graham.  Soon after that, Graham will file a grievance, claiming that he’s actually a receiver.
And he has roughly 4.5 million reasons to make that argument.

Already, folks are chiming in on whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver.

During Super Bowl week, quarterback Drew Brees provided an answer that (in fairness to Drew) didn’t take into account the $4.5 million swing that applies if Graham is a tight end or a receiver for franchise-tag purposes.  Today, Peter King of TheMMQB.com argues aggressively that Graham is a tight end for purposes of the tag.

“I think Jimmy Graham is a tight end, regardless of where he lines up on the field,” King writes. “It’s ludicrous there’s even a discussion about whether Graham should be tendered as a tight end (at a franchise number of $6.8 million) or wide receiver (at $11.6 million).”

Peter, to borrow one of your favorite phrases, you’re wrong.  And here’s why.

The CBA is why.  Specifically, article 10, Section 2(a)(i) is why.

The labor deal requires that the franchise player be tendered at the position “at which [he] participated in the most plays during the prior League Year.”

So it’s not “ludicrous” that there’s a discussion, because Graham lined up tight to the tackle only one third of the time in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus.  It’s also not ludicrous because the Packers and tight end Jermichael Finley started down this road in 2012, with the Packers ultimately unwilling to roll the dice in the grievance process, instead striking a two-year deal with Finley while the challenge to his designation as a tight end was pending.  If the argument was ludicrous, the Packers surely would have held firm.

It’s likewise not ludicrous because the Titans opted not to even tag tight end Jared Cook last year, for fear that:  (1) he’d file a grievance; (2) he’d opt to not settle it; (3) he’d win; and (4) the Titans would be stuck paying him an eight-figure salary for 2013.

King’s ultimate argument isn’t ludicrous.  The modern tight end position entails moving the player around.  A tight end who lines up only a third of the time as a tight end is still a tight end, because receivers almost never line up as tight ends.  That’s the argument the Saints should make after Graham files a grievance.
Still, the CBA says what it says.

Is it ludicrous that the CBA doesn’t separate tackles, guards, and centers into separate categories, forcing any team that wants to tag a center or guard to pay him like an elite left tackle?  Yep.  But the CBA has one category for offensive linemen, and as a result centers and guards rarely if ever get tagged.

“It’s going to be a sad day for football if head coaches like Sean Payton have to consider when they formulate a game plan, ‘Well, I can’t flex Graham out too often, or he’ll be considered a wide receiver,’” King writes.  “Just a stupid, stupid can of worms that has been opened up.”

That can of worms was opened at least two years ago with Finley.  Unless and until a team successfully persuades a third party that tight ends are still tight ends even if they take more than half the snaps as receivers, the worms will be crawling all over the place, in plain sight.

That’s not ludicrous.  It’s one of the realities of the NFL.  Until a team fights the battle and wins it, tight ends who spend more than half their time lining up as something other than a tight end will have a non-ludicrous argument that, for the purposes of the franchise tag, they aren’t really tight ends.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Brees says Jimmy Graham is a tight end, not a receiver

JimmyGrahamSaints
As the Saints and tight end Jimmy Graham draw battle lines over whether tight end Jimmy Graham should be considered a tight end or a receiver for purposes of the franchise tag with $4.5 million hanging in the balance, quarterback Drew Brees has offered an opinion.

And Graham probably won’t like it.

“He’s a tight end,” Brees told Erik Kuselias of NBC Sports Radio.  “He’s a tight end. We’re able to do a lot of creative things with him, just like we’re able to do with a lot of our offensive personnel.   I feel like with Sean Payton, with our offensive system and we gear towards putting those guys in the best position to succeed according to their strengths.  Jimmy Graham is six-seven, 270, he runs like a deer, he can jump and catch, he’s so strong and physical, he plays with great fire and passion, he can play the line, he can split out.”

Graham definitely can do all those things, but for purposes of the NFL’s labor deal his classification as a tight end or a receiver will turn on the position at which he played the most snaps in 2013.  According to Pro Football Focus, Graham lined up as a tight end only 33 percent of the time in 2013.

In fairness to Brees, he likely didn’t intend his comments to be used against Graham’s ability to maximize his earning potential.  Especially since Brees and Graham are represented by the same agency, CAA.

Still, Brees’ explanation meshes with the likely argument from the Saints that the modern tight end position includes lining up in multiple spots, making the formula in the labor deal not as simple as counting up the snaps a guy takes lined up next to the tackle and the snaps he takes in the slot or split wide.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham 'not too keen' on being franchise tagged

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham is the Saints' best weapon on offense. He's also heading towards free agency.

New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis said the team would use a franchise tag on the explosive tight end if the two sides don't agree to a long-term deal.

For his part, Graham doesn't seem enthused about the idea.

"I'm not too keen on the franchise tag," Graham said at Pro Bowl practice in Hawaii. "That would be really unfortunate, but that's really all I have to say about that. That's real unfortunate. If that happens, it doesn't really matter what I prefer.”

Graham played just one-third of his snaps at the tight end position, so his side will argue he should be tagged as a wide receiver. Loomis and the Saints will maintain he should be tagged at the position for which he was drafted. The salary last year for receivers who were franchise tagged was $4 million more than tight ends.

Since being drafted out of Miami in 2010, Graham has 3,863 yards receiving and 41 touchdowns.


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham to get tag if no long-term deal

JimmyGrahamSaints
Saints GM Mickey Loomis confirmed impending free agent Jimmy Graham will be franchise-tagged if the two sides can't agree to a long-term contract.
As expected. Graham isn't going anywhere. In addition to saying Graham will be tagged if need be, Loomis said the Saints will tag him as a tight end because "that's where he was drafted and that's what he is." Graham's camp may beg to differ. He played just one-third of his snaps as a traditional tight end in 2013. The difference between the tight-end tag and the receiver tag was $4.5 million last year. We could have a real contract dispute on our hands.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

How much is too much for Jimmy Graham?

JimmyGrahamSaints
Now that the Saints are facing the offseason here are my thoughts on the two biggest issues facing Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. For the record, these two issues are way easier to deal with than the 2012 offseason. Remember when we were wondering who would coach the Saints? Would it be Aaron Kromer, Joe Vitt, Bill Parcells or mystery guy? Bad times. This is way better to talk about.

Graham's situation not as simple as you think

The Saints have some tough decisions to make this offseason and it starts with what to do about Jimmy Graham.

He is the best tight end in football and losing great players doesn't get you closer to the Super Bowl. While some fans might scream Graham not playing well in the post-season proves he's not worth paying huge money, I've learned in life it's best not to make huge decisions off a small sample size. The Baltimore Ravens paid Joe Flacco like he was an elite quarterback after he played four great playoff games and won a Super Bowl. By next December, they'll be regretting it. His poor playoff games will have no bearing on his contract.

The question with Graham is where is the line where his salary becomes too big? Graham's negotiations are different from Drew Brees' in 2012 because with Brees I knew there was ZERO chance he would be playing anywhere but New Orleans. The Saints weren't letting an elite quarterback leave. Period. End of discussion. In the NFL today, if you know or even think you have an elite quarterback you cling to them like a life raft in the ocean, so the Saints haggled with Brees until the last possible second and then signed the deal.

The big question to me is what if a team swoops in and wants to sign Graham and work out a trade for less than the two first-round picks the Saints would get if Graham leaves under the franchise tag?

The Saints won a Super Bowl without Jimmy Graham and as great as he is I'm leery of giving him $11 million a year.  Graham has had significant injuries in three of his four seasons. He did fight through a foot injury this year, but he's not less likely to get injured as he gets older. If the Saints are stuck paying an injured tight end $11 million in 2015, it's a nightmare cap situation.

In my opinion, it might be the toughest call Mickey Loomis has had to make on a Saints player since he has been Saints GM. The contract the Saints give Graham and his performance going forward will be a huge factor in if the Saints win another Super Bowl. The only thing worse cap wise than giving huge money to bad players is giving huge money to injured ones.

You might be screaming, "Hey Ralph, Brees was an injury risk too." Indeed he was in 2006, but the Saints protected themselves and for Brees' second contract Brees had proven he was a safe bet as far as injury worries.

With Graham I'm about 80 percent sure he'll be on the team in 2014. but it's not 100 percent. He will probably fight with the Saints over if he should be franchise tagged as a tight end or a wide receiver. He'll want the receiver tag because it means about 4 million more in guaranteed salary for the season.

I expect to read on Pro Football Talk about how frustrated Graham is about his contract 45 times before May.


Bookmark and Share
(wwltv.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham: Tight end or receiver?

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham could emerge as the biggest hot-button topic in the NFL this offseason, with two critical questions up for debate:

Is he a receiver or a tight end?

And how much is he worth?

The first will become important if Graham and the Saints are unable to agree on a new long-term contract before the franchise-tag deadline of March 3. If the Saints opt to use the franchise tag on Graham, it could set off a groundbreaking battle over his official designation.

Last year the franchise-tag salary was $10.5 million for receivers and $6 million for tight ends.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham lined up 291 times this year as an in-line tight end (33 percent). He lined up 395 times in the slot (45 percent). And he lined up 191 times out wide (22 percent). Pro Football Focus had almost the exact same numbers (290, 396 and 191).

Graham's agent Jimmy Sexton would likely argue that Graham should be labeled as a receiver since he spent 67 percent of his snaps lined up in traditional receiver positions. The Saints, meanwhile, could argue that Graham is still a tight end, first and foremost, and that the modern-day definition of the position is different than it used to be.

It's a debate that has come up in recent years with pending free agents like Jared Cook and Jermichael Finley -- as well as with some defensive players who are hybrid outside linebacker/defensive ends. But it has never reached the point before where an official decision had to be made.

I can see both sides of the argument.

Graham is indeed used primarily as a receiver. He even comes off the field on many run plays to be relieved by better blocking tight ends.

However, the tight end position is starting to become more and more dominated by similar-type players like veterans Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and emerging youngsters Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas. And their salaries count among the franchise-tag figures for tight ends.

In fact, Gonzalez actually ran significantly more routes as a receiver this year (483) than Graham (373), according to ESPN Stats and Information. Cameron was close behind at 365.

Breaking it down further, Graham led all tight ends in routes run while lined up out wide (133, with Gonzalez at 98). However, Graham ranked seventh among all tight ends in routes run from the slot.

In one sense, the debate shouldn't matter.

The end game here is a long-term contract -- and Graham should ultimately earn an annual salary that's closer to the $10.5 million range than the $6 million range. That more accurately reflects Graham's value to the team, no matter how you label his position.

However, the franchise-tag designation will be key since it will provide leverage for one side or the other as Sexton and Saints general manger Mickey Loomis haggle over just much that long-term deal should be worth.

Gronkowski signed the richest deal ever by a tight end in 2012 -- an extension worth $54 million over six years. That deal isn't a perfect comparison, since Gronkowski was only two years into his rookie deal at the time, and because it included an opportunity for the New England Patriots to opt out of the final four years. However, that $9 million average should help set the floor for Graham's market value.

Meanwhile, a top free-agent receiver such as Mike Wallace signed a five-year deal worth $60 million last year with the Miami Dolphins.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Saints could have cap issues re-signing Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans is running into money issues, trying to fit so many good players into the fold.

The New Orleans Saints are paying the price for being a very good, competitive team. Literally.

Years of smart drafting and deft free agent signings have made the team competitive for the better part of a decade, with a Super Bowl coming in 2009. Now, the franchise is trying to figure out how to keep the band together, per the Times-Picayune.

The Saints have a plethora of free agents to try to re-sign this offseason, led by tight end Jimmy Graham. By far the best at his position, Graham is going to break the bank and deservedly so. Other free agents of note include center Brian de la Puente, corner Malcolm Jenkins and tackle Zach Strief.

With next year's salary cap projected to be $126 million, New Orleans is already $12 million over that figure. On the positive side, the Saints' largest contract belongs to quarterback Drew Brees, who is scheduled to make $18.4 million in 2014-15 before seeing his cap hit spike to $26.4 and $27.4 the following two seasons. Luckily, Brees has said he is very willing to restructure his contract to help the team's financial situation.

A few potential cuts could start with linebacker Will Smith and running back Pierre Thomas. Cutting Smith -- who didn't play in 2013 due to injury -- would save the Saints $11.5 million while Thomas is due $2.9 million but can be cut without a penalty. Wide receiver Lance Moore could also be a cap causality, saving the team $2.5 million but also giving it some dead money against the cap. He wouldn't be an easy decision like Smith.

It would be stunning if the Saints let Graham walk out the door. In all likelihood, New Orleans will hand out a few extensions, cut some dead weight off the back side of the roster and either tag Graham or ink him long-term. A long-term deal would help the cap situation in the short term, but could complicate things down the road. General manager Mickey Loomis will have to make that call and live with the consequences.

Jason Witten is currently the highest-paid tight end per year, making $7.4 million. It stands to reason Graham will come close to the $10 million figure with a boatload in guaranteed money on a long-term contract. However, the franchise tag would put Graham at around $7 million next season, while giving Loomis a little time to restructure the cap situation.

Jenkins and Strief might be given the right to look elsewhere for a new deal, with New Orleans trying to replace them on the cheap with draft picks. The Saints hit last year in the first round on dynamic safety Kenny Vaccaro, and will again try to replace a few expensive starters with younger, cheaper players. It would come as a shock to nobody if New Orleans went for an offensive lineman or a corner to pair with Jabari Greer.

Ultimately, the Saints will lose a few players to stay competitive, but with a strong draft and some wise signings they will remain a force with Brees and Sean Payton at the top.


Bookmark and Share
(philly.com)
Comments

How the Seahawks' defense eliminated New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham started with a bang before the NFC divisional playoff game, getting into an altercation with Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin. But the New Orleans Saints' tight end didn't show up again until 24 seconds remained in the Saints' 23-15 loss.

Drew Brees only targeted Graham once in the first half. He targeted the All-Pro tight end four more times and came up empty. Graham's sixth and final target turned into his one and only catch for eight yards.

Not exactly the type way he wanted to wrap up a contract year, though Graham's previous results should make him a very, very wealthy man this offseason. But the paltry output induced a bucket of negative comments from the Seattle locker room, including defensive end Michael Bennett telling Bleacher Report that Graham was soft and the most overrated player in the NFL.

"I read what one player or two players had said and look, that is pretty typical when you get into these heated games," Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday. "I don't concern myself as much with what an opposing player might say. What's most important to us is our evaluation of a player's progression and how he impacts our team and how he helps us win."

I charted each of Graham's snaps on passing plays from the coaches' film. The Seahawks mixed up coverages on Graham and typically blanketed him when using single coverage.

Here's a look at each snap Graham received on a passing play:

First quarter
- Tight end formation for Graham; short crossing route bumped by a linebacker along the route; incomplete screen pass to Mark Ingram
- Inside receiver; seam route into a post; bumped off the line; linebacker in front and a safety behind; looked like Brees wanted to go to Graham; checkdown to Khiry Robinson for 13 yards
- Lone receiver to Brees' left, single coverage; play looked to be a designed screen with Graham trying to block; minus-3-yard screen pass to Darren Sproles
- Slot receiver to Brees' left; single coverage on a 5-yard out route; looked like another designed screen resulting in a Sproles 9-yard reception

Second quarter
- Lone receiver to Brees' left, single coverage and good coverage on a go route up the sideline, Brees looked Graham's way first and is forced to look elsewhere, ball sails too high to Lance Moore over the middle for an incomplete pass
- Tight end formation with hand to the ground, but outside tight end with Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson inside of Graham along the line; Graham gets a free release on a quick slant; play wasn't designed for Graham as Brees rolled right and threw an incomplete pass to Hill
- Inside receiver to Brees' right; Graham ran a quick turnaround at the first-down marker; two Seahawks settled in on Graham; Brees pumped into his direction, tucked the ball and had his pass intended for Colston batted down on fourth down
- Inside receiver to Brees' right in trips formation; short seam route with a linebacker in front of Graham; a Colston 9-yard reception
- First target; inside receiver to Brees' right in trips formation; intermediate seam route; Brees threw an incomplete pass to Graham as safety Earl Thomas flew over Graham's back to break up the pass; Graham looked for a flag, but Thomas had perfect timing
- Inside receiver to Brees' right in trips formation; deeper seam route; one defender in front of Graham and two behind him; incomplete to Colston

Third quarter
- Lone receiver to Brees' left; single coverage; Graham ran a go route, but looked like he was more clearing out his defender to open up the middle of the field; Colston hauled in a 16-yard reception thanks to the clear out; Graham also laid a block on a second defender to keep him out of the play
- Tight end formation with hand to the ground with Watson lined up inside of Graham; Graham ran about a 10-yard crossing pattern with a linebacker drifting in front of Graham in coverage; Robert Meachem 17-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' left; single coverage and tight coverage; play was designed to Watson all the way to the right, but Watson's screen pass went for no gain
- Inside receiver part of a stack formation with a third wideout to the left; single coverage with a linebacker blanketing him; Brees sack and guard Jahri Evans fumble recovery
- Tight end formation with hand to the ground; Graham ran a go route with a defensive back playing behind him; incomplete to Colston
- Second target; lone receiver to the right; cornerback Richard Sherman in single coverage; Sherman had his hands all over Graham on a short crossing pattern at the first-down marker; pass was batted down at the line for an incompletion
- Graham went in motion to become the inside receiver to Brees' right; defensive back jammed Graham hard on his short out route; Brees rolled right, possibly pondering Graham as an option; stopped and threw back across the field incomplete to Moore to turn it over on downs
- Inside receiver to Brees' right; initial defender let Graham scoot by with Sherman picking Graham up right away; Brees threw a 6-yard completion to Colston at the defender who left Graham
- Tight end formation with hand to the ground; Graham initially blocked a defensive end, then took off on a quick crossing route off the line; Hill 23-yard reception

Fourth quarter
- Lone receiver to Brees' right; Sherman in coverage with hands all over Graham as Graham ran a stutter step at the line and wanted to run an out route once he hit the end zone; Brees hit Moore for a 9-yard reception instead
- Lone receiver to Brees' right; Sherman on single coverage and good coverage with no grabbing this time on a Graham go route; Colston 6-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' left; linebacker in single coverage; Graham didn't really run a route as he looked to block his defender; incomplete screen pass to Travaris Cadet on the opposite side of the field
- Inside receiver to Brees' left in a tight formation; linebacker in front and safety behind in bracket coverage on Graham's 10-yard out route; Colston 15-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' left in trips formation; zone coverage with a linebacker in front and defensive back behind on a short crossing pattern to the right; Brees scrambled to hit Kenny Stills on a 30-yard reception, but Zach Strief's holding penalty negated the play
- Third target (exactly midway through the fourth quarter); middle receiver in trips formation to Brees' left, but inside receiver is essentially stacked next to him; safety Kam Chancellor had single coverage on Graham's crossing pattern; incomplete as Chancellor dropped an interception right in his hands
- Fourth target; middle receiver in trips formation to Brees' left, but he's stacked essentially next to a receiver; Graham ran a crossing route as the Seahawks played zone; Thomas banged into Graham again as the Seahawks' safety played the middle of the zone to break up the pass for an incompletion; Graham got up again looking for a flag and had a better argument this time than in the second quarter
- Tight end formation with hand to the ground as the outside tight end; Graham had a free release, but ran out to find someone to block for a screen pass that fell incomplete; defensive holding gave the Saints a first down
- Inside receiver to Brees' left with a tight formation; Graham ran a deep out route with single coverage on him by a defensive back; Meachem 52-yard reception off the tip
- Tight end formation with his hand to the ground; single coverage initially on a go route, but the safety came over quickly to help; incomplete to Ingram
- Lone receiver to Brees' left; short crossing route with single coverage; incomplete to Colston
- Inside receiver to Brees' left; quick out route with a linebacker not really too near him in single coverage; play obviously wasn't designed for Graham; incomplete to Sproles on the opposite side of the field
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Graham ran a flat route with really no one around him; Colston 18-yard reception
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Graham ran an intermediate turnaround route with a linebacker in tight coverage; Moore 11-yard reception
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Graham ran a flat route with single coverage; Colston 11-yard reception
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Graham ran a flat route with no one within 10 yards of him; Colston 16-yard reception
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Graham ran a little stutter route up the seam with a linebacker in front and a safety behind; Sproles 6-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' right; single coverage by a defensive back on a quick crossing pattern; the umpire helped the Seahawks as Graham got tangled up with him on the route; incompletion to Stills; defensive penalty for 12 men on the field
- Fifth target, inside receiver to Brees' right; free release off the line; Graham cut left at the goal line; Chancellor jumped the route and nearly picked the pass off on the incompletion
- Inside receiver to Brees' right as he lined up tight along the formation; defensive back with single coverage and solid coverage on an out route at the goal line; incomplete to Moore
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' left; flat route that Graham eventually turned into an out-and-up route with single coverage; Moore 7-yard reception, but offensive pass interference negated the play
- Inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' left; seam route with two defenders around Graham; Sproles 14-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' left; single coverage as Graham ran a crossing route at the goal line; Colston 9-yard touchdown reception
- Sixth and final target; one and only reception; inside receiver in trips formation to Brees' right; Seahawks played deep zone; Graham ran up the seam and settled in the middle of the field for an 8-yard reception
- Inside receiver to Brees' right in a trips formation as if the Saints were running a Hail Mary; Graham ran the go route as two defenders were with him; Colston caught the pass and the failed lateral ensued

Soft? Overrated? I'm not buying either tag. But we've seen good defenses find ways to take Graham out of the equation in 2013. Finding ways to counteract the tactics of some of the upper-tier NFL defenses will be essential for the Saints to find more consistent production from the top weapon.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Seahawks' Irvin details altercation with Saints' Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
SEATTLE — New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham wasn’t in the mood to talk about his pregame altercation with Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin after Saturday’s season-ending divisional playoff loss.

But Irvin was more than happy to give the blow-by-blow.

“Jimmy was warming up in our area and I just asked, ‘Could you go on your side of the field?’” Irvin said after the Seahawks’ 23-15 winicon1. “And he said, ‘I’m Jimmy.’ And I said, ‘Who is Jimmy? I don’t know Jimmy.’”

Photographers on the field caught Graham yelling and removing Irvin’s knit hat as a Saints staff member tried to hold him back. But Irvin said that came only after he escalated the exchange.

“Y’all missed the first part. I took his ball and booted it across the field,” Irvin said. “That’s when he knocked my hat off.”

Graham said only that Irvin “tried to disrespect me, and I’m not going to let anyone disrespect me. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Also before the game, Graham got into a shouting match with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who played a role in holding him to one late catch for 8 yards on six targets.

“He said he was going to run us over or something,” Sherman said, then laughed.

According to Irvin, Graham’s talking once the game started was limited to “just a lot of cuss words and stuff like that. But that’s football, man. It is what it is.”
Does that stuff happen often before games?

“Nah,” Irvin said. “I asked him politely. I said, ‘We’re about to warm up.’ And he was like, ‘I’m Jimmy.’ I said, ‘Who is Jimmy?’And that’s when I hit the ball out of his hands and I kicked it across the field. That’s when we really got into it.”

Graham, 27, had 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. He’s due to hit free agency in March if the Saints don’t use the franchise tag or work out a multi-year contract first.


Bookmark and Share
(theadvertiser.com)
Comments

Seahawks D: Jimmy Graham is the 'softest, most overrated' player in NFL

JimmyGrahamSaints
"I'm Jimmy," Jimmy Graham told a group of Seahawks when they asked him to move out of their area.

Somehow, the Seahawks took this as an insult and a bit of softcore violence broke up prior to yesterday's Saints-Seahawks divisional playoff game. Graham, apparently too important to be asked to move, was apparently also too important to contribute more than eight receiving yards during the game, which he and the Saints lost, 23-15.

Back in Seattle's locker room following the contest, the Seahawks' defense had some choice words for Graham.

Seahawks' Michael Bennett called Jimmy Graham soft and the most overrated player in the NFL.


Bookmark and Share
(philly.com)
Comments

Some proCanes Advance in the NFL Playoffs, While Others Are Sent Home Packing

JimmyGrahamSaints
With the first round of the NFL playoffs complete, some proCanes were sent home packing while others continue their quest for a Super Bowl ring.

With the New Orleans Saints defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, Jimmy Graham and Jon Vilma (IR) advance to the next round of the playoffs to take on the proCane-less Seattle Seahawks. Go Saints! The Eagles lost because they didn’t have any proCanes. Happy

Two proCanes were sent home with the Kansas City Chiefs losing a thriller to the Indianapolis Colts. DL Allen Bailey and TE Richard Gordon were sent home while Reggie Wayne (IR) will continue to help his team from sidelines in their next game versus the New England Patriots who have proCane DL Vince Wilfork who is also on IR.

The San Francisco 49ers behind the solid running of proCane RB Frank Gore ended up defeating the Green Bay Packers who lost proCane DB Sam Shields in the first quarter of their defeat. The 49ers will face the Carolina Panthers who have proCane TE Greg Olsen on the field and QB Coach Ken Dorsey on the sidelines. The Packers also have scouts Glenn Cook and Alonzo Highsmith on their staff as well as Winston Moss.

The Chargers who don’t have a proCane and defeated the proCane-less Bengals (boooooring), will face the Denver Broncos with their solid proCane offensive lineman Orlando Franklin.


Bookmark and Share

Comments

Jimmy Graham near unanimous All-Pro selection

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW YORK (AP) -- Peyton Manning was the only unanimous choice for the 2013 Associated Press NFL All-Pro team Friday. It was his seventh time as a first-teamer, tying Hall of Famer Otto Graham for the most by a quarterback.

The Denver star set NFL records this season with 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 yards through the air.

He was chosen on all 50 ballots from media members who regularly cover the NFL. Manning also was an All-Pro in 2003, `04, `05, `08, `09 and last season.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham and Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis each drew 49 votes. Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman had 48.

Manning and Graham do not hold the mark for most All-Pro appearances. Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, for example, was a 10-time All-Pro.


Bookmark and Share
(wwltv.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Named To All NFC South Team by ESPN

JimmyGrahamSaints
Just like it played out in the NFC South standings this season, it was a neck-and-neck battle for supremacy between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers when it came to ESPN.com’s All-NFC South team. Ultimately, the Panthers edged the Saints with 10 representatives, compared to New Orleans’ nine.

Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams was the division’s leading rusher with just 843 rushing yards. The Saints who made the list on offense -- quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham, receiver Marques Colston, right tackle Zach Strief and guard Jahri Evans -- were all worthy selections. The same for punter Thomas Morstead.

Click here to see the rest of the players named.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Stopping Jimmy Graham will be key for Eagles

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Philadelphia Eagles defense has improved throughout the season, but even in victory, their Achilles heel showed on Sunday night -- covering the tight end.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten torched the Eagles to the tune of 12 catches for 135 yards on Sunday night, easily the veteran tight ends best game of the season.

While Witten is a solid player, he is not what he used to be -- and he certainly isn't in the class of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

Something that is bad news for Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

"He's the No. 1 target they have and he's been their most consistent target," Davis said on Tuesday. "He's a big, athletic tight end, catches everything thrown near him. They move him all over the place so it's tough to practice and get a beat on how to help guys on him.

Graham once up again put up big numbers this season, finishing with 86 receptions for 1,215 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns. At 6-7, 265 lbs, he is a matchup nightmare for any team, let alone one that struggles to cover tight ends to begin with.

"I think we have been good at times and struggled at times," Davis said of his defenses' ability to cover tight ends. "Like anything, the talent level of the tight end that's coming at you, how much I help on the tight end with a call or I don't, depending how many weapons they have or the situation, sometimes I give a lot of help, sometimes I don't and I think it just moves, it's a moving target."

The Eagles do not have a ton of experience covering Graham, as he has has faced them just once in his career, finishing with seven receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown.

How the Eagles decide to cover Graham will be interesting.

Amongst the linebackers, there is no clear answer as to who can matchup with Graham. The Eagles most athletic linebacker is Mychal Kendricks, but at just a little under six feet tall, Kendricks gives up nearly seven inches to Graham. Kendricks is also best when he is allowed to rush the passer, so having him drop back into coverage all day is not ideal for the Eagles.

Connor Barwin is a possibility, as he has the size to hang with Graham, but does not have the speed to keep up with Graham.

It is possible the Eagles could decide to stick a cornerback on Graham, as they have two tall, long cornerbacks in Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

On Tuesday, Williams said that he doesn't have a ton of experience covering tight ends, but would be willing to try if asked.

"They have been physical. Made him change his footing. Stop and start. He isn't exactly the fastest guy out there -- he has good speed, but he is a build up guy. If you give him a free release, he is going to have a lot of success. But if you get in his face, and you harass him a little bit, I don't think he necessarily likes it."

Although they will need to use either Williams or Fletcher on Saints wideout Marques Colston -- who is 6-4 -- they could put a smaller corner on the Saints other wideout, Kenny Stills, who is just over six feet tall.

Putting a player like Roc Carmichael on Stills would allow the Eagles to let Fletcher or Williams matchup with Graham, presenting the Eagles with perhaps their best chance of containing the Pro-Bowl tight end.

No matter how they decide to do it, however, it is going to be critical for the Eagle to try to slow down Graham.

In the Saints four losses this season in which Graham played, the tight end averaged just over four catches a game. In the Saints 10 wins with Graham, he averaged close to seven catches.

Meaning if the Eagles want to advance past the wild card round of the playoffs, stopping Graham is going to have to be priority No. 1.


Bookmark and Share
(nj.com)
Comments

Three proCanes Named To Pro Bowl Roster

NFLU2009
Three Miami Hurricanes were among those named to the 2014 Pro Bowl, announced by the National Football League offices Wednesday.

Andre Johnson (Houston Texans) was the lone proCane AFC selection

San Francisco 49ers' running back Frank Gore, who recently marked his team-record seventh 1,000-yard season, was an NFC selection along with Saints TE Jimmy Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(hurricanesports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham finishes in top 10 overall in Pro Bowl fan voting

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and tight end Jimmy Graham ranked in the overall top 10 of the final Pro Bowl fan balloting results with the selections to be announced Friday night.

Brees finished as the second-highest vote-getter in the NFL behind only Denver's Peyton Manning. Graham ranked ninth overall behind Manning, Brees, Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, Detroit's Calvin Johnson, Seattle's Russell Wilson, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy. New England's Tom Brady rounded out the top 10.

Fan votes are one-third of the Pro Bowl voting component with player votes and coach votes as the other two-thirds.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham played on just 44 snaps

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham played on just 44-of-81 (54.3 percent) snaps in the Week 16 loss to the Panthers.
It's strange as Graham played on 83.7 percent of the snaps in Week 15. Perhaps his foot was bothering him more this week, or maybe the Saints wanted Ben Watson (47 snaps) on the field more to help hide LT Terron Armstead. Either way, Graham has been playing at less than 100 percent for more than two months now and still has an 81/1144/15 line. He's an obvious first-round pick in 2014 fantasy drafts.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham drops 5/73/1 on Panthers

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans' Week 16 loss to the Panthers.
Most of Graham's production came on the Saints' lone touchdown-scoring drive, where he shed tight coverage from CB Drayton Florence to create a 46-yard gain, catching a jump-ball TD moments later. Graham displayed awe-inspiring physicality on both the long gain and the score. Heading into the last week of the regular season, Graham has 81 catches for 1,144 yards and 15 touchdowns.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham remains in top 10 of Pro Bowl voting

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham rank in the top 10 of NFL All-Stars in balloting for the 2014 Pro Bowl with two weeks left to vote, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Brees ranks second overall (934,772) and Graham ranks seventh (625,674).

Fan voting for the 2014 Pro Bowl, presented by McDonald’s, will continue online and on web-enabled mobile phones by going here until 5 pm CT on Thursday, December 26.

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning, with 1,093,691, currently leads Pro Bowl voting. Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (745,286), Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (739,971) and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (739,701) round out the top five in fan votes.

Graham leads the team in receiving with 74 receptions for 1,046 yards (14.1 avg.) with a team-record 14 touchdowns, which leads the NFL both in scoring grabs and scoring among nonkickers (84).

Pro Bowl balloting will conclude on Thursday, December 26, just three days prior to an exciting slate of Week 17 NFL games. The Pro Bowl players will be announced on Friday, December 27.


Bookmark and Share
(neworleansaints.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham visits East Jefferson's football team

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham visited East Jefferson High School on Tuesday to speak to the football team before practice.

Graham encouraged the players to put their best foot forward in all aspects of the game and spoke about the importance of teamwork.

Graham surprised the team in its locker room while the players were getting ready for practice.

“What you guys have accomplished so far is a big deal,” Graham said. “It’s never been done at this school. Know that you are already among special company. That’s how you should attack this thing, knowing that you are special and know that you can win it.”

After the players took a photo with Graham, they asked him demonstrate his dunking skills on their goal post.

East Jefferson will be competing for the state championship in the LHSAA State Farm Prep Classic on Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time in school history.


Bookmark and Share
(neworleanssaints.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham picks up two TDs on SNF

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham had six catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday night's Week 14 win over the Panthers.
Graham worked the middle of the field against the Panthers' zone defense and took advantage when matched up with Mike Mitchell and Luke Kuechly in coverage. He scored on a five-yard crossing pattern at the end of the first half, and later connected with Drew Brees from eight yards out in the fourth quarter. With the performance, Graham went over 1,000 receiving yards on the season and second time in his career. He'll remain a top-two TE1 in Week 15 against the Rams.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham in the top 10 of fan Pro Bowl voting with three weeks left to vote

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham rank in the top 10 of NFL All-Stars in balloting for the 2014 Pro Bowl with three weeks left to vote, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Graham has enjoyed one of the most prolific campaigns for a tight end in 2013, leading the team in receiving with 69 receptions for 988 yards (14.5 avg.) with a team-record 12 touchdowns, tied for the league lead. Leading tight ends in virtually every receiving category, tied for tenth in the NFL in receptions, ranked tenth in receiving yardage, tied for sixth in third down receptions (21), first in touchdown receptions and 17th in first downs (49).

Pro Bowl balloting will conclude on Thursday, December 26, just three days prior to an exciting slate of Week 17 NFL games. The Pro Bowl players will be announced on Friday, December 27.

Players will later be assigned to teams through the first-ever Pro Bowl Draft, which will air on NFL Network during the week leading up to the game.

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, January 26, 2014 and televised live on NBC at 7:00 PM ET from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

For the first time ever, the Pro Bowl will be “unconferenced.”

Gone is the familiar AFC vs. NFC match-up that has existed since 1971. Instead, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players. For example, the top six quarterbacks following voting will earn distinction as All-Stars, regardless of how many are from AFC or NFC teams.

The Pro Bowl players are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 88 All-Star players who will be eligible for the Pro Bowl Draft.

NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on December 23-26. The NFL is the only sports league that combines voting by fans, coaches and players to determine its all-star teams. It was the first professional sports league to offer online all-star voting in 1995.


Bookmark and Share
(neworleanssaints.com)

Comments

Jimmy Graham plays majority of snaps Monday, seems fully moved on from injury

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimy Grahahm played the majority of snaps on Monday. We break down the fantasy implications.

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham seems to have moved on from his foot injuries for good. Graham played in 54 of New Orleans' 62 offensive snaps in the team's Week 13 Monday Night Football matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Saints were getting blown out and had no hope of winning the game, which was clear early on. The field was also in a poor way, including slippery conditions. Despite all of this, Graham played and the Saints continued to try and get the ball to him.

Graham had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, and was targeted nine times against the Seahawks. On the season, he has 68 receptions for 988 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Fantasy Impact: It's good to see Graham getting a full slate of playing time despite the fact that the Saints were out of the game. Graham should rebound nicely against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14. Fantasy owners should still consider Graham the top tight end in fantasy football and it's likely he'll prove that a couple more times before the end of this fantasy football season.


Bookmark and Share
(philly.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham catches 12th TD in MNF loss

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught three passes for 42 yards and one touchdown in Week 13 against the Seahawks.

Graham saw a team-high nine targets. He could have had a much bigger night had he been able to hold onto a couple passes that he took big hits on. Either way, Graham still led the Saints in receiving in a game which Drew Brees passed for just 174 yards on 38 attempts. Graham had the two biggest gains of the night. His touchdown came from two yards out in between three defenders. At the season's three-quarter pole, Graham is on pace to catch 90 passes for 1,317 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's an every-week top-two tight end.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham spends more time studying than ever thanks to diverse coverages

JimmyGrahamSaints
The possibility of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman guarding him Monday night is one of the major reasons why New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham spends more time these days watching film. That's because opponents are trying to implement anything they can to slow Graham.

But for the most part, nothing has worked. Graham entered Week 13 tied for the league lead in touchdowns with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Graham has been by far the Saints' most prolific offensive weapon for Drew Brees this season.

Graham said he's not sure if Sherman will defend him in one-on-one coverage Monday night when the Saints face the Seahawks. New England assigned its best corner, Aqib Talib, to Graham, who was held without a catch vs. the Patriots. But the way in which teams try to take Graham out of the Saints' offensive equation is more diverse than ever.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn't dropping any hints as to how Seattle will defend Graham, but added, "We think he's a great player, and it's going to take everything we've got to try and slow him down. That doesn't mean you will, even when you're trying that hard."

That's why Graham tries to plan for everything.

"You definitely try to learn the tendencies," Graham said. "More or less me, I just look at it across the board and learn everyone's tendencies, everyone's weaknesses, everyone's strengths because there's many times in a game when I'll have any one of the corners or safeties or linebackers on me split out in the slot or at the tight end position. 

"For me, it's all around getting a feel for what everyone does best and try to use that to my advantage."

Graham said only two games threw him off of what he anticipated in a defensive matchup: the second half of the Tampa Bay game in Week 2 when he was bracketed by two defenders and the majority of the game in New England when Talib defended him before leaving with an injury in the second half.

Graham described Talib's coverage as "a guy who has no responsibilities but to really just hold me."

But because of the way the Saints use him flexed out in formations in the role of a wide receiver, Graham said he finds himself studying players such as Calvin Johnson and the Texans' Andre Johnson to learn how they work their way through different coverages.

"I feel like these days I could be split out and run my sluggos (slant-and-go routes) or my seam routes and there was no help behind them," Graham said. "But you'll see now even looks where a cover 1 where a safety will cheat over my way. 

"Safeties used to not pay attention to me, but now it looks like they're instantly sprinting back to cover the seam route."

Saints coach Sean Payton said he pays a lot of attention to a team's game plan for  Graham during the course of a game.

"It's fairly common, and a lot of teams do this in the opening groups of plays," Payton said. "There's usually a mix of personnel to try and see (if) we are getting nickel or are we getting base and what are the matchups. I think that's pretty significant as to what we can gather early in the game and pay attention to how they're treating Darren Sproles or how they're treating certain personnel groupings."


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham joined all-timers (and not just with dunk)

JimmyGrahamSaints
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham brought down the house last night.

Figuratively, and nearly literally.

Graham even took to Twitter to apologize for bending the goalpost with his mighty two-handed dunk.

Of course, Graham did more than just tear up the furniture.

He finished the game with five catches for 100 yards. That’s his sixth 100-yard game this year. According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, that’s tied for the most in Saints franchise history and tied for the most by any player in the league this year (with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green).

It also tied Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez’s record for most 100-yard games in a season, which Gonzalez did in 2000 and 2004.

Considering he’s doing it all while dealing with a foot problem that has limited him this year, his feat of strength might not be the most impressive thing he’s doing.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham bends the uprights at the Georgia Dome with his dunking TD celebration

Uprights aren't meant to be dunked on, apparently.

We've all seen clips of basketball players like Shaq breaking backboards with their dunks back before the NBA started making breakaway rims. But we haven't seen the same thing translated to football, until Thursday night at the Georgia Dome when Jimmy Graham's dunking TD celebration got the uprights a bit askew:

bendy_medium

And it didn't snap back:

BENT1_medium

Personally, I think it would've been best if they'd just kinda left it that way and forced kickers to adjust. But apparently there are "rules" and stuff about the uprights being ... you know ... upright.

So they had to get out the bubble level:

LEVEL1_medium


Bookmark and Share
(sbnation.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Sees Increased Snaps

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEWS UPDATE
A week after playing in only 40 percent of the Saints' offensive snaps, Graham played in 51-of-69 snaps (74 percent) against the 49ers on Sunday, reports ESPN.com.

ROTOWIRE FANTASY ANALYSIS
Despite the marginal production -- six catches for 41 yards -- Sunday's snap count is a good indicator that Graham was able to manage his plantar fascitis in Week 11. So long as he can continue to play through the injury, he remains an elite option at tight end, particularly with a favorable Week 12 matchup on deck Thursday night in Atlanta.


Bookmark and Share
(rotowire.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham has six-catch afternoon

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught six passes for 41 yards in New Orleans' Week 11 win over the 49ers.

Graham was targeted 11 times one week after drawing only five, with two of them coming inside the 49ers' five-yard line. He couldn't turn either of his goal-line looks into a touchdown, however. Either way, Graham was a much bigger part of the offense after being suspiciously limited in Week 10 against the Cowboys. The Saints are playing in the Thursday night game for Week 12 — which is far from ideal for a player dealing with a painful foot injury — but Graham remains a top-two option at tight end.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham adjusting to limited role

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- Tight end Jimmy Graham played a limited role in the New Orleans Saints' 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, appearing in only 33 of 83 snaps. However, both Graham and coach Sean Payton indicated afterward that it was more of a pre-determined game plan to limit his snaps, rather than any indication of an injury setback.

Graham has been managing the pain of a partially-torn plantar fascia in his left foot since Week 6. He also suffered an unspecified elbow injury during Week 9. And he was limited throughout practice last week.

Graham was in and out of the lineup steadily throughout the night against the Cowboys. And when he was on the sideline, he was always in "ready position," waiting to hop back on the field. He never showed any signs of discomfort.

His limited role was noteworthy, though, because he had played 56 snaps the week before in a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.

"They just want to make sure that they're handling me the right way," Graham said after catching five passes for 59 yards against the Cowboys. "They really look to limit me at times. You know, I've got some issues. But you know, everyone does. So it's gonna be like that from week to week.

"You know me, personally obviously I want to be in on every play. But now it's kind of changing gears and getting used to sitting out for five to six plays and then going in and staying fresh and making sure you stay warm. That's not something I'm used to."

The most surprising thing about the way Graham was used against the Cowboys was how rarely he played when the Saints were in the red zone -- where he presents such a threat as a big, physical target. Graham leads the NFL with 10 touchdown receptions this season. And in his first game back from the foot injury two weeks ago, he played almost exclusively in the red zone.

Without getting into any specific details, Payton said Monday that Graham's role was "just predicated on the game plan and the work week."

It's likely Graham will see more red-zone snaps going forward as his specific game plan continues to evolve in future weeks.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham only played 33 snaps

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham (foot, elbow) played on just 33 snaps in Sunday night's win over the Cowboys.
A week after playing on nearly 77 percent of the snaps, Graham was back down around the 40 percent mark. He even sat out some red-zone opportunities, constantly shuttling on and off the field. Graham still ended up with five catches for 59 yards, but it's impossible to say when/if he'll be back to full strength. Plantar fascia injuries can be managed, but are often painful and only truly heal with rest. All that said, a 50 percent healthy Graham is still a top-three fantasy tight end weekly.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Cowboys view Jimmy Graham as wideout

JimmyGrahamSaints
IRVING, Texas -- At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, the New Orleans Saints list Jimmy Graham as a tight end.

That doesn’t mean the Dallas Cowboys view Graham as one.

“He’s a wide receiver for sure,” safety Barry Church said. “That’s what we’re going to treat him as in this game.”

Graham leads the Saints with 49 catches for 746 yards and his 10 touchdowns lead the NFL. On Oct. 13, the New England Patriots were able to hold him without a catch by putting cornerback Aqib Talib on him all over the field.

The Cowboys have had cornerback Brandon Carr follow some of their opponents’ top receivers all over the field. The last time was Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who had 329 receiving yards, but Carr helped limit Demaryius Thomas, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

Will the Cowboys be as extreme as New England? Maybe not. Sean Lee said it will be a team defense on Graham.

“I think in a lot of areas we’re going to have to make sure we know where he is on the field and whoever is on him will know, hey, the ball could be coming your way at any point,” Lee said. “And he’s a guy even if you’re on him, Drew Brees can put it in places and he can go to where, hey, he’s covered but he’s not covered.”

Technically Graham is a tight end and other tight ends have given the Cowboys trouble. San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught 10 passes for 136 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown. Denver’s Julius Thomas caught nine passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Myers of the New York Giants had seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. In last week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Kyle Rudolph had a 31-yard touchdown catch.

“Against elite quarterbacks we weren’t that good and against pretty good tight ends, they’ve been able to hurt us in the past,” Church said. “Hopefully the game plan we do have set up will switch that around and we’ll have a better day.”


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham very limited but scores twice

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught three passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8 against the Bills.
Graham was very limited. He may not have even played 20 snaps. Graham played in all red-zone packages but rarely was on the field in between the 20s. He was targeted just the three times. But if we learned anything today, it's that you never bench Graham if he's active. One touchdown came from 15 yards out as he powered through Da'Norris Searcy. The other was a 13-yard strike where Graham stretched his arm across the goal line before his knee hit the ground. Graham is battling a painful partially torn plantar fascia injury, but he's going to keep playing. Hopefully another week of rest will do him some good. The Saints travel to New Jersey to take on the Jets in Week 9.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Saints made last-minute decision on Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints didn't decide Jimmy Graham's (foot) Week 8 availability until just before game time.
Team doctors are confident Graham's partial plantar fascia tear cannot be aggravated, and his playing availability going forward will come down to pain tolerance. Graham managed to play under 20 snaps in Sunday's blowout win over the Bills, primarily playing in red-zone packages. He caught three passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints travel to face the Jets in Week 9.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham doesn’t practice Wednesday

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints were optimistic heading into the bye that tight end Jimmy Graham’s ankle would be healed in time for him to play in Week Eight against the Bills, but Wednesday’s practice went off without Graham on the field.

Graham was held out of practice and coach Sean Payton said on a conference call with Buffalo reporters that the team is going to evaluate things on a daily basis for the rest of the week.

“Each day we’ll just take a peek on how he’s progressing and be smart about it,” Payton said, via Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

Graham’s an important enough piece of the offense that the team probably won’t risk him if they think there’s too great a risk of aggravating the injury at this point in Graham’s recovery. He’s also an important enough piece that he could probably miss practice all week and still play if his ankle is feeling well enough.

Either way, we’re not likely to have definitive word on Graham’s status until Friday at the earliest.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Is Jimmy Graham just scratching the

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham may have emerged as the best tight end in football, but the 6-7, 265-pounder is still figuring out the nuances of the game.

“Every day I’m growing and every day I’m learning,” Graham told NFP. “I still feel like there’s a lot I can learn and a lot I can get better at.”

Now that the former University of Miami (Fla.) basketball player, who played just one season of college football, understands how to watch film, the fourth-year NFL star said he finally recognizes holes in the defense and more quickly realizes when he has one-on-one matchups.

“I feel light years ahead of where I was two, three years ago,” Graham said.

And his 2013 season may end up being ahead of every tight end in the history of the NFL. Even after getting held without a catch in Week 6 against the Patriots, he’s on pace for 1,581 yards, which would shatter the NFL single-season yardage record for a tight end. (Rob Gronkowski holds that mark of 1,327 yards set in 2011.)

After Week 5 Graham tied an NFL record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games for a tight end (4). He was the Offensive Player of the Month for September, the first tight end to receive such an award since the NFL began handing it out in 1986.

Graham attributes his spectacular 2013 performance to not only his continuing understanding of the game but also that he had an entire offseason to work with quarterback Drew Brees.

The previous offseason they missed time together because Brees, a free agent, was holding out. The NFL lockout occurred the year before, preventing workouts before the season.

“(This) was the first offseason where me and Drew really had the time and the chance to get all that work in,” he said. “I feel like me and him are on the same heartbeat right now. He definitely expects me to be certain places and knows I’m going to be there. There are certain situations he knows where I’m one-on-one, and he just throws it up to me. He has a lot of trust, a lot of faith in me.”

In addition to his synchronization with Brees, Graham cited another reason for his hot start. He was much healthier. That, of course, was before he hurt his left foot in Week 6. Preliminary reports indicate the injury is not serious.

That wasn’t the case last year when Graham battled right ankle and left wrist injuries and was limited to nine starts. The latter injury required offseason surgery and may explain his drop in production to 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns.

Sure, those were impressive numbers, but they represented a major decline from his breakout 2011 season when he had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. According to Stats, Inc., Graham led the league in 2012 with 13 dropped passes, a likely byproduct of his ailing wrist preventing him from properly catching the ball.

“Last year was a rough one for me,” Graham said.

This year the Saints have deployed him all over the field, a versatility that was on display as he burned the Bears for 135 yards on 10 catches during a 26-18 victory in Week 5.

“He’s a tough guy to stop,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “They use him as a wide receiver out on the perimeter. They use him inside.”

As a result, defenses are forced to be just as creative in how they try and contain him. The Bears threw the kitchen sink at him, rotating defenders, mixing coverages, using double teams and trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage.

“They were putting guys everywhere and making sure I wouldn’t get off the ball clean,” Graham said. “Every one on their secondary and every linebacker at some point had me.”

If there’s a particular route where Graham has had success, it may be the sluggo (also known as the slant-and-go). With opposing defenses so geared to stop the short route, Graham can set them up before torching them on a long go pattern.

“A lot of corners and safeties are just hungry for that big hit or to break up that slant,” Graham said. “Drew believes no matter what the defense is that I’m going to catch it.”

Although the Patriots held Graham without a catch in Week 6, they shadowed him with Aqib Talib, one of the game’s best cover cornerbacks, a treatment usually reserved for a team’s No. 1 wide receiver.

There’s the rub.

Graham is in the last year of his contract, and rumors have swirled that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, will ask for wide receiver — not tight end — money, which could approach $10 million a year — a major increase from Gronkowsi’s six-year, $54 million deal, the richest tight end contract in history.

But that’s a story for the upcoming offseason. For now Graham is just enjoying the benefits of the past offseason, his first one in years with Brees and one that brought him another step closer to fulfilling his limitless potential.

“He’s still hungry to learn,” Saints wide receiver Marques Colston said. “He’s only going to continue to get better.”


Bookmark and Share
(nationalfootballpost.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham likely questionable this

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is likely questionable for the game this Sunday against Buf-falo, although his lower leg injury is not expected to be a lingering problem, a source said Monday.

Graham was injured at the end of the Saints loss at New England on Oct. 13. The Saints had a bye this week. However, it’s unclear if that was enough time for Graham to get healthy enough for the next game against the Bills. Graham had 37 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season.


Bookmark and Share
(nationalfootballpost.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham negotiations

JimmyGrahamSaints
Graham will become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, and the Saints won't have a problem giving Graham that distinction.

I've confirmed the Saints sent their latest contract offer to Graham's camp two months ago, before he opened the season with monstrous numbers. Notice the use of "latest contract offer." The team has indeed been actively pursing a new deal for their best offensive weapon, but it takes two parties for negotiations to commence.

For now, Graham is content on playing under the terms of the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.323 million this season.

I wasn't made privy to the new terms discussed at the bargaining table, but my guess is the offer exceeded the contract signed by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski two years ago, which was a six-year deal reportedly maxing out at $54 million.

Graham's contract situation is reminiscent of the way talks began between the Saints and Drew Brees nearly two years ago before Brees ultimately received his lucrative extension.

After the Patriots' Tom Brady signed his deal in 2011 that made him the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, the Saints offered Brees a contract that would have surpassed Brady's. Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, passed on the initial offer.

It took two more seasons, a franchise tag and another four months before Brees and the Saints finally agreed to a then-record five-year, $100 million deal.
In 2011, Peyton Manning received the franchise tag by the Indianapolis Colts. It took Manning another five months to receive a long-term deal. Condon also represents Manning.

Unless something drastically changes, I would anticipate Graham's contract negotiations to play out in the same fashion as Brees and Manning. Why? Graham's agent is Jimmy Sexton, who works for the same firm as Condon -- Creative Artists Agency. 

Graham's camp might not only be looking for him to cash in as the highest-paid tight end in league history but also get a pay scale in line with elite receivers such as Detroit's Calvin Johnson (eight years, $132 million maximum) and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (eight years, $120 million). Graham leads the league in receiving yards even after last week's game against New England in which he was held without a catch. He's become one of the best skill position players in the NFL.

But the likelihood of Graham getting receiver-type money like Johnson or Fitzgerald is zero. 

How much is Graham seeking? It's not been made public, and the Saints may not even know as Pro Football Talk reported recently that Graham's representatives hadn't made a counterproposal.

At least the Saints knew Brees' asking price.

Here's how I predict the next several months will play out in negotiations between the Saints and Graham:

A new deal won't be reached this season.

The Saints will be forced to use the franchise tag on Graham, at a rate of about $6 million for next season - the average for the league's five highest-paid tight ends. I'm not buying he'll be tagged as a wide receiver.

The two sides eventually will strike a deal during the summer closer to Gronkowski's contract as opposed to the Johnson and Fitzgerald deals.

Saints fans, you should already be battle tested after Brees' contract tussle. Prepare yourself accordingly for another long process with Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham injury: Saints optimistic about return

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham is still being evaluated, but the Saints are optimistic that he'll be able to return after the team's Week 7 bye week, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Graham injured his left foot during the fourth quarter of New Orleans' loss to New England on Sunday.

Graham initially returned after having his foot taped up by the training staff, but he was not able to finish the game. He left for good with about five minutes remaining.

Graham was scheduled to have an MRI on the foot Monday. If the team's early optimism proves accurate, the tight end will be suited up and ready to go for the Saints' home game against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 27.

Graham was held without a reception for the first time this season in the loss to the Patriots. He has four 100-yard receiving games already and leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards on 37 receptions.


Bookmark and Share
(philly.com)
Comments

Saints give no update on Jimmy Graham injury

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints provided no update on Jimmy Graham's apparent left ankle/foot injury following Sunday's Week 6 loss.
Our guess is Graham avoided a serious injury because he was cleared to reenter the game, but later left for good. The Saints have a Week 7 bye for Graham to get his foot right. He finished Sunday's game without a catch for the first time since Graham's rookie season in 2010, when he was still learning to play football. Graham was a basketball player at Miami (FL).


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham shut out by Patriots

JimmyGrahamSaints
Foxborourgh, Mass. -- How to stop or even slow down New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had become one of this season's greatest unknowns throughout the NFL as Graham had transformed into the ultimate mismatch for the opposition.

Leave it up to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots to not only limit Graham, but completely shut him out in the Saints' 30-27 loss in Gillette Stadium.
Graham, the league's leader in receiving yards coming into the game, was held without a catch despite being targeted by Drew Brees six times. It's the first time since Oct. 31, 2010, his rookie year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Graham failed to catch a pass in a game.

Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib drew the assignment on Graham and stuck to him like a mosquito, giving Graham barely room to breathe much less catch a football. Payton referred to Talib as an elite cornerback leading up to the game and the Saints had to figure he would defend Graham at some point Sunday.
Payton said it wasn't all Talib, though, pointing more to a philosophy New England implements as a whole to slow down the opponent's primary weapon.

"The one thing they do a good job with is they disrupt you at the line of scrimmage really better than anyone," Payton said. "They do a really good job of getting hands on receivers and tight ends. They're very well-coached and disciplined. They did a very good job of that."

Payton may have been correct in his assessment as the Patriots held Graham 0-fer even after Talib left early in the third quarter with a hip injury and never returned.

"It seemed to be pretty consistent," Brees said. "Obviously at times and depending on the situation and personnel group, they did some things to Jimmy and to other guys. Listen, that's football. You know they're going to have a plan for you in every situation, red zone. You've got to find ways to combat it."

Patriots safety Devin McCourtey picked up Graham in one-on-one coverage on many snaps once Talib left the game and said the defense had incentive to shut down Graham.

"All week, we knew. All we kept hearing was, 'Jimmy Graham,' and we knew we'd have to come in and play," McCourtey said. "We'd have to play him tough, and you don't come in and say, 'We just want to contain him.' ... We've got to try to shut him down.

"That's the only way we'll have a chance to win this game, because if he has the type of games he's been having, we'll have no shot. It was a total team effort. Aqib did a great job early. We had a bunch of different guys -- Kyle (Arrington) had a big interception and a big play on the goal line against him. So guys stepped up and played tonight."

A lower left leg injury also slowed Graham after he leapt for a Brees pass late in the third quarter, which turned into an interception. Graham limped off the field after the play as trainers tended to his injury.

Graham returned later in the fourth quarter and played during the Saints' final touchdown drive, but he left the field with trainers after the drive. Payton wouldn't elaborate on Graham's injury, and Graham wasn't in the locker room during the postgame media availability.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

The Most Unstoppable Player in the NFL - NNL Whiteboard




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Belichick on the trouble with Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
FOXBOROUGH – The problem with New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whom the Patriots will see this Sunday in their Week 6 matchup, is that his sheer size and athleticism make him a matchup problem all over the field, says Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Graham stands 6-7, weighs 265 pounds and ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2010. He's caught 37 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season. The big tight end has seen the gamut of coverages, but he's still difficult to deal with. Whether defenses treat him like a tight end or a receiver, he's found ways to be successful.

"Treat him like whatever you want, but he is what he is," Belichick said. "He's big, he's fast, very athletic. Excellent ball skills, especially down the field. He can go up and rebound the ball away from pretty much anybody. They throw him a lot of jump-ball type plays. But he's quick, he's a big target. He's definitely a tough guy to cover.

"Everybody's tried everything. Tried to jam him at the line, linebackers on him, safeties on him, double cover him. Each team kinda got their own matchups, but he's seen a lot of different coverages. Man, zone, in and out, short and deep, jammed at the line of coverage. He's seen all of that."

Because of his receiving ability, it's conceivable he could draw the coverage of cornerbacks, which he has seen before, Belichick said.

"He's been matched up differently on different plays," Belichick said. "A lot of times he's split out. He's not always in the normal tight end position. Sometimes he's extended in a receiver type of look, so yeah he's [seen] corners."

The Patriots don't have a player in the secondary who comes close to Graham in size. Aqib Talib, who is 6-1, seems like a logical matchup. But the Patriots' closest defender in height is 6-3 linebacker Jamie Collins, who was a safety in college.


Bookmark and Share
(boston.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham earns historic honor

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham continues to raise the bar for the tight end position.

Graham was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday -- the first time a tight end has been so honored in either conference since the NFL started the award in 1986.

Graham caught 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns in four September victories.



"He's a big target. He's extremely athletic. He's got this fire and passion and will to succeed and to work at it. He wants to be great. That's all you want in a teammate and in a target," quarterback Drew Brees said of Graham on Wednesday. "A lot of times you take a player and it's like, 'OK, these are his strengths, but then he's got these weaknesses that we're going to stay away from and we're just going to try to utilize the strengths.' You then encounter certain players like Jimmy Graham and you just say, 'OK, this guy has the ability to have all strengths and no weaknesses.'

"He's not there yet, but he is far outweighed on the strength side than on the weakness side. You can sit there and say, 'Well, there's just not much that we can't do with this guy.' That's a good thing."

Graham ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards, behind only Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (481), and he is tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham is one touchdown shy of tying the league record for touchdown catches by a tight end through his team's first five games -- a mark shared by Antonio Gates (2010) and Mike Ditka (1963).


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham adds post-up game to his TD celebrations

GrahamPostUpMoveDunk

After catching a 27-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Saints and the Dolphins, former college basketball player and star tight end Jimmy Graham added a bit of an intro to the standard “dunk the ball over the uprights” touchdown celebration.

The “posting up the imaginary defender before dunking” move is now officially in Graham’s repertoire.

We wonder if he worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason to add that post move to his game, or if it just came naturally to him.


Bookmark and Share
(usatoday.com)
Comments

Graham fixed on proving self, not contract

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham stressed again Saturday that he is not concerned about his contract situation and is strictly focused on football -- something that has been working awfully well for the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The topic of Graham’s contract came up again because of a report by Pro Football Talk earlier in the week that said the Saints had made an offer at some unspecified point but Graham’s camp had not responded.

“I’m not really sure where all of these rumors are coming from, but for me, that whole situation isn’t important to me right now,” said Graham, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. “I know I’m going to keep going out and do what I do. Every Sunday and Monday, I’m going to go out and play football and play to the best of my abilities. The rest will take care of itself.”

When asked about how it’s become an increasingly hot topic among fans, who scream or tweet, “Pay him!” every time he does well, Graham laughed.

“You know, that comment is funny," Graham said. "I get paid every two weeks here. I’m not really sure what everybody is talking about."

“For me, it really is all football,” Graham added. “I’m a very hungry player right now. I feel like I have a lot to show. I’m going to try to do all I can to put the team in the best situation to win. So all the comments and the things that people say doesn’t faze me or get to me. I’m going to go out on Sunday and give all I have.”

Graham made no secret in the offseason about how determined he is to make up for what he considered a down year in 2012. Although he caught 85 passes for 982 yards and nine touchdowns last year, his performance wasn’t consistently up to his standard. He battled a wrist injury all year and led the NFL with 14 dropped passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This year, he certainly appears to be back in peak form. Graham has 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the NFL with 19 catches for first downs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has been credited with two drops.

“You know, this season for me is everything about proving the type of player that I am,” Graham said. “I feel like I disappointed myself last year and I wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to do. I mean, if you look at the stats, some people laugh at it because I had a decent year stat-wise. But as far as putting this team in the best opportunity to win and making the plays that I know I can make … so now I play with every emotion that I have in my body. I play because I feel like I have a lot to prove.”

Graham, who had wrist surgery immediately after last season, said his improved health has a lot to do with his improved play this year. He also said he and quarterback Drew Brees have seemed to lock in together well this year. And he said he’s been fortunate to wind up in single coverage in many situations.

“This offseason is the hardest that I’ve worked in, not only rehab but just on little things, you know, film room,” Graham said. “But I think more than anything, I’m playing with more emotion than I ever have.”


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham wins NFC Offensive Player of the Week award

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW ORLEANS —Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Graham caught nine balls for 134 yards and two touchdowns in New Orleans’ 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday.

Defensive end Greg Hardy of the Panthers won NFC Defense Player of the week, and Lions punter Sam Martin took home NFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

In the AFC, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (Offensive), Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston (Defensive) and Browns punter Spencer Lanning (Special Teams) won weekly honors.


Bookmark and Share
(wdsu.com)
Comments

NFL U Week 3 Photos

2013-09-22T193709Z_455804180_GM1E99N09FK01_RTRMADP_3_NFL
Ray Lewis on the Ravens Sideline.
17685357
Redskins S Brandon Meriweather.
17685580
Patriots DL Vince Wilfork.
JimmyGrahamSaintsSmoke
Saints TE Jimmy Graham enter the Superdome through the smoke.
17707834
Panthers TE Greg Olsen runs out of the tunnel before Carolina’s game versus the Giants.

Bookmark and Share
Comments

Unstoppable Jimmy Graham snags 2 more TDs

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught nine passes for 134 yards with two touchdowns in Sunday's 31-7 Week 3 win over the Cardinals.

The term unstoppable gets thrown around too much. With Graham, it's warranted. The Cardinals tried to use safety Yeremiah Bell on him in the first half and Bell got humiliated on a goal-line jump ball. In the second half, the Cards put top corner Patrick Peterson on him. No matter, as Graham beat Peterson on a slant for a touchdown. Over the last two games, Graham has piled up 19 catches for 313 yards with three touchdowns. His next victim will be the Dolphins on Monday Night Football in Week 4.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham not responding to extension offer

JimmyGrahamSaints
Citing multiple league sources, Profootballtalk.com reports the Saints recently extended an extension offer to Jimmy Graham, but Graham's camp has not responded.

Graham is absolutely shredding the league through three weeks, with four touchdowns and 358 yards. His value is at its absolute highest, so the Saints' offer would likely have to blow him away for Graham to sign now. If Graham makes it through the season without an extension, the Saints will likely slap him with the franchise tag. Graham would have a great argument to be tagged as a wide receiver rather than tight end, commanding more money.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham on Pace to Break NFL Record

JimmyGrahamSaints
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham put up more ridiculous stats during the Saints' 31-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals, including 9 catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers through three games this season put him well ahead of where he was at this point in 2011 by more than 100 yards receiving.

Here's a look at how Graham's performance so far in 2013 compares to his record-breaking performance in 2011. Will he keep this up? Will this be Graham's best season of his career?


Bookmark and Share
(sbnation.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham: Absorbing big hits part of his job

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham didn’t have much to add Friday to the conversation about whether or not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' safeties were taking dirty shots at Saints players last Sunday. Even though Graham himself absorbed the most vicious one of them all -- a brutal helmet-to-helmet shot from Ahmad Black.

“I know that I play in the noise down there in the seams and down the middle of the field. So, you know, it’s just all of ‘em are hits to me,” Graham said when asked if he was upset by the nature of the Buccaneers' illegal hits against himself and tailback Darren Sproles. “As long as I can get up and keep playing, that’s all I care about.”

Graham certainly did that, finishing the game with a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches.

When asked if he was feeling particularly sore the next morning, Graham said, “I feel pretty much the same every Monday morning. Not so great.”

“Yeah things hurt, obviously,” added Graham, who is listed at 6-foot-7, 265 pounds. “But that’s just football. You know, that’s how it is. It’s a collision sport. So if you expect to go into a game and play fairly decent and not get hit, then you’re very confused. It’s just part of the game, and that’s how it is.”


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Bar high for Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Geez. What does Jimmy Graham have to do to get noticed? The New Orleans Saints' star tight end had a career-best performance in Sunday’s 16-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 10 catches, 179 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn’t enough to earn him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (thanks to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 480-yard, four-touchdown performance).

Worse yet, Graham’s performance barely captured the attention of his own quarterback.

Drew Brees said Wednesday that he’s so used to such efforts from Graham at this point that he didn’t even realize the numbers his go-to guy was racking up Sunday.

“Walking away from it, had you asked me, ‘Hey, what do you think Jimmy’s numbers were today?’ I wouldn’t have thought it was that much. But I guess looking back on it, you start adding it up and you’re like, ‘OK,’” Brees said. “So I guess my point is, not that you have this expectation level, but you are just used to seeing a lot of those plays being made. It’s not like taking him for granted. But I think we all just expect that if we are not putting up 400-plus yards as an offense, score 30-plus points, running the ball well, throwing the ball well, hitting some big plays, doing these things … when those things don’t happen is when you notice.

“When they’re happening, it’s just like, ‘This is what we do.’”


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham has career day for Saints

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was absolutely too much to handle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Graham caught 10 passes for 19 yards and a touchdown in the Week 2 matchup on Sunday. The yardage mark was a career high (he actually set the career high mark in the first half alone), to go along with a stellar 17.9 average yards per reception.

Graham was the consistent weapon that leaded to the Saints edging out their NFC South rivals. Drew Brees threw for 322 yards and the touchdown, but he also had two interceptions, a rarity for one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Graham provided the only touchdown on the day and without him, the Saints wouldn't have been in a position to kick a game-winning field goal.

Fantasy Impact: Graham was the highest-drafted tight end on average in fantasy football, and this is exactly why. Safeties struggle to keep up with him and linebackers flat-out cant handle him. He's extremely good, and should have more games in this vein (though 179 yards, again, is a career high) and will continue to be a productive fantasy option. He's always a must-start and Sunday was solid confirmation of this.


Bookmark and Share
(philly.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham has 4/45/1 day in win

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown in New Orleans' Week 1 win over the Falcons.

A quiet day by Graham's standards, but the score should placate fantasy owners. Drew Brees simply wasn't locking onto any one pass catcher today, targeting seven different receivers at least three times. Graham's seven looks led the team. He remains a man with his own tier atop the tight end ranks.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

#NFLRank: Jimmy Graham at No. 11

JimmyGrahamSaints
The latest installment of #NFLRank is out and the list includes players ranked from No. 11 through No. 20 on both offense and defense.

As you might expect, there are no New Orleans defensive players on the list. But the Saints are represented by one offensive player.

That’s tight end Jimmy Graham, who came in at No. 11.

ESPN Stats & Information: Graham has been targeted 286 times over the past two seasons, tops among tight ends. Graham leads tight ends with 2,292 receiving yards over that span and has 20 touchdowns, second at his position behind Rob Gronkowski.

Yasinskas comment: Gronkowski’s been dealing with some health issues. Graham is healthy after playing most of last year with a wrist injury. That’s why I think this is the year Graham emerges as the NFL’s best tight end.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham donates cleats to Fifth Ward Junior High School’s football team

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham donated new cleats to the entire Fifth Ward Junior High School’s football team this week.

Graham established a relationship with the school last January, when he participated in a NFL Play 60 Super Bowl Challenge event at the school.

“When I was at the Play 60 event, I talked to the students about the importance of team,” said Graham. “I talked to them about how you always have to put the team first and hopefully with these new cleats they can win some games.”

Fifth Ward Junior High School Principal Christopher Oufnac was honored by the gesture from the New Orleans Saints tight end.

“It’s an unbelievable gift he gave to these kids,” Oufnac said. “The kids like them so much they don’t want to get them dirty. They jokingly said they are too nice of cleats to play in.”


Bookmark and Share
(neworleansaints.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham struggling in camp with dropped passes

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints' tight end has continued to struggle with occasional dropped balls during training camp -- a problem that plagued him last season. Graham dropped two passes Monday, one in team drills and one in 7-on-7 (though one could have been considered a pass break up).

Graham later bobbled a pass but hung on to make the catch in tight traffic for a third-down conversion during team red-zone drills. Physically, Graham has looked very good this summer, and I'm still expecting a monster year from him. But he needs to make sure the drops don't become a habit.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

VIDEO: 2012 New Orleans Saints Yearbook: Jimmy Graham




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham to recapture 2011 production?

JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Times-Picayune believes there's "every reason to expect" Jimmy Graham to re-reach his 2011 production after a somewhat disappointing 2012 season.

The fact that Graham's 2012 can be described as "somewhat disappointing" and he still outscored every other fantasy tight end reflects his dominant fantasy football value. Graham is in a contract year, has the NFL's premier playcaller back in Sean Payton, and is 100 percent healthy after battling wrist and ankle problems for much of last season. In 2011, Graham caught 99 passes for 1,310 and 11 touchdowns. During that '11 campaign, only four wide receivers -- emphasis on wide receivers -- scored more fantasy points than Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Ranking the New Orleans Saints' players: No. 2, Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
No. 2: TE Jimmy Graham 

Last Year's Rank: 2

Season: 4; Age: 26; Height: 6-7; Weight: 265

Don't worry. Graham isn't getting snubbed on this list like his stunning omission from this year's NFL Network's top 100 list, which is voted on by players around the league. Of course, Graham had a disappointing year in 2012 -- by his lofty standards, anyway. He led the NFL with 14 dropped passes, according to ESPN Stats and Information (he had 15 according to Pro Football Focus, though that service didn't rank him as the league leader). But even in that "down year," Graham still put up elite numbers for a tight end: 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games.

Graham is one of the most dynamic weapons ever to play the position in the NFL. Now he's fully healthy after battling a wrist injury that plagued him all of last season. And he insists that he is "hungrier than ever" to get back to an elite performance level. Throw in the fact that coach Sean Payton is back, and there is every reason to expect Graham's production to be closer to his incredible 2011 level (99 catches, 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns).


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Hernandez, Gronkowski struggles make Jimmy Graham look even better

JimmyGrahamSaints
Sandwiched between tight ends Rob Gronkowski (round two) and Aaron Hernandez (round four) in the 2010 draft was tight end Jimmy Graham.  A third-round pick of the Saints, Graham was the last tight end selected before Hernandez.

The Saints took Graham with pick number 95, and the Patriots took Hernandez 18 spots later.  In between, four receivers were selected — Mardy Gilyard (Rams; no. 99), Mike Williams (Bucs; no. 101); Marcus Easley (Bills; no. 107); Jacoby Ford (Raiders; no. 108).

It’s unknown whether the Saints wrestled with the choice of taking Graham or Hernandez.  The red flags were well known, and Hernandez’s history easily could have been a factor.  But Graham’s limited football career likely was an issue, too.  He played only one year at Miami.  Hernandez was the far more established and experienced player.

Regardless of how the Saints made their decision, they settled on Graham.  Of the three tight ends, he’s the only one still laboring under his rookie deal.

From Gronkowski’s injuries and surgeries and party-boy tendencies to Hernandez’s legal entanglements, Graham is looking like the best of the bunch.  And the Saints need to acknowledge that with a long-term deal.

To his credit, Graham hasn’t groused.  But if the team and the player can’t work out a multi-year contract, a franchise-tag fracas could be coming over whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver, given the number of times he lines up in the slot.

The best way to avoid that outcome would be to get a new agreement negotiated, and the best time to do it would be sooner rather than later.  The cap is a problem for now; according to NFLPA records, the Saints currently have roughly $5 million in total space.  But with all of their draft picks signed, the Saints wouldn’t have to clear much space to do a long-term deal with Graham, since the signing bonus would be spread over multiple seasons.

Graham’s refusal to make a stink, publicly or privately, about his status puts less pressure on the Saints to take care of him.  In turn, however, this attitude proves that Graham is far more worthy of the security than Hernandez, and possibly even more worthy than Gronkowski.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Saints once faced choice between Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW ORLEANS -- Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez?

New Orleans Saints officials had their choice of the two collegiate tight ends and other top prospects when it came time to make a selection in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. Both were available when the Black and Gold went on the clock at No. 95 on the night of April 23.

The Saints ended up taking Graham, a four-year basketball player at the University of Miami who caught the eye of Coach Sean Payton and team officials after playing only one season with the Hurricanes' football team.

Though Hernandez displayed first-round ability in three productive seasons at Florida, he entered the draft as a high risk/reward prospect and fell to the New England Patriots in the fourth round, 18 picks later.

Now we know why. He had issues.

Hernandez, 23, is facing a first-degree murder charge and multiple gun charges after being arrested in the shooting death of semipro football player Odin Lloyd. He remains in jail without bond and already has forfeited tens of millions in potential earnings after being dumped by the Patriots.

His career appears to be finished at the tender age of 23.

Just 26 with plenty of upside, Graham's future is extremely bright.

Already considered one of the NFL's top receiving tight ends after three seasons, Graham is entering the last year of a $2.455 million rookie contract that included a signing bonus of $665,140. He is scheduled to make a base salary of $1.323 million this season.

Yes, he has outplayed his contract (215 catches, 2,648 yards, 25 TDs) and stands to become a very rich man next offseason if allowed to become an unrestricted free agent.

Provided Graham stays on course this season, an educated guess says a deal will be struck before that happens, or, at the very least, team officials will place the franchise tag on him before the start of free agency ensuring he remains in New Orleans in 2014.

Lack of production in 2013 obviously could lower his value. A good season would retain his present value. A blockbuster season could elevate him to rarefied air.

Consider:

-- The Patriots signed Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension in August 2012 that included a $12.5 million signing bonus, the highest signing bonus paid out to an NFL tight end.

-- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (the 42nd overall pick in 2010) signed a six-year, $53 million extension months earlier in 2012, the richest contract for a tight end in NFL history. That included $16.5 million in guaranteed money.

-- Other high-paid NFL tight ends include San Francisco's Vernon Davis ($23m guaranteed), San Diego's Antonio Gates ($20.4m guaranteed), St. Louis' Jared Cook ($19m guaranteed), Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis ($19m guaranteed) and Seattle's Zach Miller ($17m guaranteed), among others.
So where does Graham fit?

When all is said and done, maybe at the top of the tight end heap, $10 million to $12 million annually in Nw Orleans or elsewhere. Time will tell.

If Graham continues to be deployed in the Saints' high-octane offense as a wide receiver for a high percentage of snaps this season, don't be surprised if Graham's representative (Jimmy Sexton of CAA) tries to get his client WR-type money and not tight end type money at the bargaining table.

For a cap-strapped team like the Saints, the distinction could mean the difference in Graham staying in New Orleans or leaving for greener pastures. The 2013 franchise tag for a tight end was $6m, $10m for a wide receiver.

That, too, is a topic for another day.

Meantime, Graham will continue to freely chase his NFL dream while Hernandez can only dream of becoming free one day.

We know where Graham stood on the Saints' draft board. And while it's unknown where Hernandez stood, Saints officials clearly made the right choice on that April day in 2010, hands down.

Or, in the case of Aaron Hernandez' arrested development, hands up.


Bookmark and Share
(sportnola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham: A Tale of Two Seasons

JimmyGrahamSaints
Most Saints fans would consider last season a "down" year for tight end Jimmy Graham. A little ridiculous when you consider he put up 982 yards receiving and scored 9 touchdowns. Still, everything's relative, and compared to his record-breaking 2011 campaign those numbers actually were a drop off.

Which puts Graham at a crossroads of sorts as he looks toward the upcoming 2013 season. Down one path is a bounce back to another freakishly godlike year, complete with 1,200+ yards and 10+ touchdowns. Down the other is a return to normalcy, an above average performance at best with stats that stay within the stratosphere.

And therein lies one of this off-season's biggest questions: Which Jimmy Graham shall we expect to see in 2013? You could also ask the question another way: Was Jimmy Graham's 2011 season an anomaly? Either way, the answer is exactly what Saints fans everywhere are eager to learn this year.

As much as I hate to say it, my gut tells me we won't ever see anything from Graham like we did two years ago, so my confidence is tempered. It's also probably a bit unreasonable to expect. But I'm genuinely curious to know what all of you guys out there think.


Bookmark and Share
(sbnation.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham snubbed in 'Top 100' list?

JimmyGrahamSaints
When Rob Gronkowski landed at No. 25 on the NFL Network's "The Top 100 Players of 2013," the New England Patriots star also became the list's final tight end to make the cut.

Gronk's inclusion is a no-brainer, but a grievous oversight has bubbled up: New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was left out in the cold.

Graham -- with 85 receptions, 982 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine starts last season -- was deemed less worthy by his peers than the likes of Antonio Gates (No. 73), Heath Miller (No. 97) and Dennis Pitta (at No. 100).

While the "Top 100" holds its own as breezy, offseason fare, Graham's omission reveals its true nature as a raging farce.

Yes, Graham battled injuries last season, but he played through the pain to catch more passes than all but Jason Witten (No. 41) and Tony Gonzalez (No. 47) among the list's tight ends. Pitta, Miller, Gates, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez all caught fewer passes.

Ask the Atlanta Falcons -- scorched for seven receptions, 146 yards and two touchdowns in early November -- if Graham is a top 100 player. Or the Carolina Panthers, who allowed Graham to slash them for nine catches, 115 yards and a touchdown in the season finale.

Graham scored in eight games and had five or more receptions in 11 appearances during a season that required wrist surgery when it was over. Saints coaches are intimately familiar with Graham's versatility. He's used not only as a tight end, but you'll find him split out wide on a regular basis, furnishing the Saints with a field-stretching mismatch.

Entering his contract season in 2013, Graham is betting on a big campaign, but either way, he's fully worthy of the "Top 100." There's no bigger blotch on the player-generated voting results than this.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham feels healthy

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham (wrist) feels like he is back to 100 percent after enduring a wrist injury in 2012 which lingered for most of the season. He was wearing a small brace on his wrist during offseason practices to make sure nothing happened.

Fantasy Tip: Graham still had a productive season in 2012 despite his injury. He is viewed as the slam-dunk No. 1 fantasy TE heading into 2013, especially since he is in a contract year and New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is such a question mark after multiple surgeries.


Bookmark and Share
(kffl.com)
Comments

Disappointed by his injury-plagued 2012, Jimmy Graham, now healthy, expects better

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, Louisiana — Jimmy Graham talks about his performance last season as if it were an enormous disappointment.

Forget that many tight ends would have been pleased to make 85 catches — which led the Saints in that category — for 982 yards and nine touchdowns.

Those totals still represented a drop-off for the 6-foot-7 Graham, who had one the best seasons ever for someone at his position in 2011.

"This is probably the hungriest I've ever been to kind of right the wrongs of last year and to prove what this team can do and maybe hush up some of the naysayers," Graham said. "So for me it's all work and doing as much as I can to be the best player I can."

Graham, a converted college basketball player drafted out of Miami in 2010, became a Pro Bowl tight end in only his season NFL season, when his 99 catches for 1,310 yards 11 TDs helped New Orleans' record-setting offense rack up the most yards ever in a season with 7,474.

The only tight end ever to have more yards receiving in a season than Graham is New England's Rob Gronkowski, who had 1,327, also in 2011.

Graham had hoped he would only get better in Year 3, but was hampered for much of the season by a left wrist injury and also missed one game with an ankle sprain.

Graham was plagued by dropped passes. And while he won't blame it on the wrist injury, for which he wore a brace, quarterback Drew Brees was certain it didn't help.

"He was banged up quite a bit last year in his defense," Brees said. "He's had an offseason now to recover and be on the mend. He feels a lot better."

Graham had wrist surgery after last season. Although he said he is not fully recovered yet, Graham has made several acrobatic catches in non-contact, offseason practices, including a leaping, one-handed grab on a throw to the end zone that delighted fans who flocked to open minicamp practices this week.

"I've been in rehab and I've been getting stronger," Graham said. "Right now I'm almost 100 percent, so going into camp I'll be 100 percent. And it just feels good. It feels good to be healthy finally and to be back playing like me."

In addition to feeling better physically, Graham said he's drawn confidence from a couple other developments. One is that Brees has been working with him throughout the offseason, which did not happen a year ago while the star quarterback was holding out for a new contract.

The other is having coach Sean Payton, who designed the offense, back from his season-long suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation of the club.

"It feels like it did two years ago. We are right on pace and guys are learning," Graham said. "I'm definitely excited for what is going to happen this year and for everything to start to count."

Maturity is another factor. For the first time, Graham enters a season as the Saints tight end who has been on the roster the longest. Gone are previous mentors Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas.

"That's definitely different," Graham said. "I've always had somebody there to kind of teach me and to kind of follow them. Now it's a little bit more on my shoulders. ... I'm definitely getting a little older, I'm learning a lot more about defenses this year, and I think that's what is going to help."

Notes: Payton said he has not decided who will call the offensive plays this season. In 2011, he stopped doing it after he was injured in a sideline collision in the sixth game of the season, taking more of an oversight role while the offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael called plays. Last season Carmichael again called all the plays while Payton was suspended, and the Saints' offense ranked second in total yards. "Pete has been invaluable. He has been tremendous," Payton said. "His role will be significant."


Bookmark and Share
(tribtown.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham 'hungry' to play for New Orleans Saints

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham is coming off a down year.

At least, by his crazy standards. Graham finished 2012 with 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints. Strong numbers, no doubt, but well off the production of his 2011 season, which was one of the greatest ever had by a tight end.

Graham wants to get back to that level.

"I'm a hungry player. And this is probably the hungriest I've ever been, to kind of right the wrong of last year, to prove what this team can do and maybe hush up some of the naysayers," Graham said Tuesday, according to The Times-Picayune. "So for me, it's all work and doing as much as I can to be the best player I can."

A wrist injury plagued Graham all of last season, certainly playing a role in his issue with dropped passes. Graham said he's feeling like himself again after surgery in January.

"Everything's going well," Graham said. "I've been in rehab and I've been getting stronger. Right now, I'm almost 100 percent, so going into camp I'll be 100 percent. And it just feels good. It feels good to be healthy finally and to be back playing like me."

Look out for Graham. He's healthy and motivated, and he's already proved what he's capable of when he gets locked in with Drew Brees. Don't be surprised if he is the game's most productive tight end in 2013.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

PHOTO: Jimmy Graham flies plane over New Orleans

JimmyGrahamFliesOverNO

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is soaring to new heights -- literally.

The Pro Bowl star manned the cockpit in a small plane Wednesday and took a ride over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

You can see him huddled in the front seat -- apparently a bit tight for his 6'7" frame -- of the picture above.

Last week Graham announced he had reached a next level of pilot certificaton.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Saints' Watson to make more than Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
The New Orleans Saints apparently view tight end Benjamin Watson as something more than just a backup.

The proof is in his pay.

In a twist of fate, Watson will make more than $700,000 more than what starter Jimmy Graham does in total cash this year. According to numbers obtained by ESPN.com, Watson will earn $2.15 million this season, while Graham will make $1.323 million in 2013.

Anyone else out there thinking about a possible holdout by Graham if he doesn’t get an extension (and a big raise) of a rookie contract he clearly has outplayed?

For the record, Watson’s three-year deal is worth $4.95 million. He got a $1.2 million signing bonus and a $950,000 first-year base salary. Watson’s 2014 salary jumps to $1 million and he has a $250,000 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus.

In 2015, Watson’s salary will be $1.2 million and he also will have a $250,000 roster bonus and a $50,000 workout bonus.

I’ve also obtained the numbers on some other contracts recently signed by New Orleans players. Receiver/special teams player Courtney Roby got a one-year deal worth $905,000. But the Saints designated Roby as a veteran minimum benefit player, meaning his cap figure for this year is just $555,000.

The Saints did a similar maneuver with linebacker Ramon Humber. His one-year deal is worth $740,000. But the veteran minimum benefit puts his cap number at $550,000.

According to my calculations, the Saints are roughly $3.3 million under the cap.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham 2012-2013 Highlights




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham Calls New Secondary Coach Wesley McGriff a Good Fit for Saints

JimmyGrahamSaints
TE Jimmy Grahamicon-article-link was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft with just one year of college football experience.

In that one year of collegiate action at Miami, Graham faced a Hurricane secondary led by Wesley McGriff in practice.

On Monday, the Saints hired McGriff as their secondary coach.

McGriff spent last season as the co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach at the University of Mississippi. McGriff helped the Rebels improve from a 2-10 campaign in 2011 to a 7-6 record in 2012.

Before joining the Rebels, McGriff spent one year at Vanderbilt where he served as defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator after spending four years as Miami’s defensive backs coach.

Graham said he is excited about McGriff joining the Saints and says the 22-year coaching veteran is a great fit for the black and gold.

“Coach McGriff will be a great addition to our team,” said Graham. “His experience and work ethic along with being an excellent teacher will make him an asset to our team.”

Graham said the thing that impressed him the most about McGriff was his ability to develop young defensive backs.

In 2011, McGriff tutored senior Casey Hayward to All-America status at Vanderbilt. The Packers drafted Hayward in the second round of the NFL Draft last season and he finished third in the Associated Press voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading all NFL rookies with six interceptions.

Other notable NFL defensive backs that McGriff has coached on the collegiate level include New York Giants S Kenny Phillips, Green Bay Packers DB Sam Shields, Houston Texans CB Brandon Harris and New York Jets DB Yeremiah Bell.

As excited as Graham is for McGriff’s arrival in the Crescent City, the Saints tight end offered some friendly banter to the newest Saints coach.
“I'm looking forward to seeing frustration on his face the first chance we scrimmage in the redzone,” joked Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(neworleanssaints.com)
Comments

No talks between Saints, Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Last year, two of the premier tight ends from the 2010 draft got long-term deals.  Neither is named Jimmy Graham.

For now, it looks like Graham won’t be getting a new deal this year, either.

Per a league source, the Saints and Graham currently are not talking.  And there’s no indication that they will.

In 2012, the Patriots were able to entice tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to take long-term deals that paid much more than what they were due to make over the balance of their four-year rookie deals.  And if the Saints had offered such a deal to Graham last year, maybe he would have been inclined to bite.

Now, Graham is a year away from free agency.  As he gets closer to completing his rookie deal, Graham will want something closer to market value.

And while the Saints have the luxury of the franchise tag, a fight could be looming over whether Graham should be tagged as a tight end or a receiver.  In the end, the level will be determined by where he lines up the majority of the time in 2013.

Regardless of Graham’s official position, it’s easy to argue that he should be paid like a top receiver.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Jimmy Graham Talks Madden Video Games




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham says everything is going well with injured left wrist

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham tried his best to conceal his injured left wrist from opponents throughout the 2012 season by taping both hands almost exactly the same on gameday. There was no concealing the injury Wednesday afternoon, though.

Graham donned a  black cast on his surgically repaired left wrist during a press conference for the NFL's Play 60 program at the NFL Experience at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Graham was asked to fill in at the Pro Bowl last week, but couldn't because of his wrist injury.

"I had surgery a couple of weeks ago and everything is going well," Graham said. "I'm going to start working out and doing rehab and just managing it for next fall."

Graham didn't go into any other details about the extent of his injury. Graham is entering the final year of his contract in 2013. While the amount of dropped passes Graham endured was alarming, he still towered over most tight ends in 2012 with 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham's recovery from surgery 'going well'

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW ORLEANS -- Sharing a stage with the Gronkowski brothers and Andrew Luck, Jimmy Graham easily was the most popular man on the stage at Wednesday's Play 60 event at the NFL Experience.

Logical, given Graham's lofty standing as a hometown hero in the Big Easy. After he spoke to a large gathering of children at New Orleans' massive convention center, we caught up with the New Orleans Saints' star tight end.

Graham has started rehab following surgery this month to repair a lingering wrist injury, saying "everything's going well" in the recovery process. He was asked if he's spoken to Saints coach Sean Payton since his bounty-related suspension was lifted.

"I haven't talked to him yet, I was going to go by his office today, been very busy as you can see," he said. "I'm just glad to have him back. He's our leader. I'm just ready to really sit down and speak with him and see what he did with his time off."

Payton wasted no time tending to business after his reinstatement, quickly firing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive backs coach Ken Flajole. Was Graham surprised by the moves?

"For me, I'm not really into hiring and firing, I just play the game," Graham said. "Sean knows what he's doing, obviously he's in my opinion the best coach in the NFL. He's going to do what's right for the rest of us."


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Jimmy Graham visits winning school for Play 60 event




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham to Fifth Ward Junior High

JimmyGrahamSaints
Super Bowl 2013 has come to St. Tammany. Fifth Ward Junior High took center stage Jan. 29 when NFL Play 60 Super Bowl Challenge found its way to the tiny community of Bush in northeast St. Tammany Parish. 

New Orleans Saints players Jimmy Graham and Akiem Hicks, as well as current Team Ambassador and former Saints wide receiver Michael Lewis, visited Fifth Ward as part of the event. The school was selected as the grand prize winner in the Play 60 contest and was one of only a handful of area schools that had 100-percent participation in the program.

Play 60 was launched in 2007 and is designed to tackle childhood obesity by encouraging young people to enjoy at least 60 minute of daily physical activity.

Graham arrived at 9:30 a.m. and was greeted by a packed house of students, teachers, parents, school system administrators and more. The Saints standout tight end walked the halls of the school where he gave "High Fives" to each student, stopping briefly to sign a few autographs in the school’s office. Once inside the Fifth Ward gymnasium, Graham spoke to the crowd about fitness, health and nutrition and took time to answer a few of the students’ questions.

When Graham was told that the school won its first football game in 12 years this season, he pledged to buy cleats for the entire squad next season.

“What an amazing blessing that was,” said Fifth Ward Principal Christopher Oufnac.

The opportunity to have Graham speak to his students was equally special, Oufnac said.

"To hear his story, how our school and our community looked so familiar to him, that meant a lot to me and to the kids," Christopher Oufnac said.

Graham grew up in a rural area before finding his way to the University of Miami and, eventually, stardom in the Crescent City.

“When I found out he was coming, it brought goosebumps,” Oufnac said. “To hear his story, how our school and our community looked so familiar to him, that meant a lot to me and to the kids.”

Not even a hiccup in scheduling could affect the school’s excitement. Oufnac said Hicks and Lewis were delayed in reaching Fifth Ward when they accidently wound up at Fifth Ward Elementary in Reserve, La. The fact that the duo still made their way from the River Parishes to rural St. Tammany was not lost on Oufnac.

“How great is that?,” he said. “They wind up at the wrong school, but still came to Bush to see us. What is that, a two-hour drive? My hat’s off to the Saints, the NFL, and the players.”

Hicks and Lewis joined Graham in an interactive session of physical activities with the kids later in the morning. Students rotated through five different stations, where they enjoyed jumping rope, a football relay, a lightweight lifting station, a shuttle run, and a chance to play a Microsoft Xbox hurdling game.

“Watching (Hicks and Lewis) compete in that (Xbox) race, they both wanted to win,” Oufnac said. “They were like the kids. It was intense.”

The excitement doesn’t die down just yet for the Fifth Ward community. On Jan. 30, approximately 160 students will travel to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans where they will participate in the NFL Play 60 Kids Experience. Fifth Ward also received $2,500 in athletic equipment and physical education gear by winning the Play 60 grand prize.

Parish students at Abita Springs Middle, Lancaster Elementary in Madisonville, Pine View Middle in Covington, and Brock Elementary, Mayfield Elementary and Carolyn Park Middle, all in or near Slidell, will also take part in the Play 60 Kids Experience in New Orleans.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham on the mend following wrist

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is on the mend after undergoing wrist surgery earlier this month.

The surgery prevented Graham from making a trip to the Pro Bowl as he was a first alternate and Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings got the nod instead after Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons backed out of the game earlier this week.

Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Graham battled through the wrist injury for the majority of the season but never missed a game or a practice because of it. He caught 85 passes for 982 yards with nine touchdowns but Graham led the NFL with 14 dropped passes, perhaps a result of the injury.


Bookmark and Share
(nationalfootballpost.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham had to turn down Pro Bowl after wrist surgery

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had surgery to repair his lingering wrist injury earlier this month, a league source confirmed. As a result, Graham had to turn down the opportunity to play in the Pro Bowl when starter Tony Gonzalez also pulled out of the game with an injury this week.

Graham was the first alternate for the NFC all-star squad. Instead, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph went to Hawaii in place of Gonzalez and Graham.

The exact nature of Graham's surgery is unknown. But he will likely have plenty of time to recover before summer camps and training camp. The Saints revealed late in the 2012 season that Graham had been fighting through the nagging injury for the entire season - though he never missed a game or practice because of the wrist injury.

Graham still had a productive season, with 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games played (he missed one game with an ankle injury).
However, he struggled with dropped passes throughout the year. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham led the NFL in 2012 with 14 drops.

The wrist surgery, combined with the return of Saints coach Sean Payton, should help inspire a "bounce-back" season for Graham. And if 982 yards and nine touchdowns is a "down" year, then Graham and the Saints should be in awfully good shape. 


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham dropped 15 of 100 catchable passes this season

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham dropped 15 of 100 catchable passes in 2012.

It's five more drops than any other tight end in the league. The normally sure-handed Graham -- who still led the Saints in catches with 85 -- has a built-in excuse in his season-long wrist woes. He'll have a ton of bounce-back appeal in 2013 with dynamic play-caller Sean Payton reinstated and his wrist presumably returning to 100 percent.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham on the fumble recovery and more

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0">


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham's hustling heroics epitomize gritty New Orleans Saints win

JimmyGrahamSaints
Arlington, Texas - Moments after the New Orleans Saints' exhilarating 34-31 win against the Cowboys on Sunday, David Thomas found Jimmy Graham in the crowded intersection at midfield and emphatically embraced him in a hug.

Graham had just made perhaps the most significant play of his budding career and it had nothing to do with the skills that will make him a perennial Pro Bowler.
Normally, the 6-foot-6 wunderkind beats opponents with his extraordinary height and hands. This time he did it with his heart and hustle.

"That's why we hustle! That's what we do!" Thomas shouted at his friend and position mate. "You did this! You got this win for us!"

Graham's heroics were a fitting end to a fatiguing afternoon for the Saints. They symbolized the resolve of the entire Saints team, which outfought and outplayed the Cowboys in their pigskin palace in a game the home team had to have to keep pace in the NFC playoff race.

With nothing to play for other than pride, the Saints admirably battled as if there was no tomorrow for four quarters and four and a half minutes of overtime.

On a day when they ran an astonishing 91 offensive plays, none was more critical than their final one, when Graham ignored injury and exhaustion to run down Marques Colston's fumble and preserve a shot at Garrett Hartley's game-winning field goal.

Just two plays earlier, Graham had raced to the sideline in excruciating pain, the ring finger on his right hand dislocated and bent sideways at an anatomically incorrect angle.

But the swollen finger or the achy wrist that has hampered him all season were not on his mind when Graham watched Colston's fumble bound inexplicably toward the Cowboys' goal line in overtime.

"I didn't think about the finger," Graham said. "It felt like a loose ball on the basketball court, and I had to dive in and get it. I've been diving on hardwood since I was a little kid."

Indeed, if the Saints could have picked a player to run down a loose ball, they undoubtedly would have selected Graham, a former power forward who led the University of Miami in rebounding in his senior season.

"I was watching Jimmy and I said if there's one that can get this thing it's Jimmy," quarterback Drew Brees said. "He just reverted to being the enforcer on the basketball court in the paint, muscling guys around, boxing them out. ... Jimmy was not going to allow anybody to prevent him from jumping on that ball. When he came up with that ball, that's when I knew we had it."

The play shouldn't have surprised anyone in black and gold or blue and silver. Two years ago, safety Malcolm Jenkins exhibited similar drive to run down Roy Williams and desperately force a game-deciding fumble just before the Cowboys wide receiver crossed the Saints' goal line.

The Saints won that day 30-27. The circumstances and final score were nearly identical Sunday. The only difference was Graham's heroics came at the opposite end of the field as Jenkins'.

"That's just what this team does," Graham said. "We've got a lot of resolve. We've been through so much. We all give all we have."

That it came from Graham, one of the team's few true superstars, and against the Cowboys, a team known more for its style than its substance, made the play all the more satisfying and appropriate.

"That last play kind of exemplified the whole course of the game," center Brian de La Puente said. "We're never going to quit. This team has such good character. We're fighting every last play to get that win."

Indeed, if suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton was watching the game - and you know he most certainly was somewhere - then it's hard to imagine him walking away from this team after seeing their effort and attitude throughout this adversity-filled season.

After all, it was Payton who once described the NFL as a league made up of 10 to 12 solid, smart, functioning clubs and a bunch of others "just swimming in circles."

The Cowboys, winners of just one playoff game in the past 16 seasons, might qualify as one of those circle-swimmers, despite their hefty payroll and billion-dollar stadium. If they fail to beat Washington next week they will have missed the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

By contrast, the Saints have a chance to record the same 8-8 record despite the NFL's draconian Bountygate sanctions. As 8-8 records go, the Saints' would definitely qualify as  the glass half-full version compared to the Cowboys' half-empty. It'd have been easy to fold up the tent after the embarrassing loss to the Giants two weeks ago. Instead, the Saints fought and scratched their way to a pair of impressive wins against opponents with playoff aspirations.

As he left the locker room Sunday, Graham had the claw marks on his triceps and a taped-up right ring finger to prove it.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham might miss out on Pro Bowl, thanks to Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten

JimmyGrahamSaints
Sunday's game will almost certainly feature a Pro Bowl tight end. But which one?

The Saints' Jimmy Graham and the Cowboys' Jason Witten are battling for just one spot on the NFC roster alongside future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is having a turn-back-the-clock season with the Atlanta Falcons in what might be his final season at age 36 (87 catches, 880 yards, eight touchdowns).

Witten has the stronger case, since he already has 97 catches and 923 yards, and he's on pace to break Gonzalez's record for catches by a tight end in a season (102 in 2004). That's especially impressive considering he began the year with a frightening spleen injury. Graham, meanwhile, has had a down year by his standards with 67 catches and 779 yards.

However, Witten only has two touchdowns, while Graham has eight. And Graham has become the higher-profile player after his breakout season in 2011. Graham finished ahead of Witten in the fan voting (both behind Gonzalez), which accounts for one-third of the selection formula along with player and coach votes.

The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced on Dec. 26. And there is a real chance that the Saints might get shut out for the first time since 2007.

(nola.com)
Comments

proCanes Players of Week 15

LeonardHankersonSkins
Co-Offensive Players of the Week:

Leonard Hankerson: proCane Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson caught two passes for 56 yards with two touchdowns in the Redskins' Week 15 win over the Browns. Hankerson made the most of his two targets. His first score came when he blew past Sheldon Brown and Kirk Cousins threaded the needle between three Browns for a 54-yard score in the first quarter. His second touchdown came on a simple goal-line bootleg from Cousins. Don't chase these plays as Hankerson continues to rotate with Josh Morgan opposite No. 1 target Pierre Garcon.

Andre Johnson: proCane Texans WR Andre Johnson caught 11 balls for 151 yards and a touchdown as the Texans defeated the Colts 29-17 in Week 15.
He was targeted 13 times, a game high on either side of the ball. Johnson was truly dominant against Colts top CB Vontae Davis, consistently winning 50:50 balls in the air and scoring from three yards out on a rub route deep in the red zone. Johnson has reasserted himself at age 31 as a top-five NFL receiver and likely future Hall of Famer. The past eight games have been the most productive stretch of Johnson's career, averaging 8.4 catches and 119.6 yards per game. He needs just seven receptions and 140 yards to join Marvin Harrison as the only receivers with at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards in three seasons. Andre Johnson also topped 11,000 career receiving yards this week

Honorable Mention: Travis Benjamin WR Browns, Jimmy Graham TE Saints, Frank Gore RB 49ers.

CalaisCampbellCards
Defensive Players of Week:

Calais Campbell: proCane Cardinals DE Calais Campbell in his first game back from a calf injury played his best all-around game since Week 2 at New England despite still dealing with the lingering effects of a calf injury that sidelined him for a month. He wasn’t in pain while he recorded eight tackles, four for losses, a sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection, but his calf wasn’t completely healed either.
Honorable Mention: Sam Shields DB Packers

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season though this week he only had two punts but made them count. Bosher’s two punts totaled 100 yards with a long of 61 yards, and average of 50 yards and one touchback.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham says he's been nursing a wrist injury since training camp

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he's been dealing with a left wrist injury since preseason.

Graham said on gamedays he mimics the tape job on both wrists to conceal the injury from opposing defenders and wouldn't say Friday which wrist is injured. Graham hasn't been on the injury report all season with his wrist injury.

"It has been pretty bad since preseason," Graham said. "But I'm not the only one dealing with issues and dealing with injuries. I played through a lot of stuff and unfortunately, I've played every game this season pretty banged up but so has everyone else in this locker room."

Graham said he wasn't sure if the wrist injury has hampered his performance this season. The Pro Bowl tight end has 64 catches for 710 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

"Catches and blocking has been painful this year but that's everybody," Graham said. "Everybody on this team has had some issues and is having issues. I can't use that as a crutch. I'm out there on Sunday's and I've got to produce."

When asked if he would need to have a procedure to fix his wrist injury in the offseason, Graham said he will know more once he has an MRI as it sounds like Graham will try to play the rest of the season in pain.

"I think it's (Graham's wrist injury) has been ongoing all season," Vitt said. "This time of the season and you're into Week (15) and you're going to have little nicks. ... But I think Jimmy has done a real good job of working through his nicks."

Graham miss one game this season with a ankle injury when the Saints beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 21.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

VIDEO: Jimmy Graham to make 'toon guest appearance in 'NFL Rush Zone'

New Orleans Saints stars Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham will appear in ‘toon form in Friday’s (Dec. 14) episode of Nicktoons’ “NFL Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians.” The episode airs locally at 8 p.m. It repeats at 6 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 15) on the NFL Network.

Rush Zone Clip 1 from Jessica Wilson on Vimeo.



Rush Zone Clip 2 from Jessica Wilson on Vimeo.



The network’s episode description:

In this episode, hometown hotshot Troy challenges Ish on the field and in the HOK when Ish learns that Troy has been selected as the next Guardian. But it's Troy who has to learn a lesson in humility, when he oversteps his new powers and ends up trapped in the Saints’ new Super-Secure Megacore vault with Drop Kick. Saints quarterback Drew Brees and tight end, Jimmy Graham, join the Guardians to battle a squad of Blitz Botz inside the Superdome.

The NFL Rush Zone site.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Stock Watch: Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Falling: Jimmy Graham, tight end, Saints. His numbers aren’t terrible, but Graham’s not having the kind of season I expected in his second year as a full-time starter. I thought he’d take a big step forward from last year, but that hasn’t happened. Graham is playing with a wrist injury and dealt with other injuries early in the season. He’s been adequate, but not dominant. He hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in the last three games.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Still Motivated By Doubters

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Grahamicon-article-link has overcome tremendous obstacles his entire life. He accomplished what others said he never would, and he’s not done yet.

“Most people, even people that I knew, laughed in my face when I told them I was going to play football,” said Graham, a former basketball standout for the University of Miami. “I think I’m only going to improve.”  

That attitude, paired with an exceptional drive and work ethic fostered over a lifetime of competitiveness, has allowed Graham to become one of the most dominant tight ends in the National Football League in just his fourth year playing football.  

The former Hurricane played basketball in Coral Gables, Fla. for four seasons. After years of being labeled as the enforcer by his teammates, Graham realized his skill set and attitude might be better suited elsewhere. It was then that he decided to take his talents from the hardwood to the gridiron and he has yet to look back.  

“I was either going to throw you or the ball out of bounds,” said Graham. “How I am competitively and physically, I definitely think I have more of a football mentality. I think the aggression that I have is definitely meant for football.”  

That aggression and competitive nature helped Graham in his only season playing football at the University of Miami. Well after the end of the collegiate season, as the 2010 NFL Draft approached, Graham began to receive attention in ways he hadn’t before.  

“Every analyst on TV said I was the NFL Draft’s biggest risk,” said Graham. “I can remember, literally every day I heard that I was the biggest risk. It was pretty motivating. Sometimes high risk has high reward.”  

For the Saints, the reward has been well worth the risk.  After selecting him in the third round of the 2010 Draft, Graham has appeared in 42 games with 25 starts for the black and gold while racking up 189 receptions for 2,320 yards (12.3 avg.) and 24 touchdowns, the most by a tight end in the NFC since 2010.  

He is the only tight end in franchise history to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and the first at the position to earn the honor since 2006.  He was named a Pro Bowl starter in just his second season.

Tight ends coach Terry Malone has worked very closely with Graham since he was drafted. Malone noted that since he arrived, Graham has been eager to learn as much as he can.  

“I think one of things that makes Jimmy Graham very special is that he is a competitive guy and he really has a burning desire to be the best,” said Malone. “He works that way. Since he joined the team, he has always put time into the game and it’s very important to him. When you combine a guy that has his talent with that kind of attitude, then the sky is the limit.”  

Even while continuing to learn the detailed ins-and-outs of the game, Graham has performed exceptionally well. He has relied on his passion, emotion and motivation to ensure that he puts forth his best effort on the field each and every game.  

“I have a fearless attitude,” said Graham. “I am a player that plays with a lot of emotion. I think the fans notice that. I take the game very personally. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I always feel that when I step on the field, I have something to prove. To this day, people always call me the basketball player and I feel like I’m out there proving why I should be out there.”  

But after his 2011 season, players and coaches all across the league know that this tight end doesn’t perform like he’s still learning the game.  Graham recorded 99 receptions for 1,310 yards (13.2 avg.) and 11 touchdowns last season while leading the club in all receiving categories.  

He became just the second tight end in history to go for over 1,300 yards in a single season and he also started a streak of six consecutive games where he pulled in a touchdown catch (tied for the second-longest by a tight end since the AFL-NFL merger).

He finished the season ranked No. 14 on the NFL Network’s “Top 100: Players of 2012,” a list voted on by NFL players.  Despite the accolades and praise, Graham still isn’t satisfied.  

“I think there were a lot of missed opportunities last year,” said Graham. “I missed some plays just because I was a young player. Now, I feel like I can recognize things a lot quicker. Hopefully it can allow me to limit those mistakes and capitalize on more opportunities.”

So far this season, even while facing more complicated coverages and double-teams, Graham is tied for the team lead in touchdown (8) with Marques Colst, second in receptions (59) and is third in yards (654).  

Against the then undefeated NFC South opponent Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 11, Graham put forth the best effort of his career when he racked up a career-high 146 yards and tied a career-high with two touchdowns in the Saints win.  

“I think I’ve just scratched the surface as far as my potential,” said the Pro Bowl tight end. “I have more of a football body now. I’ve put on some weight. I know more about defenses and it helps me to recognize certain coverages I want to continue to improve each and every day.”  

His hard work has helped him to hone his skillset but the tight end has also been able to learn from one of the league’s elite quarterbacks, Drew Breesicon-article-link.  Brees has been the signal caller for every game since the former Hurricane was drafted and the quarterback has been able to witness Graham’s passion and desire to be great.  

“The sky is the limit for this guy,” said Brees. “The good thing about him is that he doesn’t necessarily need to be pushed or motivated. He is self-motivated. He is driven. He’s got a fire that burns inside of him.”  

Graham traces that desire well into his past, all the way to his childhood. When faced with many obstacles to overcome, Graham turns toward the upbringing that shaped his attitude and competitiveness.  

“It taught me and it has given me that chip on my shoulder,” said Graham. “My whole life I’ve had to prove myself and battle through things. My whole life I’ve had a chip, it’s just in my personality.”  

Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has noticed the passion that Graham plays with on the field.  

“I would say he is a very emotional and passionate player,” said Carmichael. “When he makes a big play he gets excited. He gets excited for his teammates when they make a good play. I think he is a guy who plays with some extra passion, some extra fire.”  

But even with his success to this point, Graham retains the same attitude that he has always had. He strives to be great and will never stop. He remains focused on constant improvement and evaluates his performances with a microscope.  For Graham, there is no excuse to settle.

“Improvement and hard work are the biggest things for me,” said Graham. “I am focused on becoming the best player I can to help this team. I want to help this team win games.”

But, for the tight end, there is some extra motivation every time he steps into the locker room.  

“There are a lot of guys, whenever I look around, that have a ring,” said Graham. “I’m not one of those guys. That’s the ultimate goal, to get a ring. It’s really all I think about, especially when I work out. I am always trying to move towards that goal.”


Bookmark and Share
(neworleanssaints.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham leads NFL in dropped passes

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has taken sole possession of the league lead in dropped passes.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham now has dropped nine passes. He was tied for the league lead with eight last week. Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin is tied for fourth with seven drops and Atlanta receiver Julio Jones 10th with six drops. New Orleans receiver Marques Colston has five drops and no other NFC South player has more than four drops.

The Falcons and the Saints are tied, along with the New England Patriots, for fifth in the league with 24 team drops. The Buccaneers are tied for 24th place with 14 drops and the Panthers are tied for No. 27 with 13 drops.

Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson is one of just seven receivers (with 35 or more targets) that has yet to drop a pass. Jackson has been targeted 89 times and has 47 receptions.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham held to 33 yards in Week 12

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham was held to 33 yards on four receptions and six targets versus the 49ers in Week 12.

We will be interested to see the snap-count total for Graham on Monday. Spending more time than usual on the sidelines -- perhaps in effort to get more blockers on the field -- Graham lost four catches to backup David Thomas. Graham's numbers were also down because Drew Brees was facing serious pressure all afternoon. Look for a bounce-back game against a Falcons defense that he torched for a 7/146/2 line three weeks ago.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham presents matchup nightmare for Raiders

JimmyGrahamSaints
ALAMEDA, Calififornia -- The Oakland Raiders have plenty of experience dealing with elite tight ends playing in the same division as Antonio Gates and having faced Tony Gonzalez so many times over the years.

Going up against New Orleans' Jimmy Graham this week might be the toughest test yet.

With his imposing 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame and the athletic ability of a former college basketball player, Graham is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. That's especially true for a Raiders team that is banged up in the secondary and has struggled all season to slow down opposing tight ends.

"He's always been a big guy who can run and go up and catch the ball but he's learned how to run routes and how to get himself open," coach Dennis Allen said. "He's one of the toughest matchups that we've seen."

Graham has overcome an inconsistent stretch earlier this season when he struggled to hold onto balls and has regained his form of late. He has 20 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns the past three games.

That improvement has helped the Saints (4-5) rebound from an 0-4 start heading into Sunday's game against the Raiders (3-6).

"I think he was battling through some little nicks and injuries early on," quarterback Drew Brees said. "I think all of us just needed to find the mojo a little bit. It took four games to do it, but when you look at the last five games you'd say we've definitely had our moments where we feel like we're back to playing the type of football we know how to play."

Since the start of last season, Graham is second in the NFL among all tight ends in receptions (144), yards receiving (1,843) and touchdowns (18). That's quite a resume for someone who played just one year of football and four years of basketball in college at Miami.

But despite the lack of experience, Graham was drafted in the third round by the Saints in 2010 and has quickly emerged as one of the best in the league at his position.

"Graham is a matchup problem throughout the league," cornerback Ron Bartell said. "He runs like a wide receiver but has unusual size. He definitely presents a problem, but there are so many tight ends like that throughout the league. We just need to be fundamentally sound. If we're able to do that I think we'll come out fine."

The Raiders have struggled to do that this season. They allowed Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson to combine for seven catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 55-20 loss at Baltimore as Oakland left the middle of the field wide open most of the game.

Heath Miller caught two TD passes for Pittsburgh earlier in the year against Oakland and Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen teamed up for a big day for Denver as well.

The defensive backs say much of the problem can be attributed to poor communication between the secondary and linebackers, which must be fixed immediately with Brees and the Saints coming to town.

"Oh, boy. It can't happen this week," cornerback Michael Huff said. "He's one of the smartest, one the greatest quarterbacks out there. Pre-snap, he kind of knows already what you're in, so we've got to hopefully disguise a little bit and make him think a little bit and let our pressure get him."

Complicating the task this week is the fact that Oakland strong safety Tyvon Branch has missed both practices so far with a neck injury sustained last week in Baltimore and his status for Sunday's game is in question.

Branch and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler have gotten the most time this season matching up against tight ends. Wheeler has struggled of late. He allowed six catches for 88 yards in six attempts last week and opposing quarterbacks have completed all 16 passes thrown his way the past three weeks, according to game charting by Pro Football Focus.

If Branch is limited at all, backup Mike Mitchell could get more time. Mitchell matched up frequently with tight ends in past years with some success, but has been mostly a special teams player this year.

"I'm curious to see how he's going to handle more of a physical, skill-position guy checking him at the line," Mitchell said. "Usually, he's too fast for linebackers and too big for DBs, but I've been able to have success on those guys because I'm a skilled position guy. I like to get my hands on you a little bit and slow you down. So, we'll see. It's going to be a tough matchup. He's very good. He's one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. If he can be eliminated, that takes a lot out of their offense."


Bookmark and Share
(ap.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham is player of the week

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in Sunday’s 31-27 victory against the Atlanta Falcons.

Graham caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards. It marked the first time this season Graham had more than 100 receiving yards.

He also caught two touchdown passes as the Saints knocked the Falcons from the ranks of the unbeaten.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham leads NFL in dropped passes

JimmyGrahamSaints
There’s a new solo leader atop the league-wide list for dropped passes and it’s an NFC South player.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham leads the NFL with eight drops.

That puts him one drop ahead of Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin, who is tied with three other players for second place. Atlanta’s Julio Jones has five drops. New Orleans’ Marques Colston and Darren Sproles and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez each has four drops.

Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson still hasn’t dropped a pass this season and is one of only seven receivers with at least 30 targets without a drop.

Led by Graham, Colston and Sproles, the Saints are tied for third in team drops with 22. The Falcons are just one drop behind New Orleans.

Tampa Bay is tied for No. 26 with just 12 drops and 10 of them come from Martin and Mike Williams. The Carolina Panthers are tied for 29th with only 10 drops.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

proCane Players of Week 10

JimmyGrahamSaints
Co-Offensive Players of the Week:

Jimmy Graham: proCane Saints TE Jimmy Graham hauled in seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets to lead the Saints to a 31-27 victory over the Falcons in Week 10. Safety William Moore bit twice on the double move, allowing Drew Brees to throw a pair of pump-fake deep balls to Graham for a 29-yard touchdown and a 46-yard fourth-quarter gain. Graham added a 14-yard score just before halftime. After his first 100-yard game of the season, Graham is averaging a 7/94/1.3 line over the past three weeks.

Greg Olsen: Following an emotional week for proCane Panthers TE Greg Olsen in which he welcomed his son TJ home after being hospitalized after birth and undergoing surgery due to a heart condition, Olsen exploded for a career-high nine receptions, 102 yards and two touchdowns versus the Broncos in Week 10. The 102 yards are a regular-season career high. Tight ends have been the weak spot in Denver's defense all season and today was no different. Olsen had catches of 26 and 16 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown and added a 5-yard score in garbage time.

Honorable Mention: Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne.

Defensive Player of Week:

Colin McCarthy: proCane Titans LB Colin McCarthy rose slowly after a violent hit and wobbled as he left the field. Three plays later he was back in the game and in the end zone, celebrating a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. McCarthy and his team's embattled defense bounced back Sunday, when their four takeaways led to 20 points and helped the Titans beat the Miami Dolphins 37-3. McCarthy finished the game with 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss one INT and a TD. McCarthy’s TD put the Titans up 21-0 and essentially the game out of reach for the Dolphins.

Honorable Mention: Vince Wilfork, Allen Bailey.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season with 3 punts for 140 yards and a 46.7 average. Bosher had a long of 52 yards and placed one of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Bosher is also Atlanta’s holder and held two successful field goals for Matt Bryant.


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham’s big day includes sweet new touchdown celebration

JimmyGrahamSaints
Tony Gonzalez was the tight end who made history during the New Orleans Saints' win over the Atlanta Falcons, but it was Jimmy Graham who had the big day. He had seven catches for 146 yards on Sunday, including two touchdowns. After Drew Brees hit Graham for a 29-yard touchdown, he switched up his well-known slam dunk celebration to add a spin move.


Bookmark and Share
(sports.yahoo.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham feeling near 100 percent

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham said he was finally able to "push" off his tender ankle in Monday's win over the Eagles.

Graham missed one game due to his ankle sprain and was limited in two others. On Monday, he looked really healthy en route to a 8/72/1 line. Graham is primed for a monster second half of the season.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham gets into end zone

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham posted a game-high eight receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown in the Week 9 game against the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, Nov. 5.

Fantasy Tip: Graham has posted TDs in back-to-back games, and he has found the end zone in five of the seven games he has played this season.


Bookmark and Share
(kffl.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham returns to practice

JimmyGrahamSaints
Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham returned to Saints practice Wednesday, but not on a full basis.

Interim coach Joe Vitt said Graham ran routes without defenders to test the sprained right ankle that kept him from traveling with the team to Tampa on Sunday.
“He did what we call land base stuff,” Vitt said. “He did routes on air. He looked very, very good. The doctors and the trainers are examining right now. He looked good.”

The Saints did not miss Graham in Tampa, rolling up 458 yards while scoring five touchdowns, but they would love to have him back this Sunday night when they face Denver and Peyton Manning.

“When Jimmy was down this last week that gave opportunities for others,” QB Drew Brees said. “What you love is when you have access to the full arsenal.”
The Saints had only two healthy tight ends at practice -- David Thomas and practice-squad player Mike Higgins. Third-string TE Daniel Graham, who has played in all six games as a blocking specialist, was out with a knee injury.

Still striving: Brees has been in vintage form the last three games, completing 91 of 136 (66.9 percent) passes for 1,192 yards, 11 scores and two interceptions, but he's been doing it almost all by himself.

The Saints rank dead last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 76.2 yards, and failed to pick up a critical first down that would have allowed them to run out the clock while protecting a 35-28 lead against Tampa Bay. Darren Sproles was stuffed on third-and-3, forcing them to punt, and the Buccaneers came within 9 yards of a tying touchdown.

“Obviously the running game is still a huge issue for us and something we're still working on,” T Zach Strief said. “But the offense has felt at times how we should be feeling and we have gotten going the way we'd like to.”

Despite the lack of help on the ground, Brees agreed.

“Definitely you feel that no matter what play is called, we're going to make it work and we have the opportunity to really make something happen,” he said.


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham to test ankle on Wednesday, could be ready for Week 8

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will test his injured ankle on Wednesday and could be ready to take the field in Week 8, coach Joe Vitt said on Monday. Vitt said there was a pretty good chance of Graham being able to play against the Denver Broncos.

Graham was inactive for Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Graham was was limited late last week in practice and had been listed as questionable for Week 7. Graham hurt the ankle earlier this month against the San Diego Chargers.

Fantasy Impact: Fantasy owners counting on Graham had to be a little frustrated on Sunday but that is the risk of not having a backup plan for an injured player. His injury status will be monitored as the week goes along but there is a better chance he plays this week.

Graham remains a No. 1 fantasy tight end and should return soon.


Bookmark and Share
(sbnation.com)
Comments

Saints expecting Jimmy Graham back Sunday against Broncos

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints did not miss Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham when he sat out against Tampa Bay with a sprained ankle. They'd just assume not have to push their luck next Sunday night at Denver.

“He's an instant matchup nightmare for defenses,” wide receiver Lance Moore said. “We have a number of different guys that can do a lot of different things once we have everybody in there.”

Newly reinstated interim coach Joe Vitt said Monday the early signs were positive about Graham's return.

“We're going to test Jimmy Graham out Wednesday, but right now we feel good about it,” Vitt said. “We think he's got a good chance to be full go.”

Graham was limited in practice last Thursday and Friday before the Saints decided to leave him in New Orleans for their trip to Tampa. He hurt his right ankle in the first half against San Diego on Oct. 7, and the injury lingered through the bye week.

Drew Brees threw four TD passes in the Saints' 35-28 victory against Tampa Bay, including a go-ahead 20-yard strike to Graham's replacement, David Thomas. Moore and fellow wide receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Joseph Morgan combined for 20 catches and 317 yards.

For one day, Graham's 99 catches and 1,310 receiving yards from 2011 were irrelevant.

“We've done it before,” Moore said. “I missed a lot of games in 2009 (when New Orleans won the Super Bowl), and the offense didn't really suffer much at all. Those touches get spread around to a lot of different guys. That's what we do.”


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham improves, but still limited in practice Thursday

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. – Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was limited during Thursday’s practice, a good sign as the third-year record-breaking player tries to get ready ahead of Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Graham sprained his right ankle in the San Diego and though he returned, wasn’t a factor in the second half of that game.

“You always want to have your best players so we hope we’re going to have him,” Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said. “If we don’t, then we just have to adjust accordingly with trying to get our best players on the field and using different personnel groups and ways to get other guys the ball.”

Kromer said Graham is a mismatch, meaning if he doesn’t play, the Saints lose an advantage on offense.

That said, Graham has the ability to not be full during the week and still play on Sunday.

“Jimmy is mentally ready and he’s a very tough guy,” Kromer said, “so pain doesn’t affect him. You saw him playing after he hurt his ankle in the game. Those kinds of things won’t affect him. He’ll know the game plan.”

And then there’s linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who remains on the physically unable to perform list as he tries to show the coaching staff that he’s healthy enough to play. He has spent the past few months rehabilitating from left knee surgery.

Thursday, Kromer said Vilma looked good.

“He’s running around well,” Kromer said. “He’s physically ready. H e has made some plays in practice that you’re impressed with. We’re excited and hoping he’s ready.”


Bookmark and Share
(wwltv.com)
Comments

Jonathan Vilma practices, Jimmy Graham doesn’t

JonVilma
We were told on Tuesday that Saints tight end Jimmy Graham should be able to play on Sunday despite an ankle injury suffered during a Week Five win over the Chargers.  While that may indeed be the case, Graham wasn’t well enough to practice on Wednesday.

Mike Triplette of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Graham didn’t practice on Wednesday, and that he looks to be “very questionable” for Sunday at Tampa.  Double-interim head coach Aaron Kromer declined to say whether Graham has a low or high ankle sprain, mentioning only that Graham “looked good” and that he was “able to run around a little.”

One guy who did practice but who probably won’t play this weekend is linebacker Jonathan Vilma.  The veteran defensive leader exited the Physically Unable to Perform list with a lingering knee injury.  Kromer, per Triplett, also used the “looked good” label for Vilma.

So far the Saints haven’t looked good.  They’ll get a chance to look better against the Bucs.  Either way, interim coach Joe Vitt returns to the sideline next week after his six-game suspension ends.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham will be active for Week 7

JimmyGrahamSaints
A source with knowledge of the situation tells Profootballtalk.com Jimmy Graham (ankle) will play in Week 7.

The Saints have maintained radio silence on Graham's status since he went down in Week 5, but the fact that he played through the injury against the Chargers suggested he'd be ready to roll following a two-week layoff. We'll get our first tangible clue as to his Week 7 status when the Saints return to practice on Wednesday, but for now owners can pencil their TE1 into the lineup.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham: Ankle Issue

JimmyGrahamSaints
Update: Graham left the Saints' locker room after Sunday night's game against the Chargers with a walking boot on his right foot as the result of a sprained ankle he sustained in the contest, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Recommendation: Graham hurt his ankle in the second quarter of Sunday's game, but was able to return in the second half, finishing up with one catch for four yards on two targets. Afterward, all coach Aaron Kromer said about Graham's injury was, "We'll see." The Saints are on bye this week, which is a case of good timing for Graham. In any case, his owners will need to find a Week 6 plug-in for him and then track his status leading up to Week 7's game against the Bucs.


Bookmark and Share
(sports.yahoo.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham battling through ankle injury on SNF

JimmyGrahamSaints
Tight end Jimmy Graham hurt his ankle near the end of the first half and his subsequent return to the game won’t quiet all worry about his condition during the bye week. Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Graham, who had just one catch for four yards on Sunday night, was in a walking boot after the game and interim coach Aaron Kromer said that the team needed to take some time to figure out where things stand with the tight end.

“Jimmy was a little banged up as the game went along,” Kromer said, via WWL-TV. “We’ll see how he is.”


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham tallies 85 yards and a TD in Week 1

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss to the Redskins.

Graham's 20-yard touchdown was a beautiful catch over the middle in double coverage in which he leaped up over the linebacker and in front of the safety and caught it in the middle of the endzone. Graham did get banged up a couple of times on Sunday, though, leaving the contest for one play with what looked to be a wrist tweak. On the other occasion, Redskins safety Madieu Williams popped Graham helmet-to-helmet late in the fourth quarter. Graham is a top-three fantasy tight end for the 2012 season.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Bernie Kosar Tried to Get Browns to Draft TE Jimmy Graham

BernieKosar
Kosar's involvement with Graham in a Sports Illustrated article:

"We had some similar friends and I heard he was trying to get in touch with me," said Kosar. "So one day we were hanging out in a backyard with a bunch of them and we start playing catch. He's got as good a pair of hands as anybody I've thrown to, and I've played in AFC Championship games.

"Then I started talking about routes and he seemed to pick it up. And with that physical presence and the way he uses his body, I could throw it 11 feet in the air and he'd still jump up 12 feet to get it. I kept telling him, 'Jimmy, not only are you going to be a great player, you're going to be a superstar. He looked at me like I was an idiot or trying to be nice. But I just believed it from the first time I threw to him."

Kosar would spend the next few months throwing to Graham, traveling to various high school fields around Miami to run posts and fades, to talk about how to use his hands and how to get separation from defensive backs. "We worked on the release and [depth] of the routes, and that whether you bow out to the corner or do a middle read vs. a Tampa-2 or a hook, it should all look the same," Kosar said. "He was like a sponge, trying to listen, trying to get the footwork down. "Early on he wasn't sure if he was doing it right. I'm not sure he was ever really confident because he'd never really done it. Now he knows he's good, he knows he's going to get open, he knows he's going to catch the ball."

Next, I went to Twitter to see if anyone was talking about Graham and Kosar. As it turns out, it sounds like Kosar was listening to the broadcast live and heard the complimentary remarks. Here is a series of tweets that ensued from Kosar:

Wow on CBS now watching My Little Brother Jimmy Graham just catch Another touch Down Pass for Drew Brees &Talk about all the work we DID

jimmy Is A Special Person!for him Not To Be A Brown Is A Sin,But Mickey Loomis and Coach Peyton Trusted me &they have a SuperStar

“@Cooper7r: @BernieKosarQB Were Browns interested?”I tried hard but once again no one listened!!he is great person,we could Really Use

“@sthrob77: @BernieKosarQB just another strike against Mangini”it wasn't all Eric,everyone knew how I felt

“@GBasch: @BernieKosarQB you got a nice shoutout on CBS for "discovering" jimmy graham. Should have brought him to CLE!”I TRIED

For those who aren't used to Twitter, Kosar implied that he tried hard to push the front office in 2010 to draft Graham, but it fell on deaf ears, no matter who he told. In 2010, Graham was taken by the Saints in the third round with the 95th overall pick. Three picks earlier, with the 92nd overall pick, the Browns were on the clock. They took offensive guard Shawn Lauvao.

Hopefully Cleveland ends up getting their own "gem" with tight end Jordan Cameron, who has had an impressive camp and could end up being the team's starting tight end on opening day.


Bookmark and Share
(dawgsbynature.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham on his performance, the season

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0">

Jimmy Graham caught three balls for a team-high 48 yards and a touchdown in the Saints' preseason game Saturday night against Houston.
Graham boxed out and split two defenders on his eight-yard touchdown in the second quarter, conjuring up memories of his basketball-playing days. Graham has reportedly been "unguardable" in training camp practices and stands only to get better. He's worth consideration late in the first round of fantasy drafts.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Not Thinking About The Big Money…Yet

JimmyGrahamSaints
After coming off of a terrific season like Jimmy Graham’s 2011/12 campaign, many athletes would be thinking about getting a little bit of a raise.

You won’t find New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in the group however.

At least, not yet.

Graham, despite only one season of college football, and four seasons of basketball at the University of Miami, flourished in his second year with the Saints in 2011. Catching 99 passes, for 1,310 yards, and 11 touchdowns, Graham was second only to Rob Gronkowski in stats by a tight end in a single season, and those statistics were more than good enough to send Graham to the Pro Bowl last year.

What’s scary is that Graham could get even better. He’ll only turn 26-years old this football season,  and with only one year of college football experience, and two years of NFL experience under his belt, it’s reasonable to think he will improve.

After being drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Saints, Graham caught 31 passes, for 356 yards, and five touchdowns  in his rookie year, before his breakout season a year ago.

Graham signed a four-year, $2.445 contract with the Saints prior to his rookie campaign.

It’s good to see that Graham has an intelligent approach about his contract right now. Sure, there’s always the possibility of him getting hurt, or just simply regressing, thereby costing himself from future dollars, but he also knows that if he puts up numbers even remotely similar to what he put up last season, this season, then he’s going to be one wealthy man at this time next year, or down the road.

You hate to get overly excited about a guy that has had only one big year, but I think if Graham stays healthy, and stays grounded, he can be one of the all-time greats at his position.


Bookmark and Share
(espn1420.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham to play in Friday's preseason game against Jacksonville

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Thursday that tight end Jimmy Graham will play Friday in an exhibition game against Jacksonville. Graham, who caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season had been out since injuring his back in practice last week.

Graham, whose 1,310 receiving yards last year were the second-most ever for a tight end, is one of the Saints' offensive weapons who creates matchup problems for the Saints with his 6-foot-7 size and superior athleticism.

Another of those matchup nightmares, diminutive running back Darren Sproles, is expected to miss Friday's game, a 7 p.m. kickoff at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with a sore knee. Sproles' 2,696 all-purpose yards led the NFL last year.

Interim Saints head coach Joe Vitt on Thursday broke down what makes Graham and Sproles such nightmares for defenses and why they're such important pieces of the Saints' offense.

"You have a big-bodied guy like Jimmy Graham that can go out and have matchup problems with a corner, have matchup problems with a safety, and you know you have matchup problems with a linebacker," Vitt said. "Then you have the same thing with Darren Sproles. It is kind of interesting, when Darren Sproles comes in to the game, how are people looking at him. Are they treating him as a wide receiver and are they going to bring their nickel in? Well, if they don't bring their nickel in, you are going to motion him out to the perimeter and you are going to guarantee a matchup on a linebacker. It's a chess match and those two guys give you the affordability to do a lot of different things.

"I think today's defenses are all matchup-oriented by personnel or like-people. I think that is one of the things our offense has done well with. Then you have a guy like Drew Brees that identifies the coverage so early in the down and goes to that mismatch and gets the ball out."


Bookmark and Share
(al.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham a better Olympian than Drew Brees?

JimmyGrahamSaints
"What events are we talking about here, a decathlon? I don't even know why I am pausing here because it is obviously him. I am just trying to figure out where I might have an edge. ... I can get him on archery. There's a few things. If you guys wanted to put together a 10-event Olympiad between me and Jimmy, then I'm game. Let's do it." - New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on if he would be a better Olympian than tight end Jimmy Graham


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham expected back at New Orleans Saints practice this week

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt reported mostly good news on the Saints' injury front Friday, following their 7-6 preseason loss to the New England Patriots the night before. He didn't report any new specific injuries, and he said several players are expected back when they return to the practice field Monday.

Tight end Jimmy Graham (back), tailback Mark Ingram (undisclosed - but likely resting his knee) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (shoulder) are all expected to practice Monday. Linebacker David Hawthorne (hip) is also likely to return on a limited basis, depending on how he looks on Sunday night.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham suffers back injury after awkward fall; Brees, Vitt say he's 'fine'

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham is one of several players that the Saints absolutely need to stay healthy in 2012. Drew Brees is clearly the most important player to the team, but Graham (along with Darren Sproles) isn't all that far behind in terms of making that offense hum. So it's never good to have him suffer a back injury while making a catch in practice before the season even begins.

According to Brees and interim coach Joe Vitt, however, Graham is "fine."

"He was fine," Brees said. "In typical Jimmy Graham fashion he was completely selling out for a ball that was way up over his head. He ended up catching it for a huge play in practice. But at a time that we're just wearing shells and trying to take it easy of course he's going 1,000 miles an hour and just came down a little funny. Just kind of needed to shake it off, but he's fine."

Per Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Graham "landed hard on his back while making a touchdown catch." Afterwards Graham went to the sideline "where he immediately fell to the turf in pain." Graham stretched his back and "walked around gingerly" and apparently avoided speaking with the media following practice.

"I saw him take a fall right here," Vitt told reporters. "If there was anything serious the trainers would've come to me. He just gone in there to get stretched out. He's fine."

So ... whew? Maybe: Brees and Vitt are obviously pointing out how great Graham feels, but if he was in serious pain on the sideline and didn't talk to reporters, well, that doesn't really sound like "fine," now does it?

That being said, Graham's a tough dude. He was able to walk. He shook off the injury. If he can't get back out to practice or is unable to play in the Saints preseason game against the Patriots on Thursday -- his status is currently unknown -- then we can start getting concerned.


Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham the best at TE

JimmyGrahamSaints
FOXBORO — They are considered the two best tight ends in the league, the two deadliest weapons over the middle of the field, and especially where it counts most — the red zone.

Debates have raged during the offseason between football pundits and fantasy experts on which third year tight end you’d rather have, which one is truly better.
Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham?

Tom Brady’s 6-foot-6, 265-pound matchup nightmare, or the 6-6, 260-pound freak Drew Brees has lining up for him?

Gronk or Graham? The Patriot or the Saint? They’ve been analyzed and dissected, right down to their distinctive touchdown celebrations. One spikes. The other dunks.

They were both on display yesterday with the Pats and Saints engaging in their first joint practice session of the week. And as usual, neither one could be adequately stopped or covered by the opposing team’s defense.

“They’re both such a tough task,” Pats cornerback Kyle Arrington said of the dueling tight ends. “Graham is a pretty good basketball player. He hasn’t played football that long, but you watch him, and it looks like he has. He’s just so athletically freakish.”

Gronk, of course, can do it all. He can block with the best of tight ends, and he’s big and fast and can catch the football. He’s virtually unstoppable in the red zone. Graham, meanwhile, having a hoop background, has amazing athleticism. He’s more in the Aaron Hernandez mold, but can also leap tall buildings while going up to get the football.

Ask Graham if he’d take himself over Gronkowski and Hernandez, and the athletically freakish hoop player turned tight end doesn’t hesitate. He’d pick himself.
“Of course I would,” Graham said. “I mean, I’m young. The thing about me, I’ve been playing for three years. I know I’m getting better. I’m focused on getting better. I know my weaknesses. I know where I need to improve.”

Graham described the tight end wars as “friendly competition.”

Gronk wouldn’t go there. He wouldn’t even acknowledge a competition existed between the players, who were drafted in the second (Gronkowski) and third rounds (Graham) in 2010.

“There really is no competition. He’s a great player and that’s why every team has the position of tight end,” Gronk said yesterday. “He’s a great guy, a great player you can put the film on and see what he is doing to get open cause he’s doing a great job at it and you can learn from him. You can learn from other tight ends in the league, they’re doing such a great job and you want to take their concepts too and add it to your game.”

What might he be watching in Graham to study during these few days?

“His speed, his separation,” Gronk said. “He’s good at the long ball, how he goes up and grabs it in the air. I mean, he used to be a basketball player, so it’s kind of cool to see him go up and grab the ball at the highest point and that’s something you always want to do when the ball is coming at you.”

Graham also watches his “competition.”

“I think we all watch each other. I use the film, I try to take little bits that I can from each one of them,” Graham said. “Hernandez and Gronkowski. (Tony) Gonzalez in Atlanta. (Antonio) Gates (in San Diego). I study film a lot. Gronkowski uses his body really well. Me and him are similar in size. And Hernandez is really good in the routes. His technique and his routes is among the best as far as tight ends go.

“Hopefully I can learn from both those guys.”

Teams are still searching for that Gronk buster or Graham stuffer.

What might that player look like?

“I don’t know. Hungry, working hard,” said Graham. “I think that our teams exploit our talents very well. We’re very similar. (Tom) Brady and (Drew) Brees, they definitely go to us in the red zone. They definitely enable us to use our size and our body down the field.”

So who has the better touchdown celebration? The Gronk spike or the Graham dunk?

“His spikes are pretty good. He’s got some velocity on those,” Graham said. “But I’d rather dunk it any day.”

Funny thing, though. The best tight end on the field yesterday wasn’t Gronk or Graham. It was Hernandez. His one-handed catch down the sideline on a bomb from Brady was breathtaking.

But let’s not spoil a good duel.


Bookmark and Share
(boston.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham flying high entering 3rd season

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. — Jimmy Graham flies airplanes upside down.

So when quarterback Drew Brees says "the sky is the limit" for the third-year tight end out of Miami, he isn’t kidding.

Graham argues that he isn’t so much crazy as driven to extraordinary things.

"I love flying, man. It’s very freeing, very challenging," Graham said after a training camp practice this week. "One day I want to do air races. I’ll dominate."

If Graham’s learning curve is as quick with stunt flying as it has been with playing football, he very well could be an air racing maestro one day. After playing four years of college basketball at Miami and only one season of football for the Hurricanes, it took him only two pro seasons to become Brees’ top target and a Pro Bowl tight end.

Last season, Graham led the Saints in receptions (99), yards receiving (1,310) and touchdown catches (11). An yet, as he heads into his third pro season with more fanfare than at any point in his life, this man who loves to fly has every intention of remaining personally as well-grounded as possible
"I feel like I did all those things just being Jimmy," Graham said. "So for me it’s not changing anything, always working as hard as you can and keeping everything in front of you, just one step at a time, not thinking that anything is too big, or that you’re too big for anything.

"I continually focus on staying humble and hungry and that’s how I’ll be the rest of my career."

Oddly enough, the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham was too big to be a fighter pilot, a childhood dream ever since he saw his favorite movie, "Top Gun."
"Then I wanted to be a Navy Seal or a Marine, but then I got even bigger, so I played basketball," Graham recalled.

During his junior year at Miami, however, he had an opportunity to sit in a single-engine plane with a pilot certified in aerobatics. Asked if he wanted to see what it was like to fly upside down, Graham said he did, and was hooked on flying ever since.

Shortly after turning pro, he started taking flying lessons and recently got his pilot’s license. While he never executes loops or rolls without an instructor in the seat next to him, he expects to be fully certified in aerobatics sometime in the next year.

His first order of business, however, is the 2012 football season. And it seems full of promise, given how much difficulty Saints defenders have had stopping him in practice.

"He’s tall, fast and can catch the ball. There are a lot of times where you’ll be in perfect position and you just can’t stop him, plus the fact that he has Drew Brees as a quarterback who can put it right where the defensive back can’t get it," free safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "He’s a special player. He’s really shown everybody what he’s got last year and he’s doing better this year. I think his route-running has been crisper. He’s understanding defenses and his offense."

Graham still sees a variety of areas in which he can improve, particularly his blocking. He also wants to run routes better and rack up more yards after the catch.

"I am kind of a perfectionist and I am always looking to get better any way possible," Graham said. "Whenever I look back to last year ... I had a lot of missed opportunities out there, a lot of balls that I could have gotten to, a lot of routes that I should have been more disciplined on."

When Graham talks like that, he sounds like Brees, who routinely laments missed throws after big wins in which he has passed for well over 300 yards. It would make sense that Brees’ influence would rub off on Graham, given that the Saints star quarterback routinely pokes his head into tight end film sessions to instruct Graham on improvements he could make to his route running.

"It’s all constructive criticism. I wouldn’t even call it criticism. It’s progress," Brees said. "I feel like we’ve been really good at doing certain things and yet I still feel like we can make some hay in a lot of areas and continue to get a little bit better.

"Jimmy Graham only had one full year as a starter. The sky is the limit for this guy," Brees continued. "The good thing about him is that he doesn’t necessarily need to be pushed or motivated. He is self-motivated. He is driven. He’s got a fire that burns inside of him. But then again, just like I am going to push myself, I’m going to push him as much as I can."

While Graham tries not to let his growing fame go to his head, he has been pleased with how it has allowed him to promote his social agenda — namely, helping at-risk youth find healthy foster home environments.

"It elevates my ability to help out kids and parents who really don’t understand how much they can do to affect their kids negatively or positively," Graham said.
Graham, the child of a single mother, grew up poor and lived part of his childhood in a group home for youth, where he was sometimes picked on and beaten up. His life turned around when he was adopted by a young woman in his hometown who led a youth prayer group at church.

Graham said he hopes orphaned or abandoned children, along with prospective foster parents, see how his life turned out, "and it touches them, and lets them know that it can be done. You just have to do it the right way."


Bookmark and Share
(boston.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham still improving his connection with Drew Brees

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was asked a simple, straightforward question: What defensive back on the team gives him the most trouble when Drew Brees arches a fade route pass to the 6-foot-7 Graham in the back of the end zone?

Graham gave a quiet smile as the wheels turned in his head. He knew what he wanted to say, but he didn't quite know how to put it. As safety Malcolm Jenkins said, Graham is trying to be a little more reserved this season.

"You know what, he's a little more humble this year, I think," Jenkins said. "He exploded on the scene last year and did a lot of good things. He knows what he's capable of, and he's hungry to continue to get better. You're still going to see Jimmy get fired up. That's not going to change. That's just who he is, and we love it."

Finally, Graham answered the question, unable to hold back any longer.

"I don't know," he said. "For the most part, I'm about a foot taller than most of those guys, so there aren't a lot of defensive backs that give me a lot of trouble. It's a route that I'm very good at. Drew has very good touch, so it's very hard to defend ... and I don't know how Malcolm Jenkins is going to cover it."

Graham, however, said there are several facets of his game that he hopes to improve, including run and pass blocking and gaining more yards after the catch.
"I know I have to block better," Graham said. "I think that's going to help me with my routes, and I think that's going to help guys when I stay in and double team, when I'm showing I can push guys off the ball and be an every down tight end and play 65 snaps a game."

Graham said that Brees also pushes him to get better, on and off the field.

"This offseason, he called me a few times to see if I was working," Graham said. "He definitely is always challenging me at every moment. Sometimes, I'll be sitting in the film room with the tight ends and Drew will send another quarterback to peek his head in and tell me what I should have done on this route."
Brees said he thinks the two can improve their connection and better the 99-reception season Graham enjoyed in 2011.

"It's funny because when we're watching film, there are times when we're watching film all together, and there's times when we're separate with our coaches," Brees said. "I'll see something and it's one of those coaching points when I immediately want to run down to the tight end room and be like, 'Hey Jimmy, on this play, I'm looking for this or that.' It's progress. We're trying to take this thing to the next level."


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

New Orleans Saints top 25 countdown, Jimmy Graham, No. 2

JimmyGrahamSaints
Borrowing the popular idea from the NFL Network, our New Orleans Saints coverage team came up with our ranking of the top 25 players on the Saints' roster heading into the 2012 season. The idea is to make these rankings as current as possible - essentially deciding who would be the best players on the field if they lined up for a game today. Therefore, past accomplishments and potential are both factored in.

Obviously, that led to some tough decisions, and obviously that will lead to plenty of second guessing. And we'd love to hear it. Feel free to add your comments below as we unveil the list daily leading up to the start of training camp.

NO. 2 TE JIMMY GRAHAM
Year 3, Age 25. Ht. 6-7, Wt. 265.
SAINTS COLUMNIST MIKE TRIPLETT'S TAKE:

We're all so familiar with Graham's rise to stardom now that we risk taking it for granted. But it's worth re-stating the obvious: This guy just started playing football three years ago, and he's already developed into one of the most dynamic tight ends in NFL history.

Graham's first full year as the Saints' starter in 2011 was spectacular. He caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. He briefly broke the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end before New England's Rob Gronkowski passed him up minutes later.

Chances are, Graham will get another crack at the record before his career is up. After all, he's still new to the sport.

Defenses definitely will start devoting more attention and resources to Graham as he's clearly emerged as the Saints' top offensive weapon. But Graham saw a lot of that as last season went on, and he proved he could handle it just fine. As Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins says below, there's some skills that no defensive strategy can stop.

SAINTS S MALCOLM JENKINS' TAKE:
"He's just a pure athlete. There's a lot of stuff where he just has God-given talent that you can't stop. Most of the time, he's taller than everybody, longer than everybody, he can jump higher. And those are the things that, no matter how good your technique or your knowledge of the game is, those are things you just can't stop. Then when you pair him with a quarterback like Drew Brees or even Chase Daniel, it's hard to stop. Some plays that Jimmy makes, as a defense, you just have to live with it and know that as a defense you're just going to have to make them earn it. You've got to force him to make phenomenal plays all the time. He's a force of nature that you really can't stop."


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Ultimate Jimmy Graham Video Highlights




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham uses altitude training for pre-camp edge

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham soars over opponents on a regular basis.

So it’s no surprise the Saints tight end is getting some pre-training camp work in at altitude.

Graham has spent part of the last two summers in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“The week before (training) camp I make sure I’m in Steamboat,”Graham told Luke Graham of the Craig Daily Press. “It’s to get those extra red blood cells. I can tell a big difference.

“Camp in the NFL — what you do in the offseason helps you survive camp.”

Graham lives in Miami in the offseason, and spends plenty of time there working out with former “U” alumni such as Ray Lewis, Andre Johnson and others. The South Florida heat is one thing, as well as the humidity of Metarie, La., where he’ll report to training camp soon.

But heading to the ski resort town has become part of his ritual, for two or three weeks of running and lifting, along with hiking and mountain biking (logging at least three hours and 25 miles a day).

“For me it’s the community. For me I feel like everyone’s mindset here is really outdoor training,” Graham said. “It seems like everyone is working out. Last movie you can watch here is at 8 p.m. People are in bed at 9 p.m. to go hiking at 6 a.m. To be around that is a great atmosphere.”

It’s also great training, and it can’t hurt his progress in becoming one of the best tight ends in the game.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Q&A with TE Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Saints Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham spoke with NFL Network’s Lindsay Rhodes and Jamie Dukes after he was named No. 14 on “The Top 100: Players of 2012.”

Below are some nuggets from the interview. You can watch the full interview here. 

On being the top tight end on NFL Network’s “Top 100: Players of 2012”…
“I was honored because it was my peers who voted for this. I know there are going to be debates with me versus Gronk (Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski).”

On earning so many accolades after being a third-round draft pick…
“It’s been a long process. It’s been a lot of hard work. One of the craziest things is that I am so young. I am still learning. Every day in OTAs and mini-camp practices I am taking another strive forward. To be playing the game for two and a half years now, I still feel like there is a lot of room or me to grow.”

On where he can improve…
“No. 1 for me is blocking. Sometimes with the sets and schemes we have I am not doing it as much but last year in the beginning I was blocking a lot more. I know that it is something that will help me get open. If I can block and protect Drew (Brees), defenses are going to have to respect that where they can’t always double cover me.”

On how QB Drew Brees has helped him improve…
“Drew is like an older brother to me. He has really taken me under his wing. The thing about him is that he is so hard on me. Every time I make a mistake he is the first one telling me what to do but it’s tough love. He is always constructive with his criticism. He has been one of the main parts of me growing so quickly.”


Bookmark and Share
(neworleanssaint.com)
Comments

Four proCanes in Spots 20-11 In NFL Top 100

Four proCanes are ranked in the NFL Top 100 poll in spots 20-11. proCane Saints TE Jimmy Graham points himself out at Number 14.

Additionally, Frank Gore was ranked at Number 28, Devin Hester 48, Jon Vilma 58, Vince Wilfork 81, Willis McGahee 98.

JimmyGraham20-11Top100


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham #14 in NFL Network Top 100




Bookmark and Share
Comments

NFL's best tight end: Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham?

JimmyGrahamSaints
The proliferation of the passing game in the NFL has led to a renaissance of the tight end position. Teams are building passing games around the talents of big, athletic pass catchers over the middle of the field. The results have been spectacular.

Last season, seven tight ends ranked among the top 21 in catches. Two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham -- topped the 1,300-yard mark, ranking sixth and seventh, respectively, in receiving yards. In addition, Gronkowski led the league in receiving touchdowns (17), while Graham finished tied for fourth with 11 scores.

Given the impressive impact and production of Gronkowski and Graham, I thought it'd be interesting to compare them in five critical areas and determine who reigns supreme as an overall player.

Here are my findings:
Athleticism
Graham is the latest former college basketball player to storm the football field. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Graham towers over defenders on the perimeter and routinely utilizes post-up skills acquired from his previous sport to create space over the middle. Graham's exceptional body control, agility and movement skills are complemented by an impressive vertical leap and wingspan that makes him nearly indefensible in isolated matchups. Throw in his 4.56 speed -- the second-fastest time recorded by a tight end at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine -- and it's easy to see why opponents are having difficult time finding a defender (or two) capable of slowing down the third-year pro. Just take a look at the video to your right from the NFC divisional game against the San Francisco 49ers to see his remarkable athleticism on full display.
Gronkowski doesn't boast the multi-sport résumé of Graham, but he is an impressive athlete of his own accord. He dwarfs defenders on the perimeter with similarly imposing physical dimensions (6-foot-6, 260 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands), but also displays the agility to run past linebackers in space. Although Gronkowski's movement skills aren't as fluid as many smaller NFL players, his ability to stop and start with quickness is uncommon for a man of his size and build.
Advantage: Graham

Route running
Graham entered the NFL with only one year of major college football experience, but he has quickly become one of the most polished players at the position. As a route runner, in particular, Graham has become a masterful technician with the savvy and skill to set up defenders with clever head fakes and route stems (weaving to get a defender into a head-up position to create a two-way go for himself). In addition, he has displayed the awareness to break his routes at angles that prevent defenders from stepping in front of the intended throws. Although this is a coaching point that is stressed to pass catchers from the first day of minicamp, the fact that Graham has already mastered some of the nuances of the position at this stage of his career suggests he will remain one of the top playmakers at tight end for years to come.
Gronkowski is a little awkward and unorthodox as a technician, but he has developed into an effective route runner in space. He excels at utilizing his size, strength and athleticism to create separation from defenders. His ability to consistently work free over the middle has made him Tom Brady's favorite target in the red zone. As a result, Gronkowski set a single-season record in receiving touchdowns (17) by a tight end in 2011 and became the first tight end to lead the league in touchdown receptions.
Advantage: Graham

Hands
Graham is an outstanding pass catcher with exceptional hands and ball skills. He tracks and adjusts well to errant passes, particularly high balls thrown over the top of defenders. This not only makes Graham difficult to defend in isolated matchups, but also makes him indefensible in the red zone on fades and posts thrown to the back of the end zone. Graham's ability to come down with difficult grabs in the end zone -- like this one -- makes him a coveted commodity for any offense.

Gronkowski displays extraordinary hands and ball skills as the Patriots' top playmaker. He excels at coming down with contested balls in traffic, which encourages Brady to target him on third-down and red-zone situations. He has an uncanny knack for making the difficult grab appear routine, and his consistency hauling in seemingly uncatchable balls is remarkable, considering his size and skill. In looking back at Gronkowski's three-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional round, it was his outstanding concentration on the 10-yard touchdown (video to your right) that stood out in my mind. Gronkowski's ability to extend and maintain control of the ball with his fingertips would be astounding for any receiver, but it's particularly jarring for a tight end with his size and build.
Advantage: Gronkowski

Run blocking
In today's NFL, tight ends are not expected to block with the physicality and ferocity of their predecessors. Graham certainly falls into that category, based on the way the Saints have employed him over his first two seasons. He is routinely deployed in a wide alignment, away from the end of the line, or put in motion to allow him to utilize his athleticism to position block (using his body as a shield to keep defenders from getting into the play) on the edge. While he enjoys some success in that capacity, Graham is certainly not a trained killer in the running game.

Gronkowski is the most quintessential throwback tight end. He not only gives you outstanding production in the passing game, but he is a rugged blocker adept at moving defenders off the ball. Gronkowski's combination of size, strength and tenacity overwhelms linebackers at the point of attack, and allows the Patriots to routinely direct their running game to his side. With Gronkowski also showing a willingness to finish in a physical and aggressive manner, it is hard to find another tight end that rivals his effectiveness in the run game.
Advantage: Gronkowski

Impact
Graham quietly put up one of the best statistical seasons of any tight end in NFL history. He nearly topped the 100-catch mark and posted a 1,300-yard season, which is a remarkable feat for a tight end. Graham's 18 receptions of 20-plus yards ranked second among NFL tight ends (behind Gronkowski), and his 11 touchdowns placed him fourth in the league in receiving scores. While his statistical production stands out, it is his ability to make timely plays in the clutch that makes him one of the most explosive playmakers to enter the league in some time.

Gronkowski now owns the NFL's single-season records in receiving yardage (1,327) and touchdowns receptions (17) by a tight end, but those numbers don't fully demonstrate his overall impact on the field. He is a game changer at the position, with the size and skill to make impact plays from anywhere on the field. He has shown the ability to stretch the field on vertical routes down the seam, but is most effective as the big target in the red zone. He routinely overwhelms defenders in isolated matchups, and his spectacular production is a testament to his big-play ability. Gronkowski's ability to make catch-and-run plays in the open field sets him apart from others at the position. Watch the video to your right, and take note of Gronkowski's speed and acceleration as he pulls away from defenders on this 52-yard touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Advantage: Gronkowski

Conclusion
It's hard to go wrong with either Graham or Gronkowski as the choice in this debate because both bring exceptional playmaking abilities to the table. Graham is a matchup nightmare with the athleticism of a receiver in a tight end's body. He is just scratching the surface of his immense talent and potential as a developmental player, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Gronkowski is equally as imposing with his size, strength and skill. He overwhelms defenders with his ability to take over games as both a pass catcher and a devastating blocker on the edge. With a game that is nearly flawless in every aspect, I have to give Gronkowski the nod over Graham in a debate that is as close as you'll find in the NFL.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham's bargain status not likely to change soon

JimmyGrahamSaints
While the Drew Brees contract negotiations and fallout from the findings of the league’s investigation into the Saints’ alleged bounty program have dominated NFL headlines this offseason, New Orleans’ breakout star of 2011, TE Jimmy Graham, quietly has gone about the business of preparing to build on his stellar second season.

Graham, who had 99 catches (third in the league) for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has critiqued his performance — he recently said he left 30 catches “on the table” in ’11 — and is looking for ways to improve.

The Saints’ focus is on signing Brees to a long-term deal, but Graham is well on his way to earning a big payday. Graham is signed through the 2013 season and is due to make $540,000 in ’12 and $575,000 in ’13, making him one of the league’s top bargains. While rewarding Graham, even with two years left on his deal, might be something the Saints would consider in an average year, it's difficult to envision Graham signing a new deal anytime soon with the team so strapped for cap space.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballweekly.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham was MVP of offseason drills

JimmyGrahamSaints
Jimmy Graham was the MVP of the Saints' offseason workouts, according to the Times-Picayune.

Graham isn't slowing down after ripping off a jaw-dropping 99/1,310/11 line last season. He's entering just his fourth season of organized football after focusing on basketball for much of his life, meaning there's still plenty of room for improvement. Graham is sporting a second-round ADP in early fantasy drafts.


Bookmark and Share
(rotoworld.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham next in line after Rob Gronkowski's extension

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- Jimmy Graham doesn't need motivation. His well-told life story proves that.

Sent to a group home by his own struggling mother, Graham overcame a fragmented, troubled upbringing to become a college basketball player at the University of Miami and eventually an NFL star for the New Orleans Saints . Only with intense personal will does one emerge from such circumstances.

And still, whether he wants it or not, whether it's necessary or not, motivation just arrived for the Pro Bowler.

And it comes in the form of, as Randy Moss famously said, straight cash, homey.

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski just signed a six-year, $54-million extension that, if he stays healthy, will make him among the game's most well-paid tight ends. And all eyes turn to Graham.

Drafted in the same year, the NFL's two most electric weapons at their position will forever be linked. They are also linked on the stat sheet, as Gronkowski's 90-catch, 1,327-yard season with 17 touchdowns narrowly eclipsed what would have been a record-setting year for Graham. As it was, the Saints' 6-foot-7 monster had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 scores.

One can't help but wonder if Graham is next to cash in. He'd never say it. Graham isn't that kind of guy. In another market, in a different situation, maybe Graham would be appearing on dating shows like Gronkowski is or filling up the gossip pages. But don't think Graham's not driven to match his work.

"He's definitely deserved everything he's got, the Pro Bowl and all his other accolades," Saints tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "Given he had a crazy situation growing up and took his life to the top, he's a star. Hat's off to the guy, because he worked extremely hard to get where he is today."

Gronkowski and Graham are not similar players, except they play the same position. Gronkowski is a mauling blocker, along with his skills as a receiver. Graham is a tight end in name only, often thriving in a flexed-out alignment. But both can abuse corners and safeties alike, creating matchup issues. Both force a team to decide whether one or two players should worry about them.

Yet Gronkowski just received a new deal that includes an $8 million signing bonus. Graham is set to make $540,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013. He can thank being a third-rounder for that.

Gronk is a star. On the field, so is Graham. He just isn't seen as one. He's quiet, reserved and doesn't seek the limelight.

Graham recently started flying single-engine planes, and that disclosure caused barely a ripple in the media world. Imagine if Gronk became a pilot. Cameras would clamor to take a shot of his Zubaz pants piling into the cockpit. Not with Graham.

"I think Jimmy's a little more low-key," said Saints tight end David Thomas , who spent time in New England early in his career. "You see him out on the field, he's very energetic and I think the team feeds off his energy. But off the field, I think he's very low-key, very relaxed and very humble. He keeps to himself. I think he enjoys his solitude."

As for a new contract, it's far-fetched to think one for Graham is imminent . For one, the Saints' top priority is getting Drew Brees signed to a long-term extension. And, of course, there is the bounty investigation. It takes up so much of the attention directed at the Saints, and it's been that way all offseason.

And so, Graham is left away from the media throng, which is probably how he likes it. His contract situation is rarely debated, which he probably doesn't mind.

But soon enough, Graham will generate the attention. It will be deserved.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham continues to get better and better

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is one of the most extraordinary people you'll ever find in a NFL locker room, and it has nothing to do with the fact that he's also one of the most gifted athletes to play his position. Graham's life story has been well-documented. How he never knew his father growing up, how he was abandoned by his mother at a group home at age 11, how he was routinely beaten by older boys, how he was eventually taken in by a single mother who changed his life.

That he overcame those hurdles to become a college graduate and now a budding NFL star is remarkable. Even more remarkable is his zest for life.

It would be easy to picture Graham as a guarded or cynical person after everything he has been through. Instead, he stands out as someone who appreciates where he came from and what it took to get here.

"I know how much hard work went into me getting to this moment, so to work that hard and then not to enjoy it ..." Graham said, leaving the thought unfinished. "Not to enjoy life after so many years of not knowing, and then switching sports (from basketball to football) when you're 23 years old ... you know, life is tough, man. But whenever you've come through some things and things are a little bit easier for you, you've got to enjoy it."

From the time Graham arrived as a rookie in 2010 to his dynamic breakout performance in 2011, he has always seemed like he's just plain having a lot of fun.

And though that seems like a no-brainer, it's not always the case in the businesslike atmosphere of professional sports. He's still excited when he talks about learning the game and meeting veteran players around the NFL. It's something coaches and teammates said stands out about him.

Graham treats his whole life that way -- including his newfound passion for flying single-engine aerobatic planes. Though it might make the Saints cringe to hear about it, Graham gets especially excited when he talks about flips and stunts and inverted flights.

He has been in the air this offseason as much as he has been in the weight room or on the practice field. He has a private pilot's license, and he's working toward more advanced licenses.

He has taken friends, family and teammates for rides over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and he's trying to convince more and more teammates to go up in the air with him.

"Flying is the most freeing thing I've ever done," Graham said. "It's incredible because you're up there, and you're by yourself. And you're in control, and there's no boundaries -- for the most part, except for storms and the ground. And if you look out for those, you can go anywhere you want."

Take your pick among the obvious transitions to Graham's football potential, to which the sky also seems to be the limit.

In just his second year with the Saints and his third year as a full-time football player, he briefly broke the NFL record for tight ends with 1,310 receiving yards last season, a mark that was broken minutes later by the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski.

Graham caught 99 passes and 11 touchdowns while emerging as quarterback Drew Brees' go-to target and the first Pro Bowl skill-position player in the Brees-Sean Payton era.

At 6 feet 7 inches and 265 pounds, Graham has a rare combination of size and athleticism that has made him into a new breed of weapon for the new pass-happy league.

It's amazing to consider that he's still just tapping into his potential, but that's exactly how he feels heading into his third season. It wasn't long ago, he recalled, that he still was learning the difference between 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.

"I see there's a lot of room for improvement whenever I watch film. There's a lot of stuff I left out there that I'm still agitated about," said Graham, who was then asked to describe what he can improve on.

"The little things, the things people don't notice," Graham said. "I see an extra 30 receptions out there that I left. I see chances where I could have done a little bit more on some blocks, sprung a couple of running backs free for a couple more yards, just things like that. You know, I'm a young player, and I'm young to the game, so every day is a learning experience for me."

So far, Graham seems to be picking up where he left off on the practice field. He has been the unofficial leader in receptions during the handful of summer practice sessions open to the media.

He's an obvious safety net for current quarterback Chase Daniel, just as he has been for Brees. On Tuesday, Daniel floated one short pass high into the air like an alley oop, and Graham made an athletic leap to get his fingertips on it and tip it to himself.

Graham knows that opposing defenses will pay a lot more attention to him now that he's not a secret weapon anymore, but that's something he saw midway through his historic 2011 season. And it helps that the Saints' offense is so loaded with weapons that defenses have to pick their poison.

"At the end of last year I think teams played a little bit more detailed to me," Graham said. "I could tell that they were just paying attention to me more and playing different looks, and I was still able to find some holes. And with this offense that we have, it's hard to really stop one person because if you're focusing on one person, (Marques) Colston is going to go out there and light it up. Or (Darren) Sproles. Or Devery (Henderson).

"We are so dynamic, and we have so many weapons, and that biggest weapon being Drew Brees, so it's hard to really defend that."

Graham has also gotten more attention off the field this year, as expected, along with his newfound celebrity. But he has embraced that too.

He got to tell his life story to Oprah Winfrey. He got to mentor a troubled teenager as part of USA Network project. He hosted a youth football camp in New Orleans.

"A chance to maybe touch a little kid and to really inspire him to maybe become something or get through something is why I do it," Graham said. "To have a camp here and then to give the proceeds to Boys Town Louisiana and help those kids out that really need it means a lot to me.

"These are great opportunities for me."

And he's enjoying them all to the fullest.


Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham ready for takeoff

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. – If you thought New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham soared last season, wait until you hear this.

Graham has earned his pilot’s license and he’s instrument rated. He also is working on his aerobatic certification. Yep, Graham is flying planes -- and sometimes flying them upside down.

“Flipping planes is pretty neat,’’ Graham said.

Graham said he flew every day last week and gave some friends and teammates an over-head view of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and the city of New Orleans. Flying has becomes Graham’s passion.

“I remember the first time I went up, it was in a little aerobatic plane and we were inverted for quite a while,’’ Graham said. “I’ve been addicted ever since. It’s very challenging. It’s something you always have to pay attention to.’’

That attention to detail could translate into football success. Although Graham had one of the best seasons ever by a tight end (99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns) in his first full season as a starter, Graham wasn’t completely happy with his season.

“I see a lot of room for improvement,’’ Graham said. “Whenever I watch film, there’s a lot of stuff I left out there that I’m still agitated about and I’ve got to get better at those things."

What can Graham possibly improve after putting up such huge numbers?

“Just all the little things, the things I guess people don’t notice,’’ Graham said. “I see an extra 30 receptions that I left out there. I see things that I could have done better in blocks and spring running backs free for a couple more yards. I’m a young player, plus I’m young to the game. Every day’s a learning experience for me.’’

This is the first year Graham’s had a full offseason program. As a rookie, he obviously couldn’t join the team until after the draft. Last year, the lockout prevented the offseason. In addition to improving physically, Graham said he’s watched a lot of film this offseason.

“It’s helped me a lot,’’ Graham said. “The chance to watch all the plays from last year – all the drops, all the missed opportunities and that’s what I’ve focused on film-wise. Just getting better, watching defenses and trying to recognize things faster.’’


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Saints Q&A At Minicamp: Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham
Media Availability Transcript
Tuesday, June 05, 2012

You put up huge numbers last year, what areas can you improve on?
“The little things, the things people don’t notice. I see an extra thirty receptions out there that I left (on the table). I see chances where I could have done a little bit more on some blocks, sprung a couple of running backs free for a couple more yards, just things like that. I’m a young player, and I’m young to the game, so every day is a learning experience for me.”

How much does it help having a full off-season?
“It has helped me a lot. I guess more or less where it’s helping me is the chance to watch film, the chance to watch all the plays from last year, all the catches, all the drops and all the missed opportunities. Really where I’ve focused is on the film-watching aspect in getting better at what I know and working on defenses and recognizing that a little bit faster.”

Knowing there is at least a year’s worth of film that other teams have on you now, do you feel like they’re going to try to defend you differently considering how productive you were?
“Maybe. It’s hard to defend any one person on our team because we are so dynamic and we have so many weapons, our biggest weapon being Drew Brees. It’s hard to really defend that.”

Everybody called you a sleeper last year, but this year the expectations are high and there will be more attention on you from the media, fans, etc. Have you asked anyone if it is going to be a different experience?
“I would say at the end of last year that teams played a little bit more detailed to me. I could tell that they were just paying attention to me more and playing different looks and I was still able to find some holes. Once again with this offense that we have, it’s hard to really stop one person because if you’re focusing on one person, (Marques) Colston is going to go out there or light it up…or (Darren) Sproles…or Devery (Henderson). We have so many weapons.”

David Thomas said he went to six different doctors, trying to make sure that he was alright to come back from a couple of concussions. What do you gain out of him deciding that he was still good to go and is now back in the locker room?
“His leadership. He is like an older brother to me. He’s been there since I didn’t even know what a 3-4 (defense) was. He’s helped me out tremendously, especially in the running game. That’s where he’s really taught me so much and to have him back means everything.”

Are you still confident that Drew (Brees) will be here by training camp?
“I’m pretty confident, at least I hope so. He’s our leader and we want him here. I can’t wait for him to get here.”

Does there come a point where you start getting worried about it?
“He’s the quarterback; you want him here. You want him on the field leading us. More than our quarterback he is our leader. We are working hard without him and are getting better without him, and right now preparing for him to get here.”

Do you talk to him daily or weekly?
“I talk to him a lot about everything but football. I talk to him about fishing, golf and flying. I know he has a lot on his mind and he’s going through a lot right now. I just tell him that we all love him here and we are all anticipating him coming back. I let him know that we are working just as hard while he’s not here, because we know that once he gets here it’s going to come quick.”

How was your off-season?
“It’s been pretty busy, with all the pilot stuff and with (television) shows. It’s been crazy. I still remain focused and wanting to get better because that’s why I live; to play football and get better every off-season.”

Which television shows were you a part of?
I was on Oprah, so that was pretty cool to meet her. She’s really nice and very inspiring, so to have that opportunity to meet with her and share my story was pretty incredible.”

Are these events things that you would say “I felt obligated to do this” or “These are good opportunities”?
“These are great opportunities for me. A chance to maybe touch a little kid and to inspire him to maybe become something or get through something is why I do it. To have a camp here and then to give the proceeds to Boys Town Louisiana and help those kids out that really need it means a lot to me.”

How many pilot hours do you have right now?
Too many, actually, I flew every day last week. It’s cool to be able to fly over the (Mercedes-Benz) Dome and being able to take friends, family, and teammates up and show them the city from a different aspect. That is pretty cool.”

Do your teammates trust you in the air? What teammate has given you the most trust?
“David (Thomas) has the most trust in me. (Jonathan) Vilma, if the Miami Heat win (tonight), he’s going to go with me (to a future playoff game). So the Heat better win tonight.”

Did you get your foundation up and running?
“Not yet, but I am steadily working on that. What I really want to do right now is focus on helping things in the community right now. If I have an event like I did with the football camp, the goal is to give the proceeds to someone in New Orleans. I want it to be very legitimate, I want it to be productive and it takes a long time to come up with all those things.”


Bookmark and Share
(sportsnola.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham No. 2 on Clayton's TE list

JimmyGrahamSaints
John Clayton has his list of the NFL’s top 10 tight ends and the NFC South has some pretty strong representation.

New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham is No. 2 and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez is No. 7.

Gonzalez is getting near the end of his career, but still put up decent numbers last season with 80 catches for 875 yards and seven touchdowns. The Falcons have yet to find an heir apparent, so I think you can expect similar numbers from Gonzalez in 2012. Clayton’s list is based on the present, but I think you could make a case from the past that Gonzalez is the best tight end ever. He holds virtually every career receiving record for tight ends.

Graham’s got a long way to go to catch Gonzalez. But Graham at least has the potential to become one of the best tight ends in NFL history.

The former college basketball player has played only two seasons in the NFL. But Graham had one of the most productive seasons in NFL history last year, when he had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. That came in Graham’s first full season as a starter, so he should continue to improve.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Q&A with Kids @Tulane Camp




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Saints' Jimmy Graham: Suspensions Are 'Beyond Ridiculous'

JimmyGrahamSaints
TE Jimmy Graham on the bounty penalties via Twitter: "This is beyond ridiculous! I want to see the evidence and hear an explanation. Its sad when u have to hear about it on tv. Ridiculous!"




Bookmark and Share
Comments

WR & TE U Goes To The proCanes

ReggieAndreProBowl
Deciding Miami led all FBS programs in producing quality NFL running backs was a tough call.

Picking Miami as the top school to find future pro receivers and tight ends wasn't nearly as difficult.

Miami's contingent of NFL wide receivers includes Houston Texans star Andre Johnson and Indianapolis Colts standout Reggie Wayne, who have each earned five Pro Bowl appearances while combining for 125 touchdown catches and over 21,000 receiving yards.

Other Miami receivers on NFL rosters last season included Devin Hester (Chicago Bears), Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins), Santana Moss (Washington Redskins) and Roscoe Parrish (Buffalo Bills, now with San Diego Chargers). Moss is a former 1,000-yard receiver, while Hester arguably is the greatest kick returner in NFL history.

Miami was an even more obvious pick at tight end. In fact, tight end may have been the easiest pick of any position for this entire project. Miami's tradition of sending tight ends to the NFL has even caught the attention of high school prospects.

"I felt like this is where I'm going to be the best and I'm going to reach my full potential," New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr junior tight end Standish Dobard told CaneSport.com after committing to the Hurricanes this month. "They have a history of really good tight ends here."

Former Miami tight ends now in the NFL include Dedrick Epps (New York Jets), Richard Gordon (Oakland Raiders), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), Jeremy Shockey (Carolina Panthers) and Kellen Winslow (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Shockey is a four-time Pro Bowl pick and Winslow has earned one Pro Bowl invitation.

But the biggest success story of all is Graham, who actually came to Miami on a basketball scholarship. He switched to football in 2009 and showed enough in that one season to get drafted in the third round.

All he did last season was catch 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. The only tight end to ever accumulate more receiving yards in a season was New England's Rob Gronkowski, who compiled 1,327 yards last year.

Although no other schools can approach Miami's success at developing NFL tight ends, a few other programs also deserve mention. Former Iowa tight ends Dallas Clark and Tony Moeaki have enjoyed solid NFL careers. Arizona State produced NFL veterans Todd Heap and Zach Miller. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez joins Cameron Morrah and Craig Stevens as former California tight ends in the NFL. Wisconsin has sent Travis Beckum, Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks to the NFL in recent seasons.

LSU was worth considering at the wide receiver spot. Dwayne Bowe has developed into a star for the Kansas City Chiefs. Early Doucet (Arizona Cardinals), Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers) and Devery Henderson (New Orleans Saints) each collected over 500 receiving yards last season.
But nobody compared to Miami at either position.

Even though Miami has enjoyed similar success at the wide receiver and tight end spots, the Hurricanes have relied on different strategies at each of those positions.

Most of the NFL receivers to come from Miami were South Florida products. Johnson and Parrish both played at Miami Senior High. Moss went to Miami Carol City. Hankerson graduated from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas and Hester came from Riviera Beach (Fla.) Suncoast. A notable exception is Wayne, who went to Marrero (La.) John Ehret.

But most of its star tight ends didn't play for Florida high schools.

Olsen comes from New Jersey. Miami landed Shockey from Oklahoma. Winslow made the coast-to-coast move from San Diego to Miami. Graham's from North Carolina. Dobard looks to continue that tradition when he arrives at Miami in 2013.

Both strategies have worked quite well for Miami.

The only legitimate criticism that could be made about Miami's ability to send receivers and tight ends to the NFL is that many of its top guys at this position are at or past their primes.

Hankerson, a third-round pick last year, is the only Miami receiver to get drafted since 2007. Wayne ended his Miami career in 2000. Johnson's last two years at Miami were the 2001 national championship season and the 2002 campaign that ended with a Fiesta Bowl overtime loss to Ohio State.

And even though Graham has emerged as an immediate star in the NFL after a brief college career, most of Miami's other productive NFL tight ends left college long ago. Shockey's last season at Miami was 2001. Winslow finished his college career in 2004 and Olsen left Miami after the 2006 season.

Olsen, who caught 38 passes in 2006, was the last Miami tight end to catch more than 22 passes in a season. Miami's main pass-catching tight end last season was Clive Walford, who caught 18 passes for 172 yards as a redshirt freshman after playing just one year of high school football at Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central.

Tommy Streeter should assure that Miami has a wide receiver drafted for a second straight season. After catching 46 passes for 811 yards and eight touchdowns last year, Streeter has been projected as a mid- to late-round pick in this year's draft.

Miami might not have a tight end drafted anytime soon, mainly because of its youth at that position. Walford still has plenty of time left in his college career. Miami didn't sign a tight end in its 2012 class, but the Hurricanes rectified that issue by getting the early 2013 commitment from Dobard.
"I hope to be one of the best tight ends ever to come through Miami," Dobard told CaneSport.com.

That would be quite an accomplishment indeed.

WIDE RECEIVER U. 2012
miami_statslogo
Our choice: Miami.
Who they've sent: Leonard Hankerson (Washington Redskins), Devin Hester (Chicago Bears), Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), Santana Moss (Washington Redskins), Roscoe Parrish (San Diego Chargers), Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts).
Who's next: Tommy Streeter is a projected mid- to late-round selection in this year's draft.
Why we picked them: Johnson and Wayne are two of the most productive receivers of the last decade. Each has five Pro Bowl appearances. They have combined for 125 touchdown catches and over 21,000 receiving yards. Moss also is a former Pro Bowl selection. Hester remains an unpolished receiver, but he's one of the best kick returners in football history.
Other finalists: Florida (Denver's Andre Caldwell, Philadelphia's Riley Cooper, Washington's Jabar Gaffney, Minnesota's Percy Harvin, Oakland's Louis Murphy, Buffalo's David Nelson), LSU (Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, New York Giants' Michael Clayton, Arizona's Early Doucet, New Orleans' Devery Henderson, Houston's Trindon Holliday, Carolina's Brandon LaFell, Detroit's Terrence Toliver), Michigan (New Orleans' Adrian Arrington, Philadelphia's Jason Avant, Kansas City's Steve Breaston, San Francisco's Mario Manningham), Ohio State (San Francisco's Ted Ginn, New England's Anthony Gonzalez, Miami's Brian Hartline, New York Jets' Santonio Holmes, Minnesota's Michael Jenkins)
Candidate you might not have considered: Tennessee, Texas Tech.

TIGHT END U. 2012
miami_statslogo
Our choice: Miami.
Who they've sent: Richard Gordon (Oakland Raiders), Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints), Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), Jeremy Shockey (free agent), Kellen Winslow Jr. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Who's next: Nobody's on the horizon. Miami's top pass catching tight end last year was Clive Walford, a redshirt freshman in 2011.
Why we picked them: Miami would have been the clear pick even if we'd done this a year ago, before Graham delivered a breakthrough season in which he caught 99 passes. Graham, Shockey and Winslow have all earned Pro Bowl invitations at some point in their careers.
Other finalists: Arizona State (Arizona's Todd Heap, Seattle's Zach Miller), California (Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez, Seattle's Cameron Morrah, Tennessee's Craig Stevens), Iowa (Buffalo's Scott Chandler, free agent Dallas Clark, Kansas City's Tony Moeaki, Oakland's Brandon Myers, Minnesota's Allen Reisner), Notre Dame (Seattle's John Carlson, Miami's Anthony Fasano, Minnesota's Kyle Rudolph), Texas (Green Bay's Jermichael Finley, Cincinnati's Bo Scaife, New Orleans' David Thomas), Wisconsin (New York Giants' Travis Beckum, Houston's Owen Daniels, Houston's Garrett Graham, St. Louis' Lance Kendricks)
Candidate you might not have considered: Colorado State is the alma mater of Denver's Joel Dreessen and San Diego's Kory Sperry. Dreessen caught six touchdown passes for the Houston Texans last season before signing with the Broncos as a free agent.


Bookmark and Share
(yahoosports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham wants Brees back “as soon as possible”

JimmyGrahamSaints
The Saints opened their offseason program with two weeks of lifting and running and catching passes from quarterbacks.  But tight end Jimmy Graham will be catching no passes from quarterback Drew Brees until Brees signs a contract.

And Jimmy Graham wants that to happen, now.

“I can remember last year, during the lockout, other teams, they didn’t get together,” Graham told WWL radio in New Orleans, via SportsRadioInterviews.com.  “Drew orchestrated [workouts] and paid for a lot of the younger guys and even got me a place to stay and said, ‘Jimmy, I want you here.’  He paid that out of his own pocket for all of us to be here training together and we saw what that translated into and what that meant as far as us jelling.  I’m not sure what’s going on or all the details but I just want him back as soon as possible.”

The details are, generally speaking (which means they’re not really details), that Brees wants more than what the team has offered, and that no one has blinked, yet.  Also, each side likely thinks that the other side has more leverage in light of recent events, which has given rise to a high-stakes game of chicken that could eventually make it even harder for the Saints to be ready to put together the kind of regular season that prevents them from having to leave the Superdome in the playoffs.


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Miami Dolphins History of NOT Drafting proCanes

RayLewis
The Dolphins will check out UM draft prospects on Wednesday and Thursday, which reminds us that they have selected only two Hurricanes in the past 20 drafts (Yatil Green in 1997 and Vernon Carey in 2004). “It’s mind-boggling,” Ed Reed said at UM’s Hall of Fame inductions Thursday. “We’re right here!” Bryant McKinnie said. “You would think they would know us better than anybody.”

If the Dolphins sign McIntosh, he would be the only Hurricanes player on the roster - for now - because Carey is not expected to return.
The Dolphins insist they have no objection to drafting UM players, and they are believed to like a few departing Canes, including receiver Tommy Streeter.

Keep in mind this is a franchise that took John Jerry at 73 over Jimmy Graham (who went 95th) in 2010 when Bill Parcells mistakenly thought he could draft Graham in the fourth round; Jamar Fletcher (26) over Reggie Wayne (30) in 2001; selected Jason Allen 16th and traded the 51st pick for Daunte Culpepper in 2006 (instead of signing Drew Brees), thus eliminating any chance of drafting Devin Hester (57) or Eric Winston (66); and took Anthony Alabi over Chris Myers in 2005, among other moves. Choosing solid pro Daryl Gardener at 20 instead of Ray Lewis (26) in 1996 would have been regrettable if Jimmy Johnson hadn’t found a gem in Zach Thomas at No. 154 that year.

McKinnie said he, Reed and Jeremy Shockey used to talk about finishing their careers with the Dolphins, but “the Dolphins wouldn’t do that. In college, we all said we would take pay cuts to come to the Dolphins.”

McKinnie said he doubts that would happen now. "I don't know what direction this team is going in," McKinnie said.

Miami didn’t try to sign McKinnie or Shockey when they were free agents last year, opting for Marc Colombo and Jeron Mastrud. Wayne would have considered the Dolphins last month, “but it didn’t seem like they wanted me.”


Bookmark and Share
(miamiherald.com)
Comments

proCanes Attend Canes Spring Practice

JimmyGrahamSaints
Former Hurricane stars WR Reggie Wayne, LB Ray Lewis, LB D.J. Williams, LB Jonathan Vilma and TE Jimmy Graham watched the team pracitce on Tuesday. While Williams, Vilma, and Graham are regulars at practice, Wayne, and, especially, Lewis, are rare visitors to the Greentree practice fields.



Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham to host youth football camp

JimmyGrahamSaints
NEW ORLEANS — Jimmy Graham continues to find ways to make himself beloved in the New Orleans area.

The latest way is the youth football camp his PR team announced Thursday.

The 2012 Jimmy Graham Football ProCamp will be held May 5-6 at Tulane.

He’s scheduled to be on-site the entire camp, the release said.

The camp is open for boys and girls between the ages of 7-14 and will involve “various instructional stations specializing in fundamental skills and the team concept of football.”

Graham burst onto the scene this past season when he nearly set an NFL record for receiving  yards by a tight end, passed only by New England’s Rob Gronkowski on the final day of the regular season.

He led the Saints in both receptions and receiving yards and his 11 touchdowns receptions also was a team-best.


Bookmark and Share
(wwltv.vom)
Comments

Jimmy Graham, Andre Johnson Solid 2012 Fantasy Picks

JimmyGrahamSaints
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: You can argue that Johnson is still the best wide receiver in the NFL, but his proneness to injuries over the last two years has put a dent into his overall draft value. I still see him as an elite fantasy wideout, however. Consider him a risk-reward selection.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints: Graham would have finished fifth in fantasy points among wideouts last season, posting statistical career bests across the board. In an offense that features a pass-laden system and an elite quarterback like Brees, Graham is a good bet to succeed again.


Bookmark and Share
(nfl.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham using his life experience to work with youth


JimmyGrahamSaints
JIMMY GRAHAM is working with 14-year-old Ashton Randall in the USA Network program "Characters Unite,'' which paired four NFL players who overcame social adversity with youth facing similar challenges. He was teamed with Ashton, who lost both his parents, through Boys Town Louisiana's New Orleans Center.



Bookmark and Share
(nola.com)
Comments

Best value in NFL? Jimmy Graham

JimmyGrahamSaints
Let’s assume New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis is able to work out a deal to re-sign quarterback Drew Brees. It will be complicated and expensive, but it’s also pretty much guaranteed to happen.

The Saints want it to happen, Brees wants it to happen and every Louisiana resident from Bogalusa to Lake Charles wants it to happen. Then, let’s assume that Loomis also is able to find a way to re-sign guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston. Those assumptions aren’t as solid as Brees re-signing because there are only so many ways to cut the pie that is the salary cap.

But, let’s just hypothetically say, Loomis, who has a pretty good track record, gets all three deals done. Aside from re-signing a few lower-level free agents, maybe bringing in a free agent or two and conducting a draft without a first-round pick, Loomis’ work would seem to be pretty much done. But that may not be the case.

The Saints have another potential contract situation percolating. As best I know, there haven’t been any threats or holdouts, but the Saints almost have to do something about the contract of tight end Jimmy Graham.

He remains under contract through 2013. Perhaps more than any other player in the NFL, Graham has outperformed his contract and that generally leads to a new deal.

In 2011, only his second year in the NFL, Graham had one of the best seasons ever by a tight end. He caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s 25 and he’s only going to get better.

When you look at Graham’s production and potential, it’s easy to make a case he’s the NFL’s most underpaid tight end. Heck, he might be the most underpaid player in the NFL, period.

Graham’s still playing on his rookie contract, which was standard for the third-round pick he was in 2010. But he’s scheduled to make only $540,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013.

Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez signed a one-year extension at the end of the 2011 season that will pay him just about $7 million. Gonzalez might be the best tight ever. But Gonzalez also is on the downside of his career and I don’t think there’s any doubt Graham’s better at this point.

In 2011, the average tight end salary was $1.27 million and Graham’s far better than average. In terms of average per year, Graham ranked No. 33 in the NFL, according to contracts that were in effect for 2011. For context, Tampa Bay backup Luke Stocker ranked two spots ahead of Graham.

I think you can make a pretty strong case that Graham needs to jump up at least 30 spots to be paid what he’s worth. Again, I don’t think Graham’s threatening a holdout and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would resort to that kind of tactic.

But Graham is obviously a core player for the Saints and he’s a guy they want to keep happy. Yeah, they could play hardball and make Graham play out his rookie contract. But that’s bound to create at least some resentment.

The guy has become one of the league’s two or three best tight ends. It doesn’t have to happen immediately. But, at some point, the Saints need to pay Graham like one of the league’s best tight ends.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham Wins Madden Bowl XVIII

“jimmymaddenbowl/

Experience isn’t everything—at least it wasn't during last night’s Madden Bowl XVIII. Defending champs Maurice Jones-Drew, Patrick Willis and Arian Foster lost to NFL rookies Robert Griffin III, LaMichael James and Justin Blackmon. But the Cinderella story ended quickly, as Tim Tebow, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham took out the rookies to claim the Madden Bowl Title.

OK, it wasn’t the Super Bowl, but the star power burned just as bright, as NFL icons like Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice made their way to the Bud Light Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. The championship game ended in Super Bowl fashion with Tebow, Brees and Graham taking the win right under the fingers—or the controllers—of the rookies. The champs won Tebow-style with a fourth quarter comeback. It’s unclear whether they gathered for a “Tebowing” team photo, but simply imagining it is awesome enough.

No doubt Jones-Drew and his team of former champions went home unsatisfied. The three-time All-Pro running back previously talked up his Madden game saying, “I’m still the Madden champ. Nobody’s beaten me one-on-one yet.” Right. His one-on-one streak might still be alive, but there’s no question who went home happy last night.


Bookmark and Share
(gamer.stack.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham has let go of the bitterness from his childhood

JimmyGrahamSaints
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is in Indianapolis this week talking less about football than about his childhood, when he suffered from abuse and spent time in the foster system. Graham, whose life story will be featured as part of a documentary on the USA Network on February 10, talked this afternoon about the ways he has moved on from that.

“I’ve forgiven the people who need to be forgiven for the things that happened to me as a child,” Graham said. “I would never change those things. The things I went through as a child have molded me into the man I am today. I think I’m blessed to have gone through those things.”

Graham talked about how his life turned around when he was welcomed into the home of Becky Vinson, now his adoptive mother, who encouraged him to focus on both academics and athletics. He ended up earning a basketball scholarship to Miami and then switching to football and getting drafted by the Saints.

“I always thought I was just a dumb kid,” Graham said. “And finally someone stepped into my life and told me all the things I could do, and how smart I was, and all of a sudden I’m going to college.”

Graham said he’s a better man today because of what he went through as a child.

“That’s a part of me and it’s always going to be a part of me,” Graham said. “I was blessed to have gone through those things.”


Bookmark and Share
(profootballtalk.com)
Comments

Jimmy Graham gets Saints' position players back in books

JimmyGrahamSaints
TE Jimmy Graham is the first Saints skill position player to score a TD in the Pro Bowl since WR Joe Horn hauled in a 12-yard TD pass from Brad Johnson on Feb. 2, 2003. Graham hauled in a second-quarter TD pass from teammate Drew Brees.



Bookmark and Share
(cbssports.com)
Comments

Tony Dungy, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Hines Ward Share Personal Stories of Facing Hate and Discrimination in the USA Network Special "Characters Unite" Documentary, "NFL Characters Unite"

JimmyGrahamSaints
TONY DUNGY, TONY GONZALEZ, JIMMY GRAHAM AND HINES WARD SHARE PERSONAL STORIES OF FACING HATE AND DISCRIMINATION IN THE USA NETWORK SPECIAL "CHARACTERS UNITE" DOCUMENTARY, "NFL CHARACTERS UNITE"

One-Hour Film From The Hochberg Ebersol Company Will Follow NFL Stars as They Help Young People Tackle Racism, Bullying and Other Forms of Discrimination

Premieres in February for USA's Characters Unite Month

NEW YORK - January 26, 2012 - USA Network will present the world television premiere of NFL CHARACTERS UNITE in February 2012. Part of USA's award-winning public service campaign to combat prejudice and discrimination, the film features Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, New Orleans Saints star tight end Jimmy Graham, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and Super Bowl XL MVP Hines Ward, and NBC's Football Night in America analyst and Super Bowl-winning Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. All four, who have experienced enormous success on the field, have also overcome extreme hate and bigotry in their lives.

In the documentary, the NFL stars share their own personal journeys - from the racism Coach Dungy confronted and the bullying Gonzalez faced, to the foster care abuse Graham endured and the bigotry Ward surmounted - and each helps to transform the life of a teen currently dealing with a similar situation. The players impart strength and advice to assist the teens in getting past the hate, violence and devastating cycle of low expectations, and achieving their full potential. Through candid interviews and unique one-on-one activities, these on- and off-the-field heroes help bring diverse people together, change attitudes and instill courage and compassion.

"The documentary will give viewers a unique perspective on the challenges some of their favorite football heroes have faced, and demonstrate to audiences that they, too, can help put an end to the hate and bigotry that remains too prevalent in our country," said Toby Graff, USA's senior vice president, public affairs. "We are proud to have teamed up with the NFL to be able to share this powerful documentary as part of Characters Unite Month."

"As a nation, we've experienced great hardship in recent years, and it's heartwarming to see such empathetic emotion and acts of selflessness from superstar athletes," said Charlie Ebersol, executive producer and co-founder, The Hochberg Ebersol Company. "This film is a powerful and eye-opening journey into the most guarded corners of four football heroes' lives as they are brought back to their most difficult childhood memories by four incredible boys and girls who are currently living through those same challenges."

"It's a beautiful thing when a few brave voices can be delivered to millions of brilliant people ready to change the world," added Justin Hochberg, executive producer and co-founder, The Hochberg Ebersol Company. "These four NFL stars in particular have helped a group of at-risk teens in a way that will last forever - USA and Characters Unite are the perfect vehicles to bring this incredibly inspiring project to the world."

"We are pleased to work with USA on their inspirational Characters Unite Month," said Tracy Perlman, NFL vice president of entertainment marketing and promotions. "We are proud that Coach Tony Dungy, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Hines Ward are standing up to fight discrimination and prejudice."

The documentary, created by The Hochberg Ebersol Company and executive produced by company co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Justin W. Hochberg, was directed by Greg Frith (ESPN Classic SportsCentury, ESPN 25, NFL Films' America's Game, NFL Films Presents, Hey, Rookie Welcome to the NFL.) It will premiere in February as part of Characters Unite Month, a time the network will shine an even brighter spotlight on the importance of promoting greater respect and acceptance through on-air programming, digital content and community events. For more information on the documentary as well as CHARACTERS UNITE, visit www.charactersunite.com or www.usanetwork.com.

The Hochberg Ebersol Company (THE Company) was founded by entertainment industry veteran Justin Hochberg and television/film producer Charlie Ebersol. THE Company creates, packages and produces groundbreaking programming in the unscripted, multi-camera comedy, docu-series, and competition formats, for a range of leading broadcast and cable networks. In addition to developing, producing and distributing dynamic television programming, THE Company operates a full-service branded entertainment agency alongside the traditional production company. Its clients have included "Shaq Vs.," Dick Clark Productions and "Hell's Kitchen" for Fox, as well as over a hundred advertising companies. THE Company also operates its own in-house post facilities, which includes CGI capabilities. THE Company is represented by MIchael Kagan at ICM and Bill Abrams of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP.

USA Network is the #1 network in all of basic cable and is seen in over 102 million U.S. homes. A division of NBCUniversal, USA is the cable television leader in original series and is home to the biggest hits in blockbuster films, acquired television and entertainment events. Viewers come to USA to find television's best in critically-acclaimed and award-winning original programming, such as BURN NOTICE, ROYAL PAINS, WHITE COLLAR, COVERT AFFAIRS, FAIRLY LEGAL, PSYCH, IN PLAIN SIGHT, SUITS, NECESSARY ROUGHNESS and WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW, as well as the highest-rated acquired originals, including HOUSE, NCIS, LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT and CSI. The award-winning USA website is located at www.usanetwork.com, which is home to the popular new casual gaming site, www.characterarcade.com. Characters Welcome.

USA Network is a program service of NBCUniversal Cable a division of NBCUniversal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience.


Bookmark and Share
(thefutoncritic.com)
Comments

Official Jimmy Graham 2011-2012 Season Highlights




Bookmark and Share
Comments

Jimmy Graham Has Best Performance of 2nd Year Players in NFC South

JimmyGrahamSaints
Best Performance by a Second-Year Player: Weatherspoon was a candidate for this, but the nod goes to New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. He had one of the best seasons ever by a tight end. I know the Saints have a lot of pressing contract issues and Graham is under contract for three more seasons. But at some point this offseason, they should give Graham an extension and a huge pay raise. Graham’s only making minimum wage. If ever a player has outperformed his contract, it’s Graham.


Bookmark and Share
(espn.com)
Comments

A disappointed Jimmy Graham talks about loss to San Francisco

27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=9,0,47,0">


Bookmark and Share
Comments

Drew Bree's Hits Jimmy Graham For A 66 Yard TD




Bookmark and Share
Comments