GREEN BAY – Against the Bears, Jimmy Graham was “pretty shocked” at how much attention he was given.
Against the Vikings, the Packers’ new tight end was able to settle in to the type of game he expects to play.
Graham’s production went from two catches for eight yards in Week 1 to six for 95 in Week 2. It was a night-and-day switch, literally and figuratively, and it all pretty much boiled down to how the different NFC North defenses chose to defend him.
In the prime-time opener, Chicago kept its safeties in the middle of the field and used its linebackers to jam Graham at the line of scrimmage and prevent him from getting into his routes on time. It wasn’t the Green Bay debut the five-time Pro Bowler was looking for with QB Aaron Rodgers, but he just had to roll with it and trust the Bears were sacrificing coverage elsewhere.
“The first few plays, it was kind of shocking,” Graham said. “I was like, ‘Don’t you want to rush the quarterback?’ But that’s what I feel like I’m here for – to kind of open things up, and if the middle’s open, to punish them. And if they’re going to close it down, then it’s one-on-one on the outside.”
Teammates Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison took advantage, combining for 19 catches, 299 yards and three TDs against the Bears.
Then last Sunday afternoon against Minnesota, it was Graham’s 95 yards leading the way. Though his first Packers touchdown was called back on a questionable holding penalty, Graham had two other big plays – a 34-yard out-and-up reception from the slot that helped set up a field goal, and a 27-yard grab on a scramble drill in the waning moments of the fourth quarter that got the offense in position for a potential game-winning kick.
The latter play was an indication of the intuitive connection Graham has developed with Rodgers just in his short time here. He also was the target on one of Rodgers’ patented free plays, as the Vikings jumped offside and Graham unsuccessfully tried to haul in a deep ball over the middle to the end zone amidst a host of defenders.
“He always tells me to just stay alive,” Graham said, regarding the off-script type of plays. “Even when he runs, to just know he’s running to pass it and just get to your landmarks and really just make the catch.
“He’s scrambling around, just chuck it up. Hopefully we can get a lot more of that, especially when the defense is jumping offsides. I’ve got to make some of those plays and stop getting crushed in the end zone.”
As for what this week’s game will bring, Graham can’t be sure. But if Week 2, aside from failing to get the win, was just the start of where this season is headed for him, he’ll take it.
“You just never know whose night it is here,” he said. “12 tells us that before every game and you just don’t know. He just finds open guys and hits them. Hopefully it will keep happening. That would be awesome.”