Jimmy Graham was one of the biggest question marks for the Green Bay Packers heading into their Week 1 matchup against the Chicago Bears. Would he be able to turn things around and become a major impact player? He seemed to answer that question immediately in the team’s season opener.
Green Bay signed Graham last offseason in free agency to a lucrative contract. He did turn down more money to sign with the Packers, but made it clear that playing alongside Aaron Rodgers was a huge focus for him. Obviously, signing a name like Graham always brings a lot of hype with it.
Unfortunately, Graham did not live up to expectations last season. He caught 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns on the year. Many thought those numbers were a major disappointment, although they actually were not too terrible outside of the low touchdown number.
Looking ahead to this season, there were a lot of high expectations with Graham being very open about having a major bounce-back season. In Week 1, he caught three passes for 30 yards and a touchdown, which shows major promise for a big year from the former superstar tight end.
Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game. He is also in a new offensive system under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur. Thankfully for Graham, LaFleur runs an offense that utilizes athletic tight ends very well and that showed against the Bears.
Standing in at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, Graham showed off his frame on the only touchdown of the game. Rodgers targeted him in the end zone, but it was a relatively dangerous play as the superstar quarterback basically floated the football up in the air in Graham’s direction. Graham ended up battling with the Bears’ defense and took the football away for a touchdown.
On another play, Graham caught a pass over the middle and hurdled a Chicago defender. That kind of athleticism wasn’t seen much from him last season. If he is able to make athletic plays in this offense, the Packers are going to be a very dangerous team.
That being said, Green Bay’s offense looked pretty bad most of the game. Outside of their touchdown-scoring drive, the Packers struggled to move the football. Aaron Jones only picked up 39 yards on 13 carries and Rodgers completed 18 of his 30 passes for 203 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions.
Green Bay ended up winning the game 10-3, thanks to a massive performance from Mike Pettine and the defense. For the first time in a long time, fans seem to have more confidence in the Packers’ defense rather than in their Rodgers-led offense.
When everything was said and done, Graham looked like a legitimate weapon for Green Bay. After an offseason of hearing criticism from the media and fans, Graham seems ready to prove all of his doubters wrong. Rodgers seemed thrilled to be targeting Graham and had a huge smile on his face following his touchdown pass to the big tight end.
Expect to see heavy doses of Graham in the Green Bay offense throughout the rest of the season. LaFleur loves getting his tight ends the football and that bodes well for big numbers out of the star tight end.