If the Packers offense is going to thrive in 2019, they will need Jimmy Graham to rediscover his ability to catch the ball in the end zone.
Jimmy Graham’s first season in Green Bay didn’t go how anyone planned. The Packers lost more football games than they’re accustomed too and the veteran tight end caught fewer touchdown passes than he ever has. Those two things were not unrelated.
That’s part of the reason Matt LaFleur has now been installed as the Packers’ first-year head coach. His biggest challenge heading into the 2019 campaign is to kick-start the Green Bay offense. Obviously that starts with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but they also need to develop weapons for him to utilize in the passing game.
Davante Adams is going to be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but things are pretty wide open after that. Several young receivers are going to battle it out during the preseason for the right to call themselves the team’s No. 2 wideout. It would be a mistake to forget about Graham’s ability to garner targets from Rodgers.
When the Packers originally signed him to a three-year, $30 million deal before the start of the 2018 season they believed he would grow into one of Rodgers’ favorite red zone targets. That synergy never materialized between the two offensive veterans.
Graham only managed to find the end zone twice in his first season with the Packers. He did catch a respectable total of 55 passes for 636 yards, but that’s nowhere near the level of production Green Bay was looking for when they handed him such a substantial contract. There were even rumors that the Packers might cut Graham this offseason before they ultimately elected to pay At him a $5 million roster bonus in March.
It’s very clear that Graham wasn’t happy with his production last season. He’s very open about the fact that “not being the player he should have” serves to “eat at (him) every single day.” Specifically, Graham told reporters recently that he wants to get back to being a primary threat for the Packers on third down and in the red zone.
At 32 years old, there’s no guarantee that Graham’s body will allow him to play like a Pro Bowler again, but the Packers don’t need him to be a superstar. If he can turn into a dangerous threat for Rodgers on short and intermediate throws it will be a huge boost to Green Bay’s offense this season. Graham’s ability to bounce back could make life much easier on the rest of the Packers attack.