Expectations are high, externally and internally, for TE Jimmy Graham heading into his second season. He will be taking on a much bigger role now that the Saints have released veteran Jeremy Shockey. Already in the first two preseason games, Graham has been targeted four times on third-down passing plays.
"I am 10 times better than I was last year at this point," Graham said. "But for me, it's still working hard and keep taking those baby steps to be the best I can be. And try to see what my role is going to be this season compared to last season and just be prepared for whatever I might get."
"You know, last year Drew would call a play, then I'm thinking of where I have to be, where I have to go," Graham said. "Now it's me looking down the field, trying to figure out what the defense is now. That's a big step from last year, and I know it's only going to get better."
"It's easy to spot just raw talent, which he obviously is," Brees said. "Then to actually play the tight end position with a knowledge and an understanding of the bigger picture, and understanding that I have an important role in the blocking scheme, I have an important role on certain routes where I'm not getting the ball, I am the go-to guy a lot, and I understand how they are going to start playing me. He is in a position now, especially when you go through a camp like this where he is running around a lot, he is doing a lot of physical things, so he is getting beat up a little bit. You have to fight through a lot of that stuff and understand what it is to play tight end in the NFL.
"He is a guy who loves football. I think that is one of the most important things; he loves the game. He wants to be great, and he is willing to work to do that. That is everything that you would want in a guy. He listens. He's not one of those guys that thinks that he is a better athlete than everybody else, and he can go out there with just raw talent and just beat you. He is starting to understand how important technique and fundamentals are."
Graham's stock dipped a bit in the preseason with the news that he was having trouble with drops, but that seems to be behind him. We have him in the third tier of TEs (Note: Gates is in his own tier) with Vernon Davis and Owen Daniels.