For all the issues the Seattle Seahawks still have to work out on offense, the chemistry between their quarterback and top pass-catcher isn't one of them.
It was again evident Friday night in Seattle's 14-13 preseason loss to Kansas City. Jimmy Graham caught all three passes that Russell Wilson threw his way during the two quarters in which the Seahawks' offensive starters played, but one of them stood out.
Lined up in the slot on second-and-18, Graham released up the seam against tight coverage from safety Ron Parker. Graham wasn't open when Wilson delivered a perfectly placed pass toward his back shoulder for a 21-yard gain. Then again, he didn't need to be.
"He's hard to miss, being 6-7 and being able to show up and run as fast as he can," Wilson told reporters.
Call it whatever you'd like -- chemistry, trust, rapport -- but Wilson and Graham certainly seem to have built plenty of it already, the story said. It's good news for those who were worried about Graham switching offenses. It sure looks like he's going to be a key part of the Seattle offense, too, and is of course one of the top TEs in fantasy drafts.
“He’s added a new dimension to our offense,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told Peter King. “He’s been amazing. Awesome. He’ll help on third down, help in the red zone. In some of those areas you feel like he will be able to be a big factor. I think he will have the effect that you imagine a tight end would, pulling some coverage, and maybe changing some stuff for guys outside and guys other places as well.”
Graham finished with 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his season was somewhat disappointing, especially down the stretch. He averaged 4.0 catches for 44 yards and 0.2 TD in his final five games, including a weird zero-target goose egg in Week 13 against Pittsburgh. Now he heads to Seattle, where the Seahawks have been looking to upgrade at tight end for a while. Graham's value takes a minor hit as he heads to the run-oriented Seahawks, though he'll continue to be a target hog given the current state of the Seattle receiving corps.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015, 8:56am
Because through the team's offseason workout and early in training camp, one of the things that was not working in Hillman's favor was the fact he did not have much of a presence on special teams.
But Hillman continues to show in practice, as well as with his eight carries for 66 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in the Broncos' preseason opener this past Friday night, that he offers something the other running backs do not.
As the story said, C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball are still ahead of Hillman on the depth chart, but Hillman has the explosiveness, the big-play-in-waiting gear the team's other backs do not. And while his attention to detail and overall maturity have been questioned at times in his three previous seasons with the Broncos, Hillman seems to have taken the competition to heart at a position where the roster spots will be hard to come by.
Monday, August 17, 2015, 8:29pm
The severity of the injury that Seattle Seahawks backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson sustained against the Broncos became more clear Monday with coach Pete Carroll announcing it's a high ankle sprain. The team's plan, however, is still unclear.
Carroll said the Seahawks are evaluating their options and that the team worked out an unspecified quarterback on Monday.
"We're looking at it," Carroll said.
Jackson was injured in Friday night's preseason opener when a Denver player fell on his right ankle. He limped off the field and was replaced by third-string quarterback R.J. Archer, who played the remainder of the game.
The Seahawks have another in-house option in B.J. Daniels, who was a practice squad quarterback before converting to wide receiver earlier this offseason. Carroll said Daniels will take some reps at quarterback and that as of now he would be the third quarterback if one were needed in a game.
Saturday, August 15, 2015, 9:53pm
It's a good thing for the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line that the games don't start counting for another month. The starting group isn't settled, and Friday night's preseason opener supplemented ample evidence that there's plenty of work to be done before the line is regular-season ready.
The first unit -- featuring Lemuel Jeanpierre at center and Alvin Bailey at left guard -- played two series, the first of which lasted all of two plays as right tackle Justin Britt was beaten by Von Miller for a fumble-causing sack. The Seahawks allowed a sack on their second possession, Russell Wilson had to escape another and Jeanpierre -- the center -- was penalized for a false start.
Wilson was either sacked or pressured on four of his five drop-backs. Each time, the Seahawks had at least one more player in pass protection than Denver had rushing.
Some of those issues are to be expected, not only because it's early but because but of how the Seahawks have been rotating players at center and left guard while trying to determine a winner in the competitions for those spots. It doesn't look like those competitions are close to being settled.
Saturday, August 15, 2015, 10:07am
Pete Carroll didn't see the end of the most memorable play of the Seattle Seahawks' preseason opener, a kickoff that rookie Tyler Lockett returned 103 yards for a touchdown. He was on his backside, having collided with an official who was running down the sideline.
"I was jumping up and down for Tyler's return," the coach said afterward.
Hard to blame Carroll for getting a little excited. Lockett was that good Friday night as he turned his first NFL game into a showcase of the type of special-teams threat that the Seahwks drafted him to be. Lockett had another return of 46 yards, finishing with a 46.5-yard average on four attempts to go along with a punt return of 18 yards.
It was the touchdown, though, that Carroll couldn't stop talking about.
"I thought Lockett's 83-yard touchdown was pretty good. See, I didn't see the last 20," Carroll said. "But Lock did a great job tonight. He lit it up in kickoff return, punt return. It was great to see that. We all know that's exactly what we were hoping to see. He looked very special tonight."
When the Seahawks made what for them is a rare move to trade up for Lockett in the third round, they not only nabbed one of the more productive wide receivers in the draft but also one of its most dangerous returners, something Seattle's special teams largely have been missing the last two seasons, the story said.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson wasn't expected to play too long in Friday's preseason opener, but his night was cut shorter than he hoped when he left with a left ankle injury. His return was listed as questionable. On the first play of Denver's second series, Anderson was swallowed up by Seahawks rookie Frank Clark. Anderson fumbled on the play, possibly because of the injury, but it was recovered by left tackle Ty Sambrailo.
Beat writer Troy Renck quoted Anderson as saying, "It's no big deal at all. I wanted to go back in."
Coach Jay Gruden has said he believes that the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Jones has the potential to develop into a punishing, Marshawn Lynch type of runner. However, Jones still is feeling his way along in the NFL game, and that has diminished his impact.
During full-contact practices during training camp, Jones hasn’t generated the yards after contact that coaches know he is capable of producing. At times, he has gotten stopped in the backfield, and other times after minimal gains.
It’s not a strength issue, however. It’s mental.
“Both [running backs coach] Randy [Jordan] and [general manager] Scot [McCloughan] and myself, he’s been challenged a little bit to finish some runs,” Gruden said. “A lot of the times in these practices you’re not sure how to finish runs, but we want him to finish violently. … I just think probably the tempo. [He’s] young. That’s probably how they did it in college and he’s thinking that he gets five, six yards and he’s done for the day, but we want him to finish the runs.”
Jones admitted he has observed a difference in the physicality of the NFL game compared to the college game. Towards the end of last week, Jones began showing signs that he is catching on. He lowered his shoulder to fight his way through tackles, and looked more sure of himself. On Thursday, Jones took a handoff on a sweep to the left, turned the corner and ran to daylight. Around 15 yards downfield, he steamrolled Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson with a violent hit. Jones looks like he could take over third down duties now that Roy Helu is gone with Alfred Morris remaining the feature back.
They call themselves the “Bash Brothers,” a nod to the Mighty Ducks movies from the ‘90s and not the tandem of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco from the ‘80s.
However they label themselves, tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson present Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with an interesting two-headed chess piece. It seems likely that Bevell and the Seahawks will deploy even more two-tight-end formations than in previous seasons after adding Graham via trade this offseason. (The Seahawks also have tight ends Anthony McCoy, Cooper Helfet and RaShaun Allen competing for roster spots.)
“I think a lot of double- and triple-tight-end sets for us are really going to start to come out this year and really give defenses a fit,” Graham said. “We’re going to be able to run the ball so effectively with all those tight ends in the game. But also in the pass, play-action is going to be pretty amazing.”
In June, Bevell said the Seahawks’ two-tight-end formation is one of his favorites because of the difficult choices it forces defenses to make.
If the Seahawks go with more two-tight-end formations, they will need Graham to block for running back Marshawn Lynch. Graham’s blocking has long been one of the few concerns about him, the story said. Graham added he's been banged up the last two years and didn't block like he's capable of. The story also added that Graham knows he won’t see as many passes in Seattle as he did in New Orleans, which means he will have to capitalize on the important ones and he's prepared to do that. Graham still ranks as our number-two TE and it sounds like he's going to be a big part of the offense even if his targets drop. Multiple TE sets could also hurt the fantasy value of Seattle WRs.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports Seahawks QB Russell Wilson agreed to a four-year, $87.6 million extension, per a source involved in the negotiations. The deal includes a $31 million signing bonus and $60 million in guarantees.
By signing just a four-year extension, Wilson will enter the final year of his deal at just 30 years old, giving him an opportunity for another big payday. The shorter deal was a concession by the Seahawks.
Now that his contract negotiations are behind him, Wilson can once again focus fully on football. He has finished #9, #8 and #3 in his first three seasons, and the Seahawks are slowly letting him throw the ball more. They traded for tight end Jimmy Graham, who will serve as the best weapon that Wilson has had since he entered the NFL.
Saints beat writer Mike Triplett on TE Josh Hill:
As I've written before, the best statistical season by a Saints tight end other than Jimmy Graham in Sean Payton's offense was Jeremy Shockey's 2009 season (48 catches, 569 yards, three touchdowns). That's a realistic target for Hill, with maybe a few more TDs thrown in. I'll be curious to see how much of a red zone target Hill is -- and if defenses pay more attention to him than they did last year, when most of his TDs came as the result of being the open man.
We have Hill projected for 52-627-5.1, so we're slightly more optimistic than Triplett about Hill's production this season. The Saints need playmakers in the passing game, and Hill brings more to the table than Watson. But he needs to get (and stay) on the field to make a significant impact.
After Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston is where it really gets interesting for the Saints WRs. The Saints will have two relative newcomers in their top-four rotation after trading away TE Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills and opting not to re-sign Robert Meachem.
Fourth-year pro Nick Toon will get the first crack at the No. 3 job since he’s been waiting in line the longest. Toon helped his case with a solid finish to last season when he finally got an extended opportunity -- 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown over the final six games.
Brandon Coleman’s massive size (6-foot-6, 225) makes him the most intriguing roster contender since he could develop into a red-zone monster. Coleman seemed to be playing faster and more at ease this summer after struggling last summer -- a good sign that he’s on the rise.
Seantavius Jones shouldn’t get lost in Coleman’s shadow. The 6-3, 200-pounder has flashed a great combination of size and athleticism. And he was actually promoted to the active roster ahead of Coleman late last season when the Saints needed injury reinforcements.
The author thinks both Jones and Coleman make the roster while the team parts ways with Josh Morgan and Joe Morgan. The article said Toon (6-4, 218) can help his case even more if he proves to be a strong blocker (a valued skill that used to be one of Meachem’s specialties). Also mentioned was the possibility Colston becomes a red zone threat, taking over for the departed Graham. However, we think C.J. Spiller also takes on a huge role in the passing game from the running back position.
In May the Seahawks sent four picks to Washington to move from the bottom of the third round to the top, so they could draft Tyler Lockett from Kansas State. Coach Pete Carroll has already proclaimed Lockett the Seahawks’ punt and kickoff returner; at least its his job to lose in training camp, after Seattle suffered with poor returns and lesser starting field positions all last season. Yet Lockett has also impressed his new team with his polished and subtly skilled route running. Expect him to get many chances during exhibition games to catch passes from the slot and outside.
At 5-10, 182 pounds Lockett isn’t the big, physical receiver the Seahawks appear to need as a true wide receiver. Chris Matthews is. He’s 6-5 and 218, coming off his NFL breakout game in Super Bowl 49 with his first catches, first 100-yard game and first touchdown of his career.
Carroll says training camp and the upcoming preseason are the former Canadian Football League man’s chances to prove he is the big, physical wide receiver everyone thought Seattle had to draft in May.
There are plenty of ways to break down just how bad the Jaguars' offense has been the past several seasons, but the best way to illustrate the ineptness is by looking at how the unit has performed in the red zone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars scored an NFL-low 13 touchdowns and completed an NFL-worst 39.1 percent of passes on an NFL-low 85 snaps in 32 red zone possessions in 2014. They were still last in TDs and completion percentage if you include the 2013 season, too.
The blame is spread between the quarterbacks, offensive line, backs and receivers, and play calling. Not much the Jaguars have tried the past two seasons has worked consistently and as a result the team has averaged just 15.5 points per game the past two seasons.
Things could be significantly better in 2015, though, thanks to the addition of tight end Julius Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder was not only one of the league's better tight ends the past two seasons – catching 108 passes, including 24 for touchdowns – he was one of the NFL's most effective players in the red zone.
Thomas had 13 catches in the red zone in 2014, including nine for touchdowns. Only Green Bay receiver Randall Cobb had more (10) and Thomas had the same number as New England's Rob Gronkowski, Miami's Mike Wallace, New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, and San Diego's Antonio Gates, the story said. Obviously potential owners of Thomas need to keep in mind the situation is now a little bit different. The Jags don't have the same weapons Denver had a year ago that also needed to be accounted for in the red zone, and don't forget about Peyton Manning as the QB. Still, Thomas will be looked at as a big red zone option, and if the Jag WRs can step up as threats, that should also help Thomas' chances to continue his success. Thomas is ranked eighth among our TEs and is available in the middle of drafts.
Nick Toon, who spent his first three years at the X receiver spot, has moved to the Z in the Saints’ base offense. Toon will line up off the ball more often, and he’ll be lining up on the strong side of the formation, as opposed to the weak side. Toon, at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, has become one of New Orleans’ better run blockers at receiver, an ability that can come in handy as an extra blocker outside the tight end.
For Toon, the key is putting it all together. He should have plenty of chances.
“We saw at times last year in practice, even though he’s not receiving reps in the games, certainly we’ve seen his progression, he understands the system well and he’s working hard,” Payton said. “I think the key is just getting snaps, but I think we’ll see his snaps go way up.”
Toon figures to serve as the WR3 behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston. The role hasn't traditionally been a big fantasy producer, but Jimmy Graham is gone so the team figures to get less production out of the tight end position. If anything happens to Cooks or Colston, fantasy owners should have Toon on speed dial.
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