Tight end Jimmy Graham happy to play any role needed in Packers' offense

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (80) breaks away on a long reception against Minnesota Vikings defensive back Andrew Sendejo (34) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (20) in the third quarter during their football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers signed Jimmy Graham this offseason to be a difference maker, not just in the red zone, but at any point on the field. To open the season, Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio respected that — and decided the 6-foot, 7-inch tight end wasn’t going to do that to his defense.

The Bears bodied Graham from the opening snap, making sure to hit him, re-route him, disrupt his routes.

“I was pretty shocked, honestly, how they were guarding me and taking safeties out of the middle of the field and chipping me on the line, basically from the very beginning, the first few plays,” Graham said Friday. “It was kind of shocking. I was like, don’t you want to rush the quarterback?”

As the Bears game played out, that attention led to openings on the field elsewhere — to the tune of 19 catches and 299 yards to Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.

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“I mean, that’s what I feel like I’m here for, to kind of open things up and if the wide is open to punch ‘em and then if they’re going to close it down then it’s one-on-one on the outside,” said Graham, who spoke to reporters for the first time since July 28. “’Tae, Cobb, our whole receiver group, one-on-one, they’re very dangerous, especially with ‘12’ throwing the ball.”

On Sunday, it was Graham’s turn to take advantage of coverages.

Aaron Rodgers found the tight end eight times and a ninth — a touchdown — was negated due to a penalty.

Surprisingly, the Vikings game was Graham’s largest involvement in a regular-season game since Nov. 20, 2017 when he caught seven of 11 targets from Russell Wilson against Atlanta.

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The 95 yards were the most he gained since Nov. 7, 2016 when he had 103 against Buffalo.

And his 15.8 yards per catch (on a minimum of five receptions) was his highest since Oct. 2, 2016 when he averaged 18.8 against the New York Jets.

“I mean it’s always nice to contribute and do your job, to be that guy that’s looked upon to make big plays,” Graham said. “We’ll see. I just want to come and do my job. If that’s blocking, pass protect or chip and flat, I’m going to do that to the best of my ability.”

He smiled.

“I know people before thought that I was slow, but apparently I’m not," he said. "We’ll see. We’ll see.”

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