Jimmy Graham just finished a darn snappy first five days as a Seahawk.
We've already talked about how he said all the right things and then some about Tuesday's trade that first shocked him, then made him smile upon realizing he was headed not to some football outpost such as Jacksonville or Oakland but to "the best team in football."
He wasn't the only one shocked by his trade from New Orleans to Seattle. Saints fans were aghast. Especially this 7-year-old:
Graham saw this, as did 500,000 others and counting across the country. And the tight end acted.
Never miss a local story.
The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, reported this weekend Graham has contacted the family of little Ashley-Ann Woods, the girl on the video above. And -- get this -- he has invited the family to his first game for Seattle this September.
Now that's a solid first impression on a new team and city.
As my 11-year-old son said when I told him this story today: "I have a new favorite Seahawk."
On top of everything else Graham appears to be — a good dude, an instant upgrade to the Seahawks’ passing game, the NFL’s most accomplished tight end the past two seasons, a business degree holder with a double major and a licensed pilot — Seattle’s newest star is also a multitasker.
And a quick learner.
During a two-day span of flying his private plane to the gulf coast of Florida, having his career uprooted from the only team he has known as a professional (New Orleans), having someone else fly him to the opposite corner of the country (Seattle), passing a physical, meeting his new coach, general manager and the Seahawks’ staff, seeing his new city and then flying all the way back to Florida, he somehow has already nailed why he’s a Seahawk. And why Seattle traded its two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and its first-round draft pick for him:
To loosen up the stuffed-at-the-line schemes defenses use to combat the running of Marshawn Lynch and jam the Seahawks’ wide receivers.
Graham expects to change the way teams defend the Seahawks’ entire offense.
“I’ve been watching some film and it seems like a lot of teams play a lot of cover zero (both safeties crowding the line of scrimmage leaving zero in the middle of the field) against them because of Marshawn Lynch and because the read-option is so good,” Graham said of Lynch’s combination runs with quarterback Russell Wilson. “Marshawn, you have to put guys in the box. You have to bring safeties down. And so when you’re playing cover zero, there’s a lot of one-on-one, there’s a lot of opportunities down the field, there’s a lot of opportunities in that middle section where you’ll have guys on these one-on-one matchups.
“I think eventually teams won’t be able to do that. You’re not going to be able to go cover zero just to stop the run. I think I can help open that up.”
Graham also hit on a corollary reason he’s now a $40 million Seahawk, a reason coach Pete Carroll mentioned Tuesday: specifically to catch balls inside the opponents’ 20- and 10-yard lines. Seattle was 21st in the NFL in touchdown percentage from inside the red zone (51.7 percent) and 29th in TDs on goal-to-go plays last season.
The towering former four-year basketball player at the University of Miami can out-leap and box-out smaller defenders near the goal line. The idea is that all those 30-yard field goals by Steven Hauschka last season will become double the points on actual Wilson-throws-the-ball-into-the-end-zone touchdowns.
“In the red zone, that’s something I’ve always been good at. I’m 6-7, 260 pounds, and most of those are like a rebound for me,” said Graham, who became one of eight players in Miami hoops history with 100 career blocked shots. “So I’m looking to fit in anywhere they need me.”