As Monday Night Football unfolded last night and Jimmy Graham continued his renaissance season for the Seahawks with eight catches (two one-handed touchdown grabs), a tweet went out to Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty.
“Good luck covering Graham @McCourtyTwins @PatrickChung23,” tweeted user Cybulski8.
Patrick Chung cleverly quote-tweeted the message with, “Good luck finding a good seat on the couch watching us cover him.”
It’s been a while since the former Saint was 1B to Rob Gronkowski in the NFL’s “best young tight end” conversation. A trade to Seattle in 2015, injuries and a lack of kismet with Russell Wilson saw Graham’s numbers slide last year.
But now he’s making a surge. He’s had three games over 100 yards receiving this year and is averaging 14.3 yards per catch.
“Jimmy was phenomenal tonight. Gosh, what a game,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “What an incredible player and competitor and all of that. He just continues. Every game is a highlight film of catches. The first one was a one-hander with a guy pulling his arm out. The second one looked like another one-hander… He did a lot of great things tonight. Nothing more fun than watching a guy hurdle somebody like that, an athlete of that kind of stature, it was an extraordinary play. He was phenomenal tonight.”
The only time Graham saw the Patriots defense was in 2013. He was targeted six times and held without a catch as Aqib Talib made a meal of him.
With Jamie Collins out of town, there’s one less big man to match up with Graham. In that regard, the snarky tweeter was probably right in fingering McCourty and Chung as drawing Graham duty. But Chung’s retort is informed by his own record against plenty of good tight ends.
I asked Chung about Graham on Tuesday.
“He’s a good player. He’s a good player,” said Chung. “Big dude. Can catch. Big catch radius. He’s good.”
Clearly not warming to the Graham topic, I asked Chung about covering the array of tight ends he sees on a week-to-week basis.
“Tight end’s a big position nowadays,” he said. “It’s good to go up a lot of different ones. They have their strengths and their weaknesses. But he’s a good tight end.”
Since 2014 in his second tour of duty with the Patriots, Chung’s dealt with guys like Travis Kelce, Charles Clay, Gary Barnidge and Delanie Walker. This year, he’s not only checked big guys but turned in some very nice one-on-one moments against backs like LeVeon Bell and LeSean McCoy.
Chung’s got no idea how the defense will shake out this week.
“I don’t know my role, honestly,” he said as he dressed for the team’s first practice since the bye. “We have to get to this first practice. Roles change during the week depending on game plans. You know how it is. You never really know what’s going on until you know what’s going on.”