Throughout his entire career, Jimmy Graham has been one of the premiere red zone threats in the NFL. With the Bears, Graham has remained effective close to the end zone, even if his snap count has gone down drastically outside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Part of that is because his big frame will always give his QBs a big target, no matter if he’s lost an inch in his vertical, or not. But another factor has been because the Bears have deployed him differently this year.
“I block a lot more, so the play action actually helps me get open more,” Graham said. “That was something that I never had when I was younger. Everyone knew I wasn’t blocking. So I always had guys just waiting on me, man-to-man. So I think the play action really helps me out quite a bit.”
Graham’s run blocking has noticeably improved this season, earning the praise of his teammates and coaches. Clancy Barone, the Bears tight ends coach, said earlier this year that it’s become a point of pride for Graham. To learn how to block better, Graham said he’s watched another future Hall of Famer: Rob Gronkowski.
“You know Gronk’s got a lot of play action over his whole career because he’s been a great blocker over his whole career,” Graham said. “That’s one thing that I’ve taken from his game, is, ‘Oh this all works together.’”
Now, 12 years into his career, Graham feels like he’s finally playing his position for the first time.
“You know, when I was in New Orleans I played a lot of receiver. But now I’m actually a tight end, so the play action helps quite a bit.”