When the Packers signed five-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham to a three-year, $30 million deal – and did so at the expense of popular veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was released almost simultaneously – they surely were expecting more than the two receptions for 8 yards on four targets that they got in last week’s comeback win over Chicago.
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin chalked it up to the Bears defense committing to disrupting Graham at the line of scrimmage by whacking him at the time of the snap to throw off his timing and force quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was certainly getting the ball out quickly during the team’s second-half rally, to go elsewhere with the ball.
“They were certainly tuned into his release at the line of scrimmage, trying to get hands on him, whether it was the defensive end, an outside linebacker, those type of things,” Philbin explained. “But … I’m sure he’s going to get his share.”
For his part, Rodgers said there was no reason to worry, either – and said the attention helped wide receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison to be more productive.
“(Graham) was facing a lot of double teams, whether there’s a guy on him and a guy over the top, or if it’s just a true cloud to his side. So what that does is open it up for everybody else,” Rodgers said. “You saw Randall had a big game, a lot of catches. Davante got going into the second half, Geronimo had a big game. So teams are going to have to figure out how to play him down the field, and also how to play him in the red zone.
“Obviously, he’s a big threat. You’ve got to get him more opportunities out in the field, but when you’re going to roll coverage to him in the red zone, other guys are going to be open. He’s a fantastic player, and at some point he’s going to get a lot of opportunities.”