As we wind down the hours now until the Saints' first practice of the 2012 season, we're finishing up our series of 20 Saints questions.
The questions are in no particular order of importance…except for No. 1.
3. What will Jimmy Graham do in his 3rd year?
You always hear about a sophomore slump, a second-year meltdown in the NFL.
Jimmy Graham didn’t have that.
Quite the opposite, in fact. He went from mid-round sleeper in 2010 to highlight-reel head-turner in Year 2.
In only his third season of competitive football (he played only one year of collegiate football), Graham set records or came close to setting records.
His 99 catches (third-most in the NFL) are the most in Saints history. His 1,310 receiving yards were second-most by a tight end in NFL history and seventh-most in the NFL last season. He was 12th in third-down receptions, catching 22.
More impressive, maybe, is that 74 of his 99 catches were for first downs.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Graham was the second-best tight end of those who saw 60 percent of their teams’ snaps, finishing the season with a plus-17.3 rating. He was No. 2 despite seeing only the 19th-most snaps for a tight end in that category.
He was targeted more times -146 - than any other tight end, including 25 more than New England’s Rob Gronkowski. And his 458 yards after contact, according to PFF, were fourth-most by a tight end.
But can Graham do it again?
All indications point to yes.
He appeared more imposing during minicamp, though he claims to not have put on any weight.
Just as important to him having last year’s experience to build on is the fact that New Orleans’ main offensive threat return, as well. As we saw last year, it’s hard to cover Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Graham all at the same time.
And as stated earlier, he has only played three seasons of competitive football. His body doesn’t have the wear and tear that others at this stage do.
Of all the players we talked to at the end of last season, he was in the top 5 percent of most upset over the postseason loss to San Francisco.