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Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

METAIRIE, La. Jimmy Graham rose high, slipping the ball over the goal post closest to Girod Street in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome before landing on both feet, his post-touchdown celebration finally finished.

On Sunday, against the Falcons, he did it with ease, little lingering effect from a midseason right ankle sprain that kept him out of one game.

'I was about 90 (percent) out there but it was the first time I felt like that all year,' said Graham, who finished that game with a career-high 146 yards receiving. 'To know that the treatment and rehab and everything I've been doing is working is exciting.'

In fact, those playing with and coaching the third-year phenom out of Miami believe Graham is just getting going this season.

'I would say he had a few nicks and bruises early in the year that he's played through, but I think the last few games he's played really well,' offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said.

Graham injured the ankle against San Diego on Oct. 7. He was ineffective the rest of the game and caught only one pass for four yards against the Chargers. Two weeks later, he was inactive against the Broncos.

It was only the latest in what he described was a series of injuries this year.

'I've been injured preseason on and off with certain things,' Graham said. 'It has been a battle. I just kind of kept my head down.'

After such a standout second season, one in which he set Saints' franchise records for most receptions in a season (99) and most yards by a tight end (1,310), Graham's early-season struggles got to him.

'Extremely frustrating, especially when you know you've put the time in, you've put the work in all offseason and you feel like you've put yourself in position to make plays and there's ball you're not getting to, things you're not doing because physically you can't,' Graham said.

Still, through nine games, Graham is 20th in the NFL with 12 third-down receptions and 35th in receiving yards with 533. He's tied for fifth in the league in scoring by non-kickers with 42 points.

And he's only getting better. Nearly 41 percent of his yards and 33 percent of his catches have come in the past two games, when has totaled 218 yards and three touchdowns on 15 catches.

Graham has sent Oakland's staff scrambling for ways to stop him or at least slow him down.

'He is an exceptional talent,' Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. 'He's big and can go up and catch the ball. He is a physical receiver. I think the Saints do as good of a job as anybody of finding out what their personnel can do and putting those guys in those positions and giving them a chance to be successful.'

Not that everything has been perfect for Graham. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he's tied for the most drops in the NFL with nine.

'That was a part of some injuries but I've got to catch them, I've got to make plays,' Graham said. 'That's the player I am. I can't do that. That's what I get paid to do is make those plays and I can't make those drops.'

That won't keep quarterback Drew Brees from going to him.

'No, not at all,' Brees said.'I know that happens at times.The thing I love about our guys is if there is a dropped ball, they're as mad about it as anybody.They're prideful.'

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