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METAIRIE, La. ― You didn't have to watch Jimmy Graham on every play of the Saints' first training camp practice to know he did well.

All you really had to do was listen to Drew Brees, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and MVP.

'I think he could have a huge role on this team and make a big impact on our offense,' Brees said. '

Or query fullback Heath Evans, a gritty veteran who has seen some good tight ends in his career.

'Jimmy Graham did exactly what I expected him to do, really,' Evans said. 'He went high for balls and got them at their high point.'

At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Graham certainly has the size to help the Saints. But after playing only one year of college football, he has a lot of on-field education to gather.

That began Friday morning. He was equally impressive and intriguing.

He caught passes easy and hard and one particular play, he went high for a ball that should have sailed out of bounds. Instead, he grabbed it and came down inbounds for a gain of more than 10 yards.

But he also has a lot to learn. Like holding onto the football.

He grabbed a short pass on an out route and was hit immediately by Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who forced the ball from Graham's clutches onto the ground.

'Grasping the offense, practicing down here in the heat, being worn down like he's going to be throughout camp, the mental challenges as well as the physical challenges of playing the tight end position in the NFL he has his work cut out for him,' Brees said. 'But he has a lot of raw talent.'

More importantly, though, he has caught the eye of the most important man at the outset of his career.

Sean Payton.

'He had a good first semester with us when you look at his rookie camp and minicamp,' Payton said. 'We're excited about his skills and we just have to keep developing him.'

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