When the Seahawks acquired tight end Jimmy Graham in the offseason, the expectation was that he'd add a layer to the offense that had previously been missing.
Through five games, that has not been the case.
With the offense struggling down the stretch Sunday against the Bengals, Graham was nowhere to be found. According to the NFL's official play-by-play log, he was not targeted after the 11:14 mark of the third quarter when Russell Wilson looked Graham's way and was intercepted. The Seahawks failed to put up points on their final six possessions of the game, yet Graham didn't get a single look.
"We’d love to get more," said head coach Pete Carroll. "We’d love to get more from everybody. I’d love to get the ball in his hands more. He did well in this game, but we could use more. We only completed 15 passes in this game, so we need to get more activity out of him, just like we need to get more out of the other guys too. But he’s working hard at it."
It takes time to incorporate new pieces, but the Seahawks are now approaching Week 6. Graham is on pace for 67 catches and 653 yards. He's currently 11th among tight ends in receiving (204 yards).
Below is a look at how Graham is being used. Numbers are courtesy of the great crew over at ESPN Stats & Information.
Where he's lining up
The Seahawks have used Graham as an in-line tight end on 59.7 percent of his offensive snaps. That number was just 37.1 percent during his career with the Saints. To be fair, it was obvious that there was going to be a bump here, given the Seahawks' system. But the increase has been significant.
Graham has lined up in the slot 24.4 percent of the time, compared to 42 percent with the Saints. And he's been out wide 15.9 percent of the time (20.9 with the Saints).
What stands out here is that Graham's production has been pedestrian when he's lined up in the slot and out wide -- eight catches for 67 yards (8.4 yards per reception). In terms of isolating Graham and creating one-on-one mismatches, the Seahawks have been unsuccessful through the first five games.
Throwing Graham's way
Graham has gone out into pass routes 54.7 percent of the time with the Seahawks; that number was 72 percent with the Saints. So it makes sense that he's seeing fewer targets.
But even when Graham does go out into routes, Wilson is looking his way far less often than Drew Brees did. He is being targeted 19.1 percent of the time when he's a receiving option. That's the lowest mark of his career and 100th overall in the NFL this season. During Graham's career with the Saints, his target share was never less than 24.4 percent, and he never ranked lower than 41st overall.
The coaches could certainly do a better job of helping Graham get the ball, but at some point, it's on Wilson too. Carroll pointed out a "crucial" 3rd-and-8 Sunday where Wilson had Graham for a possible conversion but didn't go his way.
The Seahawks have scored touchdowns on 27.3 percent of their red-zone drives. That's the worst mark in the NFL. They've tried to get Graham the ball inside the 20 -- he's been targeted on 31.6 percent of his routes in the red zone -- but he has just two catches for 8 yards and a touchdown. Clearly, this is an area where improved efficiency would pay immediate dividends.
If the Seahawks were winning, and the offense was on fire, Graham's lack of production wouldn't be an issue. But that hasn't been the case. During Sunday's meltdown, the offense desperately needed someone to make a play down the stretch, as it averaged just 2.7 yards per play on the final six possessions. Yet Graham was largely ignored.
Graham is making $10 million per year, and the team included starting center Max Unger and a first-round pick to acquire him. The Seahawks can talk all they want about fitting Graham into the offense, but when a team gives up that kind of compensation and takes on that salary, it's expecting a difference-maker.
Through five games, Graham has just blended in. It's on the coaches and Wilson to figure out a way to get more from their new weapon as the Seahawks look to rebound from a 2-3 start.