Jimmy Graham loves Seattle. Loves the Seahawks. Loves working with Russell Wilson — and really admires and respects how the quarterback flew to Florida to attend the funeral of Graham’s mentor and close friend in May.
He also loves piloting out here in the Pacific Northwest. He’s already flown to the San Juan Islands, the Olympic Peninsula and beyond.
“Oh, the flying’s been amazing,” the licensed pilot said.
The NFL’s most accomplished tight end the last few seasons, acquired from New Orleans in March for center Max Unger and a first-round draft choice, is so comfortable with his new team that he already has a nickname for himself and fellow tight end Luke Willson four practices into training camp: “The Bash Brothers.”
But the 28-year-old Graham had no idea who Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were for the Oakland A’s. Graham says their nickname is from the “Mighty Ducks” hockey movie from 1992, instead.
Kids these days...
Graham explained a potential reason for why he got knocked for his blocking when he was with the Saints: He never did it. He said at times he was so banged up the Saints just asked him to run pass routes exclusively, so “I just routed guys up” downfield.
Asked if there was a difference between his blocking in New Orleans and now in Seattle, Graham said, “Yeah, I block here.”
And in four camp days he already knows how the Seahawks are going to use him: As they should use a 6-foot-7 tight end towering over every defender on the field.
“I know on third and 10, third and 12, that’s where I’m going to earn my money,” said Graham, whose $40 million contract the Seahawks inherited in the trade that reshaped Seattle’s offense. “I know in the red zone, you know, I’m bigger than most down there.”
The former University of Miami basketball player, power forward, said he actually lost one of the shooting contests coach Pete Carroll holds — regulation hoop and all — before players’ meetings inside the main conference room of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Graham wouldn’t name the teammate that beat him in hoops, and jokingly blamed low ceilings in the room for flattening his shot, Shaquille O’Neal style.
All in all, not the normal, everyday interview. Graham is a welcome addition, not just on the field.
OFFENSIVE LINE TAKING SHAPE
I talked with offensive-line coach Tom Cable after today’s shoulder-pads practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. He said, among many other things, that the battle for the starting center job is sorting itself out quickly and that he expects it to settle soon.
To me it looks more than every like Lemuel Jeanpierre will be the guy replacing his former mentor and still friend, the traded Max Unger.
Jeanpierre has the experience of being Unger’s understudy/backup since the Seahawks signed him in January 2011 to the active roster for that postseason. He’s been on the roster every season since, starting 11 regular-season games. That includes three games last season when Unger was hurt, after Seattle re-signed Jeanpierre midway through the season following an injury settlement for a pinched nerve in his neck that he told me today wasn’t that bad.
Drew Nowak keeps getting shared, first-team reps at center. But he has no experience there; the fourth-year veteran was a defensive tackle at Western Michigan and then a guard for Jacksonville for two seasons, one of them (2012) spent on injured reserve. He was a practice-squad guard for Seattle last season. Cable likes Nowak’s grit, and he likens his progress to that of J.R. Sweezy. Cable converted Sweezy from a college defensive tackle into the Seahawks’ starting right guard a couple years ago.
Cable had rookie Kristjan Sokoli as the first-string left guard today in an experiment, and it didn’t always go well for the man who was a defensive tackle until April at the University of Buffalo. Reserve defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs repeatedly sped past Sokoli into the offensive backfield. Cable said the idea is that with Sokoli’s head swimming so much learning offense for the first time, take something off his plate by not having him have to snap the ball on top of all else he’s thinking about.
Alvin Bailey remains the favorite to win the left-guard job, vacated when former No. 1 pick James Carpenter signed in March as a free agent with the New York Jets. Bailey played at 350 pounds last season but reported to camp at 325 through a better diet and more disciplined workouts, he said. Cable said that at times last year when he was playing tackle and guard Bailey lost balance because he was just simply too heavy. Now he sees a quicker, more athletic blocker.
WHAT ELSE I SAW ON DAY 4 OF CAMP
▪ The team got a mini-scare when Richard Sherman went down on one knee and his head down on the sideline following one of the last places of the nickel-defense scrimmage. The concern was enough that Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner and Carroll all came over and encircled him as the All-Pro cornerback gathered himself. Lynch even took away Sherman’s helmet to ensure he didn’t go right back into the scrimmage. After about 10 minutes and some test running for a trainer, Sherman was back in without apparent after-effects.
While he was out, and with Earl Thomas still recovering from shoulder surgery and Kam Chancellor in day four of his camp holdout, the supposed “Legion of Boom” was this: Cary Williams, Steven Terrell, DeShawn Shead and Marcus Burley.
▪ DE Cliff Avril watched practice in a camouflage cap. It looked like rest the day before the players get a day off from the field. Cassius Marsh was the first-team end opposite Michael Bennett, and Marsh again was fast off the ball.
▪ Frank Clark had a mixed bag day playing inside again, Bennett style as an end moving inside on the pass rush in nickel defense. The top rookie draft choice from Michigan once got pushed back 5 yards off the line by Nowak.
▪ Kevin Pierre-Louis got some time with the starting linebackers and ran well. A shoulder injury cut short the rookie season for the fourth-round draft choice in 2014 after seven games.
▪ CB Mohammed Seisay, acquired Sunday from Detroit for a late-round draft choice next year, spent his first practice outside at left cornerback. Will Blackmon remained the first nickel back inside. Seisay, wearing No. 39, is 6 feet 2 and 202 pounds. In his new Seahawks practice uniform he looks like Shead.
▪ RB Robert Turbin out-ran edge defenders three times on carries.
▪ Cable said RB Christine Michael is on the verge of a breakout, echoing Carroll’s praise of Lynch’s oft-criticized backup from Sunday. “I see a kid who’s growing up,” Cable said of Michael, “and I’m excited about that.”
▪ R.J. Archer threw more passes behind receivers and once lofted one over the middle too softly off Deshon Foxx’s hand. The ball tipped into the arms of rookie safety Ryan Murphy for an interception. To underscore how much Archer is struggling, there’s this, the Seahawks giving a tryout tomorrow to rookie WR Tyler Lockett’s quarterback at Kansas State: