The San Francisco 49ers defense did some generally solid work against the pass in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. They picked off Russell Wilson twice and sacked him five times. Tyler Lockett had a big day with 79 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Jermaine Kearse pitched in 64 yards. The 49ers lost 20-3, but much of that was due to their own inept offense, and the Seahawks defense.
One player held in check in Week 7 was tight end Jimmy Graham. There has been a lot of chatter about Graham's role in the Seahawks offense. He has seemingly been an afterthought at times. NaVorro Bowman chatted with Seahawks media on Wednesday, and he was asked if he sees the Seahawks using Graham in a different manner than he was used in New Orleans. His response:
"I think they [New Orleans] drew up a lot more specific plays for Jimmy Graham. And Drew [Brees] and Jimmy were on the same page and you could see it getting better every single year. Russell and him [Graham] are taking their time with that and trying to get on the same page. But I just think the scheme is different over there in Seattle and he's going to have to get on the same page with that."
After Sunday's game, Tyrann Mathieu told PFT Live he thought the Seahawks were not getting creative enough with Graham.
"I played against Jimmy in 2013 when he was with the Saints and I mean he was all over the field. The biggest thing with them was he created mismatches for him, and [Sunday] he wasn't really in a position where we felt like it was a mismatch. We felt like we had great cover guys on him all the time and those two weeks we had to prepare for them it really helped us a whole lot."
ESPN write Sheil Kapadia took a deeper dive into the numbers to see whether Mathieu was on point with his critique. According to Kapadia, Graham spent more time in the slot and out wide with the Saints than he does in Seattle. In New Orleans, Graham was used as an in-line tight end 37.1 percent of the time. In Seattle, he is used as an in-line tight end 60.1 percent of the time. The Seahawks run a much more run-heavy offense, and their offensive line is a train wreck, so it is not surprising they would keep the tight end in more frequently.
Graham is still putting up some decent numbers. He is on pace for 73 catches on 110 targets for 873 yards. Those numbers are decent for most tight ends, but they would represent his worst season since his rookie year. Considering he has a cap hit of $8 million this year, and it climbs to $9 million in 2016, and $10 million in 2017, one would think the Seahawks would try and figure out more ways to work him into the offense.
I get trying to work a player into an existing system, but when you are talking about a dynamic player like Graham, how do you now make further adjustments? He is still making big plays when he gets a chance. His nine catches of 20+ yards has exceeded his total last season. The plays are there to be made.
Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers No. 24 in defending tight ends. They contained Graham a couple weeks ago, but gave up some bigger plays to the young wide receivers, and Marshawn Lynch. What will we see on Sunday up in Seattle?