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Skinny
08-29-2007, 12:24 PM
Receiver role overlooked in tight end's production
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
08/29/2007

Tight end Daniel Graham's versatility makes him a key player in the running or passing game. (Post / John Leyba)So this is why the New England Patriots stopped throwing the ball to Daniel Graham.

Now that his first preseason with the Broncos is finished, Colorado's football fans have a better understanding why Graham's pass-catching totals shrunk in recent years.

The man is too good a blocker, cursed by his own versatility.

"Any tight end wants the ball," Graham said. "But I've always felt that because of my blocking abilities, it's had an effect on me in the passing game. Plus, I've always been a player who will do what they ask me to do."

The preseason stats say Graham had two catches in three games. Both were for first downs that led to scores. The first was a beauty - a body- twisting correction on a tipped pass for a 21-yard gain against the Dallas Cowboys. The second was an 11-yard catch in traffic during the Broncos' successful two-minute drive against the Cleveland Browns.

"He's definitely not just a run blocker," said Nate Jackson, one of the Broncos' backup tight ends. "He's got soft hands, he's deceptively fast and he runs good routes. He's a really good athlete."

There is another stat, though, that isn't made available to the public. Blocking stats. The Broncos' coaching staff keeps close track of blocks, and not just in games. Since training camp opened a month ago, the Broncos estimate Graham has missed one block.

That's one missed assignment through two-a-day practices and three preseason games, all of which are filmed and dissected by the coaching staff. That one missed block?

"I don't remember it," Graham said.

Supposedly, it was during a practice against the Cowboys two weeks ago in Irving, Texas. No doubt, the Cowboys blitzed. With Graham putting the strong in the strong side of the offensive line, the Broncos' first-string offense rushed for 43 yards on six carries against San Francisco and 66 yards on 15 carries while using backup tailbacks against

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As a starter, Graham won't play in the Broncos' final preseason game, Thursday night against the Arizona Cardinals at Invesco Field at Mile High, so to sum up his first preseason in Denver, he has had two catches and one lousy missed block.

Maybe if he pulled a Shannon Sharpe and slacked up on his blocking, Graham might get more catches.

"I won't do that," Graham said. "Blocking's part of my game."

Colorado football fans remember a not-so- distant time when pass catching was a more prominent part of Graham's game. In fact, as a senior at the University of the Colorado, Graham was the top receiving tight end in the nation.

Numero uno. The best.

He led the country with 753 receiving yards and six touchdown catches, and his 51 receptions finished second. He came out of college running the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds and earned the John Mackey Award.

John Mackey was a tight end who caught passes. After the Patriots selected Graham in the first round of the 2002 draft, they threw him the ball for a few years. Then they fell in love with watching him knock those supposedly ferocious pass-rushing defensive ends and outside linebackers on their keisters.

Next thing fantasy football players knew, Graham disappeared into the Patriots' underappreciated group of Super Bowl champion players. If the Patriots needed a tight end to run a route, they could always send out Ben Watson.

"The more glamorous tight end guys are those who catch the ball and score a lot of touchdowns," said Tom Mills, Graham's agent. "And Dan has done that, maybe not as much as some other guys, but he hasn't complained about that. He's so proficient as a blocker that on some of the more obvious passing situations, instead of going out on patterns, he was back there taking on defensive ends. He's always had a meaningful role in the passing game, but sometimes he's been acting like an offensive tackle as opposed to a receiving threat."

When Graham became a free agent in March, though, the Broncos did not give him a tight end-record contract with the idea of getting a one-dimensional player in return. For starters, the Broncos will get some of that $15 million guaranteed money back in sheer number of plays. On offense, the Broncos figure to have just seven players participate in every down - quarterback Jay Cutler, the five offensive linemen and Graham, their two-way tight end.

Travis Henry will need the occasional blow at running back. There are short-yardage packages that will send wide receivers Javon Walker and Brandon Marshall to the sidelines.

But regardless of whether it's third-and-1 or third-and-15, or the play calls for a pass or run, the Broncos will want Graham to be part of it.

"A guy like that you don't want to take off the field," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "The only reason he didn't catch much in New England is they have a guy in Watson who's a freak of nature."

Graham didn't catch many passes in his first preseason with the Broncos, either, but that doesn't mean he won't set a career high with 40 receptions during the regular season. All it means is the Broncos found out for themselves why New England became enamored with keeping him in to block.

http://www.denverpost.com/headlines/ci_6744537

TXBRONC
08-29-2007, 12:33 PM
Thanks for the read Skinny. When Graham was still with the Patriots I saw him catch a short pass, hurdle a tackler and scamper into the end zone for a like 40 yard or more touchdown.

There is one place I would disagree with Klis and its on why the Patriots stopped throwing him the ball. They stopped because the decided they couldn't live without Ben Waston.

Skinny
08-29-2007, 12:50 PM
In N.E, majority of the offense was based on and around Brady. So the most important thing was protecting him. The reason Grahams role deminished from a pass catching TE to a blocking TE. And he was damn good at it.

Mikey has never been one nor will he ever be one to keep a weapon like Graham held back as mostly a blocking TE. He's just to offensive minded.

Graham will get his catches here in this offense and bring back some of that consistancy that's been missing at the TE position for a couple years now IMO.

And not to mention being a great mentor for Sheffler to improve his blocking and route running while helping him reach his full potential.

Graham was a great pick up.

Skinny
08-29-2007, 12:51 PM
Thanks for the read Skinny. When Graham was still with the Patriots I saw him catch a short pass, hurdle a tackler and scamper into the end zone for a like 40 yard or more touchdown.

There is one place I would disagree with Klis and its on why the Patriots stopped throwing him the ball. They stopped because the decided they couldn't live without Ben Waston.I remember that play.

It shocked me to see him have that kind of athletic ability for such a big guy.

TXBRONC
08-29-2007, 12:52 PM
In N.E, majority of the offense was based on and around Brady. So the most important thing was protecting him. The reason Grahams role deminished from a pass catching TE to a blocking TE. And he was damn good at it.

Mikey has never been one nor will he ever be one to keep a weapon like Graham held back as mostly a blocking TE. He's just to offensive minded.

Graham will get his catches here in this offense and bring back some of that consistancy that's been missing at the TE position for a couple years now IMO.

And not to mention being a great mentor for Sheffler to improve his blocking and route running while helping him reach his full potential.

Graham was a great pick up.

Absolutely, I can see Graham easily reaching 50 catches this season barring injury.

Fan in Exile
08-29-2007, 01:13 PM
I have to think that at least a part of Graham not catching a lot in the pre-season is that Shanny didn't want to show any cards. Looking at it none of our TE's really got much action. Tony because he's injured and Graham because he's the type of pro who will be ready.

I think when it comes to the regualr season though we are really going to see them produce. Especially against the Bills LBs, which is a unit in transition.

Lonestar
08-29-2007, 02:50 PM
frankly I do not see him that strong in the passing department with them grooming Scheffler who seems to be much faster than graham. I'd hope that both can get 25-40 catches this year totaling 700-800 or so yards and a few TD's. Both will add a dimension we have not had in a long time.

BTW any bets on whether Jackson sticks around I think Alexander gets cut for making way to much money if Scheffler is healthy that is.

DenBronx
08-29-2007, 03:04 PM
graham and sheffler make an interesting duo of tight ends. both have good hands although i think sheffler is more of a wr type of tight end and a good endzone target. graham i think will be a good blocker in the run or pass game but dont count out the chef.

basically i think chef can learn alot about the blocking part by having a guy like graham and graham i think will be overlook a lot by defenses. this means graham should be getting some good looks in the passing game.

broncosinindy
08-29-2007, 09:31 PM
I like graham he will be a beast this year. he will lead Travis to a good year if henry can stay healthy. Nate Jackson has had a great camp. and i think he is further ahead at this point as a receiving guy then Scheffler. i seen tony get blown off the ball a couple times in Cleveland. i think we paid graham alot of money and i think he is gonna earn every penny of it!

TXBRONC
08-29-2007, 09:35 PM
I like graham he will be a beast this year. he will lead Travis to a good year if henry can stay healthy. Nate Jackson has had a great camp. and i think he is further ahead at this point as a receiving guy then Scheffler. i seen tony get blown off the ball a couple times in Cleveland. i think we paid graham alot of money and i think he is gonna earn every penny of it!


There have been a lot of people that thought that Nate is absolutely useless. I think valuable as a Special Teamer.

Skinny
08-29-2007, 09:45 PM
frankly I do not see him that strong in the passing department with them grooming Scheffler who seems to be much faster than graham. I'd hope that both can get 25-40 catches this year totaling 700-800 or so yards and a few TD's. Both will add a dimension we have not had in a long time.

BTW any bets on whether Jackson sticks around I think Alexander gets cut for making way to much money if Scheffler is healthy that is.I had no idea Alexander was getting paid that much this season.

That's a big chunk of change and somethings gotta give there.

Money or a roster spot. Unless i'm totally missing something here.

TXBRONC
08-29-2007, 09:59 PM
I have to think that at least a part of Graham not catching a lot in the pre-season is that Shanny didn't want to show any cards. Looking at it none of our TE's really got much action. Tony because he's injured and Graham because he's the type of pro who will be ready.

I think when it comes to the regualr season though we are really going to see them produce. Especially against the Bills LBs, which is a unit in transition.

That and the fact that Graham and the rest of the starting unit were not on the field all that much.

Watchthemiddle
08-30-2007, 12:19 AM
I hope I don't get into trouble with this one, its kind of off topic...but.....

So...how many TE's do you think we will keep? And, which ones?

Discuss...:D

Requiem / The Dagda
08-30-2007, 12:26 AM
After Marshall kept having his nagging injuries, I thought that Graham and Scheffler would finish #2 and #3 respectively on the wide receiving list as far as catches go, but Marshall looks impressive and he could really shine if he is healthy throughout the year. I still think those two cats will have quite the impact, and I'd expect them to get about 35 to 45 (wide range) balls each and I wouldn't be surprised to see them crack 1,000 yards as a duo, but JR's estimate is probably more close to reality.

A good tight end is a young quarterbacks best friend, and lucky for us we have two of them in Graham and Scheffler.

As far as who we're going to keep, obviously the two aforementioned with Leach being the third guy as a long snapper, and much to my chagrin, Nate Jackson will probably end up finding a nice place on the 53 man, although he is not deserving.

As much as people like Alexander, he's making a ridiculous amount of money for someone who isn't even going to see the field a third of the offensive snaps we could sure have that better spent elsewhere. When you have a guy like Graham who excels at blocking and is above-average in the passing department and a kid in Scheffler who can stretch the field vertically and will improve his blocking, a guy like Alexander really becomes expendable.

We'll see. I hope we don't carry five or six like we have previously. That's just ridiculous.

broncosfanscott
08-30-2007, 05:59 PM
I never really knew much about Graham while he was with NE and from what I have seen so far I can see the impact he will have. I noticed how big of a guy he is during the Browns game and when you put him along with Scheffler(healthy) and Jackson.......those are some weapons.

Lonestar
08-30-2007, 06:35 PM
After Marshall kept having his nagging injuries, I thought that Graham and Scheffler would finish #2 and #3 respectively on the wide receiving list as far as catches go, but Marshall looks impressive and he could really shine if he is healthy throughout the year. I still think those two cats will have quite the impact, and I'd expect them to get about 35 to 45 (wide range) balls each and I wouldn't be surprised to see them crack 1,000 yards as a duo, but JR's estimate is probably more close to reality.

A good tight end is a young quarterbacks best friend, and lucky for us we have two of them in Graham and Scheffler.

As far as who we're going to keep, obviously the two aforementioned with Leach being the third guy as a long snapper, and much to my chagrin, Nate Jackson will probably end up finding a nice place on the 53 man, although he is not deserving.

As much as people like Alexander, he's making a ridiculous amount of money for someone who isn't even going to see the field a third of the offensive snaps we could sure have that better spent elsewhere. When you have a guy like Graham who excels at blocking and is above-average in the passing department and a kid in Scheffler who can stretch the field vertically and will improve his blocking, a guy like Alexander really becomes expendable.

We'll see. I hope we don't carry five or six like we have previously. That's just ridiculous.

I think they will dump SA I think he makes way to much as you said for th limited number of snaps he will see. I would have thought hey would have cut him
last week so he can catch on somewhere.
perhaps hat means he is on the team. I like Nate may not be the best TE but he is decent WR that can swing both ways. His ST play may make the difference. in Making he squad.

Your correct the TE is and has been the bread and butter guy on rd down since and just before Eddie mac went don. Sharpe was he man for John and greasy and probably would have been for Jake had he stuck around longer.

With Tony and Dan this should be a strong point in DEN.

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