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Saints TE Jimmy Graham looking to ‘capitalize’ after standout preseason performance vs. Texans

In an atypical scenario, a 36-year-old NFL veteran with twelve seasons of experience is competing for significant playing time in the final preseason game. However, Jimmy Graham’s endeavor to secure a spot on the New Orleans roster is far from an ordinary reunion.

Graham was absent from the Saints’ second preseason match due to a “medical episode,” likely involving a seizure, in Los Angeles. This absence elevated the importance of Graham’s participation in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans as he strives to secure his spot on the team.

The seasoned player, who sat out the 2022 season, displayed his prowess on Sunday by making three receptions out of four targets for 34 yards and a touchdown. Notable among these was a remarkable 25-yard back-shoulder catch and a 3-yard touchdown from Jameis Winston, showcasing Graham’s ability to make contested catches and excel in the red zone.

Dennis Allen, the head coach, acknowledged Graham’s performance, stating, “Yeah, I think that was one of the things that … we’ve said this … we’d like to see it every day from these guys, particularly veteran players, but at some point, we have to see it. We saw it tonight.”

Tight end roster spots for Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, and Taysom Hill are secured, leaving Graham competing for the fourth position alongside Jesse James (currently dealing with an injury), J.P. Holtz, and Lucas Krull.

This preseason has seen Graham’s resurgence, as Allen noted, “Really, probably since the Chargers practices, I started to see some signs of the mental picture I have of Jimmy Graham.” The coach recognized the positive impact Graham’s performance had on the team’s outlook.

Graham, who spent his initial five seasons with the Saints before playing for Seattle, Green Bay, and Chicago, did not secure a roster spot in 2022. Nevertheless, he displayed his capabilities in this year’s preseason, showcasing his ability to make challenging catches and score touchdowns.

Winston, a teammate, expressed admiration for Graham’s prowess, stating, “He is a living legend … It is a blessing to be able to throw him the ball and watch him go out there and make spectacular catches.”

Given the Saints’ likelihood of retaining four tight ends, and taking into consideration Hill’s versatility in various positions, Graham’s performance on Sunday could very well have secured his position. Yet, with the roster deadline approaching on Tuesday, nothing is certain.

Graham reflected on his performance at the Superdome, saying, “It just reminded me of all the amazing moments I had here … so many special moments and wins.” He conveyed his eagerness for the regular season and commended the team’s strength and unity.

Should Graham earn his spot on the roster, his capacity to excel in the red zone, showcased through contested catches, could make him a valuable asset in the Saints’ offensive strategy. As he continues to prove his capabilities, Graham might contribute to redirecting some of the end-zone targets from Johnson, who is expected to have a breakout season following a strong performance in 2022.

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