- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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METAIRIE, La. – Jimmy Graham said it was “awesome” this week to become the first tight end in NFL history to be named a conference’s offensive player of the month.
“Obviously it was a great month for me and for this offense, just for us as a team. And I’m just honored,” said Graham, who caught 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns while the New Orleans Saints started 4-0.
Graham is well aware that he’s unlikely to keep up that torrid pace. He’s exploited a surprising amount of one-on-one matchups early this season. But he knows full well that defenses will start to double-team him even more than they already have, use more bracket coverage, shove him at the line of scrimmage more -- and whatever other methods they can concoct to slow him down. He’s seen plenty of that already throughout his four-year career.
Graham said he is fine with that, though, because it means defenses will leave themselves vulnerable to other weapons – as happened Monday night in the Saints' 38-17 victory over Miami. While Graham was held without a catch in the first 21 minutes, running back Darren Sproles was on his way to collecting 114 receiving yards. (Graham later caught four passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns anyway.)
“I would say the first half, they really looked to take me out of the game and doubled me, especially when I was split out. But fortunately this team’s so talented that that really doesn’t matter,” Graham said. “That left Sproles one-on-one, and we all saw what he did. So if teams look to take me out or double me or do whatever they want to me, then Drew [Brees] is gonna find the open guy.
“And fortunately I’ve been the open guy quite a bit those first four games. That’s just how it fell. And hopefully it will keep continuing to be that way.”
Of course, Graham doesn’t actually have to open for Brees to look his way – as the quarterback proved by firing a 27-yard touchdown pass up high to Graham in between three Miami defenders.
“Well, yeah. Drew’s term of ‘open’ is very loose,” Graham said. “He says, ‘Hey, I saw you there open.’ And I’m like, ‘All right, man, just throw it and I’ll get it.’ That’s just how he is. He’s got a lot of trust in me, especially after this offseason, me and him getting a lot of work in. I would say he has more trust in me than he ever has. And obviously that’s awesome.”
Graham said after Monday’s game that he thinks it’s made a huge difference for the Saints' offense this season that Brees was with the team all summer after he missed the 2012 offseason during a contract negotiation. Graham pointed out that this is actually the first full offseason he’s had with Brees in his career, as he was a rookie in 2010 and there was a lockout in 2011.
“And I feel like the first four games, it’s showing,” Graham said.