FOXBOROUGH – The problem with New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whom the Patriots will see this Sunday in their Week 6 matchup, is that his sheer size and athleticism make him a matchup problem all over the field, says Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Graham stands 6-7, weighs 265 pounds and ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2010. He’s caught 37 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season. The big tight end has seen the gamut of coverages, but he’s still difficult to deal with. Whether defenses treat him like a tight end or a receiver, he’s found ways to be successful.
“Treat him like whatever you want, but he is what he is,” Belichick said. “He’s big, he’s fast, very athletic. Excellent ball skills, especially down the field. He can go up and rebound the ball away from pretty much anybody. They throw him a lot of jump-ball type plays. But he’s quick, he’s a big target. He’s definitely a tough guy to cover.
“Everybody’s tried everything. Tried to jam him at the line, linebackers on him, safeties on him, double cover him. Each team kinda got their own matchups, but he’s seen a lot of different coverages. Man, zone, in and out, short and deep, jammed at the line of coverage. He’s seen all of that.”
Because of his receiving ability, it’s conceivable he could draw the coverage of cornerbacks, which he has seen before, Belichick said.
“He’s been matched up differently on different plays,” Belichick said. “A lot of times he’s split out. He’s not always in the normal tight end position. Sometimes he’s extended in a receiver type of look, so yeah he’s [seen] corners.”
The Patriots don’t have a player in the secondary who comes close to Graham in size. Aqib Talib, who is 6-1, seems like a logical matchup. But the Patriots’ closest defender in height is 6-3 linebacker Jamie Collins, who was a safety in college.