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|Jimmy Graham isn't worried about developing chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers new tight end knows how good his new quarterback is Frank Gore Jersey , and through the first three days of training camp, they've already made plenty of progress.
But when will Graham know that he and Rodgers have truly gotten on the same page?
"I'll be with the ball in the end zone," Graham said after Saturday's first in-pads practice of camp. "That's really when you know."
That hasn't happened yet in any of the 11-on-11 team periods of the first three practices, but the two have connected plenty of times during drills and expect to be on the same wavelength in time for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Chicago.
"We'll just keep plugging away. We'll just keep doing that each and every day," Graham said. "And come Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . we'll be clicking, I'm pretty sure."
The Packers certainly need Graham, a five-time Pro Bowl tight end who came over from Seattle in free agency Mitchell Schwartz Jersey , to be a force. After cutting wide receiver Jordy Nelson during the offseason, they'll be counting on Graham to be a go-to presence in the red zone. Last year with the Seahawks, all 10 of his touchdown catches came from inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Coach Mike McCarthy's offense is at its best when he has a big, athletic tight end in the mix, which is why the team has signed one three years running - Jared Cook in 2016, Martellus Bennett last year and Graham this time around. While the Bennett experiment backfired, Rodgers and Cook developed a strong connection during their one season together after Cook overcame early-season injury problems.
"We just need more reps," Rodgers said of his exposure to Graham. "He's a big target, he catches the ball with his hands. We haven't had a guy like that around here in a while. Obviously Jared did a lot of those things, but Jimmy, he's got a great feel for coverages Bruce Irvin Jersey , getting open, he uses his body really well, runs good routes. And he's a matchup issue. We haven't had a consistent matchup issue guy like that for a long time.
"So we just need reps together. He needs to hear the language, he needs to hear some of the code words and the verbiage and the signals. I'm not worried about any chemistry issues with him."
Graham, who played with elite-level quarterbacks with the Saints (Drew Brees) and Seahawks (Russell Wilson), has been impressed with Rodgers' accuracy and his ability to put the ball in places that protect his receivers from dangerous hits. To Graham, having that type of trust already with Rodgers is a very encouraging sign.
"I know when leads me out there that I can just run right through it. I've got no worries in the world because I know he's the eyes in the back of my head," Graham said. "We'll just keep working on that. It's not him getting on my page, it's me getting on his page, you know? He's been in this league a long time, knows too much Jack Tatum Jersey , and I've got to just catch up and just learn every day and make sure I'm supposed to be where I'm at so I can make that catch and make that big play."
As the Browns search for a left tackle to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, the best option could be hiding right next door.
Left guard Joel Bitonio, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2017, took some snaps at left tackle during the offseason program, and the door vaguely seems to be open on more of the same.
“We put Joel and Chris [Hubbard] over there for a few snaps because this is the time to do it,” offensive line coach Bob Wylie recently said regarding the offseason workouts, via Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It’s the time to experiment. Once you get into camp you get more zeroed in on the guys who will actually play.”
So could it be Bitonio?
“Just because you’re the best guy doesn’t mean you’re in the best spot,” Wylie said. “Joel is an elite left guard. Could he play tackle? Sure, but it would take a while for him to learn the nuances. If he’s the best lineman, is he really the best left tackle? Not necessarily.”
Bitonio, who received a contract extension under the premise that he’s a guard not a tackle Jamaal Williams Jersey , seems to be willing to do whatever the team wants.
“Anything they need I’m willing to give a try, but I think right now the plan is to find a guy to play left tackle, and I’m going to stick right at left guard,” Bitonio recently said.
Shon Coleman is expected to open training camp at the top option at left tackle. Where it goes from there remains to be seen, but if they could find a left guard who plays well enough in place of Bitonio, the best move for the short- and long-term could be to slide Bitonio to the outside.
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