Garrett Graham has been a healthy scratch the last two games since Ryan Griffin came off injured reserve. Most teams come into a game with three tight ends. Instead of using Graham, O'Brien has opted to go with Griffin, C.J. Fiedorowicz, and Kendall Lamm as a sixth offensive lineman to help block the edge.
|Player||Off. Snaps v. CIN||Off. Snaps v. NYJ|
|Ryan Griffin||36 (57%)||28 (37%)|
|C.J. Fiedorowicz||29 (46%)||54 (72%)|
|Kendall Lamm||8 (13%)||28 (37%)|
|Garrett Graham||0 (0%)||0 (0%)|
One of the first signings made during the Rick Smith-Bill O'Brien partnership was re-signing Garrett Graham. Under his rookie contract, Graham accumulated the following statistics.
Graham finally received consistent playing time in 2012 as the second tight end and took over the starting spot in 2013 once Owen Daniels went down with a fibula fracture against San Francisco and missed the rest of the year. Graham was fine as a second tight end. He was someone who could pick up scraps as a fourth receiver. But as the first option in the center of the field, he hasn't played well. His DVOA and DYAR dropped dramatically when Graham found himself going against a team's best covering linebacker, slot corner, or safety instead of fourth cornerbacks and linebackers who aren't paid to sit back in coverage.
Smith and O'Brien apparently didn't see these numbers and resigned Garrett Graham to a new contract.
The Texans gave Graham a 3 year, $11,250,000 deal with a signing bonus of $2,250,000. This year, Graham's cap hit is nearly $4 million, and next year it stays the same. The bright spot is the Texans structured the deal so Graham can be released after this year with only $750,000 in dead money. It's basically a two-year deal with little risk in the third year. Graham hasn't lived up to the contract, and he will surely be gone after this season.
The problem with Graham is that he doesn't do anything well. Like Fiedorowicz and Griffin, he's a terrible blocker, but he's the worst of the three. Houston didn't pay him this much to block, though. They paid him to be a receiver that could attack the middle of the field as a mismatch for linebackers. As we saw in his first full year as a starter, Graham wasn't that kind of player, and since he hit the jackpot, he's posted the following numbers:
In 2014, Graham missed time with ankle and back injuries; even when healthy, he was only somewhat effective. Now in 2015, his career has plummeted. He has caught only 4 passes on 19 targets, a catch rate of 21%. His only touchdown has come on an admittedly impressive one-handed catch in the back of the end zone against Carolina. He's the worst tight end in the NFL, according to DYAR and DVOA. He's averaging just 1.26 yards per attempt. This year, Houston has paid him $980,468.75 per reception. Again, Garrett Graham is the worst tight end in the entire NFL this year.
The other problem with Graham is that he offers zero value in the offense as a run-blocker. If he contributes nothing in the passing game, he can't make it up elsewhere. He can't move outside linebackers and defensive ends in the ground game. He's like a small forward who's shooting 10% from deep while being unable to pass, defend, or rebound.
Perhaps recognizing this problem, Bill O'Brien hasn't used Graham as a run blocker at all in 2015. They exclusively used Fiedorowicz earlier this year, and have now opted to use 6 offensive linemen sets when they want two players on the edge. I had to go all the way back to last season to find an example of Graham in the run game.
Here the Texans are running a zone play to the right. With a receiver in the slot, Cleveland's outside linebacker is pulled wide. Houston has a perfect chance to break a big gain. Graham is going up to the second level to block Karlos Dansby.
Graham is late off the ball. He doesn't react to the snap count. As a result, he's going to make contact closer to the line of scrimmage than he otherwise should.
His steps look a little silly in this still, but they are fine. The issue is that he's looking for the outside shoulder. This run is supposed to come inside of him somewhere on the right side. He can't get beat inside, not outside.
When Graham gets to the linebacker, he's making contact at the line of scrimmage. This goes back to his late reaction to the snap count. Additionally, his base is too narrow. He's having to hurry to Dansby. It's 8:14 and the bus is leaving at 8:15.
His punch is made. His head placement is good on the inside shoulder, he's driving his feet, and he's brought his entire body into Dansby. There are a few problems, though. The base is still too narrow, and he's too high. He doesn't have enough leverage and isn't in a position of power to push. At his weight, Graham must have perfect form to execute a block. Also, his punch is on the outside. Graham is grabbing the shoulders not the chest. This is a sign to me a player lacks strength. When they consistently grab outside, they are trying to hold onto the block rather than drive it. He's trying to not get beat instead of attacking the edge.
Dansby has inside control and looks for the ball while Graham fights has hard as he can and goes nowhere.
Dansby reacts to the inside hole and rips under.
The other issue with outside hand placement is the blocker has no control. He can't grasp and hold because it leads to penalties. So when Dansby gets off the block, all Graham can do is let go.
What looked to be a productive gain is stopped for two yards.
Things fall apart.
Not every decision a team makes is going to work out. The issue here is there were signals predicting that Garrett Graham isn't a starting tight end. He's not a third or fourth option in the passing game, and he can't block at 6'3" and 245 lbs. He's fine when he's going up against the Justin Tuggles of the world, but he never was and isn't a player who could hold down a starting tight end position.
Instead, Houston rewarded Graham for something he can't do, and now they are paying a player $4 million his year to sit and watch.
Garrett Graham is the worst tight end in the NFL, and he's being paid to hold that title by the Houston Texans.
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