Can Graham Replace Nelson As a Touchdown Scorer?
The free agent signing of Jimmy Graham by the Green Bay Packers was made possible by the Packers releasing Jordy Nelson. The two will always be linked by that occurrence, but it’s not the only thing this tight end and wide receiver have in common.
I tripped over a list of the active NFL leaders in touchdowns scored the other day. Old vets Antonio Gates and Larry Fitzgerald are in a world all their own – their 114 and 110 career receiving touchdowns puts them almost 30 TDs ahead of anyone else. In spots three through five are Brandon Marshall, Rob Gronkowski, and Dez Bryant.
Guess who’s in sixth place? It’s a tie between Jordy and Jimmy, at 69 touchdowns.
Some receivers just have a knack for getting into the end zone. Antonio Brown is prolific, but he’s 10 TDs behind Jordy and Jimmy. He and Graham both turned pro in 2010, while Jordy turned pro in 2008, but Jordy didn’t even start more than four games until his fourth year, and missed the 2015 season. Julio Jones, who has been in the league for seven years, has only managed 43 TD catches.
Jordy, of course, has scored many times on long passes. Jimmy generally goes to work once his team is inside the 10-yard line, by posting up, boxing out, or simply out-jumping, out-reaching, or out-fighting defensive backs who are smaller by around 70 pounds and seven inches in height.
The Alabama Antelope
A short diversion. Though Jordy has departed, he is still safely near the top of the Green Bay record book with those 69 touchdowns, while with Green Bay. The one guy he was never going to equal was Don Hutson, who caught 99 TD passes. That total stood in the NFL record books for 44 years.
When Hutson wasn’t catching touchdown passes, he was kicking extra points and field goals. He also spent the last six years of his career playing defense, intercepting 30 passes along the way.
Hutson starred from 1935 through 1945 – at a time when passing was more of a gimmick than an established offensive weapon. Still, he led the league in touchdowns every year except 1939 and 1945. Hutson was the precursor of the modern era of the NFL.
Former Packers executives, including Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf, have referred to Hutson as the greatest player the game has known. While it’s impossible to compare different eras, when it comes to separating himself from his peers, Hutson is in a class by himself.
From Green Bay to Vegas
Let’s not feel too sorry for Jordy. He’ll likely finish his career in Las Vegas, as the Raiders will start playing there either in 2019 or 2020. That will be as big a culture change as you could find among NFL venues. The brand new NFL fan base should give even a consummate pro like Jordy some added spark and enthusiasm.
Bigger still, however, might be the head coaching difference: from Mike McCarthy to Jon Gruden! Contemplate that for a moment. It says a great deal that such a forward-thinking man as Gruden would be the first in line to go after Jordy once it became known that he had become a free agent.
Finally, Jordy will be switching from Aaron Rodgers to Derek Carr. Here’s what coach Gruden has to say about his five-year veteran, who got a $125 million five-year contract in 2017.
“(Derek Carr) has spectacular arm talent. He can make any throw from any platform: under duress, sidearm, you name it, running left, running right. He can make all the throws… We have to create more vertical shots for him, off of play action. We’ve got to get more from him athletically… This is an extremely athletic quarterback, but we’re gonna put him in charge at the line of scrimmage more than he’s been in the past… He has a lot of charisma, I think, that we’re going to try to unlock.”
Maybe Gruden had Jordy in mind when he brought up taking more vertical shots?
At any rate, I’m sure that as many Green Bay fans will be rooting for Nelson to do well out west as will be cheering for Graham in Green Bay.
Of all the unnerving actions taken by Packers leadership in 2018, the decision to part ways with Jordy might be the one that most determines this team’s destiny in the near future.