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NFL New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints Training Camp Profile: Jimmy Graham

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2013 will be a critical year for New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

After he broke onto the scene in 2011, he had a disappointing season last year. Well, disappointing only considering the out-of-this-world expectations that were put on him after that 2011 performance. In fact, just one year after being ranked as the 14th best player in the league by the NFL network, Graham didn’t even make the list this time around.

But his 2012 year wasn’t bad at all. He racked up 85 receptions for 982 yards and nine touchdowns. That would be a career year for most tight ends, but Graham isn’t most tight ends.

One of the new breed of tight ends, Graham is as dangerous in the passing game as the best wide receivers in the NFL. A matchup nightmare for defenses, he can dominate smaller defensive backs and simply outrun bigger linebackers. He does his best work in the end zone, where he can use the basketball skills he learned at the University of Miami to box out defenders and catch touchdowns.

Those skills make him not just one of the best tight ends in the game, but one of the best offensive weapons period. And it doesn’t hurt he plays on one of the most explosive offensive teams around.

Quarterback Drew Brees, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, comes back for another year to once again combine football wits with head coach Sean Payton, who comes back from his year-long suspension for Bounty Gate.

And that should be the difference this year, not just for Graham but for the entire Saints team. Payton is truly ahead of the curve when it comes to offense and offensive play-calling. Having him back on the sidelines on Sundays and in the coach’s rooms shaping game plans during the week will once again have the Saints at the top of the NFL mountain.

2012 was a tough year all around in New Orleans, but 2013 will be another great year for Jimmy Graham and the Saints offense.

Ben Sullivan is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bensullivan52, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.