Offense in the NFL has evolved over the past decade and a half, turning to high-flying passing offenses like the Greatest Show on Turf and the 2007 New England Patriots. As offenses have shifted and become more complex in the passing game, the roles of offensive players has shifted as well, trying to create optimum matchups to maximize the productivity of the offense.
Fullbacks have essentially been phased out, and running backs are playing a reduced role, while slot receivers have become all the rage due to their supreme agility and crisp route running.
The most drastic change however, has come from tight ends. They’ve long been known as reliable third down and red zone options, but now they have evolved into no. 1 receivers, combining the size and strength of a tight end with the speed and athleticism of a wide receiver.
Basketball players have been especially prized in the this new wave of tight ends with their hands, in-air body control and box-out ability making them ideal receivers. Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints has become the poster boy of this new movement, slam-dunking on opponents all across the league.
The Carolina Panthers will be the next to try and stop Graham, and their no. 1 ranked scoring defense has what it makes to bring him down to earth. The most important thing to do with players like Graham is to jam him at the line of scrimmage and disrupt his timing with Drew Brees, allowing defenders to get into the passing lanes and rendering his size irrelevant.
The problem with this strategy is that the Saints will move Graham around to get him a free release, leaving Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly with a tough matchup. Look for the Panthers to bump Graham around as much as possible and bracket him when they can, because he will be a problem for the Panthers if they don’t.