Whatever worry might have been leftover from Jimmy Graham’s preseason finger injury certainly faded to black in the second quarter of Thursday night’s regular-season opener.
The veteran tight end, who injured his finger a few weeks ago and recently returned to full practice reps, helped capitalize on the Green Bay Packers’ first scoring drive of the 2019 NFL season when Aaron Rodgers found Graham for an 8-yard touchdown catch, giving the Packers a 7-3 lead over the Chicago Bears in the second half.
The touchdown came in just four plays after the Bears allowed Rodgers a ton of time on first down, where without defenders anywhere close to him the star quarterback was able to hurl a 47-yard completion to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The completion alone produced more offense for the Packers than every other play prior to it Thursday night.
By halftime, the Packers led 7-3 after its defense kept Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense stifled for the remainder of the opening half. Rodgers led the Packers into the locker room after hitting six different targets for at least one catch — counting two running backs and two tight ends.
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Graham’s Ready to Rise
Graham made 55 catches 636 yards and two touchdowns in his first season in Green Bay, but now he has a year of trust with Rodgers under his belt. Add in that his good hands and experienced route-running work well with new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, and the 32-year-old tight end is poised to take a big step in 2019.
The only thing that hurt expectations and led to Graham dropping off the radar heading into Thursday night was the finger injury he endured in mid-August during training camp. The Packers originally feared the worst, but Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst offered relief in a matter of days with news that they “might’ve escaped one right there.”
Graham was removed from the injured list Wednesday and made his presence known early with his touchdown catch, which was his first of two during the first half. He also caught one in the final minute of the half, vaulting the Bears’ Eddie Jackson for a short gain.