The Falcons feel like they know what they have in most of their tight ends. They’ve had seasons to evaluate Austin Hooper, who looks ready to break out even further in his fourth season. Luke Stocker is a steady veteran who has played for both new/old offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and new tight ends coach Mike Mularkey. Logan Paulsen is a known quantity as a quality blocker. Eric Saubert was, at least in the coaching staff’s eyes, not a lock to make this roster, which is why he was traded away.
The guys who needed and got more evaluation, then, are Alex Gray and Jaeden Graham. Gray had a solid night—he’s at least a semi-capable blocker and reeled in his first two NFL catches, to my knowledge—but it was Graham who stole the show against the Jets.
He led all receivers in yardage and receptions, reeling in 4 for 55 and showing a willingness to go over and through contact in the process. For a guy who has only been playing tight end for a few years and came into the summer with four guys ahead of him on the depth chart, he looked extremely fluid and promising as a pass catcher, even if a hiccup in pass protection led to a sack and he picked up a penalty along the way. The team won’t simply dismiss those mistakes—you can’t, really—but there was rampant speculation after the team traded Saubert that they were doing so to clear a path to a roster spot for Graham. Last night only strengthened that notion.
Where will Graham go from here? The Falcons will likely want long looks at him in Weeks 3 and it would help his cause a great deal if he throws a few solid blocks along the way, given that carrying him instead of Paulsen would take a very good one out of the mix on gameday. It’s been a long time since the team had a promising young reserve tight end who could actually be a factor as a receiver, so Graham bears close watching these next two weeks.