Flanked left on third-and-eight from the Rams’ 14-yard line, Bears tight end Jimmy Graham was being covered by all-world cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He ran a comeback route and caught Andy Dalton’s pass for 11 yards. He was held up by three Rams players until officials blew the whistle, but Graham never fell down.
He celebrated after the play.
“First catch of the season,” Graham said Thursday. “And obviously kind of a big moment because [the Bears] called timeout and I’m pretty sure [the Rams] told everybody where the ball was going, and we just called the same play again. So that’s always encouraging. Hopefully I get some more one-on-one opportunities moving forward and can capitalize like that.”
That should happen Sunday, given the amount of man coverage the Bengals play.
While Graham will remain a prime red-zone target, it’s fair to wonder how many snaps he’ll play in other scenarios. If Game 1 is any indication, he’ll finish a distant second behind starter Cole Kmet. If so, the Bears will end up paying $7 million — and a $10 million dead cap hit, 10th-highest on the team — to a player with, to quote Liam Neeson, a very particular set of skills.
Last season, Graham played 59.4% of the Bears’ snaps. Sunday, he played 20% of them.
“I’m always ready and always willing,” he said. “So we’ll see.”
Graham, who finished with just that one catch Sunday, didn’t complain about playing time Thursday. He even joked that, at 34, he has to stay loose on the sideline.
“I’m always in it for my guys,” he said. “Cole is getting a lot of snaps and so I’m always ever-present to make sure that I’m ready when needed. Especially if he gets tired. And I’m always there, encouraging him and telling him what I see.”
Ninety minutes after coach Matt Nagy categorized his injury as having an “arrow up,” nose tackle Eddie Goldman did not practice Thursday.
The step back came after he made his first practice appearance in 10 days on Wednesday, when he was limited because of a knee injury that kept him from playing in Week 1.
Starting left tackle Jason Peters, who hurt his quad Sunday, was limited for the second day in a row Thursday.
“I think they are in a good place and we’ll continue to monitor them day-by-day,” Nagy said of Goldman and Peters before practice. “But I would say, as I’ve used before, arrow up for them. I feel good about them and we need to see each day how we go but they’ve been doing well.”
Goldman “wants to be out there on the field and he wants to help us win,” defensive lineman Bilal Nichols said. He categorized Goldman as “ready” and “eager to play.”
Backup left tackle Larry Borom, who hurt his ankle on a shovel pass after replacing Peters, missed his second consecutive practice. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who has been dealing with back pain since the spring, also was limited for the second consecutive day.