For all of the excitement percolating in Seattle about the Seahawks' see-saw 39-30 victory Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers, for many, there was a 'Yeah, but' at the end of each high-five at the water cooler.
As in, 'Yeah, but' the Seahawks lost Jimmy Graham for the year.
The injury to Graham is heartbreaking. The injury sustained - a ruptured patellar tendon - is considered one of the more difficult injuries to overcome. Further, Graham was just starting to emerge as the weapon Carroll and general manager John Schneider imagined when they pulled off the trade for him last spring.
As Pete Carroll said during Monday's normally-scheduled press conference, the Seahawks will miss Graham in many ways - and not just on the field.
"I think in all phases we'll miss him," Carroll said. "He's a great guy, we like him. He's fun to have around, he's a terrific player. I think you're probably asking about the football part. We've been growing with him, and you expect certain guys to do things and so we've expected Jimmy to make some plays and do some special things. It'll be a little bit different. We'll just change, we go to the next guy. Luke [Willson] does all kinds of good things, and we utilize him in the fashion that he suits best."
As Carroll notes, Luke Willson does, in fact, do "all kinds of good things." If he can remain healthy, in fact, Willson has a chance to put up impressive numbers in Graham's absence.
Thrust into a starting role on an offense which increasingly catering to Graham over the past month, Willson, in fact, could put up similar and perhaps even better numbers than the three-time Pro Bowler.
Wilson doesn't possess quite the freakish combination of size and speed as the 6-7, 265 pound Graham, who was clocked at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash.
But he's closer than most Seahawks fans (and certainly most national observers) realize, actually clocking in faster during his March 18, 2013 Pro Day (NFLDraftScout.com) and measuring in at 6-5, 252 pounds. And Willson isn't just a track guy. He recorded a 38" vertical jump and had 23 repetitions of 225 during that workout - similar to the numbers (38.5") Graham posted at the 2010 Combine and Pro Day (15 reps).
Willson possesses the long arms, agility and acceleration that Graham has with the biggest knocks on him being a lack of functional strength as a blocker and durability, also like the Seahawks' prized offseason acquisition.
Willson doesn't have Graham's ball-skills. But then again, few do. Like most former basketball players turned football players, Graham catches virtually every pass with both hands away from his chest. Willson is hardly a slouch in this area, however. He's a generally reliable receiver with the wingspan and body control to occasionally make the dazzling play.
With Seattle's offense suddenly humming, Willson doesn't have to necessarily be dazzling, he just has to maintain the steady 4-5 receptions per game that Graham has over the past few weeks. Given the way, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett have responded as Seattle's primary targets (when called upon), Seattle's passing attack should be fine.
With the NFL trade deadline long past, Carroll and Schneider may be forced to focus in-house to replace Graham. Anyone signed off the street or off a practice squad (Seattle's or elsewhere) would likely be for depth purposes.
No one is going to replace Graham on his own and Seattle is likely to complement Willson with third string tight end Cooper Helfet and the Seahawks version of a Swiss Army Knife, Will Tukuafu, as well.
But it was telling that the on the very next play after Graham sustained his injury, Russell Wilson found his "new" tight end open for a 12 yard gain. It was a play that seemed a fitting tribute to the fallen Graham and a statement by the Seahawks, their young quarterback and potentially emerging young tight end that the Seahawks are in capable hands.