If you didn't know any better Thursday night, you might have thought the Seahawks' offense was operating in midseason form. Russell Wilson looked evasive as ever; Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett were finding space in Dallas' secondary; and Christine Michael kept the Cowboys' front seven on its heels.
But as the final week of the preseason approaches, Seattle is still missing one piece to its offensive puzzle: Jimmy Graham.
The tight end hasn't played since suffering a season-ending patellar tendon injury in Week 12 of the 2015 season, but Graham took an encouraging step toward returning to the starting lineup on Thursday. Before Seattle's preseason win, Graham impressed in pregame warmups, reportedly looking "fast, fluid and comfortable running routes" with Russell Wilson and the first team.
Graham's workout caught the eye of coach Pete Carroll.
"He looked great in pregame. He was flying. He was really fired up," Carroll said. "He ran a ton of sprints before that workout, with the throwing and the catching and then he took all those plays, and then he took the pregame warmup.
"He was lit up about it afterward. He really felt good and that was a big step for him. I'm excited for him."
Graham's timetable to return has shifted week-to-week throughout the offseason. While the Seahawks were hoping the tight end's rehab wouldn't spill over into the regular season, Carroll admitted over a week ago that the team isn't sure how to navigate Graham's recovery as Week 1 approaches.
"With three really big weeks coming up here, we'll see how he goes," Carroll said at the time. "We'll be continuing to progress him more with the action around him and stuff. He's doing fine running routes and catching balls, and he looks good doing all that stuff."
So what has changed to illicit such effusive praise from his head coach? Graham took his rehab to court ... well, the basketball court.
Carroll told reporters that the team had Graham, a forward on the Miami (FL) basketball team from 2005 to 2009, make cuts, pivots and reactions to the ball recently on a basketball court.
"The idea was to give him a chance to have to make moves that are not controlled," Carroll explained. "You have controlled workouts where you have bags and you're changing direction and all those kind of things. I thought if he would just feel that, it would show him that he's ready to go to the next level. We just had some fun doing it."
Graham's basketball past has been much documented by pre-draft experts and fans of not-so-fun fun facts (did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard?), but rarely has it been relevant to his play on the field aside from his ability to "dunk" a football over the goalpost post-touchdown. That is, until now.
With a knee injury as serious as his, beating linebackers and cornerbacks off the ball with precise, confident cuts is an indicator as to whether he can return to the dominant threat that fantasy gurus fell in love with in New Orleans. Testing Graham's agility on the hardwood, then, is a surefire way to determine his readiness.
Whether he'll be healthy enough for Seattle's opener against the Dolphins remains up in the air, but if Graham's progress is as impressive as Carroll illustrated Thursday, then don't be surprised to see Graham in a blacktop pick-up game near you this weekend.