Pressure could be on fifth-round pick Luke Willson to fill role of backup tight end

When fifth-round draft pick Luke Willson emerged as one of the standout players at the Seahawks’ recent rookie minicamp, he loomed as a potentially intriguing luxury for the 2013 season.

But now, the progress of Willson could become critical to the high expectations greeting this season after it was learned Friday that backup tight end Anthony McCoy will be out as many as nine months after suffering an Achilles tendon injury that required surgery.

McCoy, a four-year veteran from USC, was apparently injured late during Seattle’s first offseason training activity of the season Monday. USA Today reported, and the team later confirmed, that he had surgery on Thursday. McCoy was carted off the field with what was initially described as an ankle injury.

McCoy projected to be Seattle’s backup tight end this season to Zach Miller, the same role he had a year ago when he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns.

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Without McCoy, Miller is the only tight end on the Seahawks’ roster who has caught a pass in a game.

Other tight ends on the roster are Willson, veterans Sean McGrath and Cooper Helfet and undrafted free agents Victor Marshall and Darren Fells.

Willson could be next in line after a few standout performances during the team’s rookie minicamp.

The 6-5, 252-pounder from Rice caught just nine passes for 126 yards in 2012 while limited to six games due to lingering ankle and back injuries.

But he was healthy during the run-up to the draft and a number of teams were intrigued after he ran a 4.51 40 at Rice’s Pro Day, which would have been the second-fastest among tight ends at the NFL combine.

“He has really good speed, and it showed up,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the first day of rookie minicamp earlier this month. “He caught the ball really well. So that was probably the brightest spot that you could really see a guy jump out today.”

The loss of McCoy is the second time in a week Seattle learned it will be without a significant player for at least part of the 2013 season. The Seahawks found out last week that defensive end Bruce Irvin will have to sit out the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policies on performance-enhancing drugs.

The Seahawks will continue with OTAs through June 6.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or