Given where he was a year ago at this time — in the initial stages of another grueling rehab from another devastating injury — Seahawks tight end Will Dissly counts it as a victory just to be able to suit up each week.
“I’m grateful to be playing,” Dissly, also a former University of Washington standout, said Friday. “Grateful to be helping this team win.”
And though his receiving numbers are down from those of a year ago, Dissly says, so be it.
“My main focus is doing anything I can to help this team win,” Dissly said. “I don’t really look at expectations or goals or whatnot.”
But if the 14 catches for 163 yards through 10 games may not have been what others may have expected this season from Dissly after his absurdly hot start to the 2019 season, that also may be about to change.
With Greg Olsen out for at least 4-6 weeks because of a plantar-fascia foot injury, Dissly figures to again become essentially the team’s No. 1 tight end and possibly put up the kind of numbers he did in five games a year ago before suffering an Achilles tendon injury at Cleveland.
Dissly had 23 receptions for 262 yards in the first five games before being injured, with 22 for 250 and four touchdowns in the four games before he was hurt, all on pace for not only one of the best seasons for any tight end in Seahawks history but also one of the best for any tight end in the NFL in 2019.
The injury was the second of Dissly’s career — he suffered a patellar tendon injury as a rookie in 2018 at Arizona — and the uncertainty over his recovery as well as how the rest of the tight-end corps might shake out helped lead to the Seahawks signing Olsen in February.
Dissly made a full recovery in time for the season opener and has played in every game.
But Olsen has been the No. 1 tight end, playing 62% of the snaps to Dissly’s 46%. Last year Dissly played 51% or more of the snaps in each of the five games before he was injured, including 79% and 89% in the last two.
And that has led to Olsen getting more than twice as many targets than Dissly — 35 to 17 — and catching 23 for 224 yards and one touchdown.
Olsen’s arrival, as well as the departure in free agency of George Fant — who last year played regularly in a role as a sixth offensive linemen/tight end/eligible tackle — also has altered Dissly’s role in other ways this season.
In 2019 Dissly lined up in the slot or as an outside receiver 89 times, compared with 160 snaps inline, according to Pro Football Focus.
This year, Dissly has been used almost exclusively inline — 262 snaps compared with just 47 either in the slot or split out — with Olsen inline on 161 snaps compared with 253 off the line.
“We ask him to do a lot of the heavy lifting,” is the way offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer put it Friday when he spoke with the media via Zoom.
That Olsen is a likely future Hall of Famer on a one-year deal that included $5.5 million guaranteed, it made sense that the Seahawks would want to make the most of his snaps.
And Dissly has found no reason to complain, understanding fully that he first had to show the team that he had recovered physically.
“Fall camp was definitely a little rusty,” Dissly said.
But Dissly has had no setbacks, and with Olsen departing early in the fourth quarter of the Arizona game, he ended up playing a season-high 66% of the snaps.
Dissly said he felt basically 100% when the season began, adding, “I wouldn’t have come back if I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
But being healthy and being back to the high level Dissly played at in 2019 are different things, and Dissly says “as the weeks go on I get more and more confident.”
Now with Olsen sidelined possibly for the rest of the regular season, Dissly figures to again be the primary tight end, with Jacob Hollister moving into the No. 2 spot and rookie Colby Parkinson — who has played just three snaps all season — at No. 3.
That Hollister and Parkinson project more as receiving tight ends may mean Dissly will continue to see much of his time lined up inside.
In fact, Hollister has more targets this year than Dissly — 19 — making the same number of catches (14) for 118 yards. Hollister has an almost 50-50 split in lining up inline (63 snaps) vs. in the slot or outside (60), with another 24 in the backfield.
But no matter where he lines up, Dissly figures to see more targets. He hasn’t made more than two catches in any game this season nor had more than four targets.
Last year, Dissly had four or more catches in the last four full games he played before his injury.
He may again start to get that kind of use, though Dissly said he remains happy to do whatever the team asks.
“We’re a close group,” Dissly said of the tight ends. “We work really well together, and we will kind of all attack the role together.”