The loss of Luke Willson for a few weeks means a larger role for rookie third-round pick Nick Vannett, who is back after missing the first four games with a high ankle sprain.
With Luke Willson out at least “weeks,” according to coach Pete Carroll, the door is wide open for rookie Nick Vannett to become a regular part of the offense for a while.
And the good news is that Vannett, a third-round pick out of Ohio State, now feels ready for that role after missing the first four games of the regular season (as well as the last two of the preseason) with a high ankle sprain. Vannett made his NFL debut Sunday against Atlanta with three offensive snaps.
But that number figures to ratchet up significantly now.
“We’re fortunate that Nick is just coming back and kind of becoming a full healthy Nick Vannett,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. “We’re excited about him and his opportunity. It really is the next man up.”
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The Seahawks also think the notoriously quick-healing Willson may not be out long.
“We’re excited with the news about Luke and we call him ‘Wolverine’ because he’s had some pretty bad injuries that seemed like he was going to be out for a long time, then one week he’s back,” Bevell said. “We’re excited that that’s the same kind of news (following Willson’s arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday). We’ll miss him but it gives Nick an opportunity and Brandon (Williams) an opportunity as well, and of course Jimmy (Graham) will be in there.”
Graham’s recovery from injury and emergence as an even bigger factor into the offense has been maybe the biggest positive for the offense.
Williams has been a pivotal special teams player and regular in the offense in multi-tight end sets.
Willson had been working as both an off-line and on-line tight end, as well as getting a few snaps as a fullback. Williams has also played some fullback.
With Willson out, Williams could just take on more of the fullback role. Vannett said did not work at that spot at all last week.
But now with Willson out, Vannett could get some snaps in that role, as well (he said last week he played a lot of what was essentially fullback at Ohio State).
“He could,” Carroll said.
Interestingly, while Vannett was drafted with the idea he might be more of a blocking tight end, he impressed the team with his receiving in training camp and in the preseason (he had three receptions for 37 yards in two preseason games).
“We were hoping he would be a wide and be a blocker in the future, and he’s showed much more than that,” Carroll said. “That’s why we’ve been so excited about getting him in there.”
Teammate Doug Baldwin, asked about Vannett, made a fairly flattering comparison Wednesday.
“Nick reminded me of a young Zach Miller,” Baldwin said, referring to the starting tight end for the 2013 Super Bowl champions. “Zach was a true professional in every facet. Nick remind me a lot of him he’s a little bit faster that Zach was when he was here but. He has great hands, can block well, understands the schemes, understands his role in the offense. We can put him anywhere. He going to be very successful and also his work ethic off the field. That stood out to me right away. In that facet he’s very similar to Zach Miller as well.”
After finally recovering from what he said was a Grade 3 high ankle sprain, Vannett said Wednesday he has been dealing with a tight back.
“I’ll be fine by gametime,” Vannett said. “It just feels like it’s one thing after another, so I’ve just got to continue to take care of my body.”
The games missed marked the first significant injury Vannett had suffered in his career at any level.
“It felt good to finally be out there,” he said. “After being out for six weeks you kind of appreciate the game a little bit. I’ve got to be ready to play more this week, so I’m going to be ready.”