Seahawks training camp begins Friday. We’ll answer a key question every day until the team is back on the field at the Hawks' facility in Renton.
Today’s question: How will the rest of the tight end spot shake out after Jimmy Graham?
Jimmy Graham is the biggest reason — in every sense of the word — that Seattle coaches said often in the offseason that the tight-end position could be the most-improved on the team in 2015.
But he’s not the only one.
Seahawks coaches also cited the depth behind Graham as another reason they think tight end should be better this season.
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Graham was the team’s most significant offseason addition, acquired in a trade with New Orleans for a first-round pick and center Max Unger (with Seattle also getting a fourth-rounder).
Graham will not only replace Zach Miller — a former Pro Bowler who battled injuries the last two years and played in just three games in 2014 before having ankle surgery — but also give the team the type of big receiver and red-zone option it may have never had.
Graham, though, also could again line up as essentially a receiver about two-thirds of the time, as he did during his New Orleans career, which would give lots of snaps to Seattle’s other tight ends.
And the battle for those spots could be more competitive than it has been the last few years with Seattle’s backup tight ends now all a little more experienced, and in one case, also finally again healthy.
Slated to be Graham’s primary backup is Luke Willson, entering his third season and a veteran of 17 starts the last two years when Miller was injured. His blocking has gotten steadily better and he had two of the biggest games of his career near the end of last season (139 yards on three catches at Arizona and four catches for 68 yards and a TD in the playoff win over Carolina).
The other tight ends on the roster are: Cooper Helfet, a former practice squadder who is regarded as having some of the best hands on the team and made 12 catches in 2014 including touchdowns at St. Louis and Arizona; Anthony McCoy, who started 14 games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons before missing the last two years with an Achilles tendon injury but is now recovered and was able to take part in OTAs and minicamp; and RaShaun Allen, who spent most of last year on the practice squad but got into one game.
Teams typically keep three tight ends, so Seattle could have tough decisions at this spot in the cutdown to 53.
The bigger hope, though, is that the Seahawks will have the kind of depth this season that will allow them to avoid some of the midseason roster roulette necessitated when injuries hit last season.
Up next: Is Alvin Bailey ready to take over at left guard?