In June, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the Seahawks’ two-tight-end formation is one of his favorites because of the difficult choices it forces defenses to make.
RENTON — They call themselves the “Bash Brothers,” a nod to the Mighty Ducks movies from the ‘90s and not the tandem of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco from the ‘80s.
However they label themselves, tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson present Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with an interesting two-headed chess piece. It seems likely that Bevell and the Seahawks will deploy even more two-tight-end formations than in previous seasons after adding Graham via trade this offseason. (The Seahawks also have tight ends Anthony McCoy, Cooper Helfet and RaShaun Allen competing for roster spots.)
“I think a lot of double- and triple-tight-end sets for us are really going to start to come out this year and really give defenses a fit,” Graham said. “We’re going to be able to run the ball so effectively with all those tight ends in the game. But also in the pass, play-action is going to be pretty amazing.”
In June, Bevell said the Seahawks’ two-tight-end formation is one of his favorites because of the difficult choices it forces defenses to make.
“Do they want to play it as a three-wide package and put their nickel defense out there and defend it?” Bevell said. “Or do they want to stay with their base defense? That decision will help us determine what we want to do. I think we have some advantages there.”
If the Seahawks go with more two-tight-end formations, they will need Graham to block for running back Marshawn Lynch.
Graham’s blocking has long been one of the few concerns about him. But when asked if there were any differences between blocking for the Seahawks and blocking for the Saints, Graham deadpanned, “Yeah, I’m blocking here.”
“Out there, the last two years, I was pretty banged up, so midway through the year I kind of stopped blocking and I just routed people up,” Graham continued. “Now here I’m blocking quite a bit, and I love it. It’s very important to me to be a part of that here. That’s about 75 percent of the offense here. When you have a back like that, you want to be in there on those explosive runs, and you want to be a part of that.”
That is in line with what Graham’s coaches in New Orleans have said: It wasn’t that Graham didn’t want to block; the Saints just rarely asked him to do it or injuries kept him from doing it.
“I think it will always be part of his game that people will look and say, ‘That’s not the strongest part of his game,’” said Terry Malone, Graham’s position coach in New Orleans. “He’s certainly a better athlete, a better runner, a better catcher than he is a blocker. I just think it’s a matter of concentration and dedication. He really wants to be a complete player. He doesn’t want to be known just as a receiving tight end. He wants to be a guy who can do all the things that are asked of him.”
Graham knows he won’t see as many passes in Seattle as he did in New Orleans, which means he will have to capitalize on the important ones.
“I know 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-12, that’s when I’m going to have to make my money,” Graham said, “and that’s when I’m going to have to be special for this team.”
Some notable third-down numbers from last season:
• Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 62 percent of his passes on 3rd-and-8 or longer, according to STATS LLC.
• Wilson ranked seventh in the NFL in converting third downs between 8-10 yards (46.2 percent).
• Wilson’s numbers dropped considerably on 3rd-and-11 or longer. He fell to 33rd in the NFL while converting 10.3 percent of his third downs under those circumstances, according to STATS LLC.
• The Seahawks ranked 11th on third-down efficiency (42.5 percent).
The point is, Graham could help Wilson in those long-shot moments because he can stretch the field and make contested catches over or in front of defenders. He also changes the way defenses have to defend Seattle’s other receivers. Do they focus two defenders on Graham, leaving other receivers in single coverage, or do they leave him one-on-one and take their chances?