Assessing Nick Vannett's role in the tight end corps is among the questions in our latest mailbag.
I received a lot of good questions this week so I’ll try to answer as many as I can over the next few days as we begin to really gear up for the NFL Draft.
Here’s the first set:
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A: Sure they can. I don’t rule out competing for the NFC West. They still have an elite quarterback in Russell Wilson — I also don’t rule out he’s still the best QB in the division — and what might still be a pretty good defense. But having a really good QB alone is often enough to keep a team in the playoff hunt for quite a while in the NFL these days.
True, there have been a lot of changes this offseason, and maybe more to come — whatever happens with Earl Thomas could change the equation quite a bit. Which is a good reminder that we should probably wait until after the draft to really weigh in.
But knowing what we know today, I’ll stick to the thought that the Seahawks can definitely be in the wild card hunt in 2018.
Maybe the OL coach change makes the line better — there sure was a lot of criticism of Tom Cable and if the thought is that he was really that bad then the line has to get better, right? Maybe the OC change also smooths out some of Wilson’s inconsistencies from last season and the running game improves some.
The Seahawks played most of the second half of last season without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, anyway, and the last 12 games without Cliff Avril. There were rough spots, to be sure, but in general the defense was competitive enough even without those three and again, depending on what happens with Thomas, you’d still think there are the makings there of a decent group — certainly, one that could still keep the Seahawks in most games.
You’ve got to be pretty bad to not be in the wild card hunt most of the way these days. I don’t see the Seahawks falling that far just yet.
A: It certainly seems like the Seahawks are counting on it. While Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson signed elsewhere, Seattle has added just one tight end so far — free agent signee Ed Dickson. That gives Seattle just three tight ends on its current roster — Dickson, Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, who was on the practice squad for all but one game last season as a rookie.
I sort of figured Seattle might add another TE earlier in the free agent process — obviously, they can still add someone from the list of what’s available but the pickings are pretty slim at this point.
That Seattle has just three tight ends at the moment makes it clear the Seahawks will add at least one, if not two or more, during the draft and undrafted free agency. You’d figure they will at least have five tight ends on the 90-man roster heading into training camp.
But with Seattle currently holding just the 18th pick in the first round and then nothing until 120 in the fourth, I’d doubt they are using the first rounder on a tight end.
That means hanging a lot on the idea that Vannett and Swoopes will progress quickly enough to be capable second and third tight ends. Seattle uses two-tight end formations a lot anyway, and if the plan indeed is to get back to running it more, then multi-TE sets could become an even bigger part of the offense in 2018.
Here’s another way of looking at it — Seattle’s tight ends played 1,387 snaps last season out of what were 1,067 offensive snaps overall. Of those, a combined 1,108 snaps were played by Graham (729) and Willson (378). Vannett played 278 and Swoopes two.
That’s a lot of snaps that need to be covered by the tight ends who remain.
Obviously Dickson will be counted on for a really heavy share — he played a whopping 870 last season for the Panthers when he had to take on a much larger role than past seasons due to injuries to Greg Olsen. His previous season-high in snaps had been 630, and somewhere in the middle of those two numbers might be a more realistic number to think the Seahawks might have in mind for him in 2018.
That would leave 600 or so to be divvied up among the rest, with Vannett the most obvious candidate to take on a much larger role in 2018.
What also appears clear, though, is that the tight end spot is another where Seattle could be banking heavily on a potential breakthrough year by a member of a recent draft class (other examples are safeties Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson, one or both of whom could be thrust into big roles depending on what happens with Thomas, and receiver Amara Darboh).
Whether youth will truly be served figures to go a long way toward determining the fate of the Seahawks’ 2018 season.
A: About as likely as Jayson Jenks ever cleaning his desk or Ryan Divish wishing for extra innings.
Or maybe I should say that Seattle NOT trading down would be about as likely as Clay Bennett getting the key to Seattle someday or Tyrone Willingham being inducted into the UW Hall of Fame.
In other words, I think I’d be stunned if Seattle ends the 2018 draft with just the eight picks it currently has.