RENTON — Four games into his rookie season, Seahawks tight end Will Dissly hadn’t just established himself as a legit pro, but maybe someone who could turn into an All-Pro.
He almost instantly earned the trust of quarterback Russell Wilson and had racked up eight catches for 156 yards — good for 19.5 yards per reception.
The man known as “Uncle Will” during his time as a Husky had solidified himself as part of the Seahawks family, catching touchdowns and leveling blocks as though he were a fifth-year vet. Then he suffered a patellar tendon injury against the Cardinals in Week 4 and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Dissly’s injury that day was a side plot overshadowed by the breaking of Earl Thomas’ leg and the extension of Thomas’ middle finger. But it was a significant blow to a Seattle team that ended up going 10-6 and losing to the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs.
Would Dissly’s health have vaulted the Seahawks into a better position? Who can say? But his season-long sidelining stifled a passing game that finished as the sixth-least productive in the NFL that year.
No worries, though, right? The next year Dissly came back and revived his winning ways. Through six games he had 23 receptions, 262 yards and four touchdowns. He caught a walk-off TD pass in Week 3 vs. the Saints to cap off a 62-yard day. More important, the Seahawks were 5-1. But in the second quarter of that win over the Browns in Week 6, Dissly suffered an Achilles tear and was once again ruled out for the season.
If one were to tell the block-first Dissly that, in his first two seasons, he would average 41.8 receiving yards per game and 13.5 yards per catch while snaring a touchdown every other outing, he would have summoned his 28-inch vertical and leapt for joy. But if you were to tell him that such output would be limited to a mere 10 games, then, well — a whole ‘nother set of emotions emerge.
Dissly might have been one of the bigger “what ifs” in recent Seahawks history. He managed to play in all 16 games last season, but his 251 receiving yards were 11 fewer than he amassed in six games the previous season.
No doubt the additions of tight ends Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister factored into the diminished production. No doubt Dissly was an effective blocking tight end as well. And though he still reeled in 82.8 percent of the balls thrown his way, it was clear Will wasn’t as revered as a target as he was in years past.
But maybe that doesn’t matter. The Seahawks tight-end room might be the best — or at least the most balanced — as it has been since Pete Carroll took over as head coach. It features Gerald Everett, the explosive 27-year-old who familiarized himself with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s offense with the Rams; Colby Parkinson, the 6-foot-7 red-zone threat that sat out his rookie season last year due to a foot-injury; and Dissly, the sure-handed 25-year-old that Seattle general manager John Schneider called the best blocking tight end in his draft class.
Added Carroll: “Will can do everything. He can catch the football, he can run with it after it and he’s our biggest, best on-line blocker. That’s kind of the stability of the position.”
So just how will Dissly be used this season? Again, TBD. But like every pass-catcher who has stepped behind the microphone for a news conference this season, he seems pumped about Waldron’s offense.
“It’s awesome. I’m having a blast running around here. It’s a little bit hot for a Seattle day, but it’s fun to go to work, have the opportunity to make an impact and celebrate every position,” Dissly said. “I think that’s the cool part about this offense, everyone is getting used.”
There are endless areas in which a Seahawks fan can worry when it comes to next season’s performance. Will the offensive line protect Wilson? Will the cornerback position be shored up? Will the running and passing game strike the right balance?
What might be less concerning is the tight ends, particularly Dissly. Yes, health has been an issue for him in years past. Production? Not so much.
He might not have been a common topic of conversation this offseason. But he will be an integral cog once the season begins.