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Seahawks training camp position preview: Tight end

Will Dissly showed an ability to block and catch passes in four games as a Seahawks rookie. (AP)

The Seahawks kick off training camp on July 25 and there’s plenty to sort out in the weeks leading up to the August 31 roster cutdown deadline. Today’s position preview focuses on the tight end group, which enters 2019 with a battle for what will likely be three roster spots.

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Key contributors

Nick Vannett, the most tenured Seahawks tight end, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Seattle drafted Vannett in the third round out of Ohio State in 2016, but he remained third on the depth chart behind Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson and saw just 19 targets over his first two seasons. Vannett saw career highs, though, after Graham and Willson departed in free agency; last year, he was targeted 43 times and had 29 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns.

Second-year pro Will Dissly surprised many Seahawks fans in his rookie debut and looked to be pushing for a starting job. He was billed as one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft and was expected to act as another weapon in Seattle’s run-first offense. But by Week 3, Dissly was one of Seattle’s top receivers, with a combined 147 yards and two touchdowns. A patellar tendon tear in Week 4 brought and end to his first season, but Dissly appears to be on track to make a return for the 2019 season.

What’s new?

Jacob Hollister and Justin Johnson are new additions this year. Johnson, an undrafted rookie out of Mississippi State, signed with Seattle ahead of rookie training camp, while 25-year-old Hollister was acquired in a trade with the Patriots (Seattle sent New England a 2020 seventh-round pick).

Breakout candidate

710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps thinks Dissly can be a difference-maker if he’s able to return to form, and he’s certainly a candidate for a breakout season if he’s able to replicate his strong start from 2018.

“This Seahawks offense is better with Will Dissly on the field, and to get him back and ready to go in training camp is going to be a massive win for this group because of his versatility,” Heaps said, “and because of the style this group wants to play. It just all meshes together very well and it’s very reminiscent of their time with Zach Miller… the thing that was unfortunate was the time was cut short to develop that chemistry between (Dissly) and Russell Wilson, and that is going to be a big priority as soon as Will Dissly is back and cleared.”

Storyline

Who’s the odd man out? Out of a group of six tight ends, Seattle will likely keep just three. Vannett, Dissly, and Ed Dickson made up the unit last year, and all three are returning to training camp. As the highest-paid tight end on the roster, Dickson will need to make a splash in August to fend of a cheaper, younger alternative like Hollister.

More position previews

Offensive line
Defensive line
Secondary