Heaps: Olsen ‘very capable,’ wants to be ‘big-time player’ for Seahawks
A recent NFL.com article by Cynthia Frelund listed her picks for the most improved player on each team in the NFC. Her choice for the Seahawks was a bit of a surprise because, well, he wasn’t on the team last year.
Frelund picked 35-year-old tight end Greg Olsen, who signed with the Seahawks early in the offseason after he was released by the rebuilding Carolina Panthers. A three-time Pro Bowler in Carolina, Olsen joins a crowded tight end room in Seattle after a few down years with the Panthers. His signing was a big one for Seattle as star quarterback Russell Wilson loves throwing to tight ends, as evidenced in the NFL.com story, which says Seahawks tight ends have caught 73% of their targets the last two seasons.
After playing in just 16 total games between 2017 and 2018 due to foot injuries – those seasons coming on the heels of his third consecutive 1,000-yard season – he appeared in 14 games in 2019 and finished with 52 catches for 597 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers may not stand out for someone of Olsen’s status, but he was playing with backup quarterback for nearly every game.
Now, Olsen will be catching passes from Wilson, who is seen as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Wilson’s personal quarterback coach is Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy, who has had the opportunity this offseason to workout with both Wilson and Olsen. Heaps told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant that he watched Olsen’s tape from 2019 and saw someone who is healthy and ready to contribute again in 2020.
“I saw a player who was able to overcome his two injury-plagued seasons and do what he was just described as on NFL.com: having incredible hands, having incredible awareness, finds zones, (having) just an incredible feel for the game and is a guy who is not completely over the hill in terms of his physical abilities that some people might want to point him out to be,” he said.
Olsen has been in the league since 2007 and in his prime was seen as one of the fastest, most explosive tight ends in the league. That speed isn’t what it once was, but Heaps said the veteran can still move very well.
“I think he is a very, very capable player in this league still and he might not have the same wheels, but I’ll tell you this, guys, he can still flat-out run, he can still fly,” Heaps said. “This is not (former Cowboys tight end and current Raider) Jason Witten who is just hanging on by a thread here. And I’ve had the ability to throw with him and I’ve been with him and it matches everything up that I saw on film.”
One area that stood out to Heaps was Olsen’s mindset heading into his 14th NFL season.
“He is an intense guy, he’s going to be a leader on the team,” he said. “He’s not going to be backing down from anybody in the sense of ‘well, I’m just a vet who’s here to push the young kids along and get the young whippersnappers in place before I leave and go do my analyst job.’ He wants to make an impact. He wants to be a big-time player.”
In terms of more physical traits, Heaps had nothing but rave reviews about Olsen’s ability to catch the football.
“He is butter, absolute butter with his hands and makes it look so easy,” Heaps said. “So for a guy like Russell Wilson who has enjoyed throwing to tight ends the last couple of seasons, particularly in blitz situations, I think Greg Olsen is just what the doctor ordered and the big thing is obviously if he can stay healthy, I think NFL.com is 100% right.”