Luke Willson impressed with Seahawks’ deep tight-end group
Aug 26, 2016, 11:00 AM
While much of the talk surrounding the Seahawks’ tight ends this offseason has revolved around Jimmy Graham’s rehab, the depth building behind the former Pro Bowler has been strengthening. So much so that fourth-year tight end Luke Willson told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton that this year’s group is “without question” the deepest since he’s been in Seattle.
“I feel like there’s a lot of us that would be main guys at other spots but right now we’re all competing, which has been kind of cool,” Willson said.
The Seahawks have activated Graham from the Physically Unable to Perform list, and even though he was suited up for pregame workouts in Thursday’s preseason win over Dallas, his status for their regular-season opener remains unclear. Willson has stood atop the depth chart in his stead, followed closely behind by rookie third-round pick Nick Vannett and Brandon Williams, who is entering his fifth season after stints with Carolina and Miami. Last season’s third tight end, Cooper Helfet, was waived as injured earlier this month after breaking a bone in his foot the first day in camp.
Willson made strides last year as a blocker and has pushed himself to keep pace with the others, who were signed primarily for their prowess at moving bodies on the line. Willson called it his “best camp blocking-wise” primarily because of his familiarity with the system.
“I couldn’t be more comfortable with what we’re trying to accomplish, but then even on top of that, just, hey, you know there’s a different look. This guy shifted from a 7-technique to a 9-technique. I know I’m getting into football lingo now, but you know what I’m talking about,” he said. ” … Just little things like that might change your footwork or instead of staying in this block with the tackle, I’m going to call him off so he has an easier job and I can handle this, or vice-versa. So communication-wise, execution, footwork, I really feel like I’ve got to continue to develop. But I’m a lot better than I was, especially my first couple years.”
The overall depth should help Seattle’s post-Marshawn Lynch offense, which is expected to include more formations involving three and four receivers. Willson also expects more two-tight end sets.
“I think that’s the beauty of our team right now is that we’re very deep at wide receiver and very deep at tight end so I think that we could come out with a four-wide and run the ball, throw the ball, whatever,” he said. “But at the same time, we could come out with two or even three tight ends and we’ve got guys like Jimmy that can run and all of us can really run and do some different things. It’s gonna be pretty neat because I just feel like we have a variety of ways we can run the ball out of and also be explosive down the field.”
Willson said each of the tight ends brings something different to the table.
On Williams: “He’s a heavier guy, I think around 260-plus, and he’s been a phenomenal blocker. But on top of that, he moves very well for his size. I think that in our offense, no matter what your strength is, you’ve got to be somewhat of a combo guy because they ask tight ends to do both, and Brandon Williams can definitely do both. I think he’s proven that time and time again. Again, he’s had a great camp. He’s very sharp in the playbook, knows everything. I’ve been very impressed with him.”
On Graham’s rehab and comeback: “The stuff can get monotonous and I’ve never seen anything like it. For the … serious injury like he had, he has fully attacked his rehab like no one I’ve ever seen. He’s running out there today and looking great.”
On Vannett: “For a rookie, he’s really picked up the offense very well. He knows the terminology and now it’s just little ticky-tack things that every rookie goes through. He’s done a great job so far and he’s going to keep going. But the thing that’s impressed me, he came in and was touted as a big blocking tight end. He’s a great blocker but he’s also been catching a bunch of balls and runs good routes. I can’t say enough about Nick. He’s been great in the locker room and great in the field.”
Other highlights from the conversation:
How good Russell Wilson has been: “He’s the ultimate threat when it comes to playing quarterback. You’ve seen him throwing the ball. He’s been phenomenal, on point. Very quick with his timing, very accurate. On top of that, if he needs to, I don’t think I’m being an idiot when I say this, I think he’s the best scrambling quarterback in the NFL.”
How good the offense can be: “I think we have the potential to be great, but that’s all it is right now. … I think we have the potential to be unbelievable but we’ve got to come out here and execute and we’re nowhere near where we need to be, which is the truth. If you were where you needed to be at this point, you probably reached it too soon.”
Latest conspiracy theory: “I’m a big believer that there’s like some population control going on, like one of these days, they’re going to tell everyone to take a vaccine. I’m into that stuff now. … It’s like mind control. People be trying to control your minds with this media nonsense. … I don’t watch TV no more. It’s bad for you. It is what it is.”