With more George Fant at TE, Seahawks may have to cut a surprising name
By Nishant Kondepudi
710 ESPN Seattle intern
As the race to make 53-man rosters heats up around the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks’ tight end room is filled with options, and arguably there are no wrong choices.
Will Dissly is coming off a severe leg injury, but as long as his hands are the same, he should be a serious consideration as a starter. Nick Vannett has been a steady and consistent presence in the past and is going into a contract year. Ed Dickson has been one of the best blockers in the league and has been a crucial part of the Hawks’ new and improved run game. Jacob Hollister is an interesting acquisition from the Patriots and shown out so far in the offseason program.
All of these players have potential to be on the field for Seattle come Week 1, but there might just be a 329-pound wrench in their plans.
According to former Seahawks wide receiver Michael Bumpus, George Fant is the key to predicting the tight end end situation for the Hawks. Which is strange, considering… he isn’t technically a tight end.
“Fant is making this thing interesting,” Bumpus told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore. “If he’s not there, all three of these guys make the team.”
The three guys Bumpus was talking about were Dissly, Dickson, and Vannett, and that’s even if you don’t consider Hollister a real option. There are a couple different ways that Fant could affect how the room shakes out. Bumpus says that while Fant was originally going to compete with Germain Ifedi for the right tackle job, Seattle started using him last season in more of a tight end role in order to provide additional blocking on the outside.
Fant wouldn’t just be a third offensive tackle in this scenario, however. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during minicamp last week that Fant currently “owns the seam.” Bumpus helped explain that there is a sweet spot between the second and third levels in a successful seam route.
“Your first thought is: Is this safety coming downhill to smack me?” Bumpus said.
It’s obvious that no safety in his right mind would try to hit Fant full-steam up top, making him a strange sort of mismatch. Even though he only caught one pass last year (gaining 9 yards before the turf monster struck), Bumpus explained that even eight targets in 2019 would be enough to make a difference.
Fant’s unique role likely will have a trickle down effect in deciding which tight ends make the roster for Seattle’s Sept. 9 season opener against the Bengals. Bumpus says that one way to look at it is Fant’s ability to block removes the need for Ed Dickson, “the best blocking tight end in the NFL.” However, as former NFL linebacker Dave Wyman argues, Dickson isn’t just a blocker.
“When they throw the ball to him, he’ll catch it,” Wyman said of the former Carolina Panthers TE that joined the Seahawks last year. “They just never threw to him in Carolina.”
The stats back this notion up as Dickson caught 12 of 13 targets last year (and as an avid Madden player I’d have to agree).
Wyman suggests that Nick Vannett is going to be the odd man out, simply because there’s so much promise in the rest of the corps. Vannett, being a high draft pick (third round in 2016), needs to prove that he’s making enough progress. Dissly’s spot appears to be locked up despite the injury because, as Bumpus explains, “He’s solidified himself. He’s a guy you want to take a risk on.”
Whoever is still on the Week 1 roster, it looks like the Seahawks are going to end up with a very good unit at tight end, even in a post-Jimmy Graham room. Fant appears be the giant key that will unlock that room. To quote Carroll, “It’s fun to be huge.”