Clayton: Seahawks may fully embrace the trend of using 2 TEs on offense

Jun 4, 2020, 11:38 PM | Updated: 11:46 pm
Seahawks TE Will Dissly...
Seahawks TE Will Dissly will return from a torn Achilles suffered in 2019. (Getty)

Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians announced Thursday that the Buccaneers’ base offense will feature one back and two tight ends, known in football circles as “12 formation.”

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No surprise. The Bucs have Rob Gronkowski and former first-round pick O.J. Howard as the two tight ends, and they lost their third receiver, Breshad Perriman, in free agency to the New York Jets.

But Arians is a two-tight end coach. According to Stats Inc., the Bucs were tied with the Philadelphia Eagles with 279 plays featuring two tight ends in 2019, most in the NFL. And in the past year, there has been a trend to use more two-tight end sets, and it should increase a little more in 2020.

In 2018, there were 5,597 two-tight end plays (17.5 plays per game). That number jumped to 6,315 (19.2 plays per game) last year. The three-receiver offense is the favorite alignment for NFL offenses, while through the years it’s been back and forth between having more two-tight end sets or less.

Remember how much the New England Patriots used tight ends when they had Gronk and Aaron Hernandez? Even though this year’s draft wasn’t strong at the position, there are a lot of great ones in the league. San Francisco has George Kittle. Travis Kelce dominates as a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Eight of the 12 playoff teams last year were among the league leaders in using two tight ends. The Seahawks were one of those teams (the others being Philadelphia, Minnesota, Tennessee, San Francisco, Green Bay and Baltimore). Seattle ranked seventh in use of two tight ends with 224 plays. It even had 47 plays using three tight ends.

Don’t be surprised if the Seahawks increase the number of two-tight end plays this year.

The Seahawks currently have eight tight ends on their 90-man roster. They expect Will Dissly to be healthy by the start of season. They signed Greg Olsen. They have Jacob Hollister. They drafted Colby Parkinson.

One of the reasons for the increase of tight end use is how the matchups help the offense. To counter three-receiver sets, defenses tried to get faster, taking a safety and use him as a linebacker. They also tried to get faster linebackers.

Using a few more plays with multiple tight ends counters those adjustments because you can have a bigger body on offense to go into routes or to help with blocking on running plays.

An interesting wrinkle for the Seahawks is that they signed Cedric Ogbuehi to be a swing tackle and take the tight end blocking role that George Fant played in the past two years.

The Seahawks have great flexibility on offense when you consider the receivers they have to go with all of their tight ends. They have two quality starting wide receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. They have Philip Dorsett, David Moore and John Ursua as third receivers. And it’s not out of the question for them to add Josh Gordon back if his suspension is lifted.

It will be interesting to see how this all sorts out in training camp.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton on Twitter.

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