Jacob Hollister, the Seahawks Forgotten Weapon
Jacob Hollister came to the Pacific Northwest with little fanfare. The former University of Wyoming standout came to town via trade with the Patriots, as the Seahawks acquired him for a measly seventh-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and the third-year player didn't appear to have much of a chance to make the team.
But after a solid preseason, Seahawks fans thought perhaps John Schneider had bested Bill Belichick yet again and stolen a valuable player for nothing. Perhaps, they thought, Hollister would be like former starting slot cornerback Justin Coleman, who was also acquired from New England for a late-round pick. But somewhat surprisingly, Seattle cut Hollister in late August and placed him on the practice squad.
Five weeks into the regular season, Hollister received the call to Seattle's active roster. Ed Dickson was not yet ready to play, remaining on injured reserve after knee surgery. Then, during a Week 6 win over the Browns, Will Dissly tore his Achilles tendon, suddenly positioning Hollister to be a starter moving forward.
But while Hollister may have been promoted out of necessity, he more than proved worthy of the promotion, becoming one of Russell Wilson's favorite targets down the stretch of the 2019 season.
In just 11 games, Hollister snagged 41 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns. In his final eight games, he registered 51 targets for 311 yards. By comparison, Tyler Lockett was targeted 56 times in that same stretch. DK Metcalf was targeted 55 times. For half of the season, Hollister was Wilson's third-favorite target and the targets between the trio were evenly spread out.
Wilson also favored Hollister in the red zone. In the final 10 games, Hollister snared seven red zone catches, 11th in the entire league while playing just 62.5 percent of the season. Wilson clearly trusted him when it mattered most and Hollister's 18.9 percent target share ranked seventh amongst tight ends.
Hollister also proved to be surprisingly capable as a run-blocker. Though he wasn't asked to do it often, Hollister can be described as a willing blocker. Unlike Dissly, the 245-pound tight end's best used to chip or help on a double-team and isn't somebody you want trying to block an end or linebacker with one-on-one. By not asking him to replace Dissly in that aspect, Hollister earned a 67.3 grade from Pro Football Focus, a great mark for the first-year starter.
But despite all of this, very few are even discussing Hollister this summer. And to be fair, there isn't a big mystery as to why. This offseason, the Seahawks loaded up on tight ends. Their first big signing of the offseason was future Hall of Fame tight end Greg Olsen. They also brought back Luke Willson and selected two tight ends (Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan) on day three of the NFL Draft.
On top of all the additions, Dissly is set to return for his third NFL season and was recently cleared for football activity just nine months removed from Achilles surgery, a rather remarkable feat.
Assuming they stay healthy, Olsen and Dissly are going to dominate the snap count. Willson is a trusted veteran who helps in the run game more than Hollister. Parkinson is working back from foot surgery and Sullivan is viewed as more of a practice squad candidate than a 53-man roster possibility at this point, but the odds of Seattle carrying more than four tight ends seem slim.
In addition, Hollister is playing on a second-round tender, meaning he will earn $3.26 million in 2020. However, the Seahawks could cut him and save the entire amount. After the Seahawks cut Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson (who has since re-signed for less) to clear up just over $4 million of cap space, this could be an appealing option, especially if it makes the difference in acquiring a Jadeveon Clowney or Logan Ryan type talent.
So what can Hollister do to stave off getting cut? Well, there are some things that work in his favor in 2020. First, the injury history of Olsen and Dissly has to be concerning to Seattle. You'll want a good option if one or both miss time in 2020, a possibility that is heightened with a shorter ramp-up period and a global pandemic a real reality.
Second, Hollister has some experience playing off the line of scrimmage. In fact, 23 percent of his snaps in 2019 were played out of the slot. Currently, Seattle doesn't have a true slot receiver with any NFL track record. Of course, Lockett can do it and does it well when asked, but both he and Metcalf will see a big chunk of their routes come from outside the numbers.
Finally, the Seahawks have one fullback on the roster. Nick Bellore, a cut candidate in his own right, wasn't particularly utilized in 2019. In fact, Seattle hasn't really used a potential receiving weapon at fullback since Marcell Reece. Hollister lacks the thump or a traditional fullback, but he does at least have the size and quickness to give linebackers trouble in space.
Hollister was an unsung hero in a borderline elite offense in 2019. The Seahawks appeared to agree, which is why they slapped the second-round tender on him in March. He's versatile, impactful, productive, and has the trust of Wilson. These are typically the type of players we love to talk about as breakout candidates. And yet, we aren't discussing Jacob Hollister this way.
Perhaps the addition of Olsen has shifted the focus off Hollister? Or maybe the return of Dissly has left him out of our collective minds? But one thing is for certain: Seahawks fans are sleeping on him, giving him the opportunity to prove himself all over again.