Now at the midway point of the 2020 season, the Seahawks remain in first place in the NFC West with a 6-2 record primarily because of the NFL's highest scoring offense, which has averaged 34 points per game through Week 9.
Though Russell Wilson committed four turnovers in Sunday's 44-34 loss to Buffalo, he threw two more touchdowns, bringing his season total to a league-best 28 as he remains a favorite for MVP honors. On the outside, DK Metcalf continued his dominant sophomore campaign, surpassing 100 yards for the fourth time in the past six games and scoring his eighth touchdown. Tyler Lockett had a quiet outing with just 40 yards on four receptions, but still is on pace for over 1,200 yards this season.
If there's one area for Seattle's passing game that hasn't produced as expected, however, it's been Wilson's connection with his tight ends. In particular, chemistry hasn't developed with veteran Greg Olsen as expected to this point.
Signed to a one-year contract worth up to $7 million in February and recruited to Seattle by Wilson, Olsen got off to a promising start, catching a touchdown in a season-opening win over Atlanta. Two weeks later, he caught a season-high five passes for 61 yards in a win over Dallas.
But overall, Olsen hasn't lived up to his contract and has been a bit of a disappointment thus far with just 19 receptions for 171 yards. He has been held to one catch or less in three of the Seahawks eight games and has only surpassed 20 receiving yards three times. Over the past two weeks, Wilson has targeted him seven times and they have only hooked up twice for 13 yards.
Considering those struggles, the Seahawks have quietly started to turn to other options in recent weeks. Most notably, Jacob Hollister has seen a substantial uptick in playing time since Week 7 and these snaps have come at the expense of Olsen and Will Dissly.
Despite finishing third on the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2019, Hollister became an afterthought early in the season with Olsen and Dissly receiving the bulk of the snaps. During the first five games, he never played more than 14 offensive snaps in a game, including logging only three in a Week 5 win over the Vikings.
But since the bye week, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has made a concerted effort to ramp up Hollister's playing time. While some of this may have had to do with rumors circulating about Seattle attempting to shop the fourth-year tight end before the trade deadline, he saw his most extensive action yet on Sunday, playing a season-high 31 snaps against Buffalo.
As he did last season when given the opportunity, Hollister emerged as one of the few bright spots from an otherwise ugly Week 9 defeat. Taking advantage of a Bills defense that ranks in the top five in the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns given up to opposing tight ends, he caught a season-high five passes for 60 yards.
Hollister first made his presence felt on Seattle's final possession of the first half while trailing 24-7 on the scoreboard. Coming open quickly working down the seam, a 16-yard reception gave the Seahawks a first down near midfield. Moments later, in a 3rd and 2 situation, he caught a drag route across the middle of the field for a 19-yard gain to advance to the Bills 34-yard line. The team settled for a Jason Myers field goal.
Then midway through the third quarter, Hollister again moved the chains twice during a critical touchdown drive. After catching a short curl route, he spun out of a tackle and back-pedaled his way past the marker to push the Seahawks up to the Bills 27-yard line. Three plays later, Wilson connected with him again on 3rd and 8 for a 12-yard gain down to the four-yard line, setting up DeeJay Dallas for a rushing touchdown on the ensuing snap.
While Hollister's expanded role may have simply been a game plan-related move for a specific opponent, it shouldn't be. Though he lacks the size to be a consistent inline blocker, he offers legitimate 4.6 40-yard dash speed and runs fluid routes, providing a complementary weapon to Metcalf, Lockett, and David Moore on the outside. Dating back to last season, it's also evident he and Wilson have strong chemistry.
At this stage of the season, the 35-year old Olsen will continue to receive chances to contribute. But the past three weeks suggest the Seahawks coaching staff understands he's not doing enough in a starting role and this fact has been illustrated by Hollister gradually eating away at his snaps.
The same can be said to an extent for Dissly, who has caught only 12 passes in the first eight games. He hasn't been near as involved in the aerial attack as prior to his Achilles injury last season, but there have been flashes, as his lone catch on Sunday went for 26 yards and he has four receptions for 81 yards the past three games. His blocking prowess also should prevent him from losing out on too many snaps.
Ultimately, Hollister resurfacing as a viable receiving threat impacts Olsen the most, especially with rookie Colby Parkinson also waiting in the wings for his opportunity. As the Seahawks continue to try to win via shootout with a struggling defense on the other side of the ball, it's becoming apparent the Seahawks plan to lean on the young athletic tight end more often in the final two months of the season.