Analysis: Investigating Will Dissly’s Impact on Seahawks’ Offense
Though the Seahawks overcame a plethora of injuries to win 11 regular season games and advance to the NFC Divisional Round, roster attrition truly took a toll in 2019.
While losing three running backs in the span of a month along with several offensive linemen battling through pain hindered Seattle’s offense down the stretch, no injury impacted the team more than when tight end Will Dissly crumpled to the turf in a Week 6 victory at Cleveland.
Prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon in the first half of that contest, Dissly was putting together a remarkable comeback campaign after missing most of his rookie season with a torn patellar tendon.
Starring in the Seahawks 4-1 start, the ex-Washington standout caught 23 passes for 262 yards and led all tight ends with four touchdown receptions. He quickly reestablished himself as one of quarterback Russell Wilson’s favorite go-to targets, averaging more than 11 yards per reception while reeling in all but three targets for an 88.5 percent catch rate.
At the time, Dissly looked to be a front-runner for NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and in the discussion as an All-Pro candidate at the tight end position.
But after suffering another severe injury, the Seahawks passing game wasn’t quite as potent minus Dissly. Wilson remained in the MVP mix for most of the season, but statistics show just how much he missed having his reliable tight end during the final 12 regular season games.
During the first five games of the season, Wilson completed 73 percent of his passes, including eclipsing the 80 percent mark in a Week 2 win at Pittsburgh. He threw 12 touchdowns during that span, with a third of those scoring tosses going to Dissly, and posted a 126.3 passer rating while averaging over nine yards per attempt.
Once Dissly landed on injured reserve, many of those numbers took a dive. While Wilson continued to excel at taking care of the football and threw just five interceptions on the season, his completion rate dropped 10 percent, his passer rating dipped below 100, and his yards per attempt dipped to 7.5.
It’s a small sample size from a comparative standpoint, but Wilson posted at least a 70 percent completion rate in four of Seattle’s first five games. He reached that mark just three times in the final 12 regular season games, equaling the number of times he completed 52 percent or less of his pass attempts.
Wilson also threw for at least eight yards per attempt in each of the first five games. From that point on, he only had three games in the final 12 where he surpassed eight yards per attempt.
There are obviously other factors to consider here. Late in the season, Wilson didn’t have the running game to lean on once Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were lost to season-ending injuries. The Josh Gordon experiment lasted just five games before he was slammed with another suspension, preventing him from truly becoming a factor alongside Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
But there’s no denying losing Dissly had a substantial impact on Wilson’s overall performance. The second-year tight end wasn’t just a valuable security blanket – he re-emerged as a dynamic play maker with soft hands who could torch defenses down the seam and presented a major matchup problem for opposing defenses in the red zone.
According to coach Pete Carroll, Dissly has been “killing it” rehabbing from his latest injury and Seattle hopes he’ll be able to resume football activities at some point this spring. At worst, assuming there isn’t a serious setback, he should be fully recovered in time for the start of training camp in July.
His pending return will be critical for the organization, as quality tight ends continue to be an integral part of winning football teams in the modern game. Just look at the two teams who punched tickets to the Super Bowl on Sunday - the Chiefs have a perennial All-Pro in Travis Kelce and the 49ers have arguably the best all-around tight end in the league in George Kittle.
For the Seahawks to contend for a title in one of the league’s most rugged divisions and push to make a deeper playoff run next year, they’ll need to keep their fingers crossed Dissly bounces back as he did this year and avoids the bad injury luck that has plagued his career to this point.