Rise of Hollister: Seahawks 'Blown Away' by Third-Year Tight End
During the offseason, the Seahawks orchestrated numerous trades, most notably shipping a third-round pick and two reserve linebackers to the Texans for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
While the Clowney deal has worked out as Seattle hoped it would, he hasn’t been the only newcomer acquired via trade to carve out an important role for a 10-win team pushing for an NFC West crown.
Brought into the fold shortly after the draft in a deal with the Patriots, tight end Jacob Hollister impressed coaches during offseason workouts. But fast forwarding to December, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer never envisioned him making the impact he has for the Seahawks thus far.
“I really liked Jake as a player when I first saw him and he had a great spring,” Schottenheimer remarked after Thursday’s practice. “But, when you’re running around in t-shirts and shorts, it’s a little different than when you’re out there with pads on and you’re playing real football.”
Missing time during training camp with a groin injury, Hollister didn’t even make Seattle’s Week 1 roster. After being a somewhat surprising cut at the end of August, he cleared waivers and signed with the practice squad, biding his time until earning a promotion in Week 6.
The Seahawks expected Hollister would settle in as a key reserve, but an unfortunate injury instantly made his presence far more valuable. With his leg buckling in the end zone while trying to track down a throw from Russell Wilson, starter Will Dissly suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, ending his season prematurely.
Forced to step into duty, Hollister and veteran Luke Willson took over as the primary tight ends in the wake of Dissly’s injury. Since Week 7, the former Wyoming standout has become one of Wilson’s most trusted targets, catching 25 passes for 203 yards and scoring three touchdowns.
Looking back, Schottenheimer believes Hollister’s breakout performance against the Buccaneers in Week 9 proved the third-year tight end could handle a larger workload. He’s been thriving as a focal point for the Seahawks offense ever since.
“I think Tampa’s kind of where things swung for him – a couple big plays, big touchdowns, you get noticed a little bit more. What you guys see on the little glimpses in practice, we see it all the time. Just very reliable, always in the right spot, great football instincts. Not good, great football instincts.”
Weighing just 245 pounds, Hollister has always been known more as a receiving tight end due to his athleticism and smooth route running skills, but he’s worked diligently to improve his all-around game as a blocker. He played 61 snaps against the Vikings on Monday, making several key blocks as the Seahawks gashed their opponent for 218 rushing yards.
His most notable block came on a fake punt in the fourth quarter, as he sealed the edge and then ran out in front of running back Travis Homer as a lead blocker, helping spring the rookie free for a 29-yard gain.
What’s been the biggest key to Hollister’s unexpected success? It may sound cliché, but as Wilson has stated numerous times, the separation is in the preparation.
“Blown away by him in terms of the professional that he is, the way he prepares,” Schottenheimer commented. “In meetings he’s tireless, he’s taking notes, and he’s studying and asking questions. A lot of it is the product of the type of person he is and then the way he works.”
Back in August, nobody would have predicted Hollister would become a key ingredient for a potential deep playoff run. But with just four games remaining, he’s emerged as one of the difference makers who could help the Seahawks earn a first-round bye for the first time since 2014.