For the first time this season, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were limited to just one offensive touchdown in last Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Ravens.
Seattle produced 347 yards of total offense and converted 10 out of 17 third down opportunities, but the team couldn’t get out of its own way, spotting Baltimore 14 points off turnovers. Wilson threw an inexplicable pick-six to Marcus Peters and rookie DK Metcalf had a fumble returned for a score late in the fourth quarter.
Losing the turnover battle certainly hurt on Sunday, but the Seahawks clearly missed injured tight end Will Dissly, who underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon and landed on injured reserve. After scoring four touchdowns in Seattle’s first five games, his absence was most evident in the red zone.
While Wilson had ample time in the pocket to scan the field, receivers struggled to get open inside the Ravens 20-yard line against suffocating coverage. Failing to capitalize on two prime scoring opportunities, the Seahawks were forced to settle for two short Jason Myers field goals in the second quarter.
For a second straight season, Seattle will have to adjust to life without Dissly. The team won’t be able to replace him with any one player, but Wilson believes in third-year tight end Jacob Hollister as an option to help fill the void.
“We’ve got to make up for that.” Wilson said in regard to Dissly’s lost production. “We’ve got to find a way to do that and I think Jacob Hollister is doing a great job. He’s working at it. He’s crafty.”
Only a couple days after the NFL draft in April, the Seahawks shipped a seventh-round pick to the Patriots for Hollister, adding him to the mix alongside Dissly, Nick Vannett, and Ed Dickson.
While starring at Wyoming, Hollister registered 75 receptions for 1,114 yards and scored 12 touchdowns, proving himself a capable weapon as a receiver. Though he produced just eight catches in 23 games in New England, Seattle hoped the athletic 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end would add a different dimension to its offense.
During the offseason, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer praised Hollister for his route running savvy and ability to get open against both man and zone coverage. A “joker” tight end capable of lining up as a receiver, he looked poised to snag a 53-man roster spot in August, especially with Dissly’s status uncertain coming back knee surgery.
But Hollister battled his own injury issues during training camp and the preseason, missing time with a pulled groin and eventually was cut in late August. Luckily for the Seahawks, he cleared waivers and signed with the practice squad, providing invaluable insurance for when Dissly went down.
Less than two months later, Hollister will now have the best chance of his career to make an impact at the NFL level. With Dickson still at least a week away from being activated from injured reserve, he and Luke Willson are the only tight ends on Seattle’s active roster at the moment and Wilson has been putting in extra time with both players after practice.
“Those two guys we really need.” Wilson said. “I think getting that extra work is really important and just that communication of what we’re thinking, what we’re seeing, how we want to play certain guys in certain situations and all that is really critical.”
Extra reps will prove especially beneficial for Hollister, who doesn’t have five years of prior experience playing for the Seahawks to lean on as Luke Willson does. He’s only been with the team since May and his chemistry with Russell Wilson remains a work in progress.
But given his athleticism and size, Hollister possesses the tools to emerge as a matchup problem for opponents in coming weeks. The Seahawks won’t have any reservations of moving him around the formation, including out wide, and his presence could be particularly helpful in the red zone.
Even with Dickson close to returning, making a trade to bolster the position still remains an option before the October 29 deadline. General manager John Schneider has never been averse to making such moves and some quality options may be available.
But if Hollister can build off a three-catch, 20-yard performance heading into Sunday’s game in Atlanta and quickly earn Wilson’s trust, Seattle may be able to weather the storm without Dissly.