RENTON, WA - When Gerald Everett signed the dotted line to change allegiances within the NFC West and join the Seahawks in March, the veteran tight end thought he would be adding another playmaker to elevate one of the NFL's most prolific offenses to another level.
After all, Everett had seen Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and DK Metcalf orchestrate a fireworks show firsthand twice a year as an adversary playing for the Rams in recent seasons. Eager to play with a better quarterback and link back up with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, the sky looked to be the limit for the former South Alabama standout landing in the Pacific Northwest.
Unfortunately, Everett and the Seahawks haven't come close to fulfilling their own high standards through the first 10 games. Stumbling to a 3-7 start in part due to Wilson missing three games with a finger injury, the team ranks a shocking 25th in points per game and 30th in yards per game, looking like a shell of an offense that finished in the top 10 in scoring each of the past three seasons.
“It’s a week-to-week basis, production wise, in this business. Our production hasn’t really matched up to our capabilities and our expectations," Everett told reporters on Wednesday. "For me personally, it kind of rubs me the wrong way because I know of all the great guys that we have, the leaders on this team and what they are capable of doing, whether it be running back, quarterback, receivers, or o-line. Playing against the Seahawks for years and years since I’ve been in the league, I’ve never seen this type of production, so ironically, I’m on the team now and we’ve haven’t gotten the return that we wanted or expected.
"It’s just a matter of staying with it and rolling with the punches.”
For his part, while his underwhelming overall stat line of 25 receptions for 234 yards and a single touchdown hasn't met his personal expectations, Everett has made positive things happen for Seattle when he has had the football in his hands.
Despite being targeted just 3.6 times per game, Everett has been extremely efficient with limited opportunities, posting an 86.2 percent catch rate. As he has excelled at throughout his career, he's been a reliable weapon creating after the catch, averaging 6.1 yards after the catch per reception, which ranks eighth among tight ends in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Only Freddie Swain (6.9) has produced more yards after the catch per reception for the Seahawks.
Few tight ends in the NFL have done more with less, as Everett has used his physicality and toughness to force eight missed tackles on just 25 receptions. This equates to a broken tackle on one out of every three receptions. The three tight ends with more broken tackles created - George Kittle, Travis Kelce, and Dalton Schultz - have each caught at least nine more passes and been targeted at least 19 more times than him.
Everett's tenacity as a playmaker after the catch has been evident throughout the season, as he rumbled through multiple Steelers tacklers for an impressive 42-yard reception in Week 6 to ignite the offense in the second half. In last weekend's loss to the Cardinals, he refused to go down after Wilson found him in the flats, making a defender miss in space and breaking another tackle to turn a short gain into 12 yards and a first down.
“I try to live by the idea that if you have a gift and you don’t use it, it will be taken from you," Everett said of his tackle-breaking ability. "I just try to translate that to the game of football and the game of life. If a guy is wrapping you up and you are able to squirm out of there some way, somehow, then you should, and if you don’t, it defeats the purpose of having the gift.”
The problem? Despite Everett's stellar play and consistent, gritty effort, the Seahawks haven't been able to take advantage of his gifts near enough in his first season with the team. Too often, in a scheme coordinated by Waldron that was supposedly going to place more emphasis on getting tight ends involved in the passing game, he's disappeared for long stretches. In five of the eight games he's played in, he's inexplicably been targeted three times or fewer.
Some of that has had to do with Seattle's chronic third down problems. Every skill player on the offensive side of the football has had their numbers take a hit because of lack of possession time and total plays and Everett has been no exception.
But even if that's been the case, an argument can be made scheming to get the football to Everett more frequently would help correct that problem. Given his size and athleticism, he should be a matchup problem for opposing linebackers and safeties in the intermediate passing game, especially with defenses having to focus so much on containing Metcalf and Lockett on the outside.
And yet, somehow, Everett has only been targeted by Wilson on third down three times in seven games this year. Three. Blame for such a low number on that front falls to both the play caller and the signal caller.
In defense of Wilson and Waldron, there have been signs the Seahawks are trying to get Everett and his tight end counterparts more involved since the star quarterback returned from injury two weeks ago. Over the past two games, they have deployed 12 personnel with two tight ends on the field on 31 percent of their offensive snaps, a slight uptick from the first eight games of the season when they used 12 personnel 28 percent of the time.
With more snaps with multiple tight ends on the field, Everett has been targeted 12 times during those two games, catching 11 of those passes for 100 yards and moving the chains on six of those receptions. Seeing him make such a significant impact with the rest of the offense sputtering, coach Pete Carroll wants to see Seattle continue feeding the ball to him down the stretch.
“He’s been more obvious," Carroll said of Everett's recent play. "You see how physical he is and what an aggressive runner he is with the ball after the catch. He’s really a factor. Screams that we’ve got to keep going to him. I came back to that thought after this game again. He’s just really obvious with the ball in his hands that he can make things happen. Got a great attitude about carrying the football.”
With seven games left to play, the Seahawks playoff hopes remain slim at best heading into Monday's matchup with Washington. Four games under the .500 mark, they will need to win out or go 6-1 to have any shot at snagging one of the three wild card spots in the NFC and will need help from other contenders to be able to successfully climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.
But echoing statements from teammates such as Wilson, Duane Brown, and others, Everett still believes Seattle has the talent to make such an improbable run. Starting with an elite quarterback under center, all of the ingredients remain in place for the offense to be a potent one.
If Waldron desires to play his cards correctly and salvage what has largely been a disappointing first season as an NFL play caller, the hard-nosed Everett must be a featured focal point to achieve that goal moving forward.
“We know what kind of team we have, the leaders that we possess, the things that the coaches possess like the creativity that they have, so we are definitely going to keep rolling with it and we are going to try to win out. We want to get back to playing championship football and that’s what we talk about every day. It’s just a matter of time before we get back to actually doing it.”