The theme this week from SBNation.com is simply this: “What I didn't expect from my team this season.”
It’s an open-ended question with potential for a lot of different answers. I figured after beating up on the Seahawks running game (well, mostly Eddie Lacy) throughout the season, I’d go towards something very positive and also something I genuinely did not foresee heading into the 2017 NFL season.
Did you know that the Seattle Seahawks tight ends have caught at least one touchdown in nine straight games? Jimmy Graham has been the main headline here, leading all TEs in receiving touchdowns with an impressive eight, but the Seahawks as a whole have 12, with three from Luke Willson and one from Nick Vannett. That means more than half of Russell Wilson’s 23 TD tosses have gone to a TE. For perspective, Seahawks TEs caught 31 TDs total in the regular season from 2012-2016, which averages out to roughly a half-dozen.
Seattle fans have been clamoring for Jimmy Graham to be a touchdown machine, and in the final year of his contract, he’s sacrificed yards per reception by putting up points on the scoreboard. Yes, it’s been frustrating that it took this long to find what works in the red zone, but better late than never. Those complaints about throwing from the 1-yard line by Richard Sherman should go away now, because it sure as hell is beautiful to watch simplicity such as this.
Luke Willson has already matched his career-high in touchdowns for a season, and Nick Vannett has now slowly broken into the offense, just as Pete Carroll had indicated. We might even see more of Vannett pending Luke Willson’s concussion problems in last week’s win over the 49ers.
The Seahawks have never managed this much scoring production out of the TE position, and I believe it’s to Russell Wilson’s benefit that this continues. It will be an interesting offseason with both Graham and Willson entering free agency, and Vannett earning a few more looks as a receiver. I was optimistic that we’d see TEs more involved as pass-catchers after Zach Miller’s amazing performance in the playoff loss to Atlanta, but it never really materialized. With the way this season has gone, I’m hopeful that the current set-up of elite tight end + two capable backups will be a long-term development for the Seahawks passing game for years to come.