Kenneth note: Sam Gold wrote this breakdown after news that the Seahawks signed tight end Ed Dickson. However, he missed most of the offseason and had not played for Seattle yet this season, spending the year on the non-football injury list. That ends on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, with Dickson returning to fill the role vacated by rookie sensation Will Dissly, now on injured reserve.
After losing Jimmy Graham to the Green Bay Packers in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks signed Ed Dickson to a three-year contract worth up to $14 million. In this article, I wanted to analyze his skill-set and discuss how I think Brian Schottenheimer will use him in his offense.
To begin his career, Dickson was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Oregon product played there for four seasons, then moved to North Carolina to play for the Panthers for four seasons, and now he plays for his third team with the Seahawks. Over the course of his eight years in the NFL, Dickson has played in 124 games recording 1,985 career receiving yards and has caught 12 touchdowns. If you average those numbers on a per game basis, Dickson averages roughly 16 yards per game.
What’s kind of interesting about Dickson is that everyone seems to remember his huge performance versus the Detroit Lions this past season. In Week 5, he collected 175 receiving yards on five catches including this 18 yard pass in the first quarter.
In this play, the Lions are playing with two deep safeties and Dickson showed the awareness to find the space between them and the underneath linebackers. Cam Newton’s pass was behind his target and he showed the natural ability to adjust to the ball in the air to bring it in.
On the very next drive, Dickson attacked the seam of this Cover 2 zone defense. He used his body well to box out the safety and flashed the strength to stay on his feet for the 64 yard gain down the middle of the field.
Here’s one more catch later in the same game when he shed the jam by the strong safety and immediately looked for the ball finding it in the seam of this defense for the first down.
As you can tell in these plays, Dickson has no problem sacrificing his body to make catches in the middle of the defense and his hands are also pretty reliable. According to ProFootballFocus, he only had two drops on 32 catchable passes this year.
Before I move on from these plays, the Lions game was an obvious outlier when you compare his performance to the rest of the season and really his career. In that game alone he gained more yards (175 yards) than he did in four of his complete seasons in the NFL (2010, 2014, 2015, 2016).
Part of that was due to Detroit’s defense not playing well with poor tackling and busted coverages. Additionally, Greg Olsen didn’t play in this game due to injury. This gave him more opportunities than he normally had with the Panthers and he also had more deep patterns down the field.
In my opinion, he has the speed to outrun average linebackers if he gets a good release or if they take a poor angle, but he’s not going to gain consistent separation versus defensive backs. He’s not a particularly deceptive route runner and all of his patterns are run the same speed not showing the true acceleration to defeat man coverage consistently.
I’m a little bit worried about how he runs his deep out routes too. This route, in particular, was used by Schottenheimer in his flood concept which he used during his time with the St. Louis Rams. I don’t think Dickson will necessarily be a good fit to run this next year. He tends to drift on these routes and doesn’t angle them properly to the sideline to get separation.
Now Dickson has some upside with his releases and how he catches the ball outside his frame, but based on his skill-set I can see his role being more about trying to hold the safety in place or sitting between zones rather than him being a featured player on any given week.
Moving on, with the Carolina Panthers, Dickson lined up as a tight end roughly one third of his snaps, as a slot receiver one third of his snaps, and the rest of his snaps were as an outside receiver or in the backfield as a fullback.
He was used as a log-jamming tight end on counter plays and he was occasionally used as a lead blocker for the Panthers’ running backs.
I feel like he’s a bit too hesitant to be used in this role for the Seahawks and he has a habit of stopping his feet and lunging at his target. I would like to see him drive using his hands to initiate contact to make his run fits.
As a playside run blocker, the Panthers occasionally used him on the edge as a lead blocker for toss plays. Based on my tracking, I feel like his angles aren’t always the best and he will lose more frequently than he wins.
What I find kind of interesting is that the Panthers used more power run plays with pulling guards and tight ends for their scheme while Brian Schottenheimer used more zone plays during his time with the Rams (see my article here). I’ll be watching next season to see if the Seahawks will incorporate more of these concepts with Solari helping out with the run game. Dickson is actually a really good down blocker when he uses the defensive lineman’s penetration and momentum against them. It’s easily his best run blocking technique.
I went back to his tape from his #Ravens days back in 2013 for some zone blocking (#Panthers don't use a lot of it) and I think I'd rather use him on the backside versus frontside with the #Seahawks.— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) March 18, 2018
Granted this was 2013, so it's been 5 years. Maybe he's improved since. pic.twitter.com/EBXGk8KmOh
If Seattle uses a zone scheme, however, I would rather have him on the backside of plays as a position blocker or cut blocker, rather than as a drive or reach blocker. His experience with these types of blocks occurred more during his time with the Baltimore Ravens.
I actually went back to the 2013 season and watched some tape on how they used him and he wasn’t always a consistent blocker. I felt like he doesn’t have the strength to stand up to an edge defender and he doesn’t usually win with proper footwork out front.
Obviously, we are now entering the 2018 season and the 2013 season was roughly five years ago, he definitely could have improved in this regard. However, it’s a bit hard to tell since anytime I saw the Panthers’ running a pure zone stretch running play, he wasn’t usually lined up in the traditional tight end position but more frequently as a fullback or in the slot. I’m hoping that Pat McPherson, the Seahawks’ tight ends coach, feels like he’s a good a fit and can get him ready for the season in whatever scheme Seattle ends up running.
The last thing I looked at was his ability as a pass blocker. If the Seahawks need a tight end to help protect Russell Wilson, Ed Dickson is the guy I want them to use.
Again, Dickson is good at helping out on the edge when the left tackle was beat by Ansah. This will be useful for the #Seahawks against Von Miller, Khalil Mack, and Joey Bosa next year. pic.twitter.com/6zrkgsoxxw— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) March 18, 2018
He’s a good position blocker and actually looks pretty natural absorbing contact while moving backwards. This makes him a perfect complement for any sort of combination block on the edge where he assists an offensive tackle against a harder match-up.
Imagine when the Seahawks face the Denver Broncos next season and Germain Ifedi, or whoever is the right tackle, lines up against Von Miller. I really want Dickson to assist at least a few snaps a game. The same goes for Khalil Mack with the Oakland Raiders and Joey Bosa with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Dickson was occasionally given a one-on-one responsibility with an edge defender, but more frequently he was used as the first line of defense. Per ProFootballFocus, he allowed 8 pressures on 95 pass blocking snaps last year. This is roughly average for the NFL for pass blocking tight ends. For comparison, Luke Willson allowed 5 pressures on 46 snaps last season, Nick Vannett allowed 6 pressures on 43 pass blocking snaps, and Jimmy Graham allowed 4 pressures on 28 pass blocking snaps. Two of the three are not with the Seahawks anymore so I’m all for letting Dickson stay back while Seattle runs four receivers down the field if they need extra time.
Overall, Dickson is a solid player who the Seahawks should be able to depend on to execute their scheme especially in the passing game. Based on his film, I feel like he’s going to be the type of guy who will randomly make an important third down catch but more often than not his stat line will look something like this: three receptions for 32 yards on five targets. While this obviously not very exciting and it may seem like a downgrade from Jimmy Graham, Dickson still offers value to this team purely based on how he fits the scheme. Also, at $4.6 million per year, I think it was a decent signing for a veteran tight end if they go younger in the upcoming NFL Draft.