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Russell Wilson likes his tight ends, even if nobody knows who they are

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With the recent loss of Ed Dickson, the Seattle Seahawks are looking at finishing the season without any of the three tight ends they had to begin the season. And no, at this point in the season without a reception, George Fant does not count.

Dickson was placed on Injured Reserve for the second time in a the same season. Third round disappointment Nick Vannett was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Will Dissly, the younger version of Jimmy Graham (same ridiculous hands, defenders likewise sorta bounced off him) who could actually block (usually) went down with a second season-ending injury.

The Seahawks will now face professional football teams bent on their destruction with a tight end core of Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson, and now Tyrone Swoopes.

That’s not an all-star cast on paper. Just a handful of weeks ago, one was two were practice squad players – one of whom played quarterback in college - and one didn’t believe in the moon landing was cut by the Oakland Raiders.

But if the pattern holds, that might not matter for this high-performing Seattle offense. Russell Wilson really likes his tight ends, and it apparently makes little difference who they are. Throwing to four different TEs, Wilson is currently only a bit off the pace of 84 receptions that came in 2017 at the height of the Jimmy Graham era compiled by Graham, Willson, and Vannett.

The game last week against the San Francisco 49ers highlights some of Wilson’s ability to find his weapons all over the field. A tight end not only scored once again, but was the most targeted receiver on the team, as the Seahawks took down the previously-undefeated 49ers in last Monday night’s slugfest.

In six games before his Achilles refused to cooperate, Dissly had amassed 262 yards on 23 receptions, for an average of 11.4 ypc. He had four TDs.

Luke Willson came to Seattle in Week 4 and now has 79 yards on eight receptions.

Meanwhile, Hollister is catching fire, footballs, and ridiculous one-handed touchdowns. Entering today, Hollister had 75 yards on nine receptions. But unlike Luke Willson, he did all that in three games.

Hollister also had two of the most important touchdowns of the surprisingly-close win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, including the game-winner in overtime.

Add in his 8/62/1, and Jacob-of-the-practice-squad-Hollister has a 17/137/3 line, in just four weeks.

That’s a pretty impressive line that Russell Wilson has throwing to his tight ends this year. Combined, the three TEs of the Seahawks have 478 yards and seven scores.

By comparison, the 49ers have the universal choice for best tight end in the NFL - if you believe the Niners and Pro Football Focus speak for the rest of us. George Kittle didn’t play against Seattle, which surely was a bonus for the Seahawks. But this second incarnation of Rob Gronkowski has totaled 541 yards on 46 receptions for an average of 11.2 ypc and two touchdowns.

Again, TE comparison:

SEA - 48 receptions / 478 yards / 7 TDs

SF - 46/541/2

So while yes, Kittle is pretty good, those numbers are close. This is not to say Dissly, Willson, or Hollister are deserving of best-in-league comparisons. But Russell Wilson is using a sophomore coming off a brutal knee injury, a guy who just got cut and a practice squad route runner to put up basically the same numbers. Plus, Dissly and Hollister have been money in the red zone, notching seven of the team’s 31 touchdowns.

Hollister has been especially impressive since coming up from the practice squad mere weeks ago. His TD following Russell Wilson’s scramble was absolutely ridiculous.

Notice it wasn’t Tyler Lockett catching Wilson’s eye on the scramble. It wasn’t D.K. Metcalf or Chris Carson either. Russell trusts Hollister with his life the football in high-impact situations.

Jacob Hollister was the only traditional tight end on the roster against the 49ers with Willson remaining injured. Right now it seems like it doesn’t really matter who’s out there, Russell Wilson will find them. Remember, Wilson had a 149.9 passer rating when targeting Will Dissly shortly before he got injured, and was the most efficient quarterback-to receiver combo in the league at Week 4.

This is not entirely a new thing under Brian Schottenheimer. Graham did have 10 TDs in 2017 under Darrell Bevell. But Graham only averaged 32.5 yards per game that season, and totaled 57 receptions on the season. Seattle’s simply more dialed in and more interested involving TEs all over the field this year, and it’s working well for them.

Coming up this Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles are one of the better teams defending tight ends. They’ve given up only 41.9 yards per game to TEs, and only three total touchdowns to the position group. However, the 49ers are the league’s best by yardage, and Russell Wilson still felt confident enough to make Hollister the top option against them.

Willson is still doubtful, and Swoopes is fresh to the squad. We’ll be paying attention to what Russ does with Hollister against another good defense in the middle of this bizarre season for Seahawk tight ends.