Tight End Jacob Hollister earned rave reviews at OTAs from Head Coach Pete Carroll and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. “He’s made a really good impression coming out”, revealed Carroll while Schottenheimer added “He’s been a great acquisition.”
Entering his third year in the NFL, Hollister was added in a trade with the New England Patriots. Costing only a conditional 2020 7th-round pick, Hollister will clearly be fighting for a roster spot all through the pre-season.
Yet Hollister’s arrival makes a ton of sense, as do his early flashes.
John Schneider decided to not pick a tight end in the 2019 draft despite added competition being required at the spot. Will Dissly is coming back from a torn patellar tendon, George Fant is a limited receiving option and Nick Vannett—more of a move tight end—has never got it together as he enters his first contract year. Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Ed Dickson still could be a cap casualty given Seattle would save $3.55 million.
Schneider instead looked towards Undrafted Free Agency for added depth, where Mississippi State TE Justin Johnson was added to the roster. Johnson, measuring 6ft 3 245lbs; ran a 4.60 forty, jumped 34” vertically and put up 22 bench press reps. Those are MOVE numbers that narrowly beat Hollister.
At Wyoming’s 2017 rookie pro day, a 6ft 3 239lb Hollister ran a 4.64 forty. “We’re really excited that we were able to get him,” enthused Pete Carroll at OTAs. “I mean you don’t think of him as part of this class but he kind of comes in as part of this class.”
The 25-year-old’s added experience in the league is of course a big help in his early impressive camp showings. Carroll praised the fact that Hollister “has learned really well” and mentioned that Hollister has “Obviously learned a lot from his days in New England.”
More important to early promise, though, is Hollister’s skillset. His dynamic, pass-catching ability from the tight end spot lends itself to success in the reduced contact practices. Hollister will be going up against the most vanilla of coverages and receiving little competition at the catch point.
Encouragingly, when looking back on Hollister’s time in New England, the UDFA did well in limited opportunities where he had to fight for targets firmly behind Rob Gronkowski and amid weapons like James Develin.
Overlooking the small production of 8 receptions for 94 yards, we must alternatively look at how Hollister’s traits successfully translated into the games of his two-season NFL career. Tom Brady appeared to trust the player whenever throwing his way and OC Josh McDaniels tried to manufacture opportunities for Hollister’s speed to punish defenses. When Carroll told reporters that “He’s really fast, you know,” he wasn’t lying.
“The speed element is awesome,” gushed Schottenheimer.
The tape shows a player who has route running nous and skill, sinking well with his weight over his toes and pressing receivers vertically at the stem of his routes. Against zone, Hollister clears second level linebackers and nestles beneath deep coverage. Moreover, Hollister can adjust to the ball in air, contorting his body suitably and then positioning himself excellently at the catch point to shield the ball from defenders.
Schottenheimer used Tyler Lockett as imagery for praising Hollister: “Really good route runner. A lot like Tyler in terms of the instincts. You know, just the ability to get open. Has a great feel for coverages man and zone, things like that.”
Hollister isn't just an impressive athlete with sweet speed. His route-running ability is well-refined, winning against man and zone coverages.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) June 21, 2019
Here are Hollister's NFL touches from the wingback position. It's clear Tom Brady trusted the target.pic.twitter.com/Q7miHJLdRL
Josh McDaniels looked for ways to get Hollister in mismatches with unfortunate linebackers.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) June 21, 2019
Hollister's touches in the slot reflect this. His speed and physicality gets behind underneath zones. He alters his routes to nestle in holes. His hands are ++.pic.twitter.com/v6FwkaB0nm
Hollister also has two career catches split out wide, with the Patriots utilizing empty sets as easy coverage identifiers for their quarterback - much like Schotty.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) June 21, 2019
Nothing spectacular, but more smart body positioning while coming back to the football.pic.twitter.com/DrWa9ORgvT
Will he make the 53?
Speaking to Mark Schofield, a Patriots expert at PatsPulpit plus Xs and Os expert for various sites, revealed the major concern regarding Hollister is his availability. After threatening to emerge as a more regular piece of the New England offense, Hollister had his 2018 season hampered by a nagging hamstring injury and a lung contusion, before he was eventually placed on Injured Reserve on January 8th, 2019. The unfortunate question is whether Hollister can stay healthy.
Everyone: “Man, since Belichick didn’t draft a TE he must have some faith in guys like Hollister.”— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) April 29, 2019
Schofield also told me that Hollister’s blocking is a weakness, and this was reflected in the Patriots’ usage of him. Ultimately, if Hollister is to make the roster, he will have to stay healthy for the entire preseason and compete for a move tight end spot. Rivals for the position include Vannett, Johnson and Tyrone Swoopes.
The early signs are encouraging. The plan? Get Hollister in 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends and 2 wide receivers) alongside a better blocker; then have his explosive speed and route-running punish linebackers. He would thrive as a checkdown option and on the intermediate crossers Schottenheimer adores. Described by Schotty as a “terrific acquisition,” Hollister could finally have his breakout year in the NFL—in Seattle Seahawks blue and ACTION GREEN no less.