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Seahawks on tape: Will Dissly, the seam dominator

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Will Dissly is back! Patellar tendon injuries are notoriously brutal and when Dissly, who’d started his first NFL season like a Rookie of the Year candidate, tore his right PT versus the Arizona Cardinals in week 4 of 2018, the outlook appeared bleak.

A study from MT Nguyen, published in the Phys Sportsmed journal on July 16th, found that football players are the worst affected by the injury amongst all sports. Footballers had the lowest Return To Play Rate, shortest adjusted career length and the “most significant decrease in performance in the first postoperative season.”

What Dissly did last Sunday is nothing short of remarkable. Though it didn’t seem to surprise Pete Carroll in the post-game aftermath, the coach praising: “Will’s come a long ways back. He had a terrible injury but been phenomenal about working. He continues to rehab, everyday he continues on making sure that he’s making progress.”

On the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the second-year Seattle Seahawks tight end was a fantastic quick-game passing option for Russell Wilson. This was just seven days after Dissly left action following a bang to the knee. Scare averted, on Sunday he caught 5 times for 50 yards and 2 touchdowns - such numbers could have been even gaudier if Germain Ifedi had not held to negate another catch.

Box score aside, Dissly was a valuable schematic chess piece who threatened over the middle in the passing game. Dissly was a big factor behind Wilson getting rid of the ball so fast. Per NFL NextGenStats, the quarterback had an average time to throw of a rapid 1.89s, the quickest time to throw by any quarterback in a game since 2016 (minimum of 20 attempts).

Dissly also bullied with his typically dominant run-blocking. His versatile nature, limited by being a mediocre athlete, still means he can do everything which this Seahawks offense asks him to do, and more still. Take this play, where he knocks over first round linebacker Devin Bush on a run-pass option as a delayed blocker.

“Will looked good on a couple of other plays too, it wasn’t just the touchdown plays,” said Carroll post-game, keen to point out the other contributions of Dissly. The tight end also made for an excellent cheerleader:

But it’s the two touchdowns we’re going to analyze more deeply in this edition of Seahawks on tape. (Some Pom Poms would catapult his sideline work to the higher tiers)

The duo of paydirt catches placed Dissly in historic, albeit bizarre, company.

They also helped make his career statline hilariously efficient.


Touchdown #1 arrived in the first half. With 8:45 left in the second quarter, Seattle trailed 7-0. The Seahawks offense had previously struggled with their typical play-action concepts and Steelers pressure was getting home.

Quick-game and coverage ID was Brian Schottenheimer’s answer. Here, Tyler Lockett was motioned from the left of the formation to the right; Seattle switched their formation from 3x1 11 personnel to 2x2 11 personnel. The Steelers were in nickel and an Under G front.

Lockett’s pre-snap movement was followed by Pittsburgh Safety Terrell Edmunds. This told Wilson the coverage was man-to-man. Given the single high safety look of Sean Davis, probably cover 1.

The Steelers sent their weakside linebacker Mark Barron off the EDGE on a 5-man pressure. The set up of this blitz, with T.J. Watt slanting inside, allowed Dissly a totally free release off the line of scrimmage.

Behind the blitz, Pittsburgh was indeed in cover 1. This was further clarified for Wilson by the route run into the flats from C.J. Prosise. This swing acted as a traffic clearer and further coverage identified, forcing Edmunds to get out with it fast to avoid being outleveraged.

Dissly was matched up on Bush (a linebacker). The Steelers probably liked this scenario given Bush ran a 4.43 40 at 234lbs. Yet Bush is also 5’11”, and boy did Dissly’s 6’4”, 265lb frame flex its advantage here.

Wilson knew where he was going with this football immediately. He lofted a beautiful football for Dissly, away from the post safety Davis. Dissly powered pass the attempted disruption of Bush. He had gained separation over the top. And then Dissly went up and GOT the football, high-pointing the pass back-shoulder style away from the safety. Marvelous stuff from a man who played defensive tackle four years ago.

Pete Carroll asked Monday whether Dissly had improved his catching: “I don’t know how much he’s improved since the first couple of games he played last year where he looked great. He picked right up where he left off. And he’s making extra yards and making first downs for us. His hand placement catching the football is really, really good. His ability to use his range too. And Russ knows how to throw the ball, he does the - the first touchdown he threw it to his backshoulder, it was a great throw.

He [Dissly] kinda makes all that look easy. You didn’t see him get the football much in college and they had a couple of guys that played, and he was a really good blocker. And you go back to Will’s background, you know he was a basketball player, and a baseball player, and an all-round athlete. And things come natural to him. What he shows is a little knack for making guys miss when he as the ball in his hands to you know. We missed out on the scramble play too you know which would have been another 40 yards or something. But he made a nice adjustment to get open and Russ found him and all that. So we’re really, really fired up about him. He had a terrific game this week but remember the Denver game last year he just went crazy and then he got hurt...I don’t know if he’s doing any better, I think we’re just using him. And he’s worthy of it.”


The second score happened to be Russell Wilson’s 200th career passing touchdown, which is pretty cool. It also transpired on the same play-design from Schotty. The Seahawks faced 1st and 10, trailing 10-7, with 10.00 left in the 3rd quarter.

This time the formation was flipped and started as 2x2 via 11 personnel. Lockett’s pre-snap motion told Wilson the coverage was zone, as cornerback Steven Nelson did not follow him across the field. As a result, Lockett “returned” back to the nasty split and 2x2 look. Pittsburgh were in nickel and an over front.

Armed with the zone information, Wilson was probably thinking Dissly as his primary read in the tight confines anyway. However, just before the snap, Wilson did well to spot the nickel blitz of Mike Hilton. Dissly was the cert.

Post-snap, the Steelers played 3-deep, 3-under rules that had their underneath players incorporate “hot defender” techniques. Essentially, it is a landmark drop but each defender is assigned a certain receiver they must be “hot” to - given the defense is sending heat.

Schotty’s play-design really messed with Pittsburgh here as a result. Chris Carson in the flat became the “Hot 2” player for the hook-curl of Edmunds. As a result, Edmunds vacated the Seam space and crashes down hard on Carson looking to jump the hit throw.

Dissly again had zero contact and a free release to the seam. Bush, as the “Hot 3” defender, probably thought he was running to the high hole and looking for work. However, Edmunds’ being drawn to Carson in the flat meant Bush was tasked with Dissly.

Dissly had the head start and leverage advantage. Wilson threw it hot to him up the seam. Bush was nowhere near making a play on this as it all happened too fast. Again the throw from Wilson was back-shoulder, away from Davis the middle of field safety.

Once more, Dissly hung on well and showed impressive ball skills. This time he opted for a lower catch to secure the football. He then took the contact of Davis to register his second score.

Ultimately, this was a performance from Dissly that earned some of the highest post-game plaudits Pete Carroll can give a player.

“He’s a wonderful football player on our team now. He’s a great kid. He’s so on point with his assignments and his mentality and all that. And he comes through. He’s a terrific Seahawk.”

A terrific Seahawk indeed, and at just 23 a do-it-all offensive monster whose best football is still to come. He’s earned more red zone targets and blitz-beating opportunities. Exciting times.