Position Preview – Tight Ends
Holdovers: John Carlson, Cameron Morrah
Newcomers: Chris Baker (free agent), Anthony McCoy (6th round), Jameson Konz (7th round)
Departures: John Owens (contract terminated), Jason Pociask (released)
Short-Stays: Michael Allan (waived), Patrick Devenny (waived)
Depth Chart Heading Into Training Camp
Carlson’s participation percentage in offensive snaps increased by over 21% from 2008 to 2009, but those 248 additional snaps resulted in just 3 additional passes thrown his way, and one of those came on a fake punt. As a result, Carlson’s production dropped slightly from his stellar rookie season. Carlson went from 55 receptions to 51, from 627 yards to 574, and from 36 first downs to 27.
While Carlson did establish a new career long reception of 42 yards—on the aforementioned fake punt—his plays of 20+ yards dropped by 40%, from 10 in 2008 to 6 in ‘09. Despite this perceived “sophomore slump”, few pin the blame on Carlson for this. Because of the offensive line’s inability to protect long enough for a three-step drop, let alone the seven-step drops in Gregg Knapp’s offense, Carlson was often held in to block on passing downs, diminishing his effectiveness as a receiver.
As we’ve mentioned often, Jeremy Bates’ offensive system will utilize 2-tight end sets more frequently than Knapp or Mike Holmgren’s West Coast systems did.
In 2008 and 2009, Seattle used two-tight end sets on less than 15% of the offensive snaps, ranking near the bottom in the NFL in that category each season. Bates’ offense, which will be predicated on Mike Shanahan’s system with the Denver Broncos, where Bates worked from 2006-08, will have two tight ends on the field about 25% of the time.
Carlson’s role in the offense will frequently have him lining up in the slot, “flexed” off the line of scrimmage to create mismatches with smaller defensive backs and slower linebackers. Carlson has legitimate Pro Bowl potential, and this system could get him there.
Head’s scratched when the Seahawks, who still had John Owens on the roster, pursued Ben Watson, who eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns, and then quickly acted to sign Chris Baker, who was released by the New England Patriots after the first season of a five-year contract.
The reason is simple: The #2 tight end in Bates’ offense has to do more than block, and Owens was basically an additional offensive lineman. Baker’s production has decreased steadily over the last three season, going from 41 receptions in ’07, to 21 in ’08, to just 14 in ’09. Of course, Baker’s role in the New York Jets’ offense decreased with the addition of 2008 first-round pick Dustin Keller, and he never really was a fit in New England. Seattle is making a short-term gamble that Baker–the second-best tight end available in this year’s weak free agent class–will return to his ’07 form.
In 2008, when Bates was coordinating and calling the plays for the Broncos’ offense, Tony Scheffler was targeted 61 times. Back-up tight end Daniel Graham was thrown to 50 times. Even Nate Jackson, the third tight end, had 17 passes thrown his way. Seattle’s third tight ends in 2008 (Jeb Putzier) and ’09 (Morrah) logged 26 total snaps.
With Carlson and Baker expected to see the bulk of the playing time, the questions headed into training camp are a.) Who will the third tight end be, and b.) How many tight ends will make the 53-man roster in September?
Sixth-round pick McCoy and 2009 seventh-round pick Morrah will answer both questions.
With his sound hands and above-average blocking ability, McCoy is unquestionably the more polished player headed into camp. McCoy comes with baggage, though, and may be on a shorter leash than any of the ‘Hawks draft picks. McCoy tested positive for marijuana at the Combine, which caused a two-to-three round drop in his draft stock, as it raises red-flags about his judgment and the seriousness in which he takes the opportunity in front of him.
Morrah would have benefitted from another year of seasoning at Cal, but jumped to the NFL for family reasons. The 6-3, 244-pounder is coming off what was essentially a red-shirt rookie season, seeing action in just 5 plays and spending the final 13 weeks modeling Reebok’s sideline attire. Morrah will need to show improvement on his blocking for the Seahawks to put him on the field, but is a big-bodied receiver with long arms (33.5”) and big, soft hands that just scream “red-zone threat”.
Konz is such a project, he could’ve been placed in this article or in the one on the wide receivers. The bright side is that McCoy, Morrah, and Konz each have practice squad eligibility, and the Seahawks will likely use words or increased compensation to cajole whoever doesn’t make the 53-man roster into staying.