The tight ends played a big role in the Seahawks’ preseason opener Saturday night, and provided a scratching-the-surface glimpse of how offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates will use them this season.
The offensive starting lineup that was announced prior to kickoff at Qwest Field on Saturday was not the same unit that actually opened the game for the Seahawks.
The group that ran out of the tunnel included two tight ends – John Carlsonand Chris Baker – no fullback and Justin Forsett at running back. On the offense’s first snap against the Tennessee Titans, however, there was only one tight end (Carlson), fullback Owen Schmitt also was in and Julius Jones was the running back.
No worries, the tight ends did have an impact on the Seahawks’ 20-18 victory – and gave a glimpse on just how they will be used by offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
“It’s great playing for Bates. He utilizes us really well,” said rookie tight end Anthony McCoy, who also played in Bates’ offense last season when they were at USC. “He loves using a lot of two-tight end sets. It shows on the field.”
McCoy had only one catch, but it was 4-yard touchdown reception from Charlie Whitehurst in the third quarter that provided what turned out to be the pivotal points as the Titans rallied to score 11 in the fourth quarter.
Baker, a veteran who was added in free agency, also had a 5-yard reception. Carlson had only one pass thrown his way in a brief stint – but he has 105 receptions and 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Cameron Morrah, a second-year tight end, led all receivers with four catches – including 13- and 14-yarders on third downs to sustain a third-quarter drive to Olindo Mare’s second field goal, and a 7-yarder on the play before McCoy scored.
Morrah, lined up as the point man in a three-receiver cluster to the left side, also helped clear the way for Whitehurst’s TD pass to a wide-open McCoy.
“We just had a little two-end package that we ran right there,” said McCoy, who had the ball from his first NFL score sitting in his cubicle in the locker room. “We ran it all week during practice and it opened up during the game, just like coach Bates said it would.
“We executed it well. We had guys going different ways and it just opened up for me.”
McCoy was so open that it surprised even Whitehurst, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive first outing for the Seahawks.
“For a goal-line pass, that thing came real open,” said Whitehurst, who was obtained in an offseason trade with the San Diego Chargers. “Good play design on that one. That one wasn’t too tough. He was standing there in the end zone, you throw it to him and he made a good catch.”
Because of Bates’ preference for not only using two-tight end sets, but his innovative approach to using them.
“It’s amazing to be a tight end in this offense,” said Morrah, who also had a key block downfield to help spring Mike Williams on a 51-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
“All of us had catches. They spread the ball around nicely. It keeps it fun.”
Catch a little. Block a little. Be prepared for Bates to come up with a little wrinkle or two. That’s become the life of the Seahawks’ tight ends.
“When another guy in your group gets a touchdown,” Morrah said, “that’s big for the whole group. So it was fun.”
And, the fun has just begun for the Seahawks’ tight ends.