Position Preview – Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Position Preview – Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Possibly the biggest piece of news, and certainly the biggest non-extension related piece of news from the offseason involves this position set. The addition of Jimmy Graham at TE gives the team a type of receiving threat that they simply have not had with Russell Wilson or really ever. Even without Graham I would be very excited and up about these players, but he truly takes our receiving game to a whole new level.

Wide Receivers

Carolina Panthers Linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) and Safety Roman Harper (41) tackle Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Doug Baldwin in the Second Qaurter of the Panthers 13-9 loss to the Seahawks, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC, October 26, 2014

The loss of Golden Tate was a blow to this position group before last season, but over the last few seasons there has been a focus on adding depth here that I believe has really paid off. There are some quality veterans in Baldwin and Kearse who can play a role in the offense every game. In addition to those veterans, there is a level of young talent at receiver that is much higher than it has been in a long time. Paul Richardson is hurt, but players like Norwood and Tyler Lockett could be differences makers from Week 1.

The Veterans

These are players that have been around the league and the team for several seasons. They are who we think they are, and they play a role on the roster.

Doug Baldwin

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

76

73.1

972

5.2

49

5

4

11

0

* Statistics include playoff games

Doug Baldwin is a high quality slot receiver, in my opinion one of the best in the NFL. The more I see of Baldwin over the seasons the more I see former Seahawk Bobby Engram. Baldwin has the same ability to intelligently dissect a defense and find the soft spots in coverage to exploit. The difference? Baldwin has more physical ability to make a big play off of that exploitation. He is a quick, savvy player with great field awareness.

Baldwin makes his money in the middle of the field, where 4 of his touchdowns and 494 of his receiving yards occured. This season, look for defenses having to respect Jimmy Graham and leaving Baldwin room to operate in which he will absolutely torch them. The addition of Jimmy Graham could possibly lead to a 1000 yard season for Doug Baldwin.

Jermaine Kearse

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

45

57

746

6.3

63

3

4

3

0

* Statistics include playoff games

Jermaine Kearse is something of a specialist in the Seattle passing game. At 6’1″ he qualifies in comparison to other recent Seahawk receivers as a tall target, and he has a good catch radius. Kearse’s specialty is catching deep passes and the 50/50 ball that Russell Wilson is so good at throwing. Kearse’s 16.6 yards per catch, as well as the fact that 20% of his receptions occur 20+ yards downfield show his role well, and it is an important one in the team’s offensive scheme.

That being said, it is probably a good sign for Seattle when Kearse is no longer the top man on the roster for the outside, downfield, 50/50 ball receiver. I really like Kearse as a person, but ideally he is more depth than primary receiver on a top shelf team in the NFL.

Ricardo Lockette

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

17

73.9

285

5.2

48

2

1

1

0

*Statistics include playoff games

Ricardo Lockette brings a lot of energy to the team and does make some plays at WR, but his main contribution to this team occurs on special teams. Ricardo Lockette is also the player on last year’s team that was most likely to make me throw something large and heavy through my television screen. Lockette needs to reduce the number of overagressive, stupid penalties he creates.

Lockette is fresh legs and solid receiving ability, but he is pretty much just solid depth on this team. This is another player that I hope will see a dimished role as a receiver as younger players step up.

The Youth Movement

These are not rookies, but they are younger players who may be looking this season to knock some of the veterans out of their playing time. I think we’ll see an expanded passing game this season and there will be more catches to go around in general, but several of these players offer a potential upgrade for the team.

Paul Richardson

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

30

73.2

292

2.6

32

1

1

3

0

*Statistics include playoff games

Paul Richardson really came on in the second half of the season last year, posting 13 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown in weeks 15-17. He has the speed and length to be a quality outside receiver, and was the player I most hoped to see step up and challlenge Kearse for the deep threat on the team.

Unfortunately he was knocked out of the Divisional Playoff game against Carolina with an ACL injury that has left him sitting on the PUP list. After his surgery John Schneider called it 50/50 if he’d be ready to start the year. If he does remain on the PUP list that’ll put him out until at least Week 6, not to mention that despite advancements in medicine knee injuries are still problematic at times. I hope to see Richardson out there and productive this year and I am still high on him, but this may be something of a lost season for him.

Kevin Norwood

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

9

81.8

102

4.7

31

0

0

2

0

Kevin Norwood came out of Alabama last year with good size (6’2″, 199) and nice route running skills, but his rookie season may as well have been a redshirt year. Norwood only saw snaps in 10 games last season, and was only targeted with a pass in 6 of them. In his limited opportunity Norwood did show ability to work as a WR in the NFL, but it is safe to say that is a very small sample size.

With news that Norwood has put himself in contention for time with some Special Teams units this year, that makes the odds of him suiting up for every game and getting some playing time much better. I am really interested in seeing what Norwood can do, and it is my hope that with his crisper playing he can take away a lot of that receiver work that Ricardo Lockette saw last year.

Chris Matthews

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

4

80

109

2.5

45

1

0

1

0

* All statistics were from the Super Bowl

Speaking of small sample sizes, the next WR to look at is Chris Matthews. Matthews was on the field for a total of 45 snaps last season, 17 of which and every single pass target he had occured in the Super Bowl.

As impressive as it was, and as nice as it was to have a big target (6’5″, 218), one cannot help but wonder what his role is with Jimmy Graham now on the roster. I would love to see him earn a spot on the team and give us a very interesting red zone receiver package when paired with Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson, but I haven’t seen anything from him to show that he is an every down type of receiver. That being said, he is one of the players I really look forward to seeing in the preseason and wonder if he is a possession type receiver that can play all game long.

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith has similar size, speed, pedigree, and went to the University of Washington just like Jermaine Kearse. I find myself wondering if they are setting themselves up with something of a repalcement as Kearse’s cost rises. Smith is for sure on the roster bubble, and if he isn’t playing special teams I’m not sure he has much chance at making the team.

Douglas McNeil

Another player who has some size (6’3″, 200) that adds a different dimension to the offense. Doug Baldwin gave McNeil (along with Kevin Smith and Chris Matthews among others) a shout out in camp last week, and work has been that he is making some very impressive catches. If he can continue to make big plays and gets some time in preseason games he has a chance to make the roster and provide depth as an outside receiver.

BJ Daniels

BJ Daniels is doing the difficult work of converting from QB to WR, and he is a very athletic player with a thick build and a lot of versatility. That being said, he is a bit of a longshot to make the final roster for the team. He could, however, be a very good practice squad signing as he provides both a WR with some potential and an emergency backup QB if needed.

The Rookies

Despite only spending one draft pick on a WR, this front office’s success with UDFA’s means we may be seeing several new faces on the roster catching passes. That one drafted player though? He’s pretty good.

Tyler Lockett

Tyler Lockett has very similar size to Doug Baldwin, and has the looks of a quality slot receiver which would mean that he is somewhat blocked by the veteran. However, Lockett also has very polished route running abilitities, strong double moves, and an understanding of how to adjust his speed and body to create space on the outside. I worry about how he’ll handle press coverage against larger cornerbacks, but in the Alamo Bowl against a big set of UCLA DB’s coached by Jim Mora, Lockett torched them for 13 catches and 164 yards with 2 touchdowns.

In addition to his ability as a receiver and his chance to be a big threat inside and out, he is also an accomplished college kick and punt returner. In my opinion, he will add a dimension to our return game that we missed with the departure of Golden Tate, and he has the potential to be even better.

As that write up and my previous draft entries show, I am really high on Lockett. I think in a different year with a less stacked crop he would have been a first round pick, and if he were 2 inches taller he would have been one of the first 2-3 receivers off the board in this draft.

Kasen Williams

Kasen Williams has good size and decent speed, and was a productive receiver at the University of Washington. However, injuries limited his college career and he never reached the potential his High School pedigree hinted at. If Williams can tap into some of that ability and if his body is healed, he could make the team and be good depth as a receiver.

Deshon Foxx

Deshon Foxx is a smaller receiver (5’10”, 177), and had fairly middling production as more of an athlete than a WR at the University of Connecticut. He seems like the type of project that Pete Carroll and John Schneider like to stash on the practice squad and see how they develop.

Tight Ends

The Saint's Jimmy Graham turns & runs with the ball...

One could argue that Seattle had in intriguing TE unit with Luke Willson being a fast pass catching TE and Cooper Helfet showing prior to injury last year he could be a productive player in the offense. Then John Schneider went out and got Jimmy Graham and turned this into an extremely good unit and one of the deepest and most talented on the team. I expect to see a lot of 2 TE sets this year, and possibly some of Cooper Helfet in the backfield.

Jimmy Graham – The Superstar

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

85

70.2

889

3.4

29

10

8

7

2

* Statistics accumulated with New Orleans Saints

Jimmy Graham is a consensus top 3 TE in the NFL, and most would argue only Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is better. In what was considered a down year for Graham last season, he still managed to haul in over 200 more yards than the Seahawks franchise record for yards for a TE (John Carlson – 2008 – 627yds). At 6’7″ he is the biggest target we’ve had in a long time, and he brings a lot more than just his size as a receiver. Graham has been great in the NFL against everyone except Seattle it seems, so it looks like this was a great move for both parties.

Jimmy Graham immediately becomes our best Red Zone and Goal Line receiving target. He also demands a lot of attention from opposing defenses and ought to open up better coverages for both deep throws and holes that Doug Baldwin will thrive in. Graham’s blocking isn’t considered top notch by anyone, but we have a coaching staff that teaches blocking very well and it isn’t like he can be any worse than Luke Willson was in that area last year.

Luke Willson – The Promising Receiver

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

28

58.3

441

9.6

80

4

7

9

0

* Statistics include playoffs

We’ve been waiting the last few seasons to see Luke Willson fulfill his promise, and I think in many ways last year we did. Willson was a big play threat, but drops rendered him a somewhat unreliable receiver. If you watch tape of his run blocking, it was down right cringe worthy at times, but his pass blocking involved getting sort of in the way long enough to do something. That appears to be pretty much his game.

With his height and plus speed, Luke Willson is basically a poor man’s Jimmy Graham (even in the blocking department). The fact that we have the actual Jimmy Graham both makes this less of a concern and makes his spot on the roster a bit redundant. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved at some point, though if he sticks he does offer another big target lining up on the inside.

Cooper Helfet – The Complete TE

Rec

Catch

%

Yds

YAC /

Rec

Long

TD

Drops

Missed

Tackles

Fum

12

50

185

5.7

36

2

1

1

0

I must warn you that I am really high on Cooper Helfet, quite likely beyond his actual ability. Looking at his numbers from last year you can see that he put up okay numbers (I’d like to have seen a better catch percentage) in limited play last year. Watching film, you will see that he is a solid blocker as well.

While I don’t think Helfet is beating out Jimmy Graham, I do think he is a good player to have on our roster. He can be the blocking type TE that is often used in a 2 TE set, he has shown the ability to shift into the backfield where he could play similar to Jordan Reed in Washington. I hope to see him with this team as I see his long term outlook as being stronger than Willson’s and his skillset a better complement to Graham.

Anthony McCoy – The Injury Risk

Every preseason we are teased with Anothony McCoy looking like solid TE who could help out our roster and would for sure earn a spot with some Special Teams play, and every year the poor kid gets injured. I’m afraid that even if he is healthy this year there is a good chance there won’t be room on the roster for him. Sadly, injuries may have cost him his window with Seattle.

RaShaun Allen – The Project

Allen has a lot of size and is still relatively young, but I don’t know how he makes it with Seattle aside from the practice squad. I am interested in keeping my eye on him this preseason as I see him with the tools to be a good player, but he will have had to make a ton of growth since last season to enter the conversation for a place on the final roster.

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