By Eric Ronnebeck
It was a prolific year for receivers in the 2015 Seahawk offense in both statistics and recognition. What was once referred to as a “pedestrian” group of receivers showed throughout the year that not only could they compete against any secondary but they could show up opposing defenses as well. Historically, the Seahawks aren’t known for having a receiving threat from the tight end position yet in 2015 they did, giving both the wide receivers and the tight ends big contributions in the passing game, well one tight end anyways. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad.
The offseason signing of Jimmy Graham: Before the 2015 season even started, the Seahawks made their first big play by Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints. Before getting injured in Week 11, Jimmy Graham was on pace to match or exceed his target total from the last few years. He was most likely not going to catch 80 passes but since the target number was there, it’s safe to assume that adding Jimmy Graham to this offense opened up the passing game. Some fans weren’t happy with Graham’s overall numbers but they need to remember that tall, sure-handed receivers are not easy to come by. If Jimmy Graham can make it back from his injury, look for bigger and better things from him in the future.
The evolution of Doug Baldwin: I can’t say much about Doug Baldwin that he didn’t already clear up on the field: a Seahawk season record 14 touchdowns, 78 receptions, 1069 receiving yards, the most by a Seahawk since Bobby Engram in 2007. Not only did Doug Baldwin become the number one receiving option for Russell Wilson but in the process he greatly outplayed his contract. Doug Baldwin gets better every year and 2015 was his breakout.
The emergence of Tyler Lockett: When a rookie comes into an offensive system that isn’t known for its passing game but then puts up impressive numbers (51 receptions, 664 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns) people take notice. When you realize that rookie was taken in the third round, people wonder what 31 other NFL teams were thinking when they passed on him in the NFL Draft. I don’t care what the other 31 teams were thinking; I would rather look at Tyler Lockett’s body of work in a system that opened up around him in just his first year. Lockett is a talented, professional, and durable player who made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. The sky is the limit going forward.
Jermaine Kearse looked good: Kearse had the best season of his career in his free agent year. With similar numbers to Tyler Lockett (49 receptions, 685 yards, and 5 touchdowns) Kearse deserves a huge amount of credit for the success of the Hawks’ passing game. Like I mentioned before, he is a free agent this offseason; I’d like to see him return.
Everyone else: I’m not going to go after the reserve tight ends too much. Luke Willson looked like an improved player in 2015 but he still isn’t proficient at catching the ball or blocking. Cooper Helfet looked like he regressed and although journeyman impressed with the limited time he had, the Seahawks still lacked a blocking tight end that can also catch the ball. As for the receivers, Kevin Smith and his veteran skills were decent when he was called in as a fourth receiver and unfortunately Paul Richardson only had one reception all year due to injury (a whopper at 40 yards!).
The receiving numbers for 2015 were impressive, and that’s with or without comparison to other years in Seahawk history. Career years by Baldwin and Kearse, Tyler Lockett establishing himself right out of the gate, and Jimmy Graham finding his role in a run first offense while consistently being double and triple teamed is enough to put this grade at the top. A lack of direction early in the season and injuries keep this grade from being an A or higher. Record breaking performances and Pro Bowl appearances are enough for wide receivers to earn an A but the overall performances by Seahawk tight ends drops the grade down, if only a bit.