Fittingly, Will Dissly's first NFL reception began with a block.
The Seahawks selected Dissly in the fourth round of the 2018 draft in large part because they viewed him as the best blocking tight end in the draft, but it was also noted last spring that the University of Washington product had good hands as well.
And in his NFL debut, Dissly not only did his expected unglamorous work in the trenches, he also was the team's leading receiver, gaining 105 yards on three catches, including a 15-yard touchdown for his first career reception. On that touchdown, Dissly started the play lined up next to left tackle Duane Brown, and when Russell Wilson dropped back and faked a handoff, Dissly began the play by blocking rookie linebacker Bradley Chubb. After selling the block, Dissly disengaged from Chubb and took off uncovered down the field where Wilson hit him for Seattle's first touchdown of the year.
"That was really cool," said Dissly, who was one of the bright spots in a 27-24 loss at Denver. "I have to give credit to Russ and the offensive line for allowing me to do some cool things out there. Obviously it didn't end the way we wanted it to, but we have another opportunity and we'll just go and do better."
Dissly's most impressive highlight might not have been his first career touchdown, but rather a 66-yard catch and run that saw him break multiple tackles before finally being shoved out of bounds at the 5-yard line. That play was the longest reception by a Seahawks rookie since receiver Darrell Jackson had a 71-yarder during the 2000 season. Dissly also became the first rookie to record 100 receiving yards in his debut since Houston's Will Fuller did it two seasons ago.
"He was on fire," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He was Ditka, he was like Mike Ditka out there. He just missed a couple other ones too, we just overthrew him a bit. He might have had two or three more catches. He was really in the right spot and he deployed well for the game plan and all that. And again, we have been talking about this, he is doing great for us and I am really happy to see him contribute like that."
Carroll said Dissly also had a good game as a blocker, and while a 100-yard game from a tight end who also makes big contributions at the line of scrimmage might sound like a big deal, Dissly said that's just the job of a tight end.
"That's how tight ends should be," he said. "You should be able to block and catch passes. It's not hard. They throw to you, you catch it, then you go do some cool things (blocking). A lot of guys out there I would challenge, they're just as big as me, they just have to be a little more physical. They're just as athletic, they can run fast, they weigh a lot and they're tall, so there's no reason they can't block as well. Blocking is just a mindset, then obviously catching the ball is always fun."
And while Dissly's contributions might have been the most obvious, he was hardly the only rookie to make an impact on Sunday. The Seahawks have liked what they have seen from their rookie class throughout training camp and the preseason, and in Denver several rookies had big roles. On offense, first-round pick Rashaad Penny had four catches for 35 yards, though he had a hard time getting going in the running game, gaining 8 yards on seven carries. The Seahawks leaned on their rookies even more on defense, with Tre Flowers starting at right cornerback, Shaquem Griffin starting at weakside linebacker, and defensive end Rasheem Green playing 62 percent of the defensive snaps.
It wasn't a perfect night for those rookies—as Carroll put it, "I can see the newness of us—we got in trouble on some stuff on defense, we made some mistakes, things that are really easily cleaned up," but getting so many big contributions from rookies in Week 1 of the season should pay off down the road.
"They'll improve enormously," Carroll said Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle. "That's Will's first game in real time, that's Tre's first game in real time, he played really well outside, played really physical and tough. It's just going to go across the board."
Of course, to only mention the contributions of rookies on offense and defense would be to leave out one very impressive rookie performance from Sunday's game. Punter Michael Dickson, a fifth-round pick out of Texas, punted six times, averaging 59 yards per punt, four of which were downed inside the 20 (a fifth was fielded at the 20 and resulted in Denver starting at the 10-yard line because of a holding penalty). Dickson had a very impressive net average of 57.5 yards per punt on a day in which a 59-yard punt was downed at the 2-yard line and a 69-yarder went out at the 6-yard line.
Just how big of a difference can those changes of field position make in a game? On their six possessions following a Dickson punt, the Broncos totaled just three points, getting a field goal after his one punt that didn't pin them deep. The Broncos' three touchdown drives all came on 75-yard drives following kickoffs, and they also scored a field goal after a turnover.
"Oh my Gosh, what a kicker man, what a kicker," Carroll said of Dickson. "I don't know what his numbers wound up at, but he is a fantastic part of our team and we are just getting warmed up with him, he is really something. I mean, the punts were gorgeous, but not just the distance of the punts, but the placement of the punts too."
Game action photos from the Seahawks' 2018 season opener against the Denver Broncos.