Seeing Will Dissly catch a pass from Russell Wilson this week might not seem all that noteworthy seeing as it's only a June minicamp, but for the fourth-year tight end out of Washington, just being on the field at this time of year is a huge deal.
At this time last year, Dissly wasn't ready for football drills because he was rehabbing a torn Achilles, hoping to get back in time for training camp and the regular season. And at this time two years ago, Dissly was rehabbing a torn patellar tendon, again, just hopeful to be on the field in Week 1. In both cases, Dissly made it back from those serious injuries for the start of the season, a testament to his toughness and his dedication to the rehab process, but there's a big difference between just barely getting healthy enough to play football in August and September and being able to take part in offseason workouts while fully healthy.
"It's night and day," Dissly said. "… My legs are feeling great. We worked hard on getting symmetry back, so both legs are feeling equally strong, and it's translating to route-running and getting off the line and blocking ability."
Neither Dissly nor Seahawks coach Pete Carroll used his injuries as an excuse for any dip in production last year, but in retrospect both realize he is at a different level now, physically, than he was last year coming off of two straight serious injuries.
"I wouldn't have stepped on the field if I didn't think I was ready to play, and honestly both seasons I felt like I was ready to go, and I was fortunate to go through all of last season healthy and play 16 games, but there was something missing for sure," Dissly said. "I think a lot of it is the coordination. When I'm learning to run again with a new Achilles and new knee, it takes a lot of time to get that trust in your knee back. We did a great job running and cutting and feeling good, but there is a coordination aspect to this game that people don't understand—turning your body, making tough catches, so all of that has kind of come to fruition running routes this offseason, catching unique throws, different running drills and footwork drills, getting off the line. I guess maybe I didn't realize what all that took last year, so we're excited to put that into play this year."
Said Carroll, "He's stronger, he's quicker. The difference between that it just night and day than in the years past where it was just barely getting back, just barely getting ready for the camp mode. He is in full swing right now and it looks great. He's really upbeat, really excited about that, because he feels so much better than he did the last couple of years. Really he's been in rehab for over two years."
And a healthier Will Dissly is only one reason for optimism for the Seahawks when it comes to the tight end position heading into the 2021 season. Not only is new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron expected to bring some elements of a pretty tight-end friendly L.A. Rams offense with him to Seattle, the Seahawks also signed former Rams tight end Gerald Everett, who brings athleticism and run-after-catch ability that should be a real weapon for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense.
"This is a really strong group for us," Carroll said. "Will being healthy now, we know he's going to have a great shot at having a hell of a camp and be able to do his stuff. Will can do everything, he can catch the football, he can run with it after, and he's our biggest, best on-line blocker. So he kind of sets it, that's kind of the stability of the position. Gerald brings some factors that we have not had here before—his route running ability, his speed. If you watch his stuff, his run-after-catch is excellent. He's a very, very aggressive runner with the football, which is really exciting. Catching and running, he can get the ball in his hands and make things happen. And he's been a really active, willing blocker in our scheme, as we've seen in the Rams program. So he's just incredibly exciting addition. Because of the flexibility, you can line him up out of the backfield, he can be in a slot, he can be outside, all of that stuff—he's got wide receiver ability as a tight end. So that's a real positive for us and I'm really pumped about that. He knows everything, he knows the offense too, so he's just been really pleasantly just a great addition."
Early on in his time with the Seahawks, Everett has also proven to be a valuable asset to his teammates who are trying to learn a new offense that has plenty of carryover from what he and the Rams did in L.A.
"As much as I need to," he said when asked how much he's helping teammates with the offense. "Any question I can be there to answer, or any help I can give to tight ends or receivers or running backs, anything I see I'm going to speak on until they tell me not to… Coming from L.A. and being familiar with this scheme, I wouldn't be the best teammate if I wasn't being a helping hand."
And while Dissly and Everett figure to be the top two tight ends heading into training camp, they aren't the only players at that position who have the potential to play a big role in the offense. Carroll and the coaching staff are also very excited about the 6-foot-7 Colby Parkinson, a 2020 fourth-round pick who missed most of his rookie season with a foot injury, but who has done plenty to impress his coaches on the practice field.
"Colby is going to be a factor," Carroll said. "There's nothing to keep him from being a factor. At 6-7, he's got a target that's just obviously unique. He's got great hands, he's a natural catcher... He gets off the ground well too when he has to. He's a really bright player, he's picked stuff up. Because of the time he missed on the field with us, he really dove into the strength program, and he's just pumped up and he's better now than he was when he came active with us at the end of the year. So those three guys are really, really exciting for us. There's flexibility in the guys, they can all run and catch the football. I'm really pumped about that position, and I know Russell's jacked about it. He's got different types of targets. We like to do stuff with the guys that they do that's unique to them, and that's what we're working out right now with them. We're developing that."
Photos from Seattle Seahawks minicamp on Wednesday, June 16 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.