With Seahawks training camp kicking off later this month, Seahawks.com is taking a look at 10 of the most intriguing storylines, position battles and players heading into the 2022 season. Today, we look at a tight end group for which Pete Carroll and company have high expectations. Check back Wednesday for a look at linebacker, where Jordyn Brooks is looking to build off a big 2021 season, and where Cody Barton is preparing to step into a bigger role in 2022.
As the Seahawks' first selection in the 2019 draft approached, general manager John Schneider and company thought they were about to add a playmaking tight end in Iowa's Noah Fant.
"We had his name written down," Schneider said. "It was that close, we thought he was coming to us."
Instead, the Broncos picked Fant at No. 20, one spot ahead of Seattle's selection, leading to the Seahawks trading back with their top choice no longer available. Three years later, the Seahawks belatedly got the tight end they coveted in 2019, acquiring Fant as part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver.
"You're talking about a guy that's a big man, is young," Schneider said after the March trade with Denver. "He went through a rough time early on (in his NFL career), unfortunately lost his mother right before the season. He did a really nice job of still going out and competing, he caught 68 balls. He's a huge target, and he can run."
The addition of Fant is just part of the reason the Seahawks are excited about their tight end group heading into 2022. While one of last year's top two tight ends, Gerald Everett, did leave in free agency, the Seahawks were able to re-sign Will Dissly, a big move for the offense given Dissly's versatility as a blocker and pass catcher, as well as his leadership presence in the locker room. The Seahawks are also hoping this can be a breakout season for 2020 draft pick Colby Parkinson, who has yet to make his mark in large part due to injuries. Seattle also returns Tyler Mabry, who has split time between the practice squad and active roster during his two seasons, and added undrafted rookie Cade Brewer this spring.
"Will is an all-around guy, we can count on him to do everything," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the Seahawks wrapped up their June minicamp. "Noah had maybe the most spectacular camps of anybody. I just thought he made plays throughout the whole time down the field, short area stuff, understanding the scheme, all of it, he just adapted so beautifully. I didn't know him other than through the draft process, but he handled himself just impeccably. Maybe the guy that's most exciting is Colby. Colby Parkinson really became a go-to guy, and he's got that tremendous frame and catching range, and he runs really well. He's worked so diligently to build himself up and to gain his power and control of his body that he's going to come off the ball and be an effective blocker too. The position is really strong, and they've got some particular strengths, but yet they're versatile too, so we've got a lot of flexibility with these guys and they're going to be a big part of what we're doing."
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Seattle's tight end production, like the offense as a hole, was a bit inconsistent last season as the team adjusted both to a new offense, and also, for the first time in a decade, a significant injury at quarterback. But just as other teams using variants of the Mike Shanahan version of the West Coast offense—the Rams and 49ers to name two—have had success throwing to tight ends the hope is that the Seahawks can get prolific production out of their tight ends in year two under Shane Waldron.
"I like the way they use the tight ends," Fant said. "I like the way we get passing concepts down the field. Obviously, it's going to be all built off the run game, which is a huge part of the game. Obviously, the play action is going to be huge. So it's a very balanced offense, which I like, and it's very favorable to the tight end. So it's nice."
Fant added the offense features, "a lot more ways to move around, a lot more ways to get guys open, which is really cool to see. I definitely think it's very similar to the offense we've been in before. I see hints of 49ers, hints of Rams, hints of different teams in there that coach Waldron has kind of made it into his own and made it something that's really cool to be a part of. So I'm excited to be in this offense. I think I can do some good things in it, and we'll see what happens."
But while the scheme should help get the most out of the tight ends, Waldron is most excited about how the talent and versatility at that position can make the offense look good.
"The group of guys right now that can do a little bit of everything," Waldron said. "The more tight ends can do, the more chances we can move them around and not necessarily just have to line them up in a static inline position and give them a chance to move around and present different looks for a defense. And so, we've got guys between Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. Noah's joined the mix now, and Tyler Mabry that can all do a little bit of everything. So in that regard, it makes it friendly for the tight end, I think, in terms of getting out in the pass game, helping out in the run game, doing a little bit of everything, not necessarily just one thing."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from throughout Seahawks Minicamp, taking place June 7-9, 2022 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.