Maybe it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that Will Dissly leads the Seahawks in receiving yards after two games. After all, it was Dissly’s hands that helped convince University of Washington coach Chris Petersen to move the former defensive lineman to tight end.
“I was messing around in a bowl practice, and Coach Petersen was like, ‘Hey, do you want to have a package for this bowl game?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m just trying to play and help the Dawgs win.’” Dissly said after the Seahawks selected him in the fourth-round of the 2018 draft. “I did well in the bowl game, then we had a conversation about making it full time in spring ball.
“The D-line was running to the east field, and they were doing 7-on-7, and I said, ‘Hey, let me get a rep here. Coach Petersen said, ‘All right, jump in.’ I ran a little stop route, made kind of a tough catch and I think opened some eyes there. It was just all in fun. At the moment I didn’t think anything of it, but I guess I caught some attention.”
Good hands or not, however, it’s hard to imagine that anyone, even Dissly himself, saw this coming. After making the switch to tight end, Dissly had 25 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns over the final two seasons of his college career. He had a career-high 79 receiving yards against Montana last season, a total he eclipsed by 26 yards in his first NFL game.
The Seahawks drafted Dissly because, as head coach Pete Carroll explained, “we thought he was the best blocker in the draft.” General manager John Schneider said Dissly was “probably the closest thing to Zach Miller that we’ve seen.” And Dissly has indeed been the tough, physical blocking tight end the Seahawks were hoping to get when they drafted him, but he has also shown through two games to be a real weapon in the passing game.
In Seattle’s opener at Denver, Dissly’s first career catch was also the Seahawks’ first touchdown of the season, and he later added a 66-yard catch and rumble, allowing him to finish the game with three catches for 105 yards. Against Chicago, Dissly added three more catches, including a 34-yarder, to finish with 42 yards and a touchdown. Dissly hasn’t been perfect, there have been the typical rookie mistakes from time to time, but overall it has been an impressive start to his NFL career.
“He has been great,” Carroll said. “He really has been a great first-time starter for us. To come in, because we’re relying on him to do a lot of things and he’s such a good learner and he’s just such a great worker, that he’s done a beautiful job so far—and he can get a lot better too. He missed a couple things and missed a couple blocks. Missed a hot (route). There’s a lot of stuff and he’ll get all of that in time. He’ll have everything nailed. He’ll totally command the position. He’s just got such an approach and a mentality that that’s how our expectations are for him.”
And being in command of that position is no small feat for a rookie, especially one who started his college career on the defensive line. Between run blocking, pass protection and pass catching, tight ends have a lot of different responsibilities in any given game, and Dissly’s ability to handle that well has impressed his coaches as much as anything.
“There is a lot to it because of the pass protections as well as the route running as well as all the blocking schemes,” Carroll said. “There is a lot to it. It is a complex position. He’s really fit for the spot and he’s big enough, strong enough, tough enough, quick enough so he can do the things. He’s not out-physical’d at any time in what we’re asking him to do, and you can see him. He can get open and he can do stuff with the ball if he catches it. We’re just real fortunate that we got him. A very, very good draft pick for us.”
Dissly calls it nice and confidence-building to get off to this kind of start, but he also downplayed his own individual success, noting, “We want to win games here. That’s why they drafted me, and I think we can all do a better job of getting better, including myself. There’s things I still need to improve on. We’re still shooting for that first win, and that’s what we’re looking for this week.
“When you get to this level, the biggest thing is to have confidence in who you are and what kind of player you are. I always knew I can do it, but that’s the funny thing about football, you have to be in the right place at the right time, it has to be the right coverage, and the quarterback has to see you at the right time, so a lot of things have to go right for you to make plays in this league. I’ve just been fortunate to be in the right spot the first two games.”
Dissly’s career is just getting started, and there will be some inevitable ups and downs as he goes through his rookie season, but two games into his NFL career, he is off to an impressive start, especially as a pass-catcher who came into the league known for his blocking.
“He was one of the stars of camp earlier on, and I think that his intelligence, his toughness—you see him catch the football, how he transitions to the ball,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “He just has a great understanding, a great knack for the game. He’s a baller. He can really make a lot of plays. He kind of reminds me of a young (Jason) Witten a little bit, just how he sees the game and how he runs routes and he just catches the ball every time you throw it and that’s how you tell if the receiver is pretty good. You throw it to him, he catches it. He does his job and he does it really, really well and so he’s been exciting, really exciting and he’s tough as nails and he’s probably one the most athletic guys just all-around on our football team. Just, you see him hit a baseball, he’s just got a great understanding of just sport and just stuff in general. (Coming) from Montana, he can play some ball.”
The Seahawks and Cowboys will meet for the second time in the postseason this Saturday in Dallas. Take a look back at photos from past games played between the two teams.