If it was the drafting of Shaquem Griffin that drew gasps of joy from Seahawks’ front office personnel and fans alike, it was the selection of tight end Will Dissly that allowed those in the team’s war room to finally exhale.
Recall that the Seahawks initially passed on Griffin with the 120th pick in the fourth round when many figured the time had finally come for Seattle to draft him to instead take Dissly, a tight end from Washington and a player the team feels can play a vital part in reviving its running game with his in-line blocking.
After taking defensive end Rasheem Green at 79 with a pick they got in a trade, and without a third-round pick of their own (it had been sent to Houston as part of the Duane Brown deal), the Seahawks had to wait for 40 more picks to pass before they could take Dissly, who they later said was a player they regarded as pretty much a must-have (Seattle then took Griffin at 141).
“We just held our breath all the way through the draft in hopes that we would get him,’’ coach Pete Carroll said Saturday. “In the draft, there’s a lot of excitement because you anticipate and you hope, and he made it to us.’’
And nine days into training camp, Carroll says the Seahawks are seeing in Dissly exactly what made him such a priority in the first place.
With prospective starting tight end Ed Dickson remaining on the Non-Football Injury list, Dissly has generally been the backup tight end behind Nick Vannett.
The Seahawks saw some early signs of what they hoped for out of Dissly during the offseason program. But since blocking is expected to be his forte — as Carroll said, “we really wanted his line of scrimmage stuff’’ — it wasn’t until the team put on pads after the first week of camp that Seattle could really get a sense of what it has in Dissly.
Dissly’s first impression, the Seahawks hope, becomes a lasting one.
“The first six days that we’ve had him in pads, he’s shown nothing but a good savvy, a good understanding and a good mentality for it,’’ Carroll said. “(He’s) 270 pounds, he’s strong and physical.’’
Dissly on Saturday also showed off his hands on catches from Russell Wilson on two straight plays — one a short reception on third down to keep a drive alive and then a 15-yarder to set up a touchdown.
Each was evidence of what the team thinks could be more immediate receiving impact out of Dissly than his reputation as a blocker — he was called the best blocking tight end available in the draft by analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network — might suggest.
“He’s been, in my opinion, one of the stars of camp,’’ Wilson said Saturday. “You know that you expected a guy who is going to work really, really hard and be a really good player, but he keeps showing up. I really, really like how he’s playing.’’
Pretty heady talk for a player who was a backup defensive lineman at UW less than three years ago before famously switching to tight end prior to Washington’s bowl game in 2015.
“It’s funny, because you never would have known that,’’ Wilson said when reminded of Dissly’s relative lack of experience at tight end. “. … When you think about how good he’s playing right now, well how much better can he get if he plays tight end for the next 10 years here?’’
Said Dissly when asked about what Wilson had said: “That’s really cool. Whenever a veteran says that you’re doing good things, your eyes kind of brighten up a little bit and you get really excited about what they said.’’
But Dissly knows that nine days of training camp hardly a career makes.
“Definitely no time for that,’’ Dissly said when asked if he’d allowed himself to take a moment to soak in wearing an NFL uniform. “We’re in the heart of fall camp. We’re working hard, so no time for that but it’s cool. I’m really blessed to be given this opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
At the moment there seems little doubt Dissly will not only make the roster but have a key role on Sundays with the Seahawks likely to make great use of multiple tight-end sets.
“We’re going to need him,’’ Wilson said. “We’re going to need him to step up in a big way.’’
That’s an expectation formed during those anxious moments in April that haven’t changed in the months since, even if Dissly says all the team told him is what they usually tell rookie.
“You know, I was just told to come in and compete,’’ he said. “That’s kind of the whole thing about the Seahawks. You come in and compete and work really hard and good things can happen.”