When veteran tight end Ed Dickson arrived in Seattle last offseason, he understood the expectation.
Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were all gone. Soon enough, Kam Chancellor would be out, too. Jimmy Graham was a Green Bay Packer. An annual Super Bowl favorite was suddenly devoid of familiar faces.
The Legion of Boom Seahawks had long ruled the NFC West with a heavy hammer.
This was a different team, but could a younger core contend?
“I knew that it was kind of a rebuilding (situation), because the Seahawks that I’ve gotten accustomed to, a lot of the pieces were gone,” Dickson said Sunday. “I knew it was going to be a little bit different. I knew there was a new offensive coordinator and some of the defensive players were gone. They surpassed a whole lot of people’s expectations.”
The Seahawks, who rolled to a 10-6 regular season record before falling to the Dallas Cowboys in the wild-card round last weekend, did that by scoring the second-most points in franchise history. They did it by leading the NFL with a plus-15 turnover differential.
They did some of it without the 31-year-old Dickson, who missed the first six games of the regular season with an injury.
In all, he produced 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns, before adding four more catches for 42 yards last weekend. The position’s breakout star might have been rookie and University of Washington alum Will Dissly, who caught eight passes for 156 yards and two scores in just four games before missing the remainder of the season with a torn patellar tendon. Nick Vannett added 29 catches for 269 yards and three touchdowns — all career highs — in 15 games.
All three will more than likely be back in 2019, so can the tight end position take another positive step?
“I’m excited about (Dissly) coming back,” Dickson said. “(He’s) just a younger guy and explosive and (with) the work ethic that he puts forward, I’m sure he’s attacking the offseason the way he did this football season. Getting him here and getting him underneath our belt, we’ve got three good guys in that tight end meeting room.
“I don’t mind sharing the load with all of them. I can’t play forever. It’s a young league, so I’m excited about working with him and getting us going and trying to be the No. 1 tight end group in the league.”
Dissly has been doing plenty of work on his own. Immediately after weekday practices late in the regular season, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound tight end could be seen standing upright, catching passes by himself from a jugs machine.
When he was taken with a fourth-round pick out of UW in April, Dissly was labeled a “blocking tight end.”
He can block, but the Montana native and Montlake product is out to prove he’s more than a one-trick pony.
“Will was terrific starting his season off,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “We missed the heck out of him, but he’s coming back. We’re thrilled to get him back.”
Dickson — who signed a three-year, $14 million deal last offseason — is thrilled to be back as well.
For the record, the public’s preseason expectation never actually matched his own.
“(This season) never surpassed my expectations. My expectations are always high,” Dickson said. “If I’m being honest about it I’m a little bit disappointed because it’s not the Super Bowl. That’s disappointing for me.”
It’s true, the Seahawks fell far short of the Super Bowl in 2018, but Dickson and Dissly will be back, and so will the Seahawks’ young core.
So what’s the new internal expectation going forward?
“It’s scary. It’s scary to think about how good we can get, but it starts right here,” Dickson said. “We have to take time and develop and become the team that we know we can be. There’s a lot of different pieces on this team, and we’re adding new pieces. Every season is not the same. I’ve been around long enough that I know that.
“I’m excited about the guys that are here. I’m excited about the guys that are going to be here. With that said, we’re going to take the offseason by the horns and take care of the veteran leadership and steer this group in the right direction.”