In almost a decade with the Seattle Seahawks, head coach Mike Holmgren has failed to land the kind of all-purpose tight end he had in his previous tenures with the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. With Holmgren as his offensive coordinator in San Francisco, tight end Brent Jones had some of his best seasons, putting up a career-high 747 with five touchdowns in 1990. With the Packers, it was tight ends Mark Chmura, who went to the Pro Bowl in 1995, 1997 and 1998, and Keith Jackson.
Since landing as Seattle's head coach in 1999, Holmgren has gone through numerous tight ends. Last year the team ran out veteran tight end Marcus Pollard for 14 games, with tight ends Will Heller and Bennie Joppru getting into games. As a group, they totaled just 41 receptions for 355 yards and five touchdowns.
The tight end plays a large role in Holmgren's offense, both receiving and blocking. Rather than sub players in and out on differing downs, Holmgren prefers to have one player he can use on both running and passing downs. He hasn't been able to do this in recent years. Tight end Jerramy Stevens was the last player to put up decent numbers in the offense when he caught 45 passes for 554 yards and five touchdowns in 2005. Since then the team has gone through a dry spell. They were hoping to land a player they could leave on the field for every down this year.
This year's offseason has netted the team two new tight ends - one through free agency and one through the draft. Tight end Jeb Putzier joined the team from the Houston Texans, where he had just 39 receiving yards in eight games last year. The team then drafted tight end John Carlson from the University of Notre Dame with the 38th overall pick in the draft. If Holmgren has hit on either of these players, he could finally have a consistent all-around tight end for what is expected to be his final year as head coach.
Two new guys
Putzier's best year came in 2004 when he had 36 receptions for 572 yards and two touchdowns while with the Denver Broncos. He is the veteran presence on the roster. This could help boost his chances if Carlson has any troubles picking up blocking schemes, which is important to understand for Holmgren's offense. He is a big body (6-foot-4, 251 pounds) who could provide a nice target for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the team's offense. However, he could be on the bubble to even make the team.
The man with the most upside figures to be Carlson. He comes from a pro-style offense in Notre Dame, where he was coached by former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.
Weis had this to say about Carlson, "You have those front-line receiver types. Or you have those slugs that can just play at the point of the attack and aren't very good at receiver. ... If you look at the crossbreed, the handful of guys that can do both, he's one of the few that fit that crossbreed."
Carlson has good size (6-foot-5, 251 pounds), big hands and a solid jumping ability. His offseason workouts were one reason he dropped in the draft as he ran a 4.88 40-yard dash at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. However, a battle with an internal parasite saw him drop 17 pounds and could have been part of the reason why he ran so slowly. He came back with a 40-yard dash of 4.72 at Notre Dame's Pro Day. In his four-year career with the Fighting Irish, Carlson caught 100 passes for 1,093 yards and eight touchdowns.
Carlson could use to improve on his blocking if he wants to stay on the field for every down. He tends to struggle against a bull rush and could add some strength. He should at least give the team decent options in multiple-tight end sets if he does not win the job outright.
The final player of note at the position is Heller. He is a core special teams player and a big body (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) to use in the running game. His presence could prove effective in the red zone, where teams can struggle with him due to his size. He finished last year with just 13 receptions for 82 yards, but three of his catches were for touchdowns.
It is hard to project fantasy value this early in the season; however, if you are in early-draft leagues, consider Carlson the best of the three. He should give the team a better option in the passing game and could see plenty of time if he can be a capable blocker. Keep in mind though, that rookie tight ends tend to struggle. If he wins the starting job, consider him a weak No. 2 option with upside.
If Putzier wins the job, he would be a No. 2 tight end as well, but without the upside of Carlson. Heller should not be considered for fantasy purposes.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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