Seattle Seahawks

“Special” rookie Will Dissly wows Russell Wilson, seizes early chance in Seahawks’ starting offense

Rookie TE Will Dissly from UW talks about his first, impressive weeks of Seahawks preseason

Will Dissly, the rookie tight and end former University of Washington defensive lineman, talks about his impressive start in the NFL with the Seahawks.
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Will Dissly, the rookie tight and end former University of Washington defensive lineman, talks about his impressive start in the NFL with the Seahawks.

How’s Will Dissly doing in his first Seahawks training camp?

Well, how many $88-million, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks have this to say about a rookie fourth-round draft choice after his full week of an NFL preseason?

“Dissly’s been real impressive. He’s been, in my opinion, one of the stars of camp,” Russell Wilson said, after Seattle’s franchise quarterback completed a couple more passes to the former University of Washington tight end in the starting offense during a mock game.

“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 and I think that we all really are impressed by his professionalism. That comes from him playing at the University of Washington, him playing big-time football, playing for (coach) Chris Petersen coming over here, his knowledge of the game, his intelligence. Just the little things: how he transfers the ball, catching it and putting it away, and just how he moves.

“He visualizes the game really, really well (with) way more experience than any typical rookie and it’s exciting to see. We’re going to need him. We’re going to need him to step up in a big way. And I think it’s going to be cool to see Will Dissly do that.”

Whoa. That’s “really, really” high praise from an NFL superstar.

Especially about a rookie tight end who until a couple years ago was a defensive lineman at UW.

“It’s funny, because you never would have known that,” Wilson said. “That’s a credit to his athleticism. That’s a credit to how special he is.

“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?”

Ten years? First things first. Dissly has yet to play an NFL game, even a preseason one. That comes Thursday against Indianapolis at CenturyLink Field.

If the last week of training-camp practices is any indication, the successor to Jimmy Graham as Seahawks number 88 will be with Wilson in the starting offense in the exhibition opener against the Colts.

Good thing for Dissly that Petersen saw him throwing those passes before a Huskies bowl practice in late 2015.

I asked Dissly if he’s pinched himself yet at going from a UW defensive lineman to catching throws and verbal bouquets from Wilson while on the Seahawks’ starting offense just over one week into his first NFL training camp.

“Definitely no time for that,” he said. “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.”

disslygreen
Fellow rookie Rasheem Green (left) is just one of the guys rookie tight end Will Dissly, a former University of Washington defensive lineman, has taken on in his first months and weeks with the Seahawks. Dissly is impressing teammates and coaches with his all-around game. Peter Haley phaley@thenewstribune.com

Dissly was messing around at a practice for UW’s Heart of Dallas Bowl at the end of the 2015 season, a big number 98 playfully catching passes from a teammate. Huskies coach Chris Petersen walked past and noticed Dissly was reaching for the ball and pulling it in with more skill than a defensive linemen should have.

“Hey, you want to have a package (of plays on offense)?” Petersen asked Dissly.

He got a few, in that bowl game. Now, that defensive lineman from Bozeman, Mont., is in the Seahawks’ starting offense. He was reputed to be the best blocking tight end in this year’s draft. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Dissly also has been standing up Seattle’s rush ends in pass-rush drills. Rookie sixth-round pick Jacob Martin has been impressing coaches with his edge speed and thus earned some time with the starting defense. Last week during the daily, fiery pass-rush drill Dissly stonewalled Martin on consecutive snaps.

Dissly’s also been showing soft hands, extending and catching the ball far away from his body, and, as Wilson said, subtle, beyond-his-years technique to assert himself as a trustworthy pass catcher. He had two of Wilson’s 16 completions on four drives Saturday in the annual mock game, the tuneup for the preseason opener. Dissly had twice as many receptions in that than did six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Not quite a defensive lineman-like performance.

Dissly is taking full advantage of an opportunity left wide open for him by Ed Dickson’s quadriceps injury. DIckson has yet to practice in training camp.

After Graham signed as a free agent with Green Bay and number-two tight end Luke Wilson signed with Detroit, the Seahawks signed the 31-year-old Dickson to be their present at tight end. They gave him a three-year contract worth at least $10.7 million that has the potential to be salary-cap friendly to cut after 2018.

Dissly was supposed to be Seattle’s future at tight end, the pick that would help coach Pete Carroll get the offense back to the running game as he’s vowed to do.

But that future is, for now, right now.

Yet Dissly is remaining a good rookie. That is, a humble one. Asked how his impressive training camp has been going for him, he deadpanned following another steamy practice Monday: “It’s been hot.

“No, it’s been good. I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve learned a ton. ... I’m just excited to see what we can go do on Thursday.”’

Dissly said the organized team activities in June were for “kind of just getting my feet wet. And now my feet are kind of underneath me, and so we’re just taking it stride by stride.

“I’m not saying it’s perfect,” he said, “but definitely competing every day. And it’s been a lot of fun.”

Dissly said his experience playing for UW, winning the Pac-12 title and playing in the National Championship Playoffs against Alabama, against Penn State in last season’s Fiesta Bowl, has prepared him for what he’s doing now with the Seahawks.

“You know, coming from Washington, we had some really big-time D-linemen, so I think the competition that I experienced there has really translated here,” he said. “We have some really, really good D-linemen. Two rookies that I go against a lot, Jacob Martin and (third-round pick) Rasheem Green, they’re doing some really cool stuff. It’s a battle every day. You’ve got to bring it, so I’m having a blast.”

Shaquem Griffin is another rookie defender Dissly has been trying to catch. The linebacker had a disputed time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in March. That was the fastest by a linebacker at the combine in 15 years.

Griffin was on the starting defense again Monday, at weakside linebacker subbing for K.J. Wright (sore groin) and next to All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

“Shaquem is fast, man. That 40 was no joke,” Dissly said. “He’s a special player. One thing that I appreciate about him is that he’s always coming with a positive attitude. This whole thing is all about energy so camp gets long and hard and you see him over there, he’s got a big smile on his face. It’s a good time.”

As for the praise Wilson’s heaped upon him? Dissly didn’t deadpan that.

“I think someone mentioned that to me. That’s really cool,” he said. “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 just to go out there and compete with that guy is unbelievable. The way he carries himself, the way he sets an example, it’s hard not to replicate that. To go out and be focused day in and day out and improve that much, just like he’s trying to do.”

CHANCELLOR THRILLS

Kam Chancellor thrilled fans by making his first appearance at training camp since he announced July 1 he will no longer be playing because of a career-ending neck injury.

The Pro Bowl strong safety said through a team spokesman he didn’t want to talk publicly Monday about his decision. He said he will be around the team regularly all season.

NO CHANGE AT RIGHT TACKLE

In the first practice after Carroll said he was “real disappointed” in more penalties from Germain Ifedi, Ifedi remained the starting right tackle, Isaiah Battle remained his first backup and George Fant remained the backup to left tackle Duane Brown.

One small change Monday: rookie Jamarco Jones, another backup to Brown early in camp and in offseason practices, got a few snaps as Ifedi’s backup at right tackle.

THOMAS FINES PASS $800,000

The fines for Earl Thomas holding out of training camp were $845,000 through Monday. That includes $40,000 per missed camp day, including reporting day, plus 19 percent of his prorated signing bonus of $1.9 million for 2018.

The Seahawks don’t HAVE to demand that fine money from their All-Pro safety, who wants a new contract before his current one paying him $8.5 million this year ends after 2018. But precedent from Chancellor’s holdout in 2015 indicates the Seahawks will be collecting from Thomas, too.

EXTRA POINTS

Shaquill Griffin was back at his starting left-cornerback spot after sitting out the Saturday mock game.

... Justin Britt was back as the starting center. He missed the mock game when his back stiffened warming up for it. ... Edge rusher Marcus Smith practiced in position drills after missing most of last week with a hip-flexor injury. He watched the pass-rush drill and scrimmaging. ... WR Tanner McEvoy had two passes go off his hands during scrimmaging. One was an interception, the other one should have been but was dropped by the defender.

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