Seahawks Position Battles: Luke Willson vs. Cooper Helfet vs. Anthony McCoy


Previous posts in the position battle series:

FB: Derrick Coleman vs. Will Tukuafu

Backup DE: Greg Scruggs vs. Demarcus Dobbs

After Zach Miller sprained his ankle in week three of the 2014-15 season, Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet were competing for first team reps. Now, they are fighting for a spot on the roster after the Seattle Seahawks acquired All-Pro Jimmy Graham and Anthony McCoy returned from injured reserve.

Graham’s acquisition obviously changes everything for the tight end group as well as the Seahawks’ offense. With one of the top-two passing-catching TE’s in the NFL now in the fold, the backup spot will be determined by who can be most effective in the running game. Most of the targets to TE’s not named Jimmy Graham will likely be on misdirection-slip plays in the flat.

Seahawks Backup Tight End Battle: The case for Willson

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The Canadian is far-and-away the most experienced of the three. He has backed up Zach Miller each of the the past two seasons and started for most of 2014.

Willson is a fantastic all-around athlete, and was in the top-ten of the 2013 draft class for every measurable. He is a willing blocker, and by far the nastiest, something that Tom Cable is sure to love.

Seahawks Backup Tight End Battle: The case for Helfet

The Jimmy Graham acquisition probably took away 99% of his playing time offensively, as Helfet is the worst blocker of the three TE’s. With Willson and McCoy ahead of him in that regard, as well as Garry Gilliam and Will Tukuafu likely to see time at tight end in short-yardage situations, there isn’t much room for him on the offense. That’s a shame, as he is, in my opinion, the best receiving option of the trio.

Nov 23, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet (84) dives into the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While his talents may not be well-suited for the Seahawks’ offense in the short-term, what Helfet does have going for him is the athleticism and tackling ability to play on punt and/or kick coverage. When it gets down to the last few roster spots, special teams is often the deciding factor, something that bodes well for Helfet. I really hope he makes it, Coop is a lot of fun to watch.

Seahawks’ Backup Tight End Battle: The case for McCoy

Even after five years in Seattle, McCoy is an unknown at this point. He has spent three of his five seasons either on the IR or inactive, and hasn’t played a snap since 2012. However, McCoy has the upside to possibly outweigh the injury risks.

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While I still think Helfet is better all-around in the passing game, McCoy is much more in the mold of a typical seam-busting tight end, with the straight-line speed to separate against man-coverage. Blocking-wise, he has the technique and the body type, but the tenacity and will to block have yet to show itself. Maybe coming back from back-to-back season-ending injuries will fire him up.

Seahawks’ Backup Tight End Battle: Prediction

Keeping four tight ends is rare, and hasn’t been done by the Seahawks in recent years. If a fourth tight end were to make the 53-man roster, it would be for special teams purposes, which are, in most cases, filled by linebackers and DB’s. However, both McCoy and Helfet are candidates for ST duties.

Willson is in, as the only proven blocker of the three, and Helfet and McCoy have enough upside and athleticism to warrant roster spots. The problem with those two is staying on the field. If everyone stays healthy, I think there’s a good chance that Coach Carroll keeps all three. But if history has anything to say about it, either Helfet or McCoy are bound to get hurt and make Pete’s decision for him.

Next: Ten Best Undrafted Free Agents In Seahawks' History