Earlier this year, there was a chance Zach Miller would not be with the Seahawks. But he took a pay cut to stay, and Seattle did not have to find out how the absence of the multi-faceted tight end would affect the offense.
Well, now they will have to find out.
The Seahawks — while banged up in the secondary — had not experienced any front-line losses so far this season. But they joined the rest of the battered NFL when they lost Miller for several weeks due to ankle surgery.
While Kam Chancellor found a way to play through his bone spurs, Miller apparently could not.
“It’s been bothering him for a number of weeks,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been playing with it, and we just don’t want him to have to tolerate it any longer. We want to see if we can fix him up and hopefully he’ll have a speedy recovery. It’s just a cleanup kind of thing. But he had some loose bodies in his ankle that were bothering him and it was very, very uncomfortable.”
Carroll indicated Miller would be out for at least 2-3 weeks, and other estimates indicate a potential six-week recovery, which is what Chancellor apparently faced if he had decided to have surgery.
Said Carroll: “Give him a couple weeks then we will go week-to-week and see how he does.”
That puts the spotlight on Luke Willson, the second-year tight end who has had trouble catching the ball at times and certainly is not the blocker that Miller is. The Hawks also have Cooper Helfet and could use tackle Garry Gilliam, who mostly played tight end at Penn State.
It could take all three of them to replace Miller.
“Zach does a ton of things,” Carroll said. “He was with Tom (Cable) all those years back in Oakland. The background that they built really helped us a lot in so many different areas, all the little things that he knows how to do — the finesse kind of situation, the motioning, being in the backfield, playing as a fullback as well as a normal tight end. … So he’s a very versatile player, extremely on it and a great, tough competitor. So we miss a lot (without) Zach.”
Willson will step in as the starter and the Hawks will now see whether he can handle the job. It will be a good tell on whether the Hawks are going to need to draft a good tight end next year to replace Miller in 2016.
“He’s going to obviously play a ton now,” Carroll said of Willson. “It’s really a great opportunity for him to step up. He’s improved in every area. He’s one of those young guys that has really just gotten a ton better since he’s been with us. He’s stronger and he’s faster than he was a year ago because of the offseason, so in every way he’s improved. This is a lot to ask of him though. It’s the first time he’ll have this kind of duty, but it’s his turn to step up.”
Carroll said they considered adding a tight end off the street but decided to stay with the guys they have.
“We’ve looked hard,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of guys in here. We’ve worked out a lot of people. (But) we would like to stay with our people — all of the banking on the communication and on the system working for us. We’re going to get it fixed right here.”
Carroll said Helfet will be “heavily involved” and Gilliam knows he’s an option, too.
“We’ve talked about it … ever since we first got (Gilliam) in here,” Carroll said, “so he’s ready if we call on him.”
Carroll said Cassius Marsh, who played some tight end at UCLA, “has banged on my door a couple times” to express interest, but Carroll did not indicate Marsh — still learning D-line play at the NFL level — was an option.
The Hawks haven’t used two tight ends very much because they have been basing their offense off Percy Harvin, but they appear likely to rotate tight ends a lot more based on situations now.
And we will find out just how much they miss Miller.