The tight end scored a touchdown in his first game — against his old team, Kansas City. He led the Hawks with four catches in the win against Arizona, making two first downs. And then he pulled off Seattle’s longest play of the year — a 63-yard gain that maybe should have been a 64-yard touchdown — against San Francisco.
It has been a heck of a start for a guy general manager John Schneider picked up four weeks ago to replace Zach Miller, who is out for the season with an ankle injury.
Russell Wilson already loves Moeaki and looks for him in key spots, like the broken play that resulted in the 63-yard pass play.
“Moeaki, man, that’s a tremendous football player,” Wilson said Thursday after the Seahawks’ 19-3 win over the 49ers. “He knows what to do, he runs tremendous routes, he has a great feel for the game, get in and out of his routes at the right time, he has unbelievable hands. His adjustment to us is pretty spectacular to see in terms of how quickly he has made a difference. We are excited to have him on our team and to see all the plays he makes.”
Pete Carroll agreed, telling 71 ESPN on Friday: “We’re fired up about Tony. Really steady. He’s a pro, smart, working hard at everything. He’s working hard at his blocking, catching. There’s no question he can run every route we have, and he can make plays with the football. We’re really thrilled.
“To lose Zach for the year and be able to pick up Tony, that’s a great job by John to find him and figure that thing out. He’s going to continue to be a big part of it. I know Russell really trusts him and believes in him already, but they’ll get a lot better; their chemistry will improve here.”
It has been a long time coming for Moeaki, who had not played since 2012.
Moeaki, 27, was a third-round pick by Kansas City in 2010 and seemed to be a rising star that year, catching 47 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns.
But then the injuries hit. He spent the next season on injured reserve after suffering an ACL injury in a preseason game. He returned to the starting role in 2012 after Kevin Boss was injured in Week 2, and Moeaki caught 33 passes for 453 yards and a touchdown.
Then he missed the 2013 season with a shoulder injury. The Chiefs released him in October 2013 and he signed with Buffalo in December. The Bills had placed him on IR in late August, but they cut him with an injury settlement a week later.
“I’m so grateful for this organization, the GM, head coach, everyone,” Moeaki told 710 ESPN Seattle after the win over the 49ers. “I’m just glad to be here.”
If Moeaki can stay healthy and continues to develop his rapport with Wilson, the tight end will earn a decent contract somewhere next year. It certainly could be Seattle, where Carroll and Schneider could have some solid options at tight end and not have to worry about addressing the position in the draft.
Imagine a healthy Miller and Moeaki together, with Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet in reserve. The Hawks also have Anthony McCoy, somewhat forgotten as he spends his second straight year on injured reserve.
The Hawks could really focus on a power running game with double and triple tight ends as a base.
Wilson already has been going to his tight ends more over the last few weeks. While Moeaki has stood out in his three games, Wilson has not ignored the others. In those same three games, Willson has eight catches for 111 yards — he caught a season-high four against the 49ers. And Helfet had a big game against Arizona, coming up with a big WWE tackle on a blocked punt and scoring Seattle’s only touchdown on an athletic dive for the pylon after a 20-yard catch-and-run.
“I think all of the tight ends have done a great job to step up for Zach Miller, a guy who is so consistent and so fundamental you miss him out on the field,” Wilson said. “But to have a guy like Luke Willson to step up this year, to have Cooper Helfet make a lot of plays, and Tony Moeaki just get here and show out, it’s exciting to see. We just have to keep going, keep growing, and see how far we can take it.”