Former Patriots Jacob Hollister, Josh Gordon provide boost to Seahawks' passing game

RENTON, Wash. -- A week after the Seattle Seahawks claimed Josh Gordon, giving them another former New England Patriot to go along with Jacob Hollister, Pete Carroll was asked what he has noticed about players who have spent time with the Patriots before coming to Seattle.

Carroll flashed a grin, then delivered a response alluding to how much looser the atmosphere is in Seattle compared to that in New England under Bill Belichick.

"That they're happy to be here," Carroll answered.

Hollister and Gordon have more than that in common. It was apparent to Carroll during the Seahawks' Monday night win over the San Francisco 49ers when Hollister caught another touchdown pass on what the tight end called "a backyard play" and Gordon made a pair of key catches down the stretch, something they might not have been in position to do had they not picked up Seattle's offense as quickly as they did.

In Hollister and Gordon, Carroll sees a pair of players to whom the game comes naturally, pointing to Hollister's 3-yard touchdown against the 49ers as an example. It was on a long-developing play that had Wilson scrambling to his right, then lobbing a pass to Hollister after seeing that safety Jaquiski Tartt had his back turned to the quarterback. Hollister hauled it in with one hand while falling to the turf.

"Russell sees that Tartt's back is to him, and he can't tell what's going on, so Russ knows, 'I got this,'" Carroll said. "Jake kind of had a feel for it. 'Yeah, just go ahead. We got this guy.' They kind of both knew what was happening, and he dropped the ball on him to make a beautiful touchdown play. Didn't even look like there was any way you can make that play, but those two guys both thought it could happen and they saw it that way. That's a special guy that adds to Russell. You can just tell. That's why he's been able to be part of this thing so quickly and, really, in a big way. A heck of a game by Jacob."

Hollister had a team-high eight catches on 10 targets for 62 yards, all career highs. He was the intended target on the red zone interception Wilson threw on the first possession of overtime. Another foot of air on that throw and Hollister would have four touchdowns in two games, including consecutive game winners in OT.

"Hollister has been great," Wilson said. "The plays he's been making have been so much fun to watch and be a part [of]."

Over the past four games, Hollister has 17 catches on 24 targets for 137 yards and three scores.

That's what the Seahawks imagined when they acquired him from the Patriots for a seventh-round pick right after the draft. The timing suggested they went into the draft looking for a speedy, athletic tight end to complement Will Dissly, who's an excellent pass-catcher himself but often plays at the end of the line of scrimmage because of his size and blocking prowess. Iowa's Noah Fant, among others, would have fit the bill as a "move" tight end, but Fant went off the board one spot before the Seahawks' turn came up at No. 21.

The Seahawks were excited about Hollister's potential as a receiver and remained so when they saw his 4.6 speed in action during offseason practices. But when the pads came on early in training camp, his limitations as a blocker at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds became evident. It's a big reason he was waived on cut-down day, then spent the first five weeks on the practice squad. The Seahawks promoted him for their win over Cleveland, the game in which Dissly tore his Achilles tendon.

Hollister and Luke Willson have been Seattle's only true tight ends (not counting George Fant) while Ed Dickson has worked his way towards a return off injured reserve. That's expected to happen in time for the Seahawks' next game at Philadelphia, though a hamstring injury could sideline Willson for a few weeks. That means Hollister should continue to factor heavily into Seattle's offensive plans.

Meanwhile, Gordon made third-down catches to gain 13 and 14 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, respectively, against San Francisco. In a sign of what the new pecking order might look like in Seattle's receiver corps behind Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, veteran Jaron Brown was a healthy scratch and Gordon played 28 of 74 offensive snaps. Malik Turner and David Moore played 35 and 20 snaps, respectively.

Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer noted in the days leading up to that game how well Gordon had picked up Seattle's system. He had only three non-walk-through practices under his belt.

"We gave him a couple days of practice, and he was making sense of so many things, and it looked right right off the bat, and he was comfortable and fluent. He wasn't starting and stopping and wondering and having to ask questions and stuff. He made sense of stuff. Some guys, it just comes easy to them," Carroll said. "Those are guys that look like they can throw and catch and hit a golf ball and shoot a jump shot. They're just really all-around athletes. Just a high IQ for the game."

Carroll had tried to temper expectations for Gordon in every public comment he made about the receiver leading up to Gordon's debut. What he said afterward had a slightly different tone.

"Give him another week's worth of work, and as much progress as he made this week, he'll make tremendous progress," Carroll said. "So I'm really anxious to see how he fits in with us."

Said Gordon: "I think going forward, we're going to be able to build that continuity, that relationship, that rhythm, and get into doing what we love to do -- and that's make plays."