Willson, Helfet to replace Graham for Seahawks
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Luke Willson has been in this position before.
When Zach Miller was lost for the season last year to ankle injuries, Willson had to step into the starting lineup for the rest of the year. Now with Jimmy Graham lost to a knee injury, Willson again moved into a starting role for the Seattle Seahawks.
“Nothing I haven’t been through before,” Willson said Wednesday. “I’m ready to roll.”
Graham was the centerpiece acquisition of the offseason for the Seahawks, acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints in March. He was the team’s leading receiver through the first 10 games of the year before suffering a torn right patellar tendon in Sunday’s 39-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The loss is a big blow for Seattle’s passing attack. With an improving offensive line, the Seahawks’ passing game seemed to be springing to life in recent weeks. Now they’ll have to adapt to the loss of one of its biggest pieces.
“I love him on our team,” head coach Pete Carroll said. ”... He’s a dynamic player. I can only see for really cool things to happen in the future. I think it’s going to be a great long-term decision that we made. We’re really happy to have him and miss the heck out of him.”
Carroll said he was “very optimistic” that Graham would be ready for the start of the regular season next year. Graham was expected to undergo surgery Wednesday.
But that leaves the job to Willson and backup Cooper Helfet for the remainder of 2015. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell made it a point of calling a pass for Willson the play after Graham went down with the injury. He wanted to show that the team had faith in Willson taking over going forward.
“I think there’s a lot of subtle messages,” Bevell said. “Tell Luke that we have confidence in him. There’s no question that we believe in him. He’s been here. He’s played at a high level for us and he is appreciated. Two, it’s not just going to be a position that’s dead now and that’s not going to be a part of their offense.”
The Seahawks insist that the offense isn’t going to change what it does despite not having Graham in the lineup. Willson will move into Graham’s role while Helfet will step up in the backup spot.
Willson and Helfet have combined for just 13 catches, 159 yards and a touchdown this season as the bulk of receptions went to Graham.
“We’re not going to change,” Carroll said. “We didn’t really change when Jimmy got here. We just wanted to get the football there. We always thought we had the routes and concepts to call on. We just needed to put him in position so that we could get that done. So we’re not going to change much. I don’t see us changing at all really.”
In addition, the Seahawks signed Chase Coffman to add depth at the position. Coffman, a former third-round pick in 2010, has spent time with the Bengals, Falcons, Buccaneers and Titans in parts of six seasons.
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