Russell Wilson has new weapon against Carolina Panthers
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson now has a weapon he hasn’t had in the almost semi-annual games against the Panthers.
He’s got a former Panther. Ed Dickson has provided a midseason boost with subtle, veteran expertise for Seattle’s passing game. He missed the first six weeks with leg injuries.
Sunday, the 31-year-old tight end is returning to his home field of the previous four seasons, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. He will be wearing the Seahawks’ road whites instead of Carolina’s home jerseys when Seattle (5-5) plays Carolina (6-4) in a key game for the NFC’s playoff positioning. Dickson expects a welcome as warm as Sunday’s expected game temperatures in the 60s. “It wasn’t like I left on bad terms. It was free agency, and I found a home (in Seattle),” he said. “I’ve definitely got a lot of friends, and some family – there is some family there now. … It will be a lot of hugs and everything.”
Dickson, a native of Inglewood south of Los Angeles, played collegiately for Oregon before the Baltimore Ravens drafted him in 2010. He joined the Panthers before the 2014 season. He played in all 64 regular-season games with 41 starts for Carolina from 2014 through last season.
Dickson was Cam Newton’s intended receiver at a huge moment in the NFC divisional playoff game at CenturyLink Field in January 2015. Kam Chancellor intercepted Newton’s pass in front of Dickson.
Seattle’s iconic safety returned that 90 yards for the game-breaking score, and the Seahawks went on to play in Super Bowl 49.
A giant photograph of that play is on a long wall astride the indoor practice field at team headquarters. It shows Chancellor running to the camera, to the north end zone, and Dickson in the background chasing in vain. Dickson gets to see that each work day as he walks from the Seahawks’ locker room to their meeting room at team headquarters.
“Take it down. Take it down,” Dickson joked. “That’s what I thought when I first saw it: Take it down!
“I told Kam Chancellor, ‘You know, if that pass was a second earlier it’s a touchdown and we’re celebrating.’ ”
Dickson remains tight with the Panthers’ star Greg Olsen, whom he replaced as Carolina’s starter last year after Olsen’s early-season injury. Dickson also counts as friends Carolina defensive linemen Mario Addison and Kawann Short, plus Shaq Thompson, the former University of Washington linebacker.
“We were a close-knit family there,” Dickson said. “Even coach (Ron) Rivera, from his wife to his daughter, a lot of people have shown me a lot of love in that city. I’m got a lot of respect for them.
“Everything. From my family, to my wife and kids at the time, the things that (the Riveras) did, they are so heavily involved in that organization and community. I can’t say enough about them.”
But, Dickson added: “Once the ball’s snapped, I’m there to win the game for the Seattle Seahawks.”
It’s a rather large one to win. For both teams.
The Seahawks are coming off a comeback win over Green Bay at home 10 days ago. They are a half-game behind Minnesota and a game behind Carolina for the two wildcard playoff spots in the NFC. Six games remain in the regular season. Seattle hosts San Francisco next week, then the Vikings Dec. 10.
The Panthers have lost two straight, a 52-21 blowout defeat at Pittsburgh and a 20-19 loss at Detroit last weekend. Rivera had Carolina go for a twopoint conversion and the win late in that Lions game. Newton’s pass was too high for his receiver in the end zone, and the Panthers’ lead over the Seahawks for a playoff berth slipped back.
Ramifications galore Sunday in Charlotte.
“Well, I’ll tell you this much: If you don’t win, it doesn’t matter what the ramifications are,” said Rivera, who coached Dickson, Newton and the Panthers past the Seahawks in Charlotte in the playoffs in January 2016, and to a 17-1 record that season before losing to Denver in Super Bowl 50.
“You’ve got to go out and take care of your business before you can do anything else.”
Dickson and Wilson have been taking care of their business before, during and after practices since the tight end rejoined the team late last month. Dickson, this year’s replacement for departed Jimmy Graham in Seattle, caught a touchdown pass in tight coverage against Detroit on Oct. 28 in his delayed Seahawks debut.
Dickson’s veteran savvy truly showed up last week, in a large moment against the Packers.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer worked Wilson and Dickson on a slotformation play to exploit a Green Bay double blitz they’d seen coming off the offense’s left edge. They planned for Green Bay cornerback Josh Jackson and linebacker Clay Matthews to storm free off the end, and leave middle linebacker Blake Martinez responsible with dropping and sliding hard from left center to right for a difficult cover behind Matthews’ blitz.
Schottenheimer drew up a formation that put Dickson in the short left slot a few yards wider than his normal tight on left end. That would make Martinez’s job harder in covering him from the other hash mark. If Matthews blitzes, Dickson was to run a quick go route behind where he just vacated. If Matthews fakes and stays, Dickson was to run a drag route across the field away from him and past Martinez.
The Packers rarely blitzed Seattle. It looked like the game may end with Schottenheimer’s installed play going for naught. But with 5:11 to go and the Seahawks facing third-and-9 at the Green Bay 15 with Seattle down 24-20, Wilson and Dickson noticed the exact blitz look from the Packers they’d been waiting for.
Wilson looked at Dickson, who looked at Wilson, who could not wait to get the shotgun snap from center Justin Britt. On cue, Jackson and Matthews crashed in off Seattle’s left edge. Wilson took one step after he got the ball and fired a dart to Dickson, who ran that simple seam route. It was refreshingly simple, an old-school “pop” pass to the tight end. As designed, Wilson’s pass arrived too quickly for Martinez to get there; Dickson easily caught the pass for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I think two veteran players, they work, they work a little bit after practice each day. They know that they have to get caught up whether it’s throwing a couple of routes extra after practice,” Schottenheimer said.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, shown here warming up 10 days ago, is 5-2 all-time against the Panthers, who he will be facing in Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte.