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Film review: Can Ricky Seals-Jones be a starting tight end?

Looking at the good and the bad in Seals-Jones’ game

New York Giants v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The New York Giants addressed one of their more pressing needs by signing tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. The former wide receiver out of Texas A&M converted to tight end and was signed as a rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals after the 2017 NFL Draft.

Seals-Jones spent the first two years of his career in Arizona before playing one season each in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Washington. He’s also the cousin of Eric Dickerson - I did not know that, but Wikipedia doesn’t lie!

He suffered a leg injury during training camp in 2020 with the Kansas City Chiefs. He battled back onto the field but was a healthy scratch for most of the season. He signed with Washington for the 2021 season.

He dealt with several minor injuries in 2021; he started training camp with a right leg injury but returned for the start of the season. Seals-Jones dealt with quadricep soreness for most of the year before suffering a hip injury against the Buccaneers that rendered him inactive for three weeks.

Seals-Jones recorded 30 catches on 46 targets for 271 yards and two touchdowns despite his hobbled nature. He has 90 catches on 163 targets for 1,044-yards and 10 touchdowns in his career.

Seals-Jones is only 27 years old. He’s a good athlete who needs a lot of work as a blocker in base, albeit he’s adequate as a move or “F” tight end who can split-flow and be adequate in H/F-Lead. He’s not a dynamic route runner, but he flashes acrobatic catch ability and does an excellent job high-pointing the football away from his frame.

Seals-Jones played 507 total offensive snaps in 2021. He was thrust into a primary tight end role last year after Washington’s Logan Thomas spent most of the season injured. Let’s get into some of his strengths and weaknesses.

Ricky Seals-Jones is No. 83

Receiving ability

Route running

Let’s take a look at Seals-Jones on this 7-route, as the outside tight end in the YY set. The ball is on the far-hash of Seals-Jones, and Dallas is in man coverage; this indicates no outside help for the Seals-Jones covering defender Donovan Wilson (6), with a ton of space from the near-has to the sideline. Seals-Jones releases off the line of scrimmage and leans his outside shoulder inward, selling an inside break. He then initiates contact on Wilson and uses a double swipe to knock the defender’s hands downward. This halts Wilson and also propels Seals-Jones into his route, effectively creating extra separation. Seals-Jones flips his head around and has about two steps on the defender, but quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) doesn’t throw the football.

There’s a little nuance heading into his route stem on that play, with some help from contact.

Seals-Jones is the number two receiver (inner) to the boundary (top of screen). He runs a 10-yard-out route; generally, Seals-Jones rounds his breaks, which we see a bit on this play, but he is able to also use a blatant inside arm push-off against Henry Black (41). There’s not much space to work with in this area of the field; Seals-Jones pushes off on the numbers and gives Heinicke enough space to poorly place the ball on the inside hip of Seals-Jones. Luckily for Washington, the not-so-subtle push-off by Seals-Jones allowed for a complete pass.

With more space to work with, and softer softer off-leverage, Seals-Jones doesn’t have to push off. He’s the number two receiver to the field in a reduced formation - which gives space to outbreaking routes. Seals-Jones eats into Malcolm Jenkins’ (27) cushion, hits him with a solid inside step, and then rounds his break outward. Seals-Jones’ ability to break isn’t crisp, but he has the necessary foot-speed and acceleration to run into space and allow Heinicke to layer a pass over his shoulder. Seals-Jones flashed his acrobatic skills and made a one-handed catch.

Seals-Jones is the number two receiver slightly detached the formation at the top of the screen. His initial stem - against off coverage with slight outside leverage - angles outward before squaring inward. That subtle adjustment forces the defender to angle his hips inward, giving Seals-Jones a bit more leverage once he breaks outside. Marcus Epps (22) does a solid job getting to the outside hip of Seals-Jones off the break. Heinicke throws a great pass that is caught in tight coverage by Seals-Jones.

Seals-Jones is the offset - stood up - towards the top of the screen. He runs a seam route and bends it around the outside receiver. Seals-Jones gives Heinicke a slight opportunity to extemporize and score, but the Eagles cover Seals-Jones’ adjustment, and the pass is incomplete. We can still see Seals-Jones’s athletic ability and adjustment ability on the play.

Used as a move tight end, Seals-Jones motions to form a three-receiver side to the field, and the snap happens right as he settles his motion down. Washington sells a screen to the number one receiver, and the Chiefs bite down on the play. It was a ruse! Seals-Jones explodes up the numbers and the single-high safety is distracted by Terry McLaurin (17) to the opposite side of the field. Seals-Jones slows down, secures the catch, and out-runs pursuing defenders for 18 yards into the end zone.

We have the pleasure of seeing a play-action tight end leak to the boundary from 2019. Baker Mayfield (6) finds Seals-Jones for the touchdown. The athletic ability, timing to turn, and route running are on display here; Seals-Jones has to turn around and catch the football but can still collect his balance, reposition his momentum forward, and find the end zone.

Pivot

The pivot route is a more fluid route for a tight end to run, and Seals-Jones ran them with Washington.

Seals-Jones is the number three receiver (innermost) to the three-receiver side of the EMPTY set. He releases off the line and angles inward towards rookie sensation Micah Parsons (11). Seals-Jones showed very good lower body flexibility to sink his hips and pivot on that outside foot while coming out of his break with solid burst. An interception is thrown to the opposite side of the field, but the route looked good from Seals-Jones.

Seals-Jones makes this catch off a pivot route at a deeper depth. He is the number two receiver to the boundary; he gets Black’s hips open at the top of his break and explodes off the pivot foot towards the numbers and away from Black. Seals-Jones then high points the ball, secures it and picks up the first down.

Acrobatic catch ability

Sigh, this catch over Adoree Jackson (22) helped pave the way for the Giants’ mediocre 2021 season (mediocre is an understatement). For starters, this was an excellent play call by Scott Turner against Patrick Graham’s scheme. Washington aligns in a YY set to the boundary against a two-high shell in the red zone. The inner tight end runs a seam bender to remove Logan Ryan (23) from the play; this positions the 6-foot-5, 243-pound, Seals-Jones in a one-on-one situation against 5-11, 185-pound Jackson near the sideline. The coverage isn’t bad, but the throw and catch were excellent. Seals-Jones flashed this ability to make impressive contested catches in tough situations.

Seals-Jones is aligned as a Y TE to the field side and drags across the field, away from coverage. Seals-Jones gets open and leaps up to make a high point catch before taking a hit out of bounds. The defender expected help, but he didn’t receive it.

This play isn’t nearly as impressive, but we see the body adjustment ability and the concentration. Seals-Jones chips the defender and releases underneath on first-and-10; Garrett Gilbert (19) throws the ball way too hard and way too high, but Seals-Jones leaps and secures the catch to pick up 9 yards.

Even on quick little spot routes - or slants - with a lot of defenders in his area, Seals-Jones will still extend away from his frame to make impressive catches in traffic. I’ve seen receivers alligator arm this type of situation. This throw puts Seals-Jones in a tough spot - his ribs are completely exposed for a big hit, yet he still reaches up and snags the pass for a small gain.

Diving into the video archives, I stumbled across this play from 2018. He’s the number three receiver to the top of the screen. Yes, a lot has happened since then, but we do see Seals-Jones making a strong hands catch in traffic while finishing the play with gusto and physicality.

Yards after catch

In 2021, Seals-Jones had 157 of his 271 receiving yards after the catch. 422 of his 1,044-yards in his career were after the catch. After the catch, he combines his athletic ability with solid competitiveness and a physical nature.

He’s not a catch-and-fall-down type of tight end. Seals-Jones is elusive enough to create extra yards after the catch, and he’s not scared to lower his shoulder, throw a stiff-arm, or fall forward through contact. He secures this chip-and-release drag route, cuts back inside away from Devin White (45), and flashes a quality stiff-arm while two other defenders barrel in his direction. He takes a hard shoulder from the safety and spins off the contact before two other defenders secure him to the ground.

Washington designed tight end screens for Seals-Jones. He catches the ball, spins off the first tackle attempt, and then refuses to go down as Saints defenders rally to stop his progress. He’s nimble on his feet but physical enough to run through poor tackling attempts.

Turner calls a great play-action H-leak to the flat to give Seals-Jones plenty of space to operate. I wanted to include this catch because of how he finishes. He could have easily stepped out of bounds, but he wanted to punish the cornerback for having the audacity to be in his path.

Blocking

Run blocking

I wish Seals-Jones was a better blocker. He’s wild with his technique and hands. I’m surprised he doesn’t get flagged for holding more often (four penalties last season).

This is a power - G-LEAD - run where Seals-Jones blocks down and allows the play side guard and center to pull around him. Seals-Jones just holds Tarell Basham (93), which sprung the Jaret Patterson (32) run.

Seals-Jones’ hands are consistently wide, and he too frequently goes to hug while absorbing contact. He contacts Wilson well to open up an alley to his inside, but his hands are wild, he dips his head into contact, and his feet aren’t in a position to secure the block. He pulls Wilson’s back shoulder pads to restrict space, but that’s a way to get flagged.

He’s aligned on the play side and climbs to the second level to locate Dion Jones (45). Seals-Jones over-pursues Jones outside but does a good job initiating contact once Jones starts coming downhill. The contact that’s initiated isn’t framed too well, and he ends up holding Jones with his inside arm. The hold was not called.

Seals-Jones is on the play side of this run. It’s a difficult block to execute, and typically only the best blocking tight ends succeed in these situations. Rashan Gary (52) gets his hands inside quickly while Seals-Jones comes low and wide with his hands - in an attempt to hug. Gary quickly deconstructs the blocking attempt and forces Antonio Gibson (24) to spin inside.

Seals-Jones does a better job on the play side against Tampa Bay. He gets popped on contact but gets his inside hand on the chest of Shaquil Barrett (58). Seals-Jones brings his feet inside to account for Barrett’s path, and Gibson hits the hole well, but he’s eventually tackled. Still, a better job by Seals-Jones.

We see something similar here; he gets popped backward by Carl Granderson (96). The defender locks him out, sets the edge, and gets his eyes on Patterson. However, Seals-Jones gets his inside hand inside the breastplate and holds Granderson long enough to allow Patterson to get to the second level. Holding like this is fine - as long as the hands are inside. These last two plays are good to see when it comes to Seals-Jones’ blocking, but he too frequently was very wild with his hands.

As sniffer

Seals-Jones is better suited - while blocking - as a sniffer, H/F, move TE (whatever terminology you’d prefer). He’s not as physical or as efficient as Kaden Smith was in this role during the 2020 season, but he does enough. However, in this first play, we’ll see, we witness bad habits that are too prevalent when he is blocking.

This is a counter run with the backside guard kicking out, and Seals-Jones lead blocking. Frank Clark (55) does a great job squeezing the gap and creating traffic. Seals-Jones engages his block on Willie Gay (50) but just hugs and wrestles him. The play is filled by the scraping linebacker. Seals-Jones goes into the contact dipping his head and his hands wide with no technique or plan. These issues rear their ugly head when he’s lead blocking, but they’re not always on display.

Here’s another counter run with Seals-Jones lead blocking to T.J. Edwards (57). Seals-Jones does a solid job initially keeping his elbows tight and lowering his center of gravity before contact. His hands are still wild, but he does hit the waist (wide) and works his way up to Edwards’ chest.

We see the wild hands, but Seals-Jones does well to adjust to Barrett’s path as the unblocked defender attempts to squeeze down the line of scrimmage. It’s a split-zone run, and Seals-Jones is tasked to attack Barrett - he does a good job turning his body inward and pushing Barrett tight to the back of his fellow blockers. Barrett may have contacted Charles Leno Jr.’s (72) foot, and then Seals-Jones finishes the block by getting Barrett to the deck.

Seals-Jones is the lead blocker outside for Gibson. He makes contact with A.J. Terral Jr. and does a solid job expanding the gap for his running back. Unfortunately for Washington, the Falcons play it very well.

We see the wild hands and dipping head on the play, but Seals-Jones does enough to stop White from making a play on the ball carrier. It’s not pretty, it’s not always perfect, but it does get the job done at times.

Pass blocking

Seals-Jones is motioned inward to block Tanoh Kpassagnon (90). The tight end tongs him, presenting an easy target for Kpassagnon to engage his bull-rush and drive the blocker back into the pocket. He wasn’t kept in to strictly block in six/seven-man protections often.

Here, Seals-Jones comes from the opposite side of the formation in a fake split-zone play-action pass. He goes into the blocking point against Kpassagnon very high and goes to hug. Seals-Jones gets his inside shoulder turned, but does enough to allow Heinicke to throw the ball.

Granderson swims around the blocking attempt by Seals-Jones coming from the backside. The tight end sets outside and gives the pass rusher an easy angle inside. Bad block framing and judgment by Seals-Jones. With pressure in his face, Heinicke throws a very nice touch pass over a few defenders.

It wasn’t always bad when pass blocking. Aligned in the backfield, Seals-Jones does a good job identifying the blitzing linebacker and positioning himself in his path. The technique isn’t great, but he’s able to absorb the contact and stand in the linebacker’s way, effectively executing his assignment.

Final thoughts

The Giants desperately need tight end help after losing Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Kaden Smith. The addition of Seals-Jones is a step in the right direction. Seals-Jones is an athletic tight end who does a solid job in contested catch situations. I appreciate how he climbs the proverbial ladder and extends away from his frame to make difficult catches with his hands. He shows enough concentration and reasonable body adjustment.

He’s not as dynamic of an athlete as Evan Engram. Still, he may be slightly better with the nuances of running routes and his ability to make acrobatic catches - although it’s not distinctly discernible.

Engram may have a slight edge as a blocker on the play side, which isn’t great. However, Seals-Jones can be an adequate move tight end who can operate as a sniffer pulling on spilt-zone, H-Lead, and counter run plays. New York still needs to find a Y type of tight end who can consistently align in-line and not be a liability as a blocker.

I like the addition of Seals-Jones. He offers upside after the catch and is a big-bodied target who can get vertical quickly. The Giants shouldn’t be done addressing the tight end position. They could still sign a veteran in free agency with some blocking upside, and/or a Day 2 draft pick at the position still makes sense.