RENTON, Wash. (AP) - When Anthony McCoy was lost for the season in May after tearing an Achilles, the Seattle Seahawks were left with several questions at the tight end position.
While veteran Zach Miller was set as the starter, Seattle needed to find a complement to fill out their offensive attack. Fifth-round pick Luke Willson stepped up.
Willson has played in every game for Seattle this season and scored his first touchdown two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers. He has become a more trusted option for quarterback Russell Wilson as the season has progressed and has become a more competent blocker.
''Luke can play the whole position,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ''I mean he's been a fantastic draft pick for us, an incredible draft pick for us. I mean he could play so early and contribute in such a variety of ways, and he's really just getting started.''
McCoy caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns last season. He had improved as a run blocker and Seattle felt comfortable lining up in the backfield, split out wide or as an inline blocker. With McCoy injured, Willson had some big shoes to fill and not much time to get up to speed.
''I was still so new and so involved with trying to learn the offense that I really didn't have too many thoughts where I would be down the road. It was pretty overwhelming the amount of information you needed to take in,'' Willson said.
He tried to keep his head down and focused on what was in front of him instead of looking at the big picture of the role he needed to fill.
''It was like `I'm going to try and worry about the next play. Make sure I know what I'm doing,''' Willson said.
With Miller sidelined for much of the preseason due to injury, Willson and second-year player Sean McGrath had ample opportunity to impress the coaching staff. The mark left by Willson's play led Seattle to keep just two tight ends during final cutdowns in August.
''You didn't really know what you had,'' offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. ''We drafted him. We liked what we saw but you had to see how he was going to fit in protection wise, how he was going to fit in run blocking wise, how he was going to fit in catching the ball.
''He's been a huge part of what we do. That second tight end is really a big position for us, and he's really done a nice job.''
Willson said he felt things began to slow down after the first month of the season and have continued to improve throughout the year. With 18 NFL games under his belt, including preseason, Willson feels he's better at recognizing what opposing defenses are doing and what to expect to come his way.
Willson is just another contributor found in the latter stages of the draft paying big dividends for the Seahawks. Willson caught just nine passes during his senior season at Rice University. He was overshadowed by more highly touted teammate Vance McDonald, who was selected in the second round by the 49ers. But the Seahawks felt Willson's speed was a valuable asset and would be available later in the draft.
''We saw the talent,'' Carroll said. ''We saw the range of ability but it was really John Schneider's knack of understanding where he would get drafted that made him so valuable to us. At that spot that's as good a pick that you could make.''
Willson posted multiple catches in consecutive games for the first time this season the last two weeks For the year, Willson has caught 18 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown.
''I'm thrilled to be here and it's kind of exciting to be able to contribute,'' Willson said.
Notes: Seattle signed WR Bryan Walters from their practice squad to fill the roster spot vacated by the suspension of CB Brandon Browner. The team signed DT Michael Brooks to fill Walters' spot on the practice squad. ... RB Robert Turbin (groin), G J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and CB Jeremy Lane (ankle) were new additions to Seattle's injury report. Sweezy and Lane did not practice. Turbin was limited.