This Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks features two teams with a few notable links to each other. In the past there was bad blood here due to the Steve Hutchinson poison pill incident and the Seahawks retaliatory acquisition of Nate Burleson. Nowadays, the link is far more benign. This team is full of former Vikings like Tavaris Jackson, the injured Sidney Rice and, most obviously, Percy Harvin. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is also a former Viking. While Harvin’s return to face his former team will dominate the headlines I thought that today I would examine a Viking who is returning home to Seattle, I’m speaking specifically about John Carlson.
John Carlson was drafted in the 2nd round (38th overall) by the Seahawks in 2008. He was a major playmaker right off the top. In his rookie season he was very productive with 55 receptions, 627 yards and five touchdowns as one of the few bright spots on a truly dismal team. The next season he would produce a similar 51 receptions, 574 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2010 his production dropped off, but he still looked like he was well on his way to being the best pass catching tight end this team had ever seen.
The 2010 playoffs were very eventful for Carlson. In the Seahawks ludicrously unlikely upset over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints he caught two touchdown passes and looked to be rebounding from a lackluster season. The buzz about John Carlson was back when the Seahawks ventured to Soldier Field to face the Bears. Unfortunately Carlson suffered a concussion early in the game, a deflating blow to a team that just wasn’t good enough to win a playoff game on the road. However, given his good showing people were definitely expecting more from Carlson in 2011, his contract year, than the 318 yards he had put up in 2010.
Unfortunately for Carlson, the lead up to the 2011 season would result in a gruesome labrum tear that required surgery and ended his season prematurely. The Seahawks had signed Zach Miller earlier in the offseason and had hoped to use the two all-around tight ends together in a variety of formations. That dream would never come to be. The stroke of bad luck was a blow for the Seahawks, but it was even worse for Carlson considering he was trying to earn a big free agent contract.
Coming into 2012 it seemed somewhat unlikely that Carlson would score a big deal coming off his serious injury. However, not only did he get a solid deal (5 years $25 million dollars) he also got to sign with his hometown Minnesota Vikings. It seemed like Carlson had landed on his feet in the perfect situation. However, things weren’t exactly how they seemed.
2012 was a bit of a nightmare season for Carlson. Second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph would have a breakout year where he caught nine touchdown passed to go with 493 yards on 51 receptions, rendering Carlson redundant. Carlson ended the season with 43 yards on 8 receptions and it was worth asking whether his injury was still affecting him or whether he had lost in completely.
In the offseason Carlson was asked to restructure his contract with the Vikings and complied in order to stay on as a backup tight end. The beginning of 2013 looked much like 2012 for Carlson, at least on the stat sheet. In his first 7 games Carlson managed 7 catches for 35 yards with a long of 9 yards.
Then in Week 9 everything changed. Kyle Rudolph fractured a bone in his foot on a 31 yard touchdown reception against the Cowboys. Suddenly, Carlson was back atop the depth chart. In that game against the Cowboys he put up a modest 4 receptions for 23 yards, but in Week 9 against the Redskins he had a breakout game with 7 receptions, 98 yards and a touchdown. It was the first big game in a long time. In fact it was the second highest yardage total of his career, the only game where he put up more yards was in his rookie year in 2008.
Going into 2013 it appear that Carlson’s return to Seattle (he missed last year’s game) would be one without fanfare where he be a largely invisible shell of his former self. Now that Kyle Rudolph is injured it seems that Carlson will return as the weapon that Seahawks fans remember. Obviously no Seahawks fan is cheering for Carlson to score against their team, but it’s nice to see the tight end showing signs of life. John Carlson’s homecoming will be one where the Seahawks are going to have to game plan to keep him under wraps. Given the performance he had last week he will be getting some respect from this defense. After the years he had for this team he deserves a little respect.