|SPECIAL IS AS SPECIAL DOES|
|Heath Farwell made tackles on special teams in only eight games for the Seahawks last season after being signed at midseason, but he made enough to lead the NFL with 21. Here’s a look at his special contributions in his first season in Seattle:Browns: 1 tackle on a kickoff return.
Bengals: 3 tackles, all on kickoff returns.
Ravens: 2 tackles, including one after a 5-yard gain on a punt return.
Rams: 2 tackles, on punt returns after 6- and 9-yard gains.
Eagles: 3 tackles, all on kickoff returns.
Rams: 4 tackles, all on kickoff returns.
Bears: 3 tackles, including one after a 9-yard gain on a kickoff return; and he also downed a punt at the 3-yard line.
49ers: 0 tackles, but he blocked a punt in the Week 16 game that setup a 4-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch – making Lynch the first player to score a rushing touchdown against the 49ers last season.
Cardinals: 3 tackles, including one after a 4-yard gain on a punt return.
Note: Opponents averaged 11.5 yards on punt returns against the Seahawks last season, but 6.2 yards on the five where Farwell made the tackle; and 26.0 yards on kickoff returns, but 23.3 yards on the 16 where Farwell was in on the tackle.
The coaches are limited to 45 minutes on the practice field with the players during Phase 2 of the Seahawks’ offseason program. But each session includes, and ends with, a special teams period.
“It’s pretty cool,” said linebacker Heath Farwell, who led not only the Seahawks but the entire league with 21 coverage tackles last season. “We’re out here working hard. Guys just want to get better, that’s the thing. We’ve got one goal in mind, and that’s to win.”
It’s a sign of just how much emphasis coach Pete Carroll puts on the too-often overlooked last third of the three-part equation to playing winning football. And the special teams were just that for the Seahawks last season. Red Bryant set franchise records by blocking two field goals in a game and four kicks during the season. Jon Ryan led the NFL and tied a club record with 34 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, broke his club single-season records for average (46.6 yards) and net average (39.3) and also got off the longest punt (77 yards) in franchise history. Steven Hauschka tied club records by kicking five field goals in the upset victory over the Ravens and converting at least one three-pointer in 12 consecutive games. Doug Baldwin blocked a punt that Michael Robinson returned for a touchdown, while Farwell also had a blocked punt to set up a TD. The Seahawks ranked 10th in the league in kickoff (24.8) and punt return (11.0) average, thanks to Leon Washington (25.2 and 11.3).
The special teams, under the direction of coordinator Brian Schneider and first-year assistant Marquand Manuel, should only be better – or faster, at the very least – with the infusion of speed from this year’s draft class.
“The two young linebackers look fast and athletic,” Farwell said of second-round pick Bobby Wagner and fifth-rounder Korey Toomer – who have run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 and 4.54 seconds. “That’s going to be a big part of special teams.”
There’s also first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin (4.50 seconds) and sixth-rounders Jeremy Lane (4.48) and Winston Guy (4.53).
But as Farwell as shown in his career, it takes more than just speed to be successful on special teams. He came to the Seahawks at midseason last year after five seasons in Minnesota, where he had 113 coverage tackles to tie for fourth on the Vikings’ all-time list. He led the Vikings in special teams tackles in 2010 (19), 2009 (24), 2007 (32) and 2006 (25), and was voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC special teams player in 2009.
“It’s the want to make the plays and the want to make the tackles. It’s the effort,” a reluctant Farwell offered when asked the secret to his success. “I don’t know, it’s just something I work at. And I pride myself on it, and outworking everybody and making sure I put more time in than everybody else.”
The players were off today, but return Thursday and Friday to complete Phase 2 of the offseason program.