Monday cyber surfing: Seahawks offensive analysis, Hutchinson honored

Good morning, and welcome to what is traditionally the NFL’s slowest news month. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, July 2.

Mike Sando at ESPN.com gives us a pre-camp analysis of the Seahawks offense, breaking down who he feels are the safest bets, leading contenders and those who face longer odds to earn roster spots come the end of training camp. On the Seahawks wide receivers, Sando has this to say, “[Doug] Baldwin appears to be the receiver Seattle can count on the most. That is good and bad. The team needs [Sidney] Rice to hold up physically after undergoing surgeries on both shoulders this offseason. Concussions were another problem for Rice last season. [Golden] Tate was ascending when last season ended. The broken hand he suffered this offseason prevented Tate from participating fully in minicamps. He needs to avoid additional setbacks to build on last season. [Kris] Durham could make [Mike] Williams expendable.[Ricardo] Lockette’s speed separates him from the other receivers on the roster. He’s raw, but two long receptions late last season showed big-play potential.”

Sando also responds to a reader who says the Seahawks have the Arizona Cardinals to thank for the acquisition of Matt Flynn. The reader’s reasoning is that if the Cardinals had not beat the 49ers late last season, then the Niners would have been within one game of the Green Bay Packers No. 1 playoff seed, which would have meant Aaron Rodgers would have likely played in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions – a game where Matt Flynn passed for 480 yards and six touchdowns, likely raising his stock among teams with needs at QB. Sando downplays the effect of Flynn’s performance in Week 17, and points to Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s relationship with Flynn as a bigger reason for his acquisition, “Seahawks general manager John Schneider had ties to Flynn. There weren’t any other viable quarterbacks for the Seahawks to pursue once it became clear Peyton Manning wasn’t coming their way. I don’t think San Francisco would have let Alex Smith get away to a division rival. And at that point, there were no assurances the Seahawks would land Russell Wilson or another quarterback they liked in the draft. Adding Flynn was going to make sense either way. Flynn’s asking price might have been lower without that Week 17 showing. But to hear the Seahawks tell it, Flynn won them over during a workout at their facility and in classroom work with the coaching staff. Those factors would have been even more important in the absence of Flynn’s six-touchdown game against the Lions.”

And speaking of QB’s, over at mynorthwest.com Brock Huard and Mike Salk share their thoughts and offer some advice in this video on how the three Seahawks quarterbacks competing for the starting job – Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson –  can best utilize their time in preparation for the start of training camp at the end of the month.

Here at Seahawks.com, Clare Farnsworth revisits last year’s Seahawks 35th Anniversary team as he talks with three-time Seahawks Pro Bowler (2002-05) and two-time All-Pro (2003, 2005) guard Steve Hutchinson, who was the unanimous decision among fans who voted. Hutch secured 1,411 fan votes – almost twice as many as the other guard on the reader-selected team, Bryan Millard.  Known as a man of few words, on his selection to the team Hutchinson fittingly offered to Farnsworth, “‘To be remembered like that definitely is an honor, and I appreciate the fans remembering me.'”

Finally, for a look around the League we have Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback over at SI.com. With King on vacation he has recruited the first tight end selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts’ Coby Fleener, as his guest-author. Fleener, a Stanford alum who earned his Master’s in Communication with an emphasis in Media Studies, shares his experience at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium and going to camp, “After spending a few hours delayed in the Indianapolis airport, I made it to the hotel with the other Colts rookies just in time for dinner and a little catching up with other teams’ rookies. After that, we made our way to the main ballroom. The NFL’s desire to make the environment player-friendly and exciting was evident. Loud pop music blared through speakers and colored lights flashed on a stage, flanked by two large high definition televisions. Giant banners of NFL legends like Walter Payton and Brett Favre covered each wall. I expected to have to suffer on uncomfortable, easily stackable hotel chairs, but instead found rows of comfortable, leather swivel desk chairs.”


Class reunions

Our recap of the Seahawks’ 1997 season focused on the arrivals that changed the course of the franchise – starting with owner Paul Allen, but also including free-agent addition Chad Brown and draft choices Walter Jones and Shawn Springs.

All three players were voted to the 35th Anniversary team, making ’97 one of eight years when more than one member of the reader-selected team joined the Seahawks.

But which “class” is the class of the 35th Anniversary team? Check out their credentials and then vote for your favorite:

1976 – Steve Largent and Dave Brown. These two were there at the start. Largent arrived in an Aug. 26 trade with the Houston Oilers and went on to set franchise records – and, at the time he retired after the 1989 season, NFL records – for receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and TD catches (100). Brown was obtained in the March 30 veteran allocation draft and became the club’s all-time leader in interceptions (50) and interception returns for touchdowns (five).

1982 – Joe Nash and Norm Johnson. Each arrived after the NFL draft, as a rookie free agent. Each performed like a first-round draft choice. In 15 seasons, Nash played in more games than anyone in franchise history (218). He also shares the all-time lead in blocked field goals (eight), ranks third in tackles (779) and sixth in sacks (47½). Johnson holds the club record for points scored (810), field goals (159) and PATs (333).

1984 – Bryan Millard and Fredd Young. Millard came to the Seahawks after playing two seasons in the old USFL, while Young was a third-round draft choice and went to the Pro Bowl twice as a linebacker and twice as a special teams performer. Millard started 99 games and was the best lineman in franchise history until Jones was selected in the first-round of the 1997 draft. Young led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons (1985-87).

1988 – Brian Blades and Rufus Porter. Blades was the team’s top choice, selected in the second round. Porter was a free-agent addition, and a late one at that. Blades ranks second to Largent in receptions (581) and receiving yards (7,620), and he’s No. 5 in TD catches (34). He caught 80 and 81 passes in 1993 and ’94, the most productive two-season stretch in franchise history. Porter is the only player voted to two spots on the 35th Anniversary team – linebacker and special teams player. He ranks No. 7 in sacks (37½), including a club-leading 10 in 1991; and led the team in special teams tackles in back-to-back seasons (1988-89).

1991 – Michael Sinclair and Rick Tuten. Sinclair was a sixth-round draft choice, while Tuten was signed on Oct. 9 – the third punter used by the Seahawks that season. Sinclair ranks second on the club’s all-time list in sacks (73½), including a league-leading 16½ in 1998. He also led the team in sacks three other times. Tuten, who punted a league-high 108 times in 1992, is the club’s all-time leader in punts (554), yards (24,266) and punts inside the 20 (147).

1997 – Chad Brown, Shawn Springs and Walter Jones. Brown was the team’s big free-agent addition, while Springs and Jones were acquired with the third and sixth picks in the draft. Brown led the team in tackles for three consecutive seasons (1997-99). He ranks No. 3 in fumble recoveries (13), No. 4 in tackles (744) and No. 5 in sacks (48).  Springs is tied for fifth in interceptions (20), and returned two for touchdowns. Jones was voted to a franchise-high nine Pro Bowls and ranks second to Largent (197) in games started (180).

2000 – Robbie Tobeck and Shaun Alexander. Tobeck was signed in free agency, after playing his first six NFL seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Alexander was selected in the first round of the draft. From his center position, Tobeck anchored the line that helped Alexander become the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (9,429) and touchdowns (100). Their best season came in 2005, when Alexander was voted the league MVP after leading the NFL in rushing and scoring a then-NFL record 28 TDs; and Tobeck was voted to the only Pro Bowl of his career.

2001 – Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Hutchinson and Bobby Engram. Hasselbeck was acquired in a March trade with the Green Bay Packers. Hutchinson was a first-round pick in the April draft. Engram was signed in September, after being released by the Chicago Bears. The Seahawks never would have made it to the Super Bowl in 2005 without these three – as Hasselbeck passed for 3,459 yards and 24 TDs; Hutchinson joined Jones to form the most formidable side of any line in football; and Engram led the team with 67 receptions. Hasselbeck has become the franchise leader in career completions (2,572) and passing yards (29,579) and ranks second in TD passes (176). Hutchinson was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls (2003-05). Engram also set a franchise record with 94 receptions in 2007.

Impressive stuff. But which “class” was the most impressive? You make the call …


Laying it on the line

The only problem with Bryan Millard being voted into the right guard spot on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team is that it left Chris Gray on the outside looking in.

The left guard, of course, is Steve Hutchinson, who generated almost as many votes (1,411) for the reader-selected team as Millard (758) and Gray (656) combined. But when it came to the other guard spot, the readers remembered a player who performed at a high – and at times dominating – level. Even if Millard did it from 1984-91.

As Millard put it in the 18th profile in a series of stories on the players selected to the team, “Think about it. I wasn’t just an offensive lineman; I was an offensive lineman from 20 years ago. So to have the fans remember me is very, very humbling.”

Still, it’s difficult to overlook Gray, who started a club-record 121 consecutive games from 1999-2006 – and 145 overall, at three different positions.

“There’s a guy who doesn’t get enough respect,” said Lofa Tatupu, the middle linebacker on the 35th Anniversary team. “Chris Gray was one of the best O-linemen I ever played against. That was one of the toughest dudes I ever met. And what a nice guy.

“Looking at him, he’s always got that same expression – just kind of stares at you. But get him on the field, man, and he was just unbelievably tough.”

Robbie Tobeck, the center on the 35th Anniversary team, played next to Gray from 2000-06. Tobeck also casts a vote for Gray, by casting a blanket vote for the entire unit that was so dominant during the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2005.

Left tackle Walter Jones, Hutchinson and Tobeck made the reader-selected team. Gray and right tackle Sean Locklear did not – as Howard Ballard was voted the right tackle, with Locklear finishing third in the balloting at tackle behind Jones and Ballard.

“I would vote for that line,” Tobeck said of the ’05 unit. “I always take that unit as a whole.

“You’ve got a Hall of Famer in Walt and possibly in Steve. But each guy on that line had their place. If you had taken one cog out of there, it’s not the same line.”

That became apparent as Hutchinson left after the ’05 season in free agency, Tobeck retired after the 2006 season, an injury forced Gray to retire during training camp in 2008 and Jones retired last year after spending the 2009 season on injured reserve following microfracture surgery on his left knee.

Together, this foursome played 35 seasons for the Seahawks (13 by Jones, 10 by Gray); started 481 games (180 by Jones, 145 by Gray); and was voted to 13 Pro Bowls (nine by Jones).

Here’s the line on that line, from the player who anchored it:

Tobeck on Jones: “Walt was your shutdown left tackle who had his way of doing things that you kind of followed as an example.”

Tobeck on Hutchinson: “Steve was a heckuva athlete; very strong.”

Tobeck on himself: “I had my role, which was to kind of coordinate it and quarterback it and be the ornery little pisser – the guy who’s always stirring it up.”

Tobeck on Gray: “Chris was our conscience. We wouldn’t have been as good a line without Chris. And what I mean by conscience, he was the guy that was always thinking of the scenario we might get in a game; and reviewing the plays with us; and pulling the notes out that we’d taken during the week and going over them on Saturday or going over them before the game in the locker room. We was constantly talking about what-if scenarios that you don’t have time to cover in your meeting room. About twice a season, he would come up with something and we’d walk out on the field and say, ‘Thank God Chris covered this.’ ”

Tobeck on Locklear: “ ‘Cornbread’ was the young guy we’d mess with. He was just trying to fit in and keep up.”

Tobeck on the entire group: “Everyone was equal in their own way, if that makes sense. It wasn’t like Michael Jordan and the Bulls. It wasn’t Walter Jones and the line. That’s what it’s all about. It’s that family within a family. If your team is a family, if you come together as a family – and you do on those good teams – then the offensive line is a family within that family. And that’s a special thing.”


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Cyber surfing: Thursday

Good morning. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, June 2:

Jim Trotter of SI.com examines how players are working out during the lockout, and starts with a look at Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck and tight end John Carlson. With VMAC off limits, Hasselbeck and Carlson have opted for, well, here’s the picture Trotter paints: “Yet on a rainy morning Hasselbeck and Carlson are working out at a private gym in nearby Bellevue. The facility sits in a shopping plaza along with a Goodwill store, a Mattress Depot, a paint distributorship and a Chinese restaurant. The regular gym patrons try to be discreet, but they sneak a few peeks — it’s not every day an NFL quarterback shows up to work out. It’s even rarer to find him throwing passes to his tight end in the parking lot behind the gym. That’s where Hasselbeck and Carlson practice their routes later in the day. At one point the football rolls into a puddle at the base of a Dumpster. The players look quizzically at each other, as if to say: Who’s going to get it? Maybe it’s time to call it quits. But Carlson mans up, grabs the ball, tosses it to Hasselbeck, and the training resumes.”

Speaking of Hasselbeck, Terry McCormack of the Nashville City Paper reports on former UW QB Jake Locker joining the Titans workouts. Locker, the team’s first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft, says he has been working out with Hasselbeck: “Matt was working out at the school. We’ve been working out together on and off the last couple of months. We threw together a couple of times together and spent some time together. I’ve gotten to know him a little better through this process.”

Jon Machota of FoxSportsSouthwest.com catches up with Bill Parcells, who says the Seahawks’ wild victory over the then-Parcells coached Cowboys in a 2006 wild-card playoff game was a factor in his decision to leave coaching. Says Parcells: “I wouldn’t say that that one game really had much to do with anything. It just was … I just think it was time to stop coaching because you have to get off the train sometime and I had a difficult time doing that because I do love the game, but I think as far as coaching, it’s a young man’s game and it’s for someone else now.”

Howard Mudd had not one, but two stints with the Seahawks as their offensive line coach. The first was from 1978-82 on the staff of Jack Patera. Mudd returned from 1993-97, working first under Tom Flores and then Dennis Erickson. After a brief retirement, Mudd is back at it as the new line coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Marcus Hayes of the Daily News has a profile of how Mudd’s career and life have come, well, full cycle. Hayes on one of the more memorable characters in the Seahawks’ first 35 seasons: “Mudd, 69, is the offseason gem in Andy Reid’s reconstructed Eagles staff, the man who kept Peyton Manning protected for 12 years. He retired after the 2009 season but Reid and defensive-line coach Jim Washburn, an unlikely buddy who previously ran Tennessee’s defensive line, coaxed him back into the NFL.”

For a “Faces of the lockout” feature on ESPN.com, NFC West blogger Mike Sando spent some time with Maurice Kelly, the Seahawks’ senior director of player development. Says Sando: “Each spring and summer, NFL teams hand over piles of cash to men in their early 20s, many of whom possess zero real-world life experience. Society calls this a recipe for disaster. Teams hire people such as Kelly, a 38-year-old former Seahawks safety, to help even out the odds.”

Also at ESPN.com, Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter report that representatives for the owners and players met privately Wednesday.  According to the report, “One source said any potential deal still was a ways away, however, the hope would be that the two sides could get something done sooner rather than later, potentially even later this month.”

Here at Seahawks.com, we continue our series of profiles on the players readers selected to the 35th Anniversary team with a look at guard Bryan Millard. We also ask who had the best single-season performance in franchise history, and offer some alternatives to Shaun Alexander’s MVP campaign in 2005.


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