Day Two of the Seahawks’ offseason program included some agility drills, a lot of lifted weights and one large smile from Jon Ryan.
Why is the team’s record-setting punter so happy? Take a look at the club’s transactions in free agency, and look beyond the additions of quarterback Matt Flynn and middle linebacker Barrett Rudd and re-signings of leading rusher Marshawn Lynch and run-stuffing defensive end Red Bryant.
In the past few weeks, the Seahawks also have retained the players who were voted special teams captains the past two seasons – fullback Michael Robinson last season and cornerback Roy Lewis in 2010; and the linebackers who have led the units in coverage tackles – Heath Farwell, who had a league-high 21 in only 11 games last season, and Matt McCoy, who had 19 in 2010.
“When you have a special teams unit and those are your four core guys, most teams would love to have one of those guys,” Ryan said today as he sat in front of his cubicle in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “We have all four and each one of them is a potential Pro Bowl special teams player.”
The combined efforts of Farwell, McCoy, Lewis and Robinson, among others, are very important to Ryan. The Canadian-born punter led the league in punts downed inside the 20-yard line last season with 34, and already has broken – and re-broken – the franchise records for career average (45.0 yards), single-season average (46.6 last season), single-season net average (39.3 last season) and longest punt (77 last season) in his first four seasons with the Seahawks.
As easy as Ryan has made it look, players like Farwell, McCoy, Lewis and Robinson definitely make his job easier.
“The guys we got back are big-time guys,” Ryan said. “They’re not going to be on the ticker on ESPN, but they’re big-time to us – especially on special teams.”
The Seahawks’ special teams got off to a rough start last season, when the 49ers’ Ted Ginn returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the final four minutes of the opener to turn a two-point game into a 16-point victory for San Francisco. They also gave up a punt return for a touchdown in a Week 8 loss to the Bengals. But as the season progressed, the special teams got better and better.
“That game in San Francisco put us behind the eight-ball from the start with those two returns,” Ryan said. “After that, we kind of hit our stride and we were a pretty solid special teams unit. So with these guys coming back, we can continue on. Rather than starting over, we can pick up where we left off.”
For Farwell and McCoy, that would be racing down the field to drop those trying to return Ryan’s punts and the kickoffs of Steven Hauschka.
“They bring a lot,” Ryan said. “They bring an attitude to our special teams. Other teams, when they watch us on tape, those guys really jump off the tape. They’re guys you have to be careful with, because they can really hurt you.”
One last question: Now that Robinson is a Pro Bowl fullback, does he beg off his special teams duties?
“No,” Ryan said before the question could be completed. “We won’t let him.”
After getting Wednesday off, the players will continue Phase 1 of the offseason program Thursday and Friday, and then follow the same schedule next week.