What To Watch For In 2K4

Football season's getting closer! .NET's Mark Olsen begins a three-part series in which he discusses the factors that must coalesce for the Seahawks to succeed in 2004.

This is the first in a three-part series where I spotlight a specific part of the Seahawks that I feel will make a big impact during the 2004/2005 season. Part One will focus on Seahawks second-year fullback Chris Davis.

During the 2003/2004 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks used their 30th pick in the 5th round (#165 overall) to select a little-known fullback out of Syracuse named Chris Davis. Some mock drafts and experts had Chris going as far back as late 7th round, and some had him going undrafted. However, Holmgren and company decided to pick him up, based solely on his impressive speed and athleticism for a FB (4.54 40) and his attitude. It seemed a strange pick for the ‘Hawks to use so early in the draft considering that they had the iron man Mack Strong set firmly in the starting role and incumbent Heath Evans returning as the veteran backup, but the Hawk brass saw something in the kid that they liked. It took only a few days at training camp for the rest of us to see what that “something” was.

Davis was everywhere on special teams. He was a monster on coverages, he was filling his gaps and providing good blocking on protection, and when the play was over, he was immediately asking the coaches and vets what he could have done better. His all-out attitude and work ethic impressed everyone. He eventually won a spot on the 53 man roster for his work on special teams. This was especially noteworthy considering that the Seahawks kept 6 RB’s on the active roster to give Davis the spot.

Through the preseason, he continued to impress on special team assignments; however he also started showing some real promise while lined up in the backfield. When he was given reps with the offense in the preseason games, he was blasting through unsuspecting linebackers and DB’s, causing a big reaction from the fans and his own players. Even as a rookie, it looked as if he could start to contribute right away and possibly see some playing time on offense during the regular season. Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren, whom isn’t usually know for praising a player to the media, recently commented on Davis’s 2003 effort. “He was a very good blocker, and an outstanding special-teams player”, said Holmgren.

But the first quarter of the first regular season game changed all that. Davis was running down the field on kickoff coverage after the Seahawks had scored their first touchdown when his right knee gave out. His anterior cruciate ligament was torn, and he limped off the field. The diagnosis was 9 months for a full recovery, so he was put on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

This year, he came into the minicamps but he was still fighting to get back into playing shape. The team doctors were ready to clear him to start practicing again until a minor hamstring injury again prevented him from taking the field. He once again has to sit out and wait until training camp in August before he can practice with his teammates again. “I want to get in there and get some reps”, he recently told Mike Sando of the Tacoma News Tribune. “I don’t know if they are going to keep six backs around, and I don’t want to be the one that’s gone.”

But after speaking with Chris at a local charity event, he seemed very focused, very intense on getting back into practice and showing the team and his teammates that his injury isn’t going to affect his efforts on the field this year. “My goal at training camp is to start, and if not start, be in the rotation behind Mack”, Davis told Sando. “I really want to be there.”

As long as his body holds up, he could become the heir apparent to Mack Strong after Mack moves on. Heath Evans has the role of backup to this point, but he has never shown that he can step up and take that starting role away. In terms of dollars & cents, Evans is a RFA (restricted free agent) this year due to his completion of 3 full years in the NFL. He is scheduled to make $628,000 in salary this year and then he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Davis is going into his second year of the 3 year contract and according to the NFL Players Association (www.nflpa.org); he is scheduled to make $305,000 this season, less than half of Evans’ current salary. For a team that is trying to make sound investments in their best players, the Seahawks front office just may be waiting to see if Davis can unseat Evans as the backup to Mack.

We know that Chris Davis has the talent and potential to take that next step, and financially it makes sense for the organization. As long as his body doesn’t let him down, this season just may be the time for Chris Davis step up and begin that transition to starter.

Other players to watch:
DD Lewis -
Lewis enjoyed extended regular-season action last year due to various injuries to the core linebacker starters, and he didn’t disappoint. Look for him to continue to provide a stable and improving presence on defense and special teams.

Ken Lucas - Lucas was hampered for most of last year with injuries, but still managed to compete in almost every regular season game, providing key plays during crucial moments. With the tutelage of Veteran Bobby Taylor and an emerging star playing on the other side of the field (Marcus Trufant), Lucas will have plenty of opportunities to show exactly how good he is.

Rashad Moore - After Norman Hand’s bicep injury, rookie Rashad Moore was asked to step in and help to fill that role. He did so brilliantly at times, providing a solid foundation in the middle for run support and also showing some fantastic pass rushing moves. He returns this year as a projected starter on a very young group of defensive tackles.

Koren Robinson - After a somewhat disappointing 2003, K-Rob has reaffirmed his commitment to become a top receiver by utilizing all off-season camps and training sessions with his coaches and teammates. He and fellow receiver Darrell Jackson have been working hard on correcting their problems with dropped passes and Robinson has bulked up his 6’1” frame with more muscle, making him a threat off the line and down the field.

Mark Olsen writes for Seahawks.NET. He’s also an Administrator (as "rockhawkx") for our Fan Forums. Feel free to send Mark feedback at seahawk94@comcast.net.

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