A New Feeling

With a week left until the Seahawks' 2004 regular season opener, Steve Utz talks about what the team brings on to the field this year, and the confidence that fans can feel.

There’s a different feeling about the Seahawks coming into this year. The pre-season is over, with a 3-1 record. The record itself is meaningless, of course. But the way in which it was achieved does have great significance. There are a number of reasons to be excited this season.

The confidence of returning 11 starters on offense.

The emergence, finally, of Jerramy Stevens, our first round TE pick from two years ago.

Seneca Wallace making a statement that yes, he can play QB in this league. It's likely that he would have won the 3rd string QB job regardless of what happened to Brock Huard. Judging from this pre-season, he just might have a bright future.

We had one of the most competitive and entertaining position battles among wide receivers in team memory. Holmgren told them to, “Make it difficult for us to cut you.” Apparently all nine receivers in camp heard him, and stepped up. The front three are in, plus probably Bannister, but that left five guys fighting for the last 2 slots (assuming we keep 6 on roster), and they followed directions. Almost all of them made at least one great play, and the overall play of the group was excellent. In the four pre-season games, there was not a great drop in performance when the backups were in. Dropped balls, what’s that? There is a lot of talent there, and presumably one or two of those guys could end up on other teams on opening day.

One might be tempted to say that the rest of the league has had a year to figure out our high-powered offense. However, we will be adding some new packages this year. The emergence of Stevens makes the two tight end set a viable option this year. Since we opened the first pre-season game in that formation, I expect to see quite a bit of that this season.

We kept only 4 wide receivers to start last season. This year, we will likely keep 6. That will make more options available when we go to the spread, in 4 and 5 wide receiver sets. When we do, if the pre-season is any indicator, every wide receiver on the field will be a legitimate threat to catch the ball and do something with it.

With virtually all of our offense entering its 3rd or 4th year in this system, the possibilities are awesome. This could be something to watch.

Our defense didn’t do badly, either. The so-called starters only gave up one touchdown in four games. And that was done in spite of the fact that a couple of key ingredients were not present for much of time. It was done in spite of the fact that we used a different starter at MLB in all four games.

It is comforting to know that we didn’t need any of our draft picks to come in immediately to “rescue” the unit.

Marcus Tubbs’ hamstring injury is a concern, but the fact is that Woodard and Moore can probably hold the fort for a couple of weeks until he fully heals, if necessary. We wouldn’t want that to go on for 16 games, of course. One difference between the “old” Seahawks of a couple of years ago and the “new” Seahawks of 2004, is that now we want our first round draft pick to contribute, but not necessarily start, immediately.

Same for Michael Boulware. We really do have the time to develop him as a safety. We don’t need to rush him onto the field in an unfamiliar position. In any event, Terreal Bierria had an excellent off-season and pre-season. Boulware may not have been able to win the job anyway.

Both of these rookies will no doubt contribute a lot this season, and may even play key roles. But they don’t have to start now. That hasn’t been true for a lot of years around here.

It is comforting to think that we signed a free agent cornerback who had been a long term starter, and he wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup. Bobby Taylor should make an excellent nickel corner. He’s good enough to cover any 3rd wide receiver in the league. He’s good enough to cover most anybody in those situations where the opponent motions their #1 or #2 guy, trying to match him up against our #3 corner. Meanwhile, Trufant and Lucas could prove to be one of the better CB tandems in the league.

It is a nice feeling to think that this defense has just spent 6 weeks practicing and working against one of the best offenses in the league. That should help.

We should all be thankful that the injury list was small this season. Sure, losing Chad Brown hurts, and it’s sad to see Chris Davis’ career in jeopardy, but overall the team made it through camp in good health. Knock on wood.

All these are signs that we are a legitimate playoff team. Now, all they have to do is go out and win 12 or 13 games, take the NFC West Crown, and get at least one home game in the playoffs. The better our team gets, the higher the bar of expectations.

It’s cut-down day. When the team selects the 53 players that will represent us this season, a lot of good players will be let go. There is a sadness attached to that. A lot of fans are quick to say, “He sucks, kick him to the curb.” Not me. I say, “Thanks. By being here and working hard, you made our team better. You forced another player to work harder and play better to win his job. You made the coaches really think, analyze, and make hard choices about what is better for the team. For that, we thank you and wish you well.”

Now, let’s go play some football!

Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at wisecoyote1@cox.net.

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