The Seahawks need their first-round draft choices to produce more consistently, starting with 2004 pick Marcus Tubbs.
Since 1999, Seattle's list of first-round busts includes defensive end Lamar King, tackle Chris McIntosh and wide receiver Koren Robinson. Tight end Jerramy Stevens has also been underwhelming in three seasons, although he is showing signs of becoming relevant again.
Seattle's recent first-round picks have produced a few winners as well. Running back Shaun Alexander and left guard Steve Hutchinson are becoming Pro Bowl mainstays, while cornerback Marcus Trufant might not be far behind.
And then there is Tubbs. Seattle chose the former Texas defensive tackle with the 23rd overall choice last year. He didn't sign until a week into training camp, then battled injuries and personal strife while making only 13 tackles in 11 games as a rookie. The Seahawks' defense followed suit, finishing with a No. 26 ranking that marked a career low point for coordinator Ray Rhodes.
A big second season from Tubbs could help turn things around. Recent minicamps were encouraging to all parties. Tubbs reported in better physical condition, flashing improved quickness and endurance. "We challenged him," coach Mike Holmgren said. "He is a good football player, very strong, who had an average rookie year at best.
"That is kind of a pattern you see with guys that come into camp late, it happens. That happens. He is a good player and we expect him to be a big, big contributor this year. If anything less took place I would be disappointed."
Tubbs, 24, struggled last season as his mother suffered through the final stages of a four-year battle with breast cancer. She died in December. By then, Tubbs was trying unsuccessfully to come back from an ankle injury. The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder missed the final five games, counting playoffs.
"I can say right now that my mind is probably as clear as it's been in four years, since everything started," Tubbs said. He said he draws strength from his mother's memory, which comes with him on the field in the form of a rubber "breast-cancer awareness" bracelet.
"Who am I to give up when she fought for four years?" Tubbs said. "I can't go 100 percent or 110 percent on this play? When you look at it that way, there's nothing I can't do right now."