The injury list has been fodder for those opining on where the team will end up at the end of this season. Below are Seahawks.NET’s thoughts on camp and who came to play, who needs to get to work and some other miscellaneous items from Cheney.
Camp MVP: No one really was head-and-shoulders above anyone else, but for consistency and his steadying hand, QB Matt Hasselbeck has to get the nod. Hasselbeck’s favorite target – WR Darrell Jackson – missed the entire camp while recovering from knee surgery, he lost a great outlet in Joe Jurevicius and TE Jerramy Stevens missed all but a handful of days with a knee injury and will be lost for the first four weeks of the season. Hasselbeck also had to work with a patchwork offensive line and face the media every day, answering questions about the mood of the team following last year’s heart-wrenching Super Bowl loss.
Most Improved: Second-year C Chris Spencer had a very solid camp. When projected left guard Floyd Womack went down with a hamstring injury two days before the first preseason game, Spencer stepped in and played well against the Dallas Cowboys. Then, when veteran C Robbie Tobeck suffered an elbow injury, Spencer shifted to his natural position in the pivot and he played even better. Players have noted their confidence in the young lineman, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets the starting nod from the Seattle coaching staff.
Best new addition: Getting LB Julian Peterson from division-rival San Francisco was a coup and the move appears to be a smooth fit for the sixth-year linebacker. Peterson’s athleticism is freakish and he’ll play on the strong side in Seattle’s 4-3 scheme. He’s still getting his bearings with the defense, but his skills are unbelievable. He showed off his multiple talents in the team’s second preseason game against Indianapolis when he caused a fumble and forced Colts QB Jim Sorgi into a poor throw that was intercepted by S Mike Green and returned for a touchdown.
Coach on the field: Even though he’s only a second-year player, LB Lofa Tatupu continues to amaze with his knowledge, instincts and leadership skills in the middle of Seattle’s defense. Several times during camp, Tatupu could be seen talking with fellow linebackers Leroy Hill and Peterson, discussing angles and techniques to get in-sync before the start of the season. The coaching staff also has stated several times that they love Tatupu’s leadership and steadiness while in the game.
Best comeback: The players seemed inspired by the recovery of FS Ken Hamlin from a fractured skull that caused him to miss the second half of the season and everyone held their breath the first day that players were in full pads. Hamlin is the emotional leader of the defense and his presence in the secondary adds an intimidating force that opposing receivers have to watch out for when they venture into the deep-third of the defense. By the way, Hamlin seems to have returned to his physical style and has been flying around the field during training camp.
The good-hands people: Even with the free-agent loss of Joe Jurevicius and Darrell Jackson missing all of camp, the Hawks are still in the enviable position of having a wealth of talent in their corps of wide receivers. They signed Nate Burleson in free agency (losing a 2006 third-round selection in the process) and still have Bobby Engram, D.J. Hackett and Peter Warrick. Burleson reported in outstanding shape and has been very explosive. Engram and Hasselbeck continued to show their excellent rapport off during their first two preseason games. Hackett missed time during camp with an injury and in his place, Warrick has stepped up and shown off some of the talents that made him a top 10 selection five years ago in Cincinnati.
Biggest loss: Not having Steve Hutchinson around is probably the biggest issue facing the Hawks this season, let alone during camp. Hutchinson wasn’t just the best guard in the league, he and LT Walter Jones held down the left side of the line like none other in the NFL. The cohesion between Jones and either Womack, Spencer or rookie Rob Sims has a long way to go, but the Seahawks have good depth along the line, it just needs to get the experience.
Best rookie(s): Sims and P Ryan Plackemeier were the best rookies at camp. Plackemeier has a huge leg and he has been very consistent in his delivery and hang-time. He needs to get better at his “pooch” kicks, but his talent is very evident. Sims could be the sleeper of the 2006 draft class for the Seahawks. He is surprisingly mobile, strong and has impressed the coaches with his understanding of the offense. Could he supplant Womack at left guard?
Worst performance: The first preseason game, rarely an example of picture-perfect execution, was particularly sloppy. The Seahawks’ vaunted offensive attack scored a meager three points and the numerous mental errors, specifically their seven penalties, irked head coach Mike Holmgren. The defense was also bad, unable to get the Cowboys and their second-string quarterback off the field.
Best position battle: It has to be the one taking place between veteran Kelly Herndon and rookie Kelly Jennings. Herndon is bigger and has the experience, but needs to be more consistent. Jennings needs the experience, but he’s been consistent, has shown excellent quickness and he’s a very confident player. Either way, the Seahawks need one player to step up and the other one will be a solid nickel corner. Expect Herndon to get the nod on September 10th, when Seattle heads to Detroit to face the Lions, but expect Jennings to be the starter before the season ends.
Good to have you back: Holmgren is one of the top two or three coaches in the league and, it’s hard to believe, but he’s been in Seattle longer than he was in Green Bay. He has become the face of a once-moribund franchise that now finds itself among the elite in the league. Holmgren could possibly leave to fulfill his dream of being a GM/Coach, but he’s set up shop in the Puget Sound and said he and his wife plan to retire in the Evergreen State.
With camp over, it’s now time for the Seahawks to prepare for the regular season and making another run at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Scott Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to e-mail him here.