Seahawks Minicamp will Answer Questions

Seattle's first minicamps of 2008 begins on Friday with two primary questions in mind: How will the Seahawks' revamped running game and special teams perform on the field? Competition will be tough, and the answers to those questions will slowly be revealed … starting now.

With Shaun Alexander finally being released and the Seattle Seahawks' backfield rounding into shape, the question is how will the new-look Seahawks execute a running game that was AWOL last season?

They signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett, they retained Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver and they drafted Owen Schmitt and Justin Forsett, leaving a big pile of talent with little definition of how it will be used.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said that he doubts that any one of the backs will ever get 25 carries in a game, so a running back-by-committee approach could be the favored M.O. in what will be Holmgren's last season.

It is likely that Jones and Leonard Weaver will start, with Duckett and Morris backing up Jones and Schmitt backing up Weaver, who the team felt got beat up last season after he stepped in for Mack Strong.

By using all the backs, the team will not tip its hand to plays it wants to run, as it did with Alexander, who was a marginal pass blocker and receiver.

If Schmitt and Duckett become the team's short-yardage backfield, it will be a combined 505 pounds of running back diving into a pile.

The issue with the tailbacks is that Jones and Morris are very similar in style, so rotating them is not going to provide much change of pace. They both are more speedy, straight-ahead runners, which for

Morris was a nice complement when Alexander was here but with Jones is just more of the same. But in a league that is turning increasingly toward running back tandems, the Seahawks just decided that was the approach to take.

--The next months and into training camp will go a long way in figuring out the Seahawks' revamped special teams. The most obvious competition is between veteran kicker Olindo Mare and Georgia rookie

Brandon Coutu, who will battle during training camp for the right to replace clutch kicker Josh Brown, who departed in free agency over a contract dispute.

Mare is the strong-legged veteran of 13 years whose accuracy has steadily decreased over the last three seasons but who impresses the coaches because he can regular reach the end zone on his kickoffs.
Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell said he thinks Coutu has a future in the league, and they didn't want to pass on him in the draft. He is accurate inside 50 yards and had the strongest leg in the draft, but he has had trouble in his final two years in college in getting the ball to the end zone on kickoffs.

He suffered a hamstring injury that he said came about when he was practicing an unusual onside kick technique. Though he says that the hamstring healed, his statistics don't back that up. He said he is working out with Morten Andersen and his personal trainer to help him with his kickoff distance.

"If I can kick a ball 60 yards with only a few steps," Coutu said, "then I should be able to kick a ball into the end zone with 10 steps."

The Seahawks were widely criticized for taking a long snapper with their sixth-round pick, but the position became such a debacle last season that they were forced to address the need. They took San Diego State's Tyler Schmitt, the best snapper in the draft who said he never has had an errant snap since the fifth grade.

"My guess is, there probably aren't 50 percent of the sixth-round draft choices that ever make the 53-man roster," Seahawks special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said. "Now, we just drafted a guy in the sixth round that's a starter, and will be for the next 10 or 12 years."

Punter Ryan Plackemeier will not be challenged for his spot.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Fourth-round draft pick Red Bryant is the future son-in-law of former Seahawks defensive lineman Jacob Green, who has the franchise record for sacks and is inducted into the Ring of Honor. Green "told me there isn't anyplace better that I could go, especially since I have been in Texas my entire life," Bryant said.

--Fifth-round pick Owen Schmitt said he owns the record at a tavern in Morgantown, Mario's Fishbowl, for eating coasters. "The key is soaking them in beer," Schmitt said.

--First-round pick Lawrence Jackson of Southern California and second-round pick John Carlson of Notre Dame played against each other three times, Carlson regularly called upon to block Jackson.

"I know that when we played in South Bend he was a pretty good blocker," Jackson said of Carlson. "He wouldn't go away. I had to work really hard to create some separation. He was definitely one of the most challenging tight ends that I faced and I am glad he is on my team so we can battle out in practice but not on game day. I got him a few times and he got me a few times."

Jackson's Trojans beat Carlson's Irish four times by a combined score of 151-57.

--DT Marcus Tubbs had follow-up arthroscopic surgery on his reconstructed right knee and will be out for all or most of training camp. Tubbs has missed the past two seasons, one after microfracture surgery on his left knee and then after reconstructive on his right.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I did my four years there and I am thankful they gave me an opportunity to play in the NFL. But it was just time to go. It happens." -- Seahawks running back Julius Jones, who left Dallas and signed with Seattle in free agency.


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