WR Darrell Jackson, a Tampa native, was a third-round pick of the Seahawks in 2000
The Mike Holmgren era in Seattle may have gotten off to a slower start than some had envisioned – the Seahawks spent four seasons between 6-10 and 9-7 and made only one playoff appearance from 1999-2002 – but the fruits of those disappointing years are paying off now.
Ironically, even though the Seahawks finally took off last year after Holmgren gave up the general manager portion of his title, it is the player personnel maneuvering of those four years that is making the difference, particularly on offense.
The Seahawks' attack, ranked sixth after the first week after finishing in that same spot last year, has the twin advantages of talent and cohesion. The team began wholesale draft additions to its attack in 2000 and those players now form the nucleus of an offense that can run and pass the ball as well as any team in the league.
In 2000, the Hawks drafted Alabama running back Shaun Alexander in the first round and added Florida wide receiver Darrell Jackson in the third. In 2001, the team used one first-round pick on wide receiver Koren Robinson, another on guard Steve Hutchinson and sent the third (plus a third-rounder) to Green Bay for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. In 2002, it was tight end Jerramy Stevens in the first round and running back Maurice Morris in the second.
Those players, plus 1997 first-round Walter Jones, form the nucleus of Holmgren's well-rounded offense. They have had ample time to mesh.
"You've seen it coming for some time," said Jon Gruden, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Seahawks this Sunday. "This offense is growing up together. Walter Jones and Alexander and Hasselbeck and Robinson and 'Florida Gator,' the wide receiver. I don't even want to call him out by name – he makes a lot of plays. The tight end, Stevens, is coming into his own; Hutchinson; you see an offense that is really growing up."
As such, the Seahawks aren't overly reliant on one particular player, which means they can still pose a formidable threat even if Alexander (questionable, knee bruise) can't suit up on Sunday. Five different players (including Alexander) caught at least 42 passes for Seattle last year, five scored at least four touchdowns and three rushed for at least 4.4 yards per carry. Morris, who would probably get the bulk of the rushing duty if Alexander missed the game, picked up 239 yards on just 38 carries last year, averaging 6.3 yards a pop.
Over the last two years, the Seahawks have turned to defense in the draft, using all of their first and second-round picks on that side of the ball. Added were cornerback Marcus Trufant and safety Ken Hamlin in 2003 and defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs and converted safety Michael Boulware in 2004. Trufant and Hamlin are already starters and rookies Tubbs and Boulware see extensive action as subs and nickel players; Boulware even picked off a pass in his first regular season game last Sunday.
Of course, with the earlier drafts concentrating on offense, the Seahawks have had to dip into free agency a bit on defense to keep up. Their starting ends, Chike Okeafor and Grant Wistrom, were added as free agents the past two years, respectively
"Defensively, they've got a lot of good players," said Gruden. "They went out and got Wistrom. When they get Chad Brown back to go with Okeafor, they've got three unique players. And [outside linebacker Anthony] Simmons has always been a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker. They're a talented team, and well-coached."
There was another addition to the game's official injury report on Friday, but this one was on the Seahawks' side.
Wide receiver Bobby Engram, the team's third-leading receiver in 2003 with 52 catches, is now on the list thanks to a groin injury. He is considered questionable. The Seahawks now have four players listed as questionable for the game, including Engram, though one, linebacker Solomon Bates, was able to practice on Thursday. Still sidelined yesterday were starters Alexander and safety Terreal Bierria.
The Bucs made their own addition to the injury report on Thursday, but it doesn't appear as if it will be a problem for the game. Starting defensive tackle Anthony McFarland hit the list due to a shoulder sprain but he was able to practice on Friday and is considered probable.
"He's fine," said Gruden of McFarland. "Sore but fine."
Safety Dwight Smith (bruised ribs) also remains probable on the Bucs' injury report and was on the practice field Friday. Gruden indicated Smith would play. Each team also has one player who is known to be out due to a longer-term injury, wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) for the Bucs and linebacker Chad Brown (leg) for the Seahawks.
All Pro Dads Day
With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, many fathers find it increasingly difficult to spend quality time with their families. Buccaneer Linebacker Shelton Quarles and All Pro Dad are teaming up once again to increase public awareness about the importance of being a good father, and to provide the resources that will enable men to become better dads.
"All Pro Dad is a non profit organization based out of Tampa that helps NFL players, coaches and alumni help men be better fathers and better husbands," said George Woods, a representative of All Pro Dad.
Quarles and All Pro Dad are promoting All Pro Dads Day, a monthly breakfast for fathers and kids before school. During the meals, the fathers and kids will watch a DVD featuring Quarles discussing important issues that families deal with every day. Quarles' DVD is designed to be conversation starter for topics such as peer pressure, setting goals and how to choose friends.
"Everybody needs a little pep talk now and then," said Quarles. "All Pro Dad is a great organization that allows me to provide fathers in this community with a resource."
For more information about All Pro Dad, log on to AllProDad.com.