Seahawks Thinking Differently at Receiver

When the Seattle Seahawks allowed wide receiver D.J. Hackett to leave for Carolina in free agency for a two-year, $3.85 million contract, it signaled an altogether new approach to Seattle's offense this season.

Part of the reason coach Mike Holmgren felt comfortable abandoning the running game last year and going primarily with the passing attack was because he had receivers Deion Branch and Hackett at various times to count on, depending on their various maladies. Both were players quarterback Matt Hasselbeck felt comfortable with.

But with the front office making a new commitment to the running game with the signings of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett, it is a sign that perhaps the passing game will not be stressed as much this year, in part because the Seahawks have little experience at the position.

Yes, they have Bobby Engram, a 13-year vet who had a career year last season. And they have Nate Burleson, who emerged as a big-play threat last year. But Branch is likely out for at least the first eight games with a knee injury, and Hackett now has Carolina on his mind.

Which means the Seahawks are going to rely on the emergence of one or two of four players: Logan Payne, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor or Jordan Kent.

The coaching staff loves Taylor, a second-year player from Auburn who has good size, speed and hands. Obomanu also is from Auburn and has exhibited the ability to get open.

Payne was so impressive in practices that the team signed him to a three-year deal off the practice squad last year. And Kent is a former track speedster who has breakaway ability but questionable hands.

When Holmgren goes to his three-receiver set, and Engram and Burleson are across from each other, it will be up to one of the unproven commodities to make Hasselbeck feel comfortable with his new corps of receivers.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Seahawks made a new proposal to cornerback Marcus Trufant recently, coming somewhere between the $7 million a year it initially offered and the $9 million a year that Trufant was asking in the wake of the Asante Samuel contract with Philadelphia. The sides still have not come to an agreement, but Trufant's stance will only be strengthened with DeAngelo Hall agreeing to a contract with Oakland that will average around $10 million a season.

The Seahawks' stance all along has been that Trufant is not worth the type of money that cornerbacks are receiving in today's market. But clearly this is a new paradigm with contracts at the position, and Trufant became an elite player when he was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

In fact, one NFL personnel man who asked not to have his name used said that Trufant was the top target on their free-agent list because of his attitude and talent level.

--The Seahawks attended the Pro Day at the University of Texas recently, which makes sense since the Longhorns have running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Jermichael Finley and wide receiver Limas Sweed. The Seahawks have needs at all three positions.

--Former Seahawks wide receiver Darrell Jackson was cut by the San Francisco 49ers last week. He was a favorite of Mike Holmgren. However, there is almost no chance the Seahawks re-sign Jackson, who general manager Tim Ruskell traded to the Niners for a fourth-round pick. Jackson wore out his welcome in Seattle with a poor attitude and bad practice habits.

--Former Seahawks safety Michael Boulware, who the Seahawks traded to Houston last year for defensive end Jason Babin, signed with Minnesota.

--When Brett Favre retired, former teammate Matt Hasselbeck was asked if he had any stories about Favre being a jerk. He told about a time that Favre was on the practice field before practice, and while special teams players were running down the field practicing coverages, Favre was chipping golf balls over their heads. A coach called over Favre, and the entire team thought Favre was going to be chewed out. Hasselbeck, standing within hearing distance, said the coach asked Favre, "What do you think of the game plan this week?"

--When kicker Josh Brown left the Seahawks for the St. Louis Rams in free agency, he told a local radio station, "This decision was about winning." The Seahawks have won four straight NFC West championships while the Rams were 3-13 last season.

--RBs Shaun Alexander and Maurice Morris both flew into Seattle recently to meet with the coaching staff about their roles now that the team has acquired T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones.

--The Seahawks hired Kasey Dunn as their running backs coach, the final hire to fill out Mike Holmgren's staff. Dunn has spent the past 15 years as a college coach, his last job as wide receivers coach for Maryland. He held an internship with the Seahawks in 1993.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's all good." -- Shaun Alexander on his feelings about his future with the Seahawks after they signed T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

TEAM NEEDS/OFFSEASON STRATEGY

The Seahawks likely need to make a decision on cornerback Marcus Trufant, with whom they are close on a contract but still have philosophical differences. Trufant continues to have his argument enhanced because DeAngelo Hall became the third corner being paid more than $9 million a year. Beyond that, the Seahawks are up against the cap, and signing Trufant to a long-term deal will give the team flexibility in free agency, where they still need to fill several positions.

1. Tight end: Starter Marcus Pollard is a free agent and will not be back. The team signed Jeb Putzier, but he is projected as a third tight end. Will Heller is No. 2, which means the team needs a starter. It is likely to address that need in the draft after losing Alge Crumpler to Tennessee.

2. Defensive line: Rookie Brandon Mebane filled in admirably for the injured Chuck Darby, who just signed with Detroit. The return of Marcus Tubbs is uncertain, which means the team needs more depth at the position. Some mock drafts have the Seahawks taking Kentwan Balmer in the first round.

3. Kicker: Josh Brown departed for St. Louis via free agency, meaning the Seahawks have nobody to do the job. There are not many prospects on the free-agent market, and there are not many in the draft. The Seahawks are likely to draft one in the sixth or seventh round and then invite veterans to camp to battle it out.

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