Seahawks WR Nate Burleson (Getty)
When WR Nate Burleson went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season last fall, the Seattle Seahawks really lost their only big-play threat out wide. Now he's fully-recovered and having a good early part of camp. How is the receiving corps coming along? The talented veteran says he thinks it's ahead of schedule...
"The first day we came out and I had like six balls, T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) had about three, Deion (Branch) had a couple, we all got in the endzone and I didn’t think it was going to happen that fast," Burleson told KIRO 710 AM's Mike Salk and Brock Huard Wednesday. "There’s going to be some days where we’re just not as sharp, but for the most part, as a receiving corps, after watching the film, we’re doing some damage out here and that’s been surprising so far.
"The one thing that I got really excited about when we were doing the two-minute (drill) yesterday and every receiver touched the ball, myself, Deion Branch and we capped it off with a touchdown by T.J. and to me, even though it’s a little thing and it doesn’t mean much because we’re just practicing, but it’s almost – ‘what could be possible?’ – that ‘boom boom boom pow’ nobody dropping the ball, no mistakes made, we finished the whole two-minute drill, we get in the endzone and we head to the sideline. That right there says a lot about what we can be as a receiver corps."
One contributing factor to the intensity of the unit is the addition of Houshmandzadeh, who was signed this past offseason as a free agent.
"I’ve seen on the field during camp exactly what I’ve seen during the highlights and that’s consistency," Burleson noted. "To me it seemed like he was the glue that held (Cincinnati) together. There was so much drama and so much going on within the receiver corps, but the one consistent thing over the past few years was T.J. Houshmandzadeh catching the ball and getting in the endzone and doing what he needs to do to make plays."
There has been some concern for the offense as it adjusts from the leadership and guidance of Mike Holmgren to the offense that coordinator Greg Knapp brought with him. Burleson said it's a slow process, but he feels he and the rest of the team can adjust to the new wrinkles being installed.
"I think it’s going to come in time," Burleson said. "As receivers, we’re in the meeting rooms watching film, and we’ve been catching a lot of balls. We’ve been getting in the endzone and one-on-ones have been going great so we appreciate what has been going on with the offense as far as through the air.
"With the run game, that can be a little more difficult because there’s a little more to it with the offensive line and they have to work some stuff out. As a whole my opinion is that we’re looking great and feeling good, but I could be biased because I’m catching balls and getting into the endzone and as long as that’s happening I don’t have any complaints.
"I like the west coast offense, but at the same time I came from a college team that threw the ball every which way and then in Minnesota with (Scott) Linehan as the offensive coordinator it was ‘let’s go and make plays’ with guys like Randy Moss and Dante Culpepper so coming here was an adjustment with Holmgren and the west coast offense, but I think there needs to be a balance. There’s going to be timing routes and that’s good because there’s situations where those will work perfectly, but at the same time you’re going to play against teams where timing routes just don’t work, where they sit on everything and know our signals and they know exactly what we’re going to do so you’re going to have to look at the receiver and have that “up and down” conversation with the quarterback."
Another difference, besides the way the players run routes and do different things, is how they watch film. Under Holmgren, and most football coaches, players usually watched film with their position coaches in separate rooms and then came together on the field to implement what they learned. However things have changed under the new staff and that means players are watching film together.
"A lot of it, when you have good offensive players, a lot of things come from watching film together," Burleson said. "We can be in separate rooms watching film and the coach can say ‘I want you to do this’ and in the other room the coach is saying ‘I want you to do this’, but you never know exactly what the other guy is thinking until you sit there, watch the film and the coach says ‘pause, now what were you thinking?’ and then he turns to Matt and says ‘what were you thinking?’ and you get to hear what guys have on their minds."
What the receivers have on their minds is catching footballs and making plays and it appears all of them are coming along at the pace necessary to be ready to go when they take the field on September 13th against the St. Louis Rams.