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In a show of hands when it came to the Seahawks’ receivers during the 2010 season, Mike Williams was the hands-down winner.
Williams’ rise from being given a tryout at a spring minicamp to leading the club in receptions (65) and receiving yards (751) during the regular season was an almost-weekly source of amazement and a definite feel-good storyline – especially as the offense struggled during the late-season 2-7 slump, scoring fewer than 20 points seven times and fewer than 10 twice.
A comparison of the Seahawks’ leading wide receivers during the 2010 season, including playoffs, and how they stack up in percentage of passes caught by the number of times they were targeted:
But there were others who helped Matt Hasselbeck surpass 3,000 passing yards for a franchise-record seventh time in his 10-season stint as the starting QB, and tack on another 530 in the playoffs. Nine different players led, or co-led, the Seahawks in receiving during the 16-game regular season and two-game postseason – Williams (eight times), slot receiver Brandon Stokley (five), tight end John Carlson (four), wide receivers Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler (three each) and since-traded wide receiver Deion Branch, running backs Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch and rookie wide receiver Golden Tate (one each).
In-season arrivals, injuries and adapting to an offense that rarely featured the balance coach Pete Carroll was seeking played into this all-hands-on-deck situation. Stokley was signed in late September and played his first game in Week 4 against the St. Louis Rams. Lynch was acquired two days later, in a bye-week trade with the Buffalo Bills. Williams, Stokley and Butler missed games because of injuries.
“This season definitely was different in that regard,” Hasselbeck said after a season when he threw so many passes to so many new receivers. “For a while there, it was like every week we were counting on a new receiver to step up and help us out.”
With that said, there’s another statistic that also is worth looking into: Targets. It’s the number of times Hasselbeck and backup Charlie Whitehurst threw to receivers, as compared to the more widely used passes caught.
Williams, of course, led the club in that category, too, including games where the ball went his way 17, 16, 15 and 13 (twice) times. Only two other wide receivers were targeted more than 10 times in a game.
“I think for me, if you catch the ball and you do a good job I’m going to keep going to you,” Hasselbeck explained during the stretch when Williams had double-digit catches in back-to-back games. “If I can count on you, you’re going to keep getting the ball. He’s just shown a hunger and a willingness to work and to make plays, and I like him. I like throwing to him.”
There were games when Williams was 11-of-16 (against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 7), 10-of-15 (the week before against the Chicago Bears) and 6-of-7 (against the New Orleans Saints in Week 11); but also games when Williams was 2-of-8 (against the New York Giants in Week 9), 1-of-5 (the week before against the Oakland Raiders) and 4-of-13 (in the playoff loss to the Bears).
For the season, and postseason, Williams was 74 of 131, or 56 percent. That was third on the team among the wide receivers behind Stokley (43 of 58, 74 percent) and Obomanu (39 of 68, 57 percent). Butler, the starting flanker after Branch was traded and until he broke his leg in Week 14, was 36 of 70, or 51 percent.
Stokley, who played almost exclusively in the slot and mostly in the three- and four-receiver packages, had three games where he caught everything thrown his way – 6-for-6 against the Saints in the regular season, 4-for-4 against the Saints in the postseason and 3-for-3 against the Bears in the regular season. He was 8-of-11 in the loss to the Bears in the postseason, as Stokley led the Seahawks with 12 receptions for 158 yards in the playoffs.
“He’s an unusually gifted guy,” is how Carroll summed up Stokley’s contributions – immediately, with four receptions in his first game after practicing only three days with the team; and consistently, with 43 receptions in 13 games.
Obomanu also had an 11-target game, catching five passes in the playoff win over the Saints; and two 5-of-6 outings in back-to-back games (vs. the Saints and Kansas City Chiefs). But there also was a 1-for-8 showing in the Week 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“He always does things right,” Hasselbeck said of Obomanu, who stepped in at flanker after Butler went down. “Just going back to the day that Pete and his staff got here, we’ve talked about so many different guys becoming ‘that guy’ at the wide receiver position.
“It just seems like there have been so many more guys than him and as we sit back we’re like, ‘Wait a sec, this is a guy that’s been doing it right every time.’ He’s steady, he’s dependable, all those things. So I’m happy that Ben is finally getting an opportunity to be ‘that guy.’ ”
Butler’s best outing, oddly enough, came in the game where he broke his right leg – while making a touchdown catch. He was 5-of-7 in that game against the 49ers, but also was the only one among the group to have an oh-fer game (0-for-2 against the San Diego Chargers in Week 3).
“The thing with Deon is he’s fast – really fast,” Hasselbeck said. “He just brings an element to the mix that the others don’t have.”
It’s a mix that often was mixed-and-matched for the Seahawks’ passing game in 2010.