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#HawksMailbag - December 17: What makes Seahawks special teams so special?
Welcome to another edition of #HawksMailbag here on Seahawks.com, our weekly feature where we answer your Twitter questions about the club.
Coming off of Sunday's 23-0 victory over the New York Giants, your concerns about the club were down, praise was up, and several quality questions still poured in. Thanks to those who made a submission this week, and sorry we can't get to them all. Let's get down to it.
In my mind, there's a handful of guys that make this unit a little bit more "special" than the rest. That's punter Jon Ryan, cornerback Jeremy Lane, kicker Steven Hauschka, and punt returner Golden Tate. Let's look at some numbers:
19: Punt-return yards given up, 10 of which came in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. That number ranks No. 1 in the League, and by a wide margin. St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker ranks second with 81 punt-return yards surrendered.
24: Fair catches on Ryan's punts. Lane has played fast and physical as the "gunner" during Ryan's punts, allowing him to get down field and in position to make the tackle of any would-be returner. His team-leading 11 coverage tackles have also played a large role in Ryan's miniscule 19 punt return yards.
130: Points, which leads the NFC and ranks second in the NFL. Hauschka has connected on 30 of his 31 kicks (T-2nd NFL) with his only miss coming by way of a blocked attempt against the Colts. His 96.8 percent success rate ranks tied for first in the League.
540: Yards on punt returns, second-most in the NFL. His 11.7-yard punt return average ranks 4th in the NFC. Two of Tate's returns have played a critical role in two separate wins. His 32-yard return in overtime against the Texans in Week 4 helped set up Hauschka's game-winning field goal and his career-long 71-yard bring back in Week 9 sparked a field goal during the team's franchise-record 21-point comeback win over the Buccaneers.
This is what head coach Pete Carroll and his assistants expected (and hoped) to see out of Byron Maxwell - and Jeremy Lane - after cornerbacks Brandon Browner (groin) and Walter Thurmond (suspension) were sidelined. Maxwell, who in his third season is a year ahead of Lane in the Seahawks system, truly embodies the effectiveness of Carroll's "Next Man Up" mentality.
Your question stirred memories of a conversation I had with secondary coach Kris Richard during training camp last season. Maxwell was working through multiple injuries at the time, but Richard said that when healthy, "the sky is the limit" for Maxwell. It was a pretty good endorsement, and I think with this latest opportunity we're starting to see Richard's comments come to life.
Pete Carroll didn't express any concerns when asked on Monday about his team's success in the run game the past few weeks, even though running back Marshawn Lynch has not topped 100 yards on the ground since rushing for a season-high 145 yards in a Week 10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Carroll pointed to facing good defenses as one of the main reasons for the drop in production, noting Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals' No. 1-ranked rush defense provides a big opportunity to get back on track.
"We’re still going to pound away at it and keep working, keep getting our numbers and attempts up there," Carroll said. "It’s just a matter of breaking one that means the difference in those stats sometimes. Our attitude about it is right and we’re on it and consistent with it, so I’m fine about it."
Head coach Pete Carroll mentioned cornerback/special teams ace Jeremy Lane (stinger) and free safety Earl Thomas (thigh) after Sunday's game against the Giants, but said each player would be fine this week.
We'll know more on the status of wide receiver Percy Harvin (hip) - and cornerback Brandon Browner (groin) - when the team returns to practice on Wednesday afternoon. And while we're on the topic, linebacker K.J. Wright had successful foot surgery last week and Carroll said Wright "could make it back to running in four to five weeks." That would put Wright's return toward the end of any Seahawks playoff run.
Which player has the best sack/TD/INT dance moves?
— Jackie Lund (@jackie_lund)
Cornerback Richard Sherman is a popular pick, and he doesn't need an interception, sack, or touchdown to get moving. Hard-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor has displayed an affinity for the acrobatics on the practice field. Free safety Earl Thomas showed he could swing his hips in the team's Week 12 win over the Saints. And defensive end Michael Bennett has got his shimmy going of late.