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Already good, Seahawks Special Teams looking to be even better

Posted Jul 9, 2013

After ranking third in the NFL last season and releasing Pro Bowl kick return Leon Washington during the offseason, the Seahawks special teams are focusing on making even more big plays and being even more consistent in 2013.


Just how special were the Seahawks’ special teams in 2012? Let’s recount everything coordinator Brian Schneider’s units did to help the team post the third-best regular-season record in franchise history:

CLOSER LOOK AT THE D-LINE

Specialists on the 90-man roster: 4

Specialists carried on the 53-man roster last season: 3

Incumbent starters: K Steven Hauschka, P Jon Ryan, Snapper Clint Gresham

Acquired in a trade: KOR Percy Harvin

Free agents signed: K Carson Wiggs

Keep an eye on: Harvin and Golden Tate. With Washington gone, they have some big returns to fill on kickoffs (Harvin) and punts (Tate). And each also will play a major role on offense – Harvin as an on-the-move receiver and runner; Tate as a big-play threat from the split end spot. That was not the case with Washington, whose offensive touches dropped from 63 in 2011 to 27 last season.

Returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown – the fourth in Leon Washington’s three-season stay to increase his club record; and eighth of his career to tie the NFL record.

Blocked a field-goal attempt that was returned 90 yards for a touchdown – with defensive end Red Bryant supplying the block and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman the return.

Blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown – with linebacker Malcolm Smith getting the block and safety Jeron Johnson the return.

Recovered a muffed punt return for a touchdown – with Smith getting the score.

Set a single-season record for net punting average (40.8 yards) – with Jon Ryan bettering his old mark from 2011 (39.3), and also dropping 46 percent of his punts (30 of 65) inside the 20-yard line.

Got a seriously solid performance on field-goal attempts – with Steven Hauschka’s three misses in 27 attempts coming from 61, 51 and 50 yards.

Got another exemplary season from their co-captain – with Heath Farwell leading the units with 15 coverage tackles, six shy of his league-leading total in 2011.

Oh, and overall the Seahawks’ special teams ranked third in the NFL.

So what can we expect in 2013?

The first order of business is replacing Washington, who was released after Percy Harvin was acquired in a March trade with the Minnesota Vikings. In addition to his prowess as a wide receiver and production as a runner, Harvin also has returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons while averaging 27.9 yards on 114 returns.

On punt returns, where Washington had an 8.7-yard average with a long of 52 yards last season, wide receiver Golden Tate is at the head of the line. Tate averaged 12.6 yards on 16 punt returns as a rookie in 2010 with a long of 62 yards.

Now you know how the team could release Washington, who was voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC returner last season.

The primary goal for the Seahawks’ special teams this season is to do even more than they accomplished in 2012, and do it more consistently.

“We were very consistent last season,” Schneider said. “Very consistent. We had big plays, but the thing that jumped out at me was the consistency.”

It was reflected on the special-teams board which hangs in the hallway that connects the locker room to the training room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Schneider grades his team in 12 categories following each game. Achieve the goal and a Seahawks logo is placed in the box. Last season, in the Week 2 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the Seahawks posted the first “12” that Schneider or Farwell had ever seen.

Even more impressive: the low “score” was a 6, while they also posted an 11 twice and averaged an 8.5.

Can the Seahawks be any more consistent this season?

“Why not?” Ryan said. “We look at what we’ve done as something to build on. We’ve got the players and coaches here to be even better this season.”

Game Rewind: Seattle Seahawks