Seahawks 2012: Receivers

Posted Jul 10, 2012

The Seahawks got caught with their hands down last season because of too many injuries among the wide receivers and tight ends. So they’ll be better this season, if they can get and stay healthy.

The No. 1 goal for the Seahawks’ receivers in 2012? Get, and stay, healthy.

For example: Mike Williams led the team in receptions (65) and receiving yards (751) in 2010, while Sidney Rice did the same (83 for 1,312) for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009.

They were expected to be the Seahawks’ starting wide-outs last season, giving the offense one extremely big target (the 6-foot-5 Williams) and one extremely athletic target (the long-limbed Rice) – a combination that would make it difficult for opposing defenses to handle. Instead, Rice damaged a shoulder early in training camp that limited him to nine games, 32 receptions and 484 receiving yards; while Williams never was right because of nagging injuries and finished with 18 catches for 236 yards in 10 starts before finishing the season on injured reserve.

So the road to redemption this season – for Williams and Rice, as well as the passing game – starts with their roads to recovery. Especially for Rice, who has had both shoulders surgically repaired since joining the Seahawks.

“There’s a lot of – I don’t know if you want to call it pressure – but high expectations on Sidney,” said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who also coached Rice when both were with the Vikings. “We really need to get him back. Hopefully having both shoulders fixed will give him the ability to be healthy throughout this season.

“That’s really a big one right there for us, is to be able to get him back.”

The show of hands isn’t just about these two, of course. The units that are coached by Kippy Brown (receivers) and Pat McPherson (tight ends) also include Doug Baldwin, who led the team in receptions (51), receiving yards (788) and TD catches (four) last season as a rookie free agent; Golden Tate, a former second-round draft choice who is being counted on to increase his totals from last season (35 for 382 and three); and the tandem of Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow, former Pro Bowl tight ends with other teams who were added in free agency last year and through a trade this year.

But again, it’s all about getting and staying healthy.

Winslow has a chronic knee problem that will cause his practice time to be monitored during training camp and the regular season, but did not prevent him from catching 77, 66 and 75 passes the past three seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tate missed time during the OTA practices and sat out the June minicamp after cracking a bone in his right hand. Miller was hurt last year by since-departed tight end John Carlson missing the entire season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

“With Kellen, we have kind of that two-tight end monster,” Bevell said. “Kellen has looked great. He has probably as good of hands as I’ve seen. Obviously we know we’re going to have to manage him. But I really like what I see from him – he catches it really well, really easy.”

No matter who is throwing the passes for the Seahawks – incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson, free-agent addition Matt Flynn or rookie Russell Wilson – they need healthier hands on the other end.

There are others who could figure into the mix: Ricardo Lockette, who used his track speed to average 52.5 yards on two receptions late last season; Ben Obomanu, the longest-tenured of the Seahawk wide-outs who finished second on the team with 37 catches last year; Deon Butler, a former third-round draft choice who missed the first 11 games last season while recovering from a severely broken leg; Kris Durham, who at 6-6 is taller than Williams – and faster – but he also missed half his rookie season because of a shoulder injury; and a half dozen veteran and rookie free agents.

“We have different skill sets that we can take advantage of,” Bevell said. “In addition to Sidney’s huge catch-radius, we’ve got speed, we’ve got little guys that are quick, we’ve got bigger guys. So we kind of have it all.”

But there seems to be a pattern here, and it has nothing to do with running routes.

“We just have to get healthy,” Bevell said.

Then they can get to the point of deciding which wide-outs stay, and which must go.

“Usually probably six end up making the roster,” Bevell said. “So there’s good competition there, and we like the guys we have.”

Especially when they’re healthy.     

With that said, he’s a closer look at the unit:

Receivers on the 90-man roster: 18, 13 wide receivers and five tight ends

Receivers carried on the 53-man roster: nine last season, six wide receivers and three tight ends; nine in 2010, five wide receivers and four tight ends

Incumbent starters: TE Zach Miller, WR Sidney Rice, WR Mike Williams

Incumbent backups: WR Doug Baldwin, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Golden Tate, WR Deon Butler, WR Ricardo Lockette, TE Cameron Morrah, TE Anthony McCoy

On injured reserve at the end of last season: WR Kris Durham (eight games), Rice (five games), Williams (two games)

Veteran acquired in a trade: TE Kellen Winslow

Veterans signed in free agency: WR Charly Martin, WR Cameron Kenney

Rookie free agents: WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Phil Bates, WR Lavasier Tuinei, TE Sean McGrath

Outlook: With the return of Rice and the addition of Winslow, the passing game should be in good hands. But their practice reps will need to be monitored to make sure they’re ready when needed most – on game days. Their presence also should make it possible for Baldwin to be even more productive from the slot. But the offense also needs Tate and Durham to play to their potential, more consistency from Lockette and a return to form by Miller – who caught 66 and 60 passes for the Raiders in 2009 and 2010.