The envelope, please

Posted Jan 5, 2010

Clare Farnsworth of passes out awards from the Seahawks’ just-completed 5-11 season.

Clare Farnsworth of passes out awards from the Seahawks’ just-completed 5-11 season:
Player of the year: Jon Ryan. A season that didn’t even come close to fulfilling expectations comes with the unexpected – the punter as player of the year. But this selection shouldn’t surprise anyone. In a season of inconsistency, Ryan wasn’t. He averaged a franchise-record 46.2 yards on 88 punts – the fourth-highest total in club history, and most since 1994. Ryan’s net average of 38.7 yards tied Tuten’s club record from 1992. If that’s not enough, Ryan also was the holder for Olindo Mare’s club-record run of 21 consecutive field goals, and completed a 42-yard pass on a fake punt.
Offensive player of the year: Justin Forsett. The second-year runner/receiver/returner did all of that, and did it well enough to steal this one from players who played more. Forsett didn’t lead the team in rushing or receptions, but his combined 969 yards and five touchdowns doing both – and the relentless way he did them after getting his hands on the ball – proved he is the kind of role player the offense needs as it rolls toward the 2010 season. Forsett averaged 5.4 yards while rushing for 619 yards (44 behind Julius Jones) and led the team with four rushing touchdowns. He also had 41 receptions, and another 524 yards returning kickoffs and punts.
Defensive player of the year: Josh Wilson. The third-year cornerback lost his starting job when Ken Lucas was signed in free agency. Rather than accept that fact, Wilson accepted the challenge and won the job back. He returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns – 65 yards against the Rams and 61 yards against the Lions. He led the club with 14 passes defensed, and also had a sack. He played the right side in the base defense and moved inside to cover slot receivers in the nickel and dime packages.
Special teams player of the year: Mare. With “player of the year” honors going to the punter, it opens this spot for the equally deserving kicker. Mare was near perfect in his second season with the Seahawks, hitting 24 of 26 field goals overall for a percentage (.923) that ranked third in the league, and a club-record 21 in a row to close the season – including a game-winner as time expired in the Week 13 upset of the 49res at Qwest Field. Mare also produced 22 touchbacks on his kickoffs, the fifth-highest total in the league.
Assistant coach of the year: Bruce DeHaven. The Seahawks’ special teams really were this season, so the nod goes to the coach in charge of those units. Getting record-setting seasons from Ryan and Mare was enough, but the Seahawks also ranked among the best in the league in opponents’ average starting spot after kickoffs (24.2 yard line) and punt return average allowed (7.5).
Rookie of the year: Max Unger. At the start of training camp, the word was that the second-round draft choice from Oregon might start. By the end of the season, Unger had started all 16 games – the first 13 at right guard, the last three at center. Regardless of where he lined up, or who he was blocking, Unger impressed the coaches with his tenacity, toughness and attention to detail. He made rookie mistakes, of course, but he rarely made the same one twice. Linebacker Aaron Curry, the first-round draft choice who tied with Unger for this honor at midseason, faded down the stretch and missed the two games with a shoulder injury.
Free agent of the year: T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The team’s biggest free-agent acquisition was not pleased with his season, despite leading the team in receptions (79) and receiving yards (911). That’s because he had averaged 89 receptions and 1,012 yards the previous five seasons with the Bengals. But even his diminished numbers far exceeded those of the other free agents signed by the team last year.
Best performance by a fill-in player: David Hawthorne. There were a lot of candidates, what with 15 starters missing a combined 66 games because of injuries. But the player his teammates call “Heater” buried the competition while subbing for Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Hawthorne led the team in tackles (116), tied for the lead in interceptions (three) and was third in sacks (four). All in 11 starts. He had 16 tackles in his first start, two interceptions in another game, two sacks in another and 10-plus tackles in four others.
Most promising statistic: Seven – the number of touchdown receptions by second-year tight end John Carlson, including one in each of the last four games for all the TDs the Seahawks scored in the final month of the season.