9/3/08 Mailbag with Mike Kahn

With all the focus on how much the running game will be improved for the Seahawks, it will be the passing game that figures to be the most fun to watch evolve.

Having just turned 27, Burleson is the veteran of five seasons - two with the Seahawks - who has to be the veteran on the field. Although Kent led all receivers with 11 catches during the preseason, to Payne's five and Taylor's four, neither Kent nor Payne has as regular season reception and Taylor caught five last season as a rookie.

Veterans Deion Branch (knee) and Bobby Engram (shoulder) are expected back with a few weeks, but there is no defined time table. A fourth youngster, the versatile Ben Obomanu, was slated to play a lot at the different receiver spots only to break his clavicle Friday night against Oakland, so he's on the injured list for the season.

"This is all about opportunity," Burleson said. "The young guys have proven during the preseason and training camp they can play. Now they get to show it in games. We're all confident in them and it's up to me to be the leader on the field. It's an opportunity for me to make a name for myself at a completely different level. I know all three receiver positions in the offense now, I'm healthy and I know I'm capable of making big plays or small plays.
"When you've got Matt as your quarterback, you just have to be there and catch the ball."

Hasselbeck understands the deal. Payne and Kent spent last year earning their stripes as rookies on the practice squad, while Taylor split his season bouncing back and forth. Hasselbeck, who turns 33 in a few weeks, was there as a second day draft choice in Green Bay … sitting and learning until he got his opportunity with the Seahawks.

He's excited for them, if not nervous about the regular season opener at Buffalo this Sunday.

"Those guys have worked hard - I think they're prepared," Hasselbeck said. "Sometimes if you don't know to be nervous, it's even better. I don't think it's crossed their minds. I think those guys have done a great job preparing and being focused. They got a lot to think about. I'm sure that's where their focus will be. It's not something any of us can even think about. We just got to go out there and focus on playing football, making plays. That's what I expect."
 
The great thing about football is whatever nerves may be lingering at the start of the game it only takes one hit to eliminate them. The staff has shown so much confidence in the development of these youngsters, they eschewed drafting anyone, nor bringing in any veteran free agents.

Now it's time for these guys to pay dividends.
"Oh yeah we're ready," Taylor said. "We've all worked hard and this is the dream all of us have been waiting for. Now it's time just to go out, stay focused and make plays."

From: Ryan

Mike,

I just wanna say, I read all your blogs. Now that all the teams throughout the league have cut their teams down to 53, do you think the Seahawks will be looking through that group of people for possible additions to our team? I heard Chad Jackson was released by the Patriots, do you think he would be a good fit here?

Ryan,

The Seahawks personnel staff is always scouring the waiver wires. In fact I hasten to say they knew most of the names that would be on it the way everyone is so plugged in around the league these days. But as president Tim Ruskell said last week, this year's roster more than any before was about the difficulty in pairing down the roster as opposed to adding to it with specific needs.

They are very excited to see what Taylor, Kent and Payne will do with the opportunities. They know the offense and made plays throughout the preseason and training camp. Burleson is excited about being the big play guy, not to mention that Branch and Engram will be back before long. Jackson, or anybody else for that matter, wouldn't be a factor for at least weeks - and maybe months - while trying to learn the offense. That's not to say all players aren't considered by the staff, but they are ready to go with what they've got. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,
Mike

From: Jake

Mike,

Are the Seahawks going to continue to use Nate Burleson as a kickoff/punt returner with the receiver corps nursing so many injuries?

Jake,

That's a good question. It won't be in the same manner as the past couple of years, that's for sure. Josh Wilson will definitely be one of the kickoff returners, with rookie Justin Forsettvery likely with Wilson. Forsett, and Burleson or Wilson will return the punts. Ben Obomanu was penciled in to return punts with Forsett before fracturing his clavicle Friday night. Jordan Kent could figure in on kickoff returns or punts too.

And just because the season begins this season doesn't mean it won't change. The returner specialists figure to be fluid, and Burleson is far too good at it not to play some kind of role, particularly once Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return from their injuries. But until then, it's an awfully big risk. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Cody

Mike,

I want to start by saying go SEAHAWKS!!!! I believe we have a very good team and chance to get to the super bowl this year but with all the injuries to our wide receivers it just keeps getting worse and worse and now Ben Obomanu is out so I was thinking why not go after Koren Robinson I know he don't have a good rap in Seattle. However he knows the system which is hard to learn. That's one reason why we have not gone after a veteran. Mike Holmgren drafted him and we know he likes him because when he left Holmgren gave Minnesota a good word for him and he has not been in trouble in a long time. What do you think about it?

Cody,

There is a commitment factor involved here and Robinson has had so many opportunities, not only from the Seahawks but the Vikings and Packers. This team is too far along to bring in a risk factor. Yes, Holmgren likes him and his teammates have always liked him as a guy to be around.

But this is all about performance, consistency and trust. The Seahawks are too far along with all the other receivers. Remember, Michael Bumpus showed big time in the preseason and in training camp … and he's waiting for his opportunity from the practice squad. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike
 
From: Nathan

Mike,

I know that time and time again you have received questions about the running back situation for the Seahawks. I'm still a bit confused, so I was wondering if you could help me out. I know that Holmgren has made it very clear, that there will not be one starting back, but that the carries will be shared. My question is, who exactly is he referring to?

Are Maurice Morrisand Julius Jones going to be the two main guys, with T.J. Duckett coming in spontaneously, or will all three backs share an even amount of carries for a triple-threat rushing attack (similar to the undefeated Dolphins team)?

Nathan,

The running game will be built around Morris and Jones according to Holmgren, but the infusion of Duckett will come during more than just short yardage situations too. In other words, nothing is set in stone. All of them will get opportunities, and if I'm reading the situation right, Holmgren will vacillate from just going with the "hot back" during a given game and the instinctive hunches he and offensive coordinator Gil Haskell have for particular plays and situations.

It's all very new. The options and combinations are many and varied, which will bode well for the offense and make defensive game-planning more difficult for each team they play. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Eric

Mike,

First off let me start by saying GO HAWKS! Obviously there are many concerns regarding our receiving core, whether it be youth, injuries etc. I was wondering what would be the odds of the Hawks drafting a receiver with our first pick in next year's draft. I ask this question because of the before mentioned reasons. Looking at the future of the team, in my opinion, the wide receiver situation should really be addressed. I mean with Deion Branch having knee problems, and Bobby Engram (who is the man) is certainly in the twilight of his career. Nate I believe can be a number one guy. Other than that Jordan Kent is the only that has really stepped up. Hopefully if we do we will come across some one like Joey Galloway.What do say you Mike?

Eric,

You're offsides. We haven't even had the opportunity to see what Taylor, Kent and Payne can do and you're already drafting a wide receiver? These guys are talented, know the offense and are young. It's why they didn't draft a wide receiver this season. Why take a guy who will need a good year to learn the system when you already have (four, if you include Obomanu) talented young guys that know it?

I'm not saying they are all going to be stars or the answer for the Seahawks over the next 6-7 years, but we don't know how they will respond, so let's take a deep breath and watch how this all shakes out. Because of this transition at the skill positions (running back too), the operation of the offense will be interesting to watch unfold for Hasselbeck. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Jon

Mike,

I don't understand why people keep suggesting that the Seahawks need to bring in a proven wide receiver like Anquan BoldinorJoe Horn. Nate Burleson has got this offense down now and is ready to explode, Bobby Engram, when healthy, is as consistent as any wide out in the league, Deion Branch is a game-breaker, and the young guys look really good. If anything they have an over-abundance of talented receiver.

The biggest question mark, after watching the last couple of seasons and Monday night's game against the Chargers, is the Seahawks run-defense. What are our options if we don't have any healthy run-stoppers?

Jon,

I could have used you to answer the multitude of questions that keep piling on about the receivers. I'm always flabbergasted by the number of fans that are ready to believe somebody else can just stroll right into this offense and contribute - particularly in the passing game. It isn't like going into somebody's backyard and going deep. The routes in Holmgren's playbook are about as precise as anything anyone does in the NFL - depth and timing are what this passing attack is all about.

As for the run defense, it's tough to get a handle on what was going on throughout the preseason because we never really got to see the No. 1 defense play for any measurable amount of time. Suffice to say Brandon Mebane, Rocky Bernard, Craig Terrill, Howard Greenandrookie Red Bryant are being counted on to keep blockers off the linebackers so they can make plays. I wouldn't get too concerned over what was seen in the preseason because unlike a lot of teams, the Seahawks don't game plan on either side of the football. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Chris

Mike,

A life long Hawks fan here - I just wanted to get an insider's perspective on these young wide receivers and how much of an obstacle they will face during the regular season of not having very much playing time with Matt Hasselbeck. It is well documented that this offensive scheme, passing mostly, relies so much on timing and reading the defensive package in front of them - do you foresee this being a big issue? Thanks Mike - doing a great job - GO HAWKS

Chris,

Yes, it's timing, but they have thrown so many balls in practice that it will come in games. Granted, it won't be the same as it is between Hasselbeck and Bobby Engram - few combinations in the NFL are as tight as those two. But it will come. It may take a little time for the young guys to get over their jitters, but the timing is built-in from the offseason work everybody did.

And before you know it, Engram and Branch will be back, so hang in there. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Wrecker

Mike,

All of this Justin Forsett and David Hawthorne talk is great I believe Hawthorne is in fact a middle linebacker that can step along Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill if Lofa Tatupugets injured. Meanwhile, he can Forsett can be factors on special teams. But my eye is on the biggest surprise of the preseason, Jordan Kent. Once this kid gets a few regular season games under his belt we might have a Marques Colston on our hands and that would be great Speed and height with decent hands … he lost a could of deep ones preseason game 2, but for a kid who has played so little, he has an exciting future.

Wrecker,

The scouts that were all over those guys deserve the credit. Forsett was one of those guys that was overlooked every year not only because of his size because of the huge shadow cast by Marshawn Lynch at Cal. But every year Lynch got hurt, Forsett gobbled up huge chunks of yardage and was productive in helping the Bears win. As for Hawthorne, scouts just ignored him because of his size, too, Good thing because the Seahawks, with the exception of Julian Peterson, have thrived on small, fast linebackers. He fits just right.

Kent figures to be about a year ahead of schedule considering his lack of experience, but he's very bright and committed, with exceptional natural talent. We'll find out soon enough if he's ready to be productive right away with the opportunity laid in front of him at the moment. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Jakob

Mike,

Watching the first three games of the preseason Hawks fans have many things to be excited about. But, the one thing that's most exciting to me is the play of the offensive line. All of our backs have had pretty good plays during these games and have shown good physical play and getting yards after initial contact.

But it seems like almost every good run has been a product of our offensive lines blocking - huge holes, linemen down field, and smart play. It seems like the addition of Mike Solari and Mike DeBord might be the most important piece to the 2008 Seahawks. There have been some good moments and players during this preseason but my preseason MVP is our offensive line. Thanks.

Jakob,

That was the goal when the hires were made. The addition of Mike Wahle at left guard not only helps physically, but he brings a mentality onto the field and into the locker room and weight room that helps leadership-wise from the loss of other veterans the past few years. But you're right about the change. Solari is an throw-back line coach who likes to utilize the athletic ability of his linemen. And if they get out and run, it enhances the possibility of 12, 15 and 20-yard gains.

Nonetheless, we still have to see it consistently in the regular season for the team to be successful, and the need is there for Chris Spencer to be healthy and be the center fulltime for the line to reach its full potential this season. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,
Mike

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