Seahawks need a playmaker

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, November 22, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Seattle receivers can’t seem to break big play

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

KIRKLAND — The quarterbacks have been the scapegoats, fingers pointing from every direction. The most common outside assessment of Seattle’s passing game is that the Seahawks quarterbacks haven’t gotten it done this season.

That’s only half the story. Seattle’s wide receivers haven’t exactly held up their end of the bargain, either.

The Seahawks need an Alex Rodriguez-type home run hitter, without the salary demands. A Gary Payton-like playmaker, without the sideline confrontations.

That’s not to say the wideouts have been horrible. Despite some dropped passes, mental breakdowns and occasional trouble getting open, the Seahawks receivers have been fairly consistent within the system. Their problem is, nobody can seem to break a big play.

"We just need to do some different things on offense, not the same (pass) patterns that people are looking for," wide receiver Sean Dawkins said, offering his reasoning for the team’s lack of long gainers. "Do something different so we get the opportunity to make some plays."

Whether it’s the offense or not, the Seahawks receivers haven’t turned many short passes into long gains this season. Seattle’s main problem lies in a statistic sometimes known as YAC — yards after the catch.

An unofficial stat not kept by the league, YAC sometimes separates the ordinary teams from the great ones. The St. Louis Rams relied on catch-and-runs to build up some of the most impressive offensive numbers in NFL history last season.

The Seahawks receivers, on the other hand, rarely add any yardage on their own.

Among Seattle’s wide receivers, rookie Darrell Jackson has the team’s only two touchdown receptions in which a wideout ran more than 20 yards with the football. And one of his two catch-and-run touchdowns came only after the San Diego defense seemingly gave up because of a penalty flag when the ball was snapped.

For most of the season, those opportunities have been few and far between.

Seattle’s wideouts have just six plays of longer than 25 yards this season, while Seahawks opponents have 19. In five of Seattle’s 11 games this season, their wide receivers have not converted a passing play of 20 yards or more.

Last week’s win over Jacksonville was a good example, as the Seahawks receivers had 29 yards-after-the-catch on 11 receptions, while the Jaguars wideouts had 79 YAC off 17 receptions.

To see the discrepancy between the Seahawks and the rest of the league, one need look no further than this week’s opponent. Denver’s top two wideouts, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, have a combined 2,193 receiving yards this season, making them the AFC’s top duo. By comparison, Seattle’s top two receivers (Dawkins and Jackson) have a combined 956 yards.

"Everybody knows we’re running slants," Dawkins said. "When people know what you’re going to do, it’s hard to make plays. If you do something out of the ordinary, there’s an opportunity to make plays."

The play-calling is understandable. Coach Mike Holmgren has had to be conservative because of the play of quarterbacks Jon Kitna and Brock Huard this season. Part of the problem is, the receivers haven’t been turning that conservative play-calling into long gains.

"Up and down," receivers coach Nolan Cromwell said when asked about the wideouts’ combined performance this season. "At times, we’ve shown some maturity and some consistency, and then at other times we have not. We’ve made some little mistakes that are very basic, and it’s been frustrating from that point. The last couple games we’ve played better and had more consistency, and hopefully we’ve kind of gotten over that hurdle."

Cromwell added that he believes the current crop of receivers have the ability to be playmakers at the NFL level. But it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the Seahawks might try to upgrade the position in the draft, perhaps getting a speedy wide receiver with one of their two first-round draft choices.

Dawkins thinks the Seahawks don’t have to look outside for help.

"Darrell made a lot of plays in college," he said. "Derrick (Mayes) is not the fastest guy, but he’s very elusive when he has the ball in his hands. He’s going to make some guys miss. He may not go the distance, but he’s going to get some yards after the catch if he gets some space. We just haven’t had the opportunity."

Maybe this will be the week. Denver’s defense got victimized for three long touchdowns against San Diego last week, partly because of the Broncos’ propensity to blitz.

"I think there’s going to be big plays to be made," said Huard, who will start this week for the first time in a month. "I know they’re going to come after me, that’s their style anyway, and we’ve just got to make those plays when they’re called."

Making big plays has been easier said than done this season. Especially for Seattle’s receiving corps.

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