Special teams one of the Hawks’ few bright spots

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Friday, December 8, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By SCOTT M. JOHNSON

Herald Writer

KIRKLAND – The offense is ranked 26th out of 31 teams. The defense, dead last. No matter where one looks, the Seattle Seahawks have been struggling this season.

Except on special teams.

In almost every category involving Seattle’s punt and kicking game, the Seahawks rank among the top eight in the league. They lead the NFL in net punt average (37.9 per attempt), opponent’s net punt average (32.4), and opponent’s punt return average (4.1).

The Seahawks also have the AFC’s second-leading punt return man in Charlie Rogers, who averages 14.9 yards per runback.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do,” special teams coach Pete Rodriguez said. “We just try to be sound, very fundamental. We don’t try to be fancy, or tricky. We just try to be fundamental in what we do, and we try not to make mistakes.”

Since Rodriguez joined Seattle in 1998, the Seahawks have consistently boasted one of the NFL’s top special teams units. He was the only coach from the Dennis Erickson era retained by Mike Holmgren, and led Seattle to the top of the Dallas Morning News’ special teams rankings last season.

This year, the Seahawks have had to rely on a plethora of rookies and first-year players on special teams. While James Logan and Fabien Bownes continue to be the leaders, help has also come from draft choices Isaiah Kacyvenski, Marcus Bell and Ike Charlton, inexperienced linebacker Tim Terry and former CFL players J.P. Darche and Maurice Kelly.

“Early in the year, you’re going to struggle a little bit because of the way free agency is and you’re always breaking in young players,” Rodriguez said. “They’re prone to make mistakes and do some dumb things early. You just keep getting better, keep getting better. And they have done that.”

Perhaps the best find was kicker Rian Lindell, a rookie free agent who has made good on 11 of 13 field-goal attempts this season, including 8 of 9 from beyond 40 yards. Rodriguez wanted to bring Lindell to training camp, but the Washington State University rookie opted to sign with the Dallas Cowboys because he saw a better opportunity to make the team.

Lindell didn’t make the Cowboys roster, but after the Seahawks released Todd Peterson and Kris Heppner, he eventually found his way to Seattle.

  • Watters doesn’t practice, will start: Despite a third consecutive day of missed practice, running back Ricky Watters will start Sunday against the Denver Broncos, Holmgren said Friday.

    Watters was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday to heal a “turf toe” injury, and he had X-rays during Friday’s practice. Holmgren said the X-rays came up negative, and that Watters’ streak of 110 consecutive starts – the longest current string among NFL running backs – is not in jeopardy.

    Watters is 50 rushing yards away from surpassing the 1,000-yard barrier for the sixth consecutive season. That would be the third time as a Seahawk in which Watters gained at least 1,000 yards in a season, something only Curt Warner and Chris Warren have done more (four).

    He is also 240 yards from moving into 12th place on the all-time rushing list.

  • Record-setting year? Watters’ milestones aren’t the only attainable marks this season, although some of the team’s other statistics might be better left unsaid.

    Two dubious team records could be set by the end of the season, depending on what happens in the final three games. If Seahawks opponents average just 237 passing yards per game and/or 297 total yards per game down the stretch, it would set new all-time lows for the Seattle franchise.

    The Seahawks’ next two opponents – Denver and Oakland – rank among the top three offenses in the AFC, so chances are both records will fall.

  • End of the line? The Seahawks players filled out their Pro Bowl ballots Friday, while most other teams will wait until Monday. More than likely, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy will not make the AFC team after playing in the Pro Bowl eight out of the past nine years.

    Kennedy, 31, has had a subpar season and probably won’t be making a trip to Hawaii, something he has done every year of his career except 1997 and his rookie season in 1990.

    “It’ll be a little difficult this year, just because of the record we’ve had,” fellow defensive tackle Riddick Parker said, referring to the Seahawks’ 5-8 mark. “I think guys around the league still appreciate the effort he puts in and the type of player that he is, so I think it’s kind of up in the air.”

    When asked if Kennedy was deserving this year, Parker said: “No question. Because of his career, and what’s he got, two interceptions this year? A couple sacks? He’s playing well. He deserves it.”

    Kennedy actually has only one interception and one sack, and he ranks 10th on the team in tackles (37).

  • Changing it up: Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is known for his offensive ingenuity, which was on display two weeks ago when wide receiver Rod Smith ran for 78 yards on three carries out of the backfield.

    Seahawks defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell fully expects for Shanahan to have something up his sleeve again Sunday. Having faced Shanahan five times during his career, Sidwell is prepared for some unconventional play calls.

    “You expect them,” Sidwell said. “You just don’t know what they’re going to be.”

    Talk to us

    > Give us your news tips.

    > Send us a letter to the editor.

    > More Herald contact information.

  • More in Sports

    Glacier Peak’s Mateo Ganje wins the Boys 200M 4A dash during the Class 4A, 3A, 2A track and field state championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    State track: Glacier Peak’s Mateo Ganje claims 200 gold

    Ganje, Everett jumper Shukurani Ndayiragije each take home three top-three medals.

    The Jackson softball team poses with the Class 4A state tournament trophy after a 10-1 triumph over Emerald Ridge Saturday, May 25 at Columbia Playfield in Richland, WA. (Aaron Coe / The Herald).
    Domination: Jackson repeats as 4A state softball champion

    The Yanina Sherwood-led Timberwolves top Emerald Ridge 10-1 in the title game.

    Snohomish’s Hannah Siegler becomes emotional after striking out in the final inning of the 3A state softball championship game against Auburn Riverside on Saturday, May 25, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Snohomish softball falls in 3A state championship game

    The Panthers lose 11-6 to Auburn Riverside, marking their second straight championship-game defeat.

    State roundup: Murphy’s Balen, Jackson boys win tennis titles

    Grace Academy’s Pearce Hess sweeps the sprints in the Class 1B boys track and field meet.

    Snohomish players move their teamname up the bracket after a 3A softball game between Snohomish and Seattle Prep at the regional athletic complex in Lacey, Washington on Friday, May 24, 2024. Snohomish won, 8-0. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Snohomish softball advances to state semifinals

    Abby Edwards’ pitching, Camryn Sage’s hitting lifts Snohomish to an 8-0 quarterfinal win over Seattle Prep.

    The Jackson softball team greets Yanina Sherwood after her sixth-inning, two-run homer put Jackson ahead 4-1 a Class 4A state playoff first-round game May 24 at Columbia Playfields in Richland, WA (Aaron Coe / The Herald).
    Jackson softball halfway to defending its state championship

    The Timberwolves beat Eastmont, Olympia to move into the Class 4A semifinals.

    X
    Lake Stevens’ Brown, Pilchuck’s Velasquez win state titles

    How did locals fare at state in track and field, baseball and tennis? Find out here.

    Mariners report card: ‘A lot of positives’ at 50-game mark

    Does Seattle have enough to maintain its lead in the AL West through the rest of the season?

    Snohomish players celebrate beating Garfield in the 3A state softball semifinal game to advance to the championship on Saturday, May 25, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Snohomish beats Garfield to advance to state championship

    The Panthers punch their ticket to the state championship game with a 9-8 win over Garfield.

    Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

    The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

    Everett’s Ndayiragije claims Class 3A boys high jump title

    The favorite cleared 6-8 to highlight locals on day one of the track and field championships.

    Jacob Rohde surveys the area at Everett Golf & Country Club during last year’s final round of the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament. The three-time champion is among this year’s favorites. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    It’s out with the old, in with the new at the County Am

    The 93rd Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament takes place Saturday through Monday.

    Support local journalism

    If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.