In April, Marcus Robertson sat in general manager-coach Mike
Holmgren's office and asked the question that, if he got the
answer he wanted, would result in his signing with the Seahawks.
Why me? Robertson wanted to know. Why not Brock Marion or Kim
Herring or some other talented free-agent free safety with less
wear on his body?
"Mike looked right at me and said I was the kind of guy he
wanted," says Robertson, an 11-year veteran who had spent his
entire career with the Oilers-Titans before being waived this
off-season for salary-cap reasons. "He said if he could get
players like me and the other guys he brought in here, he
wouldn't have any more problems with his defense."
Robertson, who got a three-year, $3.9 million deal, wasn't the
only one who bought Holmgren's sales pitch. Also signing on were
two former All-Pros: 32-year-old middle linebacker Levon
Kirkland, his pride aching after the Steelers whacked him in a
salary-cap move, received a three-year, $7.5 million package; and
defensive tackle John Randle, 33, accepted a five-year, $25
million offer after getting the same treatment from the Vikings
that Kirkland received from Pittsburgh. Those players--along with
free-agent tackle Chad Eaton, late of the Patriots--form the
foundation of a new-look defense.
Lord knows the Seahawks needed a change. Upon ending the 2000
season with a 6-10 record, Seattle ranked last in the AFC in
average yards allowed per rush (4.9) and in third-down stops
(opponents made a first down 44.3% of the time). It stood 15th in
the conference in sacks (27) and in average yards allowed per
completion (13.2). "We did everything a bad defense could do,"
says defensive coordinator Steve Sidwell.
The free-agent additions should provide the Seahawks with
stability in the area they need it most--up the middle. Kirkland
should have the biggest impact because he's still an effective
run defender. His play will enable outside linebackers Chad Brown
and Anthony Simmons to focus more on their own responsibilities.
Robertson brings savvy to the secondary, while Randle and Eaton,
29, will anchor the line.
Holmgren understands the risk of signing three prominent free
agents whose best years may be behind them, but he thinks he can
get two productive years out of each. The attribute he values
most about the three is their positive influence on younger
players. During training camp it wasn't uncommon to see Kirkland
riding a stationary bike after a full-pads workout or Randle and
Robertson running wind sprints. "I've been here two years, and I
expected some leaders to emerge," Holmgren says. "It didn't
happen as fast I'd hoped, so I had to go out and pick some up."
Adds Brown, "All these guys have played for winners, so they know
what it takes. You don't play as long as they have without being
professional and understanding the little things. Sometimes it's
as simple as coming to practice and not complaining. A lot of
guys complained last year or worried about where they were going
out that night. We need people focused on what's happening on the
Holmgren's moves weren't restricted to defense. The offense also
has its share of new faces, notably 25-year-old quarterback Matt
Hasselbeck, who was acquired in a March trade with the Packers.
After attempting only 29 regular-season passes in two seasons as
one of Brett Favre's backups in Green Bay, Hasselbeck is eager to
prove his mettle.
When he joined the Packers in 1999, Hasselbeck got a crash course
in the West Coast offense. He watched as Favre improvised, often
turning a disaster into a big play. In Seattle, however,
Hasselbeck is working with wide receivers who have a combined 88
career receptions and are still trying to grasp the offense. So
for now the Seahawks are keeping things simple.
"I know I can throw a touchdown in this offense," Hasselbeck
says, "but Mike has told me to worry less about touchdowns and
more about first downs. It's hard because in Green Bay, Brett's
attitude was to take a shot downfield whenever possible. Here,
we're trying to set things up with shorter completions."
Holmgren was impressed enough during camp that last week the team
signed Hasselbeck to a five-year extension, through 2006. Among
other things, the coach loves the energy his new quarterback has
shown. In fact, Holmgren is excited about the team of gung-ho
types he has assembled. At week's end, only 15 players remained
from the roster he inherited when he took over. "This
organization has had a lot to learn about what it takes to win,"
says Brown, a Seahawk since 1997. "We're still learning those
things, but now that Mike has his guys, I think things are going
to change for the better."
COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE Seattle's offense is in good hands with Ricky Watters, who has started 129 consecutive games.
COLOR PHOTO: RICH FRISHMAN JACKSON
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Seahawks
"Matt Hasselbeck is a quarterback Holmgren believes in, and Mike
should know him better than anybody. Plus, a lot of those
ex-Green Bay quarterbacks have been successful--guys like Mark
Brunell, Ty Detmer and Aaron Brooks. Still, while I know Mike
likes to throw, I think they'll rely more on the run....The
Seahawks should be able to run it because their line is solid
and Ricky Watters has a lot left in him. He has great balance
that helps him keep plays alive....I like their receivers, but
they're young. Darrell Jackson is a clever route-runner, and you
could see that the game wasn't too overwhelming for him as a
rookie last year. Koren Robinson has great size and the ability
to get deep....They reshaped their defense with a lot of
veterans, and from everything I hear, John Randle has really
been impressive....Of all those guys they brought in, I think
Levon Kirkland is the one guy who should play up to the level he
was at last season....My question is, Can they keep all those
guys healthy? If Randle, Kirkland, Chad Eaton and Marcus
Robertson play all 16 games, the defense will be a monster. They
really want that experience to eliminate the mistakes of last
season when they didn't have a dominant defensive player.
Robertson especially could make a difference because their
secondary was only average. Shawn Springs has a lot of talent,
but teams just threw away from him last year. The other
cornerback, Willie Williams, got picked on quite a bit."
Sept. 9 at Cleveland
16 KANSAS CITY
30 at Oakland
Oct. 7 JACKSONVILLE
21 Open date
Nov. 4 at Washington
18 at Buffalo
25 at Kansas City
Dec. 2 SAN DIEGO
9 at Denver
23 at N.Y. Giants
30 at San Diego
2001 Schedule Strength
NFL rank: 16 (tie)
Opponents' 2000 winning percentage: .496
Games against playoff teams: 7
with 2000 statistics
COACH: Mike Holmgren; third season with Seattle (99-60 in NFL)
2000 RECORD: 6-10 (fourth in AFC West)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 22/21/19; defense 28/30/31
OFFENSIVE BACKS PVR*
QB Matt Hasselbeck[N] 53 19 att. 10 comp. 52.6% 104 yds.
1 TDs 0 int. 86.3 rtg.
RB Ricky Watters 23 278 att. 1,242 yds. 4.5 avg. 63 rec.
613 yds. 9.7 avg. 9 TDs
RB Shaun Alexander 164 64 att. 313 yds. 4.9 avg. 5 rec.
41 yds. 8.2 avg. 2 TDs
FB Mack Strong 283 3 att. 9 yds. 3.0 avg. 23 rec.
141 yds. 6.1 avg. 1 TD
RECEIVERS, SPECIALISTS, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
WR Darrell Jackson 119 53 rec. 713 yds. 6 TDs
WR Karsten Bailey 218 6 rec. 62 yds. 1 TD
WR Koren Robinson (R)[N] 142 62 rec. 1,061 yds. 13 TDs
TE Christian Fauria 261 28 rec. 237 yds. 2 TDs
K Rian Lindell 272 25/25 XPs 15/17 FGs 70 pts.
PR Charlie Rogers 325 26 ret. 14.0 avg. 0 TDs
KR Charlie Rogers 325 66 ret. 24.7 avg. 1 TD
LT Walter Jones 6'5" 300 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Steve Hutchinson (R)[N]6'5" 306 lbs. 11 games 11 starts
C Robbie Tobeck 6'4" 298 lbs. 4 games 0 starts
RG Chris Gray 6'4" 303 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RT Chris McIntosh 6'6" 315 lbs. 14 games 10 starts
LE Michael Sinclair 37 tackles 4 1/2 sacks
LT Chad Eaton[N] 62 tackles 3 sacks
RT John Randle[N] 25 tackles 8 sacks
RE Lamar King 44 tackles 6 sacks
OLB Chad Brown 73 tackles 6 sacks
MLB Levon Kirkland[N] 67 tackles 0 sacks
OLB Anthony Simmons 121 tackles 4 sacks
CB Shawn Springs 74 tackles 2 int.
SS Reggie Tongue 31 tackles 0 int.
FS Marcus Robertson[N] 64 tackles 0 int.
CB Ken Lucas (R) [N] 42 tackles 5 int.
P Jeff Feagles 74 punts 40.0 avg.
[N]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college
year) *PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 119)
"If Randle, Kirkland, Eaton and Robinson play all 16 games, the
defense will be a monster."