5 Seattle Seahawks The fate of last year's division champs hinges largely on an offensive line that's forever developing but never developed

August 27, 2000

Year 2 of the Mike Holmgren Era coincides with the Seahawks'
silver-anniversary season. Allow us then to pass on this bit of
lore: Not once in the club's history has the offensive line been
the same from one season to the next.

Holmgren, who wears both the general manager's and the coach's
hat, made certain the streak wasn't endangered this year. Even as
they won their division last season, snapping a decadelong
playoff drought, the Seahawks finished in the bottom third of the
league in most offensive categories. So Holmgren told oft-injured
center Kevin Glover, aging right guard Brian Habib and
ineffective right tackle Grant Williams that the time had come
for them to get on with their life's work.

Having spent a season taking the measure of his new team,
Holmgren is now putting his stamp on it. Glover, Habib and
Williams are just three of eight starters who are no longer on
the roster. The others are wideout Joey Galloway, outside
linebacker Darrin Smith, defensive linemen Sam Adams and Phillip
Daniels, and strong safety Darryl Williams. These players were
moved for salary-cap purposes, or because Holmgren didn't care
for their personalities, or both.

Change, however, isn't necessarily a good thing along an
offensive line, where continuity counts. Going into this season,
all eyes will be on the right side of a fivesome that represents
a sliding scale of competence. Left tackle Walter Jones is, quite
simply, one of the best linemen in the league, a 6'5" 300-pounder
who has run a sub-4.7-second 40 on grass. "He's not just one of
the most athletic linemen in the league, he's one of the best
athletes in the league, period," says left guard Pete Kendall.
While not on Jones's level from a talent standpoint, Kendall is a
highly regarded pro, the line's vocal leader who makes few
mistakes.

At the other spots there's a bit of a drop-off. Journeyman Chris
Gray filled in at center when Glover sustained a season-ending
injury midway through last year. Seeking an upgrade in the
off-season, the Seahawks signed former Falcon Robbie Tobeck, but
he tore a tendon in his left knee during a workout in May and is
out until midseason. In Tobeck's absence the position remains a
Gray area.

Right guard Floyd Wedderburn is an untried second-year player out
of Penn State. A fifth-round draft pick in 1999, he didn't play a
down last season. Huge for a guard (6'5", 333 pounds), he can
look dominant and dazed on the same series. "Floyd's a little
cautious right now," offensive line coach Tom Lovat said in
mid-August. "He's been a tackle all his life, and it's different
when you go inside, because so much more happens in there."

Last fall, less than two quarters into the only NFL game he has
ever started, Todd Weiner severely sprained his right ankle and
was a nonfactor the rest of the season. This year he's starting
at right tackle by default because of the holdout of first-round
draft pick Chris McIntosh, a 6'6", 315-pound brute who ran
interference for Ron Dayne at Wisconsin. "Todd's a good player,"
says Holmgren. "I believe we'll be better on the right side than
we were last year."

That's not saying much. The coaching staff likes to point out
that before he got hurt, Weiner had won the starting job last
season. They don't mention that he won it because Howard (House)
Ballard retired on the eve of the season. Filling in for the
injured Weiner in the 1999 opener against the Lions, Grant
Williams walked into a bad dream, giving up two sacks to
defensive end Robert Porcher. Thereafter Seattle gave Williams
plenty of help, by frequently keeping a tight end or a back in to
assist him, which prevented similar catastrophes...until the
first round of the playoffs, when Trace Armstrong lit up Williams
for three sacks in the Dolphins' 20-17 win.

With Williams long gone, no one was surprised when the Seahawks
chose McIntosh with the 22nd pick in the draft. What did prove
surprising, unpleasantly so for Holmgren, was McIntosh's
reluctance to sign a five-year deal. He wanted a smaller signing
bonus in exchange for free agency after four years, an option
that was unacceptable to Holmgren. The result: McIntosh, whose
pass blocking needs work, has in all likelihood lost his chance
to start as a rookie.

Eventually he will sign and have a long NFL career. Holmgren's
strategy--dump salaries, go with younger players--is sound. It
worked in Green Bay and should work in Seattle. But will it work
this season?

Says reserve defensive end Matt LaBounty, in defense of his
callow teammates on the offensive line, "Just because they're
young doesn't mean they'll play badly."

Nor does it mean they won't. The only likelihood is that the same
five guys won't be together next season.

--A.M.

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL JASIENSKI GOING WITH THE FLOW Despite a constantly changing line, Ricky Watters has run for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.
COLOR PHOTO: CORKY TREWIN

SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 at Miami
10 ST. LOUIS
17 NEW ORLEANS
24 at San Diego

Oct. 2 at Kansas City (Mon.)
8 at Carolina
15 INDIANAPOLIS
22 at Oakland
29 KANSAS CITY

Nov. 5 SAN DIEGO
12 at Jacksonville
19 Open date
26 DENVER

Dec. 3 at Atlanta
10 at Denver
16 OAKLAND (Sat.)
23 BUFFALO (Sat.)

FAST FACTS

1999 Record 9-7 (tied for 1st in AFC West)

NFL rank (rush/pass/total): offense 24 (tie)/16/23; defense
25/17/23

2000 Schedule strength
NFL rank: 6 (tie)
Opponents' 1999 winning percentage: .539
Games against playoff teams: 5

PLAYER TO WATCH

In his first full NFL training camp defensive end Lamar King has
become a popular source for reporters seeking comment on the
holdout of first-round draft pick Chris McIntosh. "My advice to
Chris is to get into camp," King said in early August, "because
you can't learn when you're sitting at home." He should know. A
first-round choice in 1999, King held out for two weeks last
summer, effectively sabotaging his season. This year, however,
King will assume a much larger role. He will line up mostly at
end but will shift to tackle on passing downs, allowing Chad
Brown to rush the passer. "Lamar's a 300-pounder who moves like
he's 270," says fellow end Michael Sinclair. "He's explosive,
he's smart. The only thing he's lacking is playing time." Not
anymore.

PROJECTED LINEUP WITH 1999 STATISTICS

Coach: Mike Holmgren
Second season with Seahawks (84-44 in NFL)

Offensive Backs PVR*

QB Jon Kitna 51 495 att. 270 comp. 54.5% 3,346 yds.
23 TDs 16 int. 77.7 rtg.

RB Ricky Watters 25 325 att. 1,210 yds. 3.7 avg. 40 rec.
387 yds. 9.7 avg. 7 TDs

RB Shaun Alexander(R)[1]137 302 att. 1,383 yds. 4.6 avg. 24 rec.
322 yds. 13.4 avg. 23 TDs

FB Reggie Brown 288 14 att. 38 yds. 2.7 avg. 34 rec.
228 yds. 6.7 avg. 1 TD

Receivers, Specialists, Offensive Linemen

[PVR*]

WR Derrick Mayes 79 62 rec. 829 yds. 10 TDs
WR Sean Dawkins 115 58 rec. 992 yds. 7 TDs
WR Fabien Bownes 262 4 rec. 68 yds. 1 TD
TE Christian Fauria 271 35 rec. 376 yds. 0 TDs
K Todd Peterson 149 32/32 XPs 34/40 FGs 134 pts.
PR Charlie Rogers 303 22 ret. 14.5 avg. 1 TD
KR Charlie Rogers 303 18 ret. 25.8 avg. 0 TDs

LT Walter Jones 6'5" 300 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
LG Pete Kendall 6'5" 292 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Chris Gray 6'4" 305 lbs. 16 games 10 starts
RG Floyd Wedderburn 6'5" 333 lbs. 0 games 0 starts
RT Todd Weiner 6'4" 300 lbs. 11 games 1 start

Defense

LE Michael Sinclair 36 tackles 6 sacks
LT Riddick Parker 23 tackles 2 sacks
RT Cortez Kennedy 74 tackles 6 1/2 sacks
RE Lamar King 12 tackles 2 sacks
OLB Chad Brown 115 tackles 5 1/2 sacks
MLB George Koonce[1] 50 tackles 0 sacks
OLB Anthony Simmons 94 tackles 0 sacks
CB Shawn Springs 76 tackles 5 int.
SS Reggie Tongue[1] 89 tackles 1 int.
FS Jay Bellamy 105 tackles 4 int.
CB Willie Williams 78 tackles 5 int.
P Jeff Feagles 84 punts 40.8 avg.

[1] New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 139)

THE BOOK an opposing team's scout sizes up the Seahawks

"On paper, you look at the Seahawks and say they're a lot worse
than last year. But it's the second year in Mike Holmgren's
system, and the players will be more comfortable. I'd expect
them to be just as good as last year, or better....Is Jon Kitna
the guy who can take them to the next level? I doubt it. I think
Mike was hoping he'd progress a little more last year....Ricky
Watters still runs as hard as anybody, but can he handle not
being the Man and sharing time with Shaun Alexander?...Derrick
Mayes is underrated; the guy runs good routes, finds a way to
get open and makes great catches. Sean Dawkins isn't fast or
physical, and he hates to block, but give him this: He'll go
across the middle and make tough catches....I'm a huge Shawn
Springs fan. He's got a good head, he's tough, he has great
speed and size, and he'll continue to get better. Reggie Tongue
is a big hitter who will help them at safety....Are they kidding
with George Koonce at linebacker? His lack of space ability got
him released in Green Bay last year."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)