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Hawk Talk highlights: In defense of Sidney Rice

Sidney Rice’s 12 catches are fourth-most on the Seahawks behind two other receivers and Marshawn Lynch. (AP)

By Brady Henderson

Sidney Rice’s less-than-stellar start to the season has been a point of contention among fans who are unhappy that the Seahawks’ highest-paid active receiver isn’t one of their most productive.

That only intensified after Sunday’s win over Tennessee in which Rice lost a fumble and finished with two catches on four targets. While one of his grabs was an absolute doozy, it was the fifth time this year that Rice has been held to fewer than three receptions.

He has 12 in six games to rank fourth on the team. His production relative to his $8.5 million salary was a popular topic in the latest edition of “Hawk Talk” with Danny O’Neil on Tuesday.

Wes asked – perhaps sarcastically – if criticism of Rice’s “utterly pathetic production” is forbidden among 710 ESPN Seattle hosts.

Danny O’Neil: (Kevin Calabro voice): Actually, uh, no. That is purely my prerogative as a show host. And also the reality that this isn’t like baseball. Even if Sidney Rice were as overpaid as you state – which I think is exaggerated to the point of being utterly erroneous – that’s just part of the conversation. Where would that money have been better spent two years ago coming out of the lockout? But go on thinking that I’m being censored, Wes.

Wes later suggested that Rice isn’t “giving it his all” and questioned whether his health is a factor since he’s not always listed on the injury report.

Danny O’Neil: It has NOTHING to do with effort. If you don’t think he’s giving his all, watch him run block. He is absolutely tenacious. Say what you want about Sidney Rice’s production, he is a total, total pro and great teammate.

Cbrew said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is unjustly criticized for not posting passing numbers that are unreasonable given Seattle’s run-first offense.

Danny O’Neil: I agree with you, Cbrew. The more puzzling thing is the belief that Russell isn’t as accurate as he was a year ago. And I’ll admit, I’ve found myself saying, “Whoa, he missed that throw,” and feeling like I’m saying it more this year. I’m just not sure about that.

james asked for thoughts about cornerback Brandon Browner’s temporary benching Sunday.

Danny O’Neil: I think it shows that patience isn’t infinite. It also shows that it’s something that’s fixable. That’s important. Sometimes a guy is benched because he’s too athletically limited. This was a case where Seattle wants to see him improve on technique and discipline. It means that his benching isn’t inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.

Trevor asked whether Seattle will throw the ball more when wide receiver Percy Harvin comes off the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Danny O’Neil: I don’t think it’s the number of passes the team throws, but I think we will see them find ways to get him the ball. I also think that at least half of his touches will have him getting the ball within about 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Belfasthawk asked which Seahawk has been the most underrated this season.

Danny O’Neil:Good question. Not sure the answer because guys are getting a lot of credit. Maybe Earl Thomas. Do people realize that he’s the best safety in the league by a long ways? Eric Berry is really talented in Kansas City, but he’s playing in the box so much more.

Beastnoted that Berry is having a strong season.

Danny O’Neil: Yes, he is. No doubt. But he’s not in space as much as Earl Thomas. I would argue that Earl Thomas is being asked to do more and having a bigger individual impact.

Brandon asked if Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman would win the NFL’s defensive player of the year award if he leads the league in interceptions.

Danny O’Neil: Awfully tough for cornerbacks to win the award. Defensive ends? You bet. You can measure the sacks. Safeties? Sure. They score touchdowns off their picks. But cornerbacks? Darrelle Revis didn’t win it a couple of years ago when he was the best defender.

Gantiz asked if Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is better than Carson Palmer, the Cardinals’ starter.

Danny O’Neil:Right now? Yes. I think Matt Hasselbeck – currently – is a more capable starting quarterback. And Matt Hasselbeck is not starting. Make of that what you will.