By Brock Huard
The Seahawks were finally able to report to work this week.
Well, sort of.
They can run, jump, condition and even throw the football around on their own, but the coaches can’t get their hands on them until next month. So, with the newly minted schedule fresh on the weight-room walls and only a few months before the start of real training camp work, the following players need to maximize the time ahead to ensure both personal and team success for the Seahawks in 2012:
5) Red Bryant. The unquestioned leader of the defensive front assured head coach Pete Carroll that “Big Red wasn’t going to change” even though he became a multi-millionaire in March. When asked what he intended to do with his riches after signing his mega-million-dollar contracts over the years, Peyton Manning would always say, “I intend to earn it.” Bryant must have the same attitude, and it needs to show in the weeks and months ahead.
I hope to hear upon the start of training camp that Bryant’s weight, body fat and strength numbers are at career bests for him as a Seahawk. He intends to add more pass-rush and versatility to his game. That will only happen if he is quicker, leaner and more committed than ever to his craft.
Along with Marshawn Lynch, Bryant is the most likable figure on this team. And one of the most respected. It is time he adds a level of fear to that concoction this season, both in his locker room and the visitor one as well.
After a pair of underwhelming seasons, Golden Tate must realize his immense potential in 2012. (AP)
4) Golden Tate. The light bulb appeared to finally come on for Tate at the end of last season. In fact, 19 of Tate’s 35 receptions came in the last five games of 2011. It’s been an eventful two years with benchings, maple bar trysts and unrealized potential from the former Notre Dame All-American.
The emergence of Doug Baldwin and most assuredly a draft pick at wide receiver next week, an enhanced look at last year’s fourth-rounder Kris Durham and super-freak Ricardo Lockette means it’s sink or swim time for Tate (and possibly Mike Williams). Tate has as much if not more explosion and dynamic ability as any receiver on the roster not named Ricardo.
Now, he has to prove to Carroll, the offensive staff and his new quarterback that the commitment and “want-to” will consistently align with his talent.
3) First- and second-round pick(s). Ask the Cincinnati Bengals what their first two picks, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, meant to their playoff push last season. Do the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl in 2005 if Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill — their second- and third-round picks that year — don’t develop into starting difference-makers?
Matt Williamson of ESPN Scouts Inc. included the Seahawks in his list of six NFL teams with the ability to take the next step if they can capitalize on the riches of the draft next week. ESPN’s Mel Kiper speculated that an “A” grade for Seattle would include defensive end Quinton Coples at No. 12 and linebacker Ronnell Lewis from Oklahoma at No. 43. If those two picks hit like Tatupu and Hill did, can you imagine the looks of the front seven in the fall?
Further, this regime has uncovered starters in the latter rounds or through undrafted free agency the last two years, including Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin. If that trend continues into Year 3 with the potential of game-changers at the top of the board, one can start to understand where Williamson was coming from.
All looks good on paper, but this draft class will have to put the work in and earn the respect of their peers, which all begins in the organized team activities and training camp in the months ahead.
2) Russell Okung. I had the good fortune of watching what a Hall-of-Fame left tackle meant to an offense and an organization during my four years with the Seahawks. Robbie Tobeck was the charismatic leader of the organization’s best offensive line, but Walter Jones was the undisputed force of the group. While “Big Walt” was quiet and unassuming and often took a back seat to Tobeck’s mouth and Steve Hutchinson’s wrath, there was a sense of total comfort and security when he was around.
Russell Okung will not be Walter Jones the Hall of Famer, but he has the upside and talent to be a Pro Bowler and a difference-maker for his offense. Okung was playing his best, most dominant football of his young career late last season before a cheap-shot, WWF move ripped his pectoral muscle apart. For a guy that was never injured in college, Okung’s body has taken a beating in his first two years, most of it out of his control. Bad luck or not, Okung must strive to do what Hutch and Jones did for so long: be available every Sunday to dominate, set the tone and build a foundation for an inexperienced quarterback to flourish.
1) Matt Flynn. I couldn’t write on the “Brock and Salk” blog without mentioning and highlighting the need at quarterback for the Seahawks. The next three months will be enormous for Matt Flynn, and best-case scenario for Seattle is he accomplishes what Russell Wilson did at Wisconsin: within a week be named team captain.
That timeframe may be unrealistic, though, as Tarvaris Jackson will be a formidable foe. Jackson, through his display of physical and mental toughness last season, won the admiration of his peers and coaching staff. Flynn must trump that admiration with awe, or in general manager John Schneider’s words, he must “tilt the field.”
What’s that look like? It means command the offense, the huddle, the play call and the execution. From day one, practice one, set the tempo and the sense of urgency. Flynn must leave no doubt he is the guy who threw for six touchdowns and 480 yards in the Packers’ regular-season finale. He is a more polished passer, a more accurate thrower and a more fundamentally equipped quarterback than Jackson.
Most importantly, the former national champion at LSU will now have a “quarterback competition” to show it and prove it to a team and fan base thirsty for a franchise quarterback to emerge.