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Receiver position in Seahawks camp is wide open
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHENEY — Eleven wide receivers. Likely no more than six final roster spots. One starting job secured, barring any major injury, and another starting spot that is more in flux.
It's safe to say more than a couple of good Seahawks receivers will be looking for employment elsewhere come the end of this month. To avoid being one of those who are cut, the routes will have to be precise. Any ball at the hands must be caught. And don't think the offensive coaching staff can't see when someone misses a blocking assignment.
"The receiver thing is going to be complicated right to the end," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.
Every day since camp began July 29, someone has drawn applause from the fans with some kind of impressive catch — leaping in the air, between defenders, diving, on the run or over the middle in traffic. Seeing is believing, and seeing these guys make those kinds of plays might make a believer out of fans who know the Seahawks dropped 44 passes in 2004 and 37 in 2003, both worst in the NFL.
Darrell Jackson is slated to be the starter at flanker. Bobby Engram is the No. 1 split end, having taken over that spot when the Seahawks severed ties with former starter Koren Robinson. Jerome Pathon, Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Shaw have 21 years of NFL experience among them. Alex Bannister isn't likely to have a big role in pass catching, but is desperately needed for his talents on special teams.
Jerheme Urban is the most experienced of the three third-year receivers, having caught six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in limited action last season. He's a big target with track-star speed and athleticism, having been a sprinter and long-jumper in college.
Who's the perfect catch?
6-0, 201, 6 years
1,199 yards (2004)
5-10, 185, 10 years
987 yards (1998)
6-0, 183, 7 years
732 yards (2003)
6-5, 230, 8 years
706 yards (2001)
6-0, 186, 8 years
646 yards (2000)
6-3, 212, 2 years
117 yards (2004)
6-5, 207, 5 years
61 yards (2003)
6-0, 190, 1 year
6-1, 198, 1 year
6-3, 205, 1 year
6-1, 195, 2 years
Urban has worked his way from undrafted free agent to regular-season action, and the taste of playing time only increases his desire to make the team.
"I felt like I earned the right to be out there," Urban said. "The only thing is, I've gotten a taste of it now, and I'm just really excited to get out there and try to prove my worth once more and try to get more of it."
Engram, Jackson and Bannister are certain to remain. Pathon, Jurevicius, Shaw and Urban are the top contenders for up to three more spots. The four others are longshots.
It's all a thrill for the coaches, with so many weapons at their disposal and so many options and combinations to consider.
"I know Nolan's having a good time mixing and matching everybody out there and just switching it up and letting everybody have a good time all over the place," said Urban, referring to receivers coach Nolan Cromwell. "Whatever final group comes out of camp is going to be a very versatile, very solid group."
Veterans are talking about this crew as being the most talented they have been around. And it's quite a luxury when the team can bring in a seasoned pro like Shaw, whose signing filled the spot occupied by Bannister while Bannister rehabilitates a broken collarbone.
Cromwell's only concern seems to be the lack of experience within the Seahawks' offensive system. Pathon, Jurevicius and Shaw have been around the league, but making plays every now and then won't guarantee them anything in this competition. This despite the fact Pathon and Jurevicius were top free-agent signings brought in to provide depth and sure hands after Seattle cut Robinson and didn't re-sign Jerry Rice.
"We do things a certain way, and they have to learn how we do them and incorporate their talents and push it forward," Cromwell said. "It's been talked about enough that this is what we're doing, and we're going to keep the best players."
In practices, Jackson and Engram work with the No. 1 offense in base packages. When the team goes to three- or four-receiver sets, Cromwell can send in Urban or Shaw to play one of the two outside receiver spots, and move Engram into the slot, where he has excelled with the offense for years as the third receiver. Jurevicius, Pathon and Shaw have also played all three positions — flanker, split end and slot. And Jackson is also lining up at different positions in multiple-receiver sets.
"I just have to make sure I don't keep mixing them up too much where they don't really get to hone in on one position and show their skills," Cromwell said.
Every candidate has some kind of an edge. The veterans have been starters in either Seattle or elsewhere. The younger players are hungry, Urban going so far as to attend quarterbacks meetings so he can learn the offensive blocking scheme.
There isn't a sense of dog-eat-dog among the group. But today's scrimmage will offer the coaches and personnel decision-makers the first game-style look at players competing for jobs. Then come three exhibition games before the first roster cuts on Aug. 30.
For Engram, coming to Seattle in 2001 meant the end of his days as a regular starter. Until perhaps this season. Going into camp as a starter is like a new beginning.
"We're going to be using a lot of three- and four-wide receiver sets, so it's not going to be the Darrell Jackson-Bobby Engram show," Engram said. "We're going to have to be the primary playmakers, I do believe that, but you're going to need everyone to step up and make plays.
"Right now I'm not trying to rest on my laurels in any way."
Pathon has let it be known that he covets the split end job. It's a position that requires the speed and strength to either overcome the bump-and-run coverage or run past it to get open.
"I know Bobby's totally capable of running split end, but I'm coming here to compete for that position, too," Pathon said. "Right now they have me at flanker for whatever reason, but I'm coming in to compete for the void that's missing without Koren being here."
Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
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