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Originally published August 18, 2011 at 8:24 PM | Page modified August 19, 2011 at 7:20 PM

Zach Miller gives Seahawks a lot of power at TE

Miller was the cherry on top of Seattle's free-agent sundae, a finishing touch so to speak who is one of the league's top catchers at tight end.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Zach Miller's hands have caught more than just the NFL's attention.

He is one of only four tight ends in the league with 50 or more receptions in each of the three past seasons.

Just don't say Miller's hands are soft. That's simply not possible for a tight end, whose job description requires him to block the big uglies along the defensive line one play, and then catch a pass the next.

"You have the lineman hands," Miller said, holding his out for display. "The swollen knuckles and the bloody fingers, peeled back nails."

And Miller wouldn't have it any other way.

Blocking is a part of the job he embraces, and his ability in that regard is part of the reason Seattle ponied up the five-year, $34 million contract to lure him away from the Oakland Raiders as an unrestricted free agent.

Miller was the cherry on top of Seattle's free-agent sundae, a finishing touch so to speak. Sidney Rice was the kind of top-shelf receiver Seattle had been jonesing to acquire for more than a year. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and left guard Robert Gallery filled glaring vacancies in the starting lineup.

Tight end was different. John Carlson was the established starter, and while his 2010 season was a disappointment, he caught more passes in each of his first two seasons with the team than any other tight end in franchise history.

But at age 25, Miller is younger and not only regarded as a stronger blocker and a more prolific receiver, but he had four years of experience playing under Tom Cable, the Seahawks' new offensive-line coach.

"Zach is an on-the-line blocker that can really hold his own and do a nice job," coach Pete Carroll said. "He knows all of our schemes and our principles, all of the movement stuff we do."

On a rebuilding team with lots of questions and relatively little experience, tight end just might be the strength of the 2011 Seahawks. There are 18 different tight ends in this league who have totaled more than 130 catches over the past three seasons in the NFL, and the Seahawks are the only team in the league currently employing two of them.

Carlson was one of the bigger disappointments of last year's team. His year began with Pro Bowl expectations but ended with a career-low 31 catches.

"I was disappointed that we didn't get him the football more," Carroll said. "Not because of John, but because of us.

"I didn't think we did a good enough job."

Carlson has not practiced since Saturday because of a shoulder injury, which Carroll described as a labrum issue. It's unlikely Carlson will play in Saturday's exhibition game against Minnesota. Carlson's longterm role in Seattle remains an open question as he is unsigned beyond 2011. Seattle's coach has been insistent the team has plans for Carlson this year.

Seattle has more than just two options at the position. Anthony McCoy — Seattle's sixth-round pick last year — is an effective end-line blocker who's growing as a receiver, while Dominique Byrd has become a name to know this training camp. Byrd, a former third-round pick from USC, has shown great quickness and agility as a receiver.

"There's nothing we can't do," Carroll said.

"I think we have a very versatile group right now."

Tight ends are the football equivalent of queens on a chess board. There are just so many different ways they can be deployed.

"It's just moving the tight end around," Miller said. "Put him out wide, line him up just like he's a wideout, or you can put him as a tackle."

The tight end is the NFL's hybrid, a player who must be half lineman and half receiver to be effective.

"You have to be able to balance both of them," Miller said. "You have to be good at both of them or you just end up doing the only thing you're good at if you can't block or you can't run the routes."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Saturday

Exhibition, Minnesota @ Seahawks, 7 p.m., Ch. 5

Zach to the future
Only four tight ends have more receiving yards over the past three NFL seasons than Zach Miller, signed from Oakland.
Totals from 2008 to '10 Rec. Yds. TDs
Jason Witten, Dallas 269 2,984 15
Antonio Gates, San Diego 189 2,643 26
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City and Atlanta 249 2,581 22
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis 214 2,301 19
Zach Miller, Oakland 182 2,268 9
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 165 2,237 22
Kellen Winslow, Cleveland and Tampa Bay 186 2,042 13
Chris Cooley, Washington 189 2,030 6

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