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Originally published September 6, 2011 at 8:16 PM | Page modified September 6, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Seahawks' depth at receiver is a fine mess

Just try figuring out how Seattle will distribute the ball between Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Zach Miller. "You can only imagine how a defense is going to look at it," Miller said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Seahawks @ 49ers, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13

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RENTON — The uncertainty in Seattle's passing game was a problem to begin last season. There was a serious question whether Seattle had enough capable receivers.

This season, the uncertainty is a sign of progress. Just try figuring out how Seattle will distribute the ball among Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Zach Miller.

"You can only imagine how a defense is going to look at it," Miller said.

The Seahawks' most intriguing story line this season is at quarterback, whether focusing on starter Tarvaris Jackson specifically or the position in general. But so much time has been spent scrutinizing the man who will throw the ball that the addition of the two Pro Bowlers who will catch it has been overlooked.

A year ago, Seattle's five wide receivers had a combined 64 receptions the previous season. Now, the Seahawks have three players who've caught more than 60 passes each at least once in the previous two years. Miller has done it twice.

Now the question is how to spread the ball on a team whose starting receivers and tight end have never played together before.

"It's something that's obviously going to play out here," Miller, the tight end, said. "But it's a good thing to have those kind of problems, because you want guys that want the ball. You want guys that are productive guys, because it just means your offense is that much better."

Miller, 25, ranks fifth among all NFL tight ends in receiving yards over the past three seasons. He led the Raiders in catches each of the past two years. Williams led Seattle with 65 receptions last year. And while Rice's status for the season opener is uncertain because of a shoulder injury, he is just two years removed from catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards in Minnesota.

"You never really know where the ball's going to go," Williams said. "But hopefully, more will come my way than the other guys."

He was joking. Well, he was mostly joking, because there is only one ball to go around.

But having a variety of options stands in sharp contrast to the Seahawks' situation a year ago, when Seattle entered the season without either of its top two receivers from 2009. Nate Burleson left as a free agent, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was released.

Deion Branch was Seattle's most productive returning wideout, with 45 receptions in 2009. He was traded after four games. John Carlson caught more than 50 passes in each of his first two seasons, but his role in the offense receded significantly last year.

Out of all that uncertainty, Williams emerged as a consistent threat. Or at least he was consistent until the final month of the season, when injuries started to catch up with him.

Ben Obomanu showed he was more than just a special-teams contributor. And while Golden Tate had a disappointing rookie year, he remains a talent the Seahawks want to incorporate into the offense.

"If everyone poses a threat, then that just helps everyone else," Williams said.

There are suddenly a lot of options to choose from when it comes time to throw downfield, which means defenses have some decisions to make.

"Who are they going to want to cover?" Miller asked. "Who's going to be their priority? I think that will decide a lot on who gets the ball."

Note

• Seattle signed G Paul Fanaika and DL Pep Levingston to its practice squad, releasing S Josh Pinkard and DE Maurice Fountain to make room.

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

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