The Seattle Seahawks made an announcement Thursday. It just wasn’t the one you and the football world have been waiting for.
No, Russell Wilson still hadn’t agreed to a contract extension beyond his rookie deal that ends after this coming season. A wholly artificial deadline that “sources” have floated in national stories as being Friday at 10:25 a.m., when the quarterback takes the field at team headquarters in Renton to begin the first practice of training camp, seems meant to spur an agreement.
But when The News Tribune asked coach Pete Carroll last month if the team would stop negotiating with Wilson and focus on the upcoming season if it had no deal by the start of camp, Carroll said: “No, I don’t care how long we keep working. Whatever it takes to do the right thing.”
So Friday may or may not be the end of talks with Wilson’s agent for 2015.
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Instead, the Seahawks announced Thursday that Dave Canales is their new wide receivers coach. He is replacing the retired Kippy Brown.
Canales joined the Seahawks as an entry-level quality-control coach in 2010. He moved that year with coach Pete Carroll from USC to Seattle; Carroll hired Canales in 2009 to be USC’s weight room coach. Since coming to Seattle, Canales has helped work with the Seahawks’ quarterbacks and assisted Brown with the receivers.
He’s going to be coaching a spotlighted group that will be key to Seattle’s offense in 2015.
Conventional wisdom — plus anyone who saw the Seahawks try to throw the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line last season — said wide receiver would be the position Seattle upgraded first and most this offseason.
The Seahawks have indeed upgraded. Starting with a tight end.
That’s what Jimmy Graham is by title. In actuality, he was split out the majority of his snaps the past few seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Now that the Seahawks have his unique size and versatility after trading center Max Unger and their first-round draft choice this year, they are planning to use the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham all over the field, too.
“We really just want to just fit him in and kinda see exactly what we have,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “We’ve seen enough tape of him playing around the league, obviously with the Saints. So we kinda know what he can do a little bit. But we want to fit him in with our terminology, our schemes. … There will be stuff here and there that will be specifically for him.
Seattle was 20th in the league in touchdown percentage in the red zone, scoring TDs just 31 times in 60 trips (51.7 percent) inside the 20. It was 53.3 percent in 2013.
Graham has 38 catches inside the red zone the past three seasons — 28 of those (74 percent) went for touchdowns.
Less than a month of OTAs and minicamp practices this spring hinted at how much the Seahawks will feature Graham around the end zone. It’s the reason they traded Unger, their two-time Pro Bowl center and anchor of a shaky offensive line, to isolate Graham inside and outside on shorter defensive backs, or have Wilson at times just chuck it up in Graham’s direction.
Wilson’s spent his first three seasons throwing those balls to the shorter Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Ricardo Lockette, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and others. Since Wilson became its QB in 2012, Seattle has thrown it just 54 percent of the time inside the foe’s 20-yard line. That’s 25th-most often in the league in that span.
With Graham now in a passing game that last season threw fewer times than anyone else in the league, the idea is defenses will no longer be able to stack nine or 10 men near the line of scrimmage in the red zone. The Seahawks believe teams won’t be able to as aggressively jam Baldwin, Kearse and Lockette, as the Patriots did on Seattle’s final offensive play to beat the Seahawks in February’s Super Bowl. And foes won’t be able to focus solely on defending Marshawn Lynch’s power running — at least not without potentially stinging retribution now.
The Seahawks didn’t stop upgrading their receivers with Graham. In May, they sent four picks to Washington to move from the bottom of the third round to the top so they could draft Tyler Lockett from Kansas State.
Carroll has already proclaimed Lockett the punt and kickoff returner after Seattle suffered poor returns and starting field positions last season. Yet Lockett has also impressed coaches with his polished and subtly skilled route running. Expect him to get many chances during exhibition games starting Aug. 14 to catch passes from the slot and outside.
At 5-10, 182 pounds, Lockett isn’t the big, physical receiver the Seahawks appear to need as a true wide receiver. Chris Matthews is. He’s 6-5 and 218. He’s coming off his NFL breakout game in Super Bowl 49 with his first catches, first 100-yard game and first touchdown of his career.
Carroll said training camp and the exhibition season are chances for Matthews, a former Canadian Football League player, to prove he is the big, physical wideout everyone thought Seattle had to draft.
UPGRADED AT WR?
How staff writer Gregg Bell sees the Seahawks’ depth chart at wide receiver, in order of status: