One of the big questions heading into Seattle Seahawks training camp was how well 34-year-old Matt Hasselbeck would fit into a new offensive system demanding mobility from its quarterback. I asked offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates about this following Seahawks practice Sunday. Bates could have given a noncommittal answer, but his enthusiasm for what he has seen from Hasselbeck -- on the mobility front in particular -- buoyed his answer.
"That has been such a great surprise," Bates said. "I have watched him for many years, but just watching him run the keeper game, he looks like a 23-year-old. He is extremely athletic, he is in shape and he is getting out on the edge as good as we can ask. A lot of the keeper game is selling the fake and having poise and having patience and not just running. Getting the backside to commit. He is doing all that. He has no limitations as far as getting out on the edge."
Bates' answer stood as the latest sign Hasselbeck, despite his age, is the quarterback for the Seahawks heading into the 2010 season.
This provides a good opportunity to address a mailbag question.
Jeffrey from Renton, Wash., writes: "I have a question about Charlie Whitehurst. Do you think he will beat out Hasselbeck for the starting job? Do you think he will start as the second string and become the starter later? Or is he a year or two away from starting? What is his future in Seattle?
Mike Sando: The move Seattle made to acquire Whitehurst suggested he was a player they wanted to make the starter eventually. That has not changed. The team gave up a 2011 third-round choice, moved back 20 spots in the second round this year and paid Whitehurst a little more than a backup typically would receive. The price didn't mean Whitehurst had to start right away or even this season, but it said he was in their plans.
So far, though, I've seen zero evidence Whitehurst is going to win the job on merit this season. I've seen zero evidence suggesting the Seahawks are leaning toward making Whitehurst the starter. Coach Pete Carroll says the idea is to have Whitehurst push Hasselbeck and compete with him, but if Carroll had not said those things, I'm not sure anyone would consider Whitehurst a factor in the short term.
The Seahawks' new coaching staff wanted a quarterback with the mobility and arm strength the system demands. The staff saw Whitehurst as a better value than any of the quarterbacks it would have a chance to draft this year. Seattle knew Hasselbeck would be 35 years old this season and it wasn't sure whether he would fit with what the team wanted to do. As it got to know Hasselbeck, the staff came to like him more. Hasselbeck is smart, he works extremely hard and he just knows football. His experience gives him a tremendous advantage over Whitehurst.
In the meantime, Whitehurst's play on the practice field hasn't made much of a statement. Hasselbeck, healthy after an offseason of recuperation, is moving well and in command. He just looks like a starting quarterback.
I wouldn't expect anything to change until the regular season. At that time, injuries could become a factor for Hasselbeck. Or, if the team is struggling, Carroll might decide to give Whitehurst a look just to see how he fares in game situations.