Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Thursday, August 14, 2008
Seahawks position battles revisited

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The position battles we previewed before training camp bear revisiting. We outlined two for each team. We continue with the Seahawks:

Cornerback: Kelly Jennings vs. Kevin Hobbs

JenningsHobbs

What we said then: Coach Mike Holmgren created a mini-stir during June minicamps when he mentioned, somewhat casually, that Jennings' job at right cornerback might not be safe. A first-round draft choice in 2006, Jennings improved last season. He has enjoyed a strong offseason, but Hobbs still might be gaining on him.

Signed from Auburn in 2006, Hobbs flashed surprisingly impressive natural ability for a player undrafted out of college. The Seahawks signed him to the active roster late last season as Hobbs improved under new secondary coach Jim Mora. The trend has continued this offseason, creating a competitive situation. Hobbs holds a considerable size advantage over Jennings, but he's still the underdog in this race.

What we say now: Jennings' job appears safe. Hobbs has not gained on him. If an injury felled Jennings, swing safety Jordan Babineaux might get the start.

Kicker: Olindo Mare vs. Brandon Coutu
MareCoutu

What we said then: Life without Josh Brown could get interesting for the Seahawks, particularly during camp. Brown, one of the more clutch kickers in the game, signed a free-agent contract with the rival Rams. The Seahawks signed Mare in free agency before drafting Coutu in the seventh round. The race is wide open.

"When you have a placekicker that's been good and been with you, you kind of check that off your list and say, 'I don't have to worry about that too much,' " Holmgren said. "I believe both Coutu and Olindo, they're good, but they're new to me, and we'll see what happens."

Even with Brown connecting on 82.4 percent of his field-goal tries last season, the Seahawks posted a 1-4 record in games decided by three points last season.

Brown was an accurate field-goal kicker who became increasingly prolific with his kickoffs. He had 25 touchbacks over the last two seasons, up from 12 in his first three years in the league. Brown had also learned to conquer the tricky winds at Qwest Field, where dank conditions can play with a kicker's mind.

Mare or Coutu will have a difficult time replacing one of the top kickers in franchise history.

What we say now: The Seahawks continue carrying both kickers even though roster spots are at a premium. Coutu handled kickoffs during the exhibition opener. Mare handled field goals and extra points. Neither faltered. Kicking in the Metrodome eliminated weather concerns.

Coutu sent kickoffs to the 5-, 3-, 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-yard lines. He sent another kickoff 2 yards deep in the end zone. His kickoffs traveled to the 3 on average, but the Vikings managed three long returns (29, 31 and 54 yards). Coutu made the tackle on the 54-yard return. Mare made field-goal tries of 20 and 21 yards. He was perfect on four extra points.

Mare will handle kickoffs against the Bears on Saturday. Coutu will handle field goals and extra points.

Also worth noting

The receiving situation continues to intrigue and confuse. There simply isn't much clarity. Bobby Engram's injury muddied the situation further. Ben Obomanu, Jordan Kent and Michael Bumpus have gained some momentum lately. Logan Payne had the momentum early in camp until a rib injury sidelined him. I have no idea how this is going to shake out. The Seahawks have no idea. The players have no idea. It is a crapshoot. ... The situation at backup linebacker could gain clarity if Will Herring can't get back on the field. David Hawthorne has almost certainly earned a spot. Do the Seahawks keep six or seven? ... Carlson, Jeb Putzier and Will Heller would be the three tight ends. Joe Newton looks good, too, but the practice squad might be his destination.