BY Art Thiel 07:23PM 08/03/2011

Thiel: Suddenly, Seahawks don’t have to rely on QB

Surprise addition of free agent TE Zach Miller was a shift for Seahawks; by adding to a strength it helps cover for QB Jackson

Seahawks general manager John Schneider, and head coach Pete Carroll made a bold move in acquiring free agent TE Zach Miller. / Rod Mar, Seahawks

Now I get it – pitch count.

That’s how the Seahawks are going to win games this season –  by keeping new quarterback Tarvaris Jackson’s pass attempts around, say, eight or nine a game.

Maybe that’s low, especially when behind 28-0. The point is,  with two veteran, quality tight ends and an offensive line of five athletic nasties clearing space for  Marshawn Lynch’s Beastquakes, a heavy emphasis on the rush reduces the chances for Jackson, the weak link,  to make game-losing mistakes.

The addition this week of  Zach Miller, whom Huskies football fans may remember from his studhoss days at Arizona State,  makes the two-tight-end formation that  head coach Pete Carroll always has always loved  a real possibility.

In signing Miller to a hefty, five-year $34 million free-agent contract, $18  million guaranteed, the Seahawks burned through a lot of their remaining room under the salary cap.  But more important,  they improved a strength.

That’s the surprise in the Miller signing – rather than filling an obvious hole,  they upgraded a position that already had a quality starter, John Carlson.

At least that’s how it appears. Absent an actual pads practice until Thursday, much less even a pretend game,  no one is certain of anything. The Seahawks open the exhibition season Aug. 11 in San Diego, and by then a half-dozen blown hammies and twisted knees can change everything.

But as long as we all agree that so far all field matters in the NFL are currently acts of imagination, well, Carroll is entitled to a dream state without end.

“We’ve added another really good football player to our team,” he gushed this week, and for once was not over-selling.   “Anyone that thinks (Carlson will be traded) just doesn’t get it.  They will play in tandem. They’ll be thrilled with the flexibility.

“I’m really hoping that this is going to be difficult for our opponents because of the matchups we’ll be able to create.”

Besides being mid-20s guys in their primes who can block as well as catch, Miller and Carlson (6-5, 250 pounds each)  together mean that, along with Lynch and wide receivers Mike Williams and Sidney Rice, the Seahawks can start five big, proven veterans who can block, receive and run well. That is a rare collection of attributes, and a startling makeover on offense.

Because the offensive line will start two rookies (James Carpenter, John Moffitt), a second-year left tackle (Russell Okung) and a third-year center (Max Unger) the firepower may not be evident for awhile. But whenever those guys get to the point of reacting instead of thinking, the Seahawks offense will amass many yards on fewer possessions.

Jackson? He’s proven to be an excellent hander-offer.  The other stuff – you know, passing — is supplemental. Gravy.  A fifth ace.  A  .275 hitter in the eight-hole.

When he does throw,  the scouting reports say that the main virtue of Rice (6-4, 202), acquired as a free agent from Minnesota where he was a teammate of Jackson’s, is an extraordinary ability to catch most anything thrown in his zip code — high, low, behind, ahead. Which should help cover Jackson’s weakness.

And if the passing target is either tight end,  the chance for coverage by a little guy one-on-one is high.

“You’ve got two tight ends I think are as good as there is in football.” said Tom Cable, the new assistant head coach who had Miller when both were with the Oakland Raiders. “That’s a strong statement.   I’ve seen them both in person, and they’re very good.”

The signing of Miller, 25,  was unexpected, and a game-changer. The acquisition is where the shedding of high-salaried veterans last season and in this short preseason starts to pay off — dedicating big money where it does the most good, rather than to a player on the downside of his career (Shaun Alexander).  It also allows the Seahawks a greater chance to get away with the high-risk maneuver of starting Jackson, who didn’t do much in four years with the Vikings to suggest he’s a franchise quarterback.

Miller’s catch totals in his first four years (46, 56, 66 and 60) demonstrated his value to the Raiders, and his selection to the Pro Bowl means the word was out about the guy.  The presence on the staff of Cable might have been the tie-breaker for Seattle, but it didn’t seem as if there were many NFL bidders for his services. Just as there weren’t for Jackson, for easier-to-understand reasons.

However it came to be, the Seahawks were hyper-aggressive in the market. Besides Miller and Rice, they obtained guard Robert Gallery (another Cable crony from Oakland) and defensive tackle Alan Branch, while re-signing Brandon Mebane, the one Seahawks free agent that was a must -have. All are scheduled to starters.

As was mentioned, the season so far is one only of imagination. But the Seahawks have made the moves necessary to be eligible for the Dream Bowl, as long as no one is in a hurry this season to see how soon it plays in 3-D reality.


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  • Anonymous

    come on, 

    before the start of last year, nobody would have predicted how Mike Williams would play. I love that he ended up being such a great receiver for us, but here it is, not even a game officially played, and its all about TJ being a weak link? 

    The Media is all about the bandwagon but you will end eating those words.