Work in Sports
QB Kitna will be crucial if 'Hawks are to fly high
The Seattle Seahawks, who lost five of their final six games last season, open their 2000 training camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., on July 19. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Seahawks this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) When the coach of a playoff team does a complete shakeup of his roster and staff, as Mike Holmgren did, does this mean that he's on his way to the Super Bowl or that he's merely throwing a tantrum?
2.) OK, Joey Galloway got everyone mad at him, granted, but devoid of its superstar wideout (make that former superstar), and possibly without Mike Pritchard, who has a bad knee, the Seattle WR corps looks like the following: Derrick Mayes, Karsten Bailey, Fabien Bownes, with possible help from No. 3 draft pick Darrell Jackson. What does quarterback Jon Kitna think about this? (Here, right into the microphone, Jon. Don't worry, you can tell us.)
3.) The 'Hawks turned soft against the run in the late going last year and the linebacker corps caught most of the heat. How do you feel about Anthony Simmons and pass-rusher Chad Brown on the outside, with new man DeShone Myles in the middle? If your answer is "just fine," then Holmgren agrees with you.
4.) Will Ricky Watters extend a friendly reception to No.1 draft Shaun Alexander, the RB selected to give Watters an occasional breather, like maybe for the rest of his career?
The Seahawks can make the playoffs if ... The Jon Kitna of the first half of the 1999 season locks the Jon Kitna of the second half of the season in the broom closet. Seattle won the AFC West last year despite a post-Thanksgiving skid where it lost five of six to close the season. Kitna had 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions in his first nine games, with the Seahawks getting off to a quick 8-2 start. But then Kitna started throwing to the guys not wearing the blue jerseys, and Seattle fell off its early pace, barely sneaking into the playoffs in the final week. A more steady, mature Kitna -- along with added depth at running back with rookie Shaun Alexander -- should be enough to secure a postseason spot for Seattle, whether it be the AFC West title or via the wild-card route.
Pivotal games: Sept. 10 vs. St. Louis; Nov. 12 at Jacksonville. The Seahawks blew the home-field advantage to Miami in the opening round of the playoffs, and Seattle blew up the Kingdome in frustration. Actually, the Kingdome was schedule for demolition anyway, but the Seahawks' loss to Miami was a bad way to go out in their final game in the building. Seattle will get the Super Bowl champion Rams in Week 2 with St. Louis coming off a short week after playing in the Monday night opener. The Seahawks' visit to Jacksonville in November is one of few possible stumbling blocks not hailing from Nashville for the Jaguars this season.
On the hot seat: Ricky Watters recorded his sixth 1,000-yard season in 1999, but his rushing touchdown production dipped to a career-low five. Seattle used the first of its two first-round picks on versatile Alabama tailback Shaun Alexander, who could push Watters for playing time. The knock on Watters has long been that he wears out his welcome, and even with another productive season, 2000 is likely to be his last in the Emerald City. That would put him right on his average of three-year stays with teams, as he spend his first three seasons in San Francisco and his second three in Philadelphia.
Up-and-comers Finding depth on the defensive line is the top priority in training camp, and second-year defensive end Lamar King will be the player with the highest expectations placed on him. The Seahawks used their 1999 first-round pick on this project out of Saginaw Valley St. And while he didn't set the world on fire in his rookie year, he didn't get many opportunities either. With Sam Adams and Phillip Daniels gone, King will be the starter from day one at one of the defensive end and could produce an excellent season. He may be a year or two away from being a Pro Bowl player, but his combination of size and speed should allow him to at least triple his total of two sacks from last season.