First off, I'll introduce myself: I'm Dan, and I'm a Seahawk Addict. I love the Hawks; I follow them to a point of obsession. I basically write about the things I wonder about: who will the Hawks sign in free-agency? Who will they draft? Who are these guys that are signing futures contracts? Who is hidden in the depth chart that will impress this year? Who is that missing puzzle piece? Who will Pete bring in this year to be Mike Williams 2.0? These are the things that I love to research, so I decided to start putting it down in writing. I go back and watch film because I find it fun: What makes a guy an effective player? What is this guy or that guy doing wrong? I can't watch individual players most of the time during live broadcasts so I go back and try to break it down. Some of you may find the John Morgan-esque game-tape study boring or tedious and if that's the case just skip over it. I created and write for a blog called The Seehock. Check it out if you love the Hawks and need some more commentary and analysis from a Seahawks fan like myself. GO HAWKS!
With the offseason comes a lot of discussion on who the Seahawks will be looking to re-sign for the upcoming year. I hear endless arguments about bringing back guys like Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Mebane, Leon Washington, and Olindo Mare. I submit that Brandon Stokley should be in that conversation as well.
Brandon Stokley played in 13 games in 2010. In those 13 games he caught 43 passes for 481 yrds and 2 TD. Those numbers aren’t mind-boggling. Respectable yeah, but not amazing. I’ll point out that he was picked up off his couch by the Hawks in Week 4 and by the end of the Wild Card game at Qwest Field against the Saints, barely three months later he was our best slot receiver by a long shot and had caught 4 balls for 73 yards and a magnificent 45-yard TD.
In fact, he was our best receiver, period, in the playoffs, in the slot or outside, catching 12 passes for 158 yrds and 2 TD. Ben Obomanu and Mike Williams each had 9 catches for their part, and then Justin Forsett was the next guy on the list with 5 receptions. So in other words, the savvy vet showed up to play when it mattered most.
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It’s not a coincidence that the two most clutch players for the Hawks during the playoffs this year were a couple of guys in their mid-thirties, Brandon Stokley and Matt Hasselbeck. Say what you will about their regular season, but this team needs veteran leadership and experience in the big moments and both those guys have been there before and know how to react.
Stokley is a guy that you just want to have on your team, in my mind, and the Hawks need to bring him back. Especially now that it seems likely that Hasselbeck will be back as well. By the end of the year they had developed great chemistry and were effective in the clutch. Give Hasselbeck, Mike Williams, and Stokley an entire off-season to get on the same page and beautiful things could happen.
Hasselbeck, to his credit this year, was throwing to a guy that was out of football prior to the start of the season (Williams), a guy that had been on special teams for the past few years (Obomanu), an undisciplined rookie (Tate), a surprisingly dropsy second-year guy with lack of size (Butler), and a guy that has spent most of his career thus far on practice squads (Martin). Try and tell me that you don’t think we need some veteran leadership in that WR corps.
Stokley provides a mentorship to the young guys like Golden Tate, whose main problem thus far has been his route running. Stokley is one of the NFL’s best route runners. If Tate is our future slot guy, our version of Percy Harvin, like I really want to believe that he is, he will need a little time to develop. Stokley is a great stopgap that will come cheaply and he’ll overachieve for the Hawks.
I went back and re-watched the disappointing loss to the Bears in the playoffs, and zeroed in on Stokley to try and figure out why he’s so effective. I broke down some plays that he was involved in below:
(8:41 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep right to B.Stokley. (2nd and 10)
3WR, 2 RB set, Stokley lined up slot left; he runs a deep corner route and Hass barely overthrows him. Stokes lays out for it but the ball skips off his fingertips. Would have been a big gain, sort of the story of this game.
(1:09 2nd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to B.Stokley to SEA 34 for 2 yards (D.Moore). (2nd and 10)
Stokley lined up in the slot right, in a 4WR, 1RB set. Shotgun, balled is snapped, Hasselbeck’s first option isn’t open, he gets pressured, backpedals away from pressure. Stokley initially runs a 5-yard curl route, sees that Hass is in trouble, and fades towards the sideline away from his defender. Hass hits him about two yards from the sideline and he is immediately tackled for a two-yard gain. Stokley is the one who made the play here; he saw that his original route was nullified so he went to a place where he couldn't be defended. Hass saw him and they linked up for a short gain instead of settling for a throw out of bounds or worse, a sack.
(4:04 3rd Q) M.Hasselbeck pass short middle to B.Stokley to CHI 20 for 10 yards (L.Briggs). (1st and 10)
Stokley is lined up slot left, in a 2RB, 3WR set. Bears are in a cover two; Stokley runs a short seam route, finding the open spot in the zone. He catches it and falls forward for a 9.5-yard pickup. Easy money, Stokley finds the weak spot in the defense with ease, and Hass sees him immediately.
(3:04 3rd Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete deep left to B.Stokley. PENALTY on CHI-C.Tillman, Illegal Contact, 5 yards, enforced at CHI 18 - No Play. (3rd and 8)
Lined up in the slot in a 3 WR, 1 RB set. Hass in the shotgun. Obomanu out to the right, ball is snapped. They fake a swing pass to the right side, Hass pumps towards Obo. Turns back, by the time he is looking left Stokley has sold the out-route to the sideline and has broken it off for a corner route. The CB Tillman bites on the out-route, realizes he's beat, and has to bump Stokley to slow him down. Hass over throws it out of bounds (lucky they didn’t call uncatchable), but it doesn't matter: illegal contact. If Hass had been on the money it would have been a TD but at least Stokley has given them another First Down.
(13:15 4th Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short right to B.Stokley pushed ob at CHI 24 for 9 yards (J.Bullocks). (2nd and 10)
Stokley lined up to the outside off the line, Hass in shotgun. Stokes runs a 5 yard out-route, catches the pass and runs up the sideline for 4 yards, diving, and barely falling short of the 1st down. It looks like Hass looked downfield for Mike Williams first, saw it wasn’t there, and checked down to Stokley. Once he catches it, I just really like how Stokley sniffs out the 1st down marker and never just runs out of bounds. He's a first down machine. He doesn't quite get it here, but it’s not for lack of effort. In a West Coast Offense, if that's what the Hawks will do more of next year, this kind of bang bang play is key.
(12:50 4th Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short right intended for B.Stokley INTERCEPTED by T.Jennings at CHI 18. T.Jennings to CHI 18 for no gain (B.Stokley). PENALTY on CHI-T.Jennings, Defensive Pass Interference, 5 yards, enforced at CHI 24 - No Play. (4th and 1)
Stokley lined up to the R on the short side of the field, in a 3WR, 1RB set. Stokley runs about a 5 yd out-route, is held by the Corner T.Jennings, and by the time he can turn around the ball is there. Jennings picked it off, but is called for Defensive Pass Interference. Jennings starts to celebrate and Stokley knows it’s a penalty, starts talking some smack. I love it. Another first down, courtesy of Brandon Stokley.
(12:39) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to B.Stokley to CHI 13 for 6 yards (J.Bullocks) [H.Melton]. (2nd and 10)
4WR set, Stokley lined up to the slot, short left. Another zone play, Stokley finds the hole in the defense and Hass finds him for a 6-yard gain.
(11:57) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to B.Stokley to CHI 2 for 11 yards (T.Jennings). (3rd and 4)
3WR, 1 RB Set. Stokley lines up to the short side of the field on the left. Ball is snapped; Stokley runs a 10-yard post route and catches the quick pass from Hass at the 2-yard line. He gets up and talks some more smack to the defender, Jennings. Stokley is keyed in and competitive. I love to see this. Another 1st down for Stokley. The guy is a machine.
(4:08 4th Q) M.Hasselbeck pass deep right to B.Stokley to CHI 45 for 21 yards (J.Bullocks, T.Jennings). (2nd and 2)
Stokley is lined up shortside right, runs a sideline route and Hass pump fakes the out route and floats a ball in to the pocket between the Safety and Corner in a cover-2 D. Good for 21 yards and another 1st down.
(2:39 4th Q) (Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass short left to B.Stokley to CHI 3 for 17 yards (M.Wright). (1st and 10)
Stokley slot L in a 3WR, 1 RB set. Once again Stokley finds a weak spot in the cover 2 and Hass hits him for 17 yards and another 1st down (and Goal to go).
(1:27 4th Q) (No Huddle, Shotgun) M.Hasselbeck pass to B.Stokley for 9 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Stokley Slot L, same set. Pretty much the same story, Stokley runs a seam route, and Hass fires a dagger into the endzone for a Touchdown.
This year, Brandon Stokley was a first down machine. Of his 43 catches in the regular season and playoffs, 28 of them were for a first down (65%). 14 of his catches came on 3rd down, 12 of which resulted in a first down, a clip of 86%. 86% of his catches on third down were for a first down. Those numbers do not even count situations where he draws penalties for 1st downs either, as a couple were illustrated above. Who do you think Hasselbeck is looking for on third down situations?
Anyway, I’ll wrap this up, but if you take a look at the Hawks’ WR corps, I think the need is there for some veteran leadership and Stokley brings a lot to the table at a low cost. He is injury prone, getting older, yes, but even injured he provides a good mentorship to the young players on how to be a pro. The Hawks, usually, will keep about six WRs on their 53-man roster. Lets take a look at who they might be:
1. Mike Williams
2. Ben Obomanu
3. Golden Tate
4. Brandon Stokley?
5. Deon Bulter? (does he recover enough from his grisly broken leg, and in time?)
6. Ruvell Martin? (did he show enough to warrant a roster spot?)
7. Isaiah Stanbeck? (does he recover enough from his Achilles tendon injury? Those types of injuries are typically very hard to recover fully from)
8. Dominque Edison? (up-and coming young speedster with a shot to compete for a spot; see a piece I did on Edison a few weeks ago here)
If they land a Free-Agent or draft a WR then the position gets crowded, but that is Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s M.O.: foster competition at a spot and take the man that performs the best.
In that case, I don’t think it hurts to bring Stokley back and have him compete for and win a spot.