The Triggerman: Nate Burleson
We are all excited.
We are all eager.
We are all waiting.
Because ANYTHING has gotta be better than last year, right?
What we are all ready to see is the new-look Seahawks get under way with their new-look offense.
Particularly, the passing game.
Just recently gone are the days of 30-point performances and finely tuned Hasselbeck-led aerial assaults up and down Qwest Field, beautifully orchestrated by a primed, precise Mike Holmgren firing on all cylinders.
Now, we witness the 'Hawks struggle to maintain a decent drive.
Once offensive prowess has been reduced to dismal three-and-outs.
But we can get it back!
The 'Hawks have made some nice offensive moves this off-season, with the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and drafting WR Deon Butler; and not to mention Hasselbeck and Deion Branch coming back healthy.
So, already the offense looks to be in good shape—Pro Bowl caliber QB Hasselbeck is back and has the company of a Pro Bowl caliber WR in Houshmandzadeh, a former Super Bowl MVP WR in Branch, and a potential steal in rookie WR Butler—right?
With all this talent we should have a pretty good passing attack.
But what's missing?
With a big-play guy like Houshmandzadeh now in the fold, it's all too convenient to think he's the key to jumpstarting this Seahawk passing game.
But he's not.
It's Nate Burleson.
Aside from Hasselbeck, believe it or not, Burleson is going to be the difference between the Seahawks having just a good passing attack or a great passing attack. The Seahawks are sitting on something potentially special here with this particular receiving corps, and if we get it right we could really bust this thing wide open.
But it all hinges on Burleson's play.
Ok, so let's take a closer look: First off, Housh and Branch present a pretty formidable tandem and seem quite the complements to one another.
Coming off two consecutive monster years, all that T.J. did was make Ocho Cinco an afterthought in Cincinnati, proving himself to be the real go-to guy and showing that he can be consistent in his production. Most likely he is to draw a double-team from opposing defenses and constant attention from defensive coordinators.
This leaves Branch, who is quick enough and good enough to beat the one-on-one, but who also has the tendency to be a non-factor at times in the passing game. Nonetheless, Branch is favorable in one-on-one coverage—Matt will find a way to get him the ball.
Now there's the less likely chance that teams will choose to double-up Branch, freeing up Housh with one-on-one coverage; and it's needless to say this is a very favorable matchup, considering T.J.'s physical nature and one-on-one skills.
So that leaves Burleson to really get things going here. He's the wild card that can really shake things up and make things interesting for this offense. Seattle has always been a big proponent of three- and four-wide sets and there's no reason to think Gregg Knapp will shy away from it, so that leaves Burleson to account for.
OK, so let's look at the facts.
Does the guy have skills? Yes.
Can the man make plays? Yes.
Is he worth that seven-year, $49 million deal he struts? Uhhhh, not quite.
But let's admit it, the guy can make plays and he's shown that in games past, whether it being receiving or returning.
But let's also admit that he's flaky. One minute he's up, the next he's down.
No better example of this came at last year's opener at Buffalo when he dropped a sure "gimme" in the endzone that any man's unborn child could have easily caught for a touchdown, only to come right back to make a much more difficult spectacular leaping grab over CB Jabari Greer in the corner of the endzone.
Yeah...that's the Burleson we're accustomed to watching.
BUT, when he's great, we are great and that much harder to defend. That is why he is the key to this passing game really firing on all cylinders, really maximizing its full potential.
With his speed and big-play potential lined in the slot, coupled with Housh and Branch as the bookends, there are scary numbers to be had. If we play it right, this could be a potential three-headed monster, because Nate versus a nickel CB is a matchup we'll most likely win all day.
That is, of course, if he's consistent!
Adding to his " wild-card status" is the condition of his knee and how he bounces back from a torn ACL that occurred in the same game as his lone TD in the aforementioned Buffalo opener. How confident he is in his knee and of his game will determine what kind of season we can expect from him.
The biggest disappointment with the injury was that he was expected to really turn the corner in his game last season, coach Holmgren expected a lot of him. Hopefully, he can return to the big-play guy we have known him to be and not fall prey to the lack of confidence and timidity that a torn ACL can have on an athlete.
Burleson's play is considered even more crucial when considering the additional supporting cast the offense boasts with TE John Carlson and the speedy rookie Butler thrown in the mix.
Imagine the potential of that combo! Because after all Seattle's passing attack has always been one of "the sum being greater than the parts" variety. The parts were never greater than the whole; Hasselbeck has never had a clear cut No. 1 WR to carry the team, rather the work load has always been spread around.
And it's crucial that Burleson play up to his fair share of the work load now!
That being said, it isn't logical to expect him to put up a 1,000 yard season. An earnest 50 rec./800 yd. effort—similar to his 2007 numbers—would be effective enough, considering the other weapons at receiver we have to draw from.
But make no mistake about it, a fair portion lands on him, Burleson..."Nasty" Nate...Nathan...Nathaniel...whatever you want to call him.
He is the throw-switch, the Wild Card, the Triggerman to this potentially explosive offense—the difference between just good or great!
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