Last season, the Seahawks inexplicably kept two kickers on the roster, frustrating fans who wondered how they could do that while they suffered through attrition at every offensive position.
But president Tim Ruskell insisted that Brandon Coutu, a rookie, was one of the best 53 players the Hawks had. Ruskell was probably right, but it still was an odd decision to keep two kickers—Coutu (No. 7 pictured) and veteran Olindo Mare (No. 10).
Ruskell explained his thinking to media after the season: “There was a lot of talk about (Coutu around the league), and we thought we should hang on to him until the trade deadline (in October). After the trade deadline, there was never any pressure that we had to have another roster spot, so we kept Brandon as insurance.”
But will Ruskell do it again?
After struggling with a groin injury in New Orleans in 2007, Mare ended up having a bounce-back season. He was one of the top two players (along with rookie tight end John Carlson) on a Seattle team that lost many to injury and got poor performances out of most of its defenders.
Mare converted 24 of his 27 field-goal attempts, an 88.9 percent rate that was the third best of his 12-year career. His percentage ranked ninth in the NFL last year.
The Hawks went with Mare because he was a veteran and because he’s one of the best kickoff men in the league. He tied for second last season with 22 touchbacks.
The Seahawks drafted Coutu as seventh-round insurance in case Mare couldn’t come back from the groin injury, and they ended up keeping Coutu even though they went through a dozen receivers and needed extra linemen in the final month.
So it remains one of the interesting questions as camp begins: Which kicker will win the job this time? And will the Hawks dare to keep two kickers again? Or will they try to trade one to a team in need?
If Coutu is going to beat out Mare, he will have to improve his kickoffs. To that end, Coutu has been working with kicking legend Morten Andersen this offseason.
“Kickoffs are the thing right now for him,” Andersen told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re trying to get more power through the kickoff, better hang time and better distance. His ball-striking on his field goals is exceptional, but in order to be a complete NFL kicker you have to both of those skill-sets. The field-goal skill-set I’m pretty confident with, and I’m adding some of the mental specific things, putting him in tough situations.”
Coutu said of the Seahawks, “They wouldn’t have kept me if they didn’t see something in me. I’m going to go in there and I know it’s going to be an open competition, and I’m going to prepare myself the best I can.”