Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 8/6/13
Looking at the playing field Maybe the Seattle Seahawks shouldn’t have released Leon Washington… It’s starting to look that way following the news that Percy Harvin will be out for – at the very least – twelve weeks of action in the upcoming season. Just our luck, huh. Going forward the Seahawks have yet to name his replacement in the return game. That’s not to say they aren’t doing their due diligence on replacing him, but rather that they’ve just yet to show their hand on this matter. From nearly all accounts, and oh there are many, Pete Carroll has been trying just about everyone smaller than Red Bryant in the return game at training camp. The cornerbacks in particular seem to be getting the most attention, which really does make sense at this point; it just doesn’t seem wise to risk losing another receiver to injury for kick returns. Of the eleven corners currently on this squad, only Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Antoine Winfield and (I think) DeShawn Shead have been excluded from this tryout. On to the Candidates… Could Jeremy Lane be the next return man? (Photo: seahawks.com) It’s not just the cornerbacks getting a look in the return game. From what I’ve gathered Golden Tate, who saw limited action returning punts in the 2010 season, has been getting some looks as a punt returner as well. While I feel that physically he presents one of the best skill sets for the job, the risk of losing him to injury on a return vastly outweighs the potential reward. Simply put, if the Seahawks lose Tate, Early Doucet becomes a starter. Nothing against Doucet, but… please no. Worth noting is that the Seahawks actually had Tate lined up with a second returner, sometimes Walter Thurmond, when he was returning punts in camp. I want to assume this was done to minimize the risk of injury to Tate, but then there’s the whole having Thurmond back there as well that kind of makes that a moot point, what with his injury history and all. Moving on from Tate and the corners, there isn’t much in the way of legitimate candidates. The Seahawks first pick in the 2013 draft, Christine Michael, has expressed an interest in the opening, but I’m not so sure he’s built for the job. All plans are out the window now with Harvin out. (Photo: q13fox.com( Firstly, his well documented ball security issues haven’t been addressed (he’s fumbling, like a lot, in training camp) and he’s more of a straight forward power runner than an agile player in open space. We all want to pretend that Michael is the second coming, because he was the Seahawks first pick last April, but sometimes you’ve got to be realistic about one’s abilities. And Michael’s, well they don’t translate well in the return game. A quantifiable example of this is that his college team, the Texas A&M Aggies, didn’t use him in the receiving game; were he good in open space, I’m sure they would have. Realistically, of all the running backs in Seattle’s stable it has to be Robert Turbin who presents the most upside in the return game; a scathing indictment of the Seahawks disposition for acquiring power backs. The Seahawks best option though, no matter the position, has to be Earl Thomas. When that guy makes interceptions, and oh how often he does, the things he does in open space are astounding. There is just too much risk to allow Earl Thomas to return kicks. (Photo: seahawks.com) He’s got great quickness and agility to match. Once again though, he is FAR too important to this team to risk losing him to injury in the return game. From where I’m sitting he is probably the most important player on this team, even taking into account Russell Wilson. While we know little of what Dan Quinn, the new defensive coordinator, has in store it is worth noting that there was no more important a piece to Gus Bradley’s defence than Earl Thomas. And the Winner is At this point in the article you’re most likely sick of hearing how important some of the Seahawks most physically suited return men are. It’s sad, I know, but true; especially on the Earl Thomas front. Moving on though, it’s not like the Seahawks don’t have any expendable (for lack of a better word) options. Namely from their embarrassment of riches at the cornerback position. Of all the names I’ve heard getting attention in training camp as a returner, one of either Jeremy Lane and or Will Blackmon make the most sense; I give a slight edge to Lane. While both players have had an impressive showing in training camp, neither is an integral part of this clubs success. Lane has the potential to be a starter, and actually handled the role quite well in the absence of Browner last season while he was suspended for four games for violating the NFL‘s PED policy. This season though, it will take considerably more injuries and or suspensions for Lane to start in so much as a nickel package. As for Blackmon, it’s going to take injuries, suspensions and some kind of a miracle to even get as far as an appearance in the dime. I give the edge to Lane in this competition because of his athletic ability. He’s a small, crafty little bugger that ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds, meaning he’s kind of really fast. On another note, Lane can actually (with a few things going incredibly right or wrong) contribute to this club. Blackmon, well, he’ll be lucky to make the final roster. Returning kicks would ACTUALLY be his sole purpose for occupying a spot on the final 53 man roster. That just seems wrong on so many levels, but mostly because this team has the potential to be one of the deepest and most balanced squads in the NFL. Who do you see returning kicks in Seattle? Leave a comment below or tweet me @JDBurkeOV CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE SEAHAWKS BLOG PAGE IN OUR CLUBHOUSE SECTION AT NWSB!
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