The secret’s out, and Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora knows it.
Folks in NFL coaching circles are beginning to understand that tight end John Carlson is a force to be reckoned with.
“Selfishly, you want to keep him under the radar,” Mora said. “But coaches in this league aren’t stupid, they’re going to turn on the film and they’re going to see the guy doing things and have a plan for him.”
The St. Louis Rams were the latest team to underestimate the 6-foot-5, 251-pounder’s fleet feet and ability to shake away from pass coverage.
With the Rams focusing their attention on Seattle wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson, Carlson found himself with single coverage most of the game and took advantage, finishing with six receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns for a healthy, 15.8-yards-per-catch average.
Dubbed the “golden retriever” by teammate Matt Hasselbeck for his ability to repeatedly run down field, get open and return with the ball in his hand, Carlson has become the quarterback’s security blanket, along with Houshmandzadeh, with Bobby Engram now in Kansas City.
But Hasselbeck wants to get past the security blanket label.
“I think ‘playmaker’ probably would be a better word,” Hasselbeck said. “ ‘Security blanket’ might be offensive. The guy makes plays and he scores touchdowns. It was fun to see him split out wide like a wide receiver. He got a lot of flak for his 40 time at the combine, so I’m happy for him.”
Carlson says playing with a quarterback such as Hasselbeck has helped in his improvement from his rookie season.
“I love playing with Matt,” he said. “He’s such a smart player, and he does little things that the typical fan doesn’t realize that really helps the offense. Things like snap count, cadence, checking plays at the line of scrimmage, he had a couple run checks that got guys big yards. He does that on the fly, he’s a great player, and I learn a lot from him.”
Carlson fell in the 2008 draft because of less-than-spectacular combine results. But the Seahawks moved up to select the Notre Dame product in the second round, and the move paid dividends early.
Carlson finished with team records for a tight end in receptions (55) and yards (627), and tied Jerramy Stevens for the record for touchdowns catches with five in his rookie season.
And he’s sure to garner more attention from the San Francisco 49ers defense when the Seahawks face off against their NFC West Division rival on Sunday.
Although Mora understands if teams choose to take away Carlson, someone else will be open.
“You can’t take everything away, it’s impossible,” Mora said. “You’ve got 11 and they’ve got 11. You can’t double everybody, unless you put 22 out there.
“A smart quarterback and a good play-caller, when they’re in sync working together, some opportunities open up. Matt knows where to go with the football, Matt’s very smart. He’s always going to know where to go with the football.”
According to a league source, the Seahawks have added defensive lineman Derek Walker to the team’s practice squad. The Seahawks recently waived Walker to make room for linebacker D.D. Lewis. Also, the Seahawks signed offensive lineman Brian De La Puente to the practice squad. He joined the team Aug. 25 but was released on the final roster cut. To make room, Seattle released center Blake Schlueter. The Seahawks need to release a player from the practice squad to add Walker.
Eric D. Williams: 253=597=8437
SEAHAWKS’ OPPONENT THIS WEEK
San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
1:15 p.m., Sunday, Candlestick Park, SAN FRANCISCO
So far: The 49ers shocked the Arizona Cardinals, the reigning NFC champs, by beating them at Arizona, 20-16. San Francisco still has not signed the team’s first-round draft pick, Michael Crabtree, who has threatened to sit out the season if he does not receive a deal to his liking. So far the franchise is holding firm and not caving in to the talented receiver’s demands.
Last year: The Seahawks split the season series, losing at home, 33-30, but beating the 49ers on the road, 34-13.
Against the Seahawks: Seattle has won five of its past six games in San Francisco, dating back to 2003. The Seahawks lead the series, 11-9.
Stats and stuff: San Francisco wants to run the ball, but mainstay Frank Gore finished with 30 yards on 22 carries against Arizona last week. ... The 49ers defense played tough against Arizona, holding the Cardinals to 299 total yards and forcing quarterback Kurt Warner into two interceptions. ... San Francisco’s talented linebacker Patrick Willis finished with 11 tackles, two assists and an interception, while shutdown corner Nate Clements finished with four tackles and a pick.
Quotable: “We made a play here, a play there, and we won”
Gore, commenting on San Francisco’s season-opening victory over Arizona.
Eric D. Williams, The News Tribune
Sept. 13 49ers 20, Cardinals 16
Sept. 27 at Minnesota
Oct. 4 St. Louis
Oct. 11 Atlanta
Oct. 18 Bye
Oct. 25 at Houston
Nov. 1 at Indianapolis
Nov. 8 Tennessee
Nov. 12 Chicago
Nov. 22 at Green Bay
Nov. 29 Jacksonville
Dec. 6 at Seattle
Dec. 14 Arizona
Dec. 20 at Philadelphia
Dec. 27 Detroit
Jan. 3 at St. Louis