With the Seattle Seahawks reportedly interested in free agent Terrell Owens and San Diego's Vincent Jackson, one person likely hoping neither of those players ends up in Seattle is Ben Obomanu.
Entering his fourth season and embroiled in an intense battle among 12 receivers for a roster spot, Obomanu believes this could be the year he gets a chance for some consistent playing time.
He mostly worked with the first unit this offseason, along with Deon Butler, Mike Williams and Golden Tate, with T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch nursing injuries. Obomanu has been playing X, or split end, but he has enough versatility to move inside and play the slot, as he did during Mike Holmgren’s tenure in Seattle.
At 6-foot, 206 pounds Obomanu has decent size. He’s not a burner, but possesses enough speed to get deep and create separation against man defense. He’s got great hands, and is a good blocker in the run game. He’s a smart receiver who can read defenses and find a soft spot in a zone. Essentially, Obomanu is a good, all-around receiver who does not do one thing particularly well.
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Obomanu says he’s comfortable with offensive coordinator Jermy Bates' new offensive system.
“Coach (Jeremy) Bates has a pretty big playbook,” Obomanu said. “And I think the biggest thing is once you learn the concepts, then you get to define all the little nuisances of formations and things like that. So I feel pretty good going into our little summer break right now, knowing that I know the plays and I know some of the checks and audibles.”
A seventh round pick by Seattle in 2006, Obomanu has had to fight for a roster spot every season he’s been with the Seahawks, so head coach Pete Carroll preaching competition is nothing new.
“The biggest thing is making a play,” Obomanu said. “Sometimes I think with competition it gets kind of skewed a little bit because somebody makes a big play or has one good day and then you think that they are beating you out. But at the same time, you just have to wait for your day.
“And in my position, I think that I have taken advantage of the opportunities that I’ve had to make plays and on certain days when the ball is just coming my way and I get 10 balls in practice. I think I’ve taken advantage of that. So the thing is, you just want to make sure that you’re involved and not forgotten about.”
Obomanu said he looks to T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s ascension up the depth chart in Cincinnati for inspiration. Like Obomanu, Houshmandzadeh was a seventh round pick who had to battle for more playing time each season.
“I already admired T.J. before he even got to Seattle,” Obomanu said. “But once he came to Seattle, it was kind of like the same situation. He was a seventh round pick, and he talked about how he had to work. How he had to play special teams. How he had to play third and fourth receiver. Then eventually he became a starter, and the contracts and stuff came, too.
“So it’s one of those things where you have to weather the storm, and just deal with all of the competition every training camp until you get to the point where he is.” Houshmandzadeh finally broke through in his fourth season in the league, starting 13 games and catching 73 balls in 2004.
Obomanu would have had his opportunity two years ago when the Seahawks suffered a rash of injuries at receiver. However, he was one of the injured, suffering a broken collarbone during preseason play.
Obomanu played mostly special teams last year and finished with only four receptions. But he believes that given an opportunity he can contribute. In order to stay in shape for training camp Obomanu returned to the intense heat in his home state of Alabama to train.
“The heat index is always up to 110,” he said. “So I figure if I go out, I like working out in the middle of the day when it’s the hottest that it will get, so when I come back to the Pacific Northwest I can just breeze past guys because it’s actually cool for me.”