Who Will Be The Next Seattle Seahawks Gunner?
Thursday, May 19, 2016
On Thursday, May 12th, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette announced his retirement from football. It was a bittersweet moment for the receiver who suffered a life-threatening neck injury during the Dallas Cowboys versus Seattle Seahawks game early November of last year. Although Lockette still does not have full range of motion in his neck, he has the rest of his life to look forward to. He had given the organization five years in which he recorded just 22 career catches, but that does not tell the entire story. Lockette’s most successful role was the Seahawks’ gunner on special teams. What made Lockette special was that he was lighting fast and could lay a hit on an opponent that could literally knock his helmet off or knock him out of the game.
“I take pride in being the first one down there,” said Lockette, per Greg Bell of The Olympian. “In my head, it’s more like a game. It’s more like tag in the backyard. You’ve got two guys on you, and I’m thinking, ‘Which way am I going to go? Am I going to pick the weaker guy or the slower guy? I’m just going to pick the weaker link, and I’m just going to go at that guy and shake him and try to stop him from touching me. I run as fast as I can so they can’t hit me, then I make the tackle.”
With Lockette no longer on the field, the Seahawks will look to fill the void. Here are three players who have the skills and experience to take on the role as the primary gunner in 2016.
First up is Jeremy Lane. Lane was the primary gunner in 2014 and was considered a potential Pro Bowler for special teams before he was placed on injured reserve. The Seahawks set a team record that year for fewest punt-return yards allowed in a 16-game season at 82 yards and Lane was a big reason for that. Lane was often in position to force a fair catch or make a tackle before the returner had time to catch the ball. He finished that season with 13 special team tackles, which was the most on that team.
Next is Kelcie McCray, who is another strong candidate known for his great special teams coverage and experience at the safety position. Pro Football Focus ranked McCray as the top vise in 2014. Seahawks coaches have noticed McCray’s ability to tackle in the open field.
“He had great range, really good speed, and he played really good in space,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said according to Gregg Bell of The News Tribune. “Those are all attributes that we’re looking for in regards to a safety. And the simple fact that when he puts his body on people, he tackles really well; they go down.”
Richard Sherman got plenty of experience on special teams blocking for then-rookie wide receiver “Tyler Lockett” last season. The Pro Bowl starting cornerback provides leadership to the unit and special teams coach Bob Schneider appreciates that.
“I told him, ‘You make my job so easy when you go out there and do this for your teammates,’ ” Schneider said per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. “It makes it easy when your starters and your Pro Bowl guys are putting in that kind of effort and knowing the importance of it. When you come into this program as a rookie you might not value special teams as much. But then you see guys like that doing jobs like that. They are not doing that for anybody else but the guys in that room.’’
I am looking forward to the special teams unit this season and seeing if it can regain the number one spot.
Related Slideshow: The 10 Dumbest Coaching Decisions in NFL History
Mike Ditka - Benching Walter Payton in Super Bowl
Mike Ditka kept Walter Payton on the bench after an early fumble in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots.
The decision did not matter much as the Bears shredded the Patriots 46-10 but it's just silly. Instead, Ditka used William Perry and quarterback Jim McMahon to score two goalline touchdowns.
Walter Payton finished his career with 110 rushing touchdowns, 15 receiving touchdowns and 16,726 yards rushing. In that Super Bowl, Payton carried the ball 22 times for 66 yards and was still the teams leading rusher in the game, but no touchdown.
Ditka, who now works for ESPN, has since said that he regrets the decision to not let Payton score.
Photo courtesy of chicagobears.com
Chuck Pagano - Fake Punt
The Patriots were up by six, 27-21, with a minute left in the third quarter and forced the Colts to punt on a fourth and three, or so we thought.
The Colts lined up with eight players near the line of scrimmage to the right side and the punter behind them. Then wide receiver Griff Whalen lined up as the snapper and safety Colt Anderson lined up under center.
They snapped the ball and the Patriots made the easy stop for a turnover on downs.
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, shift our alignment to where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub some people in, catch them with 12 men on the field and if you get a certain look, you can make a play. Alignment-wise we weren't lined up correctly, and then a communication problem on the snap. I take responsibility for that," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after the game.
The Patriots scored a touchdown on their next drive to go up 34-21 and ice the game.
You could argue that play cost the Colts the game.
Bill Belichick - 4th and 2
In the historic rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, this game came down to a decision by head coach Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line as opposed to punting the ball away.
Brady threw the ball to Kevin Faulk who was stopped short of the first down marker giving Manning the ball back and a relatively easy win. Manning found Reggie Wayne for a one yard touchdown pass, completing a 17 point comeback by Indianapolis.
If Belichick had punted the ball away, Manning still may have come down and scored and won the game, but at least it would have given the Patriots defense more of a chance.
Miracle at the Meadowlands
On November 19, 1978 the New York Giants took over possession of the football with a 17-12 lead and under two minutes to play against the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead of just taking a knee, quarterback Joe Pisarcik handed the ball to Larry Czonka who ran for 11 yards. All was fine. However, on the next play, the Giants did the exact same thing except this time Pisarcik's handoff slipped out of his hands and Philadelphia's Herm Edwards scooped it up and scored the winning touchdown.
Thus, the Miracle at the Meadowlands was born.
Rex Ryan - Calls Time Out, Pats Perfect Season Continues
The Baltimore Ravens hosted the New England Patriots in an early December 2007 game and had a chance to win the game, should have won the game, were going to win the game and end the unbeaten season, until defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called time out.
The Patriots had 4th and 1 from the Baltimore 30 yard line and Tom Brady called his own number with a QB sneak but was stuffed. However, Rex Ryan had called time out just prior to the snap meaning the play did not count.
The Patriots were given a penalty on the next attempt and then converted for the first down on what ended up being a 4th and 5 two plays after the timeout.
The Patriots won the game 27-24 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left. New England stayed undefeated.
Marty Mornhinweg - Defers in Sudden Death OT
It was 2002 and the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears were tied at 17 and were headed into sudden death overtime.
Detroit Lions won the overtime coin toss and head coach Marty Mornhinweg decided to defer, giving the Bears the first overtime possession.
Chicago went down the field and won the game on a Paul Edinger 40-yard field goal.
Photo courtesy of New York Jets wikipedia
Jason Garrett Ices Own Kicker
An important December win slipped away from the Dallas Cowboys when head coach Jason Garrett called a just before kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 49-yard field goal.
Bailey had to redo the kick and missed it short and wide left the second time around.
The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Dallas Cowboys in overtime.
"The play clock was running down. We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it. It was at about six [seconds] and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a timeout to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible," Garrett said after the game.
Bill Belichick - Benching Wes Welker in Playoff Game
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick benched wide receiver Wes Welker for the first offensive possession of a 2011 divisional round playoff game against the New York Jets.
Belichick benched Welker because of comments that Welker had made earlier in the week regarding Jets coach Rex Ryan's foot fetish.
While Welker's benching did not lead directly to the Patriots losing the game, it rattled the Patriots offense early on and they were not able to recover.
Dennis Green- 1999 NFC Championship Game
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the greatest offenses of all time in 1999, featuring quarterback Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Robert Smith and Randy Moss.
In the final moments of the NFC Championship game, head coach Dennis Green decided to have his offense take a knee and play for overtime. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson only needed about 40 yards and the Vikings had two timeouts left.
The Vikings lost the coin toss in overtime and proceeded to lose the game.
Pete Carroll - Super Bowl XLIX
The Seattle Seahawks trailed the New England Patriots 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX and had second and goal from about the Patriots three yard line.
The Seahawks had been running the ball well the entire game with Marshawn Lynch and he nearly got into the endzone on the play before. Instead of running Lynch, Carroll sets Russell Wilson up in the shotgun and has him throw a slant that Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler read perfectly and intercepted.
If Carroll had run the ball again, the Seahawks likely would have won the Super Bowl, instead, the Patriots won thier fourth.
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