Most members of the Seahawks agree that having a leader on defense might help stabilize what has been a wobbly unit.
KIRKLAND — Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on what to do about the Seahawks’ flimsy defense. The one that these days is making fans mutter things like, “Third and long? Here comes another first down.”
Fire the coach. Fire the defensive coordinator. Cut this guy. Bench that guy. Learn to properly tackle. The Seahawks have heard it all, and they’re frustrated, too.
There are no real solutions to the problems on defense beyond simply making plays and stops. But most seem to agree the unit could use a leader.
Such a player is often a veteran who has been to Pro Bowls, such as Ray Lewis in Baltimore, Keith Bulluck in Tennessee and James Farrior in Pittsburgh, who will make his first Pro Bowl appearance in February.
The Seahawks have Pro Bowl players on defense, linebacker Chad Brown and cornerback Bobby Taylor. The problem is, neither has been on the field much this season because of injuries. And it’s hard to get a young player to respond to someone who isn’t sharing the field with the rest of the team.
“Those guys are rare guys. You can’t get many guys like that,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said, referring to Lewis and other teams’ leaders. “But you can get guys that can do that.”
In an effort to find that type of energizer, Holmgren has named a player to address the team during some Saturday night meetings before games. Someone with experience and who is considered one of the better players on the team.
One night it was wide receiver Jerry Rice, a good choice but not a defensive player.
“They’re all young kids,” Holmgren said. “Who does that (takes leadership)? That’s just the way it is right now. Hopefully, as you gain experience and sign a couple of (veteran) guys, it will get better.”
What about Grant Wistrom, a free-agent signee with experience who could have filled the role when healthy?
“He’s not there. Also, his speeches tend to be kind of wild,” Holmgren said, tongue in cheek. “Which is OK just before you charge out of the locker room and knock the door down and run out on the field. But there’s all sorts of ways to do that, and really right now we don’t have enough experience over there to do it. We really don’t.”
The player emerging as the most promising candidate to lead, say a few coaches and players, is second-year free safety Ken Hamlin. He’s a hard hitter on the field who is quick to speak his mind in games, be it constructive criticism or something more like trash talk.
“He will be able to be that guy in the secondary,” Holmgren said. “All of our linebackers are just trying to figure out how to line up and stuff, you know? Hamlin is the one that jumps out on defense.”
Hamlin said he hasn’t been approached to take on that kind of role. He has yet to become a dominant presence in the locker room, but he doesn’t deny being vocal.
“I don’t think I sit there and just try to go out of my way to be a leader,” he said. “I go out there and play hard, and whatever happens, happens. I think we have a lot of great leaders out there, but some aren’t as vocal as others. I’m going to hold you accountable, and the coaches, and all the other players should hold everybody else accountable as well.”
Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes also named Hamlin as an emerging leader.
“He’s one of the young guys that I’ve noticed personally vent his frustrations out on the field,” Rhodes said. “And that’s good. We need more of it, but you have to take what you can get right now.
“He’s playing very disciplined football, and he’s busting his rear end on the field. I’d say overall he’s playing a lot better than he played last year.”
Cornerback Shawn Springs was an important on-field and locker-room presence for many of his seven seasons in Seattle. Now playing for Washington, Springs has noticed from afar that his old team lacks the leadership he felt he provided.
“The biggest thing they miss is … my influence, more than anything else,” Springs said. “They’ve got guys. Influence doesn’t come from talk. It comes from how you carry yourself. You have to be a pro. People have to respect you.”
Other players see the need for a leader, but not necessarily a vocal type of person.
“We need people who follow leaders, and no one’s going to be able to make somebody else do that,” defensive end Chike Okeafor said. “People have to want it for themselves.”
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org