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Well yes of course, when compared to last year. Since Mike Holmgren's arrival, the special teams of the Seahawks deteriorated with each succeeding season. The year 2005, was the bellwether season for Seattle with a Super Bowl participation, #1 rated offense, and an improving defense. Unfortunately the special teams was everything but special as they were rated 30th in the NFL according to this article in the Dallas Morning News by Rick Gosselin.
The Hawks were confronted by several challenges in 2006 in their efforts to return to the Super Bowl, but the special teams unit was not a hindrance, as they ascended 23 spots to become the 7th highest rated unit in the NFL.
Gosselin breaks down the various aspects of special teams into 22 kicking related categories. He assigns points based upon each team's rating in each category with 1 point for best and 32 points for worse. The lowest aggregate score determines the best overall rated unit.
Generally you will find non-starters competing on the special teams. Why would this be? Head coaches usually want their starters spending the majority if not all of their time getting the reps with their individual units on offense or defense. The Hawks suffered an unprecedented number of injuries in 2006. Players contributing on special teams, were forced to discontinue because they were needed as starters or were cut by Ruskell, because their roster spot was needed for another injury riddled position. By the end of the season, there was only a fraction of players remaining that began the year contributing on special teams. Down went Scobey, Darche, Terrill, Lewis, Parry, J.Williams, and player cuts in Kaz, Ponder and Mili among others. In spite of Casullo, a core group of players pushed the unit to the top.
Josh Brown had a record breaking year with 4 game winners. Plackemeier had a great year dropping punts in the 20's and for distance. Lance Laury and Nate Burleson picked up the slack on returns and tackles respectively.
Now enter Bruce DeHaven, regarded in NFL circles as one of the best special team coaches in the NFL. DeHaven has 20 years experience working with the Cowboys, Bills and 49ers. His units were ranked twice as the best of the league during his tenure with Buffalo. Steve Christie, had this to say about DeHaven, "There has always been a great emphasis on special teams wherever he has been until I think maybe a little bit in Dallas," Christie said. "Because (Bill) Parcells kind of oversees everything, I think Bruce's talent was sort of wasted. But I think with the way things are in Seattle, you'll see that he is one of the best."
So as you can see, this unit is on its way up the charts, as the team returns next season healthy and through better coaching.
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