Seahawks trio of receivers truly a mystery
The Seattle Seahawks go into Sunday's NFL opener against the Buffalo Bills with a trio of untested receivers. Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne are second-year players with only Taylor registering NFL statistics — five career catches and eight regular-season games played.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Mystery Group. Nothing fancy. Just a title bestowed upon the three young Seahawks wide receivers that form three-fourths of the group expected to play against the Buffalo Bills in Sunday's season opener.
It seems fitting that Courtney Taylor, the most experienced of the three and perhaps the most ebullient, would be the one to come up with the nickname. It fits. Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne are mysteries indeed. Unknown around the NFL and for the most part, inexperienced as second-year players and only Taylor's five career catches and his eight regular-season games played among them.
Kent and Payne were both on the Seahawks' practice squad last year and never appeared in a game. Barring a sudden improvement in the health of veteran Deion Branch, they'll be making their NFL debuts Sunday.
"We love this. We love being the unknowns," Taylor said. "You get your opportunity to go out and prove what you can do. Most defenses don't know about you. Most defensive coordinators don't know much about you. But you get an opportunity to make big plays and shine when you're in the spotlight."
That opportunity has come about in large part because of major injuries to three of the four Seahawks receivers who figured to get the most playing time this season. Branch had knee surgery and is working his way back after not playing in exhibition games nor practicing in training camp.
Coach Mike Holmgren had hoped to have Branch back this week. But Branch didn't take part in Monday's short practice and his status is unknown. Bobby Engram is out for at least the first two games to rehabilitate a cracked shoulder bone, and Ben Obomanu is lost for the season with a broken collarbone suffered in the exhibition finale.
Give Taylor, Kent and Payne credit, though. Kent led the team in receptions in exhibition play with 11. Payne overcame a rib injury from the public scrimmage a month ago and made eight catches while showing his worth on special teams. Taylor had just four catches in exhibition play, but has regular-season game experience and will likely start with veteran Nate Burleson Sunday.
"With Bobby and Deion being down, I just want to do my best to lead these young guys," Burleson said. "I tell these guys take advantage of the time they're going. 'You've got a chance to put some numbers up and make a name for yourself.' "
Kent, like Taylor a sixth-round draft pick in 2007, caught one of his exhibition touchdown passes against a starting cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, Cedric Griffin. He showed marked improvement in route running and general understanding of the offense from one season to the next, and is confident going into this week. Plus he expects his family to travel to Buffalo to see his first game.
"It's a great chance. Obviously it's what you work for," Kent said. "You feel good. You celebrate real quick, but now you've got to turn it up another notch. You've got to work even harder and prepare even more."
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has double duty. Not only does he have to show an established rapport with his new targets, but he has to regain form after a back injury kept him out of much of the exhibition season. He doesn't seem too concerned, however.
"It's unusual to have as many injuries as we have right now and to be as young as we are right there, but the guys that are on our team right now, and the guys that are going to be playing in this game are guys that were on our practice squad last year," Hasselbeck said. "They've been with us. They know how we do things. We've seen how they play."
The young receivers know the pressure is on, but things are pretty festive in that corner of the spacious locker room at the team's Renton headquarters. It's an excited confidence about a big break and a chance to show they belong.
"The Mystery Group. We've got a lot in store for a lot of people," Taylor said. "I'm looking forward to it. I know Jordan is looking forward to it. I know Logan is looking forward to it, and I feel like all three of us can play at this level. And that's one thing we want to prove."
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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