Seahawks TE John Carlson leaps over "rookie wall," finds second wind
Seahawks tight end John Carlson could end up as the Seahawks' leading receiver this season, having overcome the "rookie" wall that can slow down first-year players.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Looking for a silver lining in this dark and cloudy Seahawks season? Look no further than tight end John Carlson, No. 89 in your program when the Seahawks face the New England Patriots today at Qwest Field.
The rookie second-round pick from Notre Dame has apparently found his second wind, and is assaulting the Seahawks' season record book.
Carlson leads the Seahawks in catches with 38 and yards with 456. That ranks him in select company in the NFC among tight ends, no small feat considering that three Pro Bowlers — Jason Witten of Dallas, Chris Cooley of Washington and Jeremy Shockey of New Orleans — are the only ones ahead of Carlson in catches, and only Witten and Cooley have more yards.
Carlson had a career-high 105 receiving yards at Dallas on Thanksgiving. He's showing signs of recovering from hitting the proverbial "rookie wall," that point in the NFL season when college football seasons are about over and first-year NFL players feel worn down, even though the pro season is only halfway complete.
Carlson hit that wall, he said.
"It was really more psychological than it was physical," he said. "Everything just seemed harder. I felt like I was over-concentrating, where things that should have been easy mentally became more challenging."
Part of what Carlson was talking about was a dropped pass in the Miami game on Nov. 9, a fourth-down play that the Seahawks needed to sustain a late drive and a difficult play to make; nevertheless, Carlson said he should have had it. The Seahawks lost 21-19.
"If you play football long enough, you're going to drop a pass," Carlson said.
If Carlson hit a wall, he has rebounded and leapt over it since, coaches say.
"I thought if he hit it, he hit it a couple weeks ago," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I thought we were throwing a lot at him. ... He's done everything we've asked him to do, and done it pretty well."
That Carlson leads the team in receiving speaks to the injury woes the Seahawks have had at wide receiver this season, but that is just one reason for his success. Carlson also has been reliable, as 25 of his 38 receptions have gone for first-down yardage.
No tight end in Seahawks history has led the team in receiving in a season. And Carlson is within striking distance of the Seahawks' tight-end record for receiving yards in a season, currently owned by Jerramy Stevens with 554 in 2005.
"I wouldn't call him a surprise," Holmgren said. "I think he's mature beyond his years. I think he's got a bright future. I wish I had him 10 years ago. Once he gets a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, I think he'll be a really fine tight end in this league for a long time. Pro Bowl-caliber tight end."
The Seahawks would certainly love that. They've never had a Pro Bowl tight end. It's not likely to happen this season, but Carlson has shown that he can be a key part of the team's core moving forward.
In Seattle's offense, the tight end's role is equally defined by his ability to block, and Carlson learned the offense quickly.
"He's intelligent, but he's also very instinctive," tight ends coach Jim Lind said. "All these young guys, it takes them a time or two in a game situation, but once he does it right or does it wrong in a game, he learns from it."
Lind feels Carlson can be a good all-around tight end, and has to focus more on his blocking because it seems he's got the catching part down.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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