How quickly opinions change. Seahawks pessimism reached its height around Week 4, and many lamented how little cohesion Russell Wilson possessed with his receivers.
Today, we fans are spinning a completely story. Both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have amassed 6 receiving touchdowns, more than any single Seahawks receiver in 2011.
Both Tate and Rice provide different strengths to the offense; Rice is a route runner with a phenomenal catch radius, and Tate is a "YAC Monster" who is always good for a spectacular catch. But Tate's coming out party will be plenty hashed out elsewhere, so for this article I'm going to focus on Brett Favre's former BFF, Sidney Rice.
Overall, Rice has traits beyond athleticism that benefit the team greatly. One such trait is his ability to manipulate defensive backs and catch them off guard. Exhibit A: the flea-flicker play last Sunday against the Jets. Though this play ultimately failed due to a Russell Wilson underthrow, Rice got wide open by feigning a weak block on the Jets DB, acting as if he was out of the play. He then proceeded to take off down the field, gaining a solid three steps of separation in the process.
It is plays like these that make Sidney Rice so valuable to the team. He doesn't just make plays with this body, he makes plays with his mind. He sees defensive alignments, and adjusts his routes accordingly. Rice displays this expertly on his deep routes, as we saw against the Patriots. For example, on the game winning touchdown catch, Rice faked to his outside shoulder, causing the defender to turn away from the middle of the field, and then promptly cut inward to exploit the hole in the zone he had just created.
So how exactly does this effect the team? Essentially, Rice becomes a versatile player who adds depth and dimension to the offense. His unique combination of athleticism and football smarts allows him to play all areas of the field. He can slant into zones and isn't afraid to take a hit from a linebacker -- and although this has gotten him into injury trouble in the past, those 18 extra pounds added in the offseason have worked wonders as far as injury prevention goes. Rice can also penetrate the middle of the field -- his immaculate route running and large body makes for an easy target for our beloved leader. And as far as deep balls go, Rice has pretty much proven that if you throw it to him, he'll catch it (Lions game nonwithstanding).
This all equates to a big problem for defenses. Rice's versatility is exactly what you look for in a "go to" receiver. Although his receptions and yards won't match up with league leaders, that's more of a result of 1) Seattle's balanced offense and 2) Wilson's tendency to spread the ball to a wide array of receivers. Given that, it's pretty clear that Rice is performing at the level we all expected when we signed him. And considering the upward trend that we're seeing with Wilson as well as the continued chemistry that is emerging between these two, we can infer that Rice will only be the beneficiary of more passes.
So, while amidst the void that is the bye week, take this glimmer of hope with you. Go watch some Sidney Rice highlight videos on YouTube, and shudder at the thought of what this Wilson to Rice connection could blossom into.