Sunday, December 28, 2008

Branch Shows Why Ruskell Traded For Him

by: William P. Tomisser

There's a good story over on the Seattle PI by Clare Farnsworth today that talks about the resurgence of Dion Branch among other Seahawk accomplishments this season.

"Injuries, and rehabbing from injuries, limited Deion Branch to a half-season. But the elusive and oft-sidelined wide receiver gave a pretty good indication on Sunday of why the Seahawks gave up so much to acquire him."

Branch finished this year like he started last season. He was the receiver Tom Brady was so remorseful about losing and in the last four weeks, he's showed us why. He's made catches that only the very best ones can make like the one handed grab last week that only went for a yard in the snow but showed talent that Seattle fans have been thinking was totally absent from our receiving corps.

In 2007, Branch played in 4 games before he was injured. In the first game, he wasn't even thrown to and afterward Holmgren apologized to him and said that no matter what, they were going to get Branch involved. In the next three games, Branch averaged 7 receptions and 110 yards. Even counting the first game where he was blanked, that projected to 105 receptions and 1650 yards for the season. All pro numbers for a receiver in anyone's book.

Then came a series of injuries starting at Pittsburgh where he suffered a lisfranc injury in the Seahawks 5th game and culminating in his tearing up his knee in the playoff loss at Green Bay in the snow. All season long in 2007 after the Pittsburgh game, Branch battled back from injury and then re-aggravated it again and again playing in parts of 11 games and finally ending up with 49 receptions for 661 yards in a season that started with so much promise.

During the entire off-season, Branch did serious rehabilitation hoping to come back sooner than projections indicated that he could. The type of knee injury he suffered (torn anterior cruciate ligament) has robbed some NFL players of their careers especially one who relies on speed and cutting ability to be a special player. When Branch finally made it back on the field, he promptly suffered a heel injury that kept him rehabbing until the last quarter of the season.

Many fans called him a bust and criticized Ruskell for making the trade. Meanwhile, Branch worked as hard as he could to get back on the field by the end of the season and produce. Finally, returning to the field on Thanksgiving Day, Branch caught 5 passes and made it through the game without any more injuries. During the next 4 games, Branch looked a lot like the receiver we saw at the first of last season making difficult catches, scoring touchdowns, and playing with the precision and control he is capable of when completely healthy.

He appears to not have lost much and is a bright spot going into the Mora Era. We can only hope that Burleson, who suffered the same type injury, will rehab with similar results leaving us with our two best receivers ready to go in 2009. Branch can still make good on the trade with New England by having the year we've all been waiting for in 2009. He is by far our most talented receiver and has the ability to take over a game as he did when he won the MVP award of the 2005 Super Bowl when he was with the New England Patriots.

Other Seahawk accomplishments this season include:

Lofa Tatupu became the first player in franchise history to lead the team in tackles for four consecutive years.

Josh Wilson became the franchise season record holder for kickoff returns and kickoff return yardage.

Tight end John Carlson became the first rookie to lead the team in receptions and receiving yards since Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent did it in 1976, Seattle's inaugural year in the league. He also broke the single season receptions and receiving yardage records by a tight end. He is tied with Stevens for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season at 5.

The real question about Branch is do you guys out there feel that Branch has done whatever he could to live up to his contract and deserves our respect for battling back from a serious potentially career threatening injury? Does he look like he's poised to be that number one receiver we thought we had after the trade when Brady made those remarks about us getting a super star receiver? Or, on the other hand, do you think he's been a huge disappointment and there isn't anything he could do now to redeem himself or is your opinion somewhere in-between?