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2009 Season Retrospective: Deion Branch

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Deion Branch

2007

2008

Highlights

Seahawks at Colts

In back-to-back plays, Stockton and Davis misguided fans to false conclusions. The first was forgivable, but frustrating. Deion Branch made an incredible move to beat Tim Jennings' press and slide into the right flat for an easy 22 yard reception. The move was sick. The pass was a little too high to a wide-open man, but, all in all, not noteworthy. Davis, a former defensive back, did not credit Branch for discarding Jennings to get wide open. Davis did not criticize Jennings for taking too long looking in the backfield after he was beat. He credited Wallace for his throw. Every NFL quarterback could and should routinely make that throw.

...

The drive ended on a beautiful pass and an equally beautiful catch by Deion Branch. Branch ran a skinny post and jumped and turned just as the pass hit him in the numbers. It was basic football decided by talent and execution. The style that defines the Colts offense; a style Knapp may have abandoned after years of JaMarcus Russell and Michael Vick.

49ers at Seahawks

Unger controlled his man on another nice looking deep route by Deion Branch, but the pass sailed nowhere and luckily to no one.

...

Hasselbeck isn't there. Quarterbacks do not fall like running backs fall. Losing a little arm strength is not like losing the first gear that got you the job. Hasselbeck can toss a nice pass when he needs. The bender over the defender to Deion Branch was an indefensible pass at its best. He threw another high-arcing bomb to Branch that Branch lost behind the defender. It was pretty for a second. Real pretty.

Lowlights

Seahawks at Bears

38. Deion Branch was playing the Deon Butler role.

37. That role: Run deep and never get targeted.

Seahawks at Colts

5. 2-14-IND 47 (2:25) (Shotgun) 15-S.Wallace pass short right to 83-D.Branch to 50 for -3 yards (33-M.Bullitt)

Willis cut blocks Brock and succeeds. T.J. Houshmandzadeh cut blocks Tim Jennings and succeeds. Deion Branch missed that. He cuts across field and attempts a play Barry Sanders couldn't make in college and predictably is dropped behind the line of scrimmage. Had he trusted Housh, the too aggressive Jennings left a column of space up the right sideline.

Seahawks at Cowboys

Matt Hasselbeck sold play-action well but showed off his square wheels attempting to roll out. He was barely through his curve before he had to target Deion Branch because of pressure. The pass had all the mustard of a Coney Island sand crab. Branch dropped it before being blown up.

Seahawks at Texans

And was sacked. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was in the left slot and initiated contact off the snap. He drove his defender back and got him to bite on the route. He wasn't close to open. Deion Branch was on the right. He ran a "go" route that was supposed to draw the safety but didn't. Hasselbeck saw that and optioned out of the screen. And was sacked.

Outlook: I am as surprised as anyone that Branch still commands a roster spot. It says a lot about Seattle's wide but shallow collection of wide receivers. It says a lot about the power of talent to seduce, and Branch is still among Seattle's most talented wide receivers. It says a lot about how badly Branch was misused last season. It says a lot about the difference between excelling in practice and excelling on the gridiron. It says a lot about a lot of things, but don't listen too terribly much, because it would shock me if this story continues into the fall.

Branch is just too expensive and has too lengthy an injury history for the Seahawks not to embrace a chance to cut him and avoid the salary cap hit. I know Seattle's shadow budget is among the largest in the league, and despite throwing money at free agents for years, Tim Ruskell never seemed handcuffed on who he could sign, but it would take a dazzling rebound both from a career nadir and endless injuries for Branch to make any sort of sense for Seattle. And it still might not make sense to retain him.

To depart from the cold and calculating world of roster construction and the salary cap for a second, I do not think Branch is as bad as he looked last season. The money quote:

38. Deion Branch was playing the Deon Butler role.

37. That role: Run deep and never get targeted.

Both Branch and Butler were pawns in the Greg Knapp offense. Both Branch and Butler were powerless to squeeze production out of a terribly conceived deep passing attack. Maybe if Matt Hasselbeck was healthy and a different quarterback, or if Branch and Butler were big-bodied bullies that could stretch and command space instead of having to be hit in stride, or maybe maybe maybe but no no no, because what a fucking mess. I do not think Knapp deserves the flak some Seahawks fans shoot his way, but his insistence on throwing deep despite consistent and predictable failure just blows my mind.

Though Butler and Branch are not the same profile, they do face the same problem: How to be a quality short and middle threat when your coach does not trust you to take a pounding over the middle? Butler is slight and Branch a little less slight but 9/4th bionic or cadaver. Butler probably deserves a shot if only to see if he's capable.

Branch may survive into the preseason and push the kids but I would be shocked if he made the roster. I know Carroll is committed to starting the best players and a healthy Branch qualifies, but there is only so much one can mortgage the future for the present. If Pete needs a lesson in that, he might want to ask Ruskell about a trade he made some four years ago.

XFINITY from Comcast is a proud supporter of Field Gulls. You’ll get your Seahawks games as a part of over 120 NFL games XFINITY provides in HD, as well as On Demand game recaps from every NFL game every week, faster Internet speeds, and stunning HD. With XFINITY and NFL RedZone, you get every touchdown from every game every Sunday afternoon! Call 1-800-XFINITY or visit http://www.xfinity.com.