Isn’t it supposed to take several months’ worth of throws for a quarterback and receiver to find their rapport? So how do you explain what Charlie Whitehurst and Deon Butler accomplished this preseason?
A lot is made of the time it takes for a quarterback and wide receiver to develop a rapport. Maybe too much.
Case in point: Charlie Whitehurst and Deon Butler.
Butler, a second-year wide receiver, led the Seahawks with 15 receptions in the just-completed preseason – including seven for 101 yards in Thursday night’s three-point loss to the Raiders in Oakland. All but two of Butler’s 15 receptions came from Whitehurst, who was acquired in a mid-March trade with the San Diego Chargers.
Granted, Butler’s snaps in the preseason came primarily when Whitehurst was on the field, as evidenced by the fact that Butler was not among the eight receivers who caught passes from starting QB Matt Hasselbeck – wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Mike Williams; tight ends John Carlson, Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah; and running backs Julius Jones and Leon Washington.
Equally obvious, in a preferred world Whitehurst won’t play much in the regular season if Hasselbeck completes his first 16-start campaign since 2007 – or in a Utopian world, he gets a glut of snaps in the fourth quarter of games because the Seahawks are blowing out their opponent.
But that only makes the Whitehurst-to-Butler connection even more intriguing – and impressive. Here’s a quarterback who has never thrown a pass in a regular-season game going early and often to a wide receiver who caught all of 15 passes as a rookie last season.
Perhaps their best play came on Whitehurst’s 26-yard pass to Butler for the Seahawks’ only offensive touchdown against the Raiders.
“On the touchdown pass, it was kind of an eye-contact thing,” Butler said. “The Raiders left the slot uncovered, so Charlie just kind of took three steps real quick and hit me before the linebacker got there.
“Just little things like that that people don’t notice, but stuff that shows me and him are on the same page.”
Little things that are supposed to take a lot longer to develop.
Butler also pointed out something that became more obvious about Whitehurst as the preseason progressed: He not only can put the ball right on the receiver with his deeper throws, he does it in a way that makes the ball very catchable.
“Every time I step in there with Charlie, I feel like I’m in there with the starters,” Butler said. “He does a great job of putting the ball right on you; talking to you.”
Whitehurst took his performance against the Raiders as he has so many things since arriving – with a shrug and a smile.
“We executed and found a little rhythm there in the second quarter,” he said, after also finding Butler four times for 87 yards in that breakout quarter. “I thought we made some good plays down the field. Some of the deep balls were nice catches.
“When you play Oakland, you know you’re going to get a lot of man coverage and you know you’re going to have t be able to win outside. We were able to do that a few times.”
Coach Pete Carroll not only agrees with Butler’s assessment of Whitehurst, he took the conversation another large step in a positive direction.
“Charlie had a very good preseason for us,” Carroll said. “He’s a Seahawk now in our offense. He knows what we’re doing. He understands that he can run the offense. And we feel very confident that he can help us if we need him.”
Butler emerged from the preseason with similar feelings about his situation.
“I felt like I made a lot of plays to help the team get into a good situation,” Butler said. “I feel pretty good about it.”
Better yet, so does Carroll.
“Deon Butler was really on fire,” Carroll said. “Again, he’s had a great preseason. He is, by far, the most improved player on the offensive side of the ball since we’ve come here. He really is a factor, and I’m really excited about that.
“We weren’t sure how that was going to pan out, but he’s really made effective plays in many games. So we’ll look for him to help.”