Seahawks receiver shuffle opens door for Butler, others

Now that three of the most senior members of the Seattle Seahawks receiving group have departed in less than seven months, second-year receiver Deon Butler says things are a little quiet during the team’s film sessions.

“Our meetings got quieter person by person,” joked Butler. “First it was Nate (Burleson), then when T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) left it got a little quieter, and Deion (Branch) stepped up. Now Deion is gone and we have a bunch of mutes in our wideouts. Now it’s just going to be Coach Kippy Brown and the tape rolling.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll announced Wednesday that Butler would replace Branch, traded to New England this week, as the team’s starting flanker.

The Penn State product has been working toward this moment since Seattle drafted him in the third round last year. However, when new general manager John Schneider took the job in January, bringing with him a preference for big, strong receivers, some observers thought Butler would be moved out in one of the dozens of roster moves the team has made since January.

Instead, Butler proved during the exhibition season he could be a reliable target for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. And now he has to show the same kind of results as a starter.

“I don’t have to do anything more amazing,” Butler said. “Whatever I’ve done now to this point has pretty much given them the comfort level to slide me into a starting spot.

“Obviously I need to continue to get better. You can always get better, but I don’t need to go out and do something amazing and get out of my element and feel like ‘Oh, there’s this pressure.’ ”

Along with Butler, Carroll said Ben Obomanu should get more opportunities, along with veteran Brandon Stokley as a slot receiver. And rookie Golden Tate should see more snaps.

Stokley in the fold was one reason Carroll felt comfortable trading Branch.

“Stokley came in here and showed his ability just right off the bat, really with the background he had with Jeremy (Bates),” Carroll said. “And then his ability to come out here and prove it to us that he was ready to take over that role really made it an opportunity for us. It gives us a pick that we didn’t have and it gives us some ability in free agency that we didn’t have that will help us down the road.”

Butler said he’ll miss Branch, who served as a mentor.

“I have learned so much just as far as leverages, coverages and how you see things,” Butler said. “How basically not every route is run like it’s drawn up on paper. It might be drawn up this way, but according to the coverage you might want to change it.

“So I remember all that veteran stuff that he taught me before. I learned so much, and I’ll continue to talk to him.”

Still, Butler knows he can improve. Butler is tied for ninth in the league with three drops, all coming against St. Louis two weeks ago. He currently has eight receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.

“It’s a good group,” receiver coach Brown said. “I think Deion Butler and Ben see an opportunity for themselves here, and I’m positive they’ll make the most of it.”