Despite not practicing last week, Brandon Stokley caught six passes against the Saints. With leading receiver Mike Williams hurting, the Seahawks also will need Stokley’s clutch catches this week against the Chiefs.
What’s with Brandon Stokley?
The veteran wide receiver is defying that old line about practice making perfect, because he has been perfectly fine with little and even no practice since joining the Seahawks in late September.
In his first week with the club, Stokley practiced for three days on a limited basis and then went out and caught four passes for 62 yards in the team’s Week 4 loss to the Rams in St. Louis. Sunday, despite not practicing all week and also sitting out the previous week’s game because of a strained calf, Stokley caught six passes for 76 yards in the loss to the Saints in New Orleans.
So much for needing time to get comfortable in the offense and develop a rapport with the quarterback.
“What he did, when you consider that he missed practice all week, was kind of huge,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said after the game, pointing out that Stokley not only caught six passes but every pass thrown to him.
“He really stepped up.”
And Stokley could have an even greater impact on the passing game in this week’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs at Qwest Field because leading receiver Mike Williams is questionable with a foot injury that forced him to sit out the end of the game against the Saints.
Stokley definitely helped pick up the slack after Williams left the game – and even before. Four of his receptions produced first-down yardage, twice on third downs. All six of his catches came during scoring drives, and his 18-yarder at the end of the first half got Olindo Mare close enough to kick the second of his four field goals – from 43 yards on the final play of the half.
“Like I said, just a huge effort by Brandon when we really needed him,” Hasselbeck said.
Which brings us back to the original question: How is Stokley able to do this while playing for a new team, and with limited practice?
“The background in our offense is what’s really been a factor for him helping us,” coach Pete Carroll said on Monday.
Stokley was with the Broncos in 2007-08, when Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was calling plays in Denver. Stokley caught 40 passes for a 15.9-yard average and five touchdowns in 2007 and added 49 for a 10.8-yard average and three scores in ’08.
“Brandon is so familiar with Jeremy and the terminology and the principles,” Carroll said. “And he was such a good route runner, such an effective guy using their system. It’s just stuck with him.”
Bates, Hasselbeck and Stokley have each made that exact point this season while discussing how the 34-year-old receiver has been he able to come in and catch 17 passes in six games – and with limited opportunities in those games, as Stokley has played almost exclusively on third downs and worked from the slot in the three- and four-receiver packages.
“He can basically practice on Thursdays, when we’re working on the third-down stuff, and get the work that he needs,” Carroll said. “And we’re able to take care of him in that manner.
“Last week, he didn’t practice at all.”
That’s why Stokley status was a game-day decision, and even Carroll had his doubts.
“Brandon had a great workout on Sunday morning that surprised us,” Carroll said. “We had to kind of do a double-take and make sure he was going to be right and he was OK. Then we went with him and sure enough he was in there making first downs.”
That has been Stokley’s signature play during his previous 11 seasons in the NFL, and most noticeably his four-season stint with the Indianapolis Colts – working from the slot and finding a way to get the first down. In 2004, he put up career highs: 68 catches, 1,077 yards, 10 touchdowns.
In a Cajun twist, Stokley’s latest impressive effort game in the same state where he averaged 100 yards and broke all the school receiving records while playing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana – since renamed the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but still the Ragin’ Cajuns.
He has continued to produce in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens, Colts, Broncos and now Seahawks – as evidenced by his 313 career receptions.
“He’s an unusually gifted guy,” Carroll said.