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Scrapping the scramble
Mike Sellers breaks the offensive huddle, finds his place in front of Clinton Portis, puts a hand on the ground and waits for the snap.
Sounds monotonous and boring, right? Not for Sellers, who spent most of his time before the snap shifting around and going in motion for the Washington Redskins’ previous regime.
With Joe Gibbs, Al Saunders and their cast of offensive coaches, Sellers played H-back, tight end and fullback and had a lot of scrambling around to do. Now that coach Jim Zorn has implemented his system, Sellers plays as a more traditional fullback and most of the snaps in a motionless stance scanning for his mark to block.
“He was the lead blocker in the past system, and he’s going to be the lead blocker in our system,” running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. “He caught some passes in that system; he’s going to catch some passes in this system. He didn’t have many runs in that system, and he’s not going to have a whole lot of runs in this one.”
What’s different for Mike is he’s not going to have to do as much moving before the plays start. He’ll probably be a little more comfortable with that.”
Sellers described the change as “a blessing.” He can devote more time to thinking about which defender he wants to run over and less time worrying about where he will start and end up before each play.
Although Sellers won’t be a focal point for Washington’s offense, he can still reap rewards for contributing to the team’s success. With Zorn coaching the quarterbacks and Mitchell guiding the running backs in Seattle, fullback Mack Strong earned Pro Bowl selections in 2005 and 2006 for his blocking and versatility.
“He was our all-everything, Mr. Dependable guy,” Mitchell said of Strong. “I think if Mike comes along and we run the ball well and get some wins, the Pro Bowl could definitely be there for him.”
Team success and Portis’ rushing efficiency will be keys for Sellers. In 2005, Strong had 17 carries and 22 catches. He added All-Pro honors to his Pro Bowl selection because the Seahawks posted an NFC-best 13-3 record and Shaun Alexander rushed for a league-leading 1,880 yards and scored a then NFL-record 28 touchdowns.
Sellers has a backfield partner capable of a huge season in Portis, but the number of touches he will get remains to be seen.
“Mack was involved quite a bit, but that’s two different coordinators,” Sellers said. “Sherman [Smith] might do it different than what they had over [in Seattle]. It’s the same running game that we had before, so that hasn’t really changed any. It is still my job to go and light people up. In this offense it is icing on the cake when I do get the ball, and I understand that.”
At 33, Sellers is an elder on a veteran-laden team. He will have plenty of chances to “light people up” this season, but he also has embraced his role in the locker room.
Sellers offers a unique bit of perspective to his young teammates. His path has been far from routine, whether it was going from junior college to the CFL before making the league or how he had to repair his life after facing drug charges and ending up back in the CFL.
“I think of more of the poster child for what not to do now,” Sellers said. “I tell a lot of the younger guys, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that - I’ve been down that road.’ I tell them from my experiences that I’ve been through.
“I just count it as being blessed. I’ve put myself in some bad situations when I was younger. I didn’t make a lot of right decisions, and now that I’m on the straight and narrow it is nice.”
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