RENTON — Of course there is plenty of attention building surrounding the reunion happening in Seattle next Monday night.
Yep, new Seattle defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant are about to face their old team when the Denver Broncos come visiting to open the season.
Not the reunion you were thinking of?
“They are really experienced football players, you can tell,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “Even though Noah is still a young man, he comes in and has a really good sense for the game, can do everything, and is a natural player. Shelby has been around and is a workhorse. He has been very productive in games and has done a nice job.”
Undoubtedly most of the attention in the days leading up to Monday’s opener will rightfully be directed toward Denver quarterback Russell Wilson and his return to Seattle after spending the first decade of his career with the Seahawks before the offseason trade to the Broncos.
It’s the main storyline and should be.
But Seattle’s return on that trade included Harris, Fant and quarterback Drew Lock along with draft picks. And while Lock will be the backup to Geno Smith to start the season, the Seahawks are expecting major contributions from Harris and Fant.
And yes, facing their old team in the first game with their new team is going to be strange for them, too.
“I’m sure it’ll be a lot of emotions just from a team you were with for so long, kind of the team that you became established with,” Harris said. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions, but at the end of the day we’re there to do a job. You can’t put too much into it. That’s how you end up having crappy games.”
Fant was Denver’s first-round pick in 2019 and last season had 68 catches and four touchdowns. Both of those totals would have ranked third on Seattle’s stat sheet from a season ago. But there was a sense that Fant underachieved during his three seasons with the Broncos and that moving to Seattle can be a fresh start.
How he fits entirely into Seattle’s offensive plans is the unknown. It’s an offense that appeared to be predicated around the run game and finding wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the pass game.
The hope for Seattle is that Fant can be used downfield across the middle, something the Seahawks struggled to develop in previous seasons.
“I think that’s something that has been shown by (offensive coordinator) Shane (Waldron) looking to get the tight ends involved downfield and I’m just excited,” Fant said. “I think this year, I’m just letting him go with it obviously being my first year, and I’m excited to learn from him and try to execute everything he wants me to execute.”
Harris will be a key piece of Seattle’s deep defensive line rotation with the Seahawks shifting toward a 3-4 scheme this season. It’s a very similar defense to what Harris played in under Vic Fangio during his time as Denver’s head coach.
Seeing the Broncos again will be tough for Harris. After bouncing around the early part of his career, Harris became an established starter the past three seasons in Denver. He started each of the 43 games he played in over the past three seasons. Last year, Harris tied his career high with 49 tackles and six sacks.
But Seattle knew how Harris would fit into its defensive scheme changes and made sure he was part of the package that returned in the Wilson trade.
“When I first heard about it, I was like, ‘Really? My first game with my new team against my old team.’” Harris said. “Now that I think about it, it’s just nice to get it out of the way, get all the anticipation out of the way.”