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Seahawks built in this millennium?

| Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006

DETROIT -- All NFL teams build their rosters on speed, size and strength.

The Seattle Seahawks also added a dash of youth to rush through the NFC playoffs and into Super Bowl XL.

The Seahawks (13-3) truly are the team of this millennium. Only five players on the Seahawks' roster have been with the team longer than NFL rushing leader Shaun Alexander, who arrived as the first pick in the 2000 draft.

Nowhere has the youth movement had a greater impact than at linebacker, where the Seahawks were supposed to be rebuilding.

Rookie Lofa Tatupu emerged from training camp as the starter at middle linebacker. The 2005 second-round draft pick made 105 stops while becoming only the second rookie to lead the team in tackles.

Leroy Hill, a third-round pick from Clemson last April, made the most of his chance when free-agent acquisition Jamie Sharper (knee) was placed on injured reserve. Hill did more than fill Sharper's outside linebacker position. His 7.5 sacks rank third among NFL rookies.

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren drafted heavily on offense after taking over in 1999, but it was his emphasis on defense the past three years that put Seattle in its first Super Bowl. Five out of his six highest draft picks since 2003 were defenders.

Seattle brought in another heavy hitter in 2004 in strong safety Michael Boulware, who made the transition after playing linebacker at Florida State. Boulware led the Seahawks with four interceptions this season. His five interceptions last season set the team record for a rookie.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant, the top pick in 2003, gives the Seahawks three solid players at that hard-to-fill position along with Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon. Trufant ranks third on the team with 55 solo tackles with one interception and 14 passes broken up.

Marcus Tubbs, the Seahawks' No. 1 draft pick out of Texas in 2004, teams with veteran Rocky Bernard to give the defensive line one of the best rotations in the league at right tackle. Tubbs has 40 total tackles and 5.5 sacks, while starter Bernard has 55 total tackles and 8.5 sacks. Tubbs is an active lineman who has knocked down two passes and forced a pair of fumbles.

Seattle has picked up 19 of its 22 starters since 2000, and none has performed at a higher level than Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson. He helps man arguably the best left-side blocking tandem on the NFL, along with tackle Walter Jones. They helped the Seahawks average 159 rushing yards per game and led the way for Alexander, who topped the NFL with 1,880 rushing yards.

Alexander also led the league in scoring with 168 points. Many of those points were scored running behind Hutchinson and Jones from inside the 20-yard line.

While the Steelers acquired running back Jerome Bettis in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks also went outside the draft to acquire a key player.

Seattle gave up a first- and third-round draft choice in 2001 to bring in quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from the Green Bay Packers.

The trade has paid dividends. Hasselbeck became the first Seahawks quarterback to accumulate four consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons, earning a Pro Bowl trip this season. He led the NFC with a 98.2 passer rating, completing 294 of his 449 passes (65.5 percent) for 3,459 yards. He threw 24 touchdown passes with only nine interceptions. With an emphasis on youth, Holmgren has won three of those NFC West championships.

How the Seahawks were built

A look at the Seahawks' top two draft picks each year since 2000:

2005

1. Chris Spencer, C, Mississippi -- Learning behind starter Robbie Tobeck.

2. Lofa Tatupu, LB, Southern California -- Displays Jack Lambert potential.

2004

1. Marcus Tubbs, DT, Texas -- Active backup who has forced two fumbles.

2. Michael Boulware, S, Florida State -- Nine interceptions in first two seasons.

2003

1. Marcus Trufant, CB, Washington State -- Led team by breaking up 14 passes.

2. Ken Hamlin, S, Arkansas -- Placed on injured reserve Nov. 1 (internal).

2002

1. Jerramy Stevens, TE, Washington -- Won starting job this season.

2. Maurice Morris, RB, Oregon -- Backs up NFL rushing leader Shaun Alexander.

2001

1. Koren Robinson, WR, North Carolina State -- Made 52 starts before moving on in 2004.

1b. Steve Hutchinson, G, Michigan -- A Pro Bowl fixture.

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