Sunday, September 30, 2007
Some games stick out during a season. The Hawks loss to Chicago last year (the first one) was one example. Today was a statement game for a number of reasons. The Hawks defense played a stinker in their first away game against a divisional opponent. The Hawks have not dominated a team so completely for a long time, especially on the road. The defense set the tone for the game, and it didn't matter how many times the offense left the field without points. You've heard of a team playing a complete game (off, def, special teams), but today the Hawks played a complete defensive game (stopping the run, rushing the passer, tight pass coverage). That's extremely encouraging.
2) Who was that defensive line out there today?
I thought we were supposed to be undersized and out-muscled by a huge SF line. Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings were overwhelmed today. John Marshall deserves a bunch of credit for designing a blitz package that pitted our defensive strength (speed) against their o-lines weakness. Instead of getting to maul us 1:1, the 49ers had to adjust to an array of blitzes from different players and different places. Rocky Bernard, Patrick Kerney, and Darryl Tapp all stood out today on the line.
3) Branch is putting down roots
What I like most about what I'm seeing between Deion and Matt is that the plays they are making look very repeatable. What does that mean? I am seeing the quick slant, the slant-and-go, the short cross, and I'm seeing them each week. These are ball control routes, and the they are working. Branch is making the most of each reception, and Matt looks more and more comfortable throwing him the ball. When you start seeing plays you know you've seen each week, that's a pretty good sign the QB and WR are getting some chemistry.
4) 49ers defense is good
Many will pick on the Hawks lack of running game (again) and inconsistent offense. I give the 49ers defense a lot of credit. Their secondary is outstanding, and their front seven wraps us well.
5) Red zone woes
The Seahawks cannot keep getting inside the 20 and coming away with just 3 points. Red zone FGs instead of TDs were the difference between 31-3 and 23-3 today. It arguably lost them the game in Arizona, and it will lose them more if they don't figure it out. This has everything to do with the running game.
6) Sean Locklear rocked
Bryant Young had 3 tackles and zero sacks. I know Locklear got some double-team help, but it was still impressive.
7) So did LeRoy Hill
Hill had 9 tackles for the second week in a row and pressured the passer all day. The theory coming into this game was our 1 bad defensive game against the run was because we were on the road. I'm starting to wonder if it was because Hill was out.
8) Seneca could inspire Holmgren's creativity
Using Seneca today was more important than succeeding with him. Almost every time he entered the game, he was part of the play. Teams will have to account for him now. It becomes the football equivalent of a boxer twirling on glove before bashing the guy with the other.
The Seahawks need to win first down, both on offense and defense. The Hawks offense can be productive if they are working with 2nd & 6 or less. If we're seeing lots of 2nd & 9 and 3rd & 7, I don't see us putting up many points. The 49ers offense certainly will want to establish the run, and if they are getting 4+ yards on first down, it really relieves pressure on the rest of their game. The more times the Hawks force Alex Smith to beat them on 3rd down instead of Gore, the better.
Friday, September 28, 2007
The Seahawks passed a big test last week. They beat a legitimate playoff team that was playing pretty well, and they did it while rebounding from a very disappointing loss and performance the previous week. As everyone loves to note, the Hawks lost both games to SF last year. A loss this week would fuel perception that the 49ers have their number, while also putting the Hawks at 0-2 in the division and SF at 3-0. That simply cannot happen.
1. Bryant Young, Patrick Willis and the new 3-4 49ers defense
The 49ers moved to a 3-4 defense this year, sliding stalwart Bryant Young out to DE from his old DT position. Young has always cheated nature by remaining a force even at his progressing age. He's off to a big start this season with 4 sacks through 3 games. Sean Locklear will have his hands full. Patrick Willis is a monster in his rookie season. He is Ray Lewis all over again. Perhaps I'm anointing him a little early, but he's been that impressive so far. The Hawks offense tends to struggle against 3-4 defenses, where lineman can't be sure where the fourth pass rusher will be coming from.
2. Team effort against the run
We find out this week if the Hawks run defense is going to get a reputation of only showing up at home. They were absent in Arizona, and it will cost them this game if they are absent again. The 49ers have a huge left side of their line, and Darryl Tapp and our undersized DTs will have a hard time holding the point of attack. Brandon Mebane may need to play a little more. We need a great game from our linebackers and solid tackling. If Gore gets some success early, it could snowball.
3. WRs must make plays
Branch, Burleson, and Engram must get some clean breaks at the line. The 49ers secondary has been playing very well. This may be a game where Ben Obamanu can really make a difference if he's healthy, especially if they are down to a second-string safety.
4. No gimmes
The Hawks have been a better team than the 49ers for years, but have lost games against them when they shank punts, give up big plays and turn the ball over. We need to make the 49ers march all the way down to score. I don't believe their offense is good enough to do that very often.
5. Return game
The 49ers have given up some big returns this year, including a TD to Pittsburgh last week. The Hawks have had either a big punt return or KO return in 2 of the first 3 games. That could play a factor.
The Seahawks are quite simply a better team. If they lose, it will be because they did not play well. I don't sense the urgency around this game in Seattle that I'd expect. The ramifications of a loss are much greater than a win. Division games almost count double, and the Hawks have a chance to establish their place in the pecking order this week. I expect them to come out of there with a win.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
People seem to be very concerned about Shaun and the running game. As I've said before, I understand why people jump on Shaun. His style and demeanor don't match what folks want to see in a football player. Steve Kelley wrote a great column on that today. I care more about production than anything else, and Shaun has definitely produced. It will be a shame if a Seahawks player who chose to return to Seattle during free agency goes into the Hall of Fame without ever being embraced during his career.
I wanted to see how Shaun was producing so far this year, so I took a look at his first three games through the last three seasons.
|Week 1||@JAC||L 26-14||14||73||5.2||36||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Week 2||ATL||W 21-18||28||144||5.1||17||1||2||11||5.5||7||0||0||0|
|Week 3||ARI||W 37-12||22||140||6.4||45||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Week 1||@DET||W 9-6||19||51||2.7||14||0||2||1||0.5||4||0||2||1|
|Week 2||ARI||W 21-10||26||89||3.4||14||1||1||9||9||9||0||0||0|
|Week 3||NYG||W 42-30||20||47||2.4||12||1||2||12||6||8||0||0||0|
|Week 1||TB||W 20-6||27||105||3.9||22||1||2||12||6||12||0||1||0|
|Week 2||@ARI||L 23-20||18||70||3.9||16||1||2||5||2.5||4||0||0||0|
|Week 3||CIN||W 24-21||21||100||4.8||22||0||2||8||4||7||0||0||0|
A few things stand out:
- Shaun's YPC in 2005 were outstanding right from the start. They were equally dismal last season. He's right about where he should be for this year, as you'd expect this young line to gel more as the season progresses.
- It's remarkable how even he's been in total carries over the first three games of each season.
- He went over 100 yards in two of the three games in both 2005 and 2007, but in none of the first three in 2006. We're not seeing anything approaching 150 yards in a game or 4 TDs out of him yet.
Seahawks Stock: Rising
Pre-season Predicted Record: 10-6
Current Predicted Record: 10-6
A win this week in SF would likely bump my predicted record to 11-5. I am predicting we will gain a victory in STL that I had as a loss in the pre-season based on where things are going with both teams. That balances out the unexpected loss last week in Arizona. A win this week would really set us up nicely for the division.
NFC Top 5
- Dallas Cowboys (Rising): There is no question the Cowboys are the class of the NFC right now. They are playing with confidence and talent on both sides of the ball. They don't get into divisional games until the second half of the season. The Hawks need Philly and Washington to be good teams if they want a shot at home field advantage.
- Carolina Panthers (Neutral): They struggled with Atlanta on the road, which is not encouraging if your a Panthers fan. However, this team is in the top 5 in the NFC in YPC (for & against), YPA (for & against), pts/game, red zone offense and red zone defense. Their matchup with Tampa this week will be telling for both teams.
- Seattle Seahawks (Rising): A win this week in SF makes this team legit. If we see a showing similar to the Cards game, I'll be hard-pressed to keep them ranked this highly.
- Green Bay Packers (Rising): The Pack has beaten Philly, NYG and San Diego. They walloped the Hawks in pre-season enough that is was impressive even though most of the Hawks stars did not suit up. Their defense is for real, but their offensive numbers don't seem sustainable. Let's see what happens when they hit the road.
- Philadelphia Eagles (Rising): Close call with the Redskins and Bucs, but Philly has the horses to be there in the end. Their losses are @ GB and against the Redskins. Their offensive and defensive stats are impressive.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I also read that the 49ers will be without their stud tight end Vernon Davis for a while with a strained ligament in his knee.
According to their depth chart, a guy named Billy Bajema will start in his place. Billy Bajema?
It also sounded like one of their starting safeties, Mark Roman, has an elbow injury of unknown severity.
More on this as we near the game.
Monday, September 24, 2007
To that end, the stats I rely on to determine that efficiency are Yards/Attempt in passing and Yards/Carry in rushing. I look at these for both the offense and the defense. My basic theory is that if you add together the YPA and YPC of a team's offense and subtract the combined value of the defenses YPA and YPC, you have a pretty good idea of how a team is performing.
I wanted to add red zone efficiency into the mix as well (another key indicator on offense and defense in my opinion), but I couldn't find a source for that info on the web. *Please let me know if you know where I can find this info. (UPDATE: I got this info, but chose not to include it this season)
Efficiency is a key measure, but the game is really decided by points. There are lots of intangibles that can't be measured that add up to points either scored or prevented. Is a team really a bend, but don't break defense? Is a team great between the 20s, but scoring a bunch of field goals? All that should show up in points scored and points allowed, so I've added avg pts/game scored and allowed to the formula.
That gives us:
(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)I'm pretty happy with the results (they don't include the Saints/Titans game), but I'd love to hear your reactions.
Here is the Excel version for folks that would like to get more power over sorting and detail. It includes each teams YPC and YPA info.
Wave your hands wildly and freak out!! The world is spinning out of control!! Oh no!!
Obviously, I'm not as worked up about this as some. Does it matter? Absolutely. Shaun is already a tentative runner, and this makes him even more so. I noted last week that he was clearly effected by the injury.
Is it crippling? Absolutely not. Look, I'll be doing a little more analysis of Shaun's first three games (similar to what I did for Matt) later, but 100 yards in 2 of the first three games is good no matter how you cut it. I will be the first to agree the running game has been mediocre at best so far. I think a lot more of that is due to the line than Shaun or his injury. When they start opening holes, Shaun will still run through 'em.
One thing I am BEGGING for here is to stop throwing Shaun the ball. He had bricks for hands before wearing a cast. Otherwise, let's go on about our business and save our hand wringing for a critical game this week.
A few things really stuck out for me yesterday. First, the Bengals are a good team that was highly motivated to win. Their weakest unit, their defense, had even more motivation after an embarrassing showing the week earlier. The offense was already great, and was playing with a ton of confidence and rhythm after scoring 45 in their last game. Beating a team like that, regardless of how you do it, is a great accomplishment.
You almost had to be at the game to appreciate just how good Carson Palmer and his two WRs are. When you see precision timing and accuracy like that, it really makes you wonder how they ever get stopped. I turned to my friend on a 3rd & 1 they ran for and said, "It's a gift every time they run the ball."
The Seahawks run defense was almost as remarkable in it's turn around from Week 2. I was shocked to see one of the Bengals runs in the 4th quarter was for only seven yards. They had been stuffing the run so well, that it looked like he was running for days. Gaps were tight and consistent. Tackling was strong and collaborative.
I know it's lame to brag, but I think my keys to the game have been pretty damn good the past two weeks. Stopping the run was the number one reason we won that game. If the Bengals could have gotten Rudi Johnson going, the Bengals would have hung 40 on us.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
1. The defense played well
Despite giving up a ton of yards, the Hawks defense did a nice job today. Carson Palmer and his WRs were as advertised. It is nearly impossible to defend a team that has a QB putting the ball on his WRs right out of their breaks. Those guys are going to put up a ton of points this year. Holding that offense to 19 points, with two turnovers by the Hawks offense, was huge.
2. Red zone offense is a problem for Hawks right now
The Hawks are settling for FGs right now in the red zone. It happened twice against Arizona and once today. The TDs are coming outside the 20. That must change.
3. LeRoy Hill played well
9 tackles, 7 solo. I think we missed him more than we knew last week.
4. Lance Laury rocks
I look forward to seeing him get some of Bentley's reps at LB. The guy hits a ton.
5. Where were the TEs?
Pollard was invisible. I know he was injured for a while, but there seemed to almost no attack in the middle of the field.
More tomorrow. I am working on some statistical analysis.
It's rare to have a game this important in your third game of the season. Beating an AFC team that is 1-1 and whose defense is flawed enough to make it a borderline playoff contender is not all that meaningful. Add these items to the mix:
- 49ers are 2-0
- We play @ SF and @ Pitt the next two weeks
- Our defense is under the microscope, and teetering on the edge of "here we go again" status, going up against one of the best offenses in football
- Hawks lost a game they should have won last week
- It's a home game
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated.
Friday, September 21, 2007
This is a massively important game against a very capable opponent. Leaving this game 1-2 with game @ SF and @ Pitt the next two weeks would make it make it very difficult to be an over .500 team this season, even though I believe the Hawks are a very good team. If the Hawks do win, it sets up an early showdown for the division lead next week as I expect the 49ers to be 2-1 after playing in Pitt this week.
1. Stop Rudi Johnson
The Bengals scored 27 points in their win in week 1 and 45 in their loss in week 2. Carson Palmer was strong in both games. The difference? Rudi Johnson rushed for 50 yards and averaged 2.8 YPC in week 1, and rushed for 118 yards and averaged 5 YPC in week 2. Yes, Palmer had a superlative day passing last week, but even the best passing game needs the threat of a running game to reach it's peak. Look at the 300-yard passers each week and the 100-yard rushers. It's fascinating how often the 300-yard passers lose and how often the 100-yard rushers win. The Bengals passing game will be effective against the Hawks (and the rest of the league). We cannot afford for them to more than a one-dimensional offense.
2. Offensive efficiency
The best things for the Hawks in this game would be to get the ball first and score a TD. They need to get off to a faster start this week, and they need to show the ability to be a consistent scoring threat. They found that rhythm in the second half last week against a defense better than the Bengals. Efficiency also means scoring TDs and not FGs.
3. Defensive playmakers must show up
Julian Peterson, Patrick Kerney, Darryl Tapp, Rocky Bernard, and Deon Grant were all invisible last week. It's time to create some turnovers and tackle some folks behind the line of scrimmage. Tatupu cannot do this on his own. The return of LeRoy Hill should help, but the whole defense needs to step up.
4. Safety help for Kelly Jennings
Two games. Two jump balls lost by Jennings. This guy is not capable of 1:1 coverage down the field against larger receivers. We need to cover him up top with safety. If he gets beat again this week (you can almost count on it), look for either Babs or Josh Wilson to get a shot. Wilson is not tall at all, but he is more physical. We simply can't give up a 40+ yard play each week because of one guy.
5. Pass pressure
After netting five sacks the first week, the Hawks had the big goose egg against a suspect Cardinals line. This week they go against a Bengals line that has given up only two sacks thus far. There is no reason the Bengals can't score a bunch of points if we don't pressure Palmer.
Every year, for the last few years, we hear about how the Hawks defense is dominating in mini-camp, and then in pre-season, and then in the early part of the season. Then, in almost every case, we find out it's still the same crappy unit it was in the past (2005 being the clear exception). Last weekend in Arizona was very disconcerting. No pass pressure and no run defense against a team that is not yet great has me worried heading into a game against one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. The Hawks are always tough at Qwest, and our offense seems close to breaking out to a 30+ pt day. Our offense must be dominant, and our defense must keep the Bengals under 25. I give a slight lean to the Hawks.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Seahawks Stock: Falling
Preseason Predicted Record: 10-6
Current Predicted Record: 10-6
I fully expected to knock down my predicted season record for the Hawks after the loss this weekend, but my pre-season predictions have a loss @ STL and a loss @ Philly that may go the other way based on how those teams are playing, so the Hawks get a reprieve for another week. A loss this week could have a significant impact on the rest of the year. This is their most critical stretch.
NFC Top 5
- Dallas Cowboys (Rising): It must be nice to disregard morals and sign someone like Tank Johnson. I don't like Tony Romo, TO or Jerry Jones, but this looks like the most complete team in the NFC right now.
- Carolina Panthers (Falling): The Panthers were apparently reading this blog because they overlooked a Texans team that has clearly improved this year. Based on the Saints performance thus far, it looks like Tampa will the Panthers toughest divisional foe. This is probably still the team to beat in the NFC.
- Chicago Bears (Neutral): This team will be there all year because of their defense. A win over KC is not all that notable.
- Seattle Seahawks (Falling): This is all about the defense, particularly the run defense. It was horrible against the Cards, bu before Cadillac Williams was knocked out in week 1, he was averaging 5 YPC. This team will not be a Top 5 team if they can't be a Top 15 run defense.
- San Francisco 49ers (Rising): Believe it or not, their offense is dead last in yards, but they are 2-0. They lucked into a win against the Rams, but that was a desperate Rams team at home, so any win is impressive. This was a tossup with the Redskins,
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
As I've mentioned a number of times during the pre-season and early regular season, QB Matt Hasselbeck has been a real bright spot. He's played nearly flawless football for two games. His throwing with confidence, and has that look in his eye that we never saw last year.
I always like to see if the numbers support my subjective evaluations, so let's take a look at Matt through games 1 & 2 of the last three years (including this one).
|Week 1||@JAC||L 26-14||21||36||246||58.3||6.83||33||2||2||3.0||74.5|
|Week 2||ATL||W 21-18||20||31||281||64.5||9.07||41||2||0||2.0||115.1|
|Week 1||@DET||W 9-6||25||30||210||83.3||7.00||36||0||0||5.0||95.8|
|Week 2||ARI||W 21-10||12||27||221||44.4||8.19||49||1||2||3.0||54.7|
|Week 1||TB||W 20-6||17||24||222||70.8||9.25||49||1||0||2.0||113.5|
|Week 2||@ARI||L 23-20||22||36||281||61.1||7.81||37||1||0||1.0||94.8|
A few things stick out to me here. First, the 281 yards Matt passed for last week were more than in any game last season, and there were only two times in 2005 that he eclipsed that number. As you all recall, 2005 was the year the Hawks went to the Super Bowl.
Second, the sack total is very low this year. Even the legendary 2005 offensive line had yielded more sacks at this point in the season. The patchwork line from last year was already showing it's weakness.
Third, Matt's efficiency has been off-the-charts so far. His completion percentage is up. His YPA is outstanding, and he has zero picks.
Last, Matt had at least one stinker of a game to start each of the past two seasons. He's been nearly flawless (except for poorly timed fake audibles) so far this year.
The most encouraging part is the protection Matt's received so far. The bit that is hidden is the running game. Shaun had already had a 140+ yard rushing game in 2005. The game against Tampa was encouraging for that reason, but it clearly regressed on Sunday.
If Matt is going to have the year I think he is poised for, the pass protection will need to stay strong and the running game must become a consistent threat. This year it could very well be the passing game that opens up the run lanes.
I have traded emails with the Hawks customer service department, but have not gotten very far as you can see below (read bottom-to-top).
I will be on this all year if necessary. Please continue to contribute your stories and thoughts for how we can change this for the better.I went a head and sent an email to Levy restaurants to have them give you a call on the situations. Please keep me in the loop when the respond.From: Brian
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 8:54 AM
Subject: RE: Concessions
I understand. Can I speak to your Director?
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2007 8:52 AM
Subject: RE: Concessions
We get a lot of complaints I can only log them in the post game reports from there they comply all the reports and give them to the right departments after that the keep them for a year end review. I won't get a response from the directly it will be passed on to Levy to make the corrections at the next game.
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 9:10 PM
Subject: RE: Concessions
Any response to the blog post about concessions and all the comments from your directors?
Monday, September 17, 2007
You never know how you're going to feel the morning after a game like this. I went to bed feeling mostly at peace with the loss. It was very encouraging to see the team respond the way it did to being in a huge 17-0 hole. Above everything else, Matt is the key to our season, and he continued to look fantastic.
But when I woke up and read the paper, it really stung. No matter the circumstances, the loss yesterday really makes the season difficult. Arizona believes they are in it and will play harder as a result. SF can start to believe their hype.
The next three weeks will potentially be the most important of the season. Take a look at these schedules:
This Cincy game is huge. If the run defense is not significantly better this week, we're in for a long year. They should be angry, at home, and mostly healthy. A bad performance means we don't have the horses, and you can't do much about that.
I'll be back mid-week with my NFC stock market. Very interesting week around the NFC.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
1. Cardinals offensive line dominated our d-line
This will get analyzed all week. It is simply inexcusable to get that little pressure on the QB *AND* play the run so poorly. Zero sacks. 132 yards rushing against. That basically means we got whupped.
2. Hasselbeck is off to a great start
He had another fantastic day leading the team to this comeback. Nearly 300 yards and zero interceptions. Except for the fluke play we lost on, he was in command in the second half.
3. Deion Branch showed his worth
Branch made some clutch plays and some big plays. Let's see if it can happen with some consistency.
4. Play calling was putrid in the first half
Draw plays to Mack or Shaun on 2nd and 20 is not going to work. Please stop trying. Deep fly routes from our own 1-yard line are extremely low percentage. This offense is about the 5-25 yard routes and the running game. When we have Hackett and Obamanu, we can consider some deep shots. But even then, we should be moving the ball with our bread-and-butter first.
5. Shaun's got a problem
I don't care what the injury is. I just know he was clearly playing cautiously. He wouldn't even put his hand down to get up off the turf. He repeatedly waited for o-lineman to help him stand up.
6. The Bengals scored 45 today.
7. Tatupu is off to great start as well
He made some great plays, and was one of the only defenders that seemed to show up today. His INT was nearly the play of the game. The Hawks were on the ropes when he made a great play on that ball.
8. The Cardinals running success was *NOT* because Bryce Fisher was traded
We saw this same sort of rushing defense last year with Fisher in the lineup. There is no defensive end that is that critical to the run defense, even if he plays tackle on occasion.
9. Last two scores were field goals instead of TDs
That lack of execution in the red zone turned into a major issue. You could feel the momentum slow when that first field goal was kicked to tie the game.
10. This loss looks even scarier when looking at the schedule
The Hawks better bounce back strong, or they could be looking at 1-4 really easily. Bengals next week, then @ 49ers, then @ Steelers.
I will create these game threads for each of the away games, so we can chat. I will also create some polls during the game (at least one) to make it a bit more interactive.
Way too many people are writing the Cards off. We definitely should win this game, but it is not a gimme, by any stretch. Don't forget those blown coverages last week by the Hawks, or the fast and aggressive defense from the Cards. All it takes is a few turnovers or big pass plays to make this a loss. That said, this is a game that a championship-level team wins. It's a good early measuring stick for the Hawks and the division.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
This is great for a number of reasons. The NFL is a game of focus, preparation and execution. I guarantee you nobody on the Cardinals staff is focusing and preparing for Leonard Weaver. And even if they are noting the plays he was a part of last week, it will be different this week. That means there should be opportunities for Weaver to make some plays, and I think he will. The concern here is his ability to pass protect. I can't say he's worse than Shaun in that regard.
Look for some screen passes, check-downs, and possibly some draws to Weaver tomorrow. What got lost in his fumbling during the pre-season was that he made some great catches and strong runs in the last few games. We all want to see "The Baptism" (his stiff arm, for the uninitiated) in regular season action. Before too long, he is going to break a big gainer off of a screen pass, and then teams will start preparing for him. But not this week. Opportunity is knocking.
This starts to paint a pretty catastrophic picture for the Rams. If they can't pressure on the passer (see zero sacks last week), and their secondary is thin or just bad, this could spiral downward very quickly.
I currently have the Hawks losing in Week 12 @ St. Louis. Depending on how things play out this weekend, that could change.
Friday, September 14, 2007
You'll notice I've added the headline feed from my favorite Seahawks blog along the right. I'll start playing with some polls from time-to-time, although it can be a little sad to see my "faithful three" readers voting.
You can also see there is a feed from YouTube with any recent Hawks-related video, and further down the page, along the right column is the latest Hawks news from around the Internet.
I can add feeds from other sites as well, so let me know if there is something you'd like to see.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I was reading all this at Frank Hughes' blog, and thinking the only one that really concerns me is Obamanu. Hamstring injuries tend to linger, and I'd hate to lose him for a long stretch while Hackett is out. I'm also really eager to see him at full speed in the offense to see what he can do. I thought he might surprise the Cards this week, and maybe he still will.
I guess it's better than being a Blazers' fan today. Oh wait. I grew up in Portland. I think I'll stop reading sports news for a little while.
Is it Sunday yet?
I don't claim that my previews will be more "right" than the national ones, but they certainly won't be more wrong.
1. Running game
Those that watched the Cardinals game on Monday night know there was not a lot of offense on either side. I did leave with the impression that the Cards ran the ball pretty well, but the stats don't support that perception. They did run for 161 yards (4.2 ypc) which is nearly double their average from a season ago (83.6 yards/game) when they were the 30th ranked rushing offense. But a closer look shows that Edgerrin James ran for 92 yards (3.5 ypc) with a long run of 9 yards. Leinart got much of the rest (35 yards) scrambling for his life. And even though the 49ers defense looks improved, you can't forget they were in the bottom third of the league in rushing defense last year. Of course, so were the Hawks. :)
The Hawks made a strong opening statement in the running game. Even though they produced fewer total rushing yards (139), Shaun was responsible for almost all of them (105), and had a couple runs of longer than 10 yards.
Looking back at last season, the Hawks did not run well against the Cards. Shaun's best game was 89 yards in Game #2 at Qwest. James had a big game in the second matchup (114 yards 4.4 ypc) when Arizona won.
Both defenses look strong, so this will likely come down to which offensive line is playing better, and with the injury at Center and Right Tackle for the Cards, you'd have to give the significant edge to the Hawks here. Holmgren needs to stay committed to the run in this game to keep the crowd in their seats.
2. Pass protection/Pass Rush
I also had the misperception that the Cards were all over Alex Smith and that Leinart was on his back a bunch. Another look shows 1 sack given up for Arizona and 3 sacks registered against the 49ers. Although sacks are an imperfect measure of pass rush, these are pretty interesting. Giving up only one sack on a road opener to a defense that was blitzing like crazy is impressive. Getting only three sacks is pretty much average.
The Seahawks gave up 2 sacks, but one of them was on the ill-fated flea flicker which is less concerning. I thought the protection was terrific all afternoon. This, though, will be a real test for Chris Spencer. Matt has mentioned numerous times how much prep he needs to do when they play Arizona because of their exotic defense. They have now switched to a 3-4 which adds another twist. Spencer will have to make the correct line calls in a hostile environment against a talented and confusing defense.
The Hawks 5 sacks against Tampa were largely the product of good pass coverage. Having Kerney lineup against a rookie right tackle in Levi Brown bodes well. I'd also expect the loss of their center will make them more susceptible to line stunts, which is the primary way the Hawks like to create pressure up front. If they can get pressure without blitzing, I like our chances. And just in case you were not aware, they are down TWO centers. Their official starter, Nick Leckey went down in the preseason, so this will be their third string center, and he is a rookie. Salivating yet?
In the last game against the Cards, the Hawks got exactly ZERO sacks. That cannot happen if they expect to win this game.
3. Fitzgerald/Boldin vs. Trufant/Jennings
This will continue to be a key to each game until I have reason to believe Jennings has established himself as a starter. Fitzgerald has lit up Trufant in the past, outjumping him for numerous balls. Jennings is smaller than Tru. Catching is one thing, tackling is another. You can't bring down either of these WRs with arm tackles. Tru is an above average tackler for a CB, but I haven't seen Jennings in space enough to know what he's capable of. This may be a place where we see that new "Big Base" defense where Deon Grant lines up at CB.
4. Scoring early
The Hawks could make this an easy game if they get ahead early. The Cards lost a tough one in week one, and have a fanbase that is always poised to jump off the bandwagon.
This game could be the difference between 10-6 and 9-7. I picked the Hawks to win this game before the season began, and I see no reason to change that pick. However, the Cards are a good team playing in their home opener. This would be a big win, and with SF playing STL this week, we have a chance to really establish our place in the division if STL can win at home.
UPDATED: Side Note
Well, it looks like the crap is not so holy. Thanks to RACERX615 for correcting me. At least I don't have to be mad at the Hawks for letting him go undrafted.
Holy crap! I just saw that Patrick Willis was an undrafted free agent!! That guy was a monster out there last week (11 tackles). I expected to see 1st rd pick. Expect to be hearing a lot about that for the next 10 years. He looked a lot like Ray Lewis.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Seahawks Stock: Rising
Preseason Predicted Record: 10-6
Current Predicted Record: 10-6
The defense played much better against the run that I expected based on the preseason performances and Tubbs' injury. Kelly Jennings remains a concern, and we'll see just how much of one this week against Boldin and Fitzgerald. Matt looked fantastic at QB. It was not flashy, but he did not make a single mistake. That bodes really well for our chances down the road. The line blocked well both in pass protection and the run. Although things are improving, I can't see any game predictions I'd change at this point.
NFC Top 5
- Carolina Panthers (Rising): This is a complete team right now with an easy early schedule. If New Orleans falters, the Panthers could go 14-2.
- Seattle Seahawks (Rising): I am not a homer. I put the Hawks here because their best players are playing with confidence and are experienced winners.
- Dallas Cowboys (Neutral): Their defense is better than what we saw this week and their offense is dynamic. I think Wade Phillips is a dope, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this team fall apart.
- Chicago Bears (Falling): They lost two defensive starters, and Rex Grossman sucks (I admit to actively disliking this guy). Their defense is still the best in the NFC.
- New Orleans Saints (Falling): Their offense is way better than we saw this week. Their defense is suspect.
We should know more in a few hours, but this could be that we traded for a draft pick and turned that into a trade for a backup QB. Let's look at these things separately for the time being.
Fisher to Titans for undisclosed draft pick
This is curious. Fisher was still a clear contributor, and even a preferred DE over starter Darryl Tapp in certain running defenses. He was good locker room guy from the Seattle area (Renton) that also had a weekly show on KJR. He is also clearly on the downward trajectory in his career. He could be a legit starter for another season or so, but I wouldn't expect 8+ sacks anymore.
On it's own, this only makes sense if the Hawks are big believers in rookie DE Baraka Atkins, and wanted the roster spot for another player (likely a backup QB, but possibly another DT).
Frye to Hawks for a 6th round pick
You knew they were going to pickup a backup QB sometime in the next week or so. With Hackett's injury, and Holmgren's intimations that Seneca could be used at WR, the move seemed imminent. Indeed, it was.
I don't much about Frye except that he washed out in Cleveland and never has had a QB rating higher than 72. They thought enough of him to try him as a starter for a few years, so maybe there is a reclamation project in there for our QB gurus, Holmgren and Zorn. He can't be worse than David Greene. A 6th-rounder, on it's own, seems a small price to pay for the chance to add a dynamic new option to our offense in Wallace.
What it likely means
Even if the Hawks did not take the pick from the Fisher trade and move it to Cleveland (i.e., they traded their own 6th rounder and got a different pick back from the Titans), they technically swapped Fisher for Frye on the roster. Getting a backup QB that Holmgren feels confident in could lead to very interesting things. Burleson is now a starting WR who also takes a beating on punt returns. Gil Haskell has said Wallace would be one of the best punt returners in football if he was in there. Do you alleviate the pressure there, or maybe share the duties?
What kind of plays could we see with Wallace on the field as a receiver? Holmgren hates trick plays, but he loves deception. He just tends to do it more subtlety with things like formations. Would Holmgren entertain WR option plays? I would guess we'd just see Seneca used as a WR in almost all cases, with an emphasis on end arounds to give him a chance to create.
At the DE position, this means Atkins must step up and Tapp must stay healthy. Tapp is undersized and we have no idea if he will wear down as the season moves along. Atkins impressed me a lot in the preseason, even as some were down on him. He was in the backfield a bunch.
Knowing how often Peterson lines up at DE in pass-rush situations really reduces our need for DE overall.
Nothing in these moves scares me. In fact, there is a chance for some additional freedom in how we use one of our most dynamic players, Wallace. As more information comes out, we'll see if that opinion changes.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Either team losing is good. If the Cards would have won going away or got blown out, they would have had some additional motivation for our game against them this week.
Now, they have a short week to recover from a pretty brutal loss. Playing in front of the home crowd in the opener always helps, but this was probably the best outcome the Hawks could have hoped for.
We'll have to see if their center remains sidelines for that game as well. He left midway through tonight, and their o-line cannot afford more injuries (they already lost one starter at left tackle during the pre-season).
More later. By the way, I plan on hosting a game thread here during the broadcast on Sunday for people to post on as we watch the game. Hope to see you there.
That said, there is no wide receiver we are so reliant on that we can't handle an injury. Remember that we were without D-Jack and Engram for an extended period during the 2005 season and won a lot of games with Jerhame Urban and a young Hackett.
The silver lining here is that Ben Obamanu is the best kept secret on our team. Nobody will game plan for the guy, and he has the speed and playmaking ability to make people pay for putting a safety or dime back on him.
I heard on Fox Sports Radio this morning that "Rams insiders" have told Jay Glazer that they fear Pace is out for the season. How's that for hearsay?
I'm not above gossip. Please post here if you see definitive word somewhere.
I admit it. Nate Burleson is the apple of my eye. I tend to be big fan of those "off-broadway" players. The ones that are just outside of everyone's focus or are facing a little adversity. Nate is getting more positive attention this year, but it was last year that he gained my respect.
He was a high-priced free agent that played his way out of the starting lineup. We have all seen the story line a thousand times. Nate was going to be the next "bust." His reaction, however, was unique. He started to ask Holmgren for reps on special teams, and not just to return kicks. He wanted in on kick *coverage*. The guy was dying to contribute in any way. You all know what he did as a returner, so I'll spare you that recap.
The plays he made a returner led to increased playing time at WR, though the chances were still limited. The moment when I knew he was going to be a big factor this season did not come during his stellar training camp. It came in the Bears playoff game when he caught a pass over the middle at the 5-yard line, took a big hit, before fighting and diving for the endzone and a critical Hawks TD. It was inspiring stuff.
That's why I grimace when I hear people seeing his fumble yesterday and breaking out the cliche, "you have to know when to go down with the ball." This guy has a chance to be game breaker for us. Don't take that aggression and drive away from him, at least not yet.
Imagine my joy last night when I found out my two boys (pictured above on the way home from Franklin Falls this weekend) met Mr. Burleson at a certain restaurant in Issaquah. My 6-year-old asked him for an autograph, knowing absolutely nothing about him other than that he was a Seahawk (and he knew his daddy loves the Seahawks). Nate apparently signed four pieces of paper for him. Being a stand-up guy certainly doesn't hurt.
- Seattle P-I ran a lot of stories telling us how this defense "could be great," and that the Hawks are now a "balanced team." While I agree the defense looked great, you can not overstate who we were playing, when we were playing (1st game), and past history. You don't have to look farther back than last year to see a Hawks defense that dominated it's first 2.5 games (until the collapse against the Giants) and solidly was in the Top 10. Get back to me after 5-6 games and we can start to talk about meaningful patterns.
- It was also noted that Kerney slid inside and played tackle at times. I saw this and forgot to mention it, in part, because it didn't seem to result in much. It's nice to write about, but the Hawks did this with Bryce Fisher last year, and his sacks dropped precipitously. Kerney is not Bryce Fisher, but I'm just not convinced that defense is all that compelling.
- There was also mention of a package where Deon Grant plays CB. I admit to missing that, and will watch for it now. I'd like to know more about what that looked like if anyone reading would care to add some details and observations.
- Mike Green did get a lot of playing time. If you read my season preview, you'll see that I expected to see this in running downs. He's much stouter against the run than either Grant or Russell. I also saw him inserted in the red zone, which makes sense since he's not going to have worry about a deep ball in that situation.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Please. PLEASE get the concessions situation straightened out at Qwest Field. I've been a season ticket holder for 10 years and it continues to amaze me how hard it is to get food at Qwest. I am so eager to give you money that I will wait in endless lines and pay $7 for a slice of pizza. Last time I checked, business is all about making it easy and appealing to have people give you money.
My buddy and I went to get some chow 2:30 before the end of the first half. He went to the mexican place (that is no longer Taco Del Mar which is too bad) and I went to get some pizza. I had just finished telling him the story about how crazy it was last year when it would take 5-10 minutes to get your pizza after you ordered. Sure enough, I get halfway through the line, and hear people being told that it will be at least 5 minutes before they get pizza. I say, "forget it," and walk over to my buddy at the mexican place who, you guessed it, is waiting at the front of the line because he's been told they have *no food* available right now. This is like a minute or two before halftime!! We are the early crowd for gosh sakes. I missed Nate Burleson's punt return for this??
I left to watch Shaun score the go-ahead TD and came back down late in the third quarter, at least an hour later. Same thing! Against my better judgement (my stomach has that effect), I went to the teriyaki place. I ordered the $5.25 hot dog after getting assurances from the person behind the counter that they had some available to buy. She came back a few minutes later and said they were out of hot dogs. *deep breath* It's not her fault. She's a volunteer. Since I had already paid for the phantom hot dog I asked, "Do you have anything I can order?" She had some $9.25 steak teriyaki bowls. My stomach won the argument, and I forked over more money.
If my planning was this bad, and having this much impact on the bottom line, I would be fired. There is a hugely successful model to follow across the street. Why can't you just copy it? Bring in local chains, and tell them to expect 67,000 people.
If you won't fix this for the fans, fix it for your business. Just fix it, please!