Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seahawks 2008 Season Preview Part I: 2007 Recap, Off-Season, and Offense

A look back at 2007

The 2007 season was a pleasant surprise. An offense that looked so lost in 2006, became dangerous again. The running game was still a disaster, but Matt Hasselbeck had his best season, setting multiple team and personal records along the way. Shaun Alexander got injured early again, and the offensive line couldn't clear a space big enough for Mini Me to run through. We went from the best short yardage team in the NFL in 2005 to the worst just two years later. Much of the blame went to Alexander, but no back was going to succeed with last year's line. Three of the five lineman played poorly, and even Big Walt had a subpar season for him. The WRs were probably the most talented group we've ever had. Bobby had a career year, Deion Branch flashed some of the star talent we thought we were trading for and DJ Hackett made an impact whenever he was healthy enough to play. And, of course, my man Burleson led the team in TDs.

Besides the passing game, the biggest storyline last year was the growth of the defense. We saw fantastic linebacker play, combined a solid pass rush and mostly error-free coverage. That led to the Hawks highest defensive ranking (15th) since 1997. Many of the 2006 off-season moves turned into gold with folks like Patrick Kearney (Drago), Deon Grant, Brian Russell and Brandon Mebane all contributing. Ruskell continues to demonstrate an ability to stock the defense with the right talent. The Hawks beat a very hot Redskins team in the playoffs before losing to a better Packers team. Unlike the year before, the season did not feel like the beginning of the end. As long as we have Matt, this defense and Mike Holmgren, we've got a shot.

2008 Off-season grade – B+

By far the best move of the off-season was firing our o-line coach and hiring Mike Solari. More than any other addition, Solari will be at the center of a dramatic turnaround in our running game this season. His impact has already been felt as the Hawks averaged 173.8 yards/game in the preseason on the ground (2nd in the NFL), after finishing 20th last season with an average of 101.2 YPG. Granted, those are preseason numbers, but there is reason to believe they matter. The other major addition to the running game was Mike Wahle. Teaming Wahle with Jones gives us at least one side of our line that will play relatively mistake-free football. Re-signing RT Sean Locklear was smart as well. I think we wasted our money on Julius Jones and TJ Duckett. I would have much rather us aggressively trade up for a talent like Jonathan Stewart than spend good money on mediocre veteran stopgaps. We need a featured back for the future, and it was hard to beat this draft for getting one. Instead, we waited until the 7th round to draft one, and may have gotten a decent one there in Justin Forsett. John Carlsen was another solid addition who should contribute right away, as was Lawrence Jackson who is the likely starter at DE opposite Kearney. Losing DJ Hackett was a big hit, and a questionable decision. He's been injured quite a bit, but he was our best receiver when on the field, and we are going to miss his big body and chemistry with Hass. For the third straight season, the front office has shown the ability to make impactful defensive additions. The jury is still out on the offensive side of the ball.

Offense – Starters

Matt Hasselbeck** – QB

Maurice Morris* – RB

Leonard Weaver* – FB

Courtney Taylor* – WR

Nate Burleson* – WR

John Carlson* - TE

Sean Locklear – RT

Rob Sims* – RG

Chris Spencer – C

Mike Wahle* – LG

Walter Jones** – LT

* New Starter or New Position

** Pro Bowl

Offense – Running Game

I saw enough in the preseason to think this might be the best kept secret in the NFL. Our lowest rushing output was 130 yards in the final game that saw none of our starters play. Mo Morris averaged 6.7 yards/carry. Justin Forsett averaged 5.4 YPC. TJ Duckett averaged 4.2 YPC. Julius Jones average 4.1 YPC. The team average was 3.8 YPC last season. I saw holes larger than any I saw last year, and they were there pretty consistently against decent run defenses. The difference in the blocking schemes was noticeable from the very first series where players like Rob Sims were intentially yielding 3-4 yards to their defender just so he could use the players momentum to push him to the outside. We finally got out of the predictable draw play, and found some toss plays that worked with the backs we have. Blocking improved at the WR spot as well as Courtney Taylor appears to be a willing blocker and Logan Payne is a superior blocker for that position. Nate Burleson compared Payne to Hines Ward in that regard during a radio interview. High praise, for sure.

This part of the team is the what I am most excited to see in action come the regular season. We were horrible at running the ball last year, so finishing in the Top 15 would be a big story. Cracking the Top 10 is not out of the question.

Offense – Passing Game

We flashed some serious weapons in the passing game last year. Even Mo Morris and Leonard Weaver added new wrinkles to how we could attack defenses through the air. We start the year without Branch or Engram, and lost Ben Obamanu for the season. I think we can win with just adequate play at WR this year, when superior talent was a must last year. The difference is a renewed running game and the emergence of the TE. Both John Carlson and Jeb Putzier will be consistent threats, and will do more than any WR can in filling the void from Bobby Engram. Remember, Engram had his record year last year in part due to picking up TE routes that folks like Pollard and Will Heller just couldn't pull off.

Our offensive line blocked well for the pass last year, but we have the additional bonus of good blocking TEs and better blocking backs. Matt has been a Top 2 QB in the NFC in 2 of the past 3 seasons. He should be at the point where that is something we expect of him.

Offense – Quarterback

We have it so good. Matt is in his prime. Enjoy it. There is no guarantee we will ever enjoy another QB of Matt's caliber in a Seahawks uniform. That's not just about Matt. He benefited from breaking in under Brett Favre, Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren, before getting more Holmgren, Trent Dilfer and Jim Zorn. All the teaching in the world doesn't allow you to think quickly or throw accurately, but it sure helps. Matt has become more durable, but has been fighting some back issues (although he calls them minor) this preseason. His health is critical. For the first time, though, I can honestly say we can win games without him.

Seneca Wallace has reached another level. His command of the offense and the accuracy of his throws in preseason were unreal. He is a legit starting QB in the NFL right now. Charlie Frye does not deserve all the praise he got during the preseason, but he is more like the typical NFL backup. You could go a game or two with him, but you can't win consistently with a guy like that. Even so, his development frees Wallace up to contribute in new ways.

Offense – Offensive Line

The question here is at the Center position. Chris Spencer has been hurt all of preseason, but Steve Vallos showed the ability to fill-in or takeover if needed. Behind Vallos? It's a little scary. Rob Sims seems better this year, but I am not counting on a huge turnaround. I've already talked about Wahle and Locklear, and most folks know about Big Walt. I expect a better year from Walt with Wahle playing next to him. The depth on the line is a little questionable with Ray Willis and Pork Chop Womack as the only viable fill-ins at the Guard and Tackle positions.

Offense – Backfield

The Seahawks certainly don't lack for options anymore. Mo Morris and Julius Jones are almost the same runner. Mo is a significantly better receiver and appears much quicker. Jones looks a little tougher between the tackles and after contact. I predict Duckett will elicit the most groans of any offensive player. Weaver could be a Pro Bowl FB and Owen Schmitt may be worthy of a man crush. He is more than just a great blocker (and he is a *great* blocker). He flashed real athleticism and terrific hands. I am more excited to see him play than anyone else in the backfield, although it might not happen very often.

Offense – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

We start the season with the expectation that Bobby and Deion will recover and contribute in the first half of the season. Bobby is 35 and Deion is only 9 months removed from a surgery that usually takes 18 to fully recover from. Counting on those two may not be wise. Burleson needs to be much more consistent in his route running to be a leader in the WR ranks. Another consistent contributor must emerge from Logan Payne, Jordan Kent or Courtney Taylor. Taylor will be given every opportunity to prove it can be him, but it wouldn't shock me if Kent steps into the limelight.

Carlson, Putzier and Heller are a solid TE trio. I expect a lot of two TE sets, especially early in the season when the WR situation is less settled.

Offense – Overall 2008 Outlook

Whenever you have seven new starters on one side of the ball, you need to temper your expectations. I think the changes are all for the better outside of the WRs. The line looks poised for a big year, and the addition of legitimate TE threats will make Matt's life easier and sustain more drives. When Matt and the offensive line are healthy, I see no reason this can't be a Top 10 offense again. If Branch and Engram come back and contribute close to their normal levels, I think the Top 5 is not out of the question.

Loopy Loophole

Reader's Comment:

funballad said...

I love how we can be sternly disciplined with 2 suspensions and come out smelling like a rose with the advantage over other teams by delaying our 2 top bubble cuts till after every other team has solid rosters set and we can slide or 2 favorite bubble players into the practice squad. Thank you Babs and Rocky.

Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. This seems to be dying for a Steve Hutchison-style exploitation at some point. Can someone take Coutu and Atkins out for some beer and a bong hit after the game next week? We could keep this shuffle up all season...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Analysis: Cut down day

You can't make the wrong choice if you don't choose. The Hawks kept all their relevant WRs except for fringe player Michael Bumpus. They kept both of their kickers, both Baraka Atkins and Jason Babin, and TJ Duckett and Justin Forsett.

They were allowed this flexibility by the combination two suspended players (Rocky and Babs) and some folks on IR.

When those two players return in Week 2, two players will need to be released. You can count on one of those players being a kicker (likely Coutu, since as Frank Hughes said on his blog, they would have just cut now Mare if they were going to cut him at all). Teams have kept kickoff specialists in the past, but I can't see us doing that with our needs elsewhere.

The other player will either be Forsett or Atkins. I expect Babin to have an impact in game 1 the way he has played so far. He has an early lead in the most improved player race.

I like what the Hawks did.

Seahawks fans 20th best?

You have to be kidding me. I was stunned to see that Seahawks fans weren't ranked in the top 5 in the league. I was shocked to not see them in the top 10, but to be ranked 20th? Behind fans like the Bills, the Titans and Saints? That's insulting.

We are the biggest homefield advantage in the league. No question. I could see rankinh us lower if you're talking about the the last 30 years, but rankings are about right now.

What a joke.

Feel free to read the article yourself here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Reaction: Hawks beat Raiders 23-16

Not a ton to say about a game that had so few starters involved, but here are my takeaways:

- Duckett and Forsett have swapped roster spots
This is dramatic turnaround from the first two games. Forsett choked. Duckett stepped it up. I still don't believe Duckett adds much, but he won the 3rd string role. I have no idea what happens with Forsett. He's done poorly enough that he could make our practice squad after all.

- Seneca Wallace is ready to start
He's not better than Hass, but he's better than every QB in our division outside of Marc Bulger, and even that is not certain. He's on a new level, and that's great to see.

- Spencer looked fine
Chris Spencer got his first snaps of the year, and looked fine.

- Obamanu and Taylor showed up
They stood out from the other WRs . Obamanu's injury is of some concern. That could be interesting for Bumpus if Obamanu is out.

- Logan Payne's best game
Yes, he fumbled on his first reception, but he also caught three balls and made a couple special teams plays, and a nice end around.

- Baraka Atkins was great
Jason Babin played just as great or better, so Atkins better hope there is room for him. He made his presence felt both in rushing the passer and rush defense.

- I think Coutu wins
Coutu hasn't missed a kick all preseason. His kickoffs are questionable. I can't see them letting him go. I'd still prefer Mare, but Coutu looks pretty good.

- Red Bryant played more than I expected
He seems healthy and has more stamina than you'd expect for a large man just 4 weeks from surgery.

- Owen Schmitt is awesome
The guy blocks like a madman and hurdles like...well...a madman.

Tomorrow should be an interesting cut day.

Game Thread: Raiders @ Hawks

So here we are. The final dress rehearsal before the 2008 season officially begins. The most important thing in the final game has absolutely nothing to do with performance or roster spots. It's all about staying healthy. Luckily, our offensive and defensive MVPs will not be manning their positions, so we should see them in uniform in a week.

Here are the other things I'll be looking for:

- Red Bryant
It's his first action since coming back from knee surgery. The guy is supposed to be a difference maker in the interior line. I've never seen him even move before, so I'm eager to see what he might turn into. I don't expect a great showing this close to surgery, but I'd like to get an idea of his game.

- WRs
Who is our slot receiver? Will Jordan Kent continue to be the lone bright spot, even though he projects to have the fewest opportunities in the regular season? This is a stellar set of DBs from the Raiders, so it will be interesting to see if Taylor can get open against these elite, physical CBs. I would LOVE to see Logan Payne standout. I really want a blocking WR in the mix

- TEs
Will we continue to see Holmgren utilize the TE to offset the absence of Engram? Probably. Carlsen and Putzier are consistently contributing in the passing game. I'd like to see that continue.

- Rushing offense
I want to see continuing signs of a renewed rushing attack. I care less about who gets the yards, and more about the way we're getting the yards.

- Rushing defense
What does our run defense look like without Tatupu? Does DD Lewis fill in ably? I'd love to see David Hawthorne for an extended look.

- Justin Forsett vs. TJ Duckett
I think Forsett needs a big final game to make the roster. I have no love for Duckett, but I have an idea how people like Ruskell work.

- Mare
He still needs to prove he can hit a long FG. Hopefully, the snapping situation is resolved and that will remove any variables from the equation.

When and if Dalton Bell makes an appearance at QB, it's probably best to avert your eyes. It could get ugly in a hurry.

I'll be back around game time.

Preseason Projections Part III: Rushing Defense

As I've detailed in the past, rushing defense is perhaps the most telling indicator of a Seahawks victory.

Until getting gashed for 130 yards by the Chargers running game, there were signs of a step forward.

The Hawks currently rank 4th in the NFL in rush defense (77.7 YPG) and 6th in YPC (3.3). They finished last year ranked 12th in rushing defense (102.8 YPG) and 10th in YPC (3.9), so if these preseason numbers held at all, it would be a big improvement.

Before we make any assumptions that the preseason numbers matter, let's see how preseason rushing defense compared to regular season last year for the Top 5.

Top 5 2007 Preseason Rushing Yards/Game Against
Cincinnati Bengals 71.2
Tennessee Titans 75.8
Detroit Lions 77.2
Chicago Bears 78.0
Dallas Cowboys 81.2

Top 5 2007 Regular Season Rushing Yards/Game Against
Minnesota Vikings 74.1
Baltimore Ravens 79.2
Pittsburgh Steelers 89.9
Washington Redskins 91.2
Tennessee Titans 92.4
(Dallas was 6th)
(Detroit was 23rd)
(Chicago was 24th)
Seems to be a mixed bag there. Chicago has significant injury issues on defense that explains their dropoff. I don't follow the Lions closely enough to say what that was about. Three of the Top 5 in the pre-season were in the Top 6 in the regular season. That's a much higher correlation than I expected. Let's see about YPC.

Top 5 2007 Preseason YPC Against
Tennessee Titans 2.8
Detroit Lions 2.9
Cincinnati Bengals 3.1
Indianapolis Colts 3.2
Washington Redskins 3.2

Top 5 2007 Regular Season YPC Against
Baltimore Ravens 2.8
Minnesota Vikings 3.1
Washington Redskins 3.7
Carolina Panthers 3.8
Indianapolis Colts 3.8
New York Giants 3.8
Philadelphia Eagles 3.8
San Francisco 49ers 3.8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3.8
Not much predictive evidence here. I look at the Hawks in the preseason thus far and note that Minnesota ran something like one running play in the first quarter and the Bears are not exactly running stalwarts. The Raiders are a top tier running team with Darren McFadden added to the mix. How they do tonight will help me guage where things are compared to where they will be.

I probably won't look as passing defense unless there is huge cry from the crowd. I am going to working on my season preview over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preseason Projections Part II: Passing

There was enough correlation between pre-season rushing stats and regular season rushing stats in 2007 that I wanted to look a little further. I will try to find some time to follow up with run defense and pass defense in subsequent posts.

Passing is quite a bit different than rushing in the pre-season. Teams protect their starting QBs more than any other position. Lots of third string QBs and rookies see their only action of the season at this time. We all know how big of a gap there is between a legit starting QB and a backup, let alone a third stringer.

We have seen Seneca Wallace perform nearly perfectly against Minnesota and Charlie Frye play a stinker and a solid game. We have seen Matt for one series. Trying to project our passing game based on that seems silly, and I would guess it would be for other teams, but let's take a look and see:

Top 5 2007 Preseason Passing Yards/Game
Indianapolis (272.0)
Detroit (271.8)
Philadelphia (243.2)
Jacksonville (241.5)
St. Louis (236.5)
(Seattle 188.5 - 21st)

Top 5 2007 Regular Season Passing Yards/Game
New England (295.7)
Green Bay (270.9)
New Orleans (269.6)
Dallas (256.6)
Arizona (254.1)
(Seattle 247.8 - 8th) overlap. Seattle's pre-season numbers seemed to have no bearing on their regular season numbers. I pretty much throw out Seattle's 2008 preseason stats here (225.7 YPG - 9th). However, that seems like a reasonable reduction in the passing game considering the WR questions and the hopefully resurgent running game. Let's see about the YPA numbers.

Top 5 2007 Preseason Passing Yards/Attempt
Detroit (8.3)
Jacksonville (8.1)
Pittsburgh (8.0)
Dallas (7.2)
Seattle (7.2)

Top 5 2007 Regular Seasons Passing Yards/Attempts
New England (8.3)
Dallas (8.1)
Green Bay (7.7)
Pittsburgh (7.7)
Indianapolis (7.6)
(Jacksonville was 6th)
(Detroit was 10th)
(Seattle was 13th at 7.1)
Much more correlation here. Four of the top 5 were in the Top 10 in the regular season, and all were in the Top 15. Seattle's YPA was almost equal from pre-season to regular season as well, so this has some predictive element. That said, knowing all I do about the Hawks, I could not base any regular season passing projection on our pre-season numbers (they are 5th with 7.1 YPA this pre-season) this year due to the tiny amount of time Matt has been in there. Even with all the WR questions, though, I think we'd all be surprised if a Holmgren/Hasselbeck team was not a Top 10 passing offense.

Take all this for what you will, I find myself pretty much where I started: pre-season passing numbers are only mildy predictive of regular season numbers.

Awwww Snap

Is there anymore annoying reason to struggle punting and kicking than a bad long snapper? Not in my book. Well, the Hawks released some bad news today about the guy they drafted to solve the snapping problems.

I don't think Tim Lindsey has been very good, but we did see good punts last night. We also saw two blocks last week. That's a major concern.

UPDATE: The Hawks signed Jeff Robinson to be their snapper today. He is the 38-year-old they had do it at the end of last season. He did a good job. Let's hope he can make it for the whole season.

Believe It: Seahawks Could Be A Top 5 Running Team

Nobody will argue that the running game is going to be a key to our success in 2008. In the first of a series of posts I will be doing on the relationship between pre-season stats and regular season stats, I take a look the running game.

I was shocked to find out the Hawks were #1 in the NFL in rushing yards through the first two games at over 200 YPG. They are still #1 after three games. Let's not get carried away, though, right? It's just pre-season.

Let's look at what the Hawks did in 2007 pre-season vs. regular season:

2007 Pre-Season
109.8 YPG (15th in the NFL)
3.5 YPC (22nd)

2007 Regular Season
101.2 YPG (20th)
3.2 YPC (22nd)

It's not surprising to see a reduction in regular season numbers for a variety of reasons, including a team's front-line defense being in the whole game. Total rushing yards came down by ~7.8%. Yards per carry came down by ~8.6%. I did not find the 2006 or 2005 pre-season stats on either or, so I'll just work with these numbers.

Let's also just look simply at who the Top 5 YPG and YPC teams in the 2007 pre-season were and compare that to the top rushing teams of the 2007 regular season.

Top 5 YPG 2007 Pre-Season
NY Giants (154.8)
Denver (134.5)
SF (128.5)
Minnesota (126.2)
Oakland (125)

Top 5 YPG 2007 Regular Season
Minnesota (164.6)
Jacksonville (149.4)
Pittsburgh (135.5)
NY Giants (134.2)
Tennesee (131.8)
(Oakland was 6th)
(Denver was 9th)
(SF was 27th)

It's certainly not a 1:1 correlation, but 4 of the 5 pre-season top rushing teams were Top 10 rushing teams in the regular season. SF had serious injuries to their line and teams quickly realized they could not pass and stacked the line against Gore and Co.

Top 5 YPC 2007 Pre-Season
NY Giants (5.1)
Arizona (4.5)
Houston (4.4)
Denver (4.4)
SF (4.4)

Top 5 YPC 2007 Regular Season
Minnesota (5.3)
Philadelphia (4.7)
Denver (4.6)
Jacksonville (4.6)
NY Giants (4.6)
(SF was 11th)
(Houston was 22nd)
(Arizona was 30th)

Only two of the Top 5 YPC pre-season teams made the Top 10 in regular season. This might not be as good of an indicator, but that's tough to say with this little of a sample size. Still, there is some correlation here. You have 40% of the Top 5 correct in the pre-season.

Let's look at the Hawks 2008 pre-season numbers now:

2008 Pre-Season
188.3 YPG (1st)
5.0 YPC (5th)

If we apply the same reduction to those numbers that we saw between the Hawks 2007 pre-season and regular season we come to these projections for the 2008 regular season:

Projected 2008 Regular Season Numbers
173.6 YPG
4.57 YPC

Those numbers would compare very favorably to the 2005 Super Bowl season where we put up 153.6 YPG (3rd) and 4.7 YPC (2nd).

Let's see what happens in the last game...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

*The Man* Is Bloggin' Again

The man, the myth is back in the blogosphere. Mike Sando is adding his unbeatable analysis about the NFC West on his ESPN blog. Mike is the guy that got me into this stuff, and was the first person to post a comment on my blog. He's a good guy, and a great reporter.

I love that his recent post is linking to Mitch Levy on KJR. That guy deserves more exposure. He's another solid media member. I know I listen to him every day on the way to work (when he's not talking golf).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reaction: Hawks "lose" to Chargers 18-17

The Hawks are 3-0 in my book. Maybe we should thank that ref for making a crap pass interference call on Hobbs and a crap TD call one play later because it takes the pressure off our win streak. Joking...

For the third straight game, the Hawks played with regular season precision. They have not really played a complete game yet with great offense in games 1 and 3 and great defense in game 2.

A few general notes:

- We may have seen a hint of how Holmgren plans to make due until our WRs get healthy with 6 catches from our TEs (3 Putzier, 2 Carlson, 1 Heller). There were also 5 to our backfield players. That means 10 of our 21 completions were not to WRs. I thought the plays to the TEs were especially encouraging. They were low risk, solid plays that generally picked up at least 8 yards.

- The running game was again very solid, putting up 162 yards against a quality defense. They have done it twice on the road. Having a solid running game on the road makes all the difference. It does not appear to matter who is in the backfield. They are all getting yards. It's clearly the biggest change since last season.

- The defense still has not proven itself on the road. It was good to see them stiffen in the second half, but it looked alarmingly similar to the way they looked on the road last season.

It was an important game for roster decisions, and there were some significant plays in that regard.

The Good
TJ Duckett
Duckett was the leading rusher in limited time. He looked like someone lit a fire under his butt because he came out running hard. I still believe that style is extremely limited, but give him credit for looking like an NFL back tonight.

Charlie Frye
Holmgren probably saw enough to feel that Seneca can do a little WR stuff. I heard the guy get interviewed and he clearly is no Matt Hasselbeck in the personality or brains department, but he managed the game well tonight.

Jason Babin
This guy simply must make the team at this point. He had our only sack, and is actually making a case for a spot in the regular DE rotation. He certainly has done more than Lawrence Jackson or Daryll Tapp the past two games.

Mo Morris
Looked solid going for 6.2 YPC. Nice pre-season thus far for Mo.

Julius Jones
I thought Jones played better than his numbers indicated. He had one rush for a decent loss that skewed the stats, but all in all, he ran well between the tackles. He may be better at that than Morris.

Jordan Kent
He really has come into his own this year. A number of clutch catches and tough catches, including another TD. He's forced his way onto the roster. Does it come at the expense of Obamanu?

Jeb Putzier
Looks like he can be a contributor in the two TE set. That's a nice luxury. Just wait until you see Holmgren line up on 4th and short and send both his TEs out into patterns for a big gain.

Courtney Taylor
Not a great day, but he makes catches with people around him. That's key because he doesn't appear to get open all that often. He's physical and aggresive. I like him, but want to see more consistent contributions.

Kevin Hobbs
This guy would be competing for a starting role on some teams. He's really played well. At 6'0", 190 lbs, this guy is a real asset. Jordan Babineaux's time may be coming to an end in the next year or so with Hobbs hanging around.

Ryan Plackemeier
Three punts for an average of 52.7 yards. That's pretty good. Bye bye, Reggie Hodges.

The Bad
Justin Forsett
The Hawkblogger curse lives! Thank goodness it doesn't matter that much who our 3rd string RB will be. Forsett sucked in all aspects of the game. His returning was horrible, letting balls bounce on punts that should have been caught. He fumbled and was so-so with his other carries. He looked like success had become pressure. That's too bad. He still has to make the team because we can't afford to have another team snag him.

Lawrence Jackson
He got owned quite a few times and was invisible when he wasn't getting owned. I'd like to start seeing some more plays from Mr. #1.

Howard Green
HOG, where were you? Sproles should be in your belly. "Get in my belly!"

Ben Obamanu
I thought I was pushing the envelope earlier this week talking about the potential that he gets cut, but that is possible with how poorly he's played. Very odd. He was such a stud last pre-season.

Logan Payne
I really want this guy to suceed, but he's not contributing the way I'd hoped.

Barraka Atkins
Babin is eating his lunch. Atkins was shutout. Did he even play?

Olindo Mare
Missing that 50 yarder was a big deal. Coutu was 5-5 with a game winner last week. His kickoffs were also weaker today.

Game Thread: Seahawks @ Chargers

This is an open thread for gameday. I'll be here throughout the game tonight for anyone that wants to chat.

Holy moly. Guess where the Seahawks rank so far in the pre-season in yards rushing. Go on, guess. Wrong. They rank #1 in the NFL (201.5 yds/game). Now guess where they rank in pts scored/game. You can do it. Bzzzzzzzz. They rank #1 in the NFL (31.5 pts/game). How about total yardage? That's right, #1 in the NFL (425 yds/game). What about our defense? Run defense is always important, let's check how we're doing there...yup...#1 in the NFL (51.5 yds/game). We're slacking a bit in total yds allowed at #4 in the NFL (251.5 yds allowed/game).

Does that psych anyone else up? I know it's pre-season and all, but being #1 in the NFL in something like rushing yards at ANY point in the season is huge for the Hawks. Lost in all the noise about who is getting the yards is that we *are* getting yards, and lots of them.

Feel free to browse more stats on's Hawks page.

Things I'll be watching for:

- Running Game
Can we continue our success against another stingy defense?

- Road Defense
Defending on the road was horrible last year. This is our last pre-season road game to show we can be stout away from Qwest. The Minnesota and Chicago games looked eerily like the way the D played last year home and away. Let's break that pattern in a tough place tonight.

- WRs
Holmgren says is going to force the ball to Taylor and Obamanu. Will that work with Frye at QB? I think Taylor is up to the challenge as I've seen him wrestle DBs for the ball in his short stints last season. I'd love to see Seneca get some snaps, but I have not heard final word on that. I also would really like to see Payne get some more chances as I continue to believe he can be a solid contributor this season.

- Kicker
Mare gets all the action tonight. He has been a mediocre kicker the past few seasons. I would love to see him hit some 45+, 50+ kicks. I'd also like to see them try the onsides stuff.

- RBs
I've already wrote about this enough, but I'd hate to see Forsett struggle and Duckett do well. I fear that Ruskell will force Duckett onto the team if there is even a hint of ability there. I'm also curious to see what Julius Jones does. He looked average at best last week. More passes to Owen Schmidt please!

- DEs
What does Lawrence Jackson do against a good o-line? Can Jason Babin continue to show up in each game? Will Baraka Atkins make an appearance?

Can the game start now, please?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Breaking Story: Starline CEO Revealed!

I've been reading up on Starline, and there bullshit posturing that has screwed us fans makes so much more sense now that I read about their boss (pictured below).

It was even more shocking to find out about their COO:


Integrity on Sunday

It's been a week or so since the story broke that there will be no Metro shuttle bus service to and from the Hawks games this season due to a horrible new law that requires teams to open their transportation needs to private companies. If a private company makes a bid, a government operation like Metro is blocked from bidding unless the private company drops its bid.

In the Seahawks case, Starline Transportation decided to make a bid and refused to drop their bid after the Hawks turned them down. Everyone is picking their villain in this drama because the outcome is that commuting to the games goes from dream to nightmare.

I hold Starline responsible for not pulling their bid when it was clear that they were going to offer an inferior service for more money. They never had this business, so they can't make the claim that it was impacting their annual sales forecasts. It's just bad business to screw the people you want to call customers. I've seen quotes from their spokesperson saying that people just aren't willing to accept the new costs of transportation.

If Metro would be able to offer the same service they did last year for the same, or similar price, what in the world is Starline referring to? The way I see it, people aren't willing to pay more for less. That's just intelligence.

I have been able to leave for the game 60 mins before game time, arrive in plenty of time and get home within 45 mins of game end, all for $6 round trip. We regularly talked on the bus about how great the service was and how much it improved the gameday experience compared to driving and paying $30-45 for parking and getting mired in traffic.

I am now left with these choices:

1. Try taking the regular Metro Express bus that leaves far less often and will likely be packed

2. Pay $25 for a Starline shuttle

3. Drive

4. Carpool

HawkbloggerWife surely does not want my compacted 5-6 hour Sunday exursion turn into a prolonged 7-9 hour marathon. Hawkblogger Household would be in a bit of turmoil. I also don't want give a company I now hate my money.

What to do? What are you all doing?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Just For Onsides Kicks

I wouldn't write a Seahawks blog if I wasn't a little obsessive, right? After declaring the kicking battle to be the most crucial, I couldn't help but Google Mare and Coutu to see if either were well known for onsides kicking.

I don't know about you, but I've always been jealous of teams that had kickers who were gifted onsides kickers. When you really need one, it's a great weapon.

It turns out Mare is a bit of star in that right. The first article I found was about Joe Nedney's gift for onsides kicks that he, at least in part, credits Mare for. And then, this nifty write-up, entirely about Mare's knack for the trick kick.

A quote from this article seems to capture it best:
Mare, the Miami Dolphins' Pro Bowl kicker, has long been known among his counterparts as the Michael Jordan of the NFL when it comes to making a perfect onside kick.
Wow. I'm not sure there is even a reason to Google Coutu at this point. But, what the hell...

Yiiick. Coutu is best known for blowing out his knee while attempting to learn a new onsides kick approach (probably after watching Mare do it).

Alright, it's official. I want Mare. Try to put Coutu on the practice squad.

The Battles Worth Watching

Every news outlet that covers the Seahawks spends time playing up every position battle in camp because it's interesting to fans. Most folks would rather hear about a newcomer like Justin Forsett or David Hawthorne than about players they already know. I fall for it to. Then I started thinking about which of these bubble battles for roster spots *really* matter. Which battles will actually impact wins and losses this year?

1. Olindo Mare vs. Brandon Coutu

This may be the most boring position to follow, but the decision here will impact wins and losses this year more than any other roster choice. Mare would be the safer choice, but Coutu could be the answers for a number of years if he works out. The Hawks have been extremely fortunate with drafted kickers over the years. We've enjoyed Norm Johnson, John Kasay, Ryan Lindell (not as much), and Josh Brown to name a few. Coutu appears to be at least a Lindell. If the Hawks gamble and are wrong, it could cost them in a significant way. Besides placekicking, the depth of kickoffs has a large impact on games. I know we'd all love to see more of those touchbacks we saw Mare booting the other night.

2. Obamanu vs. Payne vs. Kent

Courtney Taylor gets a free pass since I've heard Holmgren state that he is the starting flanker. We run a boatload of three receiver sets, and with Branch and Bobby out, one of these guys will either step up or we're going to see a ton of TE routes and screen passes. The outcome of this battle will have a major ripple effect. It's not enough for a guy to be the best of the three. If the "winner" doesn't contribute, entire sections of the playbook change or get thrown out until Bobby returns.

3. Ryan Plackemeier vs. Reggie Hodges

Okay, maybe this is the most boring battle. I think we all assume Plack gets the nod, but he struggled mightily during large portions of last season and has been injured all pre-season. Bad or good punting will absolutely have more of an impact on our season than our third-string running back or backup middle linebacker.

My 53 Man Roster Preview

We're halfway through the pre-season schedule, and are about a week away from finalizing the 53 man roster. Here's who I think should make it:

Quarterback (3)
Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Charlie Frye
Cut: Dalton Bell.

Wide receivers (6)
Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Jordan Kent
PUP: Deion Branch
Practice Squad: Michael Bumpus
Cut: Joel Filani, Trent Shelton, Bryan Gilmore
Comment: Branch coming back early is a pipe dream. We skate by with 5 receivers and lean on Seneca as a 6th if needed.

Running backs (5)
Julius Jones, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Owen Schmitt, Justin Forsett
Cut: T.J. Duckett, David Kirtman
Comment: This isn't nearly the controversy people want it to be. Forsett is in, Duckett is out.

Tight ends (3)
Keepers: John Carlson, Will Heller, Jeb Putzier.
Practice Squad: Joe Newton

Offensive line (9)
LT Walter Jones, LG Mike Wahle, C Chris Spencer, RG Rob Sims, RT Sean Locklear, OT Ray Willis, C Steve Vallos, OT Pork Chop Womack, OG Pat Murray
Practice Squad: ?
Cut: OG Mansfield Wrotto, OT Kyle Williams, C Ben Claxton, C Nick Jones, , OT Will Robinson
Comment: I think Wrotto has looked like crap in games and Murray has shown some flashes. That's tough to judge without seeing practices, so I wouldn't be crushed if it went the other way. Likely to be some practice squad candidates here, but I haven't seen enough to judge.

Defense (27)
Defensive Line (10)
LE Patrick Kerney, DT Rocky Bernard, DT Brandon Mebane, RE Lawrence Jackson, DE Darryl Tapp, DT Craig Terrill, DT Red Bryant, DT Howard Green, DE Jason Babin, DE Baraka Atkins
Cut: DE Chris Cooper, DT Larry Tripplett, DT Kevin Brown, DE Nu'u Tafisi.
Comment: Babin has played his way onto the squad from out of nowhere. I've rarely seen a veteran player be an absolute zero for a full-season and then make a strong impression the next year, but that's what Babin has done. He has been among the most productive lineman against the run and pass so far.

Linebackers (6)
Julian Peterson, Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, D.D. Lewis, Lance Laury, David Hawthorne
PUP: Will Herring
Cut: Dallas Starz
Comment: Hawthorne has to make the team. Herring is a key special teams player that will be a luxury to have stashed away until week 7.

Defensive backs (8)
LCB Marcus Trufant, RCB Kelly Jennings, SS Deon Grant, FS Brian Russell, CB-S Jordan Babineaux, CB Josh Wilson, CB Kevin Hobbs, S C.J. Wallace
Practice Squad: S Jamar Adams
Cut: S Kelin Johnson, CB Omare Lowe, CB Marquis Floyd.
Comment: I think Adams has outplayed Wallace, but Wallace still shows up on special teams, and that's likely the difference.

Special teams (3)
Keepers: P Ryan Plackemeier, K Olindo Mare, S Tyler Schmitt
Cut:S Tim Lindsey, P Reggie Hodges
Comment: I don't know how long Schmitt will be injured, but he makes the team eventually.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Start Forsett

While everyone debates whether Justin Forsett deserves a spot on the roster, I've moved well beyond that. I look at a kid who is our toughest YAC (yards after contact) runner, among the quickest to the edge, a plus blocker and decent receiver. Mo Morris is the likely starter because of his time in the system and his ability to catch the ball, but I don't have to deal with pesky things like loyalty.

Morris is a solid contributor, but there is no way anyone can convince me he is an above average starting NFL back. He can't break tackles, he is a willing but limited blocker, and has a durability issues. He also has been known to put the ball on the turf from time to time.

Answer me this, would you rather have Forsett or Morris on 3rd and G from the 2?

Let's look at our options:

Julius Jones
He's the only player on the roster with a 1000 yard season on his resume. Coaches appreciate established players. Unless you have established that you are a good-to-great starter, I don't much care about a 1000 yard season. Jones has shown he can be a good blocker and decent runner. He has not shown speed to the corners, or ability to break tackles. He also has a history of fumbling. I see literally nothing he adds to the team that Mo Morris doesn't.
Starter? Over my dead body

Mo Morris
Best receiver of the bunch. Knows the system inside and out. Teammates trust him. Average blocker. Can turn the corner and bust a move now and again. Not a workhorse, and not a guy that will break tackles (despite high effort). I think he is a solid, but not great, backup RB.
Starter? Likely, but would not be my choice.

TJ Duckett
No speed. Pushes people forward more than breaks tackles. Not a receiver. Good blocker. Can be a useful back in a pro set paired with a speedy and dangerous halfback. A poor man's Leonard Weaver.
Starter? (and should not make the roster)

Leonard Weaver
Good straight line runner. Very limited ability to reach the corner. Good-to-great blocker. Can break tackles, but lost some confidence using his stiff-arm (The Baptism) last year due to fumbling problems. Great receiver within the first 15 yards. Could be interesting if paired with Owen Schmidt at FB. Prototypical pro set back that can block, catch and run.
Starter? We're probably best with him starting at FB

Justin Forsett
Possibly the strongest player at the position, benching over 500 lbs. Speedy, but not really a home run threat. Runs hard each play. Consistently breaks the first tackle. Does not get arm-tackled. Can reach the corner or run inside. Can convert on short yardage downs. Unproven receiver, but has shown fine hands thus far. Above average blocker. Young.
Starter? Yes

Don't forget that the best running backs in the league tend to establish themselves in the first season. It's not a position that requires years of learning to have an impact. Forsett gives us the best combination of attributes, and that's what a starter should do. Specialists should come off the bench for special situations. That's how they become specialists.

I am not going to cry if Morris starts, but Forsett gives us more than Duckett or Jones without question. And yes, I can say that after watching just two pre-season games.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Reaction: Hawks beat Bears 29-26

HawkBloggerWife was in charge of watching the kids while I watched this entire game, and you can only imagine how excited she was that a pre-season game went into OT. For my part, I love the second half. The game had a little of everything, and was pretty entertaining for a pre-season contest. In fact, both Hawks games have been pretty fun to watch so far.

That said, there was more negative than positive in what I saw.

The Bad

Sean Locklear
Word is that he is out the remainder of the pre-season with a sprained left knee. Crap. It will be good to see what Ray Willis has got, but we really need to get healthy on the line.

Charlie Frye
This guy looked like an abused animal; skittish, undiciplined and without confidence. I can't remember the last time I saw an NFL QB throw off his back foot so often. Oh wait, we just played Rex Grossman. Anyway, all you folks wanting to see Seneca play WR just had a major blow delivered with that game. We lose any game Frye starts at this point.

Courtney Taylor/Ben Obamanu
Okay, just the fact that I can continue to put them in a single bucket because neither had done a single thing worth mentioning is really not good. I certainly hope Logan Payne is getting a look with the #1 offense because he will at least be a superior run blocker if he plays. One of these two guys better have a massive game next week.

TJ Duckett
This guy is exactly who I thought he was, and that's a very bad thing. I still believe Justin Forsett is a better short yardage runner than Duckett. He is a massive waste of roster space.

Julius Jones
He looked like a straight-line runner without much speed. His numbers weren't bad, but he looked like he was running in molasses all night. There was a noticeable pickup when Morris entered the game (and even more when Forsett did). Remember the concept of upgrading a position means that you bring in people that are better than what you already have.

Special Teams
Blah blah blah, it's the pre-season. Don't really care, but they looked bad.

John Carlsen
It was a mixed bag for Carlsen, but two false starts and at least one costly holding call were things Holmgren hates to see. He did continue to make great catches away from his body. He is our best receiver at TE, no question.

Mansfield Wrotto
This guy may not make the team. He was getting OWNED all night. I saw him pushed into the backfield over and over again on run plays, pass plays, timeouts, you name it. I don't see the fire there or the talent.

The Good

Great showing by the entire defense. The Bears offense did nothing. They also were given many opportunities thanks to Frye's crappy play, but held their ground nonetheless. The run defense was particuarly solid and the pass rush was promising.

David Hawthorne
That guy makes the roster without a doubt. We probably won't see him on the field until next year, but I look forward to it. I still haven't seen him in coverage, where Lofa excels, but he plays the run with ferocity.

Josh Wilson
Nice game for a kid who stunk it up last week. Great pass defense early that saves a TD. He is also a good blitzer and showed that a few times again.

LeRoy Hill
He's good. Thought you should know.

Steve Vallos
I'm grading a curve as he did have a holding penalty, but he was mostly invisible. That is a good thing. If he can just hold his own, we can function.

Brandon Coutu
It was good to see him make some longish FGs. I liked seeing Mare's deep kickoffs even more.

Jordan Kent
Nice first half for the kid. He looked like an NFL WR. This was the first game I've seen him make plays on something other than a fly route or fade. That's important because we need players who can do more than run fast in a straight line. His hands were pretty good as well, although he missed a TD right through his hands that would have been really bad in a regular season game.

Logan Payne
He made plays when he was given a chance. Nice hands, nice drive turning upfield for extra yards. Fantastic blocking. On Forsett's long run in the 4th qtr, he drove his man 20 yards downfield. Joe J has returned?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Game Thread: Bears @ Seahawks

Coming to you live from beautiful Black Butte, Oregon. Just got wireless setup, but it's weak, so we'll see how the blogging goes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reaction: Hawks beat Vikings 34-17

That was a really nice first pre-season game. The team looked surprisingly far along for their first game.

The Good

Me Likey Mike Solari

My game ball goes to Mike Solari who appeared to have more impact on the outcome than anyone else. I saw some run blocking techniques that were clearly different than what I've seen in the past. On Mo Mo's first big run, you saw the Hawks' guards giving ground and turning their players to the outside. There was far less drive blocking that depends largely on the offensive lineman outplaying their man. Rob Sims actually looked like he knew what he was doing. The one thing Sims and Spencer (DNP) can do consistently is run. They are among the fastest lineman we have had on the Hawks. Using that speed by having them pull is an obvious way to use that speed. On the first run of the Hawks' second series, Sims looked like a tight end releasing 5 yards down the field before sealing two defenders inside so Morris could continue his 20+ yard run. Speed is going to be a key measure of the Hawks running game this year. They looked fast today. If we see them trying to play smash mouth, I don't think it will be nearly as effective.

Steve Vallos
My first two observations on are about the o-line. That won't happen too often.Vallos played a fantastic game. We have seen bad center play, and what we've seen from Spencer looks even worse after the game Vallos played. You can not understate what the kid accomplished. No bad snaps. No sacks given up. At least a couple good blocks on running plays. He was mostly invisible, which is remarkable for a guy who never played center before this training camp that was going up against a monster line in Minnesota. What feels like a nice performance now, may eventually be remembed as the start of Steve Vallos' career.

Owen Schmidt
Who knew the guy could catch? I was knocked out of my mid-game stupor by a quick kid coming out of the backfield making a couple of catches and plowing ahead for big gains. Schmidt looked very comfortable catching the ball cleanly and turning upfield. He was a solid blocker as well. This guy is too good for the practice squad. Bye Bye David Kirtman. I also started wondering what TJ Duckett brings that Weaver and Schmidt can't provide. Of course, I've wondered that from the start...

We hear it every year: Seneca Wallace has matured and is having a great camp. This might be the first year I haven't read much about that, and ironically, he looked more like an NFL QB than ever before. Wallace has had good games before, but he looked in total command on Friday. No forced passes. Passes right on the money. Good tempo. Nice game.

David Hawthorne
Wow. That is a game that will be remembered for a while. I think the Vikings players are still seeing stars. The buzz about this kid is growing, and what seemed like a potential practice squad find is moving solidly into the roster discussion, and could soon be playing himself into a LB rotation. That might seem a little far-fetched now, but this guy is not just a big hitter. He was all over the field making solid tackles. I found myself wondering if he can play outside with LeRoy Hill likely playing his last season in blue before free agency.

Lawrence Jackson
This guy is the starter opposite Kearney. It's not even close. I admit to being skeptical based on what I had read about Jackson, but he is a solid run defender and was pressuring the QB all night. Tapp is a situational guy, and a good one.

Jason Babin
Really? Jason Babin? The guy who we traded Michael Boulware for, and who sat on his butt all season, made a number of eye-opening plays. Most surprising to me was how he played against the run. He made at least two plays behind the line and pressured the QB regularly. The guy looks like a safety playing defensive end. He's tiny. He did stand out though.

Howard Green
And, finally, a fantastic pickup late last year...HOG (HOward Green). The guy is 320lbs of constant movement that occupies at least two blockers. He clogs the running lanes and pressures the passer. He also, apparently, can pick off passes.

Justin Forsett
Was that Joe Morris out there? Short, tough and fast. Add him to the list of reasons Julius Jones and TJ Duckett were a major waste of cash. He runs tougher than either of them and reads blocks like a champ.

The Bad

Marcus Trufant

I'm not going to waste time worrying about Tru. He played like crap. He'll be fine. He's not a guy who rests on his laurels after a big contract...right?

TJ Duckett
Ugh. Such a waste of money. Two fumbles. No unique value. It's going to take a series of positive contributions for my tune to change on this one.

Obamanu and Taylor
Aren't these guys supposed to be battling for a spot in the 4-wr rotation? I heard more from Joe Filani and Trent Shelton in this game. These guys should be *owning* pre-season football if they have any hope of impacting the regular season.

Friday, August 8, 2008

2008 Pre-Season Game 1: Hawks @ Vikings

Late to the party with a game post. Taping the game on DVR, so I'll be watching later...if I can steal some time away from the visiting in-laws.

Go Hawks!

Are we there yet?

I'm not a big fan of blogging just to blog. You're not going to see posts about Lofa Tatupu's DUI or the new Renton facility here. Although, my buddy and I want to find out if we're allowed to watch training camp once they move. Anyone know?

Now, when games start getting played? That's worth a little attention. This training camp has been so quiet. Maybe it's just me, but the papers don't even seem to be covering it with the same focus that they have when it's been at Cheney in the past. Half of our offensive line is either injured or retired (thanks for the memories, Chris Gray). Our only significant defensive tackle addition (Red Bryant) is getting knee surgery.

Steve Vallos is our starter at Center for tonight's game against the Vikings. Who the hell is Steve Vallos? Can I officialy request that Hasselbeck stays on the sideline until our underperforming starting center returns? If Spencer has been mediocre to crappy, and Vallos was behind him AND Chris Gray, what does that say? Gotta break this rhetorical question streak...

I find myself lukewarm on the Seahawks prospects for the season, but stoked for football nonetheless. Got my season tix the other day and the big blue 12th man flag they included looks great on my son's wall.

I was bummed to hear Logan Payne has broken ribs as he is my pick to be a new quiet contributor this year. I read a couple reports that he is a good blocker as well, and god knows our running game could use some help at every position.

It'll take me a while to get my blog on, but the first post is always the hardest.