Monday, August 31, 2009


One of the most reliable plays for the Hawks during their 2005 Super Bowl run was the naked bootleg with Jerramy Stevens and Joe Jurevicious dragging across the formation. It gave Matt two outlet options becoming open at different times because they started out staggered in the formation to begin with.

The Seahawks ran an variation on this play a couple of times against the Chiefs. The first time, Carlson got caught up, but the second time it worked to perfection. Here's a breakdown of how this play works:

1) This is used on a short yardage situation where it makes sense to have 2 TEs, a FB and a single WR.

2) Matt fakes a toss to the left as the FB and RB make the play seem like a run left. Meanwhile, the TE on the line (John Owens usually) starts to drag across the line. Matt is dropping back to give Carlson time to start dragging behind the line of scrimmage. The WR is creating space by running upfield.

3) Finally, Matt drops a short pass to Carlson as he clears the line, or has the option to hit Owens farther downfield if the LB comes forward to defend Carlson.

I expect to see a lot of this play throughout the season. Carlson going behind the line makes it impossible for defenses to cover him initially, and I like his chances of getting 1-2 yards almost any time we can get him the ball in stride near the line of scrimmage. As teams adjust, we may see Owens get some opportunities or see the two TEs switch roles on the play. It also will keep defenses guessing on possible runs, which could lead to some nice gains.


My friends and I have been playing football video games since 10-Yard Fight. I religiously bought the new version of Madden every year until 2006 when the game crossed the line from fun to cumbersome. But, before I gave it up, I found my favorite all-time formation. It was this great 4 WR set that allowed me to covert almost any 3rd and short. It was only available in the Atlanta Falcons playbook, so I played the Seahawks team with the Falcons playbook. Greg Knapp's playbook. Or, at least, the bastardized video game version of it.

Much to my delight, that formation was not total fabrication. I saw the Seahawks roll it out in their very first preseason game against the Chargers. They used it after the offense had stalled much of the half. Seneca led the first TD drive where they used it three times, all successfully.

I've honestly never seen this formation elsewhere, or at least can't recall it, so I don't know what it's called. Based on the fact that it is made up of two receivers bunched close to each other and close to the o-line, I've dubbed it Bunch Twins. I thought that would help avoid the possible negative connotations of calling it Tight Twins.

Here's what you need to know about this formation:

- It can be run with 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB or 4 WR and 1 RB. The Seahawks have done both. Take a look at the basic grouping:

The Hawks have mainly been running it out of the shotgun, although they ran it with Seneca under center last night as well.

There are a few plays you can run from this formation, almost all of them involve screening defenders. I'm going to walk you through the play the Seahawks have run most often, which also happened to be my go to play in Madden.

1. The outside WRs streak upfield to clear out the underneath. The RB runs a basic hook.

2. The inside receivers scrape off of the outside receivers by running underneath their routes. As this is all happening simultaneously, it is very difficult for the defenders to interfere with the pattern or the throw when in man coverage.

The Hawks hit the dump off to the halfback a couple of times last night. Every time I've watched them line up this way, they have had positive yardage and usually had multiple options. I think a physical player like Housh could have a field day with this by shielding the defender from the ball and just boxing him out. Branch's first catch of the night came with him lined up outside in this formation and running about a 10 yard hitch.

This is not a big strike formation, but it is the type of go to set that can get that critical conversion on 3rd and short. Keep an eye out for it.

Two Free Tickets To Raiders/Seahawks Game

The Hawks play the Raiders Thursday. I've got two tickets I will give away to my 50th follower on Twitter.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Breaking Down Seahawks 3rd Downs Against Chiefs

Alright, this is clearly not something I can do every week, but it was fun and very informative to do it once. I was intrigued by the Seahawks 11/19 3rd down conversion rate last night, and wanted to break down more about what got them there. I charted every play they ran on 3rd down (although I only found 17 plays, not 19), including personnel groupings to see what was working and what was not.

Some clear tendencies emerged. Here are a few things off the top:

- Knapp only called run plays on three of 17 third downs, and one of the three turned into a pass when Matt bobbled the snap.

- The running back was sent out into a pattern on 9 of 14 pass plays, blocked 4 times, and had a fake run once

- We used 3 WRs 14/17 times

- A TE was in for all but four plays

- Motion was only used three times, and I believe all by TEs

- Knapp's favorite personnel grouping was 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB. He used this 12/17 times.

- Hawks were 4/5 on 3rd and 3 or less. The one non-conversion was Forsett's drop for a potential huge gain on a wheel route

- Hawks were 5/7 on 3rd and 4-7 yds

- Hawks were 1/5 on 3rd and 8+

- Hass was 5/9, Wallace was 5/7, Teel was 0/1

I'll try to find some time later this week to break down some formations I saw him use multiple times, including my favorite one that has four receivers bunched close to the line.

Here's the spreadsheet with the breakdown. Let me know if you see other patterns I missed.

Trying to settle a debate...Ruskell/Holmgren drafts

I've gotten a little tired of topic and am going to move onto our offensive potential this season, but since I owe some folks some research, and I figured I could share it with all of you as well.

You see, I caused quite a stir over at Field Gulls (a nice Hawks blog done by John Morgan) the other day by daring to call out Ruskell for his draft results with running backs. In an attempt to bring the discussion back to more objective measures, I've decided to look at all of Holmgren's drafts and all of Ruskell's drafts, only rounds 1-3 (because I have a life), and see what percentage of those picks succeeded. Success is subjective, so I'm going to grade this way:

1st Round Pick Success = Made Pro Bowl at some point

2nd Round Pick Success = Started more than 50% of games played

3rd Round Pick Success = Started more than 25% of games played

Note that any 2nd or 3rd round pick that meets the qualifications for rounds higher than they were drafted (e.g., a 2nd rounder is a Pro Bowler), is automatically considered a success. And if you think these are bogus measures, remember they will be applied to both Holmgren and Ruskell so they are either equally fair or equally unfair. Each man is 100% accountable for the drafts when they were GM. Ruskell doesn't get to hide behind the fact that his coach lobbied hard for this player or that and Holmgren can't do that with his defensive coordinators. The GM title comes with ultimate accountability for the personnel decisions. Lastly, I am counting all drafts before Ruskell as Holmgren drafts because I do not believe Bob Ferguson was anything more than a front man, and Holmgren still made the decisions behind the scenes. With those caveats aside, let's jump in:

Holmgren 1st Round Pick Success Rate: 50% (4/8)
Ruskell's 1st Round Pick Success Rate: 0% (0/3)

Holmgren 2nd Round Pick Success Rate: 50% (3/6)
Ruskell 2nd Round Pick Success Rate: 75% (3/4)

Holmgren 3rd Round Pick Success Rate: 29% (2/7)
Ruskell 3rd Round Pick Success Rate: 66% (2/3)

Holmgren Details:

Ruskell Details:

Note this doesn't even count Holmgren's trade of 1st and 3rd round picks for Hasselbeck AND a 1st rounder. As far as I'm concerned that's use of a 3rd round pick for a franchise player and should be considered when evaluating the two. Also consider Ruskell traded our 2007 1st round pick for Deion Branch. That makes him 0/4 with 1st rounders by our success criteria. Ruskell also traded away 3rd round picks in 2008 and 2006.

If I were to start counting Pro Bowls, it wouldn't even be close. Ruskell's only Pro Bowl player he drafted is Lofa Tatupu. Holmgren drafted Pro Bowlers in three out of six drafts, and four total Pro Bowlers if you count Hasselbeck.

Some folks will talk about value in later parts of the draft. I don't think that's a slam dunk for Ruskell either as far as real contribution to the teams. The things that really sticks out to me with Ruskell is the total fail in the 1st round. Those are picks that franchises are built around and he's not only not found cornerstone players, he's drafted three guys who could be off the team this season or next. I also think he's shown some ability to succeed in the third round, yet he trades those picks away regularly. Some of those trades have resulted in getting players like Lofa and Carlson, but it's impossible to know if he overpaid to get there.

With that, I'll retire from this debate and move onto more happy thoughts.

RECAP: Hawks Beat Chiefs 14-10

Say what you want about the Seahawks prospects for the season after their early injury problems, but these have been three of the most entertaining pre-season games I can remember. When I look back at them, it's not like we are scoring left and right or smacking the quarterback around. The team just seems to have that "It" factor. Guys like Housh, Matt, Burleson, Forsett, Nick Reed and John Carlson are just fun to watch. The swagger is back.

The Seahawks dominated this game. The score doesn't show it, but the stats do. Total yards was 406-260. The Hawks top 2 QBs has passer ratings of 111.4 and 94.5, compared to 62.8 and 62.1. The Chiefs offense scored 3 points. Time of possession was 36-23 in favor of the Hawks, and perhaps most importantly, the Hawks were 11-19 on 3rd downs compared to 1-10 for the Chiefs. That, folks, is domination. The picture certainly wasn't all rosy. Our defense still seems a step slow and reactive. I am yet to see the aggression we've been promised. Somewhere South of us, John Marshall is snickering. Our all-star linebacker corps has been MIA, and we've yet to see a single memorable play from our #4 draft pick.

Many of us have been expecting the defense to carry the offense this year, especially with the o-line injuries. After the second straight week of Hasselbeck throwing for more than 150 yards in the first half, it may be the other way around.

FAVORITE MOMENT - Housh TD Taunt & Housh at the Improv
Touchdowns are always great, but I loved seeing Housh extend the ball into a defender's face on his way into the endzone before halftime. It wasn't enough to get him a flag (although the ref spoke to him afterwords), but we need that swagger. We need that belief that we are so much better than the opponents that we expect to make every play. The Hasselbeck shuffle to Housh on the bobbled snap was the same type of thing. Even botched plays can lead to 17 yard gains with this team.

BIGGEST SURPRISE - Passing game progress
After the opening series pick six (which had nothing to do with being a tipped ball), there were no signs of the growing pains we've seen in previous weeks. The word was that we were going to try get the ball to Branch more, and that looked forced. The good news there is that we tried to get the ball to Housh and Carlson the first two games and that looked forced then, but looked smooth as silk last night. Our passing game looks stacked. Even the pass protection was fine. And it's easy to forget the new life in getting our halfbacks involved either through screens or wheel routes. I could write for days about our potential there, and just might...

BIGGEST IMPACT - TJ Houshmandzadeh
Yes, I can now spell that name without looking it up. Pre-season has it's purposes for bloggers as well. Gush. I love everything about this guy. I think it's taken Matt some time to believe in Housh's proclamation that he's always open, but we're starting to see him throw to him in tight coverage in big spots with great results. Forget the TD and the broken play. Look back at his first catch of the night on 3rd down when Matt rifled a ball to him in double coverage. He made the catch short of the first down and carried two guys up field past the marker. Difference maker.

There was reason to be optimistic that we can go beyond 2.9 YPC (even though that's where we finished). Forsett looked awesome running between the tackles. Jones looked good enough for now. We were averaging over 5 YPC in the first half. Our goal here is to be a team that keeps teams out of nickel defenses all year. That's it.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT - Aaron Curry, LeRoy Hill, Lofa Tatupu
This is supposed to be the strength of our team. Three of the best young linebackers in the NFL on the same team. Folks, I'm not seeing it yet. They look slow and reactive. I can't remember a single play in the entire pre-season where any of them looked like they were "flying to the ball." These guys need to pick it up big time.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A fun night of chatting: recording now available

For anyone that did not participate in the game chat and want to get a feel for how it works, you can check out the recording:

GAME THREAD: Hawks @ Chiefs

Join me in the Man Cave for live chat during the game:

Just enter as a Guest
Type any name

Go Hawks!

Things To Look For Tonight Vs. Chiefs

It's the third pre-season game. If we can avoid some of the weather we've seen here before, this should be a very telling game. Mora has been all over the radio talking about what he wants to see from his team, specifically the defense. He wants all the same things I want to see:

- Flying to the football
This is primarily about the LBs for me. We are supposed to have an all-world LB crew, but I frankly haven't seen it so far this pre-season. The game against the Broncos features all sorts of bubble screens and quick slants, but where were our speedy linebackers? It was a tailor-made game for players who cover sideline-to-sideline, but they looked sluggish. Tatupu is coming off of a subpar year, and Curry hasn't proven anything yet. Big test for that group tonight.

- Rush the passer
Nick Reed? Are you there? Michael Bennett? These are the guys that have been pressuring the QB, not Kearney, Tapp, Redding, Mebane, Curry, Hill, or Jackson. I'd like to see the starters get into the mix here. More than just getting pressure with four down lineman (which is critical), I really want to see a blitz or two that gets home. I was here to watch Jim Johnson's blitz packages with Chad Brown. It was a blast. We get stymied on our blitzes seemingly more than any team. Let's see some mouth guards flying.

- Dictate
The Broncos were allowed to establish their passing game last week. Our defense reacted to them, or tried to. This week, let's see our defense dictate tempo to the offense. Make them change their plan of attack.

- Nick Reed
Can he keep it going against some first stringers this week? Same question for Michael Bennett.

For our offense, I'm most interested in seeing progress. I'm not sure I see us becoming a great running team any time soon, so the rhythm in the passing game has to be there.

- Branch
He apparently got a lot of reps this week. If we are really trying to get him the ball, it will be interesting to see how that effects the offense. Are we just trading Matt forcing the ball to Branch instead of him forcing the ball to Housh?

- Carlson
I remain convinced Matt has chosen Carlson as his favorite receiver. I expect to continue to see "outlet" passes going his way.

- Housh
Are we going to see another miscommunication? Are they really getting on the same page yet?

- Running game
I'm not looking for huge chunks of yards here. I just want to see progress. So far, the two yards per carry we get with zone blocking looks eerily similar to the two yards we got without it.

- WRs
Nobody has really separated themselves. Will they tonight?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trying Something New On Gameday

When I started this blog, I really envisioned being able to "watch" road games with other Seahawks fans by chatting. I haven't found the right technology to allow that yet, but I want to try something against the Chiefs tomorrow. It's a virtual room we can enter to chat, setup insta-polls and have the ESPN game stats streamed live.

I'm hoping to have at least a few folks join me tomorrow night for a test drive. All you have to do is click a link. No installation is required. Please forward this around and remember to stop by tomorrow night to hang out.

Ruskell's Next Major Test: Replacing Matt

It was so shocking to see the RBs Timmay has passed on that I started looking at other positions on offense. The next one lurking out there is QB. We all know Matt is in his last few seasons, and that Seneca has shown limited potential as a starter. I believe Seneca could lead a team to the playoffs, but I think that's his ceiling.

What's more unnerving is that as I started searching the last three drafts for QBs drafted in rounds 2+ that we missed out on, I literally found none. The best ones I found were Kellen Clemens and Tavaris Jackson. I can't say I'd be doing flips if we had one of those guys around. The takeaway for me is that a franchise QB is incredibly hard to come by, and if you don't plan *way* in advance of your QB retiring, the team will be relegated to the basement. Look what happened when the Hawks lost Dave Krieg.

I like what I've seen from Mike Teel, but who knows how he'll progress. Our two first round picks next year will come in a QB rich draft class. If Timmay picks another linebacker or defensive end or corner, he should be fired on the spot.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

RBs Ruskell Passed On

Until proven otherwise, I will continue to believe that Tim Ruskell is more clueless about how to build an offense than Mike Holmgren ever was about how to build a defense. I may do a deeper dive on this topic, but for tonight, let's take a look at just one position that he has completely and utterly screwed up, running back.

Ruskell inherited Shaun Alexander during what became his MVP season. Let's look at the running backs Ruskell has passed up each season in the draft:

Seahawks 1st Round Pick (28) - Lawrence Jackson
Matt Forte (44th) 1,238 yards rushing, 1,715 total yards from scrimmage
Ray Rice (55th) Beat out Willis McGahee to be 2009 Ravens starting RB
Kevin Smith (64th) Started for Lions and rushed for 976 yards and 8 TD
Steve Slaton (89th) Led all rookies in rushing with 1,282 yards (4.8 YPC) and added 50 receptions for 377 yards
Tim Hightower (149th) Became Cardinals starter and scored 10 TDs

And let's not forget free agency where Michael Turner signed a $15M guaranteed contract and rushed for nearly 1,700 yards while Ruskell spent ~$15M to sign TJ Duckett and Julius Jones.

2006 (2007 wasn't much to look at)
Seahawks 1st Round Pick (31) - Kelly Jennings
LenDale White (45th) 1,110 yards rushing and 7 TDs in 2007, 773 yards rushing and 15 TDs in 2008
Maurice Jones-Drew (60th) 941 yards and 15 TDs in 2006, 768 and 9 in 2007, 824 and 14 in 2008
Jerrious Norwood (79th) led the NFL in YPC at 6.4 in 2006, 6.1 in 2007, and was strong at 5.1 in 2008

I can't even bring myself to look at the 2005 draft when we took Chris Spencer in the first round. You could argue Ruskell wouldn't be thinking to draft at that position then due to Shaun and Mo Morris, but that hasn't stopped him from drafting defensive ends by the boat load. This is just a total fail for Ruskell. Youth dominates at the running back position like no other in the NFL. It's a position you can fill for cheap through the draft, yet we keep trying to solve it through free agency. Give up one Darryl Tapp, Josh Wilson, Lawrence Jackson, Kelly Jennings for one of these guys and we are a different team. 2008, in particular, was known to be a strong RB draft and we drafted...Justin Forsett in the 7th. That's it. Look at the quality teams got in later rounds.

Shame on you Timmay.

James Helps Our Offensive Line...Not Vice Versa

I'm not one who is going to take time writing blog posts about the same thing I see written everywhere else. Yes, we signed Edgerrin James. Yes, we waived TJ Duckett. Yes, Edge is old and the leagues active rushing leader. The thing that many are missing is that the upside of this signing may have nothing to do with the running game.

While James' grind-it-out, get every yard style is certain to endear him to Hawks fans who have no patience for pushover RBs, it is his pass blocking that interests me. James is arguably the best pass blocking running back in the NFL, and it isn't really close. When you see our offensive line in shambles, having a guy who can be Matt's bodyguard is appealing.

I can't count how many time James stonewalled Seahawks blitzers over the past few years. Compare that to barely remembering any other RBs doing the same. And I'm not just talking about chipping on some guy or cutting his knees. James will stand up a charging linebacker. Heck, maybe he can teach Rob Sims a few things.

It's not the type of attribute that gets a lot of media attention, but coaches and players know about it. Hawks fans will be talking about it soon enough, and it might just keep Matt healthy this season.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Must Listen: Holmgren Interview

For those loyal two people that have read this blog from the beginning, you know I have a man crush on Mike Holmgren. The guy almost single-handedly willed my favorite football team out of a decade long sewer swim all the way to Super Bowl. It's not only that, though, that has me enamored with our former coach. He speaks to me as a father, a husband, a leader and simply as a man. I've also been known to have a little bit of temper myself, so that doesn't hurt either.

If you have any similar fondness for the guy, I highly recommend listening to this interview with KJRAM's Mitch Levy. Levy is an expert interviewer and has a sincerely close relationship with Holmgren. They talk about Holmgren babysitting his granddaughter for a week, making her lunches and taking her to Toys'R'Us. I found myself with a huge goofy grin on my face for almost the entire hour. They also talk about the potential that Holmgren may come back to the Hawks in some capacity at some point.

It's good stuff. Take a listen.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

RECAP: Hawks Beat Broncos 27-13

That folks, is why a pre-season football win is like eating chinese food for dinner; you feel happy and full when it's finished, but start feeling empty not long after. The Seahawks had a number of things that looked good, but the things that matter most were concerning.

You can't feel truly satisfied when the second team offense and defense thoroughly outplay the first team. It was a bonus to see those second team players beat up on the Broncos first teams, but the indicators of regular season success: offensive line, running game, rhythm, stout defense were all mediocre-to-bad. The running game was putrid. You would have to think the rumors of bringing in extra running backs will only gain steam after another game averaging ~3 yds/carry. Lots of this is related to the offensive line, and the lack of holes to run through, but TJ Duckett is so slow he almost appears to be running back in time. Justin Forsett was a clear upgrade over Duckett, but that's a low bar. Hasselbeck did not seem to be comfortable with his progressions. There was a memorable second quarter drive when Hass missed a wide open Carlson on third down simply because he wasn't comfortable holding onto the ball for an extra second. The first string defense looked a lot like what we saw last season. The Broncos moved on short, quick plays and screens. The second teams were great, and deserve some praise.

You have to love a punter who dives into the fumble pile. That's exactly what Ryan did after CJ Wallace thwaped the punt returner to jar the ball loose. I don't think I've ever seen a punter do that before.

BIGGEST SURPRISE - Defensive Ineptitude
I loved what I saw last week against the Chargers, and we were stout again against the run, but where were the adjustments to the Broncos quick hitting passes, and the screen? The unit that absolutely needs to lead this team looked confused and passive. It certainly would have been nice to see Curry out there. This was a game meant for special linebackers, and yet we saw few special linebacker plays.

For the second straight week, this guy was everywhere. He easily outdid his phenomenal debut with 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt. The guy playing in his media shadow, Michael Bennett, also had another terrific game. I want to see these guys get in against first-team offensive players next week.

I honestly had not seen much to be excited about with this guy in training camp or the first game. It was great to see him make two tough catches in clutch situations with defenders close by. He'll need to do that to have an impact this year. That first TD was a special catch, but we should notice the speedster did not run by the defender much.

I love the guy, but he's not playing free and easy. We need him to get comfortable soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

GAME THREAD: Hawks vs. Broncos

I did my best to give away my pre-season tickets to the game tonight against the Broncos, but fell a little short of my 50 Twitter follower goal (9 is close to 50, right?).

Instead, I'm going to try and take my oldest boy to the game for the first time in four years. Last time I took him, we left just after the national anthem with him in tears from the volume of the music. Not exactly what I had in mind for my first Seahawks game with my son. I'm hoping four years, a few Mariners, Sounders, and Blazers games later, we'll have better luck this time. If he makes it to halftime, we could be dropping some cash at the Pro Shop to celebrate.

- Rhythm on offense
The first string offense was mostly ineffective in game one. It will be important to see progress here. Is Matt progressing through his reads smoothly? Is he patting the ball looking indecisive? Does the running game look clean, or are we still running into lineman's backs for 1-3 yards?

- Breakout game for one or more receivers
I expect John Carlson or TJ Houshmandzadeh to get some more looks. We should also expect someone to step up in the battle for the last few receiver slots between Logan Payne, Mike Hass, Courtney Taylor, Ben Obamanu and Michael Bumpus. Bumpus has looked great in training camp, but was nowhere to be seen in the first game.

- Deon Butler progress
I want to see Butler look more like he can contribute this season. He's been a little bit of a disappointment thus far.

- Aaron Curry
This guy better play. He needs reps. As I've stated multiple times, I'm less concerned about assignment correctness right now than the speed and violence of his play. Make an impact big guy!

- Pass pressure
The second and third units got to the QB way more effectively than the first. I'd like to see us pressure the first string offense for the Broncos.

- Cory Redding and Colin Cole
Can they continue to look like major additions to this defense?

- Nick Reed, Michael Bennett, Baraka Atkins and Craig Terrill
I only see two of these guys making the roster. Terrill is a little bit of a stretch to include in this group, but I think Bennett's versatility should make Terrill feel the heat a bit.

- Devin Moore
I want more of this guy. Can he carry the load for a full half? Is he just a scat back?

- Mike Teel
Not sure he'll get many snaps, but I loved what I saw in his first game.

I will be tweeting throughout the game, giving you live reports from inside Qwest Field. Be sure to check in and join in the conversation if you'd like.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The Broncos roll into town tonight for our pre-season home opener. I used to hate the Broncos. HATE THEM! After they handed us their first round pick for next year's draft, I've grown a little fond. This team is in shambles. They were forced to trade away their talented QB so they could start Kyle Orton. Their top receiver has spent more time with the cops than with his team. In other words, this team looks like one of the worst in football, and their 1st round pick should be an almost certain Top 10 selection.

With that in mind, I thought we could take a really premature look at what kind of players might come our way in the upcoming draft.

Mel Kiper, and his awesome hair, has published his first Big Board for the 2010 draft. Take a look.

The Top 15 breakdown:
QB - 3
RB - 1
WR - 2
TE - 1
OL - 2
DT - 3
DE - 1
DB - 2

Likely Seahawks Top Needs:
QB - Unless Teel proves he is a real prospect.
RB - I'm still pissed we took Lawrence Jackson last year when there were RBs *everywhere.*
OL - Big Walt is nearing the end of his career.
DB - Ken Lucas is on a 1-year deal and Trufant has what could be a chronic back problem

We'll check in on the draft class and our likely position(s) throughout the season.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Second Coming of John Carlson

John Carlson lived up to, and in many ways, exceeded expectations that were set for him last season. Some of his early success can be attributed to the QB and WR injury situation that forced more throws in his direction, but most of the credit belongs to Carlson. Here's a guy who is 6'5" 250+ lbs, runs good routes, works hard and keeps his mouth shut. So what might Mr. Clean do as an encore?

Let's take a look at some other quality tight ends to see how they progressed from their first to their second season. Below is a spreadsheet that shows games started, receptions, yards, and touchdowns from both the rookie and sophomore season for a few comparable players (and some all-time greats).

Link to Spreadsheet

At the bottom, I made some rough projections for what Carlson might do this year. Projection A was based purely on the number of games started. shows Carlson as only starting 9 games last season. That's not what I recall, and Will Heller shows zero games started, so I'm not sure who the other TE was that started seven games. That said, if you assume Carlson starts every game this season (which appears reasonable given his durability last season), that's a 78% jump in games started. Apply that 78% growth factor across his other numbers and you have Projection A: 98 receptions, 1,116 yards, 9 TDs. That seems pretty steep, and is suspect given the whole games started stat seems off to begin with.

Projection B simply averaged the growth/decline for each stat across the players I included (averaged the averages) and then applied those factors to Carlson's stats. That gave us the Herculean Projection B: 116 rec, 1,229 yards, 18 TD. Sign me up for that season! I like Carlson, but I'm not sure which stat is the least likely in that scenario.

That brings us to Projection C, which simply took the average of Carlson's rookie campaign and Projection A. The premise here is that his rookie year is a fair minimum. I don't expect Carlson to be below any of his 2008 numbers. Projection A seems like a fair maximum. By taking the average of those two, we end up with Projection C: 76 rec, 872 yards, 7 TD. That seems well within the realm of possibility.

People assume many of Bobby Engram's receptions will go to Housh. Not so fast. Hasselbeck talks about Carlson now in similar glowing terms to how he talked about Bobby. He also owns the middle of the field and as Hass said, "We didn't run any plays for (Carlson) last season." It seems safe to say Carlson will be an integral part of the offense this season and beyond. It should be fun to see how much he changes the game this year.

Second Guessing Curry Already

I think every Seahawks fan was thrilled when Aaron Curry, arguably the top prospect in the entire draft, fell to the Seahawks at #4. Ruskell had masterfully traded away declining Julian Peterson and his large contract to the Lions which reduced the chances that they would draft Curry. We exit the draft with the youngest, most talented trio of linebackers in the NFL. All is good in Seahawks land (sorry, media and Super Bowl referees prove there is no Seahawks Nation yet).

Heading into the draft, though, I was drawn to the idea of getting a young tackle who could be an understudy for Big Walt. We all remember the glory of the Shawn Springs/Walter Jones draft class and how drastic a team's fortunes can change on the addition of Pro Bowl tackle. It's unlikely we will ever see a lineman of Jones' quality again, but Hawks fans are grappling with the real possibility that we will be making due with what we have instead of grooming a new top-line talent.

So I ask the question:

Would you rather have Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith, Michael Oher on the Hawks with David Hawthorne or DD Lewis starting at LB
Curry on the Hawks with no backup tackle options behind Sean Locklear and Ray Willis?

I've been a Michael Oher fan for a while, so I may be a little biased, but watching him kick some ass in his first pre-season game for the Ravens did nothing to change that. If Curry explodes onto the scene and becomes a Rookie of the Year candidate and perennial Pro Bowler, this pick will look just fine. But the bar is pretty high because we drafted at a position of strength when we could have gotten talent at a position of weakness. Ask any GM in the NFL and they will tell you a great left tackle is significantly more valuable than a great linebacker.

I certainly hope Curry becomes everything we want him to be, but as a Hawks/Mariners/Blazers fan that has watched picks of Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Morrow, Brian Bosworth and alike, I'd be lying if I told you there wasn't some skepticism in me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Aaron Curry's Competition: Past LB Greats

On a morning when the Seahawks news is dominated by Walter Jones and Marcus Trufant injury status, I thought I'd take a look at the guy who has a more minor injury, Aaron Curry (groin strain, questionable for Saturday's exhibition). As I wrote in my game notes, Curry was less than impressive in his debut. Not only did he not fill up the stat sheet, but he did not stand out on the field except when he made a mistake. You can never judge a player by how he looks after only attending a handful of practices, but the stakes are extremely high in this case. Let's take a look at how some of the LB greats of the past did in their rookie campaigns to gauge how high the bar is for our $34M man.

Jerod Mayo
Mayo was named 2008 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year last season for NE Patriots after being drafted 10th. He totaled 128 tackles, 100 solo, 0 sacks, 1 FF. As a comparison, Lofa led the Hawks with 94 tackles last season, and has a career high of 123 tackles.

Patrick Willis
Willis was named 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl starter, and 1st Team All Pro in his rookie season after being drafted 11th by the 49ers. He was the only rookie in the NFL to make the AP All-Pro squad and the first Defensive Rookie from the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981. He totaled 174 tackles, 135 solo, 4 sacks, 2 FF.

Jon Beason
Beason finished second in the 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted 25th by the Panthers. He totaled 140 tackles, 106 solo, 0 sacks, 0 FF.

DeMeco Ryans
Ryans was named 2006 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted 33rd overall, 1st pick of the 2nd round, by the Texans (after we took Kelly Jennings). He totaled 156 tackles, 126 solo, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF.

AJ Hawk
Hawk was third in the 2006 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted with the fifth pick by the Packers. He totaled 120 tackles, 83 solo, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF.

Shawne Merriman
Merriman was named 2005 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted with the 12th pick by the Chargers. He totaled 57 tackles, 43 solo, 10 sacks, 2 FF.

Lofa Tatupu
Tatupu finished second in the 2005 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year voting after being drafted with the 45th pick by the Seahawks. He played a key role in leading a defense that should have won the Super Bowl. He totaled 104 tackles, 85 solo, 4 sacks, 1 FF.

Lawrence Taylor
Taylor was named 1981 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year AND NFL Defensive Player of the Year after being drafted with the second pick by the Giants. I couldn't find tackle numbers, but he unofficially had 9.5 sacks. Sacks did not become an official stat until 1982. Oh, and he changed the linebacker position forever.

Ray Lewis
Lewis was named to the 1996 All-Rookie team after being drafted with the 26th pick by the Ravens. He totaled 110 tackles, 95 solo, 2.5 sacks, and led the NFL with 15 tackles for loss.

Mike Singletary
Singletary was named to the 1981 AP All Rookie Team after being drafted with the 38th pick by the Bears. His stats in 1981 are not available, but he did not start until the seventh game.

It seems that making the All Rookie Team is a minimum qualification for LB greats. The last six, and 8 of the past 9 Defensive Rookies of the Year were linebackers. That's the territory Aaron Curry is attempting to enter. Those players had instant, undeniable impact. Injuries were also not an issue for these guys. While many fans will be giving Curry every chance to ascend, history shows what we see early is a good indication of what we will get. Greatness is not developed at the LB position. It just is.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Who is Michael Bennett?

Another player who was noticed on Saturday, but not discussed much was Michael Bennett. Here's a guy who had 3 tackles and a sack and is getting almost no coverage as there is apparently only room to talk about the guy who has 2 tackles and 1 sack (Nick Reed).

I'm not hating on Nick Reed, but at 245 lbs, we're certainly not going to see him sliding inside to the three-technique position anytime soon. Bennett measures out at 6'4" 274 lbs and played at Texas A&M. In some ways, he's the anti-Nick Reed in that he looks the part, but doesn't have the history of production that Reed does.

Besides seeing him make plays on Saturday and generally be disruptive, I listened to Seahawks defensive line coach on KJR AM 950 this morning with Mitch Levy call Bennett "up and coming" with no prompting from Levy whatsoever. Coaches don't pump up players too often, which made me safe is Craig Terrill's job?

Bennett is a possible practice squad guy, but we have not heard much about Terrill so far in the pre-season and did not notice him much in the first game. As Mebane's primary backup at the mayhem-inducing three-technique position, Terrill must have an impact to be relevant. He has shown some real propensity for getting upfield in the past, so nobody should write him off, but he's far from a lock based on his overall contribution level, especially if a young guy like Bennett can be as effective as Terrill is inside, and be able to slide outside to DE as well (something Terrill will never do).

Here's a nice shot of him nailing the UT QB:

His pre-draft scouting reports are certainly underwhelming. Did the Hawks get the right guy at the right time, or was he just a flash in the pan? It's certainly something to keep an eye on .

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who is Devin Moore?

The only people less lucky than my buddies and I that went to the one rainy training camp day were the people who came the next day and found out practice had been moved inside due to the strains and slips from the wet grass. Between rain showers, however, a few players stood out, including RB Devin Moore.

He played well enough to force me to pull out my soggy roster printout so I could figure out who this guy was that kept getting to the second and third level of the defense with speed and power. He only got a few reps, but he rocked each time.

Therefore, I wasn't surprised to find him running around, through and by the Chargers defense on Saturday. And after reading the rumors that the Hawks may be looking at options at RB, I decided to take a longer look at who Moore is. Check out this pre-draft scouting video on him:

Notice what he said in there about using his speed? I believe it was, "I try to make myself a one cut runner and just get upfield to make it like track." I also heard "willing blocker," and "great hands."

Perhaps most impressive was that he did 28 reps of 225lbs on the bench press at his pro day workout. That would have ranked third at the combine for RBs. Add track speed of 4.28-4.35 in the 40-yard dash, and you have an interesting prospect for sure.

At 5'9" and 187 lbs, he's not your prototypical make/model for NFL running backs. I certainly would rather take the risk on a potentially explosive player who could get injured than play it safe with guys who will never win you a game. I hope to see even more of Moore in game two this weekend.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stupid Technology Tricks: HawkBlogger on Twitter

I doubt I'll use this much, but I plan to do it on game days, especially when I am at the game. It will give me a chance to provide live updates from at the game, including how crappy the food is.

Twitter handle is: hawkblogger (

RECAP: Hawks Beat Chargers 20-14

That was fun. Way more fun than I expected a pre-season game to be. The top overall reaction was "solid." The team played a sound game all the way around. The offense was predictably off-kilter, but was not dreadful, especially considering the offensive line shuffling that's gone on. The defense and special teams were good, and sometimes great. The overall depth of the team stood out to me. There were talented guys playing into the fourth quarter. It's felt like a snoozer the past couple of years by that point in the pre-season games.

I didn't really know what to expect of this guy, and was really happy with what I saw. When's the last time the Hawks drafted a QB with a strong arm? We always seem to draft these "winners" who throw horrible wounded ducks and look totally lost in the power and speed of the NFL. Teel looked remarkably poised for his first game. Brock Huard might be the last QB draft pick to come in and impress like this so early. I can't stress how important it is that we eventually have a QB controversy in Seattle. If it doesn't happen in the next two years, we're looking at a few more 4-12 seasons until we find Matt's replacement. Kudos to the org on finding someone interesting that late in the draft at a key position.

Wow. I Love the guy, and he did it against LJ Shelton, a starter in this league who is a *big* man. My question here is, "is he really better than Jason Babin?" Babin was everywhere last year in pre-season (a sack, or more, in nearly every pre-season game and many plays against the run) and was undersized like Reed. Is Reed really a different player? I realize it's fun to feel that way, but what matters is whether he actually is. It certainly would be fun to see David beat Goliath every week.

BIGGEST RELIEF - Offensive Line
The defense was getting to the QB every snap of the training camp practice I saw. It was not good. Knowing how we tend to play against the Chargers, even in pre-season, made this a cause for concern. They were solid against the pass and mediocre against the run. I'll take that this week. Our QBs were almost untouched, and left the game with zero sacks.

I realize this isn't a popular move, but I'm not too concerned with popular opinion. Curry, even knowing he just got back to camp, was not impressive. His pass rush was predictable and weak. His coverage was below average-to-bad. Most concerning was his general lack of speed. People talk about his size/speed combo, but so far I've just seen size. These may be harsh criticisms of a rookie just reporting, but this is the #4 pick in the draft at a position we already had strength. He needs to be special to justify that selection. Watching a new crop of shutdown left tackles get drafted around him with ours nearing his retirement, adds even more pressure.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

GAME THREAD: Hawks @ Chargers

Kids are upstairs, DVR is playing...time to start talking Seahawks football baybee!

I'm Still Living: Hawks Kick Off A New Year (and so do I)

How can you not like a new year of NFL football? I have been floating on the Nisqually river all day (not catching fish), and am hanging out with my family while the Hawks/Chargers game tapes on DVR. Since I can't watch it live, I feel compelled to write about the things I'm looking forward to seeing:

- Devin Moore
I saw this kid at training camp last week and was really impressed. Great speed and motor. Could be this year's Justin Forsett (unless Forsett is this season's Forsett).

- Colin Cole
Will we really be more stout this year? How many times have we heard that the Hawks are setup to improve against the run, only to either get worse or be mediocre? Cole is a big part of what needs to change there. The other guy is Red Bryant. Both are 330LBs, but carry it differently. I hope to see our guys taking on double-teams and our linebackers roaming free.

- Cory Redding
This guy may be our best end opposite Kerney to date. He sounds like he has a new lease on life in Seattle. I heard him say he was considering early retirement if he was not out of Detroit this year. He was a pro bowl level player a couple years back. If he can regain that form, things might get really interesting.

- Aaron Curry
Heard of the guy? I saw Ray Willis welcome him to the NFL at training camp. The guy is big, but he better not try and take on lineman head on like that too often. Willis womped him. Don't be surprised if he is not the player we want him to be in game one. Let's hope for some glimpses.

- Matt Hasselbeck
Let's not forget our season rests on this guy's shoulders (and back). We get as far as he can take us. He has sounded uncomfortable with the offense and his new WRs so far. We'll see how much that is grandstanding, and how much is true.

- John Carlson
I think this guy could have a breakout season. He has the potential to be our best offensive threat. Yes, that's what I said.

- Housh
This guy drips cool. He surpasses Hass as the best interview on the team. This guy gets me fired up and laughing at the same time.

- Deon Butler
I heard great things, but was not at all impressed at training camp. He dropped a bunch of passes and ran rounded, sloppy routes. I hope it was just a bad day.

- Brandon Mebane
He is a bowling ball. Slimmed down, but still a load, this guy needs to be a disruptive force on the interior of our line.

Yes, that's most of the team, but there is a lot to look for. Can't wait to start watching...