Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Now, as I throw cold water on any of you optimists out there, I will say this: I thought we should have waived Lawrence Jackson to start this season. Eating crow is welcomed when it means I've underestimated my team or its players.
There are no moral victories today, but there were some clear heroes and goats.
- David Hawthorne - Heater played a winning game today. 16 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FF (nullified by the worst officiating decision of this short season). We explain away why Lofa and other LBs end up with 5-6 tackles, but Hawthorne proves that a willing LB can be in on more plays behind this line.
- Nate Burleson - 9 rec 109 yards and countless tough catches
- Julius Jones - Played a man's game. Fought for tough yards, including a memorable push on a 3rd and 1. Was underutilized.
- Aaron Curry - Curry barely makes the list because he made a huge play rushing the QB and forcing a key fumble. He made some head-slapping misses in the open field, but gave us a little ray of hope for better play to come.
- Offensive line - The fill-ins played admirably. The Bears were bringing it all game, and they protected well and run blocked well.
- Olindo Mare - Two missed FGs, lose by six points. Nuff said.
- Greg Knapp - Trick play on a critical 3rd and 1, 19 carries for Julius Jones who was averaging over 6 YPC most of the game, and a running play on a makable 3rd down before halftime.
- Officials - Overturning that forced fumble decided the game. They took away a great play that the team desperately needed and deserved for no reason. No angle showed anything conclusive. Just a horrible call at a horrible time.
- Housh - I've been a huge fan, but he lost me this week leaving Matt out there to dry and complaining about the lack of balls thrown his way. His fumble was inexcusable. Secure the ball.
Seneca is a strength going into the game, not a weakness. I would still prefer to have Matt, but I continue to think Seneca gives a great chance to win when he plays.
Since I have been traveling all week, and will be for the next 3-4, I'll be home during the game today, so you can join the live chat here. I'm looking forward to the new jerseys.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Rewind to 1st & 10 at the SF 18 with 1:08 left in the 2nd quarter. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp calls a running play to Justin Forsett that results in a 14 yard gain. It was a tough run dragging people between the tackles. Timeout Seahawks. Fifty-seven seconds left in the half with one timeout left.
It's now 1st & Goal at the 4 yard line. Julius Jones comes in for Forsett. Screeeeeech! Why? What happened to going with the hot hand? If Jones wasn't good enough to unseat Duckett last year at the goal line, why in the world is he good enough to sub in for the guy that just dragged defenders down to the 4?
Alright, well I can chalk that up to personal bias a bit. We'll surely keep the ball on the ground, right? We've been beaten up to this point and have a chance to gain some psychological recovery by running it down SF's throat into the endzone. The ball is snapped and....what the hell?!?!? It's a pass play. There is no excuse to call a pass in that situation. If Hasselbeck audibled to it based on something he saw, okay, but I saw no evidence of that. The pass falls incomplete.
Now it's 2nd & Goal from the 4 with 0:53 seconds left. Plenty of time to redeem yourself with 1 or 2 runs and a timeout to spare. Instead, what's this? Matt is rolling out to pass again?!?!?! Worse yet, the play yielded no open receivers and Matt is forced to improvise. He sees a seam and goes for the goal line. Great. Now we've got zero points and possibly lost out franchise player for the season.
On 3rd down, we pass yet again, and this time get our lone TD for the game. You can't criticize a TD, but I'll say that if we want to be a "snot bubble" tough team, we better never see these guys call three passes from the four yard line again, especially after reeling off a 14 yard run the play before.
Shame on you Mr. Knapp. This is on you.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
WHAT I LEARNED TODAY
- The Seahawks defense is not above average. It looks very much like what we saw last season. Injuries play a part in that, but the scheme is far from the attacking style we kept hearing about. Our players are rarely in the opposing backfield or coming free on blitzes.
- It's time to realize that Forsett gives us the best chance to win and sit Julius Jones down. Jones has not made a single play that I don't think Forsett would have made. Forsett, though, has made at least a couple plays every game that Jones would not make.
- Our offense has no rhythm. Yes, we scored 28 points last week, but it was not exactly in a repeatable fashion.
- Lawrence Jackson may be worth keeping around
- David Hawthorne is not Lofa Tatupu
- The 49ers may win this division, but are not a threat to win even a single playoff game. Any team with a reliable offense beats this team.
- Outside of the 79 and 80 yards runs, the other 27 runs went for 97 yards and a 3.59 YPC. You can't take away those big plays because they happened, but it's amazing what that does.
- I think Housh is a ticking time bomb. He seems pissed.
Login as a guest with any name. I will let you in once I sit down for the game, likely around 12:55.
I'll also be tweeting today:
The Hawks and the media seem to have a pretty good feel for this game. Nobody is expecting to walk into SF and come out with an easy victory. Mike Singletary has his team playing hard and physical and we will learn a lot about the Hawks in this environment, against this team.
The Hawks have a brutal road schedule. This is one of only two games (@Rams being the other) where you could say winning is not a long shot. This game likely will determine whether the Hawks will need to go 8-0 or 7-1 at home to have a realistic chance at 10 or more wins. Losing does not end the season, but winning gives us a little early breathing room.
WHAT TO WATCH
The 49ers come into this game with the perceived edge in toughness. They have a nearly insane coach who has been going gladiator with his team since Day 1 of training camp. They went into the defending NFC Champs house on opening day and beat them down. They run into a wall and keep running. The Seahawks want to shed their finesse label and be perceived as a beat down sort of team. This is step one toward earning that reputation. Go into a tough teams house and set the tone. I am perhaps least confident about this aspect of the game. Nothing would get me more pumped than to see the Seahawks be the aggressors.
If the game is truly a "snot bubble" affair, it won't be the prettiest thing you've ever seen, but that doesn't mean it can't be handled professionally. Matt has thrown some really questionable balls against Denver, KC and now STL. We need him to manage the game well, the o-line to protect and the running backs to secure the ball. This part of the game will be measured by turnovers and third down conversions.
This includes the D-line as well because if they are doing their jobs, the LBs should be able to do theirs. We need Aaron Curry to play a great, physical game and for Lofa to be near double-digit tackles. Someone will need to run with Vernon Davis, too.
Don't forget that Leonard Weaver beat the 49ers with two long TD catches last season in SF. Justin Forsett could have a breakout game today if the screen passes are open.
After planning for John Carlson, Houshmandzadeh, Burleson, and Jones, it's unlikely Butler will even get a mention in the 49ers prep. It could be a single play where Butler streaks across the field and away from defenders, or it could be a repeated beating, but I think Butler could be our secret weapon this week.
He was great last week. Can he do it again?
Just wanted to give my faithful four readers a heads-up.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)
The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Usually, these become most meaningful after Week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. I'm not sure any formula could have predicated their run.
If you'd like to see how teams rankings changed from 2007 to 2008, you can read more here.
I have switched over to sharing the rankings via Google Docs, so hopefully, they are still readable.
Without further delay, here are the first rankings of 2009. It is the first time that the Seahawks have ever been #1. Bask in the glow!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
- I feel like I need to take a shower after that game. 28-0 never felt so unsatisfying.
- Gotta give props to the o-line: 0 sacks, 4.9 YPC, very few QB pressures.
- Can't remember the last Seahawks TD run over 50 yards.
- Housh was double and triple-teamed all day. He looked frustrated, and seemed to have some words for the Seahawks sideline about play calling. Something to watch.
- Carlson is going to tear the league up this season. The one thing we absolutely got from today was opponents needing to account for our TE, which should help our other receivers.
- Our defense gets a shutout with very few memorable plays. Any tackles for a loss? Can't remember any. A few sacks, but no consistent pressure.
- Richie Incognito simply cannot be good enough to be worth the crap he pulls. Every game I've seen him play in college or the pros, he's done stuff like this. He will be out of the league and in jail within five years. Mark it down.
- Matt looked horrible in the first half. He was forcing balls for no good reason.
- There was a LOT of extra curricular activity in this game. I've never seen a Seahawks game with this much jawing. We should expect everything the Rams have when we visit them later in the season. Hopefully, we're twice the team we were today by then.
- Aaron Curry was good, but not great today. Nobody on defense with more than 5 tackles.
- The Rams secondary was either really good, or our passing game is not what I thought it would be. Our receivers were well covered all day. I know we piled up the yards, but there was not a bunch of space to make plays.
- Give Lawrence Jackson his due. The man played a good game. He was on the field way more than I expected him to be.
- Give Josh Wilson his due. He was the best DB on the field today.
- Will Herring and David Hawthorne played well.
- Housh and Carlson are on pace for 96 catches a piece, and Nate is on pace for 112. :)
Note: Just saw a Hawks fan predict we finish 11-4. Did the schedule shorten?
I'll be watching, as always. Do your best and you will win. I just can't stand the seabirds. There is something about the northwest folks - they just think they are better than the rest of us. They have been making fun of St. Louis for years. Very condescending I think. Punch them in the mouth a few times and see how they like it. - Rams Fan On STLToday Forums
The sun is rising. The house is quiet. All that confidence built up over an unusually sharp pre-season wanes as we face the reality that everything counts now. The team we saw in the pre-season could have been a mirage. It wouldn't be the first time. The Rams team that has been so pitiful the last few seasons could be poised for a comeback year. Even if they are destined for devastation, they don't know it yet. We will get their best shot because it is hard to say, "Here we go again," when this is their first game. Their offensive line is anchored by a 320 lb center and a new young tackle. Bulger's ceiling is higher than 75% of the QBs in the NFL. It's been a long time since he was in a system that worked for him with a line that protected him. Stephen Jackson should be known as "The Battering" Ram. He attacks with size and speed. Yet, even in the most optimistic Rams picture, their defense looks like swiss cheese, and their offense is littered with so much inexperience that consistency and precision will be hard to come by.
Now let's add in a 2,000 mile plane ride, and about 130 dB of Qwest Field madness. While we're at it, we should sprinkle in a 250lb pit bull playing linebacker darting around the line, straining against the chain of an unsnapped football, feasting on QB fear. It is probably not fair to add the NFL's leading receiver over the last three seasons and a Pro Bowl-level quarterback. Only the truly depraved would allow a record-setting tight end to join the party.
And the doubts start to subside. And the sun shines brighter. And the new NFL season is upon us...waiting for the truth to be revealed.
Friday, September 11, 2009
1) Successful Screen Passing Game
The Rams have incorporated a variety of blitzes into their defense. There are few things more satisfying in football than watching your QB lob a throw over a wave of blitzers to a RB with nothing but open space in front of him. The Seahawks used to own screen passing when they had John L. Williams and later, Ricky Watters. It's gone into hibernation in recent years. I'm pretty confident you'll see at least one on Sunday, and possibly many more.
2) Seneca Running The Wildcat
I honestly don't care much if it's the wildcat or some other package, but getting Seneca on the field is a good thing. He's too good of a weapon to be sitting on the sidelines. There is not a person in the NFL better suited for an offense like the wildcat than Seneca. The more his set of plays is successful, the better chance of keeping Matt healthy all year.
3) Edgerrin Stonewalling Blitzers
Forsett isn't bad either, but Edge is something special here. For those that watched the Steelers/Titans game last night and saw the block Hines Ward threw in OT after fumbling in regulation, you have an idea of why it can be fun to watch someone block. He will destroy some people. The cherry on top is when Matt completes a long pass on the same play.
4) Unrelenting Seahawks Pressure
Even though the Hawks have had some pretty good sack totals in recent years, it's been over a decade since they had a truly disruptive defense. Jim Johnson was our LB coach before Holmgren got here and it was incredibly satisfying to see Chad Brown and Co terrorizing QBs week in and week out. I really hope we finally see this team unleash it's weapons in unpredictable and savory ways. Few things are more satisfying than seeing the opposing QB throwing off his back foot and constantly running for his life.
5) Hurry-Up Offense
It would not shock me to see the Seahawks start the game in a hurry up offense. Matt looks great running it, and it's a great way to get the offense in rhythm early while making it tough for a visiting defense to get their bearings.
The Hawks could possibly run 60% of their pass plays from the shotgun, especially against a team that likes to blitz.
7) Gadget Plays
I'm not expecting this one, but we saw Branch throw a reverse WR pass in the pre-season to a wide open player. We may see something fun that Holmgren would have never put in.
In case anyone missed it, I highly recommend this profile on Matt Hasselbeck. Solid guy.
Matt Hasselbeck comes into his own, on and off the field
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
10% - 12 or more (15 votes)
27% - 11 (39 votes)
42% - 10 (61 votes)
16% - 9 (23 votes)
2% - 8 or less (4 votes)
Looks slanted toward a good year.
Home - Indy, Houston, Carolina, Minnesota, Green Bay
Road - Jacksonville, Chicago, Tennessee, Detroit, NY Giants
Team B has this non-division schedule:
Home - Jacksonville, Chicago, Tennessee, Detroit, Tampa Bay
Away - Indy, Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, Dallas
Which would you prefer?
I'd rather play the great teams at home, and the lesser teams away. Team B appears to have their harder NFC North games on the road (and Indy). I would expect Team B finished higher the previous year and drew the tougher away games.
Wrong. Team A is the Arizona Cardinals and Team B is the Seahawks. Something seems broken there. Set aside the games against different teams for a moment(Cowboys vs Giants and Carolina vs Tampa Bay) and just look at the opponents they have in common. That part of the schedule seems totally out of whack.
This play utilizes the popular 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB personnel grouping I expect we'll see a ton of this season.
1) The play starts with the TE split out wide
2) The TE goes in motion inside of the Flanker
3) The Flanker is first to move after the snap. The TE has a slight hesitation to let the WR cut in front of him. The other two WRs streak upfield and clear out all the coverage with them. The RB stays in to block (Forsett got his pancake of a LB on this play)
4) The Flanker cuts across the field around 10 yards downfield and gets the pass from the QB. The TE has started to cut in behind him, presumably as a secondary option for the QB.
5) Now that the Flanker has the ball, the TE and two WRs turn into downfield blockers, attempting to seal the defenders inside so the Flanker can turn upfield along the sideline.
Click the arrow on the graphic to run through the play
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Hawks non-division road games include the Colts, Packers, Cowboys, Texans, and Vikings. It's highly likely (80%+) that the Hawks will be underdogs in all of those games. The same could be said for the Cardinals road game. That kind of road schedule makes our significant home field advantage a critical factor in determining how this season goes.
Normally, if you can go 7-1 or 8-0 at home, you hope for around .500 on the road. That gets you to 11-12 wins. This year, an undefeated home record might only net us 10 total wins. Some might go as far as to suggest it could result in only 9 wins, although I think a team that can go undefeated at home will likely find a way to go at least 2-6 on the road.
With all this in mind, I have found five swing games that will determine how high, or low, the Seahawks will go this year.
Week 2 @San Francisco
Week 3 Chicago
Week 6 Arizona
Week 14 @Houston
Week 17 Tennessee
All of these games qualify as toss-ups. My preview predicts wins in four of these five games, with the lone loss coming @Houston. Most importantly, two of these games come in the first three weeks. Injuries will play a role. We will still be missing Marcus Trufant for the Arizona game, but should have Chris Spencer and Walter Jones back. Timing will also play a factor considering the Titans may not be playing for anything in Week 17, and the 49ers will still be playing for everything in Week 2.
Winning four or more of these games should translate to at least a 10 win season. Three or more should be good for at least 9 wins. Two or less, and it's not pretty.
No NFL schedule is a given. When we look back at this season, however, the results in these five games will likely tell the story of what went right or what went wrong.
1) This formation starts in shotgun with 3 WR, usually Housh, Nate and Branch. Housh is in the slot. Carlson is lined up opposite of the slot receiver.
2) All the receivers and running back streak forward about 10 yards from their starting position.
3) Housh and Carlson curl to the outside. Branch and Burleson run out patterns, and the RB curls underneath.
Click the arrow on the graphic to run through the play
This play has been used mostly during hurry up. It gets you two guys nearing the sidelines and challenges the middle of the field for first down yardage. The dump off is a safety value that will generally net at least five yards.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Matt looked so confident. Lofa was a beast, making interceptions and knocking Nick Goings (and himself) out with a big hit. Even Jerramy Stevens looked like a great TE that day.
I may throw in the Emerald City Miracle DVD later this week to see Tony Romo melt into the turf after bobbling that snap.
I'll attempt to diagnose a few more formations this week, including the one we will see most, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Defense – Starters
Patrick Kerney – LDE
Colin Cole* – DT
Brandon Mebane – DT
Cory Redding* – RDE
Aaron Curry* – OLB
Lofa Tatupu** – MLB
LeRoy Hill – OLB
Josh Wilson* – RCB
Deon Grant – SS
Jordan Babineaux/Lawyer Milloy*** – FS
Ken Lucas* – LCB
* New starter
** Pro Bowl
*** Undecided Starter
Defense – Running Game
Gone are the days when we had to endure the stories of how some undersized defensive tackle was an example of effort and leverage, while watching other teams trot out 330 lb space eaters that bounced our RBs off their bellies. You can't teach 330 lbs. We now have Colin Cole, who weighs at least that and Red Bryant who weighs in over 320 lbs. Along with the addition of Cory Redding at DE, we now sport one of the heaviest defensive lines in the NFL. Combining that with a supremely talented linebacking crew and willing safeties, and we should be much improved against the run. This has proven almost impossible to predict in past seasons, especially based on pre-season results. The personnel is there. Success in this area will likely come down to discipline and tackling.
Defense – Passing Game
Marcus Trufant is out for at least the first six games. He is the best player in our secondary, and making due while he is gone will be difficult. As everyone knows, good pass defense is largely dependent on a good pass rush. Without having seen Gus Bradley call a defense in the regular season, we're left to our imaginations as far as blitzes. We also don't know how Aaron Curry will impact this aspect of the game. Outside of Josh Wilson, the talent is there. My instincts lead me to believe this could be a disruptive, hard-hitting, turnover-creating crew.
Defense – Defensive Line
We certainly have enough of them. Eleven, to be exact. This is the deepest unit on the team. I would be comfortable with nine of the 11 getting extended playing time. Lawrence Jackson and Derek Walker are passable, but not strong. Every other player is either already an established high performer, or has a high ceiling. The key to this units success will be Brandon Mebane and Patrick Kerney. If those two can combine for 15+ sacks, things are going our way. Don't be surprised if pre-season wunderkinds Nick Reed and Michael Bennett make an impact as rookies. We may also see new life in Darryl Tapp, who is going to be used in some more creative ways to rush the passer. The sheer size of this group may leave them vulnerable to quicker backs that can hit the corner, so our linebackers really need to earn their enormous paychecks.
Defense – Linebackers
The best linebackers in the NFL, right? Young, talented, versatile and...disappointing? Lofa Tatupu and LeRoy Hill burst onto the scene during their 2005 rookie campaigns. I'm not sure I can say either of them is a clearly better player now than they were then. Neither of them have come close to matching their rookie sack levels. Lofa's once-dependable tackling has become spotty. There are fewer moments where you see him diagnose a play before the snap and meet the runner in the backfield. We have added a major talent in Aaron Curry to the mix, who has to be more assignment-correct than the notorious freelancer he replaced (Julian Peterson). This defense is being designed with these three guys in mind. They need to earn the reputation that precedes them. If even two of them play at a Pro Bowl-level, the defense could be special.
Backups here are young and inexperienced. There is a huge dropoff from a guy like LeRoy Hill or Aaron Curry to Will Herring. Same thing with Lofa to David Hawthorne. They are capable in spot duty, but are not ready to carry the load for any real length of time.
Defense – Secondary
Trufant's absence really hurts here. Pairing Tru with Lucas would have given the Seahawks the strongest CB tandem since...well...Trufant and Lucas in 2004. Instead, we get Josh Wilson who is far more confident than his play merits. He can be a daring playmaker and willing run supporter, but often takes chances and gets beat deep. He is not strong at shedding blocks, which can lead to long runs around the edges. He is strongest in the slot, but with him starting, that role now falls to Kelly Jennings. Jennings came into last season as the starter, but was burned so often, he lost the role quickly. He is paper thin, and struggles against the run and against larger receivers. Our safety trio of Babineaux, Milloy and Grant is promising. There is a nice mix of run support, coverage ability, tackling and experience in that group.
Defense – Overall 2009 Outlook
Position-for-position, the defense is stronger than the offense, both in starters and in depth. The head coach is a defensive guy. The defensive coordinator is being hailed as a future star. The defensive line coach was in line to be the defensive coordinator. If we can't put it together this season, than "screw you guys, I'm going home." All I want to see is dependable tackling and successful pressure packages. No more excuses. It's time for this group to win some games all by itself.
Special Teams – Overall 2009 Outlook
Kicking and punting seem to be in good hands. Coverage and kick return teams should be adequate to good. This team needs a special teams unit that can just do its job. Cut down or eliminate as many negative plays as possible. Help with the field position game. That should suffice.
Scouting the NFC West
San Francisco 49ers
Mike Singletary is a mean man. He has been doing his best to breed a team of mean men down in SF. Their offense is limited, but their defense could be good. A surprise run at the division crown is not totally out of the question, but third place seems far more likely. Beating them in week two is key.
St. Louis Rams
Thank you NFL for letting us open with them at home. Thank you. Anything outside of the cellar would be a shock.
I was among the few who predicted the Cardinals could threaten for the division title last season and would likely make the playoffs. The popular opinion right now is that they were a one-hit wonder and will suffer the Super Bowl-loser slump. I don't see where this team got weaker, and now they have eliminated their biggest obstacle, self-doubt. I expect the Cards to be battling the Hawks all year for the division title.
Scouting The Opponents
Sun, Sep 13 St. Louis
Sun, Sep 20 @ San Francisco
Sun, Sep 27 Chicago
Sun, Oct 4 @ Indianapolis
Sun, Oct 11 Jacksonville
Sun, Oct 18 Arizona
Sun, Nov 1 @ Dallas
Sun, Nov 8 Detroit
Sun, Nov 15 @ Arizona
Sun, Nov 22 @ Minnesota
Sun, Nov 29 @ St. Louis
Sun, Dec 6 San Francisco
Sun, Dec 13 @ Houston
Sun, Dec 20 Tampa Bay
Sun, Dec 27 @ Green Bay
Sun, Jan 3 Tennessee
REGULAR SEASON TOTAL: 10-6
Prediction: I expect the Seahawks to win the division and make it to at least the second round of the playoffs. Their defense needs to be special and their offensive line needs to be above average in order to do more than that. The confidence emanating from the team is palpable. Getting out of the gates fast will be crucial given the tough post-bye week schedule. There are six of the infamous 10 AM starts in there. You will know exactly what kind of team we have by week four after playing the Bears at home and the Colts on the road. No matter the outcome, I plan to enjoy watching the twilight of Matt's career.
A look back at 2008My mother taught me a long time ago that if I didn't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. That leaves very little to say when it comes to reviewing our 2008 performance. We certainly had more than our share of injuries at specific positions, and that led to people like Kerry Colbert and Charlie Frye getting real playing time.
What gets lost in the evaluation of last season is that the early season injuries were almost exclusively on offense. Yet, our defense was playing horribly. The pass pressure was missing, the tackling was poor and the coverage was horrific. Saying that our defense suffered due to the offensive ineptitude makes a little sense later in the season, but it does nothing to explain how they were getting dominated from the first snap. Of all the problems that need to be solved from last season, this one is the most critical. It's a young group that should be growing and improving together, much the way the offense did under a younger Matt Hasselbeck. Last season was a huge step backwards.
The lone bright spot from 2008 was the play of John Carlson. He set almost every Seahawks TE record in his rookie campaign and established himself as a Pro Bowl-level player for what should be years to come.
2009 Off-season grade – AThis was a franchise-defining off-season. Jim Mora Jr had already been selected as the new coach, but he was able to bring in coordinators like Greg Knapp (Offense), Gus Bradley (Defense) and Dan Quinn (D-Line, Asst Head Coach). Thus far, those new voices appear to be having a positive impact on attitude and performance. It is impossible to judge these guys until they are matching wits with opposing coaches on game day, but the energy and creativity is welcome.
Free agency was handled masterfully. We picked up arguably the top free agent on the market in WR TJ Houshmandzadeh at a key position of need. DT Colin Cole was swept away from Green Bay and showed Ruskell is willing to add players that aren't just undersized overachievers. FB Justin Griffith was brought aboard for chump change, and won the starting FB role. The biggest coup of all, however, came by stopping pursuit of a free agent. When the Seahawks removed the franchise tag from LeRoy Hill, they took a real gamble that they'd lose one of their most talented players. Doing so, allowed them to sign CB Ken Lucas, who is a huge addition to the team. With Lucas in the fold, they went back to Hill and managed to keep him around as well.
Capping off a nearly perfect off-season was a draft class that appears to be the crown jewel of Ruskell's tenure. People say we made the obvious choice of Aaron Curry at the #4 pick. What those people don't acknowledge is that Ruskell helped to drive Curry into our laps by giving the Lions Julian Peterson in a trade. Up until that trade, roughly half the mock drafts had the Lions taking Curry #1. With Peterson in the fold, it made it easier for the Lions to pick a QB that might not contribute right away. Oh, and we got significant return on that trade as well in starting DE Cory Redding. Second round pick C/G Max Unger could be a mainstay on the line for years to come. Third rounder WR Deon Butler may cause Hawks fans to believe in receivers named Deon again. Even late round picks DE Nick Reed and undrafted DE/DT Michael Bennett could contribute this year.
People talk about "fast failures" in business. The speed at which you are able to try something, fail, learn and try again correlates to your ability to adapt and innovate. If you are someone that sticks with something forever, even when it is clearly failing, you are probably too conservative or egotistical to ever be a consistent winner. Ruskell showed some signs this off-season that he can learn and adapt.
Offense – Starters
Matt Hasselbeck – QB
Julius Jones – RB
Justin Griffith* – FB
TJ Houshmandzadeh* – WR
Nate Burleson – WR
John Carlson - TE
Ray Willis* – RT
Max Unger* – RG
Steve Vallos* – C (Chris Spencer will start here when he returns from injury)
Rob Sims* – LG
Sean Locklear* – LT (Walter Jones will start here when he returns from injury)
* New Starter or New Position
** Pro Bowl
Offense – Running GameMuch has been made of Greg Knapp's streak of Top 10 rushing offenses from Oakland to Atlanta. The Seahawks will not be a Top 10 rushing offense this year. They don't really need to be. The thing to look for here is rushing touchdowns and conversions on 3rd and short. Because of the passing attack (which I'll cover in a second), the running game only needs to be enough of a threat to keep teams from leaving their nickel defensive back in there all game. With three extremely hard runners in Julius Jones, Justin Forsett and Edgerrin James, that feels possible. Much will rest on the shoulders of the offensive line. The running game will either be adequate or hold us back. There is not a ton of upside here.
Offense – Passing GameFun. This could be really fun. It's amazing to compare this crew to the one analysts described as "punchless" heading into last season. Every facet of the passing attack looks much stronger than last season, and may end up being the most prolific passing offense in franchise history. WR Courtney Taylor, who was our starting Flanker last season, did not even make the 2009 roster. Health and offensive line pass protection will be the biggest influencers here. This is strongest part of the team, with dozens of ways to beat an opponent. It needs to perform at a high level for this team to reach its potential. If our defense is on the field for too long or opponents can stack eight men in the box to stop our running game, something has gone very wrong.
Offense – Quarterback
If the passing game is the strength of the team, Hasselbeck is key to unleashing it. He sputtered to start the pre-season, but came on strong, throwing for over 150 yards in each of the last two halves of football he played. With some of our running yards being traded for screen passes, Matt's yardage numbers could sky rocket. Matt's hunger, focus and health seem to be exactly where we want them to be. He has never had a legitimate #1 receiver or a Pro Bowl-level TE. Don't be shocked if he has an MVP-type season.
Seneca will be on the field this year. There has been a lot of hype around the league about this "wildcat" offense that puts a RB in at QB and allows the RB to operate in a wishbone-style set. Most teams don't really have the personnel to make it work, but Seneca may be the best candidate in the league. He is a legit QB, and certainly has the ability to run. After many seasons of toying with the concept, I expect this to be the season where Seneca plays a meaningful role, regardless of Matt's health.
Mike Teel is a solid rookie QB with a strong arm and real potential. If he enters a game this season, we've likely already lost.
Offense – Offensive Line
There is little debate that the Hawks offensive line is the biggest question mark on the team. Our anchor, Walter Jones, is out for at least a few weeks. The guy who played well next to him last year retired. Our starting center pulled a quad muscle and is out for a while. Our RG is a rookie, and our RT has chronic knee problems. There is limited depth and limited talent. The unit will also be asked to learn a new zone blocking scheme that requires more agility and cut blocking. If I had to choose between pass protection and run blocking, I'd choose pass protection. Thankfully, I believe that this group is better equipped to do that.
Offense – Backfield
The running backs are a mediocre, try-hard group. Second year player, Justin Forsett, should be the starter. He can run between the tackles or outside, has good hands, and is an above average blocker on blitz pickups. I enjoyed watching all 5'8" of him pancake a blitzing KC linebacker in game three of the pre-season. Instead, we'll see Julius Jones get the bulk of the carries. He is an acceptable starter, who could eclipse 1000 yards if the line opens enough holes. His tendency to fumble and his below average hands make him a bit of a liability. Edgerrin James was picked up late in camp and is the best blocking RB in the NFL. He almost becomes a sixth member of the offensive line, and Matt's body guard. He also runs hard. Really hard. He should be every bit as good as Duckett in short yardage and goal line situations.
Justin Griffith looks to have been a good pickup at FB, but I don't expect to see the FB on the field much this season with the emergence of Carlson at TE and the strength of the WR corp.
Offense – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
TJ Houshmandzadeh is more than any Seahawk fan could have hoped for. He is still every bit the #1 receiver, capable of 100+ receptions, gritty catches over the middle, and physical specimen that will be able to dominate some of the small DBs around the league. Almost as exciting is his persona. This guy could make a dying man laugh, or motivate him to get up and fight for one more day. He pushes confidence right to the brink of arrogance, but without losing the hunger to work. This franchise hasn't seen a WR this talented since Koren Robinson in his prime (1,240 yards in 2002), or one this respected since Steve Largent. He legitimizes the whole group, and perfectly compliments the others.
Nate Burleson may have a monster year. There appears to be more spring in his step than even before his surgery last season. Knapp has shown signs of knowing how to utilize him a little better as well. There have been multiple instances of getting him the ball in space, and letting him beat his man upfield. Nate is the rare WR that has RB shake at the receiver position. The first guy almost never brings him down.
Deion Branch is an enigma as the third WR. He will never justify the 1st round pick we traded to get him, but he can still play a key role. He should enjoy single coverage all season. If he can't get open with that advantage, he will need to make room for the new Deon in town, Deon Butler. Butler is a diminutive receiver who can blaze down the field with sub-4.3 speed, but also can get in and out of his breaks. He has shown toughness and decent hands.
John Carlson has quietly become the most popular Seahawk. The guy is smart, quiet, hard-working, dependable, and is easy on the eyes (from what I hear). He is also a monster on the field. He needs to work on his blocking, but his routes and hands are top-notch. He should catch at least 70 balls this year and will be the #2 target after Housh. John Owens is a capable #2 blocking TE.
Offense – Overall 2009 OutlookOn one hand, you can look back through NFL history and be depressed by the fact that teams without strong offensive lines rarely win big. On the other hand, this is a team game. For this years Seahawks, it will mean the other units will need to compensate. That can mean the defense holds teams to fewer points or creates more turnovers. It can mean the RBs will reliably pickup blitzs and grind out every yard available. All these things can compensate for a mediocre offensive line. Nothing can compensate for a bad one. If this line can reliably pass protect, and we stay reasonably healthy, this could be the top scoring offense in the NFL. I have seen the Hasselbeck-led Seahawks be a Top 10 offense with far less talent (most recently in 2007). The stats to watch for this offense will be avg yards gained on 1st down, and sacks allowed. Back in 2005, the Hawks also had the fewest third downs in the NFL. That, too, will be a key indicator. Buckle up, it should be a fun team to watch.
Read Part II -->
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I don't think Nick Reed will need the name tag on his helmet anymore. It's there, in all it's glory; the Seahawks 53-man roster. Here are the parts that matter:
1) Goodbye Brian Russell, Hello Lawyer Milloy
The Seahawks likely upgrade their overall safety position with this move. Consider it a bonus, but we're getting a guy going into his 14th season whose last Pro Bowl was in seven years ago.
2) DD Lewis is gone
I did not see this one coming. Will Herring and Lance Laury showed enough to let the veteran backup go. This likely is due to his more limited special teams contributions.
3) Tru is out six weeks
I was hoping against hope that the pundits were wrong and that we'd see Tru on the opening day roster. Alas, he was placed on the physically unable to perform list which means he can't play for us until Week 8 (we have a bye in week 7). Travis Fisher has a spot on the team until Tru comes back. We will face Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Jay Cutler and David Garrard without our best DB. Put up or shut up Josh Wilson.
4) Ruskell can subdue his ego
The Hawks made the right move in keeping Mare over Coutu. If they had kept Coutu, it would have been a sign that Ruskell was putting his ego before the team. Instead, we end up with the best player at the position. Nice work!
5) Five is enough
Our most battered position a year ago was WR. We will need to make due with only five on the roster this year. Courtney Taylor deserved to make the team, but injuries elsewhere and undeniable pre-seasons from Michael Bennett and Nick Reed made that impossible.
6) 11 Defensive Lineman...for now
I'm surprised to see they kept Derek Walker in addition to Reed and Bennett. Walker had a strong pre-season, but he seems like a practice squad guy to me. I would not be surprised to see him replaced with a backup offensive tackle in a few days and put on the practice squad.
As you have probably seen reported in multiple places, the Seahawks have cut Brian Russell and signed 13-year veteran safety, and Tacoma native, Lawyer Milloy. Milloy was an unrestricted free agent and recently turned down a larger offer to play with perennial losers, the Detroit Lions.
My first question was, "Is this guy still any good?" I did some quick research and it appears he stats have not significantly declined, and he's only missed one game in the past four seasons. He's known as a hard hitting team leader and has made four Pro Bowls (last in 2002).
Here is some reading to get you aquainted:
Lawyer Milloy on Twitter
Falcons wanted him back
Comparing him to other veteran free agent safeties
Friday, September 4, 2009
Jim Mora Jr has already accomplished something Mike Holmgren never did by leading the team to an undefeated pre-season. In fact, Chuck Knox never did it either. And, perhaps, most stunning is that Tom Flores never did it. While it is certainly preferable to go undefeated in the pre-season that to lose 'em all, time has proven how meaningless pre-season results are (see the Lions undefeated pre-season last year). The bench strength the Hawks put on display is very meaningful. This very well could turn into Ruskell's signature draft class, and it might be a guy like Mike Teel that clinches it. Curry, Unger, Reed, Teel, Butler, Bennett (undrafted) all look to have bright futures. Unlike previous Ruskell draft classes, a number of these guys are not only solid, but have high ceilings. Whatever their future holds, it certainly made this a fun pre-season to watch.
Tonight was the Aaron Curry, Michael Bennett, Nick Reed, Mike Teel show. Sprinkle in a little Ben Obamanu, Deon Butler and Derek Walker, and you get a 31-21 blowout that was made much closer by two very late Raiders TDs. For the third straight game, the Seahawks featured not one, but two QBs, with QB ratings over 100. The offense looked surprisingly confident considering it was made up of second, third and fourth-string guys.
The defense came out aggressively. The second unit has displayed that all pre-season long. I certainly hope we see that from our starter comes Week 1. I have a hard time believing that Craig Terrill is more disruptive than Michael Bennett right now, and I question whether Darryl Tapp is more dangerous than Nick Reed. Neither Terrill or Tapp have ever displayed the consistent playmaking ability that these two have, pre-season or otherwise.
Most importantly, the Hawks exit the pre-season without any more major injuries than they entered with. Whether it is better fitness or just plain luck, it's a relief.
FAVORITE MOMENT - Curry Coming Free
It was nice to finally see some flashes of significant talent from Curry. Seeing him close the gap on the QB in a heartbeat and make a play on the ball was a welcome sight.
HELPED HIMSELF THE MOST- Ben Obamanu
Not only did Obamanu look great as a WR, but he has looked more comfortable fielding punts than any other player they've put back there. This guy fits the Seahawks mold of quiet, confident and good. As much as Courtney Taylor has showed up in pre-season so far, I wouldn't be surprised if Obamanu edges him out as the fifth WR.
BIGGEST SURPRISE - Mike Teel
Matt Hasselbeck was not this productive in his first pre-season with the Seahawks, let alone his rookie year. Yes, he was called Mr. September back in Green Bay, so he certainly made his pre-season mark, but Teel exhibits some arm strength and chutzpah that you don't often see in rookie QBs. I am bullish on his potential to develop into a meaningful part of this frachise's future.
BIGGEST IMPACT - Aaron Curry
The guy came to play tonight. I have certainly been on the doubters list until now because I was not even seeing speed in his game. Forget making plays, I just wanted to see the raw physical skills that could translate to impact. Tonight, we got the plays and the display of raw talent. That is a very, very good thing for this team.
BIGGEST RELIEF - No major injuries
I've injuries happen late in the pre-season too many times, from Marcus Tubbs to Trent Dilfer. Happy to see we don't have to worry about that...until the season starts.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT - Lawrence Jackson
It bothers me that this guy will be taking someone else's roster spot. He's made no more than a couple meaningful plays in the pre-season and there is a real chance we lose a player like Bennett or Reed if we decide to go with 9 d-lineman on the roster. If we go with 10, just to keep him, we lose a player like Courtney Taylor, Ben Obamanu, Lance Laury, or another player who has proven they are more valuable. He's a bust. Let's move on.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
First, let's look at our glorious leader, Jim Mora Jr. He was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-2006 (three full seasons). He was also the defensive coordinator from 1999-2003 for the 49ers. How many defensive lineman did he keep?
2006: 10 (five DE)
2005: 11 (seven DE)
2004: 11 (six DE, including Drago)
2003: 9 (five DE)
2002: 8 (five DE)
2001: 9 (five DE)
2000: 11 (seven DE)
1999: 9 (six DE)
AVERAGE: 9.75 d-lineman (5.75 DE)
Now let's take a look at the last two years of what Gus Bradley has witnessed at Tampa Bay:
2008: 8 (6 DE - that seems wrong, but check my work)
2007: 8 (6 DE)
What conclusions might we draw from this? Well, let's count up the Seahawks lineman that are realistically competing for a roster spot:
1) Patrick Kerney
2) Cory Redding
3) Brandon Mebane
4) Colin Cole
5) Red Bryant
6) Craig Terrill
7) Darryl Tapp
8) Nick Reed
9) Michael Bennett
10) Lawrence Jackson
11) Baraka Atkins
First off, these guys better hope Mora's experience is a greater influence when deciding how many defensive lineman to keep. I'm not sure I can see Ruskell allowing the number to be 8 even if that's what the coaches recommended, since that would certainly mean cutting his first round bust from last season, Lawrence Jackson. If they kept 10, and released someone like Atkins, they would have 6 guys that can play DE, 4 guys that could play the disruptive 3-technique DT (Mebane, Redding, Bennett, Terrill) and three guys that can play the 1-technique DT (Cole, Bryant, Terrill). And, yes, I heard Dan Quinn, Defensive Line Coach, say that Terrill can swing between tackle positions. It was surprising to me as well.
If they are forced down to 9 lineman, it will get much more controversial. I think we have needs elsewhere that would lead me to go that direction, and say goodbye to Jackson. However, politics likely gets in the way there which could mean bad things for Courtney Taylor or Ben Obamanu since Jackson will be taking someone's roster spot.
I love finding the voice of the people. When I ran this poll on current favorite Seahawk, I would have expected it to fall something like:
4) Other ("other" always does well in polls, he must rock)
As of 9AM Wednesday morning, with 64 votes in, Golden Boy John Carlson is the clear leader with 32% of the vote. Bald Boy Hasselbeck is a distant second at 21%.
Is it his new car smell? People always like the new guy that bursts onto the scene. Although, I'd think Housh would get a lot of those votes. The novelty of a true Pro Bowl-quality tight end in a franchise that has never had one? Just the fact that he is not Jerramy Stevens?
I like Carlson's no-nonsense, humble approach to his work and his dependability. I still am a Hasselbeck guy, although Burleson is in the ballpark. It's hard to go against the best QB in franchise history, a good family guy, and a great interview. Making me smile is a requirement for all my favorite players.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Let's start with the two most prolific passing teams from last season, the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals.
Drew Brees passed for a near record-breaking 5069 yards, but remarkably, did not have a single 1000-yard receiver.
Take a look at the scatter chart of all the Saints' receivers and their yards:
And then take a look at the scatter for receptions:
There are basically five guys that were getting the ball thrown their way a lot (more than 40 receptions), and four guys that got the bulk of the yardage (over 500 yards).
The Cardinals passed for an equally impressive 4875 yards, but did so with a very different distribution pattern:
With the Cardinals, everything is concentrated. You have three guys getting the bulk of the receptions (over 40), and three guys all over 1000 yards (only the fifth time a team has done that in NFL history).
Now let's look at Matt's career best passing performance in 2007 when he passed for 4,181 yards to see his tendencies toward distribution or concentration.
You see Matt only had three guys over 40 receptions and three over 500 yards. My instincts have been that Matt has favorite receivers that he will go to far more often than others. I would have to do this scatter charting over multiple seasons to validate that perception, but this season supports it.
With that in mind, I think it's likely to expect Matt to throw far more often to a 2-4 receivers this season than to spread it all around like Brees did for the Saints last year. We'd all agree that Carlson and Housh are locks to be two of the top three. Burleson would seem like a good candidate for #3, especially considering he was #2 when healthy in 2007. What we've seen in the last two games indicates we may be in for a passing season we've not yet seen from this team before. Don't be surprised if at the end of the year you see three guys with 80+ receptions and 800+ yards.