Friday, August 30, 2013

The Morning After: Seattle Coasts By Raiders 22-6

Logo Contest: The Morning After series runs everyday after a Seahawks game, and I'd like to add a logo to represent the series. The logo should incorporate both the name Hawk Blogger and The Morning After. Please send me your submissions at hawkblogger@gmail.com before the regular season begins. The winner will get their name and Twitter handle or website attributed on each Morning After article. Below is the leading candidate thus far, but I will consider new submissions until the season starts.

Logo by Kevin Gamache, Hammerhead 

It has been three years since I had the honor of covering a young man's attempt to realize his dream of making an NFL roster. Seeing what it meant for him was an experience that will stay with me as a fan, as a writer, as a father. Objectifying women is a topic well covered, but the age of fantasy football and win at all costs fandom introduces an objectification of these kids that robs us of the remarkable stories each one of them represents. Few of us experience working toward a goal our entire lives, having it at the center of everything we do, and then having to fight for the right to continue. The final realization of the dream is out of their hands. Twenty-two of the players that pulled on a Seahawks jersey last night will be told on Saturday that they are no longer part of the team. For some portion of that group, it will be the beginning of a tumultuous transition into life after football. Facing their family and friends will be difficult, but their heads should be held high. They were a Seahawk once, and they played a role in making this team better.

A good bet

My boss is a Raiders fan. We have a long history of harassing each other that dates back as far as him replacing my Seahawks license plate frame with a Raiders version. He called up earlier this week wanted to make a wager on the game. It was hard to take him seriously given the state of the Raiders, and I'm a bleeding heart when it comes to fans of terrible teams, so I gave him 21-points. Winner buys dinner. Chris Harper cost me dinner. I have been outspoken about the lack of potential demonstrated by Harper since early in camp. He has been less the player I expected, and at best, the eighth-best receiver in camp. Bryan Walters, who missed most of the pre-season due to injury was well beyond Harper in nearly every aspect of the position. Brett Swain, who was cut earlier in the week, demonstrated more heart and ability to convert big plays. Harper made a nice catch last night when he knew contact was coming, but dropped two passes that will haunt him. The first drop in the endzone was so egregious that the stadium fireworks operator mistakenly sent off the celebratory fireworks reserved for a touchdown. Receivers take longer to develop, and giving up on a fourth-round pick seems severe, but keeping Harper over players elsewhere on this roster that earned their position would fly in the face of the values Pete Carroll espouses. If Harper is going to realize his NFL dream, it either needs to be through the practice squad or on another team's roster.

Guys that helped themselves

There is a limit to how much a player can change their fate at this point in the pre-season. Still, on a roster this competitive, even a little extra push can be the difference in making the squad.

Ty Powell came back healthy after missing some time and looked solid. I was not big on Powell early in camp, but there is something intriguing there. He is built differently than all the other ends, and looks like a guy that could develop into a good two-way defender against the run and rushing the passer. He may get on the practice squad.

Luke Willson needed no help making the team, but he has solidified the #2 tight end role in a slight upset. His blocking is better than advertised, and he puts a legitimate second weapon on the field with Zach Miller. More on that in a bit.

It is laughable that some folks are leaving Allen Bradford off their roster projections. This guy may be the best back-up linebacker the franchise has ever had. 

I liked what I saw from Sealver Siliga. He was active and strong. The Raiders were forced to double him a few times. I want to go back and watch him again, but he appeared to help his case.

Winston Guy and Chris Maragos played well. Guy just might have earned a roster spot in the last two weeks, but it will be very close.

Jaye Howard had four punishing quarterback hits, a half-sack, and a fumble recovery. Great game.

Benson Mayowa has done everything within his power to make the squad. The point against Mayowa from a roster evaluation perspective is almost 100% of his production has come against reserves and players that will not be on NFL rosters this year. He will be on someone's 53.

Spencer Ware made a nice special teams tackle, which is key for him. 

Michael Brooks looks like a very promising tackle prospect. He would make the 2010 and 2011 Seahawks without question. There does not appear to be a place for him this year. It will be a surprise if Seattle can stow him on the practice squad.

Guys that did not

The entire offensive line struggled all night. Michael Bowie's injury sounds serious and could have a dramatic effect on the roster. The team may go down to nine lineman and put Bowie on IR if it is that serious. Run blocking and pass blocking was the worst it has been all pre-season in this game, but I will need to watch again to pick out individual players.

John Lotulelei had five tackles, but only two were solo, and he appeared to be a step slow by his standards. He was late to the ball, and missed a couple tackles in the hole. He still makes the team, but this was not an impressive night for him.

Worth noting

Seattle continued to use a fair number of h-back formations where the tight end moves to the back-field as a fullback. The only time a fullback was used was in short yardage situations. There is mounting evidence that the team plans to drastically reduce the role of the designated fullback in the offense. There was already read-option, three receiver, and two-tight end formations that resulted in single-back sets. The introduction of h-backs into the offense whittles the need for a fullback down that much more, and Michael Robinson only played 32% of the snaps last year. Willson's emergence gives Darrell Bevell plenty of incentive to increase two-tight end sets that allow for a variety of formations, including a tight end motioning into the backfield to block. Keep in mind, Marshawn Lynch had to learn to run behind a fullback when he arrived in Seattle. He preferred single back formations. All this adds up to a point where I will be surprised if Robinson is on the squad come Saturday. 

James Carpenter returned to the field and looked spry, if not particularly effective. He sprinted down the field on Christine Michael's 19-yard screen pass, and looked faster than he has ever looked in a Seattle uniform. It is good to have the big guy back.

Seattle had another eight penalties...

Closing Act

Seattle ends the pre-season undefeated again. Nobody should care. The team escaped with few major injuries, and has made clear progress on both sides of the ball. They are well-armed to enter the season that should be memorable, and could be historic. Game on.

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