On My Mind…Week Three 2011

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This is an occasional series of thought fragments that are either the early stages of a full post concept, or just bits of information that do not warrant a full write-up. It is also an invitation to share things running through your Seahawk Brain at the moment. 

James Carpenter Improved In Week Two
Lost in the apocalyptic reactions after the blowout loss to Pittsburgh was a step forward for the team’s first-round draft choice, RT, no LG, no RT James Carpenter. Hugh Millen rightfully pointed out on his Hardcore Football segment on KJR that Carpenter was getting a lot of help from tight ends and was often blocking down on the defensive tackle instead of being left alone with a defensive end. Millen went as far as to say the Seahawks have no tackles on this team since nobody is blocking ends one-on-one. Even Millen would admit that’s hyperbole, but the point is fair. I watched every snap of the Seahawks/Steelers game again, and was going to write about each of Carpenter’s snaps. More simply, I can share that while he was helped a lot, he did handle some ends on an island. He did not surrender a sack. He was not bull-rushed straight back into the quarterback. That is faint praise, but for a kid who had no off-season and is being asked to learn a new position playing next to another rookie, every step forward is worth celebrating. The most alarming part of Carpenter’s play has been watching him get beat physically, both in bull-rush and speed rush situations. Physical flaws are harder to overcome, whereas communication errors (e.g., a line stunt causes a miscommunication with the guard about who is blocking who) generally resolve on their own with experience. Carpenter got his man to the ground a couple of times on running plays. The bad news is he still is getting minimal push. It would be nice to be able to say his run blocking is above average even if his pass protection is not. Unfortunately, he is not there yet. Baby steps are still steps, and getting long-term value for their first-round pick is crucial to future Seahawks success.

3-4 Defenses Up The Wazoo
The Seahawks won’t see their first 4-3 defense until Week 4 against Atlanta. There was a time that 3-4 defenses were a rarity in the NFL. They have become much more common. So much so that the Seahawks first three opponents this year all feature a 3-4 look. These sorts of defenses historically have been difficult for the Seahawks to play against. I have not gone back and done the research, but even the vaunted 2005 line had their biggest struggles against these fronts. Instead of having four down lineman that you know are coming each time, there is always some question about which linebacker is coming in addition to the three down lineman when a 3-4 is in place. Now, none of this is to say the offensive line struggles are exclusively due to facing 3-4 defenses. There is reason to believe it is contributing to the problems, especially for the tackles. One way to tell is if the Seahawks have noticeably greater success pass blocking when they face an Atlanta team that plays 4-3, but still features great ends like John Abraham.

DVR Set For College Football
Time is precious, and between family, work, blogging, exercising, and watching Seahawks football, there isn’t much left over. I gave up watching most college football a few years ago. I tune into Huskies games whenever I can, but that’s about it. Last weekend I taped four college games: Oklahoma vs. FSU, Stanford vs. Arizona, Michigan State vs. Notre Dame and Washington vs. Nebraska. In fact, I’m watching the Oklahoma game right now. I plan to watch any game I can that features a decent quarterback prospect. I don’t like waiting, and I don’t like feeling like I need to hope for Seahawks losses to guarantee the team gets the top player in the draft. Instead, I’d rather spend time finding players not named Andrew Luck so I can get comfortable with something other than the #1 overall pick in 2012. Instead of cheering for a bad Seahawks season, I’d rather cheer for more great quarterback prospects to develop. Plenty of draft pundits will tell you Luck, Matt Barkley and Landry Jones are the only great prospects. Whatever. How many of them had Cam Newton as the best QB in college at this time last season? Watch a few games for yourself. That’s my plan. I just set the USC vs. ASU game to tape this weekend…

What Would 0-16 Mean? 
A number of people have asked me if it is too early to be talking about a possible 0-16 season. The truth is that it is way too early to talk about it. So, let me talk about. If the worst–and I’m not convinced 0-16 is the worst–happens to Seattle this season, does that threaten Pete Carroll and John Schneider? Does it mean that the team is in need of a lot more than just a franchise quarterback? I don’t really think so. It could lead to a much shorter leash from Paul Allen after the 2012 draft. Asking him to wait another two years for his rookie QB to develop probably wouldn’t fly. You could see the front office more aggressively go after a *viable* veteran starter to get the wins flowing right away while the young QB is the understudy. It also does not have to be an indictment on the rest of the team. The 1992 Seahawks had a Top 10 defense that likely would have been a #1 overall defense if they had an offense that could score more than 8.8 points/game. This season’s offense is averaging 8.5 points/game so far. I don’t believe this defense is as good as the Cortez Kennedy-led group in 1992, but they still appear on the upswing. Additionally, good offensive lines come from continuity as much as from talent. It will take at least 2-3 years before this unit really forms up. The great Walter Jones/Steve Hutchinson lines were together for 4+ years before things really clicked in 2005. Terrible line play this year does not mean the team is stuck with bad line play in the future.