Friday, August 30, 2013

Bring on the regular season!

Seattle won it's 10th consecutive preseason game in a victory over Oakland last night at the CLink, going undefeated for the second strait preseason. Once again, the team looked dominant in all phases of the game.

Russell Wilson played only a single series but looked damn sharp. Wilson looks prepared for the season opener in Carolina, going 3 for 3 through the air including a 50 yard bomb to roster hopeful, Stephen Williams. He also scrambled for an 11 yard gain before his night was over.

Tarvaris Jackson is now entrenched at the backup position while Brady Quinn essentially
auditioned for a role with a quarterback-hungry team. Given the depth of this team at every position, it's impossible to think that Seattle would dream of keeping all three quarterbacks on the roster after Saturday's cut deadline.

Kickers are seldom discussed but Steven Hauschka has often been criticized for his ability to boot field goals beyond 50 yards. Hauschka silenced those criticisms last night, connecting on field goals of 22, 43, 51, 53 and 56 yards.

Snoop Lion and fellow Comptonite, Richard Sherman.
Capping off an outstanding preseason, Jermaine Kearse continued to show why he'll make this team with another great night. Kearse had a pair of receptions for 50 yards including a spectacular leaping grab on a pass from Brady Quinn for a 33 yard gain. Especially in Percy Harvin's absence, it's almost insane to think Kearse won't make this team.

The area of greatest concern has to be the defensive line. Seattle gave up 126 rushing yards last night in large part to the void left by Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and rookie Jordan Hill. Jesse Williams will miss the entirety of his rookie season due to injury which leaves Seattle remarkably depleted at the defensive tackle spot. Some credit must be given to Oakland and their strong running game, but lack of experience really hindered Seattle's defensive front.

It didn't, however, seem to effect Seattle's pass rush. The Seahawks finished the night with 4 sacks at the hands of Chris Maragos, Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa and a shared sack by Jaye Howard and Ty Powell. Bruce Irvin seemed to really take to the transition from defensive end to linebacker, amassing 3 solo tackles and an assist. Meanwhile, Benson Mayowa continues to comfort me as the concerns of the availability of Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett for the season opener grow.

The position group that I am most interested in seeing who makes the final cut has to be the linebackers. Allen Bradford has shown tremendous growth in every game since making the unusual transition from tailback to linebacker. John Lotulelei is another player on the bubble who I'd love to see, at the very least, find his way to the practice squad.

The player I was most disappointed in last night was Chris Harper. Harper had two inexplicably dropped passes, one of which was a surefire touchdown had he held on to it, in a game where he desperately needed to separate himself from Stephen Williams and the other receivers trying to make the team. Since we drafted him in the 4th round, Harper has yet to prove his worth in a crowded receiver group.  I had initially hoped he would grab the final spot and slowly grow into a starting role over the coming seasons-- now I'm just hoping we can keep him on the practice squad.

How about Walter Thurmond? He looks, for the first time in his professional career, completely healthy and confident. Thurmond was all over the field last night and made some outstanding plays including a one-handed interception and a 29 yard punt return. Whether he beats out Antoine Winfield or not, it will be tremendous simply having him in the rotation.

The preseason is officially in the books and by Saturday afternoon we will know exactly what our 53-man roster will look like to open the season. One week from this Sunday, Seattle will begin this historic season in Charlotte, North Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.

I like the idea of starting on the road against a tough but beatable team. Seattle should win, but the fact they are only favored by 3 points is a testament to how tough that game will be. Carolina is young but talented enough not to be overlooked.  Regardless, I think we're all ready for some (meaningful) football.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Seahawks might be human afterall

Last Friday, Seattle managed to escape historic Lambeau Field with a 17-10 victory over the Packers while looking their most vulnerable since the end of last season's playoff run.

They didn't necessarily look bad nor were any glaring weaknesses exposed but, finally, they looked mortal.  In the previous exhibition games, not only did Seattle's starting units look better than their competition-- they looked like they were the varsity squad scrimmaging the JV team.  This was not the case against Green Bay on Friday.

Let's start with the man that we expect to lead us to our first title.  Russell Wilson finished 11-17 with 126 yards passing, 13 yards rushing, two picks and no touchdowns.  His opening drive was impressive, going 5-for-5 while picking apart the Packers defense and moving the Seahawks into scoring position. However, that drive was stymied by poor offensive line play and costly penalties, leaving the Seahawks to settle for a field goal.

Uncharacteristically, Wilson threw a pair of interceptions.  Chalk one up as a fluke, coming off of a tipped pass, and the other to a rare poor decision by the quarterback where he overthrew Baldwin into double coverage.

I don't expect Russell to dwell on these mistakes-- that's not his style.  I suspect that he will treat it as an opportunity to learn and improve. That's something this team needed given all the success and fanfare surrounding them as they prepare for the coming season.

The one aspect of their play where we have yet to see any improvement is the cornucopia of stupid penalties they accumulate each game.  Seattle finished this game with an astonishing 14 penalties for 182 yards-- unacceptable no matter how well your team is playing.

Even if Seattle's dominance carries over to the regular season, penalties like that could easily cost you a close game.  There is at least a handful of games on the schedule where I could see the outcome coming down to a single score and I hope that this issue is sorted out before then.

Green Bay's defense has improved greatly over the past few seasons and I still expect them to be a Super Bowl contender this year.  Still, I wasn't impressed with Seattle's offensive line, particularly in pass protection.

The run game, however, continues to look increasingly more dominant with each week.  Seattle's rushing attack finished with 166 yards on the night with our backfield looking the deepest it's ever been.  It will be incredibly difficult for Pete & John to trim the fat from that group.

Stephen Williams continues to impress in the passing game, bringing in another long bomb for a touchdown.  However, if he can't find a way to contribute more on special teams, he could find himself on the wrong side of the bubble when final cuts come due.

Walter Thurmond continues to look like the prospect Pete Carroll saw when they drafted him in Carroll's first season with the team.  Finally healthy, Thurmond looks eager to make some noise.

Benson Mayowa has become my guy to watch.  He continued his tremendous preseason with four tackles and a fumble recovery. If he continues on this pace, he should find a spot given the injuries to Clemons and Avril.

We now have on final exhibition match of the preseason remaining before the season kicks off.  Generally, the fourth game leaves little to desire given the fact that the starters see extremely limited action but Seattle still has some fierce competition for the remaining roster spots.  Plus, it will be nice to see our old friend, Matt Flynn, play against his former team.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Seahawks Trade Away Fan Favorite

Not too long after the 49ers washed their hands of 2012 first round pick, A.J. Jenkins, by trading him to Kansas City for another underachieving wide out in Jon Baldwin-- the Seahawks made a move of their own.

The Seahawks traded John Moffitt, beloved among the fan base, to Cleveland in exchange for defensive end, Brian Sanford.

It was beginning to look like Moffitt was was being outplayed by J.R. Sweezy, but most of us had assumed that he would be retained for depth, if nothing else. What's more puzzling to me is that Sanford comes over to an already crowded defensive end group.

I'm curious to hear what Pete Carrol's comments will be on this. With the eventual returns of Avril, Clemons and Irvin coupled with Bennett, Bryant and the emerging rookie, Benson Mayowa-- I don't understand the benefit of this move.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Glowing Endorsement for Lasik

As a receiver at the University of Washington, there were times when Jermaine Kearse made spectacular catches and game-changing plays. There were also times where, inexplicably, Kearse would just plain blow it. This consistent inconsistency was the main reason the young Husky, who also played his high school ball in the state of Washington, went overlooked in all seven rounds of the draft before the Seahawks signed him as an undrafted free agent.

So why is Jermaine Kearse having such an incredible preseason?

That's a complicated answer.  You have to imagine that part of it has to do with having a full camp to build rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson.  Another major factor has to be the time he spends in the close-knit receiver group with veterans like Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and now Percy Harvin.  Perhaps he's just older, wiser and more confident after getting called up from the practice squad last season.

Arguably the biggest source of Jermaine's seemingly new found reliability has to do with a procedure he had last February to correct his poor vision.  Kearse underwent Lasik, commonly referred to as laser eye surgery, which is a type of refractive surgery for the correction of myopia, hypermetropia, and astigmatism.

Kearse would occasionally wear contacts while playing at Washington but found them problematic.  Now, he's seemingly free from those distractions and able to focus solely on his in-game responsibilities.

Kearse had a 12-yard touchdown reception from Wilson in the first quarter and followed that up with a 107-yard kickoff returned for a touchdown.  With Harvin out for the foreseeable future-- there's a job opening for a return specialist.  Kearse, who hadn't performed return duties since he was at Lakes High School, has definitely made a case for himself.

Seattle put a 40-10 beating on Peyton Manning's Broncos, who themselves, like the Seahawks, are being touted as significant Super Bowl contenders. In the first extended viewing of the first stringers, Seattle's starters shined with an air of dominance unlike any other Super Bowl hopeful this preseason.

Having displayed tremendous secondary depth this offseason, many had wondered if Brandon Browner would retain his starting job with the emergence of guys like Walter Thurmond, Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell, Will Blackmon and recent draft pick Tharold Simon.

Browner answered those questions with dominance last night.

Yeah, he's probably the slowest defensive back on the team, but that's not the aspect of his game that he relies on-- that would be his brute strength.  Browner ripped the ball out of the arms of Broncos tight end Julius Thomas for one of the three Seahawk turnovers.  He followed that up with a 106-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

The Seahawks defense once again looked incredibly tough. Kam Chancellor was in on 11 tackles and had a fumble recovery, Bobby Wagner put a lick on Peyton Manning, O'Brien Schofield forced and recovered a fumble with a sack, John Lotulelei continued to impress while flying all over the field and DeShawn Shead came up with a late interception.

You'd think that having let go Leon Washington while losing Percy Harvin to injury would devastate the Seahawks special teams, but outside of a botched extra point by Steven Hauschka and a missed field goal from back up kicker, Carson Wiggs-- the special teams unit looked outstanding.

Almost every kick and punt return was stopped in it's tracks, and the one that Trindon Holliday broke for 73-yards, was deprived of a touchdown by punter Jon Ryan and Perez Ashford. Conversely, every player that took on return duties for Seattle seemed to find success, including Golden Tate, Jeremy Lane and, of course, Kearse.

The offense looked spectacular from the top down.  Russell Wilson went 8 for 12 tossing a pair of touchdowns and breaking a 10-yard run.  Spencer Ware and Robert Turbin both ran hard and hungry; combining for 89 yards on the ground. Tarvaris Jackson continues to be the favorite as Wilson's backup throwing for a touchdown and rushing for 23 yards.

Vying for that extra receiver spot created by Harvin's absence, Stephen Williams caught another big touchdown, a 38-yard bomb from Jackson.  Williams gives Seattle a tall, outside threat that can get down field in a hurry. In a talented but crowded group of pass catchers, Williams brings something a little different to the table.  Sidney Rice is the only player that comes close to William's 6 foot 5 inch frame and given Rice's injury history, it's not a bad idea keeping both of them on this roster.

Having watched portions of all of the preseason games around the league, I can confidently say that the Seahawks look to be the best, most dominant team in the league.  Seattle, unlike all of the other teams in the Super Bowl conversation, have consistently impressed from top to bottom.

If you're one of those people that still thinks that the road to the Lombardi Trophy will come through San Francisco-- you are delusional.  The 49ers only put up a measly 6 points against these same Broncos and barely escaped defeat against the worst team in the league last season in Kansas City. While the Seahawks added to their already incredible roster, San Francisco seemed to only lose pieces from their Super Bowl team.

Brock Huard, who has been terrific in color commentary for Seattle's preseason games, put it best-- "Well, if anybody wanted some of the hype and expectation to diminish with your Seattle Seahawk team-- it's not gonna happen. In fact, I think all you're doing is fanning the flames of excitement with what you're getting out of your special teams, out of your offense out of your play-making tonight."

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Afraid I Have to Hate You, Tyrann

I wouldn't under any circumstances consider myself a 'draft expert'-- I wouldn't even call myself a draft enthusiast.

There's simply too many moving parts, speculation and sheer gambling involved for me to even take an interest in the over analysis that accompanies the draft.  I enjoy the combine for the raw displays of athletic talent but I don't read into it any further than that. Seeing the lives of players and states of franchises beam with optimism makes the draft enjoyable to me.  Then again, I'm the guy who can enjoy watching the Pro Bowl without feeling like I'm being cheated out of a certain level of entertainment.

However, I thought I had nailed down a surefire selection for the Seahawks when I thought that they should and would draft The Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu.

It just made too much sense at the time for me to assume anything other than it being a sure thing.  Mathieu's talent was undeniable, but his draft stock had plummeted after a number of off field incidents.  This seemed to play into Seattle's favor since, leading up to the draft, Mathieu had said and done all the right things to prove he was ready to do whatever it took to earn a spot on an NFL roster.  History has shown us that Pete Carroll and John Schneider won't shy away from character issues if the talent is there.

Seattle didn't have a first round pick but they had more than 10 picks at their disposal and very few areas of need to address. Nickle corner was a significant area of concern for the Seahawks, but Antoine Winfield was signed just before the draft to solve that issue.  Still, I thought they would exhibit the same approach they took when drafting Bruce Irvin, with the expectation of having him brought along slowly to eventually replace the veteran.

Not to mention, with Leon Washington gone and Percy Harvin getting a huge contract, it seemed logical to me that Tyrann Mathieu could be a cheaper alternative in the return game with the same explosive potential every time the ball is in his hands.

Taking all those things into consideration, I thought for sure Seattle would either reach in the third round for him or take him in the 4-5th rounds where he was expected to fall. I'll likely never know if Seattle had Mathieu on their board but the opportunity never presented itself as Mathieu was nabbed by division rivals, the Arizona Cardinals.

When the Cardinals took Mathieu with the 69th pick overall in the 2013 draft, I remember thinking to myself, "Whelp-- I guess I have to hate you now".

Mathieu has that type of personality that fans will embrace and opponents will despise if he's producing on field. It's similar to that of our own Richard Sherman, San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh or New England's Bill Belichick-- so long as you get your job done, the fans will love you for who you are.  Your personality 'quirks' will infuriate opposing fans exponentially as your success grows.

Unfortunately for us Seahawks fans, Mathieu has been making waves with his early success in camp and in his debut preseason game wherein he secured his first sack and impressive day in the return game. Only time will tell if Tyrann can keep his focus in check well enough to allow for his tremendous natural talent to shine but he's certainly off to a great start.

It's too bad.  It could've been sweet to have you here in Seattle, Tyrann, but it is what it is.  I can only hope that you understand why I'll be forced to hate you from now on-- or at least until you're out of the NFC West.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Great Depth of the SEA


After months of anticipation, it's finally here.  Last night from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego we got our first look at the 2013 Seattle Seahawks who are weeks away from the start of a season that is overflowing with expectation.

Given the hype that has surrounded our team since losing to the Atlanta Falcons in January, coupled with the recent struggles of the Chargers franchise, anyone with half of a brain would surmise that a thorough whooping was to be handed to the Bolts on their home turf.  Indeed, that was the case, but not in the fashion I had hoped.

On the opening San Diego possession, the Chargers moved the ball at will on the Seahawks before settling for a field goal.  The ensuing Seahawks possession started great with Russell Wilson connecting on a 20 yard dart to Jermaine "Chop Chop" Kearse but sputtered out shortly thereafter.  Wilson and the first string offense came out for another uneventful series before calling it a night.

I know it's only the preseason, but I was largely unimpressed by what I saw from the Seahawks starting units on both sides of the ball. Believe me, the starters accomplished their one and only objective of the night-- DO NOT GET HURT.  It just would've been nice to see them flash some of what we all expect to see in the regular season.

After all, the current state of the Chargers is reminiscent of the Seahawks in Carrol's first year with the team in complete rebuilding mode.  A team like the Seahawks with lofty goals and the highest of expectations should've had their way with an opponent in the midst of an identity crisis.

By the middle of the second quarter, we began to witness what I believe is the key to Seattle living up to the Super Bowl or Bust expectations of this season-- tremendous roster depth.

Once the backups for both teams were in the game, Seattle began to make it look like you were watching the Varsity squad scrimmaging the JV team.  By the second half, I found myself panicking upon realizing that there will be a lot of talented players that will not make this team because of limited roster space.

It was certainly an unfamiliar feeling to me as a Seahawks fan; definitely one of the best problems a team can have.

The Seahawks beat the Chargers 31-10 in dominating fashion.  Here's a few notes on what I saw:

Tarvaris Jackson will be a great backup to Russell Wilson.  I never viewed Jackson as an NFL starting quarterback and was extremely disappointed when he was named the Seahawks starter a few years back. Judging by his performance last night, it's clear that he is more than capable of being a competent #2.  His leadership and toughness are constantly praised by the media, his coaches and teammates alike but last night we saw a maturation of Tarvaris Jackson that showed he has accepted his new role and feels confident in his ability to excel at it. Specifically, there was a play where he was flushed out of the pocket and forced to the sideline.  In his last stint with the Seahawks, Jackson would've stepped out bounds or threw the ball in the stands.  Last night, however, he remained poised and connected with a receiver down field. He threw a pair of touchdowns and his only incompletion was on a pass that hit TE Cooper Helfet (who made a brilliant catch just a few plays prior) squarely in the hands.

The return specialist void left by Leon Washington isn't as bad as we thought.  Upon the news that Percy Harvin might not be available until late in the season, I was deeply concerned about who would be shouldering the load on special teams. Jeremy Lane, Perez Ashford, Will Blackmon and Walter Thurmond were all exceptional last night in picking up the slack.  Turns out that this area of concern might actually prove to be an interesting position battle storyline to follow this preseason.

Who the hell is Benson Mayowa?  I hadn't heard a single utterance of this young mans name before seeing him play last night. The dude looks like a Chris Clemons clone from both a physical standpoint as well as his relentless pass rush technique. The rookie out of Idaho finished last night with 1.5 sacks and could provide some pass rush depth while we await Clemons return from injury and Bruce Irvin's return from suspension.

Linebacker depth is a non-issue.  When Leroy Hill was let go, many of us were concerned with who would replace his production at linebacker. We were even more concerned when the Seahawks seemingly made no attempt to find Hill's replacement in the draft.  As it turns out, as usual, Pete & John had a plan-- and it's unconventional, as usual.  The Seahawks leading tackler from last night was former running back turned linebacker, Allen Bradford.  Rookie linebacker Ty Powell was right behind him in tackles. Malcolm Smith, the projected replacement for Hill, got himself a sack with 3 tackles and 2 assists.  Don't sleep on undrafted free agent, John Lotulelei.  He swarms the field with the same tenacity and hairstyle as Troy Polamalu.

Christine Michael is legit.  Most Seahawks fans were scratching their heads when Seattle selected the Texas A&M running back with their first pick of this year's draft (in the second round) but it didn't take long for fans to understand why.  Michael finished the game with 89 impressive rushing yards and could well push Robert Turbin for the back up job.  Spencer Ware looked sharp on his carries and proves to be a reliable option on short yardage situations.

Please don't tell me we're only keeping 5 receivers.   Traditionally, the Seahawks only keep 5 receivers on the roster going into the regular season. With Harvin on the PUP list, that leaves us to assume that Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are locks to land jobs.  Are we to believe that only one additional receiver will make a roster spot?  I certainly hope not.  I understand we can't keep everybody, but if we keep Stephen Williams does that mean we're releasing 4th round pick Chris Harper? 
 We might be able to stash Phil Bates on the practice squad, but there's no way Harper would make it past waivers. 

Secondary depth is incredible.  One thing is for sure-- Seattle will cut some secondary players that will become starters for other NFL teams.  As well as they've all played, I couldn't begin to tell you who is most likely to be cut.  I really hope that Carroll and Schneider have this mostly figured out and are somehow able to parlay this tremendous depth into some future draft picks.  It would be a travesty to lose a great player for nothing-- especially if that player found his way onto a division rival's roster. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Pro Bowl is a-Changin'

Since Roger Goodell took over the NFL there has been an ongoing attack on the Pro Bowl.  outdrawn baseball's biggest games.
Apparently, the $9Billion-per-year machine that is the NFL isn't satisfied with the viewership of the league's all-star game-- despite the fact that it has

No, that is not enough for the NFL.  They foolishly tried moving the game away from Hawaii and bumped up the date from the season finale to the penultimate game. Now they're shaking up the entire format of the game.

Moving forward, there will no longer be an AFC vs NFC match up. Teams will be determined in a 'draft style' fashion with Hall of Fame members acting as captains; picking players from both conferences with Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders handling the inaugural responsibilities.

Some other notable changes to the game, per the NFL and NFLPA press release:

» Game within the Game: A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct "two-minute drills," which are especially exciting for fans.
» No Kickoffs: The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
» Rosters: The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
» Cover Two and Press Coverage: The defense will be permitted to play "cover two" and "press" coverage. In previous years, only "man" coverage was permitted, except for goal-line situations.
» Stopping of the Game Clock: Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
» Game Timing: The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
» Play Clock: A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
» Sacks: The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

 I'll be honest-- I can get behind these changes.  It's unfortunate that guys like Leon Washington and Devon Hester, who voiced his displeasure with the changes, will not get recognition for their unique skill sets-- but it will be safer while maintaining the excitement and action. 

I think it's important to remember that the Pro Bowl is, first and foremost, an honor to the games greatest performers of that season. These players have given us their all for 16 games and proved themselves to be among the elite.  So what if it doesn't draw the same ratings as a playoff game?  For as much as people complain about it being 'meaningless'-- they sure draw a lot of eyeballs.

Personally, I enjoy the skills challenges, the old timers games, the players relaxed and easygoing in interviews and the general island atmosphere.  It feels like the after party of the NFL season-- I like that.

The NFL must be careful not to over-saturate the fans appetite for football.  Colin Cowherd once made the argument that a big reason for the NFL's overwhelming popularity is due to the fact that you only get it in small doses. I absolutely agree with that.  It leaves you constantly thirsting for more.  While I'm curious as to how these changes will go over, I still appreciate the Pro Bowl for what it is.