Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Taking offense

Work and dad duties have made it challenge to catch up with watching the preseason games, but these are my impressions of the offense so far:

1. The O-Line is awful. DangeRuss is running for his life against vanilla preseason defenses. The offensive line needs to get it together fast, because our opponents already smell blood. Defensive coordinators will be sharpening their pencils to devise blitz packages to confound our raw linemen. Unfortunately, our zone blocking scheme depends on chemistry, so the waiver wire is unlikely to offer any quick fixes. Tom Cable has his work cut out for him.

2. Wilson is rusty. His throws are off target, and he's struggling to elude pass rushers. Every year, the team makes it a goal for DangeRuss to hang in and throw more from the pocket more. And every year, the experiment fails because our O-Line can't pass block well enough. Abort the experiment, Wilson, and go back to doing what you do best: running for your life and keeping plays alive.

3. Jimmy Graham is like Circle K: Always open. If you look at the tape, the Ginger Giant gets wide open almost every time he goes out for a pass. DangeRuss could throw to him on almost every down. Wilson has deliberately spread the ball around in the preseason, without much success. However, when start alternating between feeding the Beast and throwing to Golden Graham, that's when opportunities for other receivers will open up.

4. Our wideouts look better. It's hard to tell how much better because Wilson hasn't had much time to throw. Tyler Lockett and the other younglings show promise, and may push Baldwin and Kearse for playing time.

5. Christine Michael has improved. The backup running back answered critics of his pass blocking by blowing up KC linebacker Dee Ford. Michael hasn't had much daylight, but he capitalizes when it's there. When it's not there, he needs to stop dancing and hit it up in there like a Beast to push the pile. His development is timely because Robert Turbin's high ankle sprain just made Michael our #2 running back. The fact that Seattle is looking at 34-year-old Buffalo castoff Fred Jackson tells you how much confidence the coaches have in our depth at the position.

Bye, Lem

Seattle released Lemuel Jeanpierre. Lem had backed up Unger and began camp as the favorite to
replace him. It's sad that it didn't work out. I hope he catches on somewhere else.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Big Day for Babs

Happy Birthday to my man Jordan Babineaux (b. 1982). Babs played nickelback, cornerback and safety for Seattle from 2004-10. Although he rarely started, he earned his nickname "Big Play Babs" for his improbable knack of making crucial game-saving plays.

Everyone remembers Tony Romo bobbling the snap as the holder on a field goal attempt at the end of the 2006 Wild Card playoff game, but that wasn't the end of the play. Romo is a good athlete with legitimate speed for a quarterback. Realizing the kick was not in the cards, Romo scooped up the ball and ran left, where there was nothing between him and the first down marker or the goal line. Babineaux, who had rushed from the opposite end to block the kick, showed superhuman hustle, ran Romo down from behind, and made the tackle to deny both the score and the first down.

It's fun to watch Babs work as an analyst on the NFL Network. They need to bring back NFL AM!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shaun & Manu

Happy Birthday to Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks career rushing and touchdown leader. He played for the team from 2000-2007 and won the league rushing title and MVP award in the Super Bowl season of 2005. Yes, he ran behind one of the best O-Lines in the history of organized football, but his speed and shiftiness capitalized powerfully upon the opportunities they created for him. His unheroic habit of taking an occasional dive to avoid big hits probably extended his career, but it rankles when couch potatoes question the courage of a man who exposed himself to potentially gruesome injury by carrying or catching the ball 2,581 times in nine NFL seasons.

Also celebrating a birthday today is Manu Tuiasosopo, who played defensive end from 1979-83, mostly in a reserve capacity, before finishing his career with the 49ers. While his performance was disappointing for a first-round draft pick, Tuiasosopo redeemed himself by returning to Seattle in retirement and making notable genetic contributions to Husky athletic programs in the form of his five children.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Many happy returns

Happy Birthday to my man Leon Washington, one of the greatest kick returners in NFL and Seahawks history.

Leon's tenure with the Seahawks was relatively short (2010-12). He wanted to stay longer, but despite his astonishing return skills, he proved a poor fit for Pete Carroll's run offense. Our O-Line has been a work in progress for several seasons. Our offense needs big hosses to lug the rock, beasts who can bull through defenders and make their own holes. Washington is not that guy. He's small and shifty. And fast.

Of course, Leon's true forte is returning punts and kickoffs. He is tied with Josh Cribbs for the most return touchdowns in NFL history (8), a record likely to stand for awhile, since neither Cribbs nor Washington look likely to play again.

No Diehard could ever forget the home game against San Diego in 2010, a game we surely would have lost had Washington not returned two kickoffs for touchdowns (setting a Seahawks record and tying the all-time NFL record). Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgrIFZqRYeM

Dear Directv...

Dear Directv,

Why doesn't NFL Sunday Ticket include preseason games?

You guys have had me by the short hairs for more than a decade now. I pay through the nose for your exclusive NFL package because it's the only way to ensure that I can see every regular season Seahawks game. For what I pay, I should get the preseason games, too. And free nachos.

I don't believe in paying for TV. Programming was free when I was a kid, and I watch very little, aside from football. The Seahawks are literally the only reason I subscribe.

So I didn't see tonight's game. Presumably I can catch the rerun on the NFL Network later this week.

To add insult to injury, your college football offerings are very limited, so I rarely get to see the Huskies play.

You grasping slackers need to pick it up.

I can't wait to move back to Seattle so I can cut ties with you forever.


Your Meal Ticket

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ready for some football

I've been in the private sector for more than a year now, but the previous 18 years in education deeply implanted the rhythms of the school year upon me. It's been six years since I coached varsity football, but August still makes me feel like running morning practices in dew-drenched grass overlong from a summer of monsoon rains and groundskeeper sloth. (Less happy: the maintenance department's habit of not erecting the uprights until the night before the first home game. We always went for two because practicing fields goals without goal posts is pointless.)

The kids I coached are all grown up now. Many are already fathers. Several have been putting their lives on the line fighting wildfires around the West for the last few months. At least one--P.J.--is coaching football and teaching history like I used to do, but probably better. Two of my former players--Andrew and Michael--have already lost their lives in car wrecks.

My son just turned four. They don't have football for kids his age around here, but his full-contact interpretation of soccer bodes well for his potential on the gridiron.

It's been a great week for Seattle: DangeRuss and Wags signed extensions, Michael Bennett reported to camp instead of holding out, and Earl Thomas III came off the PUP list.

On the other hand, it is sad to lose D-line stalwart Tony McDaniel, and Kam's holdout is baffling.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Offseason personnel moves

So sad to lose Max Unger, our best offensive lineman and a good team leader, despite occasional injuries.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider continue to force offensive line coach Tom Cable to work miracles. Would it kill them to draft some O-linemen in the first three rounds of the draft? Or sign a journeyman or two? Cable is a great coach who has transmuted free agents, late-round picks and college defensive lineman into Seahawk O-lines that appear serviceable only because DangeRuss is an escape artist and Marshawn Lynch only needs a few millimeters of daylight to pierce a defense and grind out some hard-won yards.

How do we ensure that acquiring All-pro tight end Jimmy Graham will be worth it? Under Carroll, tight ends have not been particularly productive in Seattle's offense. Zach Miller, a Pro Bowl pass catcher in Oakland, mostly used his great hands to block, working essentially as an extra O-linemen on most downs.

This was an option for Miller because he's an athlete who can catch well and block even better. I don't think anyone would argue that squandering Miller's receiving talents was ideal; it was what Seattle had to do to augment a subpar offensive line and fuel the running game that is the heart of our offense.

It would be undesirable and unwise to do the same with Golden Graham, who catches phenomenally well, but frightens no one as a blocker.

My humble proposal is to line up the Ginger Giant as a wideout. In New Orleans, Graham lined up as a wideout so often that he asked to be coded as a wide receiver rather than a tight end to earn higher pay if the Saints slapped him with the franchise tag.

As a wideout, Graham would have more opportunities to catch the ball, and better chances to help the running game. Although his blocking skills are poor for a tight end, they're good for a wideout. Once assigned to the position, he would instantly become the best route runner with the best hands and the perhaps even the best blocker in our receiving corps.

The move would also allow Seattle to keep other talent at the tight end position, including Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet and the talented but unlucky Anthony McCoy, who has been sidelined by two torn Achilles tendons in two years. We could even welcome back Zach Miller if he could pass a physical and accept a reasonable salary.

Speaking of reasonable salaries, Russell Wilson needs to get real in his contract negotiations. The Seahawks Way is to accept less than your market value for the privilege of playing on one of the best teams in the NFL. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are among the best in the league at their positions, but they did not cash in because they know the unique chemistry of the Legion of Boom cannot be replicated elsewhere. Once you've guaranteed several million dollars, a real chance to win championships matters much more than earning a few million dollars more. This is especially true for quarterbacks who, as the face of the franchise, have more opportunities to make money on the side.