Sunday, November 2, 2014

Choke out Oakland

Oakland is a bad team, but they're playing better under interim head coach Tony Sparano.

The Seahawks are so wracked with injuries that any opponent would pose a challenge at this point. Consistent chemistry has eluded Seattle on offense, defense and special teams.

Seattle needs to exorcise the demons of our home loss to the Cowboys and restore the fear to Seahawks Stadium.

Old School Diehards remember when playing the Raiders were our most hated division rivals. Still, inspiration should be no problem today. Seattle honors Marysville pregame and inducts Big Walt into the Ring of Honor at halftime.

Carolina off my mind

Seattle savored a sweet victory after a relatively ugly game last week.

Carolina is not a great team, but everyone in the NFL is a threat every week, and western teams always struggle in the eastern time zone. Seattle came in banged up and underperforming on offense, defense and special teams.

There was no shortage of motivation to win. Seattle badly needed to snap a two-game losing streak. to keep their beaks above water (.500), stay alive for playoff contention, and keep clawing up from third place in the NFC West.

The Seahawks needed no extra motivation, but Cam Newton's antics provided plenty of it.

The Diehard can accept a certain level of celebration in football, but remains uncomfortable with narcissistic displays like Cam Newton's "I am Superman" nonsense.

I knew to expect that. What I didn't expect is that Cam Newton celebrates every single first down.

 First down celebrations are OK when you're a back or receiver who gets only a few touches per game, but when you're the quarterback, celebrating every single first down is.... excessive, to say the least.

Cam Newton has a great smile, but Seahawk defenders must have got tired of seeing his pearly whites.

So Bruce Irvin handled the situation.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gut check time

In St. Louis last Sunday, Seattle got outcoached and outplayed for the second consecutive week.

There was no shame in falling for that brilliant fake punt return... I have never seen anything like that in my life. St. Louis deserved to reap the benefits of incredible film study, diabolical design and epic execution.

But I saw that fake punt coming at the end of the game. I was yelling "Watch the fake!" at my TV in the seconds before the play. At the snap, all of the Seahawks turned and ran downfield to set up the return. I couldn't believe it.

Russell Wilson returned to greatness in the second half. If it were possible for one man to carry a team to victory, Wilson would have done it.

It will be easier to fix the problems with the offense and special teams than it will be to fix the defense. The chemistry is gone. We made a Rams reserve look like Tom Brady last week.

There are personnel issues. Loss of depth on the D-line, Bobby Wagner sidelined, a rotating cast of #2 cornerbacks, Kam Chancellor hobbled but playing with heart....

Good teams overcome these kinds of setbacks.

But our opponents have figured out our scheme. They have figured out how to use tempo to hinder our defensive line rotations, even as lack of depth has forced us to keep exhausted starters on the field too long. They have worked out how to game-plan around Richard Sherman. It was encouraging to see Sherman leave his side of the field to match up with the Rams' #1 wideout in a few key situations.

Players and coaches need to step up. Leaders need to lead.

At .500, it's time to channel the spirit of Jim Mora the Elder. This is no longer about repeating as Super Bowl champions. It is no longer about winning the division or qualifying for the postseason. ("Playoffs?") It is not even, with all due respect to Jim Mora, about just winning a game. As I used to tell my players, thinking about winning the game is a distraction, for the most part.

Football is always about executing your assignment and winning the current play. And then the next one. And the next one. Until the game is over, by which time the score and the winning and losing take care of themselves.

Carolina is having a bad year, but St. Louis was slumping, too.

The only sense in which our Super Bowl ring is relevant on the field is the fact that everyone wants to give us their best shot so they can say they beat the defending Super Bowl champions.

Feed the Beast. Sack Cam. Go, Hawks!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lord have mercy, we cut Percy

I still can't believe we lost to Dallas. At home.

The recipe for a Seattle loss is clear: Fail to feed the Beast, and let the opposing offense hold the ball twice as long as your offense.

I can't believe Darrell Bevell couldn't figure out how to integrate Percy Harvin into the offense. As a coach, I never had the problem of too many weapons, but it seems like it would have been a nice problem to have. For example, when Dallas showed they would swarm Harvin every time he touched the ball, I would have used him as a decoy while feeding the Beast and other playmakers until the defense adjusts.

Of course, the offensive coordinator is not to blame for Harvin's attitude problem. Picking fights with fellow receivers and your quarterback is bad enough, but refusing to enter the game in the 4th quarter was beyond the pale. Pussy Harvin now gets what he deserves: exile to a program of perennial losers, the dysfunctional New York Jets.

Bevell still has his work cut out for him. Future defenses will follow Dallas in modifying their pass rush and deploying a spy to contain Russell Wilson in the pocket. We need an answer for that, and it must involve 1) running the ball well and 2) receivers getting open. Neither task is easy, given the injuries to Pro Bowl center Max Unger and our top two tight ends, Zach Miller and Luke Willson. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse need to establish that they are credible starting NFL wideouts.

We can't blame Harvin or Bevell for Seattle's defensive struggles. We're giving up too many yards and too many points, generating too few turnovers, and giving opponents too much time of possession.

We have generally stopped the run (except against Dallas), but the pass rush needs to put more pressure and punishment on opposing quarterbacks.

Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas continue to play reasonably well, but otherwise, the secondary has become the Legion of Meh. We've been unlucky with injuries at nickelback and the other cornerback position. At strong safety, Kam Chancellor is playing hurt and it shows. I generally doubt that hurt starters can outperform healthy reserves.

It's gut check time. We're 3-2, just one win above mediocrity, holding third place in a four-team division. We can't afford to drop our first division game. The Rams are having another bad year, but under Jeff Fisher they generally put a good fight, especially at home.

Seattle needs to make a statement to exorcise the demons of last week's loss, get the season back on track, and remind the Rams that we still own them.

Go, Hawks!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Keep Ricardo Lockette!

I feel bad about having hate against Ricardo Lockette as the top story on this blog during its many months of dormancy.

Lockette was cleared of legal wrongdoing, though consorting with Colin Kaepernick still constitutes ethical misconduct in my book.

But Ricardo Rocket has won my heart. He is the most imposing gunner I have ever seen, the way he flies downfield like a molten bullet on punt coverage. It no longer seems possible for Jon Ryan to outkick his coverage because Ricardo Rocket runs so unbelievably fast. Opposing punt returners are quick to call for a fair catch because they've seen Lockette unload with Kam Chancellor-like brutality on the hapless fools who fail to seize that lifeline. (He runs hard on kickoffs, too, but Stephen Hauschka rarely kicks it shallow enough for the returner to catch the ball in the field of play.)

I appreciated the good personnel decisions the team made in the offseason. Losing Red Bryant was sad, but understandable. It was disappointing that the low-stakes Terrell Pryor gamble didn't pay off. I rued our failure to draft more O-linemen, and was really bummed about the injuries to Lemuel Jeanpierre and Michael Bowie and the latter's loss to Cleveland.

The O-line seemed improved through the first three games, but their play last week was disgraceful, and the loss of Max Unger hurts. Expect Dallas to try to confound the backup center Schilling with bizarre shifts, stunts and blitz packages.

Still, the first quarter of the season went well, marred only by the loss to San Diego.

Our run defense has improved, but the pass rush and the secondary haven't quite rounded into form. The potent Cowboy offense should pose a challenge, but the 12th Man might amp up the Legion of Boom and turn this into a repeat of the season opener where we made Green Bay's great offense look lame.

Future posts will likely continue to be sporadic. Personal and professional pressures have left me with very little time for anything. Not that it matters. Seattle is so good now that there is no shortage of coverage from local and national publications and blogs. I used to read almost everything published on the Seahawks, but my available my time and energy have dwindled as Seattle football coverage has exploded. I can't keep up with it. I barely find time to watch the games anymore. I certainly don't feel informed enough to attempt original commentary, even if I had time to do so.

I really appreciate everyone who used to read the blog sometimes, especially JB, who was kind enough to post comments on several occasions.

But when your mom is a hardcore Seahawks Diehard and even she won't read your blog, it is probably wise to conclude that you're wasting your time.

Go, Hawks!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cut Ricardo Lockette

Consorting with Colin Kaepernick would be grounds enough to part ways with this marginal reserve, but given the creepiness of the situation Lockette allowed in his Miami apartment, I'm disappointed the Seahawks haven't already released him.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An embarrassment of roster riches

The conventional wisdom is that Seattle needs to keep the team together to repeat as Super Bowl champions. That is neither possible nor desirable. The goal is to retain enough players to maintain chemistry while integrating upgraded talent.

The Seahawks soar into free agency and the draft in an enviable personnel situation. Let us count the ways:

1) We just won a Super Bowl with the league's deepest roster. Our only real weakness is the offensive line.

2) Because Seattle just won a Super Bowl, players will take less money to stay with or to join our team, in the hopes of winning a championship.
3) The Great Collaborators (Coach Carroll and GM John Schneider) evidently intend to exploit the rookie salary cap by grooming young talent to make players expendable when they reach free agency and demand too much money. Our roster is so deep on defense that there are no must-keep free agents. Smart personnel moves and great coaching have apparently created an inexhaustible pipeline of young, fast and interchangeable defensive backs, linebackers and D-linemen. Michael Bennett is a great football player, and it would be great to keep him, but if the market bids up his price to an unreasonable level, we'll be fine without him. We could get by without drafting any defensive players, but watch us draft a bunch of them, anyway. (Prediction: Bruce Irvin gets cut or traded.)

4) We have barely tapped into the potential of our 2013 rookies. They were a talented group, but because our veteran roster was so good and so deep, the younglings had trouble making the team and competing to earn playing time. Injuries at tight end pressed 5th rounder Luke Willson into service. Attrition on the O-line gave 7th rounder Michael Bowie some playing time. Our top draft pick--2nd round running back Christine Michael--was inactive most games, and when active, he rarely played, getting just a few chances to run the ball in garbage time. 3rd round defensive tackle Jordan Hill played sparingly in just 3 games. Several Seahawk rookies--5th round defensive tackle Jesse Williams, 5th round cornerback Tharold Simon and 6th round running back Spencer Ware--were placed on injured reserve, probably less for health reasons than to ensure that other teams could not steal them. Rival teams did in fact scavenge two players from our practice squad: the Packers jacked 4th round wideout Chris Harper, and the 49ers jumped our claim to 7th round guard Ryan Seymour. The only draftee we cut--7th round defensive end Ty Powell--caught on with the Bills. The 2013 rookies who remain with the team will return to vie for roster spots next year against other incumbents and against new free agents and the 2014 draft class.

5) We are set at running back. There's little point in bringing in more competition when we won't be able to keep all of our incumbents. Beast Mode is a given, but Robert Turbin's role as his backup will be contested by Christine Michael. The Aggie already runs better than Turbo, but he played sparingly, due to his shortcomings as a blocker. Presumably, Michael will have had plenty of time to learn pass protection and should be more of a factor next year. We could wind up keeping all three again.

6) We are also set at fullback. In fact, it's a serious logjam. When all three are healthy, it will be fascinating to see which two fullbacks survive the competition among veteran team leader Michael Robinson ("the Real Rob"), Derrick "Deaf Jam" Coleman and "Drunk Drivin'" Spencer Ware. Ware could still be stashed on the practice squad if he is odd man out, and if he can stay on the straight and narrow. I'd like to see Rob make the team again, if for no other reason than to keep alive my fantasy that our offense will install a fullback pass trick play for the ex-Penn State quarterback.

7) We have the most enviable quarterback situation in the league. Russell Wilson is a unique talent, an elite quarterback, and by far the the league's best bargain with a modest contract befitting his status as a projected 3rd round rookie backup. Tarvaris Jackson's respectable background as a starter makes him one of the league's best backups. Practice squad passer B.J. Daniels is a DangeRuss clone in terms of height, speed and monster college numbers, but it remains to be seen if he can make a similarly successful transition to the pro game and push T-Jack for the backup job. It wouldn't hurt to add a late-round draft pick or free agent rookie quarterback to the mix, but neither is it essential to do so, except to have extra throwing arms in training camp.

8) Anthony McCoy's return from injury means we shall have talent to spare at the tight end position. Seattle uses starter Zach Miller primarily as a blocker, failing to capitalize on his established capacity as an elite receiving tight end. Unfortunately, in all likelihood it's time for Miller to head elsewhere, unless he's willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. Seattle would be OK with McCoy, blocking specialist Kellen Davis and Luke Willson, a decent blocker who has shown dynamic potential as a receiver. However, we also have Cooper Heifet stashed on the practice squad, and Seattle recently signed Travis Beckum, free agent blocking tight end.

9) We are better off at wide receiver than the conventional wisdom would have it. Percy Harvin will dominate when healthy.Sidney Rice should have accepted a massive pay cut to stay in Seattle. He owes us. Rice has contributed when healthy, but the team has had to carry him while he missed much of the 2011 and 2013 seasons with injuries. It's hard to imagine another team paying much for an injury-prone receiver who has missed multiple games in 3 of his last 4 seasons. The impending release of Rice means we're in the market for a tall wideout to replace him, and that might be the 6'5" Chris Matthews, a Winnipeg Blue Bomber and 2012 Canadian Football League rookie of the year, who's coming off an injury-marred 2013 season. Golden Tate should settle for a reasonable salary with Seattle, because he's unlikely to develop the chemistry he has with DangeRuss anywhere else, and because he may not start if he stays. (His natural role is as a slot receiver, not a wideout.) Dawg alum Jermaine Kearse and the "Philippine Dream" Doug Baldwin add depth with starting potential. If we find great receiving talent in the draft, we could use it, but we don't need it.

10) Given that we're OK everywhere else, we can afford to devote this draft to shoring up the offensive line. Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung are the only Pro Bowlers and absolute keepers. O-line coach Tom Cable did a great job of getting decent play out of the other modest talents on this injury-wracked unit, but it's time for a literal ton of upgraded talent (that's about 6 linemen). If, in any round of the draft, there is good O-line talent available, Seattle should grab it. The only thing standing between our team and offensive greatness is the play of our offensive line. If we could build an elite O-line, then DangeRuss would post monster passing numbers like Drew Brees and Beast Mode could break the single season NFL rushing record. (If Skittles can run for 1200-1600 yards behind a good-to-average line, then he could easily beastify 2000+ yards if we could complement Okung and Unger with comparable talent.) Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a decent player who has learned to master his nasty attitude, but he needs to take a pay cut or get out of town. Right guard J.R. Sweezy is functional but not dominant. Paul McQuistan is a versatile and capable backup, but as long as he's starting, we won't have an elite O-line. James Carpenter was a first round bust at tackle and isn't very good at guard, either. He needs to step up or get cut. 2013 rookies Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie showed flashes of potential. On the bright side, Lemuel Jeanpierre is a clutch backup who filled in admirably at center when Unger was out with injury. He can play guard in a pinch as well.