Sunday, September 29, 2013

Daunting challenge

The Seahawks have seemed unstoppable so far this season.

Road win against an average team with a 10:00 a.m. kickoff? Handled Carolina in the season opener.

Home win against a good team? Demolished the 49ers in Seahawks Stadium.

No letdown against a bad team? Destroyed the Jaguars in Seattle.

This week presents a different and quite daunting challenge. For the Seahawks, playing the Texans is a lot like playing themselves. Houston plays in a loud stadium and fields a similarly stout defense and a similarly potent offense.

The difference is that Seattle enters today's contest with a makeshift O-Line. Paul McQuistan is a good guard, but he has disappointed thus far as a fill-in for All-Pro left tackle Russell Okung. Now Lemuel Jeanpierre must step up for All-Pro center Max Unger, and rookie Michael Bowie needs to replace right tackle Breno Giacomini. The reserves looked good last week against Jacksonville last week in garbage time, but now they need to develop the chemistry to open holes and protect the passer against the world's most fearsome pass rush, keyed by All-Pro badasses JJ Watt and Brian Cushing. Russell Wilson is an escape artist in the backfield, but he will need to raise that art to a new level today.

The defense should be able to keep it close, but today's game is the ultimate test for Seattle.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Opportunity Today

Being a very good team playing a very bad team presents a real challenge and a test of character for coaches and players.

Good teams sometimes play down to the level of inferior opponents. Great teams never do.

Today's game against the hapless Jaguars presents an opportunity for Seattle to show that it is a great team.

In the regular season marathon, every milepost matters. Every victory helps, and every loss hurts. Any misstep can make the difference between missing and making the playoffs, between backing in as a wild card or busting in as division champions, between a first round battle for survival or a hard-earned bye, between scrapping for wins on the road or locking up home field advantage and hosting playoff games in the House of Pain backed by the world's loudest crowd.

If I were Coach Carroll, I would deactivate Marshawn Lynch and split carries between Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. We know Turbo can handle the load, but we need to see what that kid from A&M can do. Give the Beast a week to heal and hunger, and then unleash him upon the Texans next week.

Let Russell Wilson run the offense and find the rapport with his receivers that has proved elusive thus far this season. Let the O-Line establish some chemistry without its cornerstone, Russell Okung. Score early and often, build a lead, and then let T-Jack play the second half. Sit Paul McQuistan and Breno Giamcomini and give some work to rookie tackles Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie; we need those kids to grow up fast. Let Lemuel Jeanpierre relieve Max Unger at center.

Do the same thing on defense. Crush Jacksonville with your starters, and then let the reserves keep them buried in the second half.

If the starters take care of business, then this can be a fifth preseason game and a half-bye for our starters.

Go, Hawks!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Will Rob return?

Professional obligations prevented me from seeing the first 3 exhibition games, though I did get to witness the last preseason beatdown of the hapless Raiders. Oakland has been bad for so long, it shouldn't still be fun to defeat them, but it is... even after a decade in different divisions, the memory of 25 years as division rivals remains strong, even in games that don't really count. Seattle's backups dominated their starters, and their backups couldn't handle our third and fourth string players.

Carroll and Schneider continue to astonish with the sheer ruthlessness of their personnel decisions. It looks like they cut Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson basically because he got sick. Even for sometimes soulless Great Collabor-haters, that's a remarkably ice-cold dismissal of an athlete who is 1) an inspirational team leader, 2) a human battering ram and 3) one of the league's most viable emergency quarterbacks.

I refuse to believe that Rob's separation from the team is permanent. Since he's too sick to play for Seattle at this point, he's probably also too sick to try out for or sign with another franchise. Many teams don't even use fullbacks anymore, so there may not be many suitors for his services.

Thus, Seattle can evaluate Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware to see if they can satisfactorily replace Rob. If Coleman and Ware disappoint, then the Seahawks could probably reclaim Robinson at a reduced rate by offering him a modest short-term contract.

The Seahawks are carrying an unusually large number of defensive linemen, because so many members of that unit are banged up and in questionable health. Perhaps, as that position group solidifies, the team would find room for Rob. The fullback's ability to play quarterback has historically freed Seattle from needing to carry a third quarterback on their roster. Now that the Jets have signed Brady Quinn, Seattle doesn't have a trained backup to call on if Wilson or T-Jack get hurt.

Similarly, I wonder if Antoine Winfield's decision to retire is really a stratagem to avoid getting picked up by a bad team, so he can remain available as an injury replacement for Seattle.