Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Is T-Jack OK?

Backup quarterback, team captain and franchise security blanket Tarvaris Jackson suffered a high ankle sprain in preseason and was supposed to be OK by now. Of course, high ankle sprains are strange beasts that often defeat projections.

T-Jack remains limited in practice.

Seattle has wisely kept BJ Daniels on the roster. Daniels spent the offseason working out as a wideout and returner, but he looked sharp running the offense in the last preseason game.

Yesterday, the Seahawks worked out Terrelle Pryor, the former Oakland quarterback who tried out for us under center last year, but--like Daniels--converted to wide receiver in the offseason. Pryor made Cleveland's initial roster, but got cut to make room for Robert Turbin. Pryor is a phenomenal athlete, but he does not appear ready for prime time as a receiver. Is he, like Daniels, insurance in the event that T-Jack can't make it back?

Also visiting yesterday was McLeod Bethel-Thompson, the UCLA/Sacramento State product who has bounced back and forth among the arena league, practice squads and active rosters for a total of nine different stints with seven professional teams over five seasons. He has never attempted a pass in a regular season game. What do we see in him?

Neither Daniels nor Pryor nor Bethel-Thompson have any practice squad eligibility remaining.

Is BJ Daniels on the chopping block?

What gives?

If we need better backup options, I wonder if there might be some kind of compelling local option?

Nike Men’s Seattle Seahawks Customized Game College Navy Jersey

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Son of Mandingo

Happy Birthday to my man Ken Norton, Jr. (b. 1966), Seattle's linebackers coach from 2010-14.

He won three Super Bowl rings as an All-Pro linebacker for the Cowboys and the 49ers before joining Pete Carroll as a defensive coach at USC and then Seattle.

Norton had the guts to jettison first-round bust Aaron Curry and the skill to mold KJ Wright, Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner into one of the league's best linebacking corps and key components of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL.

He is now Oakland's defensive coordinator.

Norton is the son and namesake of boxing legend Ken Norton, Sr., who later starred in the blaxploitation classic Mandingo and Drum, which helped inspire Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Largent & Lockett

Happy Birthday to my man Steve Largent (b. 1954), the greatest Seahawk ever, after the incomparable Walter Jones.

Largent won All-American honors at the University of Tulsa, but his professional career began inauspiciously. Drafted in the fourth round by the Oilers in 1976, he failed to impress Houston’s coaches. Instead of cutting Largent, the Oilers dealt him to Seattle for an eighth-round pick.

At this bargain rate, the Seahawks acquired an athlete with average size and speed by NFL standards who became one of the greatest wide receivers of his era, despite a limited supporting cast. Largent’s secret? A phenomenal work ethic, great hands, precise routes and extremely powerful ankles and calves to power sharp cuts, allowing him to achieve separation from even the fleetest defensive backs.

Largent won first-team All-Pro honors once (1985), second-team honors four times (1978-79, 1984, 1987), went to seven Pro Bowls (1978-79, 1981, 1984-87), and broke every major NFL receiving record (receptions, yards, touchdowns, etc.), including several set by Don Hutson that had stood since 1945. Largent’s records soon fell as rules changes created an increasingly pass-happy league, but in the context of his times and the preceding decades, the receiver’s records remain impressive.

Throwing to Largent made a capable quarterback (Jim Zorn) look dynamic and made a good passer (Dave Krieg) look great.

By all accounts, Largent was a great person and teammate. He won almost as much recognition for his character as for his achievements on the field. He won the league-wide Walter Payton & Bart Starr Man of the Year Awards in 1988. When he retired the following year, the Seahawks created the Steve Largent Man of the Year Award to give annual recognition to a player of high character.

Largent was the first Seahawk inducted to the Ring of Honor (1989) and the first to have his jersey number retired (1992), though he gallantly allowed Jerry Rice to wear the #80 during the latter’s brief stint with the team in 2004.

In 1995, Largent became the first true Seahawk to enter the Hall of Fame (Carl Eller and Franco Harris got into Canton despite—not because of—their time in Seattle.)

In retirement, Largent returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma and launched a political career, advocating economic and religious conservativism. In 1994, he signed on to Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, ran for Congress and won. In 2002, he quit the House to run for governor, but a third-party candidate split the Republican vote and handed the election to his Democratic opponent.

Like many former Congressmen, Largent landed on his feet financially. He served as President and CEO of the CTIA-Wireless Association—a lobbying group for the telecom industry—from 2003-14.

Happy Birthday also to my man Tyler Lockett (b. 1992). Seattle drafted him in the third round primarily to return kicks and he wasted no time, returning his first career punt for a 57-yard touchdown in St. Louis in Week One. Against Chicago yesterday, the electrifying rookie took a kickoff out of the end zone for a 105-yard touchdown, the longest return in team history. Thus far this year, Lockett is the only player in the league with both punt and kickoff return touchdowns.

Lockett runs fearlessly and decisively, using great vision to find the right lanes and capitalize on his teammates' blocks. Already, opposing special team units display a healthy fear of the Kansas State product, with punters angling balls out of bounds or booming them high and short to force fair catches, while placekickers try for touchbacks.

He's even a good actor. Lockett and the rest of the punt return effectively sold the trick play yesterday, lining up for a return on the left side of the field to fool the Bears coverage unit while Richard Sherman fielded the ball on the right and brought it back 64 yards.

He shows considerable promise as a slot receiver and has the speed to challenge defenses as a deep threat.

Let’s hope that Lockett’s career follows a similar trajectory to the Seahawk great with whom he shares a birthday.

The Unbearable Brightness of Beating Chicago

At long last, Seattle broke an agonizing eight-month, three-game winning drought that started with Super Bowl XLIX and continued in St. Louis and Green Bay.

Initially, our offense looked a lot the same. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell continues to struggle to call plays in the first half. Our O-Line got handled, and Russell Wilson hung in the pocket too long and took too many sacks. Jimmy Graham still can't block.

Despite limited offensive production, Seattle crept ahead with a first-quarter field goal owing to fantastic field position from Richard Sherman's remarkable 64-yard punt return--a trick play borrowed from the Rams, who used it to score against us in St. Louis last season.

To increase the level of difficulty, Marshawn Lynch--slowed by a complex of calf and lower back woes--started late. Even when injured, Lynch has the meanest stiffarm in the game, as Bear Alan Ball learned when the Beast shoved him down by the facemask when the defensive back tried to tackle Lynch near the sideline. Unfortunately, the Beast twinged his hamstring at some point and had to be held out the rest of the game.

In the waning minutes of the second quarter, the Seahawks finally got a drive going, with DangeRuss shooting a series of passes to Jermaine Kearse and Golden Graham. Sadly, the 74-yard drive stalled short of the end zone and Seattle had to settle for a Steven Hauschka field goal.

Beautiful blocking helped Tyler Lockett break open the game with a 105-yard kickoff return after halftime and take a 13-0 lead. Without stellar special teams play to that point, Seattle's lead would have been a mere 3-0 at that point. (And if the officials had made the proper call on the kick that hit Brock Coyle's cankle, then the tally would have been 3-3, probably.)

In the second half, Bevell found his groove, calling an inspired mix of runs and passes. Wilson resumed his escape artist routine, kept the defense off balance with a few runs, and zinged passes to Doug Baldwin, Kearse and Graham, including a cathartic 30-yard catch-and-run by the Ginger Giant, who triumphantly broke through two Bears defenders to enter the end zone.

In turn, the aerial attack helped set up the run. The O-Line got its run blocking together, enabling some beastworthy runs by rookie Thomas Rawls, who piled up 104 yards on 16 runs for an impressive 6.5 yard average.

If Bevell could call plays in the first half as well as he does in the second, Seattle would be racking up yards and points commensurate with the preposterous talents of DangeRuss, Golden Graham and the Beast.

Conversely, Chicago started with the right offensive strategy: running the ball out of heavy sets with three tight ends, punctuating heavy doses of Matt Forte with a few dashes of straight-ahead running from Jacquizz Rodgers (whose unfortunate first name is a homonym for two slang verbs with unseemly connotations... we interrupt our regular programming for a special Diehard plea to the parents of the world: please think carefully before you get creative naming your child).

Early on, our defense looked confused, and the Bears gouged us on the ground and moved the ball well. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard got Kam Chancellor's attention by benching him in favor of DeShawn Shead for a few plays.

Then Bam-Bam came back with renewed focus, and the defense rallied.

We forced Chicago to punt. Every time they had the ball. All game. Ten times in a row. Shutout.

In a refreshing departure from last week's all-vanilla defense, Coach Carroll and Kris Richard got creative on D.

For much of the game, they wisely assigned Richard Sherman to cover Martellus Bennett, the Bears' sole real receiving threat.

As Seattle built a lead and the clock ran down, it forced Chicago to depart from their game plan and throw more. Richard responded by calling some blitzes, to devastating effect as Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril pummeled Jimmie Clausen.

Our starters shone. The starting linebackers--K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin--dominated. Ahtyba Rubin clogged the middle. Sherman, Chancellor and Earl Thomas III erased receivers.

With the line of scrimmage under control and the Bears wideouts smothered, there were few tackles left for the secondary to make, except for perpetual target Cary Williams.

Our depth showed up. When injury downed defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, Jordan Hill and Demarcus Dobbs stepped up as run-stuffers. Rookie Frank Clark--no longer a missing person--recorded two solo tackles,

That was Seahawks football.

Good work, men.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ursus Catharsis

So... the Bears are terrible this year. They dropped their first two games at home in Soldier Field. Chicago competed against Green Bay (31-23), but then got blown out by Arizona, 48-23.

Bears defenders can't stop the run, and they're worse against the pass: After Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns against them, Carson Palmer torched them with four aerial strikes.

The solid Bears offensive line surrenders few sacks and blows open holes for Matt Forte, one of the toughest and best runners in the league.

But hamstring injuries have sidelined starting quarterback Jay Cutler and Pro Bowl wideout Alshon Jeffery.

Backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen was a punch line when he started ten games for the Carolina Panthers as a rookie back in 2010, but he's had several years since then to improve, and he looked good in his one start for Chicago last year. He played OK under thankless conditions in relief of Cutler last week.

For the Seahawks defense, the obvious strategy is to stack the box, stuff the run and dare Clausen to beat you through the air. The return of Kam Chancellor should stiffen our run defense and fortify our pass defense.

Without Jeffery, Chicago's only consistent receiving threat is tight end Martellus Bennett, the twin brother of Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett. This is unfortunate, because the Seahawks historically struggle to shut down talented tight ends.

Of course, Seattle is also 0-2, though our losses came on the road, and we kept both games reasonably close.

The Seahawks offense has struggled. Marshawn Lynch's calf injury may limit him, but our depth at running back is decent, and we need to get the passing game going, anyway, because we're not getting our money's worth from Jimmy Graham, yet. My prescription for that is here.

The Diehard prescribes a punishing blowout to show the league that this dynasty isn't done, and to make future opponents tremble at the prospect of entering Seahawks Stadium.

Go, Hawks!

This Brazilian made gazllions

Happy Birthday to my man Breno Giacomini (b. 1985), a Seahawk from 2010-14.

Seattle snagged the Boston native and second-generation Brazilian immigrant from Green Bay's practice squad in 2010. From 2011-2014, Giacomini started at right tackle. He was serviceable rather than dominant, and frustratingly penalty-prone, but with a nasty attitude that helped set the tone for the unit and endeared him to O-Line coach Tom Cable.

After helping Seattle win Super Bowl XLVIII, Giacomini signed a 4-year, $18 million deal with the Jets, including $7 million guaranteed. There was a Seahawks connection to the departure, as John Idzik, Jr.--Seattle's salary cap man from 2007-12--had become the Jets GM. Idzik's tenure in New York was controversial and short (2013-14), with many of his personnel decisions since reversed, but not this one. Giacomini has started every game at right tackle for the Jets since signing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

TJ & Bobby Joe

Happy Birthday to my man Bobby Joe Edmonds (b. 1964), one of the greatest kick returners in Seahawk history. A fifth-round draft pick in 1986, Edmonds won All-Pro honors and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while setting the single-season franchise record for punt return yardage, which still stands. Edmonds led the AFC in punt return average that season and again in 1987. 

However, the young man had demons. A car wreck killed his mother when he was 13, leaving him in the care of his grandmother, who died in another car wreck in 1985. Edmonds coped by drinking heavily.

He signed with Detroit in 1989, but got cut at the end of camp and caught on with the Raiders. He broke his ankle that October and Los Angeles released him in the offseason. No other team would take a chance on him due to his injury and his reputation as a drunk 

Out of the NFL at age 26, Edmonds hit rock bottom and then got it together. He sold real estate, quit drinking and trained for a comeback.

Five years later, Edmonds drew on an old Seahawks connection to get back into the league. Rusty Tillman knew Edmonds from his tenure as the Seattle special teams coach from 1979-91. After working as the Seahawk defensive coordinator from 1992-94, Tillman took the same job in Tampa Bay in 1995. The coach put in a good word for his former player, and that was enough to give Edmonds a shot at a comeback.

After five seasons out of the league, Edmonds became the starting kick returner and performed well. Unfortunately, the Bucs went 6-10, so Head Coach Sam Wyche got fired, along with Tillman, and Edmonds was finished, too.

You can read more about Edmonds here and here.

Happy Birthday also to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Pro Bowl free agent cashed in by leaving Cincinnati for Seattle in 2009, signing a five-year, $40 million contract with $15 million guaranteed. He led Seattle in receiving that year, but the team went 5-11, Coach Jim Mora got fired, and Housh did not dig Pete Carroll's style. Evidently, he was such a cancer in the locker room that Seattle cut him in 2010 and paid him the rest of the $7 million in guaranteed money we owed him to play for someone else. After undistinguished stints in Baltimore and Oakland, he retired.

Friday, September 25, 2015

#8 is 40

Happy Birthday to my man Matt Hasselbeck (b. 1975), a Seahawk from 2001-2010 and a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback (2003, 2005, 2007).

Coach Holmgren brought Hasselbeck over from Green Bay. He had a wobbly start, but soon fended off the challenge of Trent Dilfer, won over the fans and proved the perfect fit for Holmgren's version of the West Coast Offense. Hasselbeck is a good athlete and a precise passer, and he's all heart.

There are too many great Hasselbeck memories to recount, but leading the team to the 2005 NFC Championship is right up there.

2005 was part of run of four consecutive division championships (2004-2007) under Holmgren, and Hasselbeck won a fifth in 2010--his last year with the team--under Pete Carroll.

My all-time favorite Hasselbeck memory came in the Wild Card game against New Orleans. It does not involve Hasselbeck throwing or running the football. It was his role in the Beast Quake run.

After Lynch broke through the line and flung a cornerback to the turf with a stiffarm for the ages, several Saints defenders were gaining on him.

"However, by this time, several Seahawks had hustled downfield to help block. This convoy included Hasselbeck. Quarterbacks--especially fragile, aged, injured ones--rarely risk their bodies trying to block, and rarely do so effectively. But Matt is a consummate competitor, so he was in the mix.

"Saint defensive end Alex Brown was gaining fast on Lynch. He had a good angle. 

"Seahawk lineman Sean Locklear tried to intervene, but Brown simply outran him. 

"Only Hasselbeck had a chance to stop the fleet 260-pound lineman. Running alongside the defender, the quarterback reached out with his fractured left wrist and shoved Brown's shoulder. Losing his balance, the defender desperately lunged at Lynch's feet, to no effect."

(The complete Diehard breakdown of the Beast Quake is here.)

That's right, kids: Without Hasselbeck's gutsy block, Lynch might not have scored, and the Beast Quake might never have happened.

Despite the division title and the victory over New Orleans, Hasselbeck did not fit into Coach Carroll's quarterback concept.

But Hasselbeck showed he even knew how to leave a team in style. Faced with the choice between competing for a starting role in Arizona and mentoring Jake Locker in Tennessee. Hasselbeck opted for the latter. That was the right choice for him philosophically, physically and fiscally.

Philosophically: The 12th Man will love him forever, but if Hasselbeck had played for Arizona, we would have had to root against him and hate him at least during game weeks.

Physically: If Hasselbeck had gone to Arizona, the tough defenses of the NFC West would have pulverized him. Look at the horrifying stats and injury histories of the unfortunates who did play quarterback for Arizona from 2011-12 (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Bryan Hoyer). In Tennessee, by contrast, Hasselbeck got in 21 starts behind a solid O-Line including Steve Hutchinson.

Fiscally: By staying healthy, Hasselbeck has prolonged his career and maximized his earnings. Dude moved on to Indianapolis in 2013 to mentor Andrew Luck. That's light duty (zero starts over three seasons), and he's still there.

Check out this article from Indianapolis about Hasselbeck turning 40 and raising funds for clean drinking water in Africa.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dream Weaver

Happy Birthday to my man Leonard Weaver (born 1982), a Seahawk from 2005-2008. A Division II All-American tight end at Carson Newman, Weaver went undrafted, but Seattle signed him and converted him to fullback to groom him to succeed Mack Strong.

When injury truncated Strong's 15-year career in the middle of the 2008 season, the elder fullback said, "I have the utmost confidence in Leonard Weaver. I think he's going to make people forget about Mack Strong."

While Weaver never quite equalled Strong as a lead blocker, he greatly exceeded his mentor as a runner and receiver.

Weaver knew this, and he wanted to get paid accordingly. In 2009, he bet on himself by signing a one-year $1.75 million deal with Philadelphia. He then won that bet by making the Pro Bowl and winning first-team All-Pro honors that year. The Eagles rewarded him with a three-year contract for $11 million, including $6.5 million in guaranteed money. Which was fortunate, because on his first carry of the 2010 season, a freak accident shredded his ACL and caused irrevocable nerve damage, ending his career.

I'm sorry he couldn't continue his career as a Seahawk, but I'm glad he got paid.

Welcome Back, Bam-Bam!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hard Cheese: A postmortem

The Seahawks actually exceeded my expectations yesterday. I assumed that Aaron Rodgers would unleash an offensive blitzkrieg upon us, and that didn't happen.

Our defense performed pretty well, holding Green Bay to respectable points and yardage.

We can't blame this one on Kam Chancellor.

Unfortunately, decent defense isn't good enough when your own offense fails to produce and commits two costly turnovers.

Rookie defensive end Frank Clark wasn't on the inactive list, but I didn't notice him making any impact on the field. We need more from our top draft pick.

DeShawn Shead showed that he's a possible heir apparent to Chancellor. Shead executed well and made an unmistakable statement in the first half with a solid solo hit on Eddie Lacy, a brutal blast worthy of Bam Bam himself.

Sadly, neither NBC analyst acknowledged the wood Shead laid, perhaps because it violated the hackneyed "Hawks can't hang without Kam" storyline they were trying to sell.

That was a rare miss, though. During the game, color analyst Cris Collinsworth accurately diagnosed most of the shortcomings that doomed Seattle.

Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard managed to eliminate most of the disorder and blown assignments we had seen in St. Louis, but they evidently managed this only by limiting Seattle to its base defense throughout the contest.

Our base defense is good enough to stop a lot of teams, but you need something more to shut down the Pack, with its elite O-Line, capable runners and talented receivers, led by an elite athlete who happens to be the cleverest quarterback in the NFL.

Green Bay's biggest gains came on free plays after Michael Bennett bit on hard counts and jumped offsides, allowing Rodgers to throw without fear against Richard Sherman.

Despite those lapses, our four down linemen put appropriate pressure on Rodgers for much of the game. But, would it have inordinately confused our defenders to send an extra blitzer now and then, or mix up the coverages, or do something to force Rodgers at least to contemplate the possibility of the unexpected?

Beast Mama must still be mad at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. I sure am.

Why does Bevell struggle as a playcaller, especially in the first half? Do we need to get Mike Holmgren out of mothballs to script the first 15+ plays of each game? (Remember how we used to start fast on offense?)

Why can't we get the ball to Jimmy Graham? He's on the field for 50 snaps (83% of all offensive plays), and he gets targeted twice for one catch?

Is this going to be a repeat of the Percy Harvin debacle, where a dynamic athlete should add a deadly new dimension to our offense, but it doesn't because our coaches can't figure out how to use the new toy?

As Collinsworth noted during the game, our offense really only works when Russell Wilson threatens the defense as a runner. In the first half, DangeRuss missed several obvious opportunities to gouge Green Bay.

I'm just a dumb never-was lineman, and the read-option is really complicated, but I'm pretty sure that when there's nothing but FieldTurf on the outside, the quarterback is supposed to keep the ball run. Those opportunities were still there in the second half, but they were more limited because the Packers made logical halftime adjustments.

Bright spots: Doug Baldwin, Luke Willson, the up-tempo offense.

The Diehard Diagnosis

We have an embarrassment of riches on offense at this point.

It should be fun to call plays in this offense. It would be if we adapted the scheme to our players instead of trying to adapt our players to a fixed scheme.

Cut Golden Graham's snaps and watch fresher legs increase his productivity. Don't ask the Ginger Giant to block. Or Luke Willson. Don't have them line up like traditional tight ends; split them out, every down. If you want to run when one of them is on the field, then send them out on routes; defenders will be forced to follow and take themselves out of the play.

Yes, the O-Line is still weak, so you spend less time in conventional sets with a fullback. Don't use Luke Willson or the Ginger Giant as your tight end in that formation; use someone who can block, like Cooper Helfet or a reserve lineman. Call some screens and designed rollouts to wear out the defenders and give your O-linemen a chance. Tell DangeRuss to bail out of the pocket at the first sign of trouble.

Spend most of your time going up-tempo in spread formations with the read-option, with the tight end(s) split out in space. Wear out the defensive backs by alternating between two platoons of receivers, relentlessly, maybe every other play.
1. Baldwin, Mathews, Lockette, Graham
2. Kearse, Lockett, Willson, Helfet

Throw to set up the run. Attack.

I like Doug Baldwin's new touchdown celebration better than the
"drop a deuce" demonstration he perpetrated in Super Bowl XLIX.


Happy Birthday to my man "Angry" Doug Baldwin (b. 1988), the Philippine Dream!

By NFL standards, he isn't big, fast or strong, which is why he went undrafted out of Stanford in 2011.

Baldwin has risen from dependable reserve to indispensable starter and fiery team leader due to his unbeatable work ethic. He runs precise routes, has good hands, blocks tenaciously, and has an almost telepathic link with DangeRuss when the quarterback breaks the pocket and improvises.

Happy Birthday also to my man Steven Terrell (b. 1990), Seattle's backup free safety. When you play behind Earl Thomas III, you don't get many reps, but here's hoping that someday we're blowing out somebody and Terrell gets a chance to shine.

Finally, Happy Birthday to my man Jon Kitna (b. 1972), a Seahawk from 1996-2000. After Dave Krieg, Kitna was the most unjustly unappreciated quarterback in franchise history.

Kitna is accustomed to being underestimated.

Coming out of Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Kitna started at Central Washington University without a scholarship, but presumably CWU rectified that at some point before Kitna led them to the 1995 NAIA Championship.

Normally, there is no pro future for you if you played at an NAIA school, but Dennis Erickson stashed Kitna on the practice squad in 1996 and sent him to NFL Europe in 1997, where Kitna led the Barcelona Dragons to victory as the MVP in World Bowl V.

Kitna backed up Warren Moon for two seasons, and then claimed the starting role from 1999-2000, narrowly holding off Brock Huard. Kitna was solid but unspectacular, a gamer, a good runner but a work in progress as a passer. Holmgren saw little potential for growth, so he jettisoned Kitna for Matt Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer.

Cincinnati snapped up Kitna to deliver them from the nightmare that was Akili Smith. Kitna was the 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, but then the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer and relegated Kitna relegated to the role of backup/mentor.

Until Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz made him into the precision passer that Mike Holmgren never thought he could be. Kitna threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2007 and again in 2008.

The journeyman ended his career in Dallas and played well over ten games when Tony Romo was injured in 2010. The last time Romo went down, the Cowboys called Kitna out of retirement onto the active roster... I wonder if Kitna get another call today....

After retiring, Kitna taught math and coached football for his alma mater in Tacoma for three years before Texas high school football lured him away.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

No rest for the winged

This is just another game.

No baggage.

No special rivalry between these two teams.

"We want the ball and we're gonna score."

Special teams great and average reserve wideout Lex Bannister ran the wrong route, facilitating the Pick Six by Al Harris.

The 2004 Wild Card game was a long time ago.

Remember the Divisional Playoff game in 2008 when Seattle jumped up 14-0 in the first four minutes of the game?

...and then we let up, and our defense made Ryan Grant look like Walter Payton as Green Bay roared back to pluck us, 48-20?

Do you remember the last time Seattle won in Green Bay?

I didn't.

I had to look it up.

It was in 1999.

Yeah, in the previous century.

When we still played in the AFC West.

Two uniforms and two coaches ago.

For the Pack, one quarterback ago.

Of course, there have been some memorable recent contests in Seattle.

But the teams say this is a new season.

Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse makes game winning touchdown catch as Packers corner back Tramon Williams can’t stop the score during overtime of NFC Championship game, Sunday, Jan. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

It's not about vindication.

Maybe it isn't for the players, but it certainly is for the Cheeseheads. Expect to see Packer fans in a psychotic frenzy.

The Green Bay defense still looks as soft as Brie against the run. Can Seattle's runners capitalize with an offensive line that remains shaky?

Fortunately, the Packer pass rush is less frightening than the Rams unit that brutalized Russell Wilson and the O-Line last week. DangeRuss threw the ball relatively well, anyway.

If Darrell Bevell can overcome the sting of Beast Mom's criticism and establish a good play-calling groove, Seattle should be able to move the ball, put up some points and drain the clock.

Our defense will need the assist.

Discombobulated without Kam Chancellor, we got lit up by the pedestrian St. Louis offense. If we let Steve Foles and a third-string running back look like Pro Bowlers, what will two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and All-Pro running back Eddie Lacy be able do to us?

Seattle players and coaches need to dig deep, play smart, fight hard and get it together.

0-2 is not an option.

Go, Hawks!

Beeson Mode

Happy Belated Birthday to my man Terry Beeson (b. 9/19/55), the starting middle linebacker for the Seahawks from 1977-1981.

The second-round draft pick was a veritable tackling machine. He still holds the Seahawks season record for tackles in a game (18) and a season (153), both set in 1978.

Go here for more on Beeson:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bully for Boulware

Happy Birthday to my man Michael Boulware (b. 1981), who played safety and little linebacker for the Seahawks from 2004-2007. Despite starting only four games as a rookie, the second-round draft pick nabbed five interceptions and returned one of them for a 63-yard touchdown. (Pictured.)

Boulware started throughout the 2005 NFC Championship season. In Super Bowl XL, he intercepted Ben Rapistburger once, but also blew his assignment and allowed Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run.

Coach Holmgren benched him midway through the 2006 season, and Boulware finished his career as a reserve for the Houston Texans.

Dude is coaching football and preaching the gospel these days:

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Blast from the Tapp

Happy Birthday to my man Darryl Tapp, a Seahawks defensive end from 2006-2009.

Dude is still playing. He's with Detroit now.

Defeat due to 3 coaching errors

There is no shame in losing a close, hard-fought contest.

But it shouldn't have been close.

Seattle's offensive line fared about as well as could be expected against the ferocious Rams D-Line. The unit created respectable running room for Marshawn Lynch, but pass protection remains remedial, so Russell Wilson took a beating--getting hit, tackled and sacked more times than I could count.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell isn't giving MangledRuss or the O-Line much help when he calls plays that require the quarterback to hold the ball in the pocket for anything more than two seconds. Where are the designed rollouts and screens to defeat overeager pass rushers and give our subpar offensive linemen a fighting chance? Why do we persist in the delusion that Jimmy Graham or Luke Willson can execute blocking assignments?

In the second half, we caught an encouraging glimpse of what our offense can do when we get in a groove of alternating between runs and quick passes.

Ultimately, we lost the game because of two overtime decisions that appeared motivated by a desire to exorcise demons from the previous season.

Last year in St. Louis, Seattle got burned by two trick plays on special teams. The decision to open the fifth quarter with an onside kick seemed like Pete Carroll trying to beat Jeff Fisher at his own game.

Given the new overtime rules, the decision was not indefensible: Success, while improbable, almost guarantees victory, while failure forces your defense to hold them to three points (ours did). But you'd better score a touchdown or tie it up on the next drive to keep the game alive.

Which brings us to the last play of the game: 4th and 1. Everyone in the building was expecting us to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Given how poorly our O-Line matches up against the Rams D-Line, the outcome was unsurprising.

If we had to run, then having Wilson take the snap under center with a fullback would have at least complicated matters, forcing the defense to consider the quarterback sneak and fullback dive as well as the handoff to Lynch.

If we had to line up in the read option, then the play was fake to Lynch and throw to Graham.

The Seahawk defense looked decent, but not dominant. Three forced fumbles is a good day at the office; the corner blitz by Cary Williams for the sack and the scoop & score was particularly inspired.

It appears that the Rams have found their quarterback. But if we let Nick Foles throw for 297 yards and score two touchdowns against us, then what will Aaron Rodgers do to us next week?

It seemed like Michael Bennett was on the field an awful lot again. I thought his every-snap duties were forced by injuries last year. I thought we had the depth to spell the man now.

When you have to play again on Thursday, the last thing you need is for Sunday's game to go into overtime.

Rest and heal, men.

Tough way to start a season

I'm not sure why Vegas favors the Seahawks by four points in this one.

Seattle is 1-2 in St. Louis against Jeff Fisher, who consistently motivates his teams to exceed expectations against division rivals.

Preseason showed that our offensive line--which had been merely adequate under the leadership of Pro Bowl center Max Unger--looks utterly lost without him. The franchise continues to ask O-Line coach Tom Cable to work alchemical magic by turning the base metal of free agents, late-round draft picks and converted D-linemen into something resembling a professional front five. The unit showed a few encouraging signs of cohesion in the last exhibition against Oakland. Our sole stud lineman Russell Okung rested during preseason; will his insertion fortify the unit, or discombobulate what little chemistry there was?

Today our half-baked O-Line faces the sternest possible test. The Rams field the NFL's deepest and most terrifying defensive front, featuring four starters who were first-round draft picks, three of whom boast Pro Bowl resumes (tackle Aaron Donald, ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn). 

Behind them is a capable linebacking corps and a secondary that might be vulnerable if the D-Line ever allowed opposing quarterbacks much time to throw.

There will likely be little running room for Marshawn Lynch. Expect to see Russell Wilson on the run. A lot. Or on his back.

Even Jimmy Graham is not a silver bullet. The Rams consistently shut him down in past contests.
Our only hope is that Darrell Bevell has done his homework and devised a strategy for keeping St. Louis off balance. Presumably, the unimaginative vanilla that passed for offense in preseason was a smokescreen, and we have designed some creative schemes to compensate for our limited O-Line with quick passes to Golden Graham and the receiving corps, including rookie sensation Tyler Lockett. Spreading the field and establishing a short passing game could create run alleys for DangeRuss and Beast Mode, which in turn could open up some deep aerial strikes down the field.

Fortunately, the Rams O-Line is similarly unsettled, so Seattle's strong defensive front should pin back their ears to attack the immobile Nick Foles and his mediocre running backs. A fierce pass rush should protect our secondary from undue exposure. 

With Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III returning from injury and Kam Chancellor continuing his holdout, we may have to rename the defensive backfield the Legion of Whom? I expect Sherman and Thomas to show that they're fully recovered, but Dion Bailey has big shoes to field, and Cary Williams must show that he can be more than the repeatedly victimized corner he was in Philadelphia and in preseason.

Presumably, our special teams units will be alert to Jeff Fisher's penchant for special teams trickeration, which allowed them to steal the win last year.

Go, Hawks!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Human battering ram

Happy Birthday to my man Mack Strong (b. 9/11/71), the All-Pro badass who spent his entire 15-year career (1993-2007) blasting open holes to 1,000-yard seasons for Chris Warren (thrice), Ricky Watters (thrice again) and Shaun Alexander (five times).

Happy Belated Birthdays to...

Joe Tafoya (b. 9/5/78) of Pittsburg, CA, a reserve defensive end for Seattle from 2005-2006, and a continuing champion of the 12th Man's crowd noise world records.


Bob Cryder (b. 9/7/56), a starting offensive lineman (mostly at guard) from 1984-86.

Tom Catlin (9/8/31-6/7/08), Seattle's defensive coordinator under Chuck Knox (1983-92), who put together the second-best D in Seahawk history.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What about Locker?

I have no shame about being the ultimate homer.

I like Tarvaris Jackson as our backup quarterback.

In his youth, T-Jack could run well enough to maintain the dual threat element of our offense that makes Russell Wilson so challenging for opposing offenses.

But Jackson appears to lack that speed now. He doesn't have the play-extending elusiveness of DangeRuss or BJ Wilson. If Wilson went down, then T-Jack would probably get pulverized behind our porous offensive line. Defenses would stack the box, stuff the run, blitz like hell and dare T-Jack to throw. Cue the PTSD flashbacks to the 2010 season.

I'm glad we're using BJ Daniels the way we should have used Seneca Wallace back in the day, because that keeps him available as a third-string quarterback.

But I have an idea for someone to succeed Jackson as our #2 quarterback: Jake Locker.

Yes, I know that the Hurt Locker "retired." Had a tough time in Tennessee. Got banged up a lot. Didn't feel like taking the demotion from first-round pick and franchise quarterback heir apparent to journeyman struggling to catch on in Buffalo or Cleveland or something. I totally get it.

But as Locker's body continues to heal, I hope he keeps in football shape and keeps throwing and considers what he and Seattle could do for each another. I'd love to see him come out of retirement and compete for the backup job next year.

When things settle down, John Schneider & Pete Carroll should give that man a call...

Friday, September 4, 2015

On Defense

The Seattle defense will be OK, with or without Kam Chancellor.

Don't get me wrong--Bam Bam is the supreme enforcer and one of the most complete strong safeties in the game. Obviously, our defense would be better if he were on the field.

But we won't fold without him. Dion Bailey is a serviceable alternative.

Inserting Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas III will change things immensely.

Sure, our secondary looked vulnerable in preseason, but that was mostly a bunch of backups getting badly needed reps. Cary Williams is slated to replace Byron Maxwell as the complement to Richard Sherman, but he did not impress in preseason. Tharold Simon looked better (albeit in limited action), so I would start Simon opposite Sherman and use Williams to cover slot receivers.

For me, the real revelation of preseason was our improved pass rush. Without that added pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the reserves in our secondary would have gotten torched that much worse.

Michael Bennett looked good in limited reps, but the best news for him is an enhanced supporting cast. Last season, Bennett had to play too many snaps, but he got worn down. Presumably, improved depth will let him make a bigger difference with fresher legs on fewer snaps.

Bennett's backup--2nd-round rookie Frank Clark--plays hard and plows through people to plant quarterbacks in the turf. 

Ahtyba Rubin looks like a great free agent pickup: a big body in the middle, eating up space and stuffing the run. Just add Brandon Mebane to make the middle nigh-impenetrable.

The linebackers remain solid. Last year, there was a big dropoff from Bobby Wagner to Brock Coyle at middle linebacker. Wags is still by far the better player, but Coyle seems to have gotten faster, both physically and as a result of improved anticipation. He and Kevin Pierre-Louis are good options to spell starters.

Special Teams

Obviously, Tyler Lockett's preposterous kick return chops are the big story here, but Hauschka nailing a 60-yard field goal was pretty awesome, too.

Pity about allowing that onside kick against Oakland.

Offensive Postscripts

I don't know why we're looking to sign Fred Jackson. Maybe he has something left in the tank, but I was feeling really good about Christine Michael and Thomas Rawls. I'd love to stow Rawls on the practice squad, but after his performance last night, he won't clear waivers.

I would cut R.J. Archer. He's not bad, but I like B.J. Daniels running the offense a lot better. Yes, Daniels was playing against scrubs, but he looked great despite practicing as a wideout for the last several months and getting almost no reps at quarterback. If Russell Wilson were to get injured, Daniels is the only backup on the roster who can maintain the dual threat dimension to our offense. Plus, his utility as a receiver and on special teams make him worth a roster spot.

Golden Graham still can't block. I don't see why we insist on lining him up as a traditional tight end. We have other tight ends who can block from those formations. Why get the Ginger Giant banged up blocking? He'll take enough punishment getting tackled when he catches the ball.

If you want to run the ball when the Ginger Giant is on the field, then split him outside. This will put the defender(s) farther away from the runner, and Graham can do his duty with a little shove, or by running interference, or by being a decoy.

I don't envy the coaches who have to make these cuts. In small rural schools, you get to keep 'em all, so I don't know what it would be like to have to cut a player. But having been a principal, I know how gut-wrenching it is to terminate an employee.

August in September

Happy 61st Birthday to my man Steve August (b. 1954), who played right tackle for the Seahawks from 1977-1984. While never dominant, he was consistent, setting a franchise record with 90 starts at that position.

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.