Saturday, August 27, 2011

Five Things to REALLY Watch vs. DEN

I won't be able to watch tonight's game (going huckleberry picking), but I just thought I'd rattle off a few important players and positions on the team that nobody seems to be talking about. The third preseason game is usually the most crucial and revealing, and this week Pete Carroll will be playing his starters into the third quarter.

Alan Branch

The ability of DT Alan Branch to penetrate the line and pressure QB's is going to be key to this defense. So far, he's flashed as much effectiveness against the pass as Colin Cole - which is to say, none except for the occasional tipped pass. Branch is built much more like Red Bryant and could struggle on the inside for the same reasons Bryant did - too big, not enough leverage against squattier guards who know how to get under him.

Backup Safety

Two weeks ago, Josh Pinkard was a goat for blowing a coverage and leaving Kelly Jennings 1-on-1 to defend Vincent Jackson. At that time, nobody foresaw a roster spot for him. Last week, he got in a spectacular forced fumble and is suddenly a real candidate for the 53.

In both cases, popular opinion of the injury-plagued USC defender has been decided largely by one big play. His real worth is decided by the fundamentals that he shows in the quiet downs. Someone should be watching him for his coverage decisions, his reactions, his awareness and his tackling.

Pinkard's competition, Mark Legree, has been virtually invisible the past month and recently did an interview containing all the usual quotes of a player about to be put on the practice squad. I wonder who Carroll will choose - an old USC alumni he's kept around for a year, or an actual draft pick.

Slot Receiver

Sophomore receiver Golden Tate was getting big training-camp accolades over his improving route running - right up until last week, when two big drops almost single-handedly killed Seattle's offense. His heir apparent? Doug Baldwin (got it right!), who has shown some undeniable polish as a slot receiver. He's been productive on the field, but not with the first-team offense. He needs snaps against starting defenses before we just crown him as Tate's replacement.

Pete Carroll has had a strong hand in Tate's development. Tate continued to get snaps after his first-half snafus against Minnesota, and wound up with one reception. It wouldn't surprise me to see Tate given more chances. He's supposed to be getting used as a short-play weapon of the very kind that can help a QB defeat pressure. If that happens, with Ben Obomanu returning to the field for the first time this season, Baldwin may not get as many reps as he'd like.

Max Unger

Unger was a terrible guard in 2009, spending far too much time getting blown into his own backfield. People have said that he'll fare better at his natural center position, but the knock against Unger has been his strength, and both guard and center involve strength showdowns against big, heavy men. How much different can center be? They benefit more from combo blocks against guards, but there will still be one-on-one matchups from time to time. Unger has to start winning more of them.

Justin Forsett

The 7th-round fan favorite looks more and more like a fusing of the negatives of Leon Washington (smallish, questionable durability) and Marshawn Lynch (not very fast, bit of a dancer). I maintain my opinion that he could become trade bait if he doesn't start showing. He sat out with neck stiffness against San Diego and was misused as a goal-line back against Minnesota. Hopefully he'll flash more with extended snaps against the Broncos.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Retreat of Scheme and the Return of the Matchup

Philosophy is a word thrown around in the VMAC with a regularity never before seen. It has come at the expense of a word fans still throw around, but coaches in Seattle rarely do any more: Scheme.

And both words carry such different connotations that accurately portray the people promoting them. A philosophy expresses personal thought, belief, and independence. What you think about my philosophy matters nought to me if I believe enough. Maybe that is why Pete Carroll has lately begun to look like a cult leader in his attire. Is there a hemp shirt in the Seahawks Pro Shop?

Scheme, that is a very different idea. It is me fooling you, conning you, planting one thing in your head and doing another. It is schematic, indicating very specific parts for a very specific machine.

Now that is a very real part of football. It always has been, and always will be. But certain teams rely on scheme more than others, for a variety of reasons, both fiscal and personnel related, with varying degrees of success. Indy, for instance, gets away with a poor offensive line built around Peyton Manning's quick release, and a smaller, quicker 4-3 defense built around the fact that they expect that offense to secure an early lead. Think about that for a second. How much more scheme-specific can you get than a defense built around the quarterback?

But there is a problem with schemes. As a central doctrine in football, they can be exposed by a solitary enemy: the matchup.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lockout Hangover: Tight End

Some positions on the team are being shaped more by injury than competition or practice right now. Tight end is one of them. It's also shaped by scheme. In theory, two-TE sets give you balance, flexibility, and unpredictability. They also helps a struggling QB by providing a quick pressure valve. If the preseason is any indicator, such sets will be prominent in this offense.

Chicago has gotten terrific mileage out of the Greg Olsen-Desmond Clark duo. Technically, Olsen was the starter thanks to his superior blocking, yet they got very similar amounts of playing time. So the "starter" label on Seattle's offense may not mean a whole lot in terms of snaps granted.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Tarvaris Jackson, Part 4

Part 1: Low expectations for Tarvaris Jackson.

Part 2: Why he was still Seattle's optimal choice at QB.

Part 3: Some numbers that hint at Tarvaris Jackson's growth trajectory.

Coaches don't just hand their quarterbacks a playbook and set them loose. Handling of a QB by their head coach defines the QB, not entirely, but to a pertinent degree.

We Twelves are aware of this. Notorious are the stories of Mike Holmgren's temper and how it kept Matt Hasselbeck disciplined and accountable on the field. Seneca Wallace usually played with a watered-down playbook and a tight leash held by Holmgren. Read up on almost any successful team, and you'll find that the relationship between coaches and QB's is well-defined.

One of the knocks on Tarvaris Jackson is that he wasn't handled well by his old head coach in Minnesota, Brad Childress, who has a tyrant's reputation and fueled his training camps with bile and profanity. People say his development was hampered by his early pulling in 2008 and the arrival of Brett Favre. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have publicly agreed. Rather colorfully, I might add.

Fair enough. Jackson may have had a poor environment with the Vikings. Whether a better environment will magically improve Jackson's accuracy and field vision, I don't know. But it could happen.

Pete Carroll is used to deliberate QB handling. He and former OC Jeremy Bates were quite open about how they handled Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. It's about degrees of decision-making freedom and generosity with the playbook.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seahawks vs. Vikings Pushback: The QB's

Comparing Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst is like comparing circles of hell. You're hosed either way. Seattle's QB competition is not about finding a franchise QB, because barring some sudden development of skill within the next month, the current competition is not likely to magically create a franchise QB. It's about finding a game manager. Pete Carroll knows the limitations of this QB lineup and is merely seeking someone who can steward the Seahawks through 2011 without turning the ball over, keeping games salvageable by a few lucky plays.

(Hopefully, that policy is just a temporary thing while Seattle searches for their QBOTF, and not a long-range strategy.)

I'm not a fan of either QB. To be honest, I'd dismissed Charlie Whitehurst within a week of Seattle signing him. The optimism surrounding him felt strained and unrealistic. I felt no impetus to justify a brand-new front office or the third-rounder spent on Whitehurst, so I went with the simplest explanation: Whitehurst was a third-stringer on San Diego's roster for good reason, and Seattle had overpaid. I met Jackson with similar skepticism: despite Minnesota's treatment of him, it was always quite possible and far more reasonable that Minnesota simply knew what they had - a backup - and treated him accordingly.

Whitehurst is getting a lot of support from folks after his performance against Minnesota. He's getting the Dilfer calls while Jackson is dismissed largely over his stat line. I don't make excuses for QB's, but that's a piss-poor evaluation of Jackson. It's mind-boggling to me that professional news outlets make this kind of shallow judgment. Watch the damn game. Get a clue on how to spot and judge fundamentals of play. I'm not falling over myself to defend anyone, but I saw encouraging things from Jackson Saturday night and feel they need to be enumerated.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Seahawks vs. Vikings Pushback: Everyone Besides the QB's

I'm still working on my spiel about Seattle's quarterbacks against Minnesota. It involves matters of context (some of which I'll establish here) and fair methods of judgment, so start thinking about that if you want.

Offensive Game Plan

Seattle appeared to treat this game as a team workshop for the short pass. I don't know whether that was an answer to Minnesota's style (doubtful in preseason), lack of confidence in the QB or O-line, or simply part of the preseason plan. The game plan emphasized 3- and 5-step drops (almost exclusively) and a lot of tight end action to defeat pressure. A couple screens and a swing or two to mix it up. The execution was spotty but there. Lack of a run game didn't help.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quick Shots at Halftime vs. MIN

* Tarvaris Jackson definitely improved from last week. Refusing to run compulsively, staying poised, mostly accurate except for two low throws. Good game plan to help him.

* Said game plan being largely forced by terrible O-line play. Carpenter and Unger getting worked. Caveats: facing very good defense blitzing heavily, a couple of free defenders were unblocked intentionally to release tight ends.

* Golden Tate will hear from Carroll over having ended two drives.

* Three false starts in first quarter? The ground at the VMAC will get worn down in a hurry from all the laps.

* Doug Baldwin surprisingly quick. Might get more looks on offense should Jackson ever have time.

* Leon Washington money in a bigger role, has a crucial gear that Justin Forsett lacks.

* Leroy Hill is a welcome jolt to this defense in terms of tackling and recognition.

* Little to no interior pass rush.

* Kam Chancellor taking charge of this defense and backing it up with solid play.

* Brandon Browner with a huge missed tackle, but otherwise okay.

* Red Bryant and Raheem Brock with hustle plays, but not forcing the issue.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lockout Hangover: Safety

When Roman Harper was named as a Pro Bowl fill-in instead of fellow alternate Earl Thomas, I was confused. It was the free safety position (not the strong safety, Harper's position) that had been vacated, so I figured Thomas should have been next in line. Plus, Thomas wasn't the one to lay a massive egg in Qwest Field last January.

But then I remembered that the NFL doesn't distinguish between free safeties and strong safeties. Only certain teams, like those that run Tampa 2 defenses, make that distinction. So Harper got it. Oh well. Thomas' day isn't far off.

But about the distinction: free safeties are the purer coverage guys, the roaming, rangy, instinctive QB duelers. Strong safeties are usually bigger, heavier, and slower because they're intended more as run support. Seattle's safeties are divided pretty cleanly into these two groups, so don't be alarmed if a deficiency is mentioned. It's about scheme.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Difference Between Opportunistic and Good

Prior to 2010, I read something from Rob Staton that captured the picture of Seattle's 2010 offense before it happened. Something about Seattle's 2010 offseason and how it didn't fit what new OC Jeremy Bates wanted to do on offense. I couldn't find the exact quote, but it went along the lines of: "The new emphasis on the deep ball will be good for the occasional explosive play, but there won't be a consistent scoring threat. You can't build an offense off that."

I've found that to be a fitting description of the Seahawks during Pete Carroll's inaugural year.

Seattle is not a good football team, on either side of the ball. Hasn't been for three years. It wasn't a good team in 2010 when it was gifted a playoff berth by the even-worse NFC West. Many of its greatest accomplishments, while exciting, came through circumstance and poor competition. 2009's abortion of a season got a lot of fans complaining that we never got any "lucky breaks", any favorable bounces of the football. Well, in 2010, those breaks came, and our record improved. But I can't say that statistically, fundamentally, or absolutely, that the 2010 team looked any better than the 2009 team.

Unpleasant as it may be, we have to start our discussion there, because there are deceiving appearances to cut through. The 2010 Seahawks did somehow look more EXCITING. There were bigger plays, long bombs, a few bruising runs, and a smattering of defensive turnovers. It looked like the promise of growth, but it wasn't enough.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

8/17 Tidbits: Danny O'Neill Chat

Yesterday's live chat with Danny O'Neill of the Seattle Times provided a few valuable nabobs, as usual. I love the smell of nabobs in the morning!

* CB Kelly Jennings chose the Seahawks over other teams offering multi-year deals. That speaks to his confidence in making this roster. I've tried to give Kelly Jennings a fair shot (and so has this guy), but eurgh. (But Danny makes a good point: wherever he ends up on the depth chart, his presence assures better depth than Nate Ness.)

* Tanking a season for a franchise QB is philosophically counter-productive, not guaranteed to succeed, and historically unnecessary anyway. Trifecta.

* Tarvaris Jackson defenders citing his minimal practice time and lack of receivers, can add this to their repertoire: he was facing a pass-rush-happy San Diego team that Seattle had not specifically game-planned for.

* Danny doesn't see John Carlson fetching more than a 6th or 7th-rounder in trade, a return probably be outweighed by his potential one-year production alongside Zach Miller. I agree, though I suspect Schneider is more addicted to draft picks than Danny allows.

* Baffled by the fact that CB Brandon Browner hasn't been noticed by the league. Skepticism suggests there's probably a reason. But after consistent praise from camp watchers whose analysis I respect, I'll reserve judgment.

* Likes S Jeron Johnson, whose roster chances are probably doomed by the newly signed Atari Bigby.

* Suggested Kam Chancellor might blitz more.

* Red Bryant is trying to slim down a bit.

* Four words: Screen passes to Leon. (Two more: Yes, please.)

* Pass protection might be an issue.

* Justin Forsett missed the San Diego game because of neck stiffness. Reassuring.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Tarvaris Jackson, Part 3

Part 1: Low expectations for Tarvaris Jackson.

Part 2: Why he was still Seattle's optimal choice at QB.

First off: I am posting numbers comparing Tarvaris Jackson against Matt Hasselbeck, not to start more anger or debate about Hasselbeck's decision to go elsewhere, but because many here are very familiar with the progression of his career and the improvement he began to show in year 4 of it.

Tarvaris Jackson and the recently departed Great Bald One have some astounding similarities to their careers. All the following stats are from the first 4 years of Matt's career and the first 5 of Tarvaris'. This is because the number of attempts are roughly similar.

Tarvaris Jackson has had 603 passing attempts for his entire 5 year career. People can get hung up on the number of years he has had in the league, but in reality 603 attempts is a season and a half for many quarterbacks, and barely more than a season for some. Philip Rivers had 541 attempts last season, and Peyton Manning had 679. Point is, Jackson is young in the area of experience, and he shows promise. And a couple of big negatives.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Three Seahawks Vulnerable to Trade

I wrote "vulnerable" because a) it's a unique word that oughta grab attention from the Google bots, and b) because it hopefully makes clear that this piece is laid-back speculation, not whisper-driven rumor. Nobody, including myself, has any inkling of these trades actually being imminent.

Anyway...when Pete Carroll and John Schneider burst onto the scene last year, they wasted no time in getting their program going. Leftovers from the previous regime were suddenly prime trade bait. QB Seneca Wallace, DE Darryl Tapp, and G Rob Sims were traded away before the draft; DE Lawrence Jackson and CB Josh Wilson during preseason; WR Deion Branch in October. Each fetched Seattle relatively paltry draft picks.

Not all these moves were popular, but there was a clear connecting link. The Seahawks were now guided by Carroll's philosophies at every position, and anyone belonging to the previous regime was subject to close scrutiny. Having modest value to the team didn't keep you safe; it just made you prone to being traded.

This was especially true for guys coming up on the end of their contracts. Wallace, Sims, and Wilson were all traded with a year left to play for Seattle; Jackson and Branch, two years. They signed Tapp to an RFA tender the day before trading him. Schneider was scrounging for any value he could get out of misfit players rather than letting them walk for nothing as free agents. Even if that meant jettisoning players who could still help the team for the present - and being forced to keep other misfit players in their stead because they had no trade value.

I bring up this phenomenon because we may yet see more of it. The pattern behind Seattle's recent trades inspired me to comb the current roster for guys who a) will soon hit free agency, b) are redundant and/or a scheme misfit, and c) could command any kind of value on the trade market.

Friday, August 12, 2011

San Diego in Perspective

I didn't actually watch the game last night, so I won't pretend to offer any direct observations. I'm mostly relying on what everyone else saw, which seems to be a convenient consensus. But I do think there's a lot of perspective to be had.

* The first, applicable to almost everything, is that the lockout royally screwed Seattle. And any other teams in any kind of offensive transition or rebuild. The lockout was always going to favor established QB's and their schemes. All they had to do was knock the rust off their pre-existing system, whereas Seattle, St. Louis, San Franci...umm, yep, pretty much the entire NFC learning a new system and had very little training camp to do it.

The lockout was also bound to handicap incoming rookies. It shouldn't surprise anyone that James Carpenter might have a much longer curve to competence than most rookies.

So the fact that Philip Rivers looked well on his way to hanging 40 points on Seattle before hitting the bench...that shouldn't surprise or discourage anyone. The Chargers are a perennial offensive juggernaut. The Seahawks are midstream in their fording of the imposing river of offensive change, led by a brand-new QB. The first quarter between the two was quite predictable, and not necessarily predictive of the season at all.

So...chill pills.

* Tarvaris Jackson was also missing all his starting wide receivers, leaving him with Golden Tate and a bunch of (somewhat bright) camp scrubs. That should be included in our calculations, and it should mean something coming from me, Mr. I Don't Make Excuses For Quarterbacks, Take Charge or Sit Down.

* That said, some of the problems Jackson showed yesterday were fundamental, not circumstantial. You don't have to be equipped with Larry Fitzgerald, Lee Evans, Andre Johnson, and the Seahawks' 2005 O-line to know that you should step UP in the pocket when pressured - not back ten yards, right into the sights of that rampaging bull-rusher. Poor pocket poise, holding on to the ball, inaccuracy - let's hope he improves with more than a week's worth of practice time.

* For those bashing the Okung bashers...there IS such a thing as an "injury bust". It may not be his fault, but it doesn't make him any less a bust at this point. Let's see if he recovers quickly.

* Josh Portis shook off his nerves quickly and responded with an impressive performance. It was admittedly against third-stringers, and so should be taken with a grain elevator of salt. But it wasn't just a strong drive that he showed. Poise, downfield awareness, good timing on his throws, and just that indefinable air of being in command of the offense. The coaching staff should definitely keep developing this guy.

* The offensive line looks like what I expected it to - nasty and strong in run protection, iffy in pass protection. Nice pull block from John Moffitt to punch Leon in for his TD.

* Doug Baldwin is becoming this season's unanimous preseason hero. I'm skeptical by default of UDFA's, but stars do come from there - Tony Romo and James Harrison, for example. Good routes, good hands, good separation - nice find, Pete.

* The deep ball to Kelly Jennings wasn't all on him - Josh Pinkard blew his half of the coverage. Safety help is what you should be looking for every time a corner gets beat deep. But that doesn't stop the throw from being yet another verse in the long, slow song of Jennings' inability to cover any receiver taller than 5'10". When that's your #2 corner, you need an upgrade.

* Browner may be the answer. He looked great out there at game speed. However, he first needs to prove that he can play aggressive without drawing three pass-interference flags a game. If he's that undisciplined, the penalty yards he'll give up will make him just as much a liability as Jennings.

* Thomas Clayton reminds me of Julius Jones - no redeeming quality about his game, just a few big runs sprinkled between stuffs. The result is a YPC average that makes him look more effective than he really is.

* Leon Washington definitely being assimilated into this offense. That's big. His "orientation snaps" may be the only reason Justin Forsett sat out.

* Kam Chancellor built upon his solid camp performance. He needs to be starter-ready.

* Several defensive rookies stepped up. K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, Pep Levingston, and Pierre Allen made the most of their time, contributing decisive plays.

* Alan Branch was said by some to look slow and sluggish out there. That's one dude everyone should be keeping an eye on.

* SEAHAWKS WON! If you can't get excited about that, even in the preseason, there's something wrong with you.

(Whitehurst comments in a later article.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Injury List vs SD

Injury scratches for the first preseason contest against San Diego (kickoff in 30 mins):

Wide receiver
Deon Butler
Mike Williams
Sidney Rice
Kris Durham
Ben Obomanu

Walter Thurmond
Roy Lewis

Defensive line
Chris Clemons
Red Bryant
Colin Cole
Kentwan Balmer
Dexter Davis
Ryan Sims
Jay Alford

Tight end
Cameron Morrah
Caz Piurowski

I'm not worried about this at all. Thanks to the lockout, the players are playing far colder and rustier than they normally would be. I'd expect teams to treat even the slightest injury like an unexploded bomb and just rest the player, especially this early in the preseason.

Our starting WR corps (in order of likelihood to make the 53) is Golden Tate, Paul Baldwin, Isaiah Stanback, and Ricardo Lockette. Interesting. With that kind of development opportunity, these guys will have much less of an excuse for poor performance. Tate, in my opinion, needs to be out there for an entire half at least. This many WR "injuries" is good for both the starters and the underdogs.

The absence of Bryant should give us a thorough look at Pierre Allen. Also a good thing. Kid is tantalizing.

Lockout Hangover: Cornerback, Part 2

I was initially stumped back in April when Seattle elected to blow a second straight late draft on defensive backs. CB Richard Sherman, FS Mark Legree, CB Byron Maxwell all became Seahawks, even as defensive tackle remained a gaping wound on the defense. It looked as if Carroll and Schneider's priorities were backwards. Secondary before pass rush? That's not how it works. Let the QB stand in the pocket for long enough, and even the best secondary will be exposed. QB pressure, on the other hand, helps that secondary.

However, it can also work the other way around. No matter how quick off the snap your defensive line is, it's going to take them at least a couple seconds to reach the QB. Offenses have developed the quick-rhythm passing game to exploit those first seconds - getting the ball out before pressure arrives. It depends on receivers being able to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage and quickly flash open.

So those first couple seconds are part of the game as well. The most obvious solution: jam the receivers right off the snap. Throw off their timing and the QB has a harder time dumping the ball off, giving pass rushers more time.

Lockout Hangover: Cornerback, Part 1

The secondary seems to be bearing out the same theme that defensive end did last year: Pete Carroll going all batty nutso with competition. The 90-man roster is glutted with defensive back prospects, and this time, there's actual intrigue as to how the roster will shake out. Thanks to Walter Thurmond's injury, the secondary may be wide open.


Marcus Trufant

The veteran starting corner will enjoy a ninth season in Seattle without becoming trade bait or asked to take a pay cut. It's a relief to see Seattle stop short in its shedding of veterans and keep some experience for stability, instead of sticking to the "youth movement" as dogma.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Tarvaris Jackson, Part 2

Part 1: Low expectations for Tarvaris Jackson.

Funny the difference a year makes. As the 2010 season opened, the national media was hailing Pete Carroll and John Schneider's new Seattle front office. They'd loved our draft, and the dumpster-diving roster strategy and frenetic transactions made for good oddball news, as did second-chance stories like Mike Williams and Lendale White (heh). They were the new kids on the block, and sportswriters everywhere were eating it up.

Now, the recent anointing of Tarvaris Jackson is starting to sap the goodwill.

This is typical, I suppose. The media doesn't like having its collective opinion challenged. As long as you're good for interesting sound bites and not treading on its established mindset, you're fine. But once you touch an issue that already has popular opinion attached to it, that opinion will push back. By declaring Tarvaris Jackson the starter, Pete Carroll has kicked the hornet's nest.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lockout Hangover: Linebackers

If you're using tackle numbers to evaluate linebackers, you should probably be aware that you're using a useless stat. If a linebacker has high tackle numbers, there might be all kinds of reasons for it, including some that have nothing to do with good performance. Such as:

1. He's a middle linebacker. Did you know that 50% of runs in the NFL are straight up the middle? MLB tackle numbers are higher than every other position by default, simply because that's where offenses run most.

2. His defense might be on the field all the time. Thus having to make more tackles. We already know this to be true of the Seahawks.

3. QB's might not be scared to throw at him. A good coverage LB (which a MLB should be in a Cover 2 like Seattle's) sticks to his zones and discourages passes to his man. Theoretically, a good MLB should have less tackles to make because he's forcing QB's to look elsewhere, hold onto the ball longer, and hopefully get sacked. Good defense shows up in QB pressure.

4. The rest of your team might suck at tackling. Thus forcing him to clean up their messes.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why Training Camp is a Bad Time to Get Gimpy

A quick update on Seattle's training camp injuries - and more importantly, the ripple effects each might have, based on the excellent coverage from independent Seattle bloggers like Fieldgulls, Hawk Blogger, and Davis Hsu.

Remember, players on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list do not count against the final 53-man roster, but are out for the first six weeks of the regular season.

CB Walter Thurmond

A non-high ankle sprain has kept the Seahawks' 4th-round pick (and heir apparent to Josh Wilson) sidelined since the start of camp. He's supposed to be back in a couple days. This is bad for the former Duck and his long recovery from the severe injury that knocked him out of the 2nd round, but good for...


...Carroll's CB competition. 5th-rounder Richard Sherman, CFL pickup Brandon Browner, and stubborn cling-on Kelly Jennings have all been getting looks on the first team. Browner and Sherman have impressed, but Carroll loves a deep, versatile backfield, so this may or may not threaten Thurmond's roster spot.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Tarvaris Jackson, Part 1

Seattle fans are currently engaged in an Internet pissing match over with other fans across the league. We are energetically raving, rightfully so, over the spectacular free agency spree that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have just topped with the stunning theft of TE Zach Miller. Added to WR Sidney Rice, LG Robert Gallery, DT Brandon Mebane, RB Leon Washington back in February, and a variety of other secondary pieces, it's a juicy, well-priced, promising, and young haul that Seattle has reeled in. It's a great time to be part of the 12th Man.

The nation's knowing, snotty response?

"Hmm, who's your quarterback? Oh yeah...Tarvaris Jackson."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lockout Hangover: Defensive Line

Seattle's 2011 defensive line is impossible to predict. It could be a force to be reckoned with. There's also the potential for it to be the biggest surprise disappointment on the team.

The common perception is that Seattle's defensive line was top-caliber for the first six weeks of 2010. The context for that, which too many are ignoring, is that during that span Seattle faced some of the feeblest offenses in the league and crumbled against Kyle Orton. The collapse of our defense coincides with the injuries of most of the starting line (Red Bryant, Colin Cole, and Brandon Mebane, in order of perceived importance but not necessarily actual importance), so many people understandably blame that. But it also coincides with the point at which Seattle hit the respectable part of its schedule (i.e. the last 10 games). That rise in respectability was pretty steep.

So it's hard to say how good Seattle's D-line truly was last year. The evidence is circumstantial and could swing either way. The Denver game serves as a disturbing hint that the line may have been tremendously overrated; the starters were all on the field and provided zero pass disruption. Stopping a bottom-five rushing attack isn't that impressive. At no time anywhere in the season did the defense stop a strong passing attack or even come close, starters healthy or not.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Grading Seattle's Free Agency: Defense and Special Teams

Brandon Mebane (#92): A

In an stunning turn of events, I actually managed to be right about something. Not only did Seattle re-sign DT Brandon Mebane, they announced today that he'd be moving back to his natural 1-tech position, something I'd guessed at yesterday. A stud run-stuffer from any position, Mebane has a record of success at collapsing the pocket, that greatest single unsung component of all strong D-lines. The entire line could reap good results from this.

Alan Branch (#99): C+

So I have these voices in my head (which shouldn't surprise anyone) and decided to just mic them today to show you my internal debate on DT Alan Branch, recently released by the Cardinals and signed by the Seahawks.