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The Cover 3 Awards Week 1: The Seahawk Defense

Size Matters, Just ask the 49ers running game

For years it seemed like we would never hear the end of the “finesse” talk. Season after season we would be over-matched physically, and even in victory opposing players would give interviews describing their disdain for being beaten by smaller guys. I personally prefer a large defense to the smaller, built for leads types. You must be able to physically dominate your match up or at least let them know it’s going to be an all day battle. Thank you Pete Carroll for bringing that feel to the Seahawks.

COVER 1: The Secondary

SS Kam Chancellor and FS Earl Thomas both had 2 tackles for losses, to go with a combined 19 tackles. I can’t say enough about the way both safeties flew to the ball. There was rarely a play that they didn’t have a hand in stopping. What a great move by Pete Carroll to give Kam Chancellor a chance to start this year. The young safety is validating that decision so far.

Brandon Browner, in the genesis of his NFL career, physically dominated his match up with Braylon Edwards (3 catches for 27 yds). What stood out to me, was the fact that Browner was able to get into Edwards’ head in the first game of his career. While Browner is still very raw, and has a penchant for grabbing and pulling at receivers, the sky is the limit for him.

This little exchange made me laugh. Apparently Brandon Browner didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to be intimidated.



COVER 2: Aaron Curry

Aaron Curry gave me hope that the former 4th pick is on his way to becoming the guy we

War Cry!!!!!

thought we drafted. I really feel like it’s the shift to the weak side that has open up his game. In Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley’s defense the LEO, WLB, and FS are schematically protected to make plays, and this freedom let Curry shine. One of my biggest gripes concerning Curry on the Strong side was poor pursuit angles and unwillingness to take on blockers. Against the 49ers he improved dramatically in that area.  Curry was able to squeeze the gap, keep his outside shoulder free, then knife through to make, or contribute, on several key stops. Textbook, and very nice to see.

COVER 3: Defensive Line

Brandon Mebane, Alan Branch, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons.

When I watched the game again, I noticed something. Something I’d been wanting for years. A bigger stronger and more disruptive defensive line. The Seahawks front 4 was so stout at the point of attack, Frank Gore was left little room to operate inside. The way in which each defender squeezed the gap, and blurred Gore’ running lane vision was impressive. The only thing I wish, was a little more QB pressure, but that had more to do with the 49ers conservative offensive game-plan. One of the key matchups I wrote about prior to the game was DT Mebane vs LG Iupati. In film study the 49ers Iupati was a man amongst boys. His strength had opened several gaping holes in the running game in past games. If we were going to win the battle in the trenches Mebane would have to come up big. Both Mebane used very solid technique, initial quickness, and leverage against the powerful Iupati rendering him a non-factor on a majority of running plays. This was the nail-biting matchup for me, and Mebane managed to impress me, yet again.

My favorite stats from Sunday’s game:

Frank Gore: 22 rushes, 59 yds, 2.7 YPC
49ers Offense: 1-12 on 3rd Down, 1-5 in Red Zone efficiancy, 1-3 in goal to go efficiancy.
Time of possession: Despite the Seahawks offense’s awful 1st half performance, the Defense played so well that the end of game TOP was 28:53 to 31:07. That’s incredible.

There has been a lot of “suck for Luck” talk out there and it baffles me. We are watching what could be a dominant defense. I have a serious football crush on the strategy that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have used to build this team. We can have our concerns about the Offense, and I get that they will be a work in progress, but most of the pieces are in place.

Bottom line: It was a loss. But not all is lost Seahawk fans. We have something to hang our hat on until the rest of the team develops.


Remembering Lee Roy Selmon

The Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers both entered the NFL in 1976.  Like Seattle, the Bucs struggled early.  Most teams new to the NFL would have taken a QB  in their first draft.  The Buccaneers however drafted defensive end Lee Roy Selmon from the University of Oklahoma. In Selmon the Bucs found an anchor for their defense.  In all, he played nine seasons in the NFL in which time he racked up 78.5 sacks, forced 28.5 fumbles and had 10 fumble recoveries. Selmon was a three-time first-team All-NFL pick, named to five All-NFC teams, and voted to six straight Pro Bowls.  He was a special player on a pretty poor team (though they did get much better) and nearly impossible to block.  But beyond being a great defensive end in the NFL he was known as a genuine and gracious human being. Humble, kind, but fiercely competative, he left his mark both on the field, and finally in Canton Ohio, where in 1995 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sadly, Lee Roy Selmon passed away Sunday after being hospitalized as the result of suffering a stroke.  He was 56 years old.  Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time.

Please take a moment to check out the video below.


The Matchups Zone team

The Pre Season Wrap Up: Scouting Seattle’s Projected Defensive Starters

Has Pete Carroll put a his stamp on the Seahawks defense?

Now that the Seahawks pre-season is coming to a close, it’s time for the Match Ups Zone to take a really hard and honest look at the Seahawks projected defensive starters as we transition into the regular season. I’m going to break this up into two articles and really dig deep into the strengths and weaknesses of our team.

After reviewing each pre-season game several times, here is my take on what we have on the defensive side of the ball for 2011.


DEFENSIVE LINE QUICK NOTES: The Defensive line is going to have a new look this year as Brandon Mebane has made the switch from the 3 technique to the 1 technique. Alan Branch (picked up in free agency this year) will take Mebane’s old position and add some serious size to the line.

NOTED DEPTH: Raheem Brock, Jimmy Wilkerson, Dexter Davis

TOTAL WEIGHT: 1213 lbs





#91 Chris Clemons DE 6’3, 254 LBS 8 YRS (GEORGIA) BIAS: PASS RUSHER Chris Clemons is the prototypical LEO in Pete Carroll’s 4-3 Under scheme. He is explosive at the snap, and is fast enough to pressure the QB on a consistent basis. His weight has made him vulnerable to the run in the past because he does not excel at holding his ground or shedding blockers at the point of attack. This must improve or defenses will focus the majority of their running game to his side.                                              

#92 Brandon Mebane 1 TECH DT 6’1, 311 LBS 5 YRS (CAL) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER Brandon Mebane is extremely agile and powerful. His ability to shed blockers, or manipulate his blocker to plug running lanes is a very disruptive force to deal with. He always seems to understand the look and scheme the offense wants to attack him with, and is very quick to adjust. He has been dominant on nearly every snap I’ve watched him this pre season.

#99 Alan Branch 3 TECH DT 6’6, 325 5 YRS (MICHIGAN) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER Alan Branch is a LARGE man. That amazing analysis aside, he is loaded with strength and short-range agility and should be a consistent disruption. The fact he has yet to really show that, validates my feeling that he plays a little high, which negates all of that natural power. Technique can be coached and improved, so hopefully that happens in 2011.

#79 Red Bryant 5 TECH DE 6’4, 323 4 YRS (TEXAS A&M) BIAS: RUN STUFFER  Red Bryant is downright beastly. When you add in the speed and quickness it makes for a very disruptive force. He consistently compresses the edge, and takes good angles in pursuit. As a former DT he is not a natural pass rusher, so you may have the inverse effect that Chris Clemon’s side does. Offenses will be able to assist the weak side tackle in protection schemes, which may negate Chris Clemon’s effectiveness on occasion. Red Bryant is a very gifted athlete, so look for him to improve in that area in 2011.


LINEBACKER QUICK NOTES: This is a group in transition at every position. With fan favorite Lofa Tatupu’s departure, David Hawthorne has moved from the Will Linebacker position to the Mike. Aaron Curry who recently took a large reduction in pay and contract length, has moved from the Sam Linebacker spot to the Will to replace Hawthorne. This may be a make or break year for Curry so hopefully this position will fit his skill set. Leroy Hill makes his surprising return to the Seahawks front 7 after a couple of years of off the field issues and injuries. He will now move into the role vacated by Aaron Curry at Sam Linebacker. Hopefully Gus Bradley will find a way to get this crew more opportunities at rushing the QB, which was one of their weaknesses last year.

NOTED DEPTH: Matt McCoy, KJ Wright, Malcom Smith



#59 Aaron Curry (WLB) 6’2, 255 LBS 3 YRS, (WAKE FOREST) BIAS: SPEED
When Aaron Curry was drafted, it was assumed that his explosiveness and football instincts would translate to the NFL seamlessly. He seems to be slow at times to decipher the play, but his incredible speed can cover up that mistake. In my opinion, he favors running around blocks over engaging to compress the hole. He has not tackled well this year due to poor angles, and several arm tackles. His impressive pure speed as a pass rusher is sometimes negated by poor angles and a limited arsenal of moves. It’s obvious to me that Aaron Curry is a gifted athlete, but can he put all those incredible natural abilities to better use at the Will Linebacker spot? Time will tell.

Is David Hawthorne ready to man the Middle?

#57 David Hawthorne (MLB) 6’0, 246 4 yrs (Texas Christian) BIAS: HARD HITTING RUN STOPPER

David Hawthorne is the Seahawks most impressive LB. His ability to play all positions well make him indispensable in the front 7. He’s proven to be a playmaker and will not miss many tackles when the opportunity presents itself. He’s a very hard hitter and will sniff out and attack blockers from tackle to tackle to stop the run. He’s an explosive linebacker and seems to perform better in man coverage than in a zone. This may be due to a slower reaction time to targets passing through or settling.

#56 Leroy Hill (SLB) 6’1, 238 lbs 7 YRS (CLEMSON) BIAS: ALL AROUND PERFORMER

At one time, Leroy Hill was touted by Lofa Tatupu as the best Linebacker on the Seahawks defense. Since then, he has run afoul of the law, and been hit with an injury bug. He is hoping to turn that all around this year. There is no disputing his ability. He’s fast, agile, and stout. He’s a wrap tackler, and he takes solid pursuit angles. His football instincts always seem to take him to the play, and he’s consistently part of the tackle due to his ability to decipher and squeeze down blocks. One can only hope his insertion back in the LB corps will pay huge dividends in 2011.


DEFENSIVE BACK QUICK NOTES: This is another part of the defense in transition. Long gone are Josh Wilson and more recently fan “favorite” Kelly Jennings. The Seahawks have added several new players highlighted by corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, and safety Atari Bigby.

NOTED DEPTH: Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Atari Bigby, Jeron Johnson



#23 Marcus Trufant (LCB) 5’11, 197 LBS 9 YRS (WASHINGTON STATE) BIAS: ZONE COVERAGE Marcus Trufant is hands down the Seahawks’ best and most accomplished corner. His Pro-Bowl caliber years may seem like a memory due to injuries and age, but he can still get it done on a consistent basis. He may need over the top assistance from the safety against speed receivers. He plays the ball well and is strong enough to re route receivers at the line. He must avoid the penalties that have plagued him in recent seasons.

#28 Walter Thurmond (RCB) 5’11, 190 LBS 2 YRS (OREGON) BIAS: ZONE COVERAGE Walter Thurmond has everything you want on paper. He’s fluid, quick in transition, and is a willing tackler. One thing he has struggled with is man to man coverage. He has not developed into a player that can stick with his man tightly enough. This may be a route recognition issue, or perhaps a tendency to peek into the backfield. Without the complete camera angles on broadcast TV it’s hard to tell.


#37 Brandon Browner (RCB) 6’4, 221 LBS 1YRS (OREGON STATE) BIAS: PRESS MAN  Browner is an imposing specimen at the corner position. After starring in the CFL he has found his way back to the NFL. Browner has above average speed for his position and size. He is a bit stiff, but his length and speed can cover up for that limitation. He is still very raw, and must learn to play the ball better if he is going to push for a permanent starting position opposite Marcus Trufant.

#31 Kam Chancellor (SS) 6’3, 232 LBS 2 YRS (VIRGINIA TECH) BIAS: HARD HITTING  There is a reason they call Kam Chancellor “Bam Bam”. He loves the big hit. This love of hitting can make for a great highlight or a the less attractive result, a missed tackle. He is very young in his development so it will take some time for him to develop the ability to read the action on the fly. Consider this his “freshman” year at the position. There will be missed assignments, blown coverages, great plays, and huge hits all mixed in while he learns to play safety in the NFL.

#29 Earl Thomas (FS) 5’10, 202 2 YRS (TEXAS) BIAS: PLAYMAKER, ALL AROUND PLAYER Earl Thomas is a great mixture of speed, coverage ability, instincts, and ball skills. There doesn’t seem to be much he can’t do well. He is also a willing tackler and will not miss in the open field. He is Seattle’s playmaker in the secondary and is schematically free in Pete Carroll’s system to roam and utilize his abilities to the fullest.

From my view-point the Seahawks defense has the potential to be a very bright spot in what some “experts” are saying could be a tumultuous season. Experts aside, I love the direction Pete Carroll has gone. Bigger, stronger, tougher with a pinch of nasty. That’s my kind of defense.

The 2011 St. Louis Rams Defense

Written by Will McDougle

Coming off several great years of success during the “Greatest Show on Turf” days, the Rams hit a wall, and by wall I mean 69 losses over last 6 seasons.

Enter Steve Spagnuolo. When Spagnuolo arrived 2 yrs ago, it was assumed the defensive schemes that he had learned under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia, and perfected with the Superbowl winning Giants would be brought to the NFC West. That level of domination hasn’t materialized quite yet, but if last year was any indication..It’s progressing nicely.

Scheme: 4-3 Multi Front zone rotation Defense. (also likes to give a 5-2 look vs  2 TE sets)

Defensive Philosophy: Getting pressure with a dominant front 4. Everything defensively is built off this requirement. The Fire Zone blitz packages, the coverages, the additional LB blitzes… Everything.  Steve Spagnuolo was able to build this in New York with Jason Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and of course; Michael Strahan. The Rams are trying to recreate that with Defensive ends Chris Long, James Hall, and a nice rotation of Defensive Tackles.

Greatest Defensive Strength: Creating pressure with their front. The speedy and relentless DE Combo of Chris Long and James Hall produced 19 sacks in 2010. According to the Rams front was ranked 32nd in 2009 and jumped all the way to 7th in the NFL in 2010. That’s some serious progress. Of note was the fact that on 3rd down only 1 team outperformed them in 2010 and that was the NY Giants.. Interesting, and scary at the same time.Greatest Defensive weakness: Run defense. According to the Rams allowed 15 runs of over 20 yds in 2010. They also allowed 113 YPG at a 4.5 YPC average putting them at 17th on the list. While this is not stellar, its a vast improvement over 2009 when they ranked 27th. Another sign of progress under Steve Spagnuolo’s watch.

When you factor in the NFL Lockout shortened training camp and the inexperience of our Offensive line; communication is again, a huge concern for the us against this pressure team.It’s painfully obvious that the theme of our opponents in the NFC West is Pressure, Pressure, and more pressure. At this stage, it seems like the Rams are the only one that have been able to execute theorized scheme, and design to the field. I predict the Rams defense will continue to mature into a defense that creates a buzz in the NFL. The Seahawks biggest concern will be protection of whatever QB we choose to start.

Up next: The 2011 San Francisco 49ers.

The 2011 Arizona Cardinals Defense under Ray Horton

Written by Will McDougle

For those who weren’t paying attention, the Arizona Cardinals had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2010. In an effort to rebound, Ken Whisenhunt hired Ray Horton (previously with the Steelers) as the new defensive coordinator. In this weeks’ installment I’ll focus on what the Seahawks will face defensively from the Cardinals this year.

Scheme: the 3-4 is nothing new to the Cardinals, but the pressure packages will change under Ray Horton. You will also see the Strong Safety play almost like a 5th LB in many occasions. This makes running the ball a huge challenge for our powerful, yet inexperienced line.

Philosophy: Blitz, blitz, and more blitz.  Dick Lebeau’s Zone blitzing schemes and aggressive plays have kept coaches up for days trying to not only attack them, but just survive them. Ray Horton will bring all of the them to the NFC West.  Multiple blitzers from all angles and positions can come, with several DL drops into zones making an offensive lineman’s communication key to any successful play. Stunts, dogs, shifts, twists, you name it, you’ll see it.

Greatest strength of scheme: If properly executed…confusion, hurried throws, sacks, and interceptions caused by constant pressure.  Lighting will strike, and as the saying goes, it rarely strikes in the same place.

Greatest weakness of scheme: Coverage. Simply put, this blitz package is great for pressure but can and will leave cornerbacks 1 on 1 with wide receivers on the outside in some instances. When the Strong Safety plays so close to the LOS, it leaves the Free safety to patrol the deep middle. If the pressure doesn’t get home, the QB will have openings to exploit down field. With the Seahawks size at the receiver position, Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst will not need to be as accurate to get a completion.

As we all know, this defense is deadly with the right personnel. The question is whether or not the Cardinals have just that on the roster in 2011?

Next week I’ll take a look at the St Louis Rams Defense..

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