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Seahawks Look Unchampionship-Like in Week 1

Photo courtesy of Panthers.com

Photo courtesy of Panthers.com

The 2013 football season is potentially the one in which the Seattle Seahawks earn their first Super Bowl championship.

On Sunday, though, the ’Hawks were anything but championship-caliber for at least the first three quarters of the game.

And, yet, we all sit here delighting in Quarterback Russell Wilson’s 320-yard, one-touchdown game in which Seattle defeated the Carolina Panthers a meager 12-7.

Yes, it was a battle of defenses. Yes, the offensive lines of both teams generally looked pretty horrendous (Seattle’s far more than Carolina’s). Yes the Panthers have a great front seven on the offensive line and the Seahawks won’t see that every week. Yes, it was only Week 1 and folks were rusty. Yes, it was really hot and humid (how could we forget, having heard Fox Sports’ Tim Ryan and Chris Myers repeat this ad nauseum throughout the game?!).

Except, the team is likely to see great football teams in the playoffs, and they’re going to see the best of the best if they reach the Super Bowl. They may even see some horrendously-adverse weather conditions in an outdoor championship game that will be in New Jersey this season.

And so, I guess, I hoped that the Seahawks would start a bit stronger on offense than they did last year. It was anything but a good start, and while one game a pattern does not make, having seen the offensive line collapse in on itself like a black hole throughout the pre-season as well shows there may be some cause for concern.

The Seahawks must find solutions to the offensive guard position, where Paul McQuistan was frequently out-manned Sunday, including getting flat-backed at least once. The argument for McQuistan is that he is a utility player who can step into any line position. The problem is that playing shitty at every position doesn’t really make his service worth it for me. It’s almost pointless to single McQuistan out, too, because overall they sucked for most of the game.

This team again racked up too many penalties, with nine for 109 yards.

Wilson looked lost against the Panthers defense frequently, seemingly having no idea where pressure would come from or where he might get hit from. He continued to show a maturity most young players are devoid of, however, by generally not panicking and continuing until the last whistle. That right there earned the Seahawks the victory, and if there is any person who can bring this team to a Super Bowl victory, it’s Robot Russell.

Wilson the Android simply looked like he needed a disk defrag and a virus scan for the first three quarters.

Yes, I’ve focused on the negative. I tend to do that, because I want to recognize a deficiency and see it corrected. When I write about offensive line play or penalties or Wilson’s shoddy early play, it’s because I hope to see those things corrected in successive games. And I believe that this team must remain strong throughout the season to have the best chance for championship success. That’s what we want, is it not?

2013 can still be the Seahawks’ Super Bowl season. They just need to show us they can earn it.

Bad News for Seahawks Fans, the 49ers Are For Real

 

Written by Brandan Schulze.

It’s time to put to rest all of the talk about Jim Schwartz looking like he wanted to fight Jim Harbaugh after a rough post-game handshake and backslap. The real issue after this weekend is how the San Francisco 49ers appear to be for real.

As a Seahawks fan, I didn’t want to believe it after seeing the box score of the 49ers’ 48-3 win over the Buccaneers. I wanted to believe that was a fluke in front of their home crowd. And with the Seahawks on their bye week, I couldn’t wait to watch San Francisco get slapped back down to Earth.

Outside of a bunch of penalties by the Niners and watching Alex Smith complete just over 50 percent of his passes for a total of 125 yards, I did not like what I saw. This team is actually pretty good, and to see it go on the road and win against an undefeated Detroit team was very impressive.

Now at 5-1, the question is whether or not the Seahawks even have a chance at running them down in attempt to retain the NFC West crown. It certainly doesn’t look good, but there is still plenty of room in the schedule for a meltdown. Just ask former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels.

In 2009, the Broncos were quick out of the gate and McDaniels was worshipped in Denver for the great start. I’ll hold off on making any comparisons to Harbaugh, though, until he loses 17 of the next 22 games. I’m not saying it’s going to happen—I just really hope that it does.

Maybe Seahawks fans ought to take the same attitude as Raheem Brock. On Monday, he posted on Twitter, “Yeah the 49ers r lookin good! But we won’t worry about that until Dec! We got cleveland this week!”

The Seahawks don’t face San Francisco again until Christmas Eve in Week 16.

As good as the 49ers have been so far, it’s had more to do with Smith not making mistakes than any sort of miraculous turnaround from his previous years. The 49ers are ranked 30th in the league in passing, two spots behind the Seahawks, with an average of 171 yards per game.

“Alex is playing winning football. Playing tough. Managing the offense, you know, doing a great job with his assignments and his role,” Harbaugh said.

Smith is winning, but he hasn’t been dominant by any means. Outside of a 291-yard passing performance against the Eagles, his best game was against the Buccaneers, in which he threw three touchdowns but only 170 yards.

“I don’t think anybody played perfect on the offensive side of the ball in this game,” Harbaugh said. “But I thought they overcame adversity, got stronger as the game went on, and didn’t flinch at crunch time.”

The 49ers are getting wins through a strong running game, limiting turnovers and with a defense that is playing very well, particularly against the run, and limiting opponents to only 16.2 points a game.

While San Francisco has a few difficult teams on the schedule that could trip it up, five of its final 10 games are against the Browns, Cardinals and Rams, who have a combined record of 3-12.

While the season isn’t near over yet, it’s definitely time for Seahawks fans to be worried. The 12th Man will continue to cheer in Seattle, but it wouldn’t hurt to also start rooting for a catastrophic collapse similar to the 2009 Broncos.

Brandan Schulze is a Navy veteran and member of the military chapter of the Sea Hawkers, the official booster club for the Seattle Seahawks. For more information on the chapter, visit http://www.militaryseahawkers.com

The Final Matchup week 5: The New York Giants

The Seahawks make another long trip back to the East Coast (1:00 EST, Metlife Stadium) in what could be a disaster, or great kick-start to the second quarter of the Season.

After reviewing the film, stats, and various sites (profootballfocus.com, Footballoutsiders.com, NFL.com, ESPN.com) There are a few areas I think the Seahawks can exploit to squeeze out a much-needed victory on the road.

Here are the match ups the Seahawks will need to take advantage of on Sunday:

When the Seahawks have the ball:

We have not been running the ball with much patience to start the year. I have a feeling the run blocking has suffered because of the limited practice time allowed by NFL rules, and the focus on shoring up protection issues. I’m really hoping that Darrell Bevell allows the Line to fire out and pop this Giant’s D line. They are not the wall that some people assume. Their strength lies in the pass rush. Allowing our line to get aggressive instead of always retreating into pass protection can give the men up front the ability to gel, and it also allows our running backs to develop a trust in their lane vision. Right now, for Lynch and company, it’s just hit the landmark, and hope. No vision, no successful cutbacks, just full speed into a murky sight picture. We must improve, by forcing the issue a little more. It’s the only way.

C Max Unger and Pat McQuistan vs DT Chris Canty

So far this season Max Unger has been the highlight on the offensive line. He has played the most consistent football, and has been solid in both the run game and in pass protection. LG Pat McQuistan has come in and actually played very solid in Robert Gallery’s place. He has been abused a few times, but overall more individual play wins then losses. If the Great Giant D line has a weakness, its at the Nose Tackle position. Chris Canty has played solid, but not great football, and at 6 ft 7 inches, he tends to play a little high and can lose leverage. Look for the Seahawks to try to focus on moving him on run plays.

Slot WR Doug Baldwin Vs Slot CB Brian Williams.

This might be the biggest mismatch on paper. We’ve all seen how Baldwin has started this season, and it seems the sky’s the limit for him. Brian Williams is a 4th round pick from 2002, and has struggled mightily all season in coverage. With Mike Williams concussion, look for Baldwin’s 67% snap count to increase by a large margin. This is bad news for a corner with a 104.2 QB rating when he’s targeted.

When the Giant’s have the Ball:

Eli Manning is playing great football this year. The turnovers are down and the impact plays are up (8 TDs, 2 INTs). One of the very interesting graphics I read on profootballfocus.com was this:

Eli Manning under pressure:

Pressure
Drop-backs
Runs
Att.
Com.
Com. %
Yds
Yds / Att.
TD
INT
Sk
NFL QB Rating
Pff.com Rating
No pressure
91
1
90
60
66.7
765
8.5
5
2
0
102.3
7.0
Plays under pressure
46
0
35
20
57.1
301
8.6
3
0
11
114.1
4.5
When not blitzed
74
0
68
45
66.2
535
7.9
2
0
6
99.8
6.0
When blitzed
63
1
57
35
61.4
531
9.3
6
2
5
112.5
5.5
All Plays
137
1
125
80
64.0
1066
8.5
8
2
11
105.6
11.5

It’s very interesting to see that when teams bring pressure, Manning is more dangerous. Credit the Giant’s offensive scheme and receivers to all read the Hot and attack the blitz. Very curious to see if the Seahawks can scheme some forced hots, and dictate where to throw the ball to possibly force some turnovers.

DT Brandon Mebane and DT Alan Branch Vs LG David Diehl and replacement Center Kevin Booth (RT)

With starting center David Baas out, and LG David Diehl struggling, the Giants could be in a world of hurt in the middle of their line. Look for the Seahawks to continue to move our tackles from the 1 tech to 3 tech position to exploit this. To me this could be a serious pivot point to the game. If the Seahawks don’t win this battle, Ahmad Bradshaw could have a huge day rushing the ball. Huge.

Overall I see way more mismatches tipping against us in this game.
For example:

WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Victor Cruz, Brandon Stokley vs CB Brandon Browner, CB Marcus Trufant (questionable with back issue), CB Walter Thurmond III. Definite win for Giants here at least on paper.

DE’s Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul vs LT Russell Okung and RT James Carpenter. Nothing needs to be said. All we can hope for here is that Tarvaris Jackson can get the ball off quickly to assist them in protection.

Final thoughts:

The Giant’s aren’t a super team, they are just better than we are at this stage. Anytime you put on the pads you have a chance, and the Giant’s have weaknesses we can exploit. But our well known history with east coast road games is a huge factor here. The Seahawks have an enormous mountain to climb on Sunday, but I’ll say this: This game, if won, could start a landslide of victories, that may not stop for at least 3 games. In the anemic NFC West, that could mean a real shot at the playoffs. Fingers crossed.

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.

The Final Match Up: Week 1 Seahawks vs 49ers

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 6: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers looks over the defensive formation during their NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Week one of the regular season is finally upon us. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I couldn’t be happier to see the 2011 Seahawks. You know, the real Seahawks, and not the bizarre and somewhat disappointing pre season version. It’s going to be great to see an actual game plan for once.

Each week we will go deep into the film and bring you the KEY match ups that may impact the game in the biggest way. It may be as obvious as the QB, it may be the second string outside linebacker, and it may even be a D lineman in passing situations. It all depends on what we feel a coaching staff may try to exploit on game day.

So let’s begin:

1.  LT Joe Staley and LG Mike Iupati vs DE Chris Clemons and DT Brandon Mebane. 

This is the look the Seahawks have to be a little nervous about. Never really understood just how impressive Mike Iupati was until I watched him closely on every play. He is extremely aggressive in his approach to the position. He can sometimes play a little high, but he is so incredibly strong that it usually doesn’t matter. He consistently throws DT’s around like rag dolls and will finish off blocks. He’s quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with at the guard position.

Mike Iupati does not appreciate Defensive Lineman

Seahawks DT Brandon Mebane, depending on alignment, will have his hands full. Mebane excels at penetration, and his ability to take on blockers to squeeze plays is well documented. He will have to be on his game for this success to continue against Mike Iupati.

Left tackle Joe Staley is another player that our defensive line will have to deal with. While he does not display the raw power that Iupati does, he shows great duck, fit and finish in his drive blocks. Chris Clemons will have a lot of trouble handling him on running downs. Look for the 49ers to run against the weak-side as much as possible. There are 2 reason’s Frank Gore is a household name, and one of them is the play of the offensive line.

2.  Flex or TE combination routes against the 49ers underneath zones.

The Seahawks use of multi TE sets and Slot receiver crossing routes can be an issue for the underneath coverage of the 49ers linebackers.  Patrick Willis is an amazing all world talent, but after the departure of Takeo Spikes, he is left as the lone elite player in the LB corps. Navarro Bowman has been promoted to take the spot vacated by Spikes, but has yet to play up to the required level so far this pre season. One thing I witnessed in a few different games was the ease at which underneath combination routes confused Bowman and Parys Haralson. Below is just one example of routes in question:

As you can see, the 49ers matched the Texans 3 wide, TE flex formation with a nickel alignment. Carlos Rodgers was left to cover the rub combination alone after Navarro Bowman dropped too deep into coverage and failed to recognize the routes developing in his zone. This made for a very easy pitch and catch. Patrick Willis can only do so much, and the fact that the Seahawks love to utilize similar formations to isolate the weak-side in coverage, bodes well for a couple nice completions. One has to think this will be something Darrell Bevell could look to exploit on Sunday.

3. Tarvaris Jackson vs the 49ers front 7.  

When the Seahawks named Tarvaris Jackson the starter at QB the first thing I pictured was him on the move. Boots, waggles, half rolls, and sprint outs, all with the goal to vary his launch point and take advantage of his athleticism.  When you add in the size of our receivers, you can see why I was very excited to see if this would work. While we all know everything starts upfront with pass protection, I feel like this approach would aid the line, and keep the 49ers from attacking the same landmark over and over.

This play turned into a great first down, but more importantly it showed another chink in the front seven’s aggressive style. Vic Fangio loves to blitz, and blitz, and blitz. If we can set up Tarvaris Jackson with a balanced attack, this could mean big things in the passing game.

After all of this pre-season scouting, I’ll admit this will be the hardest week to predict, considering the change in coaching staffs, lack of established team tendencies, and the vanilla styles employed. So just sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and enjoy the start of the 2011 Seahawk Season..

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.

THE STARTING DEFENSIVE LINE

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

AVG HEIGHT: 6’4

AVG WEIGHT: 300 LBS 

STRENGTH: STOPPING THE RUN

WEAKNESS: ONLY PURE PASS RUSHERS ARE FROM LEO DE POSITION AND 1 TECH MEBANE

#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.

THE STARTING LINEBACKERS

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

STRENGTH: STOPPING THE RUN

WEAKNESS: ZONE COVERAGE (PASS)

#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.

THE STARTING DEFENSIVE BACKS

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

STRENGTH: ZONE COVERAGE

WEAKNESS: MAN COVERAGE

#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.

or…

#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.

Thoughts on the Aaron Curry Situation

Could this be Aaron Curry's last year in Seattle?

By Will McDougle

This has been an interesting week for the former first round “lock” player. After another head scratching pre-season performance (low lighted by placing first in a mid game helmet tossing contest), Aaron Curry has agreed to a new and much shorter deal with the Seahawks.

Per ProFootballtalk.com, this new deal will void the final two years of his previous contract, and remove $5 million in guarantees. This restructure will also allow the Seahawks to cut him prior to the 2012 season or he can choose to become a free agent in 2013.  Hard to believe it has come to this so fast. There is no way of knowing who initiated this deal, but one thing is for certain: The Seahawks need a big impact player for $8-9 million dollars, and so far he hasn’t delivered.

There is a lot of pressure that comes with being the 4th pick as well as the highest drafted linebacker since LaVar Arrington went second overall to Washington in 2000. Even more pressure is applied when you are given a six-year, $60 million contract with $34 Million guaranteed (the most a non quarterback rookie had ever received). The money is nice, but the coaches and 12th Man faithful want Ray Lewis type performance to go with it.

I follow Aaron Curry on Twitter and I think he’s a great husband and father. I also know that has nothing to do with football. I still think in the right situation, he could be an absolute beast in the NFL, but for now it just hasn’t clicked. Is it his skill level? Is it effort? Is it football IQ? I think there is something to be said about a proper “fit” in a system. Some experts say he is a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Some say he’s a middle linebacker, but as a Seahawks fan, I’m encouraged by his change to the Will Linebacker position. This seems to be a better avenue to success in Pete Carroll’s system ( just ask David Hawthorne how nice the play maker position is for one’s career).

For Curry? Time will tell, and it appears that time is now…Good luck.

The new 2011 San Francisco 49ers Defense under Vic Fangio

By Will McDougle

The San Francisco 49ers struggled under the weight of Mike Singletary’s dictatorial reign as head coach in 2010. Enter former Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. One of the biggest coaching staff changes under the new Harbaugh regime was the hiring of Vic Fangio, his former Stanford defensive coordinator.

Vic Fangio spent nearly 24 years as an NFL assistant coach prior to being hired at Stanford. He has run both 4-3 (Colts) and 3-4 (Panthers, Houston) defenses and has close ties with Packers Defensive coordinator Dom Capers. One can only assume that after 16 years of working together their defenses may have some similarities.

Scheme: 3-4 Base defense

  

 

Defensive Philosophy: Like the Rams and the Cardinals profiled earlier, Vic Fangio’s 49ers will likely look to apply pressure from all directions. History has a way of repeating itself , and his penchant for heavily calling blitzes have been legendary.  In a 1995 game against the Colts he ordered his Panthers defense to blitz 48 times in a 50 play stretch, recording 7 sacks in the process.

“I don’t think I’m a risk-taker, but I would say I’m an educated gambler,” Fangio to the Charlotte Observer in 1996. “I want to know what the risks are and what the rewards are before I do something. I need to be convinced the rewards are high and the risk is worth taking.”

Greatest Strength: Without seeing much of the new defense on the field it’s hard to say what will stand out. But I will speak to a couple of players who have a heavy impact on what the 49ers do defensively. Several nice off-season acquisitions in the secondary could ultimately be where this team shines, but according to the Defensive Hog Index at ColdHardFootballfacts.com the 49ers front 7 is by far, the cornerstone of the defense.

 DE Justin Smith is the highest rated 3-4 DE in football according to ProFootballFocus.com.  Using their grading scheme, Smith scored 29 points higher than the 2nd highest rated DE Cullen Jenkins. His amazing ability to disrupt both the running and passing game of an offense is why he will be such a nightmare  for the Seattle Seahawks’ inexperienced offensive line. The communication and execution of Tom Cable’s new protection schemes will be paramount.

 

 

 

ILB Patrick Willis has been a star since he was drafted with the 11th pick of the 2007 NFL Draft. His multiple All-Pro honors & Pro-Bowls are validation of his tireless effort on the field. While I refuse to count out of context tackle stats as the barometer of defensive prowess, the fact that he led the league in tackles in 09, and has led his team in tackles year after year says something. What says even more is his teams ability to stop the run with him as the catalyst, ranking 6th last season.

 

 

With a defense highly touted by their loyal fans as one of the best in the league, assumptions fly that the 49ers are just another offensive system, and QB to command it, away from an NFC West title. One thing is for certain, the 49ers have the pieces in place to make some noise on defense. The question is;  with the lockout, completely new coaching staff, newly installed defense, and multiple roster changes, will they?

Seahawks Sign Safety Atari Bigby

Atari Bigby (Jeff Hanisch, US Presswire)

Seattle Seahawks Sign Atari Bigby (Strong Safety)

Does this signing mean the end of Kam Chancellor’s dream of starting at safety for the Seahawks? In a word….No. Atari Bigby has only managed 24 games in the last 3 years due to injury. What this signing does mean is much needed veteran leadership has arrived to replace Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux who left in Free Agency. Nice pick up by the Seahawks who remain several milion dollars under the cap.

One has to wonder how many safeties the Seahawks will keep on their roster going forward. Currently Josh Pinkard, Mark LeGree, Jeron Johnson and Rickey Thenarse are in camp.

The Seahawks released fullback Dorson Boyce to make room for Bigby on the roster.

The Cover 3 Awards: Pre Season Week 1 Edition

Ah…The pre season. The time of year when most of our non football fanatic significant others collectively roll their eyes in disgust. The ” Football is starting already?” or “Why do you need to watch that? its only a stupid pre season game” statements begin to spew like the leaky faucet you were supposed to fix..Good times.
Here at the Matchups Zone we believe that every football season(Pre,Regular or Post) is worthy but for vastly different reasons.
Starting this week, we will focus on bringing you the “Cover 3 Awards“. As you more than likely gathered, we will be selecting 3 players every week that stood out for the Seahawks. During the Pre Season we will also opine on what their performance could mean to the shaping of final roster.
So grab a coffee, some earplugs and let’s get to it.

QB Josh Portis (5-9, 69 yds 1 TD).

I didn’t expect much from Portis even after the hype that flowed from training camp practices. Despite a mix bag of ugly/decent/amazing plays it’s something to note that his play got increasingly better, not worse, as the game progressed. Nice to see for his first professional outing. Fans pining for the Seahawks next star QB of the future are quick to pin their hopes on this kid. Not so fast in my opinion, but his very raw, and potential rich talent should keep him on the roster for 2011. Chance of Roster spot: 70%

TEs Dominique Byrd.( 2 Catches, 52 yds)

Dominique Byrd, Mark Terrill Photo

Byrd’s 26 YPC Average was an eye opener. As was his very nice 29 yd play early in the 3rd Quarter. With our TE heavy roster, plays like that will help his case for a spot quite nicely.

Chance of roster spot: 50%

 

 

CB Brandon Browner (2 Tackles, 1 Pass defense)

Browner, Photo by (AP)

The last Seahawk to wear # 37 turned out to be pretty good. That sophomoric approach to predicting success aside, Brandon Browner’s size (6-4, 200 lbs), speed, cover ability, press ability, and just overall tenacity during the first pre season game earned him first team defensive reps this week. Who knows if that remains the norm, but what a nice start from the former Oregon State Beaver and recent Canadian Football league star. Chance of Roster spot: 90%

So that’s it. Now, we want to hear what you think. Please leave us a comment, and bring on the debate. After all, it’s better than fixing that leaky faucet!

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