Regular Season

This category contains 12 posts

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.

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The 2013 Season is Here, Suckas!

Go_Hawks.JPG

Hello Seahawks fans (and NSA spy overlords, thank you for reading my article … and please ignore that recent Amazon purchase for the Playmobil Security Checkpoint toy. It’s for a friend)!

It’s effin’ here – the 2013 NFL season. HOT DAMN!

I’m so pumped for this season that if I had a kitten here with me I’d excitement-squeeze it to death. Precious!

Football is a sacred time in my household. That is, my wife hates it – and so I get to leave her with our devil toddler and a 6-month-old infant for places where the game is appreciated. Where I can fuckin’ swear at people on television like they can hear me. Where I can use the word “fart” (I wish this were a joke. Save me).

But let’s recap a little bit of how we got to this point in the year:

  • January 1, 2013: Happy New Year!
  • March 12: Percy Harvin – Or, you might call this special time: “Harvana.”
  • March 15: DE Cliff Avril comes over from the Detroit Lions as a free agent.
  • March 16: DE Michael Bennett comes over from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.
  • March 16  – 5:30 p.m.: Seahawks fans collectively have their heads explode based on the past week’s worth of transaction news.
  • April 1: You’re still a Seahawk, Matt Flynn. APRIL FOOLS – The No. 2 QB is traded to the Oakland Raiders.
  • April 9: QB Brady Quinn is signed. Seahawks fans are like “Double-U Tee Eff?!” and “Huh?!” and “Bleep Blop Blorp.”
  • April 17: Veteran CB Antoine Winfield hops on over from the Minnesota Vikings. The 36-year-old comes because he wants to win a Super Bowl, and he probably is pretty confident that the Seahawks are the team to beat in 2013.
  • April 22:  Safety Kam “Bam Bam” Chancellor signs a deal through 2017 to stay a member of the “Legion of Boom.”
  • April 25-27: The 2013 NFL Draft occurs. The Seahawks pick up some intriguing players, but frankly I’m most excited by Christine Michael (as everyone points out, it’s pronounced like “Christian,” but I can’t help say “Christine,” because that’s how it’s spelled, you jerk). The running back is fast and has great hands, and he reminds me of Adrian Peterson without the bad mustache. Also picked up was giant Australian monster DT Jesse Williams and nine other dudes who I’m not really writing about because I haven’t paid enough attention to them. Did I mention the devil toddler and 6-month-old?
  • May 28: TE Anthony McCoy, injured in Organized Team Activities, is waived.
  • June 14: Seahawks former starting QB, and former backup QB, Tarvaris Jackson is signed from the Buffalo Bills. Seahawks fans are like “Double-U Tee Eff?!” and “Huh?!” and “Bleep Blop Blorp.”
  • July 29: I, your faithful scribe, celebrate a birthday. This is the most important part of this entire article. Where are my gifts, peasants?
  • July 30: KONZ! I’ll be honest, I just wanted to write that. I, frankly, don’t necessarily get as excited about this freak-athlete-but-not-so-stellar-football-player in TE Jameson Konz, who was then converted to linebacker, who is now apparently taking snaps as a tight end again because all of our tight ends are apparently made of fine china.
  • July 30: Percy Harvin breaks his own news that he will have hip surgery for a torn labrum. It’s something in your hip. You know: the hip bone’s connected to the … thigh bone. The thigh bone’s connected to the delicious dark meat on the turkey. And so on. It’s science. This day in Harvin Hip Watch is collectively known amongst fans as “Harvinacolypse.” Many shops were looted and many dogs were eaten. It was a dark day.
  • August 1: And so here we are, the day I’m writing this helpful recap for you. Head Coach Pete Carroll has reported this day –- a day after the Seahawks refused to have him meet with local media and instead went on the NFL Network for an interview of literally 29 seconds on Harvin – that the $65 million wide receiver (costing us $2.5 million in 2013 folks, calm down) had a good surgery and is now on a road to recovery in which the team is “hoping” he is able to come back this season.

With or without Harvin, I fervently believe the Seahawks are a team that can easily go 13-3, take the division and bring Seattle its first Super Bowl. Thinking anything less for a team that went to the divisional round of the playoffs with a 5’10” rookie quarterback in 2012 makes you look like an asshat.

The Seahawks are absolutely better in so many ways than they were last year. Our quarterback has a year under his belt. Our defense – which was insanely good last year –  got even better adding ALL THE PASS RUSHERS. Golden Tate, by all accounts, is poised for a star season at wide receiver. And Doug Baldwin so far still has all his teeth. I haven’t even mentioned All-Pro Stanford Graduate Richard Sherman (he mentions himself enough, I think, in this hilarious MMQB piece).

Hang on, 12th Man. We’ve only got a week.

Tarvaris Jackson: The Christmas Socks of the Seahawks

oooh..ooooh..oh!.....ooooh.....ugh

When I was growing up, we called pairs of socks we got for Christmas “Ooh, Socks!” It was said with an exacted amount of faux enthusiasm, like Ashton Kutcher apologizing for cheating on his old wife with a younger woman. Did we like the socks? Not really. But they were one of those practical presents that are necessary for the coming year.

And so, they were “Ooh, Socks!”

Cheap-assed present givers anyway.

Tavaris Jackson is the “Ooh, Socks!” of the Seahawks fan base. They love him until he’s out of ear shot or not helping win the last five of seven games on behalf of the Nation of the 12th Man.

And so we now know that Tavaris Jackson isn’t the Seattle Seahawks Quarterback of the Future. That has been made very clear by the Twitterazzi and local media folks in their reaction to today’s insanely close 19-17 loss against the San Francisco 49ers.

Also made clear by Twitter is just how egregiously idiotic 49ers fans are, but that’s a post for another time.

No, today, what we really learned is that people who watch football games for some odd reason seem to get Alzheimers throughout the season.

Some are calling for the head of TJax, perhaps one of the most even-keeled, courageous and pain-handling quarterbacks I’ve ever seen who holds onto the ball for way too long.

Of course, that flaw, which resulted in him being stripped by Niners back-up linebacker Larry Grant in a play that shut down the Hawks’ last-second hopes of a winning field goal, is something we’ve known all season. We saw Chicago Bears linebacker Julius Peppers cause a safety last week for that reason. We saw many of the sacks in the stats column happen for the same reason this year.

Is there a way to correct that flaw? Unlikely. Jackson has been in the NFL too long to teach him new tricks, and clearly the coaching staff isn’t interested in him practicing throwing live hand grenades (I want an intellectual property rights fee if they ever decide to use that idea).

So it should be shocking to absolutely friggin’ everyone in the universe that all of the sudden fans and the media are screaming “oh my Hamburger Helper I can’t believe it! There’s no way he’s our quarterback next year! He’s never going to do anything!”

As if they were praising him as the Messiah (my apologies, Mr. Tebow) the entire season.

These are the same bandwagon-loving fans and media elites who were screaming for Checkdown Charlie Whitehurst to replace him. We had an extremely disgusting taste of that this season, too, and then those cart-riding reactionaries screamed for Jackson to be back. When he started to win, and make some decent plays downfield (and the team was winning), they fell in love with him, as if to say they now believed he was worthy for the NFL Hall of Fame.

Nobody in my house thought either of those extreme positions. Mainly because my wife doesn’t watch football and my kid is too young to understand what’s going on. He thinks everything on the TV is called “football,” and that’s all he knows about the game. Or television, actually.

What “we” thought in this humble abode was that Tavaris Jackson was the most likely to be able to manage an offense he was familiar with and that this was still a rebuilding process for the NFL’s youngest team of starters during a lock-out-shorteneded offseason and training camp.

For the most part, that’s exactly what this season has shown. Was I disappointed in today’s loss? Of course. But I am not screaming for blood. Tavaris Jackson did exactly what he has done each week he has played for this team. He showed poise and conviction, as well as the patience of a 147-year turtle in the Galapagos Islands who holds onto the ball too.effing.long.

In the end we got what we needed this season (and, oh by the way bandwagon fans, you know there’s another game this season, right?), our young players gained crucial experience and we saw significant progress in Year 2 of the Epoch of Carroll & Schneider.

We saw the blueprint in a far clearer fashion than we did with Hasselbeck at the helm. We were familiar with him, his skill set and many of the veterans, now on their umpteenth offensive scheme in however many years (a crafty way for me to admit I can’t remember, you suckers). We were a bit lost last year in terms of where Carroll wanted to go with “his” team. Marshawn Lynch was lost in the backfield all year, too.

Now look where we’re at. Skittles literally fall from out of the sky at Century Link Field when Beast Mode breaks into the endzone.

No, Tavaris Jackson isn’t the Seahawks Quarterback of the Future. He’s likely our starter next year considering we’ll probably end the season 8-8 and be nowhere close to picking up an immediate starting QB in the 2012 draft. Jackson still provides this team with enough time to potentially draft a solid rookie who he can help mentor for a year.

TJax is the Christmas “Ooh, Socks!” of the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll keep your feet warm until you’re ready to open up the good stuff.

Charlie Whitehurst loses the clipboard, likely to start vs the Browns

Getty Images

Written by The Match ups Zone contributor Brandan Schulze.

Charlie Whitehurst is ready to start against the Cleveland Browns this week in an attempt to get Seattle even in the win-loss column.

After taking over two weeks ago when Tarvaris Jackson left the game with a strained pectoral, Whitehurst is now expected to get the start—although head coach Pete Carroll still wouldn’t rule Jackson out.

One interesting aspect about this matchup to consider is the Browns general manager Mike Holmgren. Of course Holmgren will have little impact on the actual game, but it’s interesting to compare where these two teams are at.  Prior to Carroll and John Schneider joining the Seahawks, Seattle had the opportunity to bring Holmgren back to the team in the GM role.

Of course we know what direction the Hawks took and at this point it’s difficult to pick a clear winner.  Both teams are in a rebuilding phase and have a lot of young talent, and this matchup will allow us to see how that talent stacks up.

Statistically, both teams match up fairly evenly, particularly on offense.  Each team is averaging between 18 to 19 points and about 300 yards of total offense.  On defense, Seattle has a solid edge in shutting down the run, which helps them keep team to third-and-long situations where they only allow a 31.9 percent rate of conversions.  The Browns have been tough in the passing game, while each defense has allowed about 24 points per game.

Had the Seahawks not shown they could win out east against the Giants, it would be easy for some to continue to pick against them this week, especially going into the game without their starting quarterback.  In Carroll’s Friday press conference, he said the starting quarterback would have “no effect” in regard to changing how they’re going to run the offense.  Both guys can run an up-tempo, no-huddle offense, and the players have responded well to each of them.

“They don’t feel like anything is different with Charlie in there or Tarvaris,” said Carroll.  “The communication is really sharp, he’s very comfortable, he’s way more in command than he was a year ago – just seems more assured, and just seems stronger at the position.”

On Thursday, Whitehurst commented to reporters how much he liked running Darrell Bevell’s style of offense.

“It’s great. It puts pressure on the defense. We’ve seen that over the last few weeks,” said Whitehurst. “I’m comfortable back there, know the calls, and you’re kind of in control back there too and that’s nice.”

Whitehurst also praised how well the offensive line appears to be improving over the course of the season.

“Every day we’ve gotten better,” said Whitehurst.  “We’re assuming they’re going to play well every week and they’ve performed.”

With Whitehurst potentially having a full game to prove himself, Carroll was questioned on his philosophy regarding quarterbacks losing their starting job due to injury. Carroll said he’s never had a specific rule for any position or player, but it was too soon to speculate on the issue.

“We’re just going to wait and see what happens. We don’t have to make declarations like that.”

“We’ve already been through this kind of situation when you think back with last year with Charlie and with Matt,” said Carroll. “That had its own set of circumstances, and this one is different.”

The injury at quarterback won’t be the only one affecting the team this week.  Cornerback Marcus Trufant was placed on the injured reserve this past week, tight end Zach Miller is out after his concussion in the Giants game, and center Max Unger was listed as doubtful with a foot injury.

Carroll said he’s counting on Walter Thurmond to give first team play. Two important starters should be back (listed as probable) in the lineup with wide receiver Mike Williams and left guard Robert Gallery returning from injuries.

With San Francisco pulling off the win against the Lions last week, and now taking their bye week, this is a key game for Seattle to win to show they still have a chance at competing for the NFC West.  Either way, one of these teams is going to come away from the game with a .500 record.

Let’s hope the Seahawks don’t provide their former coach with that satisfaction.

Brandan Schulze
Military Sea Hawkers official website: www.militaryseahawkers.com

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

Robert Gallery’s injury yet another break in the offense’s chain

(Photo by Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

Talk about a kick in the….okay, couldn’t help it there, but this is getting ridiculous.  First its Sidney Rice’s torn labrum, and now it’s groin surgery for Robert Gallery (out 4-6 weeks). What’s next, an ACL tear for ………. never mind, I won’t go there. The news just keep getting worse for the guys we thought would have a big impact in 2011.

It would be great if we could see some bang for our buck from these big ticket free agents. Our entire offensive game-plan can only work if we have all of the components together and healthy.

1. The line needs to create lanes for the rushing game. Much easier to do with a vertical stretch player on the field (Sidney Rice).

2.  Once rushing game is established, play action is employed and receivers get extra opportunities to separate. (Further helped by Sidney Rice). This gives easier reads for a struggling QB.

3. Once balance is established, its easier to protect with 7 man protection schemes allowing Zach Miller to become part of our offense. Right now he’s learning what it’s like to become irrelevant in the passing game just like John Carlson became.

It’s all connected. So far the Seahawks offense has been operating like a 10 speed without a chain. These issues aren’t just about Tarvaris Jackson’s awful play. Problem is, it won’t be fixed until all pieces are together on the field, healthy, and on the same page. Could be a while at this rate.

The Steel Curtain Nightmare

 

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Las Vegas odds makers were wrong! Ha! Take that! Apparently the 14 1/2 point spread was a touch too conservative. That was one of the worst Seahawk games I’ve witnessed in a while, and considering the last few years, that is saying something. I’m not into the sky is falling talk, because I never really thought we could win a ton of games this year, but it’s hard to watch something as ugly as today without a sick feeling in your stomach.

Noteworthy Stats:

OFFENSE:
Leading rusher: Tarvaris Jackson with 3 attempts for 12 yards
Passing: Tarvaris Jackson 159 yards
Receiving: Ben Obamanu 4 catches 35 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jon Ryan: 8 Punts

DEFENSE:
Brandon Browner vs Mike Wallace: Allowed 8 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.
Run Defense: Gave up 124 yards on the ground

There was very little to hang our hat on today. Some would say the highlight of the game was Ben Roethlisberger laying on his back, after a shot in the knee. I don’t share that sentiment, but I do think that is the only time we actually inflicted any semblance of pain on the Steelers. The only silver lining for us was that we were able to escape the phone booth beating without any injuries to speak of.

Top 5 questions I have going forward:

1. When does Darrell Bevell create a game plan that utilizes our offensive weapons?
2. How many games will Tarvaris Jackson get to prove himself?
3. When will the Seahawks try to run to the weak side behind their best two blockers in Okung and Gallery?
4. I’ve been stating that Brandon Browner has been grabbing receivers and playing fast and loose with technique. Do we stick with Browner, or move him to the nickel?
5. Will Gus Bradley figure out a way to get Chris Clemons going?

Here’s my take: The Seahawks lack the components that winning teams must have. This shouldn’t be taken as negativity, it’s simply the facts. We are a rebuilding team who overachieved last year at 7-9. It’s not our time yet, and that’s okay. When we start winning again, this feeling will be but a memory. Head up, on to the next one.

 

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 the Projected Offensive Starters

Team Captain Tarvaris Jackson at the controls.

A few days ago the Match Ups Zone took a hard look at the defensive side of the ball going into the 2011 Season. Now it’s time to switch gears and take a look at our offense. All opinions are based off film study (broadcast only) of past seasons, and this years pre-season performances.  So let’s get started with the hottest issue going into the season: The Offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE QUICK NOTES: The Seahawks are going into the 2011 with more question marks on the offensive line than they would like. They have invested both draft picks and a ton of money in this group with the hopes to make this the highlight of the offense for years to come. Without a proper off-season , the teamwork, communication, and play have struggled severely in all but one pre-season game. During 2011 you can anticipate dramatic ups and downs from quarter to quarter, half to half, and game to game. Brock Huard shares his thoughts on the offensive line below (skip to 30 seconds in).

GROUP STRENGTH: RUN BLOCKING

GROUP WEAKNESS: PASS BLOCKING

NOTABLE DEPTH: Tyler Polumbus, Paul McQuistan, Jarriel King, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre

#76 LT Russell Okung 6’5, 310 LBS 2 YRS (OKLAHOMA STATE) BIAS: ALL AROUND LT, POTENTIAL ELITE PLAYER. Russell Okung has the potential to be a key fixture in the Seattle Offense. He has all you ask for in an elite left tackle. Size, arm length, strength, body control, and quick feet to name a few. He is great at keeping low in blocks and his slide steps and reach  let him easily manipulate rushers to maintain pocket integrity. He shows nice pop in his blocks, and is able to move to the second level in the run game. His only real issue has been ankle injuries that have plagued him early in his career. He could be great, but he needs to be on the field to realize that potential.

#72 Robert Gallery LG 6’7, 325 LBS 8YRS (IOWA) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING  Robert Gallery was signed this year in free agency, and is the third former Raider to join the Seahawks. He’s Tom Cable’s kind of lineman. He’s large, powerful, and excels in the run game. From what I’ve seen this pre-season, he’s very adept at pulling and either sealing or kicking out defenders.  He’s more than adequate in pass protection and can manipulate rushers well. He’s got a bit of a nasty streak which I personally prefer in lineman, and will be looked to by our very young offensive line as a mentor and leader.

#60 Max Unger C 6’5 305LBS 3YRS (OREGON)BIAS: ALL AROUND LINEMAN  Max Unger is a very versatile lineman. He originally started out as a guard and moved to the center position. Injuries in 2010 did not allow him to develop as much as the Seahawks would like, but he will get his chance in 2011. He’s not a bruiser but is he has the ability to gain leverage with low pad height, using proper footwork, and hand fit to manipulate defenders.

#74 John Moffitt, RG 6’4, 319LBS ROOKIE (WISCONSIN) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING   John Moffitt is another rookie added to this very young line. So far this pre-season he has not shown very quick feet, or the ability to manipulate rushers very well with consistency. This may be due to the limited reps in the shortened off-season, and his need for some technique improvements that come with coaching.  He’s got all the tools, so this should come with game reps, and better understanding of Tom Cable’s blocking scheme.

#75 James Carpenter, RT 6’5 321LBS ROOKIE (ALABAMA) BIAS: RUN BLOCKING   James Carpenter was considered quite the reach by the Seahawks when they selected him in the 1st round. Projected as a guard by some scouts, the former left tackle at Alabama has been moved to the right tackle position. This transition has been very difficult so far, and like Moffit, the lack of a proper off-season has hampered his readiness for the upcoming season. He’s a very large and powerful man, but he relies on this power more than utilizing proper knee bend, footwork, and hand fit. He consistently plays with a high pad level and struggles with edge rushers due to slow footwork. He is very vulnerable to set up moves, and can be bull rushed by much smaller players. Not sure what the Seahawks have with Carpenter long term, but his early struggles do not mean he is a bust. He will need a full season at right tackle before we can give him a grade of any kind.

QB QUICK NOTES:  Tarvaris Jackson was somewhat of a surprise pick up in free agency this year. While the connection to Darrell Bevell exists, I’m not sure many Seahawk fans were prepared for the departure of Matt Hasselbeck in favor of Jackson. The immediate promotion to the starting QB position without competition Charlie Whitehurst was also a bit of a head scratching moment for Seahawk loyalists. This pre-season has not given fans a real positive feel for Tarvaris Jackson due to protection issues and a myriad of other issues, so one can only trust in Pete Carroll’s judgement here.

STRENGTH: ARM STRENGTH, SPEED/AGILITY

WEAKNESS: ACCURACY, DECISION MAKING

NOTABLE DEPTH: Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Portis

#7 Tarvaris Jackson QB 6’2 225 LBS 6 Yrs  (ALABAMA STATE) BIAS: ATHLETICISM   Tarvaris Jackson is a very tough and gifted athlete at the QB position. He is not a prototypical pocket passer but can be successful from there with protection. He has a very strong arm, and has shown he can throw with different releases. He is very good at sensing pressure, and has the speed and quickness to evade the pocket. He has a tendency to hold the ball too long and will stare down his primary receiver. He has nice touch on passes when outside of the pocket, and has the arm strength to throw deep on the run. Accuracy is an issue at times, and seemingly more so in pressure moments. Ultimately his success will be based off the running game, and Darrell Bevell’s ability to utilize his skill set better than he did in Minnesota.

Here’s a quick video of what he’s capable of:

RB QUICK NOTES: This year more than ever, the Seahawks will need to run the ball effectively in order to keep our defense off the field. I do not anticipate our offense scoring more than a touchdown or two a weekend in the early part of the season so it will be imperative that the offense sustain drives at least.  Marshawn Lynch leads this pack of RBs and will look to build off the Beast Mode run in last years playoff victory against the Saints. The 12th Man hopes there is plenty more where that came from.

In case you’d like to watch the run again.. here it is:

NOTABLE DEPTH: Leon Washington, Justin Forsett

GROUP STRENGTH: POWER, RECEIVING, SPEED

GROUP WEAKNESS: PASS PROTECTION,

#24 Marshawn Lynch RB, 5’11 215LBS 5yrs (CALIFORNIA) BIAS: POWERBACK  BeastMode…Ask the Saints about Marshawn Lynch. He can be so devastating that a team as good as the Saints will devote an entire free agency strategy to not letting that kind of abuse happen again. He is more comfortable with running between the tackles, and shows great burst once he gets to the second level. He runs low and strong, and can be a nightmare for 2nd and 3rd level defenders.He has decent vision to identify the proper lane to attack, and sets up blocks well.  He has not shown much consistency in his career and will need to improve in that area now that he is the featured back in Seattle.

#26 Michael Robinson HB 6’1, 223LBS, 6 YRS (PENN STATE) BIAS: VERSATILITY Robinson is a very important piece to the success of the Seahawks offense. He is not a prototypical short necked FullBack who will blow you up in the running game, but he is a sound blocker who will utilize good technique and pad level. He is adequate in pass protection against LB’s but will struggle matched up on an end (as all RB’s tend to do). A former QB and RB he can give an offense a nice little weapon out of the backfield.

RECEIVER QUICK NOTES: This is the best position group on the offense in my opinion. It is also the group most dependent on the play of everyone else to have sustained success. Sidney Rice and Mike Williams highlight a very deep and diverse group of receivers who all bring something special to the game.

GROUP STRENGTH: SIZE, PLAYMAKING ABILITY

GROUP WEAKNESS: ROUTE RUNNING, SEPARATION FROM DEFENDERS

NOTABLE DEPTH: Ben Obamanu, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin

#18 Sidney Rice WR 6’4 202LBS 5 YRS (SOUTH CAROLINA)BIAS: SPEED/PLAYMAKER  Sidney Rice on paper should be one of the best receivers in the game. In fact, while playing with Brett Favre in Minnesota, he was. But if you look at what he did before and after the Pro-Bowl year with Favre it makes you wonder. He has all the tools you look for in an elite receiver. Athleticism, height, Speed, Agility, length, hands, you name it. He can stretch defenses vertically using his speed, or beat defenders with solid route running and great body positioning and hands. He is a nightmare in the red-zone due to his ability to go up and get the tough jump ball over hapless defenders. Really looking forward to seeing what he can bring to this Seattle offense in 2011.

#17 Mike Williams WR 6’5, 235LBS 5 YRS (USC)BIAS: POSESSION RECEIVER/PLAYMAKER  It’s funny how most people laughed off the Mike Williams signing as just a camp body, who had no chance to make the 53 man squad. I can understand where it came from though. Mike Williams was a 1st round pick of the Lions in 2005 and was not ready to play at the NFL level. He was labeled everything from fat, slow, to lazy. It just goes to show you that sometimes a little maturity and the experience of almost losing everything you thought you should have, can motivate a person. Mike Williams is a very large and powerful receiver. His size makes one on one match ups very difficult for smaller defenders. His ability to make the tough catch in traffic combined with his size and length make him a QB dream when you need a 3rd down conversion or more importantly a red zone score. His only downside is his lack of ideal WR speed. He’s not slow by any stretch, but he will not beat you on a 9 route, and has difficulty separating from defenders.

#81 Golden Tate Slot Reciever 5’10, 202LBS 2Yrs (NOTRE DAME)BIAS: PLAYMAKER Golden Tate has been a frustration to many fans since arriving in Seattle. Highly touted as the play-maker the Seahawks desperately needed, this ability has yet to materialize with any kind of consistency. Strictly from a skill set standpoint he’s fast, quick in and out of breaks, and has shown the will to battle defenders in the air for the ball. He does not play fast, and will lose focus from time to time. His biggest asset is his overall athleticism, but the mental side of the game can tend to negate that advantage. On the bright side, his performance against the Raiders in the Seahawks 4th Pre-season game has given many a snapshot of the impact playmaker he can become. From returning, to outstanding plays from the slot and split end position, this may have been the game he needed to kick off a break out season. Only time will tell.

TIGHT END QUICK NOTES: With the Free Agency addition of Zach Miller and the already succesful John Carlson,  the Seahawks were set to have a nice duo of play-making tight ends. That was before John Carlson went on IR prior to the 4th pre-season game. The good news is, the Tight position had the best pre-season overall, and it really didn’t seem to matter who suited up. They all contributed.

GROUP STRENGTH: SIZE, PLAYMAKING ABILITY

GROUP WEAKNESS: ROUTE RUNNING, SEPARATION FROM DEFENDERS

NOTABLE DEPTH: DOMINIQUE BYRD

#86 Zach Miller TE 6’5 255LBS, 5 YRS (ARIZONA STATE) BIAS: ALL AROUND ELITE TE I’ll admit, I’m still a little shocked we were able to steal the Raiders best, and honestly only receiver over the past few seasons.  Zach Miller is an elite Tight End and can carry an offense on his back (see also:Raiders passing attack). He can dominate with routes over the middle, and even pressure the secondary with speed to get deep down the seam or sideline (as seen in the video below). He’s an above average run blocker, and will work hard to finish blocks. Overall I couldn’t be happier about this addition.

#85 Anthony McCoy TE 6’5 259LBS 2Yrs (USC) BIAS: RECEIVING TE Anthony McCoy has made some very nice strides in his overall development into an NFL TE. He is a much better receiver than blocker at this point in his career. He has nice hands, and is a decent route runner for his position. He has the ability to make the tough catch and is most suited to shorter routes. So far this year the Seahawks have utilized him in a lot of play action crossing routes. Blocking has been another issue. He’s not poor, but he lacks the proper pad level and will not finish off blocks. Will struggle in pass protection against bigger defenders.

So there you have it. A pretty long winded scouting report from the Match Ups Zone team. I see a lot of potential in our young and very raw offensive squad because the tools are there. Hopefully they can put it all together and shock the NFL with yet another playoff run.

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