THE COVER 3 AWARDS

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The Cover 3: The Seahawks Vs Ravens

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Well that was fun wasn’t it?

One of the most surprising aspects of the Seahawks win over the Ravens on Sunday was the total dedication to the run game against the impressive Baltimore Ravens defense. What was even more shocking was the Ravens total dedication to every aspect of their offense that didn’t include Ray Rice running the ball.

Let’s take a look at three aspects of Sunday’s game that I loved, and three that drove me nuts.

Things I loved:

The Dedication to the running game: Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington combined for 36 carries on Sunday. Of which, 19 came on first down. Huge credit goes to the offensive line, for what could be their statement game of the season. The much maligned unit put their big boy pants on, and pushed the Raven’s Pro-Bowlers up and down the field all day. The fact that players like Ray lewis, Ed Reed, H. Ngata and Terrell Suggs made very few plays, and almost 0 impact plays says something. Anybody that follows me on twitter can tell you that I am a huge fan of that philosophy. Running early and often can really set tempo, and the overall mood of the game. Offensive lineman love to fire out and hit, over constant retreat, and protection. That’s not to say the other method isn’t successful, I’m just saying that for whatever reason, NFL coaches seem to be very paradigm locked into a pass first, past often approach.  I love the fact that Pete Carroll does not subscribe to this philosophy, and that fact may make us very difficult to handle in the future. Teams are building defenses with speed, and cover ability all over the league. A large, physical run first, and run often team causes a huge match up problem. This is one reason I think some people may be missing the point on the Seahawks QB situation. Pete Carroll, and company may not need the Peyton Manning, Tom Brady type QB to win. I hate to say this, but the 49ers are what Pete Carroll is building the Seahawks to resemble, just one year behind. Large, physical, hard running, a game manager at QB, and an elite defense. Oh by the way, that model is  currently 8-1.

The Play of Richard Sherman at the corner position: I ran out of adjectives yesterday trying to describe Sherman’s play. It’s astonishing to see a man his size with such a rare combination of speed, strength, and extraordinary hip flip ability. He plays the ball in the air, and is not afraid to get physical with receivers without constant PI calls. He could easily develop into a Pro-Bowl caliber player within 3 years if his progression stays on track.

Tarvaris Jackson: Call me crazy, but I have a strange feeling that if the Seahawks are unlucky in the draft this year (Forced to draft project guy in later rounds) I wouldn’t be surprised to see one more year of Tarvaris as the Seahawks QB. He has not been stellar, but he has played very solid ball, and considering what the Seahawks want to try to become, I can see him filling a Alex Smith type roll while a young 2nd-3rd round pick waits his turn. Yesterday Tarvaris Jackson was 17-27, 217 yards and had 0 turnovers. The turnover stat made me extremely happy considering the pressure I thought he’d be under. I just knew Ed Reed was primed for his break out game of 2011, and Tarvaris was going to help him get there. Man I love it when I’m wrong.

Things that made me want to throw something at the TV.

Penalties: I’m not sure what it is about this team, but I guess I’m just used to the smarter brand of football Mike Holmgren gave us for nearly 10 years. Youth is a huge factor here, but man, 13 penalties for 100 yards is tough to overcome if you are team in transition. I got into a small debate last night with another former coach I respect about the overall impact of penalties, and how that translates into winning or losing. He contended that they don’t have the impact I think they do. Well, without someone doing a 20 year study on penalties by down and distance, time remaining, score when penalty occurred, and many other variables, we may never know. All I know is this. Penalties that stop the proper progression of play calling, and put our offense in the hole, are in a word…Bad. I also know that penalties that extend opponents drives, and give them huge chunks of yards on 3rd down are umm….Bad. Not sure you can dispute that. So far this year, the Seahawks have inflicted so much damage to themselves in important to critical situations they have made winning very difficult to achieve.

The Mike Williams problem. After watching Mike Williams live, and at a very close distance (Thanks to my Wife for the great seats in Denver) one thing stood out to me. He does not separate from defenders..at all. Now, that’s not the worst thing if you have a top flight QB who can put the ball on the back shoulder of a fly from 20 yards, but we do not currently have that guy on the roster. Actually, neither does 97% of the NFL. Williams can be a huge asset to this team, but his skill set does not seem to mesh well with Jackson’s. This is not a Mike Williams capability issue. This is a proper utilization and execution issue. His height and size need to be a huge part of our RedZone package at least. Get it done Bevell.

Covering the TE.
Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and the superstar Ravens TE Ed Dickson. Okay, okay,  I went over the top on praising those Gonzales, and Witten nobodies, but my point is our linebackers, whether by scheme or poor technique, struggle to cover pass catching TEs. Dickson had to feel like he was running route drills on air all day. This has been a troubling trend all year, and one that I honestly thought could be repaired when Aaron Curry left. Not so much.

This chart just gives a glimpse at how the Seahawks have fared against TE’s this year. Not overly awful, but definitely an area teams are focusing on when they face us. Time to tighten that up.

Game Balls: Steven Hauschka (5 FGs), Marshawn Lynch (32-109, 1TD, 5 Catches-58yds), Richard Sherman (2 Pass defenses, and stellar play all day), and of course Baltimore Ravens KR David Reed..

Favorite moment:

After that video I’ll leave you with this: The next four games (@Rams, Redskins, Eagles, Rams) are all very winnable games. With quality wins against the Giants, and Ravens, it’s not a capability issue if we don’t..

So what’s your take?

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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.

The Cover 3 Awards: Golden Tate

Golden Tate…..I pause only because I wanted to give everyone a chance to jump on the ever-expanding bandwagon. The much maligned second year player had his back against the wall, and needed to do something, anything, to show he could play at the NFL level. His coaches and teammates get to see it in practice, but the 12th Man wanted to see it during a game when it mattered (even if it is the fourth pre-season game). The “Doug Baldwin should replace Tate” cries have been heard all week, as well as the thought that he could actually be cut. So the big question was: How would he respond?

How’s 5 great catches for 79 yards, and a nice night returning kicks grab you? Well if you are like me, you want more than just stats. So lets look at how it happened. Here’s a quick video replaying some of his night:

The Cover 3:

1. PROTECTION  In one of my previous articles I discussed the very important aspects to any successful passing play. One of those aspects is solid pass protection. Down after down, the line gave the QBs ample time to go through their progressions and find the open man. James Carpenter even showed signs of improvement which is a huge positive going into week one of the regular season. This allowed Golden Tate to separate from defenders with solid route running, and make plays in the passing game. Bottom line: Golden Tate had a lot to prove and he would’ve had no chance without the solid play upfront. Well done.

2. ADJUSTMENTS  There were a few times during the game where Golden Tate flashed the proper awareness to break off his route, and become a target for a QB on the run. This is a pretty elementary thing, but this was the first time I’ve really seen him execute the scramble drill during a game. In the first photo Charlie Whitehurst is flushed from the pocket by pressure off the right edge. Tate is running an out to the sideline, but as he makes his break, and snaps his head around, he sees the pressure develop. Realizing the corner is in a zone, he breaks off his route, comes back inside, and sprints up the seam for a nice gain. These are the kinds of things you would like to see him do more of. He’s a gifted athlete, but as even he admitted, the game is so mental, it can sometimes slow you down. It appears for this game at least, the mind was at peace, and the instincts took over.

3. IMPACT PLAYMAKER All this kid did at Notre Dame was make plays. A lot of them. It was his jump off the screen athleticism, and uncanny ability to get it done, that really excited the Seahawks on draft day. Up until last night I had yet to see much of anything to get excited about. He never seemed fast or agile considering all the hype, and in my opinion, he was a below average receiver in multiple categories.  I was really beginning to wonder if he would ever separate from defenders, go up after a ball, and come down with it. Against the Raiders, he played the ball so well in traffic, and in the air. His explosiveness was also on display in the kick and punt return game. If he can continue this type of play the Seahawks just may be able to utilize him in role similar to Percy Harvin’s in Minnesota.

This was just a pre-season game. This was also the first step in the long journey to achieve the ever elusive potential that so many people feel he has. For a week at least, the fans have jumped on the Tate bandwagon. I am not there quite yet, but any Seahawk player success is almost always directly linked to team success. That is why he’s my Cover 3 Award winner, and a player that I’m very excited to see develop in 2011.

So tell us what you think. Who would have been your choice for the Cover 3 Award Winner?

The Cover 3 Awards: Tarvaris Jackson

The Cover 3 Awards. Pre-Season week 2 Edition.By Will McDougle

When watching any losing performance in real time it’s hard to put a positive spin on it. I like many Seahawk fans watched in disgust as play after play, just didn’t materialize. Drives stalled, our receivers failed to get separation, and even when they did the line had not protected enough for the QB to see the throw. The cynic in me wondered if we could win 4 games this year..Then I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and re-watched the entire game. I watched every play several times. Yes, it took a minute but I’m so glad I did, because a few things stood out to me that didn’t at first.

Another day in the life of Tarvaris Jackson

Typically in the Cover 3 articles I will discuss three individuals who had a positive impact on the game. This week it just seemed more appropriate with all the Charlie Whitehurst supporters clammoring for his chance to start, to address the one player who has taken most of the heat and explain three reasons why he actually saved the team from complete embarrassment.

Ladies and Gentleman, I sumbit to you: Tarvaris Jackson

Tarvaris Jackson’s performance in this game made me realize more than ever that Pete Carroll knows what he’s doing. I won’t post his stats because you know them. If you are a casual fan you may think he played horribly. Know this. In my opinion Jackson is the only quarterback on this roster with the right mixture of quickness and throwing ability to succeed behind our offensive line in 2011. But don’t let my unimportant opinion sway you, lets look at the facts.

1. He can handle the pass rush. Tarvaris Jackson has yet to see many clean pockets to throw from. Here is a small clip of that very issue courtesy of NFL.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJjySjdfr7g .  On one occasion after the other in the Vikings game a rusher came free, or the line was pushed seven yards into the backfield before Jackson could finish his drop and set up to throw. Rookie Right Tackle James Carpenter low lights a group of Seahawks offensive linemen lacking the required amount of experience and cohesiveness. Play after play, Carpenter was dominated by the defensive end to the point it looked hopeless. I assume for where we selected him in the draft,he’ll get better. Problem is right now he’s getting abused on inside, outside and bull rush moves. I’ll also add that the offensive line struggles lead to several pocket collapses that would have been sacks for Charlie Whitehurst. There I said it Charlie fans..Sorry I had to.

2. He’s a tough playmaker. Simply put, he has made GREAT plays with his feet to extend disastrous plays. He’s not as spectacular to watch scramble as say, Mike Vick, but when he does its effective and only happens after he has exhausted all other options. I love the fact that he refuses to force the ball into tight coverage under pressure. His ability to hit the Tight Ends with throws that gave them the ability to run after the catch was impressive considering he watched those completions while he lay flat on his back. The only grossly errant throw I charted was on a quick fade route to Sidney Rice down the right side. Both throws to Golden Tate were on point, and he hit all other open receivers with crisp passes. All that leads me to number three reason he impressed me.

3. He Managed the game. I don’t care what people say, game managers are a coaches best friend. There is only so many elite players in the world and having a player who doesn’t lose the game and know’s the offense can win you games..Several times during the first half it was very obvious to me that his experience with the offense allowed him to audible or easily identify the hot read. His only misread was a play where Jared Allen was left free to rush when Tyler Polumbus read Weakside Linebacker, blocked to the inside and let him go. It’s the QB’s responsibility to understand the blocking scheme rules in place and adjust. If you think it is strange that I would highlight a negative play in a segment that is intended to do the opposite you are right. I thought it was appropriate to highlight because even when he made that one mistake he was able to make Jared Allen whiff and extend the play.

It might be a long year Tarvaris..

So there it is. For this game I’m a Tarvaris Jackson supporter. I won’t even go into Charlie Whitehurst other than to say he did exactly what he was supposed to do. He played well against a tissue soft Vikings defense who begged him to throw underneath routes. He executed flawlessly in a drastically different game situation. For the Madden fans out there it was like Tarvaris was on All Madden, and handed the controller to Charlie on Pro. But that wasn’t the story of the game for me. The real story is how truly amazing and difficult it is to watch our offense right now. Without a regular off-season where a team can install the offense and work on the small details in the meeting rooms, it’s clear Tarvaris Jackson’s athleticism combined with his experience makes him the starter week one without question. I hope for the teams sake the receivers can cut him some slack and avoid the frustration that comes from running route after route without too many catches.

Tarvaris Jackson always wanted a shot to be “the man” in Minnesota. With the current state of the offensive line play, he may regret having had that wish granted in Seattle.

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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