Review: Chargers 30, Seahawks 21

14 Sep
Photo Credit: chargers.com

Photo Credit: chargers.com

For the first time since last December, I am writing a game review following a meaningful Seahawks loss. The Seahawks fell to the San Diego Chargers 30-21 on Sunday, dropping to 1-1 on the season. The Seahawks are now tied with the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams for 2nd place in the NFC West. The Chargers improve to 1-1 and currently have sole possession of 2nd place in the AFC West. This loss marks the first game since November 6th, 2011 that the Seahawks have lost by more than one score. As resilient as the Seattle offense appeared to be at moments, it was the defense that failed to step up to stop the powerful Chargers offense. This is what I took out of this week’s game.

Offense Played Well Enough to Win: The Seahawks offense scored 21 points and in any other game that would probably be enough to hold on for the win. Throughout the entire game I held the confidence that if the defense struggled, the offense could go down the field and get us right back into the game. Quarterback Russell Wilson had a very solid game going 17/25 for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Despite a lack of pocket awareness which Wilson showed at untimely moments, he did not turn the ball over which was great to see. The only Seahawks turnover came on special teams when Percy Harvin fumbled a kickoff in the second quarter. I was impressed with the way Robert Turbin stepped in for Marshawn Lynch, gaining 45 yards and scoring his first career touchdown at the end of the first half. As a team Seattle was able to pound out 108 rushing yards against a stout Chargers defense which is definitely an optimistic sign. Ultimately and unfortunately, our offense simply could not hang with a Chargers offense that proved that their performance last week in Arizona could be considered a fluke.

Offensive Line Showed its Weaknesses: Although San Diego only sacked Russell Wilson twice on Sunday the Seahawks quarterback was constantly under pressure. The right side of the offensive line was not able to withstand a barrage of San Diego pressure especially on passing downs later on in the game. J.R. Sweezy was called for a crucial holding penalty on a first-down conversion. The penalty nullified the gain and the Seahawks eventually punted back to the Chargers. The left side of the San Diego defense, like I highlighted in my game preview, clearly found holes in the game of rookie right tackle Justin Britt and later in the game the majority of the Seahawks offensive plays went to the left side of the line to try to take some of the pressure off of Sweezy and Britt.

Penalties a Problem: On Sunday the Seahawks were called for 8 penalties totaling 53 yards. I consider the number of penalties to be above average with the penalty yardage decent. The reason why I bring up this point is that in this game like some of our close losses in the recent past, our penalties seemed to come at the most inopportune of times. The majority of our offensive penalties occurred on first down conversions while defensive penalties came on 3rd down stops which would of halted San Diego drives. Instead, defensive penalties directly led to 14 of the Chargers 30 points.

Gates Unstoppable and Rivers Picks Defense, Legion of Boom Apart: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was thrown to 4 times on Sunday and in each instance Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw completions. Sherman however was never burned over the top for a big gain. All of the passes thrown in Sherman’s direction were zone coverage plays. On only one play do I distinctly remember Sherman turning the wrong way, leading to a completion from Rivers to Keenan Allen on a quick slant which resulted in a San Diego first down. The kryptonite for the Legion of Boom this week was tight end Antonio Gates who caught 7 catches for 96 yards and a career-tying 3 touchdown receptions. Other than Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, Gates may be the biggest matchup nightmare among tight ends in the NFL. His size advantage creates a problem even against the big, long, and physical style of the members of the Legion of Boom. Gates beat Kam Chancellor, Malcolm Smith, and K.J. Wright on his three touchdown catches. Upon watching the film of Gates’ performance, I do not understand why the Seahawks were using our outside linebackers to cover Gates, especially after his second touchdown when it was proven Gates could easily beat our linebackers down the middle of the field. All in all the Seahawks defense allowed 276 passing yards, a number that we must work to decrease in practice this upcoming week, especially with Peyton Manning up next for the L.O.B.

Third Down Defense a Major Weakness: The Seahawks defense simply could not get off the field on third down this week. San Diego’s offense went 10/17 on third down on Sunday. The 59% third down efficiency of the Chargers is the worst percentage the Seahawks have surrendered in a loss since the Detroit Lions were 75% effective on third down in a 28-24 Seahawks loss in October 2012. 70% of San Diego’s third down conversions came through the air, with the majority coming in short to moderate yards to gain. At home next week I believe the Seahawks will recover and play a more sound game with the 12th Man behind their backs, but our inability to stop drives this week raises questions about our defense in a road environment, as the Seahawks have historically had trouble in this area on the road in seasons past.

Irvin Potentially Cost Us the Game: You look at the score and see that the Seahawks lost by two possessions but I believe that one bonehead play by defensive end Brice Irvin potentially altered the outcome of this game. The play in question came with the Chargers driving deep into Seahawks territory towards the end of the third quarter. With San Diego leading 20-14 and facing a 3rd down and 7, Seattle was successful in forcing Philip Rivers out of the pocket. Rivers scrambled to the right sideline short of the line to gain. As it was clear that Rivers was giving himself up on the play and stepping out of bounds, Irvin came in to give Rivers an extra small shove, drawing a personal foul late hit penalty. The Chargers would have likely lined up on 4th down to kick a field goal giving them a 23-14 lead with plenty of time for the game to be salvaged. Instead, the flag on Irvin gave San Diego a first down in the redzone and two plays later Rivers connected with Gates to make it a 27-14 ballgame. The touchdown also resulted in a  momentum swing to the home team for the remainder of the game, as the Chargers were successful in holding onto the lead for good. The penalty was completely unnecessary and in my opinion it is one of the dumbest plays Irvin has made in his career. Ultimately I believe that penalty is in essence handing the victory to San Diego on a silver platter.

Thoughts on San Diego: I underestimated the San Diego Chargers, plain and simple. I understand that it was their home opener, there was record setting heat down on the field, and that the home crowd was amped up but it all comes down to this point: If the Chargers can pick apart the best defense and best secondary in the league, they can pick apart any defense. Before the season started I did not think the Chargers were capable of making another playoff run but after Sunday, it is very possible to think that barring injuries San Diego can challenge for a wild-card spot for a second consecutive season.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks matched their navy jerseys with grey pants this week. The last time they wore that combo was last season in Carolina. The Seahawks are now 2-2 in that uniform combo all-time… The all-white look of the Chargers is pretty cool. Although I love the fact that the Seahawks are the only NFL team to have never worn white at home, the idea of a white-out early on in the season is a cool possibility the Seahawks might want to consider for future seasons… I remember 4 years ago I went to see the Seahawks play the Broncos in Denver and the game time temperature inside the stadium flirted with the 100 degree mark. It was miserable. I am sorry for all the dehydrated, sunburnt, upset Seahawks fans who went on the road, sat in the heat for over three hours, and saw us lose. It is a miserable feeling… I want to give a lot of credit to the Chargers home crowd. They were clearly the louder voice this week after it was presumed that the 12th Man was going to have another very strong following to San Diego this week. To Chargers fans: Bring the kind of intensity you showed this week to Qualcomm for every home game. Match that intensity with the great play of the Chargers offense and you will be hard to beat at home throughout the season… Here are a couple of points to the “glass half full” Hawks fans out there. The last time the Seahawks gave up 30 or more points in a game, we went on to win our next 7 games. Also, of the last 10 seasons we have started 1-1, we have made the playoffs 7 times, won 4 division championships, went to 2 conference championship games, and made it to one Super Bowl (XL)… It helps that the 49ers also lost this week but immediately following our loss I was surprisingly not too upset. I think it has something to do with the fact that even though we lost, the Seahawks still have a Lombardi Trophy. That’s a feeling that perhaps comes given that the city of Seattle had been starving for a sports championship for so long and now that we finally have a Super Bowl win, it makes the sting of these regular season losses more bearable. Am I the only one out there that feels that way? It is an interesting yet prideful feeling in my opinion.

The Seahawks now get back to work as they prepare for the AFC West leading Denver Broncos in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII. Check back Saturday for my Broncos preview. Have a good week 12th Man. Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Chargers Preview

13 Sep
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Diego Chargers

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, California)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

It’s time to hit the road for the first time in 2014. After demolishing the Green Bay Packers in week 1, the Seahawks now hit the road to take on the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 1-0 and are coming off a long break following their 36-16 win over a week ago. The Chargers however are in the opposite boat, losing last week to the Arizona Cardinals 18-17 and this will be a short week for San Diego as they played on Monday night. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with San Diego 26-23. Their last meeting came in 2010 when Seattle edged the Chargers 27-20 at CenturyLink Field thanks in large part to two Leon Washington kickoff return touchdowns and two Earl Thomas interceptions. Since this is an early season road game it will be very important for the Seahawks to come out strong and show that they are the better team early on in the game. This is what I will be looking for in this week’s game.

Under Russell Wilson the Seahawks have a 1-1 record in opponent home openers. In these two games the Seahawks have averaged only 14 points per game. On offense this week I believe it is imperative for the Seahawks to put early points on the board in order to silence the crowd. As always this begins with being able to run effectively with Marshawn Lynch but also keep an eye out for Percy Harvin and Russell Wilson to have a bigger impact in the running game. I believe that if the Seahawks use Wilson on the ground more this week we will be able to move the ball in huge chunks. San Diego gave up 109 rushing yards last week and 29 of them came from Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the most immobile quarterbacks in the league. Read option and designed quarterback runs this week I think could give the Seahawks a great chance of exchanging potential field goals for touchdowns.

The adjective that best sums up the play of the San Diego Chargers offense last week: terrible. Against a solid Arizona defense the Chargers were only able to score 17 points, only 3 of which coming in the first half. There has been a lot of talk about Richard Sherman not seeing any action last week but Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has come out and said he will likely test Sherman this week. After looking at the film of the Chargers game last week however, I think if the Seahawks pass rush can put constant pressure on Rivers this game will be over fast. On the Chargers final drive last week with the Cardinals sending 4, 5, and even 6 guys on blitzes, Rivers tried to make quick short throws that were either batted down at the line of scrimmage or were just flat out terrible throws. My defensive focus this week is on Bruce Irvin, O’Brien Schofield, and K.J. Wright. These three linebackers will rush the passer from the second level of the defense along with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett along the defensive line. Given that the Chargers offense is most effective passing the ball, adding additional pressure on non-passing downs could give the Seahawks many opportunities to force bad decisions by Rivers, hopefully resulting in turnovers.

As dangerous as the San Diego Chargers offense can be, I am interested to see how their young and talented defense plays with the home crowd behind their backs against the best offense they will likely face this season. The Chargers defense recorded 58 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and 2 sacks last week and this week they face a challenge in game planning as they will have their hands full with Russell Wilson, especially right after playing a pocket passer such as Carson Palmer. I believe the best way to attempt to bully the Seahawks offense is to get to take advantage of matchups along the offensive line. Offensive tackle Justin Britt is the man on the Seahawks offensive line I am most concerned about in this respect. The man who will likely line up across from Britt this week is my X-Factor player to watch, defensive end Kendall Reyes. Reyes had a quiet night last week, recording one tackle. Even though Reyes’ stat line was not impressive, it must be noted that his 5 sacks in 2013 was second among all San Diego defenders, making him a concern for Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to deal with. In order to overwhelm Britt, I would not be surprised if Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano uses Reyes and right side linebackers Jarrett Johnson and Manti Te’o in blitz packages to dial up extra pressure to try to collapse the right side of the pocket. This would force Russell Wilson to make throws against his body.

Random Thoughts: This week is “White Hot Sunday” in San Diego. The Chargers wear white for their first home game of the season while encouraging all fans in attendance to wear white as well. The Chargers will wear white jerseys and white pants, forcing the Seahawks to wear their navy jerseys this week. Expect the Seahawks to wear either white or grey pants this week. If I were a betting man, I would say the Seahawks will wear grey pants. If you are lucky enough to be on the road and attending this week’s game remember to WEAR NAVY… I have the feeling that there will be a strong contingent of Seahawks fans in San Diego this week. It is an easy trip to make and the Chargers have had a history of difficulty selling out their home games. Could we see more Seahawks navy than Chargers white in the stands this week? I think it is more of a possibility than you might think… Thom Brennaman and David Diehl have the call for FOX this week… Pete Morelli is this week’s referee. Coincidentally, Morelli also officiated the Seahawks matchup with the Chargers in the preseason last month… This week is a 1:05pm start not a 1:25pm start. Not that it matters too much since it is a road game but this will be the first of only two 1:05pm kickoffs this season. The rest of our afternoon starts will be 1:25pm… RedZone in the morning and the Seahawks in the afternoon this week. I enjoyed watching 8 hours of only RedZone last week not having to worry about the Seahawks… Qualcomm Stadium is a dump. Plain and simple. Other than the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Qualcomm Stadium is the worst active NFL Stadium. Even though I went there to see the Mariners play two baseball games there in 2003, the difference in stadium experience between seeing a baseball game and seeing a football game is probably microscopic. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated and theMMQB.com even called Qualcomm “an insult to dumps everywhere” in a well-written 2013 piece outlining the troubles with the stadium and the battle between the Chargers and the city of San Diego to build a new stadium. It is a good read that I definitely recommend… If the Seahawks beat the Chargers it will be the second consecutive season that the Seahawks start 2-0.

Prediction: The Seahawks and Chargers will both get off to a slow start offensively but the Seahawks will settle down in the second quarter. Marshawn Lynch will run for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka will kick his 3rd field goal right before halftime. The Seahawks will take a 16-7 lead into the second half and while Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers back to within one score, Russell Wilson will throw for a pair of touchdowns to put the game out of reach for good. The Seahawks will go to 2-0 with a big game against the Denver Broncos at home on-deck next week.

Seahawks 30, Chargers 17

Check back Sunday night for my review of this game. Enjoy the game people and go Hawks!

Review: Seahawks 36, Packers 16

4 Sep

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

Photo Credit: seattletimes.com

What a way to start our title defense! In front of a nationally televised audience the Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers in decisive fashion on Thursday night by a final score of 36-16. The Seahawks start their 2014 season 1-0 while the Packers start their third straight season 0-1. Although the Seahawks won in dominating fashion I believe there is still a lot of room for improvement. Nevertheless, I believe we confirmed to any and every doubter that we are still a force capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions. Here are the positives and negatives I took from Thursday’s game.

Every Weapon Will Be Used: One of the reasons why the Seahawks have the potential to be so dangerous this season is that quarterback Russell Wilson will use every weapon in his arsenal. That was evident on Thursday night when he hit wide receiver Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter and fullback Derrick Coleman for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There are probably few people who thought either Lockette or Coleman would have a touchdown in this game let alone both of them. Meanwhile Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, two receivers who see more playing time than Lockette, combined for 4 catches and only 22 yards. The Seahawks are not afraid to use every single offensive skill position player at any time during the game. This makes the Seahawks a very scary team to game plan around and try to prepare for moving forward.

Lynch Has Not Missed a Step: On the drive home from the game, Dave “Softy” Mahler, Dick Fain, and Hugh Millen of Sports Radio 950 KJR agreed that they thought Marshawn Lynch looked “like a guy playing for a contract” and that he has not slowed down at all. I agree completely. Lynch was the most effective player on offense this week rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch, like always, ran like a man on a mission and if there was any rumblings of a potential running back by committee if Lynch were to struggle, he quickly squashed them. Barring injury, Lynch will continue to be the feature back in this offense and from my perspective our running game has picked up right where it left off at the end of the 2013 season.

Pass Rush Can Improve: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and O’Brien Schofield all recorded sacks on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. Although the Seahawks pass rush looked effective, there is much room for improvement. The reason I say this is because of the Green Bay offensive line. With two players making their CenturyLink Field debut and right tackle Bryan Bulaga leaving the game with a sprained knee in the first half, I thought the Seahawks would be able to take advantage with a revved up 12th Man behind them to sack Rodgers in a similar fashion to the 8 sacks we recorded against the Packers two seasons ago. One of my main focuses going into this game was the interior pass rush and in this game the grand majority of the Seahawks defensive pressure came on the outside. I would like to see an improvement next week along the inside of the defensive line, using a 3rd down package with Bennett as well as young defensive tackle talent like Jordan Hill.

Did Thomas Lose His Job?: Before I go any further, no I am not talking about his free safety job. I am talking solely about his spot as the Seahawks punt returner. Forget that Richard Sherman may have been blocked into him, Earl Thomas muffed a first quarter punt which was recovered by Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and eventually led to a touchdown to give Green Bay a 7-3 lead. The punt that Thomas muffed should definitely have been signaled for a fair catch but Thomas tried to make something out of what clearly looked to be nothing. Thomas returned one more punt for a 3-yard return later in the game. I no doubt believe that Thomas can make special plays happen on special teams but he simply needs to be smarter about the way he goes about handling his punt return duties. One more mistake by Thomas on special teams and I believe will see the next man up at punt returner, who happens to be Richard Sherman.

Where Are You Sherm?: It is going to be very difficult for Richard Sherman to hold the title of “best shutdown corner in the game” from a statistical perspective if teams continue to avoid him, much like what the Green Bay Packers did on Thursday night. Sherman was not targeted once against the Packers, which created opportunities for Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane to take advantage of. Maxwell had 5 tackles, 2 passes defensed and an interception on Thursday night while Lane recorded 4 tackles of his own in the nickel slot. This could be a common occurrence especially early in the season. Maxwell will be tested often and if he plays shutdown football, opposing defenses may have no choice but to throw in Sherman’s direction as well. Sherman’s chances will depend on the play of the rest of the receivers. Although he played well against the Packers, if Maxwell struggles he will be picked on constantly and it will be extremely difficult for Richard Sherman to see passes thrown his way.

Thoughts on Green Bay: Take away the fact that the Green Bay Packers had to come into the NFL’s most hostile environment on opening night to play the defending world champions in front of a 12th Man that may have been louder than I have ever heard. This Packers team has an offense that will be able to effectively move the ball and they gained solid defensive momentum early in the game when they held a short lead. The running game must improve however. Running back Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards on Thursday night and not being able to run the ball effectively could extremely limit the Packers offense, relying on Aaron Rodgers more than they would like. With a banged up offensive line this may be difficult but as long as Rodgers can stay healthy, I believe this team is still better than the Bears, Lions, and Vikings. This team is still my favorite to win the NFC North.

Random Thoughts: John Parry was the referee this week. I apologize I could not figure out the referee before the game for the second consecutive week. Parry and his crew went into Thursday’s game known for throwing the most defensive holding penalties during the preseason, which some believed could have hurt the Seahawks. The Seahawks were flagged 4 times throughout the game and none of them were for defensive holding… The Westlake Center Buffalo Wild Wings has by far the best service of any “B-Dubs” I’ve been to. Maybe it was because we were one of the first parties seated for the day and the restaurant was mostly empty. Nevertheless, great service and great food too… The atmosphere at the Hawks Nest Bar and Grill never disappoints, especially before a primetime game. It was awesome in that building before the game… The pregame ceremony and celebration did not disappoint. There was one thing about pregame that I really liked and one thing that I really did not like. I liked how the Seahawks told everybody with tickets to be in their seats by 5pm for the pregame celebration but the pregame ceremonies did not start until NBC went live at 5:30. Smart thinking Seahawks. The thing I found slightly disappointing what that they unveiled the banner simultaneous to the team running out of the tunnel. I wish they would have waited until right before the game started to drop the banner… That may have been the most fun I’ve had at a Seahawks game ever. The crowd was so merry and confident. It was a truly special night all around.

The Seahawks take an extended break before getting to work on the San Diego Chargers next week. Enjoy this weekend’s games everyone. Go Hawks!

Packers/Seahawks Preview (NFL Kickoff 2014)

3 Sep

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

There are a lot of perks to winning the Super Bowl. You get expanded coverage on all the major sports television networks, you get to meet the President, and you get to host the football circus that is NFL Kickoff; the first regular season game of the year. That is what is on deck for the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks as they host the Green Bay Packers in NFL Kickoff 2014. The Packers lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 10-6 but the last matchup between these teams was by far the most memorable. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate “caught” a 24-yard Hail Mary pass from Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12. The controversial ending ended the referee holdout and the difference that one game made in the final 2012 standings had a potential impact in the playoffs as the Packers eventually lost to the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that could have instead been played at Lambeau Field had the Packers defeated the Seahawks. With the entire city of Seattle watching, emotions will be high as the 2013 Super Bowl championship team will be honored before the game. After that it is all business. Here is what I will be focusing on this week.

The Green Bay offense versus the Seahawks defense will be the primary intriguing matchup this week but I am very interested in how the Seahawks offense plays against a talented Packers defense that to me has question marks. I believe the Seahawks will give the Packers a heavy dose of running back Marshawn Lynch early in the game in order to establish the running game, the tempo of the game, and to chew some time off the clock while trying to come up with points. Lynch will have a big impact in this ballgame and he will no doubt get the grand majority of the total carries. The passing game intrigues me with this matchup against the Packers for two big reasons. First, this is the first time since the Super Bowl that we go into a game with Percy Harvin in the offensive game plan. Harvin will not be used as just a wide receiver but as an “offensive weapon.” Do not be surprised to see Harvin lined up all over the field including out wide, in the slot, and even in the backfield. Secondly, I want to see Russell Wilson challenge the Packers secondary, specifically rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix may not start but he will see playing time whether he starts or not. In games against New Orleans and San Francisco last season, Wilson aired the ball out to challenge rookie safeties Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Eric Reid of the 49ers. This week could be no different. If he likes the matchup, do not be surprised to see Wilson go to vertical threats Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to challenge Clinton-Dix.

In their last meeting the Seahawks defense sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half. This week it will be just as crucial to pressure Rodgers and force him into sacks and mistakes. The Seahawks will use a pass rush rotation including Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin, and O’Brien Schofield. These four players will need to play a significant role but keep an eye specifically on Bennett. Although he will start at defensive end, I expect Bennett to be lined up as a pass rushing defensive tackle due to the uncertainty of the Green Bay offensive line. The Packers offensive line includes two players who have never played at CenturyLink Field. Left tackle David Bakhtiari has earned the starting job after being an injury fill-in in 2013. Green Bay will also start rookie Corey Linsley at center. Linsley will be my main focus among the Packers offensive line as he will have the difficult challenge of attempting to handle the 12th Man in his first career NFL game as well as handling a fierce interior pass rush. If the Packers cannot show they can protect Rodgers early it may be a long night for the Packers offense.

Despite the uncertainty on the line, the Green Bay Packers offense is one of the most talented and dangerous units in the league. The offense plays a very large part in why many experts believe the Packers can make a deep playoff run in 2014 and are serious contenders to win Super Bowl XLIX. By now you know the Packers are led by All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers and this year he sports a more balanced attack. In addition to his dangerous downfield weapons Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Rodgers also one of the best up-and-coming running backs in second-year man Eddie Lacy who can be used to run the ball as well as catch passes out of the backfield. All three should see their share of targets but the Packers still have a big mystery to solve on offense. With the departure of tight end Jermichael Finley the Packers seem to have a void at the position. According to the Packers official depth chart, the starting tight end is listed as rookie Richard Rodgers but my X-Factor player to watch this week is veteran tight end Andrew Quarless. Quarless led all Packers tight ends in receiving with 6 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown during the preseason. I believe he will be a more relied on target than Rodgers, especially deep in Seattle territory. If Green Bay can move the ball into scoring range, look for the Packers to potentially use a two tight end package with Quarless and Rodgers as well as Nelson and Cobb on the outside.

In the 9 NFL Kickoff games hosted by the defending Super Bowl champion, only the 2012 New York Giants have lost in front of their hometown fans. Hosting the first game of the NFL season provides an interesting emotional challenge. During pregame, the team is introduced in front of the entire country watching on television and shortly afterwards, the world championship banner is unveiled to a stirring emotional roar from the crowd. Almost immediately following these special festivities however, it is time to shift the mind to play a football game. Against a quality opponent such as the Green Bay Packers and with no prior experience playing in this game, I wonder if the Seahawks will be able to handle all of the pregame distractions adequately in order to win the football game. It would not surprise me to see the Seahawks get off to a slow start but then pick up the pace later in the game; I mean it is week 1 after all. If the Seahawks can show they can put the pregame emotions behind them and score quickly we will be in very good shape for the rest of the game.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear blue jerseys and blue pants this week with the Packers wearing white jerseys and yellow pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC this week with Michele Tafoya patrolling the sidelines. In addition, the entire “Football Night in America” crew will be in Seattle this week for pregame and halftime coverage. That will be neat… This may have deserved its own little paragraph because I feel it is of great importance but here it goes. If you are attending the game PLEASE skip the Pharrell Williams/Soundgarden concert. The concert takes place at 4:30pm and immediately following the concert at 5:30pm CenturyLink Field goes live to the nation on NBC to start pregame festivities. I want to see everybody with a ticket in their seats by 5pm to be a part of a truly special series of ceremonies. That and we need everyone ready for the start of the game… If you are attending the game the Seahawks are strongly advising fans to enter the stadium through the southwest gate and touchdown city. All areas north of the stadium are going to be a nightmare due to concert traffic and people who do not have tickets to the game. It may be best just to stay and tailgate south of the stadium to avoid any congestion… Hawks Nest Bar at 12pm on gameday. Be there… I think it would be really cool if instead of unveiling a world championship banner in the rafters, the Seahawks raise a special championship “banner flag” instead of the normal 12th Man flag. That probably won’t happen though as there are now 3 covered banners already hanging in the rafters at CenturyLink… I wonder if the Seahawks will mix alumni day with the Kickoff festivities. Traditionally the Seahawks honor past players at the home opener… The question must be asked: who will raise the 12th Man flag this week? It is confirmed that former head coach Mike Holmgren will be in attendance this week and he is more than a viable option to raise the flag but his potential participation in the tradition has not been confirmed. Traditionally because the home opener is alumni day the Seahawks let a prominent member of the franchise’s past raise the flag. If I got to choose who gets to raise the flag, my vote would go to the two retired members of the 2013 world championship team, wide receiver Sidney Rice and fullback Michael Robinson. How cool would it be to see those guys wearing their Super Bowl rings raise the flag with the presence of the Vince Lombardi trophy? That would be very special.

Prediction: I am going to be bold. This game will NOT end in a Hail Mary touchdown. Yep, I went there. Instead I believe this will not be the offensive shootout people may think will happen. The Seahawks defense will do a decent job putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers but Rodgers will still manage to throw for a pair of touchdowns. Russell Wilson will throw a touchdown to Doug Baldwin and Marshawn Lynch will add a touchdown on the ground. The Seahawks will take advantage of Green Bay turnovers and turn them into additional points. The game will be close for the majority of the night, but a couple of late Seattle field goals will doom the Packers. The Seahawks will go to 1-0 and take a couple of days off before preparing for their week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Seahawks 23, Packers 14

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for me Packers/Seahawks review. To everyone attending have a great time. For everyone watching on television, enjoy the game! Go Seahawks!

Down to 53

30 Aug

Seahawks OL Garry Gilliam, Photo Credit: facebook.com/OneDeliciousLife

Seahawks OL Garry Gilliam, Photo Credit: facebook.com/OneDeliciousLife

The Seahawks have made their final cuts and the 53-man roster we currently hold (for now) is the group that will take the field in 5 days when the Seahawks host the Green Bay Packers. Here is a breakdown of the Seahawks transactions from Saturday.

Contracts Terminated

OT Eric Winston

CB Phillip Adams

 

Waived

QB B.J. Daniels

QB Terrelle Pryor

RB Demitrius Bronson (Bronson was re-added to the roster after the 75-man roster cut down)

RB Spencer Ware

FB Kiero Small

WR Arceto Clark

WR Chris Matthews

WR Bryan Walters

TE RaShaun Allen

TE Morrell Presley

OL Caylin Hauptmann

OL Nate Isles

OL Patrick Lewis

DL Benson Mayowa

DL Andru Pulu

DL Jimmy Staten

LB Korey Toomer

DB Akeem Auguste

DB Terrance Parks

DB Steven Terrell

 

Placed on Injured Reserve

DT D’Anthony Smith

The Seahawks also made a trade, trading a 2015 6th round draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Marcus Burley. Burley is in his second year after spending his rookie season on the practice squads of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, and St. Louis Rams. Indianapolis signed Burley to a future contract following the 2013 season. With 5 other cornerbacks on the roster, I do not expect Burley to see much playing time right away and I could see him being waived and placed on our practice squad at some point this season.

To me, none of these moves are a shocking surprise. The only cut that slightly surprised me was that of offensive tackle Eric Winston who was signed during the first week of training camp as our potential starting right tackle. The dramatic improvement of rookie Justin Britt made Winston expendable and it is now clear that Britt will be our starting right tackle on Thursday night.

Among the players who made the Seahawks final roster here are some brief thoughts:

The decision to waive both Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels opened up an extra roster spot at a talent-filled position such as wide receiver. The Seahawks kept 7 wide receivers on the active roster. Congratulations to Kevin Norwood and Phil Bates for snagging the final two spots.

I am surprised to see offensive lineman Stephen Schilling make the final roster. Schilling, a product of Bellevue High School, looked average at best during the preseason but he was also able to fill in at center, a position where the Seahawks are thinner than you would think. He will likely be a third stringer at both guard and center.

The Seahawks have the most talented roster from top to bottom in the National Football League. To make our final roster is impressive but making our final roster as an undrafted rookie is even more impressive. A huge congratulations goes out to offensive lineman Garry Gilliam and linebacker Brock Coyle for making the Seahawks roster. Both of these guys worked their butts off during training camp and their hard work has paid off big time. Gilliam will be a third string offensive lineman while Coyle will likely see playing time on special teams as well as being middle linebacker Bobby Wagner’s primary backup.

Review: Raiders 41, Seahawks 31

28 Aug

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks took their first offensive possession 80 yards in 1:45 to quickly take a 7-0 lead. What followed was a combination of poor defense, bad penalties, and overall terrible fundamental football. The Seahawks fell 41-31 to the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night concluding their preseason with a 2-2 record. Before we turn the page to the regular season and our week 1 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, let’s take one final look back at Thursday’s loss.

Thoughts on the “Starting” Defense: My hope was to see the entire Seahawks starting defense play the first defensive series of the game. Every projected starter was on the field except Bruce Irvin and Michael Bennett, and it was my expectation that the defense could easily halt what I believed to be a shaky-at-best Raiders starting offense. I was left surprised and disappointed. Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr led a 12 play, 68 yard drive culminating in a Latavius Murray touchdown run, tying the game at 7-7. Following this series the Legion of Boom exited the game and with select members of the starting unit still on the field later in the first quarter, they could not prevent a 36-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Denarius Moore on the next Oakland offensive play from scrimmage. The starting defense played with no visible motivation to stop the opposing offense. They played as if they just wanted the drive to end as quickly as possible so they could end their night without getting injured. I think that Green Bay may have been the overpowering thought on their minds instead of stopping the Oakland offense. As disappointing as this first part of the game was, I am fully confident the starters will shake this off and be ready for the Packers next week.

Backups “On the Bubble” Fail to Step Up: The play of the entire team was bad on the whole but select players who are fighting for the last roster spots did not improve their stock on Thursday night. I am singling out two players in particular; wide receiver Bryan Walters and cornerback Phillip Adams. Let’s start with Walters. The biggest mistake Walters made against the Raiders was fumbling a kickoff following a decent return, a fumble that was recovered by the Raiders. This mishap seemed to overshadow the rest of Walters’s night on special teams, as he returned 5 kicks total for 137 yards, an average return of 27.4 yards. He also led the Seahawks in receiving with 3 catches, 47 yards, and one touchdown. The unfortunate part of Walters’s night was that his fumble happened so early in the game that it made the rest of his night seem underachieving.

Much like with Bryan Walters, Phillip Adams also had a negative play overshadow the rest of his performance. Adams was the man Denarius Moore beat with ease on a double move on his first quarter touchdown catch. Adams looked hardly like a shutdown corner and looked to be light-years away from the talent of even Byron Maxwell. Adams led all defensive players with 6 tackles and he also added a pass defensed. In the box score, both of these players looked to have great nights but when you dive into the film, both of these players looked below average and in my opinion their job security could now be in serious jeopardy.

Penalties a Gigantic Problem: The Seahawks were flagged 12 times for 95 yards. Several of these penalties were stupid mental errors that should never happen. 25 percent of the Seahawks penalties were offside fouls on kickoffs, a penalty that the Seahawks were not penalized for once last season. This was a very frustrating game to watch as many of these penalties negated plays that would have picked up first downs and extended drives for the Seahawks offense. In the preseason the Seahawks averaged just under 10 penalties per game, and racked up an average of 83.5 penalty yards per game. After seeing a decrease in penalties from week 1 to week 3 of the preseason, the Seahawks penalties spiked dramatically in week 4 and I am now worried how clean of a game we will play next week. Penalties should be a primary focus in practice this week with the regular season on deck.

Road Worries?: The Seahawks went 0-2 on the road this preseason. I know it is the preseason but is it still too early to wonder if this team will struggle mightily on the road like they have in years past? Last season the Seahawks went 5-3 on the road, ending a streak of 7 straight seasons with a sub .500 record away from home. The way it is looking thus far the Seahawks could be in for a rude awakening when we hit the road in the regular season. I am confident but I am starting to wonder if last season’s performance on the road was simply an outlier on a history of struggles playing away from the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field.

A Silver Lining: Among all of the frustration there is still a crystal clear silver lining. Russell Wilson moved the ball with ease to start the game and that is what we have to look forward to for the rest of the season. Do you think we would have struggled like we did if Russell Wilson played longer? With Russell Wilson in command of the starting offense, I believe we have very little to worry about. Thursday was just a preseason game. Let’s see what this offense and this team can do once the regular season starts.

Thoughts on Oakland: The play of Derek Carr left me very impressed and I am wondering if it will be Carr not Matt Schaub who gets the nod as the Raiders week 1 starting quarterback. Carr showed incredible awareness, made smart reads, and completed passes on the money. The future may be bright in Oakland with Carr at the helm. The Raiders defense looked putrid to start but settled down and played a decent game overall. The Raiders look to be better than the 4-12 team that took the field last year. Having said this, at this point I still believe this team is incredibly raw and they are looking at anywhere between 5 and 7 wins in 2014.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks went with the Super Bowl XLVIII uniform combo; white jerseys and blue pants. My prediction was correct! The Raiders went with their classic black jersey/silver pants combination… Ed Hochuli was the referee this week and it was evident that he was still in preseason form. Hochuli made several mistakes announcing his calls ranging from pointing in the wrong direction after penalties to even calling the Raiders the “Los Angeles Raiders” at the coin flip. Hochuli was visibly frustrated with himself after realizing his third mistake, cussing himself out after turning off his microphone… The announced attendance at O.co Coliseum was 50,831 which greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought the Raiders would draw considerably lower for it being the last preseason game. The majority of the crowd also stayed through the end of the game which surprised me… Good thing we didn’t agree to a $5 bet before the game Josh.

The preseason is over. Thank the Lord. The Seahawks now have until 1pm Saturday to make the necessary moves to trim our active roster down to 53 players. I will hop back on with reaction to our roster moves this weekend. Also we are one week away from NFL Kickoff 2014. Look for my preview of our game against Green Bay next Wednesday. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Hawks!

Seahawks/Raiders Preview

27 Aug

raiders preview 2014

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders

Site: O.co Coliseum (Oakland, California)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks are one week away from kicking off the regular season. Two things stand in their way; final roster cuts and Thursday’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders. The Seahawks have a 2-1 preseason record and are coming off a 34-6 throttling of the Chicago Bears. The Raiders are 1-2 and are back home after losing in Green Bay last week 31-21. This is the 9th straight season the Seahawks conclude the preseason against the Raiders and this is the first time since 2010 that the preseason finale is played in Oakland. The starters will see little to no playing time in this game. I expect Russell Wilson and the starting offense to play only the first series. These are the players and storylines I will be watching before the Seahawks set their regular season roster on Saturday.

The first defensive series of this game will likely be the only time our starting defense will play in full before the start of the regular season. Head Coach Pete Carroll is optimistic that middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin will be available this week. If that is the case, the Seahawks will start their entire projected starting defense against the Raiders. This unit will only see one series as a whole, with selected players possibly seeing expanded playing time. On the offensive side of the ball, I expect Russell Wilson will only lead one drive in the first quarter before turning the job over to Tarvaris Jackson and Terrelle Pryor. With the way the Seahawks have been playing so far in the preseason, is it too farfetched to expect the Seahawks to hold a 7-0 lead after the first two drives of the game? That is my expectation for the first quarter of play on Thursday night.

The fourth and final preseason game is a job interview for many players on both teams. A strong performance in the preseason finale could be the difference between making the 53-man roster to start the season or getting cut. My main interests going into this game include a single player and an entire position group. On defense my eye will be on defensive end Benson Mayowa. Mayowa impressed coaches and fans in the 2013 preseason with 11 tackles and 3.5 sacks but he has been virtually nonexistent thus far this year, recording only 4 tackles and ½ of a sack. Mayowa is fighting to fit into the pass rush rotation but with O’Brien Schofield, Greg Scruggs back from injury, and rookie Cassius Marsh, there may simply be no room for him. I believe Mayowa must have a very strong performance against Oakland to even be a consideration to make our 2014 roster.

After the Seahawks selected wide receiver Paul Richardson in the 2014 NFL Draft, conversations started about the depth and talent the Seahawks have loaded at wide receiver. This catapulted discussions that by the end of the preseason some tough roster decisions will have to be made and the Seahawks will be forced to release some strong talent at the position. The Seahawks will likely only keep 6 wide receivers on the active roster. Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse are all presumed locks to make the team, leaving three spots up for grabs to 8 different receivers. In my opinion, the Seahawks will also hold on to Richardson and Ricardo Lockette which will leave one final spot to be won by Phil Bates, Bryan Walters, or fellow rookie Kevin Norwood. What makes this position group difficult to cut is that each player adds their own unique talents and traits. Lockette has shown flashes of good speed and hands on offense, Walters is a solid special teams contributor with kick return capability, and Bates is one of Russell Wilson’s most reliable targets in practice. I will be watching Lockette, Bates, and Walters closely this week on offense.

The Oakland Raiders enter 2014 with an interesting mix of raw young talent and veteran leadership. The Raiders are led on offense by newly-acquired quarterback Matt Schaub however it will be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who sees the majority of playing time this week. The Raiders have also added offensive skill-position talent in running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones. On defense, the Raiders have added defensive linemen Antonio Smith and Justin Tuck to help a pass rush that was mostly ineffective in 2013. Oakland upgraded their linebacker corps by drafting Khalil Mack with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Raiders also upgraded their secondary by adding a pair of veteran cornerbacks; Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. All of these moves express the effort to improve a unit that gave up the 5th most passing yards per game last season. What makes this game hard to analyze is that even though we play the Raiders later this season, we will see a mere shell of the team that we will host on November 2nd, much like the shell of us that the Raiders will see this week. Seahawks/Raiders preseason matchups in past years have been mostly noncompetitive, with the Seahawks jumping out to a big early lead and holding it. If this game remains close later into the second half I believe that will point to the Raiders being an overall better team in 2014.

Random Thoughts: My Seahawks uniform prediction this week: white jerseys with blue pants. Just a guess… For one last time Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week… This trip marks only the 4th time the Seahawks have played in Oakland since moving to the NFC West in 2002… The baseball infield will be present this week since the Athletics have not concluded their season yet. The Raiders are now the only team in the NFL who has to deal with the dirt infield for the first half of their season. It’s just another reason why the Raiders either need to build a new stadium or move to, say, Los Angeles???… My guess is that the Seahawks will treat this week like a normal regular season game week since they start the season next Thursday. The Seahawks will likely play the Raiders on Thursday, watch film on Friday, trim the roster to 53 players on the off day Saturday, and begin practice and preparation for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Prediction: The Seahawks offense will drive down the field with ease and score a touchdown on their first series of the game. To counter, the starting defense will force Oakland to punt on their first drive of the game. The Seahawks backups led by Tarvaris Jackson will maintain the lead and the Seahawks will win, ending their preseason with a 3-1 record. The Seahawks will not light up the scoreboard like they have the past couple of weeks but they will hold a comfortable lead over the Raiders throughout the second half.

Seahawks 24, Raiders 7

Check back late Thursday night/early Friday morning for my game review. Enjoy the game and Go Hawks!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 570 other followers