Tag Archives: james carpenter

Broncos/Seahawks Preview

13 Aug
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Denver Broncos at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

Football is finally back. Seahawks fans never really had the opportunity to wash the bad taste of last season out of their mouth. Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson at the end of Super Bowl XLIX and football faded to the back of our minds, leaving us bitter for 6 long months. On Friday the Seahawks take the field for the first time since that disastrous February evening, opening up preseason play against the defending AFC West champion Denver Broncos. This will be the fifth consecutive year the Seahawks and Broncos face off in the preseason with Seattle winning the last three matchups. Since this is the first preseason game we will not see the starters play very much, perhaps a series or two in the first quarter. This first preseason game will distinguish which position battles we should be keeping an eye on. This is also an opportunity for bubble players to make a good first impression. I will not really be focusing on the opposition during the preseason; I will keep my focus on our team, from roster spot 1 all the way to roster spot 90. Here are a few things I will be keeping my eye on this week.

The top offensive position to watch this season is the wide receivers. It is widely believed that the Seahawks will only keep 6 wide receivers on the final roster. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse may be the only two “locks” at the position. I believe Ricardo Lockette, Paul Richardson, and rookie Tyler Lockett are in good position to earn roster spots. Realistically the final one or two wide receiver roster spots will belong to Chris Matthews, Kevin Norwood, and even possibly local kid Kasen Williams. Of “bubble” players I believe the one with the most catches and/or receiving yards against Denver will earn a leg up on the rest of the competition for a roster spot. Look for Norwood and Williams to get a considerable amount of playing time this week.

Right off the bat I am interested to see who will start along the offensive line. With the departures of Max Unger and James Carpenter, the Seahawks did not make it a priority during free agency or the first part of the NFL Draft to add depth along the line. Alvin Bailey is projected to start at left guard while Lemuel Jeanpierre is listed as the starting center on the Seahawks first official depth chart of training camp. Keep an eye on the center battle. Jeanpierre might get the first crack at playing time but it was Patrick Lewis who started in Unger’s place down the stretch last season.

On defense there is a lot of buzz around one of our linebackers. This week I am putting my X-Factor Player to Watch spotlight on outside linebacker Eric Pinkins. Pinkins was drafted as a cornerback who has converted to linebacker and the coaching staff is very excited about him. Coach Carroll has said during camp that Pinkins “Plays very fast, a 4.4 guy playing on the edge who seems to be the most improved guy.” This leads me to believe that Pinkins may join the likes of Bruce Irvin, Cassius Marsh, and rookie Frank Clark in our pass rushing rotation. I expect Pinkins to see a lot of playing time this week.

On the first Broncos offensive possession, likely with backup quarterback Brock Osweiler at the helm, I would fully expect him to go after the “Legion of Whom.” With Kam Chancellor holding out and Earl Thomas likely sitting out while rehabbing, our secondary will look completely different at the start of the game. DeShawn Shead will likely start at strong safety this week and I fully expect Osweiler to attempt to stretch the field to attempt to challenge our raw players and put early points on the board.

Random Thoughts: White on white for the Broncos and blue on blue for the Seahawks uniform wise this week… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call for Q13 FOX this week. Got to love those local broadcasts (good thing I’ll be at the game)… Walt Anderson is the referee for this week’s game… This week I’m taking a friend and co-worker of mine. He’s a San Diego native who says he’s going to be “that guy” by wearing his Philip Rivers Chargers jersey. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Seahawks game with someone who is neutral to the matchup… Will most likely be at Elysian before the game… I’m excited to see what the new Toyota Fan Deck looks like. During the renewal process the Seahawks sent out the seating and pricing map for 2015 and it turns out it would have cost me $20 more total to move to the Toyota Fan Deck. Pay more for a worse view? No thanks, Seahawks… Always nice to be back at CenturyLink after a 7 month break. Here is a pro and con of the preseason: Pro, all the beautiful women wearing skin-tight jerseys. Con, many season ticket holders give their tickets away to friends and family aka “fair weather fans.” During the preseason it would be wise for the Seahawks to pass out “Cheering for Dummies” books because the fans ALWAYS scream when we are on offense. To all those non STH’s going to this week’s game, offense = quiet; defense = loud. Thank you.

Prediction: A lot of rust will be knocked off this week. Neither starting offensive unit will score points in the first quarter. I expect Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson to play in the first half and would not be surprised to see R.J. Archer play the second half. If Osweiler plays the majority of the game for Denver they may have the leg up this week. The Seahawks may lose, but there will be a lot to work on as we head back for another week of training camp.

Broncos 17, Seahawks 9

Check back early Saturday morning for my review of our first preseason game. Go Hawks!

2015 NFL Draft: Five Good Fits

29 Apr

Over the past 2 months I have scouted over 300 incoming rookies and analyzed hours upon hours of their game film dating back to the NFL Scouting Combine back in February. I have narrowed these players to a short list of about 35 players I would love to see the Seahawks draft this weekend. Of the players on my board, there is a shorter list of 5 players I believe would be perfect fits Darrell Bevell’s offense or Kris Richard’s defense. I would be over-the-moon ecstatic to see the Seahawks select any of the following players on either Friday or Saturday.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Laken Tominson, Offensive Guard, Duke

There is no question that the Seahawks are desperate for offensive line depth, especially after the trade of center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints and losing guard James Carpenter to the New York Jets in free agency. Laken Tomlinson from Duke would be a perfect fit in the middle of the line. Tomlinson is a fantastic run blocker and an excellent pass blocker, especially down field on screen passes. He is a tough player who bullies his opponents. Offensive linemen usually do not get mentioned on the television broadcast of their games but Tomlinson’s name was brought up positively several times on each game of his I watched. I do not think he would come into camp as the definite starter at left guard, but I believe an open competition between him and Alvin Bailey could put Tomlinson in a fantastic position to win the job.

Projected Round: 3

Photo Credit: imgkid.com

Photo Credit: imgkid.com

Danielle Hunter, Defensive End, LSU

Explosive pass rushers can oftentimes be very hard to find after the first round. I believe that LSU’s Danielle Hunter is the best “second day” pass rusher available and could very much still be on the board when the Seahawks pick at #63 overall. Hunter is extremely fast off the line of scrimmage and he does not have any problems getting past his initial blocker. He does a great job of collapsing the pocket even if he himself cannot get to the quarterback. He has a relentless motor that I believe will not keep John Schneider wary of his on-field effort. Hunter is arguably the best defensive lineman I watched film on and could be a steal for the Seahawks at the end of the second round.

Projected Round: 3

Photo Credit: zimbio.com

Photo Credit: zimbio.com

Kenny Bell, Wide Receiver, Nebraska

In a talent-rich wide receiver class, Kenny Bell from Nebraska stood out to me. He is Nebraska’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards and was a team captain in 2014. He was widely regarded as Nebraska’s most respected player during his time there which I believe would blend tremendously with the leadership the Seahawks possess, especially with Russell Wilson as his potential quarterback. On the field he possesses many traits that would put him right in the middle of the wide receiver rotation in 2015. Bell is 6’1 which would buck the trend of shorter receivers on our roster. Bell can line all over but could best be used on the outside as either a flanker or split end. Bell runs his routes with great timing and adjusts his routes extremely well to put himself in the best position to make the catch. He also has great hands and is nearly immune to dropping passes. That’s not to say he doesn’t drop a pass every once in a blue moon because he does. Bell’s most impressive on-field trait perhaps is his breakaway speed on vertical routes, which would give Wilson a very dependable and trustworthy weapon when throwing deep.

Projected Round: 5

Photo Credit: bluegoldsports.com

Photo Credit: bluegoldsports.com

Ben Heeney, Middle Linebacker, Kansas

To me, Heeney is a poor man’s Luke Kuechly. He carries many similar traits on the field to that of Kuechly but his projection as a day three pick goes to show there may be a bit of uncertainly. I like him and selecting him could provide a solid player to compete with Brock Coyle and Heath Farwell for the backup middle linebacker job. Heeney does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes but he can be a bit hesitant committing where to go when the quarterback drops back to pass. He is a solid fundamental tackler and always seems to go low to wrap up the ball carrier. His biggest weakness is that he is not a bully, and his tenacity comes into question. Nevertheless I believe he would be a solid player to take a flyer on in the later rounds of the draft.

Projected Round: 6

Photo Credit: Rant Sports

Photo Credit: Rant Sports

Clayton Geathers, Safety, Central Florida

In a rather underwhelming class of safeties, I wound up getting really excited while watching tape of Central Florida’s Clayton Geathers. I believe Geathers is the closest thing to Kam Chancellor this draft has to offer. Geathers is a punisher who is not afraid to lay a big hit on a receiver going over the middle. He plays tight coverage and does a great job in pass coverage but at times he can be overeager. One play really stood out to me, an interception he made last season against the University of Houston. Geathers jumping in front of the pass, picking it off, and running it back to the house for a touchdown was almost a spitting image of Chancellor’s pick-six in the playoffs against Carolina. I believe he would fit extremely well in the Legion of Boom. He is absolutely my favorite defensive player available and would be an absolute steal in the last round of the draft. I project him as a 7th rounder but it honestly would not surprise me one bit to see him selected in round 5 or even as early as round 4 if a team is as in love with him as I am.

Projected Round: 7

Thoughts on the Jimmy Graham Trade

10 Mar
The Seahawks acquired TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints Tuesday (Photo Credit: neworleanssaints.com)

The Seahawks acquired TE Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints Tuesday (Photo Credit: Michael Hebert, neworleanssaints.com)

Today’s sequence of events proves two things; that anything is possible, and that head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider will go to any great length to improve this roster. The Seahawks were not expected to swim around the possibility of adding a big name when the new league year and free agency began on Tuesday, but they certainly made a big splash. The Seahawks traded center Max Unger and their 2015 1st round draft pick (#31 overall) to the New Orleans Saints for tight end Jimmy Graham and the Saints 4th round draft pick (#109 overall). With this one move numerous points have come to the surface that I believe must be discussed. Here are my thoughts on today’s trade.

Adding Graham: There is no question that Jimmy Graham instantly becomes the best receiver on the Seahawks roster. Graham is a three-time pro bowler and 2013 All-Pro who is a matchup nightmare for any opposing defense. For 5 years we have watched Graham and Saints quarterback Drew Brees connect for 54 total touchdowns. Only the tandem of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski had more touchdowns in this span.

What I am not so hot on is the Seahawks inheriting Graham’s $9 million salary for 2015, making him the second highest paid offensive player on the roster. With Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Marshawn Lynch having already signed lucrative deals with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner also due to cash in soon, I believe that this move may make sense only in the short term. After this upcoming season things could get very interesting. And complicated.

Graham will certainly see his fair share of targets and his presence in red zone will certainly improve the 20th ranked red zone offense last season. I believe the Seahawks need to add another weapon on the outside but adding Graham is certainly a good start to making our offense more explosive vertically.

Losing Unger: I am honestly more concerned about the ramifications that come with trading Max Unger. With Unger going to New Orleans the Seahawks are not only losing a pro bowl offensive lineman, but they are thinning out a position group that I believe could not afford to get any thinner. As of now Seattle’s starting center is Patrick Lewis. Add in the departure of James Carpenter to the New York Jets and the Seahawks currently have Alvin Bailey plugged in as our starting left guard. In regards to trading Unger I believe this means one of three things. Either:

  1. The Seahawks are comfortable going into 2015 with Patrick Lewis as our starting center (The Seahawks proved they could win without Unger at the end of last season, going 6-0 in the final 6 regular season games, all of which Unger was injured).
  2. John Schneider has his eyes on a free agent center that he may look to bring in to replace Unger. (Jonathan Goodwin and Chris Myers are the best available veteran free agent centers according to ESPN).
  3. Schneider has fallen in love with a center in the 2015 draft who he believes could still be on the board when the Seahawks make their first pick (#62 overall).

Time will tell but at this point I cannot simply say one team won this trade and the other lost. Both teams are giving up a significant player but are receiving a significant player in return. If the Seahawks use Graham just like he was used in New Orleans, it is going to be awfully difficult to stop our offense in 2015.

Seahawks/49ers Preview

26 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

Site: Levi’s Stadium (Santa Clara, California)

Kickoff: 5:30pm

For the fourth time in team history and the first time since 2008, the 12th Man is rewarded with the ultimate Thanksgiving trifecta; family, food, and Seahawks football. This week the Seahawks travel to the Silicon Valley to play the San Francisco 49ers in the third game of the NFL Thanksgiving tripleheader. This will be the first time the Seahawks play at the 49ers new home, Levi’s Stadium and they hope that a change of scenery in the Bay Area will bring us good luck. The Seahawks have lost 5 straight road games against the 49ers. The Seahawks lead the all-time series with the 49ers 16-15 and their last meeting has gone down as one of the greatest games in Seahawks history. To refresh your memory Seattle beat San Francisco 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game, culminating in “The Tip;” Richard Sherman’s tipped pass intended for Michael Crabtree which was intercepted by Malcolm Smith which sealed the win for Seattle and sent the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII and an eventual world championship. Many people thought that the Seahawks and 49ers would be fighting for the NFC West title once again this season but right now this matchup will likely determine who has a leg up on securing just a wild-card playoff berth. The winner will also keep their chances of winning the division alive while the loser will be at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the season. Here is what I will be looking for on Thursday.

Just like last week I believe that the Seahawks may struggle to move the ball and score points. With Max Unger out another week and James Carpenter’s status at left guard up in the air the Seahawks offensive line may struggle once again to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, especially since we are playing on the road against a quality San Francisco pass defense. This week the Seahawks may need to get creative to move the ball. A heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch will be necessary and I would like to see offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell let Wilson run in a similar manner which parallels how they used him in the running game against Arizona last week. In the passing game I will have my eyes on Jermaine Kearse. I believe that Wilson may try to open things up on the outside and Kearse may be his primary read due to Kearse’s height advantage on San Francisco cornerbacks Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver.

I have full confidence that the Seahawks defense can stop 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. There are two main things our defense needs to do this week. The first is to spread out, putting pressure on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pocket but not allowing him to scramble to pick up big chunks of yards. The best way to do this may be to dial up more nickel and dime plays and send slot corner Jeremy Lane among over members of the secondary on blitzes. We haven’t see a lot of this so far in the season if at all, so to throw something at the San Francisco offense they have not seen on film may confuse them, giving us an advantage. The second thing the Seahawks defense needs to do is protect the middle of the field on possible intermediate and long third down conversion attempts. We were unable to get a sample of this last week with Drew Stanton at quarterback and after watching film we may see Kaepernick try to throw short passes near the first down marker unless we can put ample pressure on him to force bad throws. The Seahawks have struggled on stopping third down conversions on the road throughout the season.

One other thing I want to see this week is on special teams. I want to see solid coverage on kickoffs to not allow the 49ers to start their offensive drives with great field position. Last week the Seahawks started a lot of their drives with great field position and it may have made the difference between us kicking 4 field goals and having to punt. We cannot let the 49ers have a short field to work with because they will take advantage by moving the ball just enough to score some kind of points much like we were able to do on Sunday. Fundamental tackling will be more important and more of a focus this week than any other week.

Three seasons ago the San Francisco 49ers had the best defense in the league; a defense that did not allow a rushing touchdown through their first 15 games of the 2011 season. It was a defense that no team wanted to face. In the three years since, a lot of talent has come and gone but the 49ers still sport enough talent on defense to be one of the better units in the NFL. Aldon Smith continues to be one of the scariest pass rushers in football and defensive lineman Ray McDonald and linebacker Ahmad Brooks add veteran stability to the front seven. This week however I put a focus on the young, emerging talent of the 49ers defense. My X-Factor player to watch this week for San Francisco is rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland. Borland, from the University of Wisconsin, was a player that I wanted to see the Seahawks select in the middle rounds of the 2014 draft. With a season-ending injury to perennial all-pro Patrick Willis, Borland has gotten his opportunity to start and has made the most of it, compiling 71 tackles, a pair of interceptions, and an NFC defensive player of the week honor two weeks ago. In the 5 games since Willis’s injury, Borland has averaged almost 13 tackles per game. Borland is a ball hawk who will be in on almost every play especially in the running game. His awareness and ability to understand how a play is going to develop makes him a very scary weapon for the 49ers. Do not be surprised to hear Borland’s name on the television broadcast several times on Thursday night.

Random Thoughts: Earlier this week I tweeted to the Seahawks if this would be a #WolfGreyThanksgiving. I did not hear back and as of now it is unclear whether the Seahawks will wear white or wolf grey jerseys this week. With 3 more road games and one more opportunity to wear wolf grey, that gives us a 33 percent chance of wearing our alternates this week. The 49ers will wear their traditional look of red jerseys and gold pants… Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth have the call for NBC with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines… I have no confirmation but I am hearing there is a strong possibility the referee for this week’s game is Tony Corrente… It’s disappointing that the Seahawks don’t get the chance to host this game. It would have been an incredible experience to move our family’s Thanksgiving dinner up to the early afternoon (or me skip it altogether), head down to the stadium and go to a game on a day where the entire country practically shuts down. That is the nice thing about the third Thanksgiving game the NFL added back in 2006. It gives other teams and cities other than Detroit and Dallas the opportunity to host a game on Thanksgiving. Hopefully one year in the not-so-distant future CenturyLink Field and the Seahawks get to host a game on Thanksgiving… Here are a couple of random Thanksgiving thoughts for the week. When it comes to turkey, dark meat is superior to white meat. Dark meat is moist and more flavorful. It is a shame that the majority of any given turkey is white meat and dark meat comes at a premium. Anybody who disagrees and has a valid argument as to why can comment or find me on Twitter @EricHansman… Stove Top is also my stuffing of choice. I know that is a topic of argument that I know I will not win… The good news and the bad news: The good news is that after this game we will have 10 days off to get ready for Philadelphia. The bad news is that we play this game, our biggest rival with a lot at stake on 4 days rest. If we can somehow come away with this win I believe our chances of making the playoffs exponentially skyrocket.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: We are now at the point in the season where fans need to be aware of the Seahawks playoff chances and the playoff chances of the teams around us. It is finally time for me to fire up my weekly playoff outlook!

The Seahawks currently sit 2 games behind the Arizona Cardinals for first place in the NFC West. The winner of this game will gain a half game on Arizona while the loser will fall to 2 ½ games behind the Cardinals and will likely be competing for a wild-card playoff spot for the duration of the regular season. In my eyes, 2 of the other 4 NFC divisions will come down to two teams each. One of those teams will win the division while the other will be in the fight for a wild-card berth. Including Seattle and San Francisco, that means I believe 4 teams will be fighting for 2 wild-card spots. Here are this week’s games that have NFC playoff implications. Teams to note are bolded.

THURSDAY

Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4)

Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3)

SUNDAY

Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)

New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3)

Prediction: Prepare to have your hearts broken 12th Man. The Seahawks will field a punt deep in their own territory with 3:30 left in the game holding a 13-6 lead. On first down Russell Wilson will roll to the right and throw a pass that is tipped up into the air. The pass will fall incomplete. Marshawn Lynch will take the second down handoff for a gain of 4 yards and San Francisco will call their final timeout. Wilson’s third down pass attempt will be batted down at the line of scrimmage. Instead of possibly getting the clock down to the two-minute warning, the Seahawks will punt and the 49ers will have roughly 3:00 to go 75 yards. A long Colin Kaepernick scramble deep into Seahawks territory will get the ball into the redzone and Kaepernick will scramble one more time for a touchdown with 25 seconds left to play. The Seahawks will lose yet another game thanks to the terrible play calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and the team will head back to Seattle 7-5. I hope I am wrong.

49ers 14, Seahawks 13

Check back late Thursday night or early Friday morning for my game review. Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the game everyone. Go Seahawks!

Review: Seahawks 19, Cardinals 3

23 Nov
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

After what happened on Sunday afternoon it is hard for me to wonder what I was so worried about going into this week’s game. The Seattle Seahawks were able to keep their hopes at the NFC West division title alive as they easily defeated the Arizona Cardinals 19-3. With the win the Seahawks improve their record to 7-4 and with the Cardinals falling to 9-2 Seattle now sits two games behind Arizona for first place in the division. As refreshing as this win was and as great of a game we played on defense, I saw a few things on offense that still have me worried. Let me share my brief thoughts on this game.

Special Teams Sets Offense Up For Success: Bryan Walters and DeShawn Shead played key roles in the success of the Seahawks special teams unit on Sunday. Walters had his longest punt return of the season, a 21-yard return at the end of the first quarter. Shead blocked an Arizona punt which gave the Seahawks the ball on the Cardinals 24-yard line which ultimately led to a Steven Hauschka field goal. The Cardinals gave Seattle the ball 9 times on punts, punt blocks, and missed field goals on Sunday. Four of those first 6 drives started from inside Arizona territory, giving the Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks offense a short field to work with.

Offense Did Just Enough to Win: Going into this game I predicted that the entire Seahawks offense could be in for a rough day at the office from a statistical production standpoint. Thanks in large part to the special teams as previously noted, the offense was given fantastic field position on the majority of their drives. The frustrating part was seeing the Seahawks settle for 4 field goals on drives which started from the Arizona 49, the Seattle 44, the Arizona 48 and the Arizona 24 respectively. People get offended when they hear quarterback Russell Wilson referred to as a “game manager” but honestly that is what he had to be this week. Wilson played a fairly conservative game and the strategy worked well as he completed three-quarters of his passes, finishing the day 17/22 for 211 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end Cooper Helfet. On the ground Wilson was Seattle’s leading rusher after the dominant front seven of the Cardinals was able to bottle up Marshawn Lynch for the majority of the game, as I thought was definitely possible. If the Seahawks had started more of their drives from deeper inside their own territory we would be talking about a much sloppier, defense-oriented game.

Wilson Got Dirty: Take away the fact that the Seahawks were at home and take away the fact that we were playing a very sub-par opposing offense. The Seahawks will not survive another game like the one we played on Sunday if our pass protection of Russell Wilson does not improve. Wilson was sacked 7 times on Sunday, 5 of which came in the first half alone. This is the second time in Wilson’s career that he has been sacked 7 or more times in a game. The Seahawks offensive line struggled to pick up on Arizona’s blitz schemes all day long and there were several instances where Russell Wilson had no time to throw because the defender was coming at him unblocked. Having Alvin Bailey and Patrick Lewis starting on the interior offensive line is a big problem and I never thought I would say this, but I am really missing James Carpenter at left guard. If the Seahawks are forced to start the duo of Bailey and Lewis again on Thursday night, the Seahawks offense is going to have to get creative to outwit the outstanding pass rush San Francisco will throw at them.

Good to Have You Back, Bobby: Today the Seahawks defense played one of their best games of the season. The run defense in particular played lights out football. One of the main factors on defense was the return of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Wagner led all Seattle defenders in tackles with 8 and he was also able to hit Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton once. The Seahawks held Cardinals running back Andre Ellington to 26 rushing yards on Sunday, the lowest number of yards allowed to an opposing running back all season. One other stat to note is Arizona’s third down conversion rate which was a mere 25 percent on Sunday. With the exception of Brandon Mebane the Seahawks defense is now at full strength when we need it the most. Having Wagner back will stabilize the middle of the field and I believe we will see significant improvement in the short passing game in the coming weeks. Drew Stanton did not perform well enough through the air to give us a sample of our short to intermediate pass defense. Next week against Colin Kaepernick that may be a completely different story.

Thoughts on Arizona: I think this is going to be an interesting stretch of the season for the Arizona Cardinals. The goal? Survive long enough to outlast the emerging Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. I believe this team is a playoff-caliber team but I am not convinced that they can even hold on to win the NFC West. I understand not having Larry Fitzgerald really hurt their offense on Sunday but they had the talent in Michael Floyd and John Brown to be successful without him. This team will not get very far in the postseason the way they played today. Our week 16 matchup in Arizona will definitely give all of us a better gage as to where the Cardinals are headed come January.

Random Thoughts: All navy and all white for the Seahawks and Cardinals respectively this week just as I predicted… Gene Steratore is one of my favorite referees in the NFL but today I believe there were a few questionable calls that did not go in our favor and it seemed like those penalties all happened in a short window of time. In particular, I do not believe the pass interference called on cornerback Byron Maxwell was PI… 88 Keys is a great place to hang out before the game. Very spacious but there could have been more important games on the bigger televisions and projection screens… A lot of people were late for kickoff. There has to be a bigger effort for future 1:05pm starts to tell fans to get in their seats in time for the start of the game… Former UW and Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy raised the 12th Man flag this week. I’ve always been a fan of Milloy, the man who helped groom half of the Legion of Boom (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor)… The wiener dog races did not disappoint this year as the final heat ended in a photo finish… I need to get more sleep the night before home games. 5 hours of sleep had me feeling like a zombie on Sunday while at the game… We only have 4 days to get ready for once again the biggest game of our season which comes on Thanksgiving night.

In just 3 days I will have my preview of Thursday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers fresh on the blog. Check back Wednesday. Go Hawks!

Chargers/Seahawks Preview

14 Aug
Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: San Diego Chargers at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 7:00pm

The Seahawks will play their first home game since winning Super Bowl XLVIII Friday night as they host the San Diego Chargers. The Seahawks are 0-1 in the preseason and are coming off a 21-16 loss last week at Denver. The Chargers on the other hand got off to a strong preseason start last week, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 27-7. Like last week’s game against Denver, this will be the first of two meetings between the Seahawks and Chargers this season; these two teams will meet in San Diego week 2. This week’s game is simply a building block. I am looking for Seattle to improve areas where they struggled greatly last week. Here are my areas to focus on this week.

This week I want to see the Seahawks move the ball more effectively on offense. There are several parts to making this happen. First, I want to see better play from the offensive line. Last week the Seahawks started only one offensive lineman who started in 2013, J.R. Sweezy. Russell Okung, James Carpenter, and Max Unger all returned to practice this week however it is yet to be seen if these three will see any playing time Friday night. The backup linemen also did not help in the running game last week, as quarterback Terrelle Pryor had to rely on his own feet to pick up yards. Secondly, I want to Robert Turbin to take a firm hold of the backup running back job. Last week Turbin had almost the same number of carries as yards. 5 rushing yards on 4 carries is absolutely not making the most of your opportunity and I think another poor showing by Turbin could open the door for Christine Michael to jump up the depth chart. I feel that Turbin is due for a breakout preseason performance but if he fails to show his worth for the second straight week, we could be entering the second half of the preseason wondering if Robert Turbin is even worthy of making the 53-man roster.

This week is round two of the Tarvaris Jackson/Terrelle Pryor battle to see who will be Russell Wilson’s backup come September. Jackson will likely see action in the second and third quarters with Pryor coming in to finish the game. This week I want to see the offense finish strong, meaning I want to see drastic improvement from Pryor. Last week Jackson took what I believe to be a significant lead over Pryor in the race to be the backup quarterback and a strong performance by Pryor against San Diego will put him back into the conversation, after he took himself out of it last week. With Russell Wilson likely playing into the second quarter, I believe Jackson will see minimal work with Pryor playing the majority of the second half. My honest hope is that the Seahawks are either in a close game or trailing late in the game in order to give Pryor a true pressure packed situation to cut his teeth on, much like last week.

On defense this week there is one overlying thing I want to see. This will be the first time many of our backup defenders get to play alongside the 12th Man. I want to see these players along with the rest of the defense feeding off the energy of the crowd. Last week in Denver the Broncos defense fed off their crowd all game long and it seemed to make a noticeable difference in the way they played. The starters will play the majority of the first quarter, possibly even into the second quarter before handing it over to the young backups. My goal is for the Seahawks second half defense to give up a maximum of 10 points. If Seattle can hold them to single digit points, we will likely walk off the field victorious and it will have me breathing a sigh of relief that our backups are better than what they showed last week.

The San Diego Chargers surprised many people last year, compiling a 9-7 record and making it to the AFC Divisional playoffs. A big reason why they were so successful was the resurrection of quarterback Philip Rivers and the addition of wide receiver Keenan Allen. Despite their offensive success last season, San Diego has maintained all of their skill position players from last season. Wide receivers Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal are likely to make the team but the race for the last couple wide receiver spots is up for grabs to a plethora of players. My X-Factor Player to Watch for San Diego this week is one of those backup receivers, Dontrelle Inman. Inman is currently listed as one of the Chargers third-string receivers but he made the most of his opportunities last week. Against Dallas, Inman caught 3 passes for 107 yards including a 70-yard touchdown grab. Inman is sure to see his share of playing time against the Seahawks and it will likely be up to cornerbacks Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon to stop him.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all blue this week. The Chargers will likely wear white jerseys with navy pants… Pete Morelli is the referee this week… Curt Menefee and Brock Huard have the call once again on Q13 FOX this week… The preseason bores a lot of people but I honestly LOVE the first preseason home game. I get to be back in my seat for the first time in 7 months and it gives me the opportunity to catch up with everyone I sit around… I am wondering how and when the Seahawks will unveil their 2013 banners. It is obvious that we will unveil our 2013 world championship banner before the Packers game, but will we reveal the other two banners (NFC West champions, NFC Champions) in the two preseason games leading up to NFL Kickoff 2014? If so, the Seahawks will likely raise the 2013 NFC West championship banner this week. If not, we will probably raise all 3 before we play Green Bay… I am on antibiotics for the next week-plus so I am obligated not to prefunk both of our home preseason games. I’ll have to figure out a different fun pregame plan… I am glad the weather is going to cooperate this week. The worst thing is to have to bring a sweatshirt to a game being played in a warm weather month… I think this is the first time in the 9 years I’ve been a season ticket holder that we are playing a preseason home game on a Friday night. It will be nice to attend then have the rest of the weekend free.

Prediction: I think that the Seahawks will start the game on defense and force a Philip Rivers interception. Russell Wilson will lead two scoring drives in the first quarter and the Seahawks will have a solid lead after the first quarter. San Diego will tie the game in the third quarter but the Seahawks will take control of the game late, as Terrelle Pryor will scamper for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks will go to 1-1 on the preseason and will get ready to host the Chicago Bears next week in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game.

Seahawks 20, Chargers 13

Check back early Saturday morning for my Chargers game review. Enjoy the game and for those of you attending, have fun. Go Hawks!

2014 NFL Draft (Round 1): Three to Watch

8 May
Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

Photo Credits (L to R): sbnation.com, turnonthejets.com, cbssports.com

The 2014 NFL Draft commences on Thursday night as the first 32 members of the 2014 rookie class will be welcomed into the National Football League. As the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks are currently slotted to pick 32nd in the first round of the draft; the last pick of the first round. After scouting over 250 players that attended the scouting combine, I analyzed game film of 75 of these players, ultimately whittling this list down to 35 players I would like to see the Seahawks draft over the course of this weekend. Barring a trade either up the board or down and out of the first round entirely, here are three players I would like to see the Seahawks select at #32.

Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota): I believe the Seahawks will have the opportunity to draft both the best player available at #32 and a player at a position of need if Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is still on the board. Hageman would be a perfect fit along our defensive line and could be a potential replacement to Red Bryant. Hageman stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs in at 311 pounds. These numbers justify his positional fit as a defensive tackle but his speed justifies why he could be a defensive tackle/defensive end hybrid like Bryant. Hageman has one of the best bursts off the line of scrimmage of any first round defensive line prospect and can penetrate the offensive line well. Hageman is a very good fundamental tackler and has good instincts to know how a play will progress. Beating blocks is his strong suit as he does a very good job shedding blocks and being the first defender to the ball carrier on running plays. A defensive line with Hageman, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane, and Michael Bennett could be a force to be reckoned with, especially on first and second down.

Joel Bitonio (OG, Nevada): In the first round of the draft it is very important to add depth to both the defensive line and the offensive line. In the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era the Seahawks have drafted 3 offensive linemen within the first three rounds of the draft, 2 of which coming in round one (Russell Okung, James Carpenter). At #32 the Seahawks could be in the market to take an offensive lineman and I think the best fit in this spot is Nevada guard Joel Bitonio. Bitonio has been climbing draft boards over the past couple of weeks and the earliest I have seen him go in any mock draft is #26 to the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps the most uncertain position along the Seahawks offensive line is left guard and Bitonio could add solidarity to a unit that had a difficult time keeping Russell Wilson consistently clean over the course of the 2013 season. Among Bitonio’s strengths, he has very good balance and does not allow himself to get bullied by his man. He is a very good pass protector and after watching film I could see strengths in zone blocking on running plays. Bitonio does not collapse the pocket on his own (something Carpenter has struggled with mightily over the course of his career) and Bitonio also works well with the other four guys on the offensive line.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State): Understand that the Seahawks are high on both Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette but with the departure of Golden Tate during free agency, the Seahawks could be in the market to draft another wide receiver. In a draft flooded with wide receiver talent, another toy for Russell Wilson to play with could be the decision Carroll and Schneider come to at #32. If the Seahawks go with a skill position player at #32 my hope is that player will be Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is one of the tallest receivers available which means he will be a matchup problem with most cornerbacks in the league. Benjamin makes fantastic adjustments on the ball while the pass is still in the air and his upper body strength makes it hard for just one defender to tackle him. Benjamin looks the ball into his hands and dropped passes are rare. In addition to being a “raw” prospect there are two areas where Benjamin struggles. He sometimes mistimes his jumps and his ball security is average and must improve.

Review: Seahawks 23, 49ers 17

20 Jan
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Photo Credit: seahawks.com

That may have been the most nail-biting, exciting, nauseating, thrilling Seahawks game I have ever been to. The Seattle Seahawks are heading to New York for Super Bowl XLVIII after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. I honestly do not believe I have ever been on an emotional roller coaster quite like the one I rode for just over three hours on Sunday afternoon. Up next, the Denver Broncos and a crazy two weeks preceding it. For now however, this is what I took out of this game and what needs to happen as we move closer to the biggest game in Seahawks history.

They Kept it Clean: One of the worries heading into this game was how the officials would call it. Many including myself thought that the potential chippy-ness would lead the referees to call the game tighter, allowing the Seahawks to possibly be subject to many questionable calls. All in all the game was not officiated as tight as I thought it would, especially in the secondary. No member of the Legion of Boom was called for pass interference. The only Seahawks penalty in the secondary was a holding call on Richard Sherman in the first half which led to an Anthony Dixon touchdown and a 10-0 San Francisco lead. Other than that one holding call no penalties significantly hurt Seattle in this game and there were no plays that could be “questionable” calls for the duration of the game. Gene Steratore and his officiating crew did a great job of letting the players play; the referees did not dictate the shaping of the game.

Taking Shots: And no I’m not talking about Fireball. I wanted to see Russell Wilson take more shots down the field this week and he did a much better job of stretching the field than last week. Although he still seemed confused and indecisive at times, Wilson went deep several times on Sunday. On vertical passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, Wilson went 3/5 connecting with Doug Baldwin on receptions of 22 and 51 yards and Jermaine Kearse on a 35-yard touchdown pass. The Seahawks had been playing very conservatively over the past few weeks which is a small part as to why our offense has struggled in my eyes. What seemed to help Wilson in this game on his long throws was to utilize his mobility. On his 51-yard connection with Doug Baldwin, Wilson scrambled for more than 5 seconds before seeing that Baldwin has space down the field to make a play. Although it was not Russell Wilson’s most glamorous performance of the season, some of his throws on Sunday should build confidence heading into Super Bowl XLVIII.

Pass Protection Needs to Improve: There was a glaring negative on offense this week and that was the lackluster protection the offensive line gave Russell Wilson. Wilson was sacked 4 times for a combined loss of 22 yards. Although pass protection must improve greatly, I will give credit where credit is due. The San Francisco 49ers continue to be one of the best pass rushing defenses in the National Football League and that was evident on Sunday. Aldon Smith recorded 2 sacks while NaVorro Bowman and Dan Skuta added sacks of their own. In addition to the inconsistent pass protection there is one other huge problem I have with our offensive line which is…

Left Guard Shuffle: Last week the Seahawks started rookie Michael Bowie at left guard and James Carpenter was inactive. This week was the exact opposite with Carpenter starting and Bowie standing on the sidelines inactive. I understand that competition is at the heart of the Seahawks philosophy but now, in the most important games of the season, is not the time to play the left guard shuffle. Stick with who has the hot hand. Who’s to say that Paul McQuistan won’t start against Denver in two weeks? The Seahawks must stabilize the left guard position. I do not want to look past the Super Bowl but I think I may know what the Seahawks should target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Kaepernick’s Wheels Keep 49ers in Game: This game would not have been as close if the Seahawks defense had been able to stop Colin Kaepernick from scrambling in the first half. Highlighted by a 58-yard scramble, Kaepernick led all 49ers rushers with 130 rushing yards, 114 more yards than the next leading San Francisco rusher and 116 yards more than primary running back Frank Gore. The quickness of Kaepernick fooled the Seahawks defense for much of the first half and the Seahawks did a fantastic job of making the necessary adjustments at halftime to shut Kaepernick down in the second half. Aside from Kaepernick’s legs he did not do a whole lot. Kaepernick ended the day 14/24 for 153 yards passing with one touchdown and 2 interceptions, each of tremendous importance and which ultimately cost the 49ers the chance to play in the Super Bowl.

“It Was Only a Matter of Time”: The 49ers led the turnover battle at halftime 1-0 and right before the start of the second half my Dad leaned over to tell me that it was time for Colin Kaepernick to screw up; that we had shut him down through the air in the first half and that it was only a matter of time before he made a mistake. The 49ers made 3 mistakes in the second half and Kaepernick made two of them. The first came with 7:37 remaining in the game when Kaepernick dropped back and tried to get the ball to Michael Crabtree on the far side but instead threw it right into the hands of Kam Chancellor. That turnover resulted in an insurance field goal to make the game 23-17 Seahawks. The second mistake turned out to be the biggest play of the year, and perhaps the most important play in franchise history. With the ball at the Seattle 18-yard line with less than 30 seconds left to play, Kaepernick saw one-on-one coverage in the endzone on a fade route. He threw intended for Crabtree but the ball was tipped by Richard Sherman and hauled in by Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks victory. Like my Dad said, “it was only a matter of time” and that time came with 22 seconds remaining and there was nothing the San Francisco 49ers could do about it.

Random Thoughts: Is it just me or is the general crowd sitting around me becoming dumber and dumber as each game goes on when it comes to “cheering education?” I felt like there was a lot of cheering when the offense had the ball and when the 49ers fans tried to get loud when the Seahawks had the ball, the 12th Man would boo, making the stadium even louder. That is a big no-no and was quite frustrating… Perhaps the Macklemore performance at halftime re-energized the crowd. We were down 10-3 at halftime and the crowd seemed fired up at the start of the third quarter. That was very much needed and maybe it’s not too crazy to think that Macklemore’s impact played a key role in how the second half turned out… It’s too bad not everyone got a rally towel. It was a scattering of white waving around before the game, nothing like what it has looked like in previous games where rally towels were the giveaway… Paul Allen raised the 12th Man flag this week which in my eyes was a very safe choice. I still would have loved to see Mike Holmgren raise the flag… We went to the Nest and then over to the Pyramid Alehouse for lunch before heading into the stadium. Since this was going to be the last home game of the season I guess we wanted to make the rounds… I may have tried the grossest beer ever on Sunday. Pyramid has a seasonal brew called “Weiss Cream” which tastes like if you sprayed whipped cream into a glass of water. Yuck. The tap handle was really cool though; a waffle cone full of vanilla ice cream… Time to start packing for New York City. I leave a week from Wednesday!

Moving Forward: Over the next week I hope to hop on at least a couple of times with various posts. I am unsure what my computer status will be for the last half of Super Bowl week, Super Bowl weekend, and the two days following the game. If I decide to take my computer with me to New York, my preview of Super Bowl XLVIII will come on its normal day; the Saturday before the game. If not, I may be forced to publish my Super Bowl preview a few days early. I will update with more information when my plan becomes clearer. We are one win away from a world championship. Enjoy this, 12th Man but understand our job is not done just yet. Go Seahawks!

Review: Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10

22 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: azcardinals.com

Well that did not go the way I thought it would.

The NFC West division championship celebration is on hold for one more week after the Arizona Cardinals came into CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon and stunned the Seattle Seahawks 17-10, giving the Seahawks their first loss at home since Christmas Eve 2011. The Cardinals improve to 10-5 on the season and their playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the season. The Seahawks fall to 12-3 and are now only up by one game on San Francisco for the NFC West lead. What’s even scarier is the reaffirmation that it is in fact possible for a visiting team to come in to the hardest place to play in the NFL and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals have created a blueprint for other teams to come to Seattle and give the Seahawks a run for their money. This game was very frustrating to watch in multiple aspects and extremely difficult to think about after the fact but this is what I took out of it.

A Hot Knife Through Butter: This is the only comparison to describe the Cardinals running game through the Seahawks defense. Running backs Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall, and Stepfan Taylor ran for a combined 139 yards on Sunday and the Seattle defense could not stop runs through the middle of the field if their life depended on it. After watching a replay of the game the Cardinals offensive line did a great job blocking and creating room to run but the Seahawks defensive line and linebackers were quite undisciplined in regards to their gap assignments. The Seahawks gave up 10 rushes of 5 yards or more, including two first down runs late in the fourth quarter that were of 10 yards or more. Whenever the Seahawks needed a crucial stop, it seemed like the Cardinals countered with a gain that extended their drives. What frustrated me the most was how easy it looked for the Cardinals to run the ball. On many of their long rushes the ball carrier went untouched until he got to the second level of the Seahawks defense. It was a very uncharacteristic performance by the Seattle defense but I give credit to the Cardinals offensive line for being able to create those humongous holes for their running back to run through.

Michael F**king Bowie: From a broad perspective the Seahawks offense played their worst game of the season. Russell Wilson only threw for 108 yards, one touchdown, and one “interception” and Marshawn Lynch added 71 yards of his own. But to truly understand just how poorly the Seahawks offense played on Sunday, you have to zone in on what was occurring in the trenches. Me and the guys around me nicknamed starting right guard Michael Bowie “Michael F**king Bowie” on Sunday because he stepped in for the concussed J.R. Sweezy and struggled mightily keeping the pressure off of Russell Wilson. I kept tabs on Bowie for three consecutive second half drives and this is what I noticed. In 11 total plays, Bowie was only able to successfully contain his man once, on a 27 yard scramble by Wilson. Defensive tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Darnell Dockett were able to collapse the right side of the offensive line and Wilson was under constant pressure during this span. In this three drive sequence, Wilson went 2/6 passing for 9 yards. The Cardinals have an incredibly talented front 7 and they flat out embarrassed Bowie on Sunday. Bowie is still very raw and I think it was a mistake to start him at a position that he has not played consistently this season. It got to the point that the Seahawks were substituting Bowie for rookie lineman Alvin Bailey to try to get some offensive momentum going. Hopefully Sweezy will be back next week because with another talented defense coming to town next week, Bowie may be in for another tough day at the office, assuming he starts once again over James Carpenter if Sweezy cannot go.

It’s All About the Ball: Well, usually it’s all about the ball. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 4-2 on Sunday but walked away on the losing end for only the fourth time under Pete Carroll (the Seahawks are now 26-4 when winning the turnover battle). The Seahawks pressure on Carson Palmer was very good early on and it seemed as though if we could keep up the pass rush, Palmer would continue to make mistakes. Richard Sherman took the league lead in interceptions after intercepting two more passes on Sunday. Sherman now has 8 interceptions on the season. Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith also added interceptions off of tipped Palmer passes.

Defense Can’t Hold: Last season the Seahawks failed to hold leads late in the fourth quarter of four different games. All of those losses came on the road. This week the Seahawks blew a fourth quarter lead at home for the first time since the last game they lost at home in 2011. After scoring a touchdown to take a 10-9 lead, the Seahawks kicked off and the Cardinals had 7:26 to go roughly 55 yards to get into at least field goal range to have the opportunity to take the lead. The Cardinals went the length of the field, culminating in the deciding 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. The two-point conversion attempt was successful and Arizona took a 17-10 lead. This was one of the most unusual feelings I have had at a home game in a long time. Usually once the Seahawks take a lead late in a game, the crowd gets louder and the defense is able to feed off of the energy to step up and stop the opposing offense rather quickly. It has happened time and time again when playing at home over the past two seasons. Today the Cardinals were able to successfully finish their final drive and ultimately walked away victorious.

The Bad Calls: Fair warning, I am not trying to make excuses but I feel there were a handful of calls made by Scott Green and his officiating crew that may have shaped the outcome of Sunday’s game. There are 4 rulings that I felt were bad calls which killed our momentum and extended crucial Arizona drives.

The first questionable call came with 12:39 left in the game. Richard Sherman was called for pass interference on wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald which gave the Cardinals the ball at the Seahawks 16-yard line. From my seats it looks like Sherman’s feet got tangled with Fitzgerald’s, resulting in incidental contact. After watching the game film it looked more ticky-tacky on television but I still saw no interference on Sherman. Questionable call number two came on the very next play. Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall rushed for no gain but the ball was recovered by Seahawks defensive tackle Michael Bennett. It was ruled on the field that Mendenhall was down by contact but the Seahawks challenged the play. The ruling on the field was upheld even though one angle seemed to show that the ball was coming loose before Mendenhall’s arm hit the ground, however the referee saw no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. That drive ended in a Cardinals punt.

The third questionable call made me madder than any of the other bad calls. With 5:04 left in the game Malcolm Smith was called for defensive holding on a 3rd down and 5. Instead of forcing the Cardinals to punt, the penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on in the drive. What made me mad was the extremely long delay between the end of the play and the penalty flag being thrown. The official that threw the flag on Smith had waved his arms to signal an incomplete pass THEN reached for his pocket to throw the flag. How in the world can you call the play incomplete then suddenly change your mind several seconds later to call a penalty? That long delay tells me that the referee actually may have been unsure what to rule and went with the “safer” decision. The play did not look like a defensive hold to me and the Seahawks should have gotten the ball back up by one with a chance to close the game out. Instead, the Seahawks got jobbed.

To add icing on top of the cake one last questionable call was made at the two-minute warning. A Russell Wilson pass intended for Doug Baldwin was ruled a deflection and an interception but the replay showed that the ball hit the ground before popping up into the air, which should have made it an incomplete pass and kept the Seahawks potential game winning drive alive. Baldwin said after the game that he knew the ball hit the ground and the referees made the wrong call. The replay angles show the ball hitting the ground with the field turf rubber popping up into the air but head referee Scott Green explained after the game that he “did not have conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field.” This final bad call gave the Cardinals the ball back and they ran out the clock to win the game.

Thoughts on Arizona: If the Arizona Cardinals can make it into the playoffs, they are certainly a dark horse candidate to make a deep run. They certainly proved that they can win in an extremely hostile environment and their defense may be one of the best overall units in all of football. This team will certainly be a power in the NFC West moving forward in the coming years even if they fail to qualify to make the playoffs this season.

Random Thoughts: I cannot remember the last time I felt so tired throughout a Seahawks gameday. I need to get more sleep the night before home games… Or take a 5-hour energy… I couldn’t believe how foggy it was in downtown Seattle during the game. My seats offer a view to the south of I-5 and the fog was so thick you could not see past the outside of the stadium. It was almost as if we were in the middle of a cloud… Shout out to Ebenezer from Georgia who was a random stranger we drank and chatted with at the bar before the game. He seemed out of it before even getting there (if you know what I mean) and his commentary was very erratic and contradictory. He provided quality entertainment for us though… Just to reiterate how badly our section is patrolled by frickin’ boobs, the seating host for our section once again proved how he takes his job unnecessarily seriously. He talked to the group sitting to my left that they were behaving inappropriately but I did not hear or see any kind of behavior that could confirm that claim. The run-ins with the seating hosts and security our section has endured this season continue to get more and more ridiculous… I haven’t walked down the ramps of the stadium following a loss in a very long time. That was a strange and upsetting feeling. I am very worried about the possibility of the Rams coming to Seattle next week and beating us. Next week’s game must have a playoff feel to it in the stands. Or we could just hope for a 49ers loss either Monday night or next Sunday.

Instead of clinching the division this week and resting our starters against the Rams, next week’s game has suddenly become extremely important. Check back for my Rams/Seahawks preview next Saturday. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas everybody. Go Hawks!

Cardinals/Seahawks Preview

21 Dec
Image

Photo Credit: seahawks.com

Matchup: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)

Kickoff: 1:05pm

At the beginning of the season a lot of casual fans probably would have overlooked this week’s game on the whole. However this week’s matchup has turned into a very important game for both the Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks enter this week at 12-2 and a win would clinch both the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Cardinals come to Seattle a rather surprising 9-5 and a win would keep them alive in the NFC wild-card hunt. The Cardinals lead the all-time series with the Seahawks 15-14 but Seattle has had Arizona’s number of late. In their last meeting the Seahawks defeated Arizona 34-22 back in week 7, however note that the last time they played in Seattle was last December when the Seahawks won 58-0 in the most lopsided win in team history. It is very important for the Seahawks to not get ahead of themselves this week because if we struggle the Cardinals are definitely capable of gaining and maintaining a lead. This is what I will be looking for from both the Seahawks and the Cardinals this week.

After shutting out the New York Giants last week, it will be important for the Seahawks defense to keep their momentum rolling this week. After dominating the Cardinals back in week 7 it may be understandable for Seahawks fans to think that we will be able to shut them down again on defense this week. What you may not realize is the offensive roll the Cardinals have been on since our last meeting. In the 7 games since our last meeting with Arizona, the Cardinals offense has averaged 30 points per game. This week my primary defensive focus is on the Legion of Boom and if they can keep up their dynamite production after intercepting 5 passes last week. Richard Sherman will line up against Larry Fitzgerald and Byron Maxwell will battle both Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts. I will be interested to see how often Carson Palmer decides to throw downfield given that he has been the most efficient throwing slants and out routes in the short to intermediate passing game, and since he fully understands the potential danger of throwing into our secondary.

Running the ball with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin as well as controlling the game clock will be the most important thing for the Seahawks offense to do this week. The Seahawks were able to effectively run the ball and control the clock last week in a winning effort. This week I would like to see the Seahawks run the ball more on third down instead of having Russell Wilson look for a receiver and take the risk of losing yards or even getting hurt, something that I discussed briefly in my Giants game review. Although he has been running the ball well, Marshawn Lynch has only carried the ball 20 times or more in a single game once in his last four games. This week, even against a ferocious and talented defense like Arizona has, I think it is in the best interest of our offense to feed the beast and let him run at least 25 times this week, using Robert Turbin for a handful of carries as well. If the running game struggles early I believe we will see creative packages and different play calling from Darrell Bevell in order to catch the Cardinals off guard. In short, the running game needs to be the Seahawks primary focus on offense but do not be surprised to see Russell Wilson be willing to run and throw if the Cardinals shut Lynch down.

Over the second half of the season the Arizona Cardinals have developed one of the league’s most improved offenses. Quarterback Carson Palmer has averaged 307 yards passing in his last 5 games to his array of wide receivers including perennial pro bowler Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, as well as the younger, potential-filled talent of Michael Floyd. Over the years, regardless of who their quarterback has been, the Cardinals have continued to be a predominant passing team but the newfound effective running game has helped keep Arizona winning week after week as of late. Last week the Cardinals ran for 145 yards on the Tennessee Titans and they have implemented a running back rotation that is continuing to work due to head coach Bruce Arians’ faith in establishing and continuing to run the ball. My X-Factor player to watch for Arizona this week is one of their two running backs, Andre Ellington. Ellington sees roughly half the number of carries that starter Rashard Mendenhall sees but his statistical averages make him a player the Seahawks front 7 must focus on. Technically as a backup, Ellington has averaged 56 rushing yards over the past three weeks including 71 rushing yards on 10 carries last week. Although these numbers do not scream “feature back,” the truth to Ellington’s effectiveness shows in the yards per carry category, where he averages 5.6 yards per carry over the past three weeks (7.1 yards per carry last week). Eliminating Ellington and the running game as a whole will force Palmer to throw which, in my opinion, is high risk/high reward when you think about the talent he has to throw to and the defense he is throwing into.

I have held the belief that the Arizona defense is one of the most underrated units in the league for a long time and they are maintaining and building on their quiet production leading into this week’s game. Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals currently have the number one ranked rushing defense in the league. As important as it is for the Seahawks to get Marshawn Lynch going early, the Cardinals are going to do everything they can to force Russell Wilson to throw. The Cardinals have a dynamic mix of pass rushers and tacklers loaded in their front 7. In the running game I look for leading tackler Karlos Dansby and linebacker Daryl Washington to make it hard for Marshawn Lynch to break through the first level of the defense and to fight for yards after contact. Outside linebacker John Abraham leads the Cardinals in sacks with 11.5 and along with Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, life will be made tough for Russell Wilson in the passing game, especially on passing downs. The Cardinals like to send maximum pressure using these three pass rushers and it could be even tougher for the Seahawks if the Cardinals are leading, or if the score is close late in the game. Something that also cannot go unnoticed is how the Cardinals try to force turnovers. The Cardinals average almost one forced fumble per game and John Abraham has forced 4 fumbles on his own this season. Due to the multiple ways Abraham can disrupt an opposing offense, it will be crucial (and perhaps necessary) to double team him along the outside. I recommend looking at how James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini do controlling Abraham on the line this week.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear all-blue once again at home this week. I’m curious if the Cardinals will wear red pants this week, something they only do on rare occasions especially on the road… Chris Myers and Tim Ryan have the call for FOX this week… Scott Green will be the referee this week… I am taking my friend Josh to this weekend’s game and he is a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan first, Seahawks fan second. The Eagles play the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football so we will probably head to a bar after the game for him to watch the Eagles game. It will be interesting to see which jersey he wears on Sunday… It’s funny that Josh is an Eagles fan because this will be the 4th time he goes to the annual Cardinals/Seahawks game with me and we have gone to one game per year together for 7 years… Hopefully the Seahawks Pro Shop will have division champions gear for sale following the game if we win. I would love to be one of the first ones to get their hands on a division champions t-shirt and hat… This is the first Seahawks afternoon home game in 5 weeks. I’m going to have to get down to the bars early again this week… The Seahawks are giving out “#LOUDER” cheer cards this week to the first 20,000 fans. I don’t understand why they can’t make enough for everyone. All it is basically is a piece of stock paper… Remember, kickoff is at 1:05 not 1:25. Get to your seats with plenty of time to spare if you are going to the game… I am hoping that the before the game, either before team introductions or before kickoff, they announce to the 12th Man what is at stake in terms of winning the division and clinching home field advantage with a win. I distinctly remember them doing that before we played the Cardinals in December 2007 and we won the game and the division.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: The Seahawks can clinch the NFC West title and home field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs with a win. Regardless of whether we win or lose, Seattle can also clinch the division and home field advantage with a 49ers loss on Monday Night Football. Here are this week’s games that can affect the NFC playoff picture. Teams to note are bolded.

Arizona (9-5) at Seattle (12-2)

New Orleans (10-4) at Carolina (10-4)

Dallas (7-7) at Washington (3-11)

New York Giants (5-9) at Detroit (7-7)

Pittsburgh (6-8) at Green Bay (7-6-1)

Chicago (8-6) at Philadelphia (8-6)

Atlanta (4-10) at San Francisco (10-4)

Prediction: The Cardinals and Seahawks will combine for 5 interceptions and 7 sacks. Although the game will include strong defensive play there is no way you can doubt the Seahawks at home. Russell Wilson will throw for three touchdowns and the Seahawks will clinch the 2013 NFC West title and will make sure that the road to Super Bowl XLVIII will go through Seattle.

Seahawks 30, Cardinals 10

Check back for my Cardinals/Seahawks review late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Enjoy the game folks. Go Hawks!