The Seahawks’ loss last week to the Denver Broncos by a last minute field goal is certainly nothing to get in a twist over. But the offense’s ineptness and specifically the line’s inability to protect quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is.
Let’s face it, it was BAD. Bad football. But before we write off the 2011 season and fill out an entry card for the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, consider a few things:
Excuses, excuses … I know
The Seahawks are in a special situation at offensive line. Just like everyone else in the league, they’re here on short notice. No OTAs (organized team activities) and the ridiculous new CBA rules that cut the number of training camp practices in half have meant literally thousands of repetitions lost. No excuse, right? Everyone else is in the same boat.
This has hit the Seahawks particularly hard though. Add to that list, two rookies starting side-by-side (James Carpenter and John Moffitt), a center who played in half of one game last year (Max Unger), a veteran lineman who is new in town (Robert Gallery), and a missing left tackle (Russell Okung). There’s a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback coach, new offensive line coach AND a new quarterback.
Every team in the league has one or two of these problems, but no one else has ALL of these problems.
Let the game-planning begin!
In a sense, preseason games are harder to play in than regular season games. Sure, you’re not going against the number ones the whole game and the games don’t even count. But during the regular season, there are two things that make it much easier assignment-wise and that should help this young team.
1. During camp, coaches install EVERYTHING. In preseason games, you’re running a much broader scope of plays. At the end of the 1992 training camp, I counted up all of the defensive packages, fronts, slants, blitzes (safety rushes), dogs (linebacker rushes) and coverages. We had our regular 4-3 defense, a 4-2 package, a 3-4 front as a variation and then goal line, short yardage, nickel, dime and prevent defense. I counted over 20 different coverages and the rest of the blitzes, slants, dogs and shifts are too numerous to list. We ran some combination of all that stuff during the preseason.
When the regular season began, our defensive coordinator, Tom Catlin, narrowed the scope of those plays so that we ran only two or three variations for each defensive package.
2. You study your opponent during the regular season. Before preseason games, you may look at your opponent the night before the game. The coach puts on some game film and says, “Oh, and the Broncos run a 3-4 base defense with a 4-3 look when Elvis Dumervill reduces down over the tackle. They’re mostly a cover 2 team.” THE END. That’s it!
Let me put it this way: During the regular season, all you do is look at your opponent. You talk about the plays that you’ll run only as they relate to what your opponent is doing. Trust me, Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable would’ve found a way to slow down the rush of Denver’s outside linebackers that caused so much havoc last Saturday night. I’m not saying they would’ve scored five touchdowns and shut down Dumervill and Von Miller. But James Carpenter and Tyler Polumbus would’ve gotten some help with blocking schemes and play calling to stem the tide of Denver’s pass rush.
Defense wins early
The Seahawks defense looks good this year and they’re going to need to be in order to carry the team until the offense finds its legs. Red Bryant is playing as well as he did last year, if not better. Brandon Mebane and newly acquired Alan Branch have quietly controlled the line of scrimmage, allowing the linebackers to make lots of plays. The defensive backfield is young but promising and they’ll surprise a lot of teams and look better than they are because of the D-line. This should allow the Hawks to at least hang in there in some of these tough games they face in the early part of the year (at Pittsburgh, at New York Giants and home against Atlanta).
Look, it’s a long season and many a fool has gotten too excited or too depressed over a team’s preseason record. The 2008 Detroit Lions were 4-0 in exhibition games and then went 0-16. Our own 2009 Seahawks went 0-4 in August and even won their opener against the Rams. They finished 5-11.
Call me a homer if you want but I refuse to panic in Week 3 of the preseason.