Seahawks Insider

5 questions for Hawks heading into camp

Post by Eric Williams on July 26, 2012 at 7:09 am with 35 Comments »
July 26, 2012 7:09 am

After four straight losing seasons, the Seattle Seahawks are no longer talking about rebuilding. With a revamped roster brimming with young talent, the Seattle brain trust thinks the Seahawks can regularly challenge for the NFC crown.

Veteran defensive lineman Brandon Mebane says his team has to focus on the little things.

“I think we have to execute,” Mebane said. “We have to get it into our minds to play the way we’re capable of playing, and then don’t make mental mistakes.

“We’re building. So the key is to just take one game at a time.”

Rookies and veterans are scheduled to report to the team’s Renton headquarters on Friday, with the first training camp practice taking place Saturday morning. Here are five questions Seattle head coach Pete Carroll must answer.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Will T-Jack hold on?

Coach Pete Carroll said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will get the opening snaps with the first unit when practice resumes Saturday. And even though Seattle signed Matt Flynn to a three-year, $19 million deal, including $10 million guaranteed this offseason, Carroll still holds Jackson in high regard for a couple reasons.

Jackson finished 7-7 as a starter in his first season in Seattle, playing behind a young, makeshift offensive line that struggled to protect him in the first eight games. After suffering a torn pectoral muscle on the throwing side of his body in Week 5 against the New York Giants he missed only one game, playing through pain for most of the season.

Jackson had a 5-3 record as a starter during the final eight games with a passer rating of 85.3. For the season, he threw for a career-high 3,091 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jackson has the most experience in Seattle’s offense, having played for offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for five seasons in Minnesota before joining the Seahawks in free agency.

However, Jackson struggled mightily in late-game situations last season, finishing with a 30.7 passer rating, with no touchdowns and six interceptions in two-minute situations.

Enter Flynn, who in a much smaller sample size posted a 103.5 passer rating. Although Carroll said money won’t enter into the equation when he decides who starts at quarterback, the Seahawks would not have signed Flynn to a lucrative deal if they did not think he could emerge as a starter.

Further, Carroll has not been shy in his praise of third-round pick Russell Wilson. The Seahawks like the University of Wisconsin product’s leadership, poise and athleticism. And while he might not earn the starting job this season, Wilson could be the team’s quarterback of the future.

Seattle Seahawks' Robert Turbin, right, rushes against Shane Horton, left, during NFL football rookie minicamp, Friday, May 11, 2012, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Can ‘SeaHulk’ transform into Beast Mode?

When Seattle drafted Utah State product Robert Turbin in the fourth round of this year’s draft, the team did not expect him to start the season opener on Sept. 9 at Arizona.

But with Seattle’s best offensive player, Marshawn Lynch, recently arrested and charged with drunken driving in his hometown of Oakland, Turbin could be pressed into service sooner rather than later.

Lynch, 26, has two prior incidents and could be suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league’s personal conduct policy.

But unlike last season, when the Seahawks depended on lighter backs such as Justin Forsett and Leon Washington to shoulder the load when Lynch was out – which likely cost them a win at Cleveland – at 5-10 and 222 pounds Turbin can mimic Lynch’s bruising running style.

“You see the physical style that he has – that’s what we want,” Seattle running backs coach Sherman Smith said about Turbin. “And that’s what Robert’s going to be.”

Because of his fondness for the Incredible Hulk and his bulging biceps, Turbin has been dubbed the “SeaHulk.” And he might need a super-human performance to fill the big shoes of Lynch should the Cal product be unavailable to open the season.

Seattle Seahawks' Bruce Irvin pauses after running drills during an NFL football rookie minicamp, Friday, May 11, 2012, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Will Bruce Irvin finish with double-digit sacks?

Seattle fulfilled its wish of pairing first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin with the team’s leading pass rusher the past two season after recently signing veteran Chris Clemons to a reported, three-year, $21 million contract this week.

The Seahawks finished with 33 sacks last season, tied for 19th in the league. Clemons had exactly one-third of those sacks with 11. Seattle sees the addition of Irvin on the outside, along with free agent signee defensive tackle Jason Jones, helping improve the team’s ability to get home on passing downs.

Irvin was not brought in to start right away. He’ll fill the role left vacant by veteran pass rusher Raheem Brock, who played about half the defensive snaps in his final year in Seattle.

Even though they don’t think he will be a full-time starter, the Seahawks see the speedy Irvin as someone who could post double-digit sacks, similar to what rookie Aldon Smith did for San Francisco last season, finishing with 14 sacks for the Niners.

The key for Seattle’s coaching staff will be to limit the amount of teaching and responsibility they heap on Irvin, so the 24-year-old West Virginia product can continue to play fast.

Seattle Seahawks' Sidney Rice flips a ball around during NFL football practice Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Can Sidney Rice stay healthy?

Signed to a five-year, $41 million deal before last season, including $18.5 guaranteed, receiver Sidney Rice played only nine games, finishing with 32 catches for 484 yards and two touchdowns.

The Seahawks expect much more from their star receiver in 2012, but Rice has played only one full, 16-game season in his five-year career.

Rice had offseason surgery on both shoulders to repair torn labrums, and he plans on adding 11 pounds of muscle to better handle the pounding of an NFL season.

The Seahawks anticipate more Rice on the field will result in more explosive plays for their run-first offense, making it easier for a unit that averaged 20.1 points a contest last year, 23rd in the NFL, to improve.

Seattle finished with 51 passing plays of 20 yards or more last season, tied for 17th in the league.

Seattle Seahawks' Sean McGrath, left, has the ball knocked away by Seahawks' Bobby Wagner during NFL football rookie minicamp, Friday, May 11, 2012, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Who replaces David Hawthorne at MLB?

Seattle’s leading tackler the past three seasons, linebacker David Hawthorne, signed a five-year, $19 million deal with New Orleans in free agency.

Hawthorne was considered one of the more cerebral players on the team. And he made game-changing plays, evidenced by his seven interceptions and six sacks in three years as a starter.

So second-round draft choice Bobby Wagner has some big shoes to fill. And so far he’s looked the part during the team’s offseason workouts. Wagner finished with 445 tackles as a four-year starter at Utah State, but that was largely against teams like Idaho, Colorado State and Hawaii – not the Niners, Cowboys and Packers. Wagner also had four career interceptions and 4.5 sacks in 48 games for the Aggies.

But the Seahawks have some options should Wagner struggle. They could move second-year pro K.J. Wright to middle linebacker. Wright started the 2011 regular-season opener against San Francisco in the middle when Hawthorne was hobbled with a knee injury, and trained there most of last season’s training camp. Barrett Ruud and Matt McCoy are also veteran options to man the middle.

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Training camp
Leave a comment Comments → 35
  1. Hammajamma says:

    Eric,

    I heard Rang yesterday meantion playing Wagner and KJ in a five down, two LB formation. Have you seen them roll that out in mini camps? It’ll be fascinating watching PC and Bradley get creative with this group.

  2. Soggybuc says:

    thank God It’s almost here!!! Tomorrow they report.

  3. Soggybuc says:

    I’ve read about them running the 52 as well, think of it as nickle package with more beef. seems that’s why Pete covets faster LB’s with coverage skills.

  4. I’m a novice. What current players on our roster would project to play a 52?

  5. Hammajamma says:

    My impression from Rang was that it might not be limited to passing downs, and certainly was not merely rolling up a third LB to the line of scrimmage. Clem and Irvin on the edges, with three interior DL’s along with Wagner and Wright, forcing less traditional pre-snap OL adjustments.

  6. I’d say the health of Okung ranks right there with Rice. He had the high ankle sprain his rookie year and then another sprain early last year and then when he was playing great got the cheap shot (pec) injury. We really need him to stay healthy and play a full season, too. It’s only 2 years, but it’d be nice to see 16 games.

  7. Hammajamma says:

    Rang also criticized Wagner for slowing down as he closes in on the tackle, giving the ball carrier an extra yard or so. Said it was a clear trend from his game film. I’ll be interested to see if he can carry his speed all the way through the tackle after better coaching.

  8. Palerydr says:

    I see Flynn winning the QB competition. IMO he’s got the intangibles along with enough measurables to be the guy.

    Traditionally rookie RB have the greatest success their first year in the league. I could see him avg 4 yds a carry. The key is how quickly he understands his role in pass protection/blitz pickup.

    I really like everything I’ve been able to put together on Irvin. Hard to predict how he will do this year so I would love it if he would just produce consistent pressure especially on 3rd and long. If he’s able to do that the sacks will come.

    Rice has played 1 full season in 5 years. Chances are good he won’t again this year. Whoever is the #2 at his position needs to ready to step in. The rest of the WR corp needs to step up especially on 3rd down and consistently make plays to keep the chains moving.

    LB is a big concern they are pretty young overall. That’s good for speed and some hard hits but diagnosing plays in a split second could be a weakness. Hopefully they spend lots of time in the film room with Norton.

  9. ryanryan says:

    rice staying healthy? yeah – i’d say its a concern.

    production in those games is a big concern too, 32 catches every nine games doesn’t earn his paycheck. thats roughly 57 catches and 700 yards a season. a lot can be forgiven with our qb situation, early OL play and the like – but I still hoped for better numbers. no clear proven #2 receiver on the other side dictates a lot of double teams to flat out take him away until the others step up this coming year as well. outlook VERY foggy – but a healthy (boy the hawks have some beat up guys on the squad) K2 will help everyone.

    good point about okung bbk.

    i hope the cream rises fast.

  10. Dukeshire says:

    Soggy – The 52 is like the nickel in that you pull a LB, but it really isn’t like the nickle in practicality. Replacing that strong side ‘backer with a DE rather than corner (or cover safety) is a significant scheme difference. Typically, 52s are used to slow the run, and far more prevalent in Pop Warner, High School, and college (especially in the 80s) than in the NFL. (Although I’m sure you know this.)

    joreb – I’m just guessing here, but I imagine Seattle would run a 5-2 with their base 4-3 only pulling Hill off the field and replacing him with Irvin. (Nickle packages pull the strong side LB, another difference…) I imagine, if they do run a 52, it’s in an effort to get Irvin on the field and create mismatches for him. The concern I would have with it, is that it stresses the secondary. Of course, Seattle may not experiment with the typical 52 (which shifts the NT to a 2 gap, over the helmet of the center. In Seattle’s under front, the NT plays a 1 gap to the center’s strong side.) but simply but play Irvin as a strong side backer and shift Wagner to Will and Wright to Mike. In this case Irvin would play up on the line. While I have my doubts about Seattle running a classic 52, you know they are going to find ways to get Irvin and Clem on the field together as much as possible. In any case, I hope this helps.

  11. chuck_easton says:

    I think Duke is right. I’d see the 52 with Clem and Irvin on each of the outsides. The middle could be a rotation of Mebane, Bryant, Jones, and branch depending on down and distance. The 52 is a run stopper but it also works great on short passing situations if you had Jones, Irvin, and Clem all in the game together. The idea is to get to the QB as fast as possible so he doesn’t have time to do the quick slant for the easy 4 or 5 yard gain and 1st down.

    That is why the 52 needs fast cover LBs. if the offense gets past the first wave of five you have a lot of ground to cover in the secondary.

    With Seattles speed at LB and Safety this could be a very effective formation in 2nd or 3rd with 3 to 5 yards for the 1st down.

  12. Hammajamma: Basically I agree with Dukeshire. The last time I saw a 5-2 defense was in junior high school. And it was used back then because most teams didn’t throw. With most teams winging the ball around in the NFL, you need to have agile linebackers at the second level that can move and cover. I don’t think a 5-2 gives a defense the ability to mask coverages effectively, and I don’t see Seattle using that defensive front much, except in goal line situations. A 3-4 scheme is similar to a 5-2 in that your outside backers are basically defensive ends, but by keeping them off the line of scrimmage you give them more of an ability to drop back in coverage. My 2 cents.

  13. jawpeace says:

    1. No
    2. Yes
    3. Yes
    4. No
    5. Wagner

  14. HawkyHann says:

    Our Defense is exciting. Offense, is just a big old fat ? Lynch is the only game changer we’ve….and he’ll miss 4-6games(my prediction).

    Let the QB carousel games begin. Come on Russell Wilson!!

  15. “I think Duke is right. I’d see the 52 with Clem and Irvin on each of the outsides.”

    Hope that’s right – really looking forward to seeing those two on the field together – very curious to see what Irvin has got.

  16. Mauihawk777 says:

    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No
    4. No
    5. Wagner

    I’m going to be very unpopular!

  17. Hammajamma says:

    Thanks for the tutorial on the 52, guys. What I found intriguing was the assertion that Wag and Wright have the speed and coverage skills to make that a viable option in more typical down and distance situations.

    Rang also said (I know I’m giving heavy dose of him this morning) was that PC was the originator of the 4/3 – 3/4 hybrid defense. Called him a defensive genius.

  18. RDPoulsbo says:

    Anyone have a link to the Rang interview mentioned?

    A 5-2 seems interesting and I’d guess they’d throw it out there to give offenses a different look. I’d also have to believe it would look much like a 3-4 with Clemons and Irvin standing up on the ends. Along with the inside guys being big enough to be 3-4 linemen, Clemons has some ability to drop back into coverage from his previous experience as a LB. With the secondary they have, they could get away with the scheme’s weakness against the pass at times. It does sound like a way to put Irvin and Clemons in the best position to rush the passer.

  19. Dukeshire says:

    Hammajamma – I don’t think that’s a fair statement on Rang’s part. I didn’t hear the interview, so I may not understand the context, but if were talking about “hybrid’ defenses, I think we have to look at the players that make that possible. Focusing on the NFL, Charles Haley is the guy we can point to as that player that made the Leo or Elephant position the key. George Seifert, to me, gets a ton of credit for his scheme that made that possible. Taking nothing away from Carroll, who is a defensive master IMO, but to call him the originator (if we can actually pin point one person) would not be accurate, to me.

  20. Hammajamma says:

    Duke, let me reel this back in slightly so I don’t attribute it to the wrong guy. It could’ve been Farrar, as they were both on and I was multitasking. Nevertheless, the hybrid comment was attached his USC schemes, obviously post Seifert/Haley. Beyond that, I don’t know what would allow him to separate the two systems.

    Still, the defensive potential this year, especially at home-love the idea of incorporating the 12th Man into the play calling-has me pretty fired up.

  21. Dukeshire says:

    Hammajamma – Thanks. Either way… But what Carroll did at USC, especially with Clay Matthews, is absolutely married to how Haley was used in SF and Dallas. To me, that’s one of Carroll’s greatest strengths: his ability to learn and adapt schemes to his philosophies. All great coaches / coordinators share this trait.

    And I totally agree with you on this team’s defensive potential. They can be sick if they keep working.

  22. Thanks Duke for the info. Very helpful. I have so much to learn!

    What little I know is that PC is an incredibly gifted Defensive guy that knows how to get the most out of his guys (reminds of a Sales Mgr/DOS that I used to work for). Instead of ‘my way or the highway’ he custom fits to the talent available.

    I really am amped about our defense but like someone else was saying about our offense…not so much…yet. I hope that changes and some players emerge but right now I’m not holding my breath.

    GO HAWKS!

  23. 1 no
    2 yes
    3 yes
    4 ?
    5 wagner

  24. Monday can’t come soon enough – can’t wait to see it all!!!!!

  25. Who else is going to camp? Anyone on Monday?

  26. bbnate420 says:

    ryanryan: Rice had 484 yards in 9 games. Equals 54 yards a game if you round up. That’s 864 yards for 16 games played. Not to mention that he missed parts of some of the 9 games he played. Might want to recheck the math next time. No offense. Other than that, I mostly agree with you.

  27. bbnate420 says:

    Eric, does TJack have 9 or 15 Ints during the 2 minute drill in his career?

  28. Bbnate420: I believe it’s nine.

  29. bbnate420 says:

    Thank you. I tried to confirm but, I couldn’t find 2 minute stats for him elsewhere.

  30. Re: Will TJack hold on?

    I don’t see why he wouldn’t. TJack and Flynn will battle for the starting job and one of them will be in waiting as the #2. Flynn will start opening day unless he really botches his audition in the preseason.

    But let’s be realistic. Flynn has never played 2 pro games in a row in his life. He isn’t likely to play a whole season without going down injured as some point. This means TJack is very likely to start some games. And this makes TJack a very valuable #2.

    Two scenarios:
    1. Flynn starts game 1, and TJack is later called in to start when Flynn cannot.
    2. Flynn flops or gets injured early and TJack is anointed starter. Before long, TJack inevitably struggles with his footwork and decision making and Flynn is sent in to save the day.
    Either way, I think we are going to see both these QBs start games this year.

    To me, a bigger question is when will we get to see much of Wilson? Will he see the field at all in 2012? Carroll wouldn’t have drafted Wilson if he was completely comfortable with Flynn and TJack, and I believe he is hoping Wilson is his QB of the future, but for now Wilson could get buried on the bench for a year before we really get to see what we have in him.

  31. I’ll be at camp Sunday and Tuesday. I’ll be the guy in the Seahawks jersey. lol. Seriously I’ll probably have binoculars to my eyes the whole practice.

  32. raymaines says:

    Stevos: I think there are at least three scenarios. #3 is that T-Jack refuses a pay cut and is released, opening the way for RW to play when MF can’t. I think the QB situation is in good hands and will work out OK, but I’m worried about the receivers.

    And I’d be ever so much happier if Lynch were a non drinker. Bobby Turbin has skinny legs and I don’t have much faith in him as a replacement for ML.

    Please – Oh Please, Oh Please, Oh Please – let everybody stay healthy.

  33. raymaines, true. That’s the likely scenario for Tjack leaving the team. Seems a lot of people are expecting this. I’m not, but if Flynn stays healthy and wins then leaving town would be the best for Tjack’s career.

    and… no, not everybody will stay healthy. That’s why there are 53. But wouldn’t it be amazing and surprising if Okung somehow has two good ankles for 16 games? (Knocking wood here)

  34. grottowes says:

    This team is a mystery, and that is good, we could have another 7 win team here, or they may just all come together and throw down 12 wins.

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