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Friday cyber surfing: With Jones out, opportunity arises for club’s young D-linemen

Greg Scruggs

Defensive end Greg Scruggs (pictured right) could see an expanded role in the absence of defensive lineman Jason Jones, who was placed on injured reserve

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 21.

The club made a few roster moves yesterday, sending defensive lineman Jason Jones to injured reserve and signing defensive tackle Hebron Fangupo off of the team’s practice squad. In Fangupo’s place, the team signed wide receiver Bryan Walters, a native of Kirkland, Wash., to fill out the practice squad.

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times has the story on the move of Jones to injured reserve, “Defensive tackles that could see an expanded role for the Seahawks are Clinton McDonald, rookie Jaye Howard (who has been inactive most of the year) and Hebron Fangupo, a 6-foot-1, 323-pound player signed to the active roster Thursday. Rookie Greg Scruggs, a seventh-round pick out of Louisville, is also expected to see more time on the defensive line against a physical 49ers offense. ‘My biggest thing has been waiting for my opportunity and my chance, and so it’s come,’ said Scruggs, who has two sacks. ‘Now I just have to apply everything that I’ve been doing. You thrive on the opportunity to perform under pressure. One of the biggest knocks on me was I always had potential in college to be a first-round pick, but when big games came around, it was almost as if it was a slump. I’ve been fighting that my whole life and I think that this is an opportunity for me to go out and really show that I can play on the big stage and I can play under pressure.’ “

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times writes that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh share the same philosophy on football, but differ in terms of personality, “Carroll has never met an interview he can’t talk around, while Harbaugh hasn’t found a conversation he can’t make agonizingly, haltingly awkward. But someone who has played for both coaches said that as different as they were to play for, there is a common ground between the two head coaches in Sunday’s game between the top two teams in the NFC West. ‘Their personalities are completely different,’ said Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin, who played for Harbaugh in college. ‘Coaching style is completely different. But there’s a strategic way that they go about running their teams. Obviously, they both love to run the ball. Passing is not necessarily at the forefront of the offense. It’s all running, and then you build the pass off the run. That, I guess you could say is comparable. Defense as well. You’ve got to have a strong defense to back everything up.’ “

O’Neil also has Thursday’s injury report for both the Seahawks and 49ers, noting the Seahawks got a boost with the return of defensive tackle Alan Branch to practice.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says that it’s a good weekend to be a Seattle sports fan, with the Washington Huskies squaring off against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, and the Seahawks battling the 49ers on Sunday Night Football, “Sunday, of course, is the Almost-Game-of-the-Century between the Seahawks and San Francisco at CenturyLink Field. Games like this are why we’re sports fans. Games this good have a way of briefly galvanizing communities, which is part of why we build stadiums to house them. Sure, the Niners took some of the starch out of it with their win over New England in Foxborough last week, virtually assuring their second straight NFC West title, but this night still will have all the heat, passion and noise of a playoff game. CenturyLink will be lit up.”

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune catches up with Fangupo after the move of Jones to injured reserve, “Fangupo is stout against the run, and could help plug up the middle of the defense against San Francisco’s potent running attack. ‘I’m just excited, man,’ Fangupo said. ‘I know what I can do, I’ve just been waiting. On game days it’s hard to watch, so I just try and sit back and wait for my opportunity to play. The best way to do that is by practicing, working my butt off to get the offensive line ready. And now that I have my shot, I’ve got to do the best I can.’ “

Williams also has a look at the increasing popularity of the read-option offense, “The option puts defenses at a disadvantage. Stack the box to stop a bruising runner like Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch or Washington’s Alfred Morris, and the quarterback pulls the ball out and takes off untouched down the sideline. Spread out to protect the perimeter, and the big back gashes you inside. ‘It just becomes a numbers game,’ San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ‘Your typical run, the quarterback hands off and it’s now their 10 against your 11. Now, when he’s a potential runner, it’s their 11 against your 11 and they’re not even blocking one of the guys at the point of attack, so it actually becomes 11 against 10 if they do it right. So, the numbers are flipped.’ “

Michael Rushton of The Sports Network previews Sunday’s matchup with the Niners, “Seattle has much more on the line than San Francisco, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Kaepernick, who is looking to perfect his game heading into the postseason. He even refused to classify his win over New England as any kind of statement. ‘It really isn’t going to mean too much if we don’t come out and win this week. So, that’s what we’re focused on right now,’ he said. Even Seattle’s perfect home record might not save it as San Francisco is 11-4 on the road under Harbaugh since 2011. Sports Network Predicted Outcome: 49ers 20, Seahawks 13″

John Boyle of the Everett Herald dissects what Jones’ move to injured reserve means for the rest of the defensive line, “Rookie Greg Scruggs is the likely candidate to take over Jones’ pass-rushing role, but things would get more complicated in the event that Branch were to be out or even limited by his ankle injury. Clinton McDonald, who normally plays in pass-rushing situations, could take over for Branch in the base defense, or Scruggs could see some time in that role. The Seahawks could also work rookie Jaye Howard into that rotation, or even undrafted rookie Hebron Fangupo, who was signed off the practice squad to fill Jones’ roster spot. ‘We get a chance to take a look at some of the younger guys now,’ said Seattle’s ever-optimistic defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. ‘Some of those guys may have an opportunity now.’ “

Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman, contributing to 710Sports.com, offers a look at running back Marshawn Lynch, whose production has received less attention than normal – just the way Lynch likes it – because of the success of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, “The last time I remember hearing from Lynch was after the Miami game, a loss in which he only rushed for 46 yards. There was no scowling or harsh answer during the interview and he was gracious with both his time and himself. He’s much more likely to talk to the media after a game like that than after a victory in which he runs for over 100 yards. He’s not there for that. He just wants to win and is willing to pick his teammates up after a loss. He reminds me of Lofa Tatupu in that way. It was well known in the media that if you want one- or two-word answers, ask Tatupu about himself. If you want sentences that turn into paragraphs, ask him about his coaches and teammates. Like Tatupu, Lynch has a level of selflessness that plays well with his teammates … and ex-linebackers.”

Bill Swartz of 710Sports.com has his report from Thursday’s practice, “There was some positive injury news Thursday. Defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle) was a full participant. With Seattle placing defensive lineman Jason Jones (knee) on injured reserve, the team is taking a closer look at young backups. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said rookies Greg Scruggs and Jaye Howard are both getting lots of work and could be in the rotation along with veteran Clinton McDonald. I spoke with Scruggs before practice and he assured me he is ready for this prime-time, nationally televised game. Scruggs believes he didn’t step up his game in college and it cost him a chance to be a first-round draft pick. He has practiced at all four defensive line positions for Seattle.”

Jim Moore of 710Sports.com previews the Seahawks-Niners matchup, “The 49ers have the slightly better team, but I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: if I’m going to blather on and on about the Seahawks being Super Bowl contenders, I have to ride them to the finish, and you’ve gotta love ‘em at home. Prediction: Seahawks 27, 49ers 21″

Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” discuss why they believe Sunday night’s contest will be decided by which coaching staff outsmarts the other in this short video.

Curtis Crabtree, writing for the Associated Press, says this Sunday the Seahawks will try to overcome several missed chances that plagued them in their first matchup with the Niners back on October 18, “Wilson was just 9 of 23 for 122 yards and an interception against the 49ers. His 38.7 passer rating against San Francisco is his lowest mark this season. Yet Wilson doesn’t see the point of dwelling on a missed opportunity. ‘There’s times where you’re like, ‘Oh man I wish he caught it’ … You have emotions but the key is staying even-keeled as possible, I think,’ Wilson said. ‘I let the receivers know I’m coming right back to them. You don’t think that they’re not going to catch the next one, so you’ve got to keep playing.’ Seattle’s offense has greatly improved since the initial meeting in October. Wilson has a passer rating of 111.3 over the seven games following the loss to the 49ers. Wilson has thrown 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions and Seattle is 5-2 since then.”

Mike Sando of ESPN.com notes several similarities between the Seahawks and 49ers on a statistical level:

  • Each team has scored 25 red zone touchdowns on 47 chances.
  • Each team has converted about 36 percent of its third-down opportunities.
  • Each team averages 6.8 yards per pass play.
  • The teams are within 30 yards of one another in total rushing yards: 2,280 for the 49ers and 2,250 for the Seahawks.
  • The teams are within one total touchdown of one another: 40 for the 49ers, 41 for the Seahawks.
  • The teams have committed about the same number of penalties, 99 for San Francisco and 95 for Seattle.

Sando also offers up his prediction for the Sunday night matchup between the two clubs, “Here we go. The main event. My feeling going into Week 15 was that San Francisco would go 1-1 against the Patriots and Seahawks. I didn’t have the guts to pick the 49ers at New England, unfortunately. The slate is clean this week. If the 49ers win prime-time road games on opposite coasts against two of the NFL’s best teams in an eight-day period, they’re even better than I realized when ranking them No. 1 on my latest power rankings ballot. Should be a great game either way. Sando’s best guess: Seahawks 23, 49ers 21.”

Doug Kretz of ESPN.com details “What to watch” in Sunday night’s matchup between the Seahawks and Niners. You must be an ESPN Insider to view this piece, but here is a small sample, “Key positional battle — Seahawks’ O-Line vs. 49ers’ D-Line: Seattle’s offensive line has been dominating up front the past couple of games and has been creating huge run lanes for Lynch and the ground game. These blockers are great road-graders who fight for everything they get and refuse to back down. San Francisco’s defensive linemen are also powerful and are great fighters. They are the league’s third-ranked run defense and hold opponents to 3.61 yards per carry….These are two evenly matched teams, and the position advantage could go either way at multiple spots. The ’12th Man’ advantage should provide the difference as Seattle pulls this one out.” Kretz likes the Seahawks by a score of 20-17.

NFL Films previews our Week 16 Sunday night matchup with the Niners in this short video.

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth highlights rookie tight end Sean McGrath, who was recently promoted to the active roster from the practice squad earlier this week after the release of tight end Evan Moore, and recaps the activities surrounding “Thursday in Hawkville“, with a focus on the play of the rookies Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

Tony Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily” with reaction from the club as they look forward to a challenging weekend against the Niners.

We bring you Wilson’s full video press conference from yesterday here, and Bradley’s full video press conference from yesterday here.

Finally, our team photographer Rod Mar has an updated look at the week of practice in photos.