Seahawks’ special teams rank among best in NFL

Not that we needed someone to tell us this, but the Seahawks’ special teams were among the best in the NFL during the 2012 season.

The Seahawks’ units that are coordinated by Brian Schneider finished fifth in the rankings compiled by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. He ranks each of the 32 teams in 22 categories, awarding points on those rankings – one for the best, 32 for the worst.

In Gosselin’s rankings, the Seahawks had 302 points to finish behind the Vikings (253.5), Bengals (276), Ravens (277) and Dolphins (296) – who were the only team among the Top 5 that did not advance to the postseason.

The Seahawks’ special teams scored 24 points, to tie the Titans for most in the league. And the Seahawks’ four scores came from four different facets as Richard Sherman returned a field goal that was blocked by Red Bryant 90 yards for a touchdown in Week 16 against the 49ers; Malcolm Smith recovered a muffed punt as he was crossing the goal line for a TD in Week 14 against the Cardinals; Jeron Johnson returned a punt that was blocked by Smith for a score in Week 3 against the Cowboys; and Leon Washington returned a kickoff 98 yards for a TD in Week 12 against the Dolphins.

“We were very consistent this season,” Schneider said. “Very consistent. We had the big plays, but the thing that jumped out at me was the consistency.”

Schneider’s units also were ranked No. 3 by Football Outsiders, who factor five elements in their rankings – field goals and PATs, kickoffs, kickoff returns, punts and punt returns. The Seahawks had ranked No. 16 in 2011.

“This thing could be going on for a while,” punter Jon Ryan said. “It’s not a flash-in-the-pan type thing, where it’s just a one-year fluke that we played well on special teams. We’re going to just keep building on this and keep on working on that goal of owning the NFC West.”


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On this date: Cortez Kennedy elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Cortez Kennedy

A look at some memorable moments in Seahawks history that occurred on Feb. 4:

1990: Dave Krieg completes 15 of 23 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, but the NFC wins the Pro Bowl 27-21. Jerry Gray, a cornerback for the Rams who would go on to coach the Seahawks’ defensive backs in 2010, is named MVP after returning an interception 51 yards for a TD and also registering seven tackles. Rufus Porter (two tackles) and Brian Blades (one reception) also represent the Seahawks in the game.

1996: Chris Warren leads the NFC with 43 rushing yards, but the NFC wins the Pro Bowl 20-13.

1998: Jim Johnson is named linebackers coach on Dennis Erickson’s staff. Johnson remains for only one season before becoming the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, but his impact on the Seahawks’ defense is apparent even after he leaves.

2010: First-year coach Pete Carroll announces his staff: Jeremy Bates (offensive coordinator), Gus Bradley (defensive coordinator), Brian Schneider (special teams coordinator), Kippy Brown (wide receivers), Luke Butkus (quality control/offensive line), Dave Canales (quality control/offense), Chris Carlisle (head strength and conditioning), Jedd Fisch (quarterbacks), Mondray Gee (assistant strength and conditioning), Alex Gibbs (offensive line), Jerry Gray (defensive backs), Kris Richard (assistant defensive backs), Rocky Seto (quality control/defense), Sherman Smith (running backs), Jeff Ulbrich (assistant special teams), Art Valero (assistant offensive line) and Jamie Yancher (assistant strength and conditioning).

2012: Cortez Kennedy, in his seventh year of eligibility and fourth year as a finalist, is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. An eight-time Pro Bowl selection and member of the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1990s as a defensive tackle, Kennedy joins Steve Largent as the only career-long Seahawks player in the Hall.


Honor roll from a season when Seahawks got on quite a roll

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Seahawks.com hands out its honors from the team’s 11-5 regular season and split of two games in the postseason:

MVP: Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson. How can pick one over the other? How can you pick one or the other? We couldn’t, so the Beast Mode running back and steady-as-he-throws rookie QB share the honor, just as they shared the workload. There’s an entire story’s worth of thought process that went into this decision.Max Unger

Best offensive player: Max Unger. It could go to Lynch or Wilson, obviously. But this is a share-the-credit selection, since both Lynch and Wilson were always quick to credit the line for its part their accomplishments. Unger, in his second season as the starting center, anchored that line and was voted All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. “He’s right all the time,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said. “I think to do this the consistency thing comes into play here. You’ve got to do it running the ball and protecting your quarterback down after down, and Max has done that.”

Best defensive player: Richard Sherman. Only strong safety Kam Chancellor (.975) and free safety Earl Thomas (.958) played a higher percentage of snaps than Sherman (.948), but no one made more plays than the second-year cornerback. He led the team, and tied for second in the NFL, with eight interceptions. He also had 24 passes defensed, almost three times as many as Thomas (nine), who finished second on the team. Richard Sherman, Heath FarwellSomehow snubbed when it came to voting for the Pro Bowl, Sherman was selected to the All-Pro team. If enough people were paying attention, he also should get some consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year – an award that is expected to be a slam-dunk for the Texans’ J.J. Watt. And Sherman saved one of his best efforts for the biggest stage – Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons. “I thought he had a fantastic football game,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They went after him. They challenged him. And I thought he was incredible.”

Best special teams player: Heath Farwell. Again, this was not an easy choice. And asking special teams coordinator Brian Schneider for help didn’t help at all, because so many of his players made special contributions. From Jon Ryan, who broke his own club record for net average (40.8) and was among the league leaders with 30 punts downed inside the 20; to kicker Steven Hauschka, who was 23 of 23 from inside the 50; to Leon Washington, who was voted to the Pro Bowl and returned the eighth kickoff of his career for a TD to tie the NFL record; to Michael Robinson, who was second to Farwell in coverage tackles (10); to Malcolm Smith, who scored off a muffed punt return and blocked a punt that was returned for a score. But for Schneider, it was all about the consistency with his units and no one was more consistent than Farwell, who had 15 coverage tackles to go with the league-high 21 he produced last season.

Bobby WagnerOffensive rookie of the year: Wilson, for all the obvious reasons and even more that weren’t that obvious.

Defensive rookie of the year: Bobby Wagner. While first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin led all NFL rookies with eight sacks, Wagner led the team, and finished second among all rookies in the league, with 140 tackles during the regular season and 17 during the postseason. The second-round draft choice also produced four interceptions and two sacks from his middle linebacker spot. The best part of everything that Wagner did? His attitude. “I’m the middle linebacker,” he said. “I’m supposed to make a lot of tackles.”

Free-agent addition of the year: Zach Miller. Yes, he was signed in free agency the previous year. But his contributions this season came much closer to displaying just how versatile – and good – a tight end Miller is. He’s a rock-solid blocker and also finished third on the team with 38receptions and tied for second with three TD catches. But it was Miller’s over-the-top efforts against the Falcons that forced the turn-back-the-clock tweak in this category: eight catches for 142 yards. All after he tore the plantar fascia in his left foot on the Seahawks’ first possession. “Zach had a terrific season for us,” Carroll said. “But in this game, when he had the opportunities, boy, he cashed in on all of them.”

Chris Gray Award: Paul McQuistan. Who better to win this than this generation’s Chris Gray? Gray was a warrior of a lineman who started a club-record 121 consecutive games from 1999-2006, after being signed to fill a backup role. That’s the same path McQuistan has followed. Signed to a future contract in January of 2011, he started a career-high 10 games last season and 16 this season – nine at right guard and seven at left guard, where he also started both postseason games. “He’s kind of our glue, that’s the way I look at him,” Cable said. “Paul has been so valuable. He has played multiple positions the last two years. He never misses a beat. It’s just that his wisdom and experience are so valuable for those young guys in there. So he truly has been the glue in that room, without a doubt.”

Best trend: Going 8-0 at home. This season’s team did it, joining the 2003 and 2005 teams as the only ones in franchise history to do it. Along the way, the Seahawks dispatched the Packers and Patriots, who went on to win their divisions, as well as the playoff-bound Vikings. They also avenged road losses to each of their NFC West rivals – beating the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals by a combined 94 points in the final month of the regular season after losing to them by a combined 17 points in the first seven weeks of the season. Think how different things might have turned out if the Seahawks had been able to play at CenturyLink Field in the postseason. Carroll has. “That’s why you own your division, so you can be positioned to play at home,” he said. “That’s what’s at hand, that’s the goal of this program – it’s to win the division so that you can start the playoffs where you want to, and try to keep it there.”

Worst trend: The inability to hold fourth-quarter leads. As well as the defense played – and that was ranked-No. 4-in-the NFL well – it allowed the Lions, Dolphins and finally Falcons to drive to game-winning scores after the Seahawks taken fourth-quarter leads. The Bears tied the score at the end of regulation, but the offense won that game in overtime. Win a couple of those other games and the Seahawks would have captured the division and opened the postseason at home. “That’s an issue, just finishing it off on that last drive,” Carroll said. “There are four games sitting right there. That’s a big-time season. But I’m not worried about figuring that out. It’s just a snap here or there. But it happened this year and you can’t ignore that.”

Best quote: This one is actually a remark incumbent starter, and since traded, Tarvaris Jackson made last spring – way before the fact, and way before Wilson became the talk of the NFL: “Russell, he’s not like a regular rookie.”


Monday in Hawkville: Wilson’s ascent leads to rookie firsts

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Nov. 26:

FOCUS ON

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson. The Seahawks’ rookie quarterback has been on a “continued ascent,” as coach Pete Carroll said today during his day-after Q&A session with the media.

That’s one way to put it, because what Wilson has done in the past three games is historic stuff.

In Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Wilson became the first rookie in the 93-year history of the NFL to complete 16 consecutive passes – which also is one shy of the Seahawks’ franchise record that was set by Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon in 1998.

The historic feat that Wilson turned with his arm also led to another first-for-a-rookie achievement, which the league announced today. With his 125.9 passer rating against the Dolphins, he also has a three-game streak where his rating has been at least 125. Wilson had a 131.0 rating in the pre-bye week win over the Jets and was at 127.3 the week before against the Vikings – both victories in games played at CenturyLink Field.

Put those three games together and Wilson’s numbers inch closer to top-of-the-chart status, not for a rookie QB but any QB: 128.6 rating, 70 percent completions (49 of 70), 585 yards, seven touchdown passes, no interceptions.

The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers leads the league in passer rating (105.6), while the 49ers’ Alex Smith leads in completion percentage (.700).

As pleased as Carroll is with the progress of his first-year passer, he is not startled by Wilson’s development.

“Russell has really, really continued to improve,” Carroll said. “It’s not really a surprise when you look at how he goes about it, and who he is, and how talented a football player he is.

“I thought his talent really showed in (Sunday’s) game. I thought he was really adept at finding space to make his plays, and dumping the ball off really effectively, as well.”

Here’s a closer look at Wilson’s “sweet 16” against the Dolphins:

It started on the Seahawks’ first possession of the second quarter, after he threw incomplete to Golden Tate. Then it was Wilson to Sidney Rice for 26 yards on third-and-12; Wilson to Rice for 11 yards; and Wilson to tight end Zach Miller for 4 yards on third-and-3. That’s three in a row.

On their next possession in the quarter, it was Wilson to rookie running back Robert Turbin for 20 yards on third-and-3; Wilson to running back Marshawn Lynch for 7 yards on third-and-1; Wilson to Tate for 32 yards; and Wilson to tight end Anthony McCoy for 3 yards and a touchdown. That’s seven in a row.

On the Seahawks’ first possession in the third quarter, Wilson was 7 of 7 during the 12-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his 4-yard TD pass to fullback Michael Robinson: Wilson to Rice for 12 yards; Wilson to Miller for 4 yards; Wilson to rookie wide receiver Jermaine Kearse for 8 yards on third-and-3; Wilson to Doug Baldwin for 14 yards; Wilson to Turbin for 18 yards; Wilson to tight end Evan Moore for 6 yards on third-and-1; Wilson to Robinson for the score. That’s 14 in a row.

Wilson then hit his first two passes of the fourth quarter – a 14-yarder to Tate and an 8-yarder to Miller – for No. 15 and No. 16.

His 16 completions went to 10 different receivers, with Rice (three), Miller (three), Tate (two) and Turbin (two) catching more than one.

“I think he’s got more room to improve,” Carroll said. “And I think he is a prime example of why a guy improves, because of the way he applies himself. He does it to the absolute nth degree. We’re seeing it right before our eyes. Pretty cool.”

THE POINT OF NO RETURNS

Jon Ryan

Heath Farwell and his mates on the kickoff and punt coverage units went without a tackle against the Dolphins because the Seahawks did not allow a return. Six of Jon Ryan’s seven punts were inside the 20-yard line, as four were fair caught, two went out of bounds and the other was downed; while each of Steven Hauschka’s four kickoffs were touchbacks.

“That’s one of the first games I’ve been in where they had zero return yards, and we didn’t have any tackles,” special teams coordinator Brian Schneider said. “Our guys love to fight for tackles. That’s a big deal to them in the locker room, like who’s going to get them. And there just weren’t any, because Jon did such a great job punting and Steven was crushing the ball.”

As a result, the Dolphins had 11 possessions and the last 10 started at (four) or inside (six) the 20-yard line.

“We’ll take that anytime,” Schneider said.

INJURY REPORT

Linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle) and left guard James Carpenter (knee) left Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, but each was able to return. Carroll said today that he’ll know more on Wednesday about their availability to practice.

STAT DU JOUR

Leon Washington returned his eighth kickoff for a touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday, tying the NFL record that was set by the Browns’ Josh Cribbs. Here’s a look at Washington’s scoring returns – the first four with the Seahawks, the other four with the Jets:

Opponent (year)             Yards      Outcome

Dolphins (2012)                 98          L, 24-21

49ers (2010)                       92          L, 40-21

Chargers (2010)         101, 99         W, 27-20

Patriots (2008)                   92          W, 34-31

Dolphins (2007)                 98          W, 31-28

Giants (2007)                     98           L, 35-24

Redskins (2007)                 86           L, 23-20 OT

UP NEXT

The players have their “off” day on Tuesday and will return on “Competition Wednesday” to begin practicing for Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor will sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday at the CenturyLink Field Pro Shop.

YOU DON’T SAY

“This is running into the quarterback, not roughing the quarterback … (Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas) was trying to avoid it. He didn’t even hit him (Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill) hard, barely touched him.” – Tony Dungy, the former Colts and Buccaneers coach and now NBC analyst, on the fourth-quarter penalty that negated an end-zone interception by rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner


Wednesday cyber surfing: NFC West no longer considered “NFC Worst”

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, September 19.

We start with a few roster moves that were announced by the team yesterday – the Seahawks released running back Kregg Lumpkin from the active roster and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette and linebacker Allen Bradford from the practice squad. In their places, the team announced the signing of cornerback Danny Gorrer to the active roster, and the signing of linebacker Korey Toomer and offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson to the practice squad.

Coach Pete Carroll has an addition to his blog at WinForever.com, as he emphasizes the importance of moving on from the week before, “So now the challenge this week is the same as last week, even though we’re coming off of a win instead of a loss. We’ve got to leave last Sunday behind and turn our entire focus to performing how we know how to perform come Monday night at home. After all, it’s what we do now that counts.”

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times writes that one should not judge rookie quarterback Russell Wilson by his lack of height,“Wilson’s height is just one part of his makeup, and not necessarily the most important part. He is a short quarterback, but he’s also a fast quarterback. He’s a smart quarterback. He’s a strong-armed quarterback. He also has really big hands (for whatever that’s worth). Four inches are about all that separates him from being the ideal NFL quarterback prospect. Those four inches are significant, but they might not turn out be the kind of dealbreaker that some have assumed.”

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says that this Seahawks defense might be the best that they’ve ever had, “The statistics fail to measure the physically intimidating play of this unit, which is its dominant characteristic. And in games at home, it inflames the fans, which, in turn, further energizes the players. ‘The way we want to play is really tough, hard-nosed football,’ Carroll said. ‘And we brought in guys to do that … guys who run fast and hit.’ They certainly do … perhaps to a historic degree.”

John Boyle of the Everett Herald notes the improvement of the NFC West division, “…it’s looking more and more likely that the 49ers won’t be the only playoff contender in their division. Arizona was largely dismissed coming into the season thanks to uncertainty at quarterback, but the Cardinals are 2-0 and coming off of shocking win in New England. Going back to last season, the Cardinals are 9-2 since starting the year with a 1-6 record. Seattle also finished last season strong, and after a close loss in Arizona, the Seahawks thumped Dallas on Sunday, physically dominating a Cowboys squad that many had pegged as one of the top teams in the NFC after they knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in Week 1. Throw in St. Louis, which after going 2-14 last year opened this season with a close loss at Detroit and a comeback win over Washington, and it is looking more and more like the NFC West is a division of teams ready to push back rather than be pushovers.”

Don Banks of SI.com shares a similar sentiment to Boyle, citing the NFC West as the division with the best combined record through Week 2, “It’s the only one of the NFL’s eight divisions with a pair of 2-0 teams (San Francisco, Arizona), and the division’s cumulative 6-2 record is the best in the league. With one of the West’s two losses coming in head-to-head play (Arizona over Seattle in Week 1), its only defeat outside the division was St. Louis’ last-minute, opening-week loss at Detroit. The West’s 5-1 record outside the division is tops in the NFL, and the division’s 4-0 record in Week 2 was only its second such perfect mark since realignment in 2002.”

Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN.com has an extensive look at quarterback Russell Wilson, “Wilson has been called a test study in a league that hinges on centimeters and is steadfast on black-and-white metrics. A wide receiver is supposed to run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, an offensive lineman is supposed to weigh 300 pounds and a quarterback is supposed to stand at least 6-foot-2. ‘He’s what you call an outlier,’ said former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, whose grading system would’ve subtracted 15 points for Wilson’s height. ‘You go broke looking for those guys. For every guy that you draft that’s three inches and four inches below the accepted minimum, 99 of 100 are going to fail. He’s a real exception. Have you ever talked to him personally? He’s the most dynamic guy you’ll ever be around. He has such an unusual flair. I mean, this guy wins you over with two minutes’ talk. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a quarterback that’s undersized like he is that has been so dynamic.’ “

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has a closer look at backup left tackle Frank Omiyale’s day against the Dallas Cowboys, “Frank Omiyale, Seahawks: Omiyale started against Dallas while Russell Okung was recovering from a bruised knee. Okung is expected back to face Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers’ defense on “Monday Night Football” in Week 3. The Seahawks helped Omiyale some of the time. Omiyale held up without assistance when protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side during a 22-yard scoring pass to tight end Anthony McCoy. Dallas’ Demarcus Ware finished the game with no sacks. Seattle rushed for 182 yards while allowing only two sacks, one of which resulted from an unblocked rusher coming free on Wilson’s front side, away from Omiyale. Seattle got through this game as well as could be expected. The team has averaged 3.5 yards per rush with Okung and 4.4 yards without him. The per-carry average was slightly higher without Okung last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. There are other variables, however. Okung is easily the most talented option at tackle.”

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth says that the Seahawks special teams unit met all 12 goals set by special teams coordinator Brian Schneider for the very first time, and catches up with Omiyale about his game against the Cowboys.

On the video side, we bring you a look at the SeaHawkers Booster Club’s King St. Kickoff event last week before the first home game, and we recap the Sea Gals performance at the Puyallup Fair.


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Friday cyber surfing: NFC West on the rise

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, July 20.

Here at Seahawks.com we start by bringing you Clare Farnsworth’s next installment of his 2012 Seahawks positional outlook, as he checks out the Seahawks special teams unit. Farnsworth speaks with special teams coach Brian Schneider, who believes that despite the units success a year ago they have the talent and potential to be even better this season. Just how good was this unit? Well, Schneider shared this eye-popping statistic with his group, and then with Farnsworth, “Last season, when the special teams gave the offense the ball inside the 50-yard line, the Seahawks scored 77 percent of the time. Conversely, when the special teams put the defense inside the opponents’ 20-yard, the opposition scored 17 percent of the time. ‘It’s a pretty cool deal,’ Schneider said. “’f we can create a really long field for the defense, we’re really successful. If we get a short field for the offense, we’re really successful. And when you put those numbers on it, it just kind of gives some value to it.’ “

Next up at Seahawks.com we have the unique story behind Seahawks fan Karlyn Moyer’s “Mom Cave”- her own room packed full of Seahawks memorabilia. Moyer shared some photos of her “Mom Cave” on the 12th Man Tour’s visit to Alaska, “Almost 20 years ago, Moyer’s collection of Seahawks memorabilia started with a single stuffed Teddy bear donning a Seahawks sweater bearing Moyer’s name and birth year. Today, Moyer’s collection has grown to include furniture, clothing, flags, figurines, and more – and she has not purchased a single piece of it. ‘I do not buy myself any new things for my collection,’ Moyer said. ‘Everyone I know purchases them for me. Friends and family all ask, ‘Do you have this?’ ” The 12th Man Tour continues with a stop in Spokane this Saturday, July 21.

Rounding out the coverage here at Seahawks.com we have a video featuring Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, who sits down with Seahawks Insider Tony Ventrella. The two talk about the difference between Wright’s preparation during the lockout-shortened offseason a year ago compared to his first full offseason this year, as well as how he was able to adjust to play at the NFL level so quickly.

NFL.com gives us their divisional power rankings, and the NFC West sits as the seventh-ranked division of the eight in the League, “Despite its consistently low ranking, the NFC West has made strides,” writes NFL.com. “The gap between, say, the NFC East and NFC West has closed dramatically. The NFC West would have been dead last, often by a wide margin, for much of the past decade. It’s a division on the rise with the San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals all possessing good defenses.”

Mel Kiper of ESPN.com breaks down summer additions to the NFC West, and althought you must have an ESPN Insider account to view the complete piece, here’s a taste of what Kiper offers on the Seahawks: “Help added: There’s been a notable velocity with which Pete Carroll and John Schneider have remade the Seahawks’ roster over the past 24 months. This year, I think it’ll finally be time to really judge these guys on something more than growth. This is a team that, on paper, can be a winner if it can find some points and keep healthy in key spots. In terms of additions, it starts with Matt Flynn at quarterback. While Tarvaris Jackson is still around, and Russell Wilson deserves to be in the picture as a young player competing for the spot, Flynn has to be the starter in Week 1. With Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin, Seattle has an above-average tandem in the passing game, with the chance to be better. People should remember that Rice is still just 25, with a history of nicks that have limited him. So while I think it should be Flynn, “not enough weapons” can’t be an excuse for anyone. I think we’re all pretty interested to see how much of a pass rush Carroll can create with the addition of Bruce Irvin. I know evaluators who saw the lightning rod out of West Virginia as the best pure pass-rusher in the draft (which is partly a reflection of the class), and Seattle had to have taken Irvin with a specific role in mind. Carroll can use him as a Leo linebacker, with Chris Clemons as a possible model. Barrett Ruud provides some experience at linebacker and Jason Jones filled a hole at D-tackle. But the key is the rush, because consistent pressure could make an already good secondary look spectacular. It starts up front, and Irvin is the key for me.”

Finally, Forbes recently released a list of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams, and the Seahawks find themselves at No. 25 on the list, with an estimated worth of $997 million. Despite their relatively high ranking, the Seahawks are just the 16th-ranked NFL team on the list, behind the Dallas Cowboys (T-No. 3), Washington Redskins (No. 5), New England Patriots (T-No. 6), New York Giants (No. 9), New York Jets (No. 12), Houston Texans (No. 13), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 14), Chicago Bears (No. 16), Green Bay Packers (No. 17), Baltimore Ravens (No. 18), Indianapolis Colts (No. 19), Denver Broncos (No. 20), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 21), Miami Dolphins (No. 22) and Carolina Panthers (No. 24).


Special attention

SPECIAL IS AS SPECIAL DOES
Heath Farwell made tackles on special teams in only eight games for the Seahawks last season after being signed at midseason, but he made enough to lead the NFL with 21. Here’s a look at his special contributions in his first season in Seattle:Browns: 1 tackle on a kickoff return.

Bengals: 3 tackles, all on kickoff returns.

Ravens: 2 tackles, including one after a 5-yard gain on a punt return.

Rams: 2 tackles, on punt returns after 6- and 9-yard gains.

Eagles: 3 tackles, all on kickoff returns.

Rams: 4 tackles, all on kickoff returns.

Bears: 3 tackles, including one after a 9-yard gain on a kickoff return; and he also downed a punt at the 3-yard line.

49ers: 0 tackles, but he blocked a punt in the Week 16 game that setup a 4-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch – making Lynch the first player to score a rushing touchdown against the 49ers last season.

Cardinals: 3 tackles, including one after a 4-yard gain on a punt return.

Note: Opponents averaged 11.5 yards on punt returns against the Seahawks last season, but 6.2 yards on the five where Farwell made the tackle; and 26.0 yards on kickoff returns, but 23.3 yards on the 16 where Farwell was in on the tackle.

The coaches are limited to 45 minutes on the practice field with the players during Phase 2 of the Seahawks’ offseason program. But each session includes, and ends with, a special teams period.

“It’s pretty cool,” said linebacker Heath Farwell, who led not only the Seahawks but the entire league with 21 coverage tackles last season. “We’re out here working hard. Guys just want to get better, that’s the thing. We’ve got one goal in mind, and that’s to win.”

It’s a sign of just how much emphasis coach Pete Carroll puts on the too-often overlooked last third of the three-part equation to playing winning football. And the special teams were just that for the Seahawks last season. Red Bryant set franchise records by blocking two field goals in a game and four kicks during the season. Jon Ryan led the NFL and tied a club record with 34 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, broke his club single-season records for average (46.6 yards) and net average (39.3) and also got off the longest punt (77 yards) in franchise history. Steven Hauschka tied club records by kicking five field goals in the upset victory over the Ravens and converting at least one three-pointer in 12 consecutive games. Doug Baldwin blocked a punt that Michael Robinson returned for a touchdown, while Farwell also had a blocked punt to set up a TD. The Seahawks ranked 10th in the league in kickoff (24.8) and punt return (11.0) average, thanks to Leon Washington (25.2 and 11.3).

The special teams, under the direction of coordinator Brian Schneider and first-year assistant Marquand Manuel, should only be better – or faster, at the very least – with the infusion of speed from this year’s draft class.

“The two young linebackers look fast and athletic,” Farwell said of second-round pick Bobby Wagner and fifth-rounder Korey Toomer – who have run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 and 4.54 seconds. “That’s going to be a big part of special teams.”

There’s also first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin (4.50 seconds) and sixth-rounders Jeremy Lane (4.48) and Winston Guy (4.53).

But as Farwell as shown in his career, it takes more than just speed to be successful on special teams. He came to the Seahawks at midseason last year after five seasons in Minnesota, where he had 113 coverage tackles to tie for fourth on the Vikings’ all-time list. He led the Vikings in special teams tackles in 2010 (19), 2009 (24), 2007 (32) and 2006 (25), and was voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC special teams player in 2009.

“It’s the want to make the plays and the want to make the tackles. It’s the effort,” a reluctant Farwell offered when asked the secret to his success. “I don’t know, it’s just something I work at. And I pride myself on it, and outworking everybody and making sure I put more time in than everybody else.”

The players were off today, but return Thursday and Friday to complete Phase 2 of the offseason program.


Tuesday cyber surfing: NFC West rivalries; Post-Draft Grades

Good morning. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, Jan. 17, and was “out there” while we combined a few vacation days with the long weekend:

Dave Boling at the News Tribune looks at the budding rivalries in the NFC West, as the 49ers have advanced to the NFC Championship Game: “Before the Seahawks were shifted from the AFC West to the NFC West in 2002, rivalries with Denver and the Oakland Raiders were historic – but had fallen from currency because Seattle had so rarely contended. The NFC West looked even less welcoming at the time, with St. Louis coming off two Super Bowl appearances in the previous three seasons, while San Francisco had a 12-4 record in 2001. But in the subsequent 10 seasons, the Seahawks dominated with five division titles and five seasons above .500. Remarkably, the other three divisional teams combined for just five plus-.500 seasons in that span. No wonder it’s taken time for rivalries to ripen. There was more guilt by association than bragging rights involved.”

Mike Sando at ESPN.com looks at how the 49ers’ defense has put a hurt on opposing running backs this season, and the accompanying chart shows just how impressive Marshawn Lynch’s 107-yard, one-TD effort against San Francisco in Week 16 really was: “(The Saints’ Pierre) Thomas became the seventh starting running back to leave a game against the 49ers after suffering an injury.”

Mel Kiper at ESPN.com has revisited his post-draft grades, and the Seahawks improved from a D-plus to a B-minus. There’s no link because it’s an “Insider” feature, but here’s what he had to say about the Seahawks: “In the grades file, I wrote: “By passing on Andy Dalton, the clear impression is that Seattle has other plans at quarterback. … I hope the Seahawks have better plans at quarterback than they did in terms of adding value here.” Look, Tarvaris Jackson could be the answer, but I don’t think anybody is ready to say he or she is 100 percent sold on that idea after a 7-9 season. And while James Carpenter became the starter on the right side, I just wasn’t in love with the value. He got injured after Week 9. John Moffitt also started but also was injured. So early on, I still see questions. However, the draft actually gains momentum from there. The emergence of No. 99 overall pick K.J. Wright was big, and allowed the Seahawks to move Aaron Curry to Oakland and recoup at least an ounce of value. In a loaded fifth round, Richard Sherman has emerged as a total steal and, along with former CFL star Brandon Browner and a pair of fantastic safeties, has made the Seattle secondary one of the best in the NFL in a really short period. It gets pretty quiet after that, mostly because I’m not allowed to factor in fabulous UFA signing Doug Baldwin. Regardless, a D-plus draft in terms of value got a lot better, although if Carpenter and Moffitt don’t become a solid right side, the Hawks have nothing to show for the early rounds. And the quarterback question is perhaps even bigger now, because there’s enough talent elsewhere to compete.”

 At Seahawks.com, we concluded our three-part series with the coordinators by taking looks at the special teams with Brian Schneider and the defense with Gus Bradley.

On the special teams: “The board does not lie. Just outside the main entrance to the Seahawks’ locker room hangs Brian Schneider’s impossible-to-miss performance board for his special teams units. Each week, the special teams coordinator grades his group in 12 categories, with a Seahawks logo being placed in the box if the goal has been achieved. For the just-completed 2011 season, the logos run from a high of 11 (three times) to a low of three. Is there a better indication of just how inconsistent Schneider’s units were? When they were good, as against the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and St. Louis Rams with those 11-logo performances, they were very good. But when they weren’t so good, as in the three-logo outing in the season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco and a four-logo game against the Cincinnati Bengals, well, the special teams’ efforts were not special enough to help the Seahawks win. ‘We really started off shaky,’ Schneider said. ‘We were young and then we had a bunch of injuries in those first couple games, so it just took us three or four games to find our rhythm. But we kept doing what we believe in and we kept talking about playing with 100 percent effort. So I was pleased with how we just kept fighting throughout the season.”

On the defense: “Where to begin with just how good the Seahawks defense was during the 2011 season? Where all the roads to improvement converged: At the unit’s No. 9 ranking in average yards allowed. The Seahawks last ranked among the Top 10 in the NFL in 1997, and had done it only five other times in franchise history (1984, 1990-92 and ’97). And, they did it with first-year starters at strong safety (Kam Chancellor), cornerback (Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman), strongside linebacker (K.J. Wright) and defensive tackle (Alan Branch); and second-year starters at free safety (Earl Thomas) and the ends (Chris Clemons and Red Bryant). That in itself is reason enough to believe the defense will only be better in 2012. ‘There are so many positive things to look toward when you think of how young this team was and how much natural jump occurred between Year One and Year Two for the first-year guys,’ coach Pete Carroll said.

There’s also a video report on Marcus Trufant’s visit to present an area elementary school with a check for $7,000.


Cyber surfing: Tuesday

Good morning. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, Nov. 29:

Mike Sando at ESPN.com has his “Silver Linings” from the Seahawks’ loss to the Redskins on Sunday, including this one: “Seattle’s offensive line generally played well, helping to limit the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan to a half-sack between them.”

Sando also wonders if the Seahawks should take a look at No. 3 QB Josh Portis before the end of the season, something several on our game-day online chat also have asked about. Says Sando: “This season was about discovery at the quarterback position and building other positions before drafting a QB in 2012. The Seahawks have seen enough from backup Charlie Whitehurst, who likely will not be back next season. Tarvaris Jackson proved he’s tough and capable enough to serve as a bridge to the team’s next starter. Portis’ talents have intrigued the coaching staff. When else will the team have a chance to give Portis a look in real games?”

Speaking of Jackson, Danny O’Neil at the Seattle Times says Jackson’s sore shoulder could put the Seahawks in a bind with the short week to prepare for Thursday night’s game against the Eagles: “His passing yardage has declined in each of the past four games, and his health will be a central issue when the Seahawks play the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday. That’s the day Jackson has just begun throwing in practice the past couple of weeks. Forget all the questions concerning Seattle’s quarterback of the future, because there’s a question of how long Jackson can stay in the pocket in the present.”

O’Neil also has “Three Things we Learned” from Sunday’s loss, including this one: “Three yards in a cloud of dust has its risks. The Seahawks have established a formula for winning, which includes a heaping helping of Marshawn Lynch and a gob of defense thick enough to choke out the opponent. Lynch surpassed 100 yards rushing for the third time in four games, but when the Seahawks gave up two touchdowns on third-down plays in the span of 3 minutes, 33 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks were in a position where they had to throw and they simply couldn’t. Having an offense that is as repetitive and as run-based as Seattle’s has been leaves a team very vulnerable should it fall behind. To repeat: If Seattle is put in a position where it has to throw, it’s in trouble.”

John Boyle at the Everett Herald also looks at Jackson’s situation: “At this point, no one can question Tarvaris Jackson toughness, his desire, or his dedication to the team. What Sunday’s loss to Washington showed we can question, however, is if the Seattle Seahawks quarterback should still be playing. That’s not to say Jackson is the primary reason why the Seahawks lost. His receivers let him down by repeatedly dropping passes, the defense gave up some unforgivable big plays, and penalties on both sides of the ball again played a big role. But what was evident watching Jackson play Sunday is the Seahawks quarterback is playing hurt, and that the pectoral injury is affecting his play.”

Also at the Herald, Scott Johnson continues his “The Game of My Life” series with a look at Keith Simpson: “Atop the desk of Keith Simpson’s office at his Houston-area home, a photograph greets him each morning. The black-and-white, unframed photo is a keepsake of a time when young football players were in the prime of their lives, when they felt indestructible. In the picture, four men celebrate arm in arm after their Seattle Seahawks recorded a dominating win and made history in the process. Two of the men, Pro Bowl safety Kenny Easley and defensive backs coach Ralph Hawkins, are beaming with pride. The others, cornerbacks Keith Simpson and Dave Brown, are too tired to even grin. Easley and Simpson hold a football under their arms, signifying the touchdowns they scored that afternoon. Brown, he has a pair of footballs, having made it to the end zone twice. And Hawkins grins like a proud father: These are my guys. Four men, having the time of their lives.”

Eric Williams at the News Tribune looks at the Seahawks’ penalty problem, and how it’s not a new problem for coach Pete Carroll: “According to statistics compiled by the Tucson (Ariz.) Citizen, during his time at USC (2004-09), Carroll-led teams were the fourth-most penalized team in the Pacific-10 Conference, averaging seven penalties per game for 61.44 yards. The Trojans led the Pac-10 in penalties in 2007 and 2008, with an average of eight a game. USC finished a combined 23-3 those two seasons largely because the Trojans had more talent than the rest of the Pac-10.”

Here at Seahawks.com, in our “Monday metatarsal musings” we take another look at Red Bryant’s block party on Sunday and exactly what’s going on: “It’s the scheme, of course, as special teams coach Brian Schneider and assistant Jeff Ulbrich have devised ways to allow Bryant to come free for those blocks. It’s also team work, as Raheem Brock, Anthony Hargrove and David Hawthorne have to do their assignments properly to allow Bryant to do his thing. ‘For that entire group, it’s become extremely important to them,’ Ulbrich said on Monday. ‘You look around the league and a lot of defenses take that snap off. But these guys have really approached it like it’s the most important defensive play.’ It’s also Bryant, too. A 6-foot-4, 330-pounder with long arms, he has the ability and agility to wedge his body through the slightest of gaps and a drive that borders on the demented. ‘Obviously Red is very talented,’ Ulbrich said. ‘He has great get-off and then he has great length. That makes a big difference.’ ”

We’ve also got a look at this condensed week in “Monday in Hawkville,” and a look back at Sunday’s game in Tony Ventrella’s video review.


Friday in Hawkville

A recap of the day’s activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Nov. 18:

FOCUS ON

Tarvaris Jackson. If it’s Friday, the Seahawks’ sore-shouldered quarterback did not throw in practice. But then this has become his pattern in practice since straining the pectoral in his right shoulder in the Week 5 win over the Giants.

“Tarvaris did very well in practice yesterday and couldn’t throw today,” coach Pete Carroll said after today’s 90-minute practice.

But then Jackson wasn’t scheduled to throw, because it has taken him two days to recover after throwing in previous weeks.

“We figured it was going to be the same, because he went into the week the same,” Carroll said. “He can throw one day and then he’s got to rest a few days before he can come back and throw again.”

But Jackson is expected to play against the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday, although the final decision will be made on game day – as it has the past three weeks.

Not ideal, but just the way it is and will continue to be.

“He misses the opportunity for the installation for the end of the week,” Carroll said. “He has to kind of think through the routes and read through them just standing behind the quarterback (Charlie Whitehurst).

“It’s just not the same, but we still feel confident in (him) helping us win. He looked really good a day ago. So that’s how we’ll go. But it’s not the way you design it at all. He needs the work and it’s going to accumulate, I would think, at some point. But hopefully we’ll be able to play through that.”

UNIT WATCH

Special teams. On a scale of 1-to-12, the efforts of these units were a “10” against the Ravens last week. How can you tell? It’s on a large performance board that is mounted on the wall just outside the locker room.

Special teams coaches Brian Schneider and Jeff Ulbrich grade their players on 12 categories each week, from 100 percent effort to eliminating big plays by the opponent. If the goal-area is achieved, a Seahawks’ logo is placed in the appropriate box. So the board does not lie in charting the inconsistent performance this season of the unit that was the most consistent element of the team last season.

That “10” against the Ravens included forcing two fumbles on kickoff returns that were recovered to set up a pair of field goals by Steve Hauschka – a win-win exchange for the special teams.

In addition to that “10,” the special teams got 11 logos in Weeks 4-5 against the Falcons and Giants. There also has been a pair of 8’s – against the Cardinals in Week 3 and the Browns in Week 7. But then there’s also a “6” (Week 9 against the Cowboys); a “5” (Week 2 against the Steelers); a “4” (Week 8 against the Bengals); and a “3” (the opener against the 49ers).

The Seahawks’ victories have come against the Ravens, Giants and Cardinals – two of the games with double-digit logos on the board as well as an “8.” Those with the least? The Seahawks allowed a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns in the loss to the 49ers and a punt return for a score against the Bengals.

So the board serves as positive feedback for those jobs well done, and an impetus for improvement after those games that didn’t go as well.

“Absolutely,” said Michael Robinson, the special teams co-captain. “When we don’t have many of those logos up there, then that means a lot of games we lose. But when we’re meeting all of our goals, putting our offense and defense in great situations, we usually win.”

So that’s a thumbs-up for the special board? “I love it,” Robinson said.

INJURY REPORT

The official end-of-the-week status report:

Out

OT James Carpenter (knee)

Questionable

S Atari Bigby (hamstring)

DL Anthony Hargrove (hamstring)

Probable

WR Doug Baldwin (head)

QB Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral)

WR Sidney Rice (head)

LB David Vobora (head)

SS Kam Chancellor (head)

TE Cameron Morrah (toe/knee)

Bigby was limited in practice, but did get some work for the first time this week. Carroll said the status of Bigby and Hargrove would be game-day decisions. Rice, Baldwin and Chancellor have practiced all week, after getting concussions against the Ravens, and will play against the Rams.

For the Rams:

Out

OT Jason Smith (head)

RB Carnell Williams (calf)

Doubtful

WR Danario Alexander (hamstring)

Questionable

CB Justin King (head/ankle)

OT Rodger Saffold (head/chest)

Probable

WR Brandon Gibson (groin)

LB Josh Hull (hamstring)

LB Bryan Kehl (ankle)

RB Jerious Norwood (hamstring)

DE Eugene Sims (shoulder)

S Darian Stewart (neck)

DE Eugene Sims (shoulder)

Saffold, the starter at left tackle, did not practice today after injuring a pectoral while lifting weights. The St. Louis Post Dispatch is reporting that a MRI showed “significant” damage to the muscle. Mark LeVoir is expected to start against the Seahawks.

STILL SIDE-BY-SIDE

Rookie offensive linemen James Carpenter and John Moffitt will have surgery next week to repair the knee ligaments they damaged this week. On the same day.

“Beds side-by-side; and John’s going to be on the left and James will be on the right,” Carroll said, a reference to how they lined up at right guard and right tackle before being injured.

Moffitt injured the MCL and PCL in his right knee in Sunday’s win over the Ravens. Carpenter tore the ACL in his left knee during practice on Wednesday.

STAT DU JOUR

Marshawn Lynch will be looking to score a touchdown in his sixth consecutive game on Sunday, which would be the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. Here’s a look at those he’s tied with and those he’s chasing:

Player (season)                     Games

Shaun Alexander (2005)         9

David Sims (1978)                    8

Chris Warren (1993-94)          7

Marshawn Lynch (2011)         5

Curt Warner (1983)                 5

Steve Largent (1984)               5

UP NEXT

The players will have a walk-through on Saturday morning before the team flies to St. Louis for Sunday’s games.

The Seahawks will then play three consecutive home games for the first time since 2004 – next Sunday against the Redskins; Dec. 1, a Thursday night, against the Eagles; and a “Monday Night Football” game against the Rams on Dec. 12.

Tickets are available for those games and can be purchased here.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Whenever somebody gets hurt, your heart gets crushed a little bit for the guys. But the other side of it is the opportunity. These guys have come to play here. This is why they’re here. So they’re going to jump at this opportunity and go for it. They really do know our system. I feel very confident in that regard. Tom (Cable, the line coach) feels great about that. So we’ll expect those guys to do well and we’ll just keep moving.” – Carroll on Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini stepping in for Moffitt and Carpenter


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