The “spine of the Seahawks” built in three drafts under John Schneider & Pete Carroll

Russell Okung, Earl Thomas

NFL.com Around the League editor Gregg Rosenthal recently ranked what he considers to be the five NFL teams that are the best when it comes to finding talent in the NFL Draft.

Rosenthal stresses that his list is in no particular order, but the Seahawks, under the direction of general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, are conveniently  Rosenthal’s first mention.

The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, NFC West rival San Fracisco 49ers, New England Patriots, and New York Giants round out Rosenthal’s top five.

On the Seahawks, Rosenthal writes:

“GM John Schneider and Pete Carroll have only been together three years, but their track record is outstanding. They see players differently than other teams. Last year’s three-pack of Bruce Irvin,

Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson were all controversial picks that didn’t fit the traditional mold. They were all outstanding.

2011 was a shakier draft, but they found an All-Pro cornerback in Richard Sherman in the fifth round. That’s also the round they found Kam Chancellor in their first draft in 2010. That crop included Earl Thomas and Russell Okung. The spine of the Seahawks were built in three drafts.”

Twenty-two of Schneider and Carroll’s 28 total picks from the last three years remain on the Seahawks’ current roster. Four of their picks have been named to the Pro Bowl (Okung, Thomas, Chancellor, Wilson). Three have been named first-team All-Pro (Okung, Thomas, Sherman). And 10 of their 28 picks were listed as starters on the Seahawks’ depth chart heading into last year’s divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Below is a pick-by-pick rundown of the Seahawks’ drafts guided by Schneider and Carroll.

2010:

Round Pick No. Name Height Weight Position College
1 6 Russell Okung 6-5 310 T Oklahoma State
1 14 Earl Thomas 5-10 202 S Texas
2 60 Golden Tate 5-10 202 WR Notre Dame
4 111 Walter Thurmond 5-11 190 CB Oregon
4 127 E.J. Wilson 6-3 289 DE North Carolina
5 133 Kam Chancellor 6-3 232 S Virginia Tech
6 185 Anthony McCoy 6-5 259 TE USC
7 236 Dexter Davis 6-1 244 DE Arizona St.
7 245 Jameson Konz 6-3 234 WR Kent. St.

2011:

Round Pick No. Name Height Weight Position College
1 25 James Carpenter 6-5 321 T Alabama
3 75 John Moffitt 6-4 319 G Wisconsin
4 99 K.J. Wright 6-4 246 LB Mississippi St.
4 107 Kris Durham 6-6 216 WR Georgia
5 154 Richard Sherman 6-3 195 CB Stanford
5 156 Mark LeGree 6-0 211 S Appalachian St.
6 173 Byon Maxwell 6-1 207 CB Clemson
7 205 Pep Levingston 6-4 292 DE LSU
7 242 Malcolm Smith 6-0 226 LB USC

2012:

Round Pick No. Name Height Weight Position College
1 15 Bruce Irvin 6-3 248 DE West Virginia
2 47 Bobby Wagner 6-0 241 LB Utah State
3 75 Russell Wilson 5-11 206 QB Wisconsin
4 106 Robert Turbin 5-10 222 RB Utah State
4 114 Jaye Howard 6-3 301 DE Florida
5 154 Korey Toomer 6-2 234 LB Idaho
6 172 Jeremy Lane 6-0 190 CB NW Louisiana
6 181 Winston Guy 6-1 218 S Kentucky
7 225 JR Sweezy 6-5 298 G North Carolina St.
7 232 Greg Scruggs 6-3 284 DE Louisville

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Weighing in on the NFC West

Mike Sando, the NFC West blogger at ESPN.com, has turned Matt Williamson’s positional rankings for the division’s four teams into a series of informational and entertaining “conversations” with the website’s resident scout.

Williamson ranks the Seahawks as the second-best team in the NFC West behind the conference champion 49ers, but the Seahawks come out No. 1 at quarterback, running back, defensive line, cornerback and safety. They are No. 2 at wide receiver, offensive line, linebackers and head coach, and No. 3 at tight end.

It’s worth checking out the rankings and the dialogue on each:

Quarterback

Williamson: “If I were starting a team, (Colin) Kaepernick and (Russell) Wilson would rank among my top five picks. The upside for Kaepernick is so great. I don’t expect him to take a step back. I just don’t think he is as far along as Wilson in the fundamentals of quarterback play. Wilson coming into the league was ahead of Kaepernick in terms of being a pocket passer, reading defenses, not relying on his physical gifts so much and just in the mental side of things.”

Running back

Williamson: “Seattle has the best back in the division in Marshawn Lynch, and Robert Turbin is a heckuva backup. It’s not a knock on (Frank) Gore. I like LaMichael James and like Kendall Hunter, too. So, the 49ers have three guys to talk about instead of two for Seattle.”

Wide receivers

Williamson: “I’ll take (Percy) Harvin every day over (Michael) Crabtree and that is not a knock on Crabtree. Harvin is more dynamic, more versatile. He frightens defenses way more. You can do so much more with him. He has big-play ability and is just a better football player. When I rank the wide receivers in this division, it goes Larry (Fitzgerald), Harvin and Crabtree, but Harvin is closer to Fitz than Crabtree is to Harvin.”

Tight ends

Sando: “The Cardinals were the only NFL team without a touchdown reception from a tight end last season. Bad quarterback play had quite a bit to do with that, of course.”

Offensive line

Williamson: “Breno (Giacomini) has been serviceable. Marshawn Lynch has room to run. I think they have two good players (Max Unger and Russell Okung) and then a bunch of guys. I do think the whole is greater than sum of the parts. There is some truth to that in Seattle, which goes to coaching (by Tom Cable).”

Defensive line

Williamson: “They have a wide skill set, which I like, too. (Bruce) Irvin and (Red) Bryant are totally different players at defensive end. Irvin, (Chris) Clemons, (Cliff) Avril and Bryant give you versatility. For the Rams, (William) Hayes is an important part of that equation. He had seven sacks last year. (Robert) Quinn and (Chris) Long are questionable against the run. Hayes can be a base run defensive end. Plus, he moves inside and can be a quality rusher there.”

Linebackers

Sando: “The Seahawks found one starter in the second round (Bobby Wagner) and another in the fourth (K.J. Wright). They plan to use Cliff Avril at strong-side linebacker in some situations. But with Leroy Hill apparently having run his course in Seattle, the team figures to draft a weak-side linebacker to compete with Malcolm Smith.”

Safeties

Sando: “Seattle is really the only team in the division appearing set at safety for now. I could still see the Seahawks drafting one for insurance in case they have a hard time re-signing Kam Chancellor. In the meantime, Earl Thomas might be the best safety in the league. At least I’m assuming you’d agree in saying he’s moved past Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, who were long considered the standards.”

Cornerbacks

Williamson: “Seattle to me has the best set of corners in the league, clearly (in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner). And then (Antoine) Winfield might be the best slot corner in the league. It’s almost unfair.”

Head coach

Williamson: “(The Rams’ Jeff) Fisher is a heckuva coach, but he is behind two of the top five in the league (Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll) when it comes to ranking head coaches in the NFC West.”


A pre-Combine peek at the latest mock drafts

With the NFL converging on Indianapolis this week for the Scouting Combine, we figured it’s a good time to take one last look at the pre-Combine mock drafts – the new, and the not-so-new.

How the players perform this week – off the field during interview and physicals, as well as during the on-field workouts – will go a long way in determining which team selects which prospect in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25. Of course, this is just the next big step – and the most visible – in what already has been a laborious examination exercise that began with teams’ college scouts putting these players under the analytical microscope. The assistant coaches have gotten involved the past few weeks during meetings to get them acquainted with the players. This week, the coaches will get an up-close-and-personal look at them.

Then there are the Pro Day workouts at players’ schools and interviews with teams at their facilities during March, followed by more poking, prodding and perusing as the process moves into April.

But here’s a look at whom some of the mock-draft mavens are targeting for the Seahawks with the 25th pick in the first round:

Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com at CBSSports.com (Feb. 19): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

“The camaraderie forged between Pete Carroll’s coaching staff and the scouting staff under general manager John Schneider has resulted in several surprising but ultimately successful draft selections in recent years. The 6-4, 280-pound Jones will be viewed by some as a ‘tweener but he might possess the combination of strength, length, burst and passion to aid as an interior pass rusher in Seattle’s hybrid front.”

Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com at CBSSports.com (Feb. 18): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

“The Seahawks have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFC, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some depth, especially with Alan Branch slated to hit free agency in the winter. Williams lined up at nose tackle for the Tide, but has the ability to be productive in either and even or odd front.”

Josh Norris at NFL.com (Feb. 15): Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State

“I know the Seahawks are already dealing with one defensive end who has a knee injury (Chris Clemons), but Carradine’s raw talent warrants a first-round selection. His timeline to return is not presently clear, but think of Carradine as an investment for the future if he misses time in 2013.”

Peter Schrager at FoxSports.com (Feb. 14): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

“Russell Wilson silenced all of his critics who thought he was too small, didn’t have a big enough arm and wasn’t worthy of a third-round pick. Austin would be an incredible addition to the Seattle offense. With the new free-access receivers getting off the line, dynamic slot guys like Austin become all the more dangerous. He’s a lightning rod. This is Percey Harvin Part II. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Austin would make for quite a trio.”

WalterFootball.com at YahooSports.com (Feb. 13): Bennie Logan, DT, LSU

“Seattle’s defense is dominant, but one thing the unit is lacking is a consistent interior pass-rushing presence. Perhaps Bennie Logan can fix that. He’s one of the top players available. The Combine is going to dictate this pick for me. Pete “Bazuzu” Carroll is all about building his team on speed, and there’s a good chance Logan will run a 4.8 in Indianapolis.”

Todd McShay at ESPN.com (Feb. 7): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

“Seattle’s defense was strong overall in 2012, but DE Chris Clemons tore his ACL late in the season and Bruce Irvin is at his best as a sub-package rusher. Montgomery has the size and strength to start opposite Red Bryant and help beef up Seattle’s run defense.”


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Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner go 3-9 in redraft of 2012 first round

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner produced like first-round draft choices during their rookie seasons with the Seahawks, even though they were selected in the third and second rounds last April.

This fact was not lost on Don Banks during his annual redraft at SI.com, as he has Wilson going at No. 3 in the first round to the Browns and Wagner at No. 9 to the Panthers. Wilson, of course, tied the NFL rookie record by throwing 26 touchdown passes while leading the Seahawks to an 11-5 record during the regular season and then added three more TD passes as they split two playoff games. Wagner, meanwhile, led the team in tackles during the regular season as well as the postseason.

First-round play from second- and third-round picks, you have to love that.

Here’s what Banks had to say in slotting each player into the top of the first round with do-over picks:

On Wilson going to the Browns, who picked running back Trent Richardson at No. 3: “A no-brainer for the perennially quarterback-needy Browns. At least with (Andrew) Luck and (Robert) Griffin, great expectations came with the draft slot. Not so with Wilson. He sat and watched 74 other players have their names called before he heard his in the third round. Like the other two Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagnerquarterbacks taken before him, Wilson led his team to the playoffs and left no doubt as to his readiness to become the face of the franchise. The Browns sure didn’t turn a corner by taking a first-round running back, no matter how stout the Richardson pick might look in the future.”

On Wagner going to the Panthers, who picked linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 9 but lost him to the Dolphins at No. 8 in the redraft: “Having just missed out on Kuechly, Carolina could rebound by taking Wagner, who vastly out-performed his second-round draft spot in Seattle. Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles in both the regular season and the playoffs, and he could slide right into the middle linebacker slot that Kuechly manned so capably this season in Charlotte.”

Banks also sticks with Bruce Irvin as the Seahawks’ pick at No. 15, a selection some continue to view skeptically despite the rush-end leading all NFL rookies with eight sacks. Says Banks: “Not a bad draft in Seattle this season. The Seahawks’ top three picks – Irvin, Wagner and Wilson – all go in our Top 15 do-over. That will work most any year for Seattle general manager John Schneider and his personnel department.”

No do-over needed with that assessment.


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Two more mock drafts have Seahawks selecting two more D-linemen

Johnathan Hankins

With the 25th overall pick ESPN.com NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Seahawks selecting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (No. 52 above) out of Ohio State University

Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, the draft experts at ESPN and ESPN.com, have posted their second mock drafts with the Seahawks selecting Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (Kiper) and LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery (McShay) with the 25th pick in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.

Their mock drafts are an Insider feature, so they require registration and a fee. But here’s what each had to say about his selection for the Seahawks:

Kiper on Hankins (6-3, 335): “Another good spot for someone to call and trade up. As for the pick, if Seattle wants a penetrator on the interior of the D-line, Hankins really isn’t that guy. He doesn’t have the burst to split gaps and create havoc behind the line of scrimmage. What he can do is occupy multiple blockers, help other rushers find space and better matchups and make the Seahawks more difficult to run against as he holds up blockers intent on getting a body in front of Seattle’s tandem of great LBs in K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. Hankins is an impact guy when his motor is running and will particularly make a run defense sturdier immediately.”

Sam Montgomery

McShay on Montgomery (6-4, 245): “Seattle’s defense was strong overall in 2012, but DE Chris Clemons tore his ACL late in the season and Bruce Irvin is at his best as a sub-package rusher. Montgomery has the size and strength to start opposite Red Bryant and help beef up Seattle’s run defense.”

McShay also has only five “skill position” players going in the first round, with only one in the Top 10 – West Virginia QB Geno Smith to the Bills at No. 8; Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to the Rams at No. 16; Alabama running back Eddie Lacy to the Bengals at No. 21; Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen to the Texans at No. 27; and Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter to the 49ers at No. 31.

Kiper has six “skill position” players in his first round, including a pair of tight ends – Patterson to the Dolphins at No. 12; Stanford tight end Zach Ertz to the Giants at No. 19; Allen to the Rams at No. 22; Lacy to the Packers at No. 26; LSU wide receiver Quinton Patton to the Texans at No. 27; and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert to the Falcons at No. 30.


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Mock drafts have Seahawks focusing on linemen

Alex Okafor

Draft analyst Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com has the Seahawks selecting University of Texas defensive end Alex Okafor with the 25th overall pick

Now that we’ve moved past that Super exercise which involved only two NFL teams, it’s time to start focusing on the drill that engulfs every team in the league – April’s NFL Draft.

Front-office execs and scouts around the league – including the Seahawks – are huddling this week in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis. So the mock drafts already are circulating in cyberspace.

The boys at NFLDraftScout.com – Rob Rang and Dane Brugler – have weighed in with their initial mocks at CBSSports.com. Rang listened to coach Pete Carroll when he talked during his season-ender media session about improving the Seahawks’ pass rush, so he has the team selecting Texas defensive end Alex Okafor with the 25th pick in the first round. Brugler, aware that Alan Branch is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, gives the Seahawks Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams at that spot.

Rang on Okafor: “The risky (and ridiculed) selection of undersized pass rusher Bruce Irvin paid off for as the former West Virginia standout led all rookies with eight sacks in 2012. His speed off the edge could be complemented with a more refined pass rusher like Okafor, whose greater length, strength and hand technique could make him a suitable complement as the team adjusts for life with top pass-rusher Chris Clemons recovering with a torn ACL.”

Brugler on Williams: “The Seahawks have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFC, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some depth, especially with Alan Branch slated to hit free agency in the winter. Williams lined up at nose tackle for the Tide, but has the ability to be productive in either and even or odd front.”

Don Banks at SI.com also has the Seahawks doing their first-round shopping in the Crimson Tide aisle, but on the other side of the ball with tackle D.J. Fluker: “The Seahawks could easily take the best available receiver in this slot (Baylor’s Terrance Williams, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins or USC’s Robert Woods), and fill a need. But Fluker might earn too high a grade to pass on. Seattle’s offensive line was superb in 2012, but Breno Giacomini is hardly irreplaceable at right tackle. Fluker is seen as a natural right tackle in the NFL and his massive 6-4, 355-pound size and impressive wingspan could solidify the position for the foreseeable future.”

At NFL.com, a trio of mock drafts veers back to the D-line for the Seahawks, with Bucky Brooks going for LSU end Sam Montgomery, Daniel Jeremiah tabbing Ohio State tackle Johnathan Hawkins and Charles Davis opting for BYU end Ezekiel Ansah.


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Mel Kiper Jr. ups Seahawks’ draft grade from C-minus to A

Russell Wilson

HONOLULU – Count ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. among those who’s willing to admit he erred on the grade he gave the Seahawks after they made their selections in last April’s NFL Draft.

In fact, it seems the line forms behind Kiper, who has given the Seahawks an A in his regarding of the 2012 draft after initially slapping them with a C-minus.

It’s an Insider feature at ESPN.com, so you must register and pay a fee to see Kiper’s entire regarding. But here’s what he had to say about the Seahawks:

“Give John Schneider and Pete Carroll all the credit in the world. I had major questions on value and even need with some of their picks, and in most cases, the Seahawks proved me wrong. At the time I wrote, ‘Let’s be clear: I think the Seahawks drafted guys they really wanted, and with a plan in mind for how to use them.’ Did they ever. Russell Wilson might be the defining pick of the draft, already a star and a guy Seattle got at No. 75 overall. I really liked Wilson as a prospect, and said on the set I thought he’d be ‘a great test case’ for short quarterbacks. My question of the pick also had to do with the fact that Seattle had acquired Matt Flynn. If Wilson had been 6-foot-2, I think he would have been a top-5 pick – said it then, say it now. Is that evaluation still reasonable? Has Wilson proven that short QBs can’t all be lumped together? Ultimately, evaluators will still have questions about whether short QBs can succeed because they simply have so few of them to evaluate. The sample size for guys at Wilson’s size who’ve succeeded as he has is so small that not only is Wilson almost unique, I don’t see a QB like him coming along for years. But there’s no way around the fact that he was a great pick, perhaps the best of the draft when you consider where he was taken.

“I also had questions about the value of Bobby Wagner at No. 47 overall, but he was a home run, an impact starter and a guy who will be a fixture for years to come. Robert Turbin, Jeremy Lane and Greg Scruggs also look like great picks. The one pick I really questioned then and still feel the same way about is Bruce Irvin at No. 15 overall. There’s no question Irvin can rush the passer, but that’s really all he can do, and I still don’t see him as a good value at that spot because he’s so one-dimensional. I wrote then, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Irvin gets 10 sacks in 2012, but that’s really his game. He’s not a three-down player yet.’ He still isn’t, and is a total liability against the run, as we saw against Atlanta in the playoffs. He finished with 8.0 sacks, but has plenty of development left if he wants to become more than a situational player. I think you want more of a complete player at that point in the draft. Still, this was an exceptional draft, a very good one in terms of immediate value and likely a defining one for the franchise based on Wilson alone.”


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Thursday cyber surfing: Early mock drafts

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 17.

Gil Brandt, a senior analyst at NFL.com, has his first 2013 NFL Mock Draft, and has the Seahawks selecting Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with the 25th overall pick, “The Seahawks have very good young players at most positions, though they could use a receiver who can get some separation. Hopkins might be a bit of a reach, but he’s quick.”

Mike Sando of ESPN.com passes along his thoughts on the Seahawks after viewing Mel Kiper Jr.’s first 2013 NFL Mock Draft, in which Kiper projects the team taking Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins, “The Seahawks have recently given big contracts to defensive linemen Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Chris Clemons. They used the 15th choice in the 2012 draft for pass-rushing defensive end Bruce Irvin. Seattle has also gotten mostly good play from defensive tackle Alan Branch. Despite all the investments in the defensive line, I do think the Seahawks would be wise to address the position early in the draft if value warrants the pick. Adding Jenkins’ 358-pound body to the line might help shore up a run defense that ranked 30th in yards per carry allowed from Week 7 through the end of the season. Improving the pass rush should stand as Seattle’s No. 1 offseason priority, however. Clemons is 31 years old and suffered a torn ACL during the Seahawks’ playoff victory at Washington. His status for the 2013 season is in question. Irvin’s longer-term future was at Clemons’ position. Perhaps Clemons’ injury accelerates the transition. Pass-rushing defensive tackle Jason Jones, a free agent in 2013, also finished the season on injured reserve. Seattle could have used a stronger pass rush late in games against Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Atlanta. Addressing that deficiency in the draft seems like a must even though Irvin and fellow rookie Greg Scruggs showed promise.

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com recaps a conversation with 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” and Seahawks general manager John Schneider, in which the trio talks about backup quarterback Matt Flynn, “In the absence of any glaring needs outside of a pass rusher, and with only two starters set to become unrestricted free agents, the Seahawks’ decision on Flynn will be a leading offseason story line. ‘We’re going to do what’s best for the organization, period,’ Schneider said. ‘This isn’t like, ‘Well, now that Russell’s done so well, what are you going to do with Matt?’ We have two guys under contract that are good.’ “

Sarah Spain of ESPN.com highlights Seahawks tight end Sean McGrath as part of her “NFL 53rd Man” series, “He didn’t make the 53-man roster after training camp, but he found a home on the practice squad — for two days. Then he was re-signed five days later, then cut again two and a half weeks later. Each time the team would release him, they’d tell him to stick around, he’d be re-signed in a few days. Those days off were tough for McGrath, who got antsy sitting around waiting. But the success of other practice-squad players gave him something to hold on to. ‘First guy who gets called up off the practice squad, Jermaine Kearse. As soon as he gets pulled up we’re like ‘Man, this is real! They’re really doing it,’ McGrath said. ‘Then another guy gets pulled up. All these guys get pulled up and it just gives a light at the end of the tunnel.’ McGrath had to wait a while, but he finally got to that light.”


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Monday in Hawkville: Players exit by saluting 12th Man

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 14:

FOCUS ON

A warm reception. When the Seahawks were leaving the airport after their return from Atlanta, and a 30-28 loss to the Falcons in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game, their buses were greeted by a crowd of several hundred cheering fans. When they reached VMAC, several hundred more were on hands and cheering just as wildly.

It might have been a Sunday evening with temperatures below freezing, but the warm reception helped the players deal with the disappointing loss.

“Speaking for myself, I play for the 12th Man,” wide receiver Golden Tate said today when the players were cleaning out their lockers. “That’s who I play for. I love them, and I hate that it had to end.”

That was part of the players’ amazement at the turnout. The Seahawks were returning from a season-ending defeat, not a victory that sent them to the NFC Championship game.

“To have the support we have from those guys, no matter what the outcome of the game, it’s awesome. I guarantee you there’s no other fan base that’s showing up at the facility in that weather after a loss with that type of support.

“The support we’ve gotten all season has been outstanding, and we appreciate it so much.”

All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman seconded that notion.

“That meant a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to have those kinds of fans and to have that kind of support in this city. It makes you want to play hard. It lets you see that all your hard work is for something.

“It’s hard to explain that kind of feeling. It’s amazing. It’s the middle of the night. It’s 20-something degrees. They care about us as players, as a team. And we care about this city. It really leaves you speechless, because they’re nothing you can say to describe the feeling of that kind of support.”

UNIT WATCH

The rookie class. The Seahawks stunned many of the “experts” with some of the players they selected in the NFL Draft last April. It started in the first round, when they took defensive end Bruce Irvin. It continued in the second round, when they drafted middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. It reached the hysterical level when they went for quarterback Russell Wilson in the third round.

Let’s see, Wilson passed for 26 touchdowns to tie the NFL rookie record set by Peyton Manning in 1998, among many other things; Wagner led the team in tackles during the regular season and postseason; and Irvin led all rookies with eight sacks during the regular season.

“We had a tremendous rookie class,” Wilson said. “Everybody said that this rookie class wouldn’t do anything and we’ve shown we can play. The goal is, we’ve got to prove it again next year.”

The NFL Network was at VMAC last week to tape this feature on the Seahawks’ rookie class which aired during its Sunday pregame show.

INJURY REPORT

Zach Miller did indeed tear the plantar fascia in his left foot, as the veteran tight end said after Sunday’s game. He was on crutches and had his foot in a protective boot today.

Defensive end Chris Clemons, who tore a ligament in his left knee in last week’s wild-card playoff game against the Redskins, has yet to have his surgery. But he was scheduled to meet with specialist Dr. James Andrews this week.

“This has been an extraordinary year in terms of that,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I mentioned to the team how fortunate we were to get out of this tear with really one major rehab.”

DRAFT POSITION

The Seahawks will have the 25th selection in the first round of April’s NFL Draft, and 10 picks overall.

“We’ve got 10 picks going into this draft, which is fantastic for us,” Carroll said. “I can’t imagine all the work that John (Schneider, the GM) is going to turn out with all those opportunities.”

STAT DU JOUR

Matt Hasselbeck and Dave Krieg hold pretty much every passing record for the Seahawks. But Sunday, Wilson did something in his second postseason game that Hasselbeck (11 starts) and Krieg (seven) didn’t in their combined 18 playoff starts – pass for more than 350 yards. Here’s a look at the top postseason passing-yard games in franchise history

Player, opponent (date)                                   Att.   Comp.   Yards    TD   Int.  Rating

Russell Wilson, Falcons (Jan. 13, 2013)          36      24          385        2     1      109.1

Matt Hasselbeck, Rams (Jan. 8, 2005)            43      27          341        2     1        93.3

Matt Hasselbeck, Packers (Jan. 4, 2004)        45      25          305        0     1        67.4

Dave Krieg, Bengals (Dec. 31, 1988)                50      24         297        1      2         56.8

UP NEXT

The offseason. The players took their exit physicals, had their exit meeting with Carroll and cleaned out their lockers today. The midseason program begins in mid-April.

YOU DON’T SAY

“The thing I said to the guys afterward was that 25 seconds didn’t define our team. … This has been a great year for us.” – Carroll on the Falcons driving to their game-winning field goal by completing passes of 22 and 19 yards


NFC Divisional Playoff Matchup Box: Seahawks at Falcons

When: Sunday, 10 a.m. PT, Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Significance: The winner advances to the NFC Championship against the winner of Saturday night’s Packers-49ers game

Records: Falcons were 13-3 in the regular season to win the NFC South and clinch the conference’s top seed in the postseason; Seahawks were 11-5 in the regular season and beat the Redskins in last week’s W playoff round

TV: FOX (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area), with Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick, Chris Myers and Laura Okmin

Radio: 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3, with Steve Raible, Warren Moon and Jen Mueller

Matt Ryan

Matchup microscope

Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner vs. Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones: Big on Big. Long against Long. Physical versus Physical. These four going at each other is all of that, and more. And the tandem that wins most often will go a long way in deciding which team advances to the NFC Championship game. There isn’t a bigger corner tandem in the NFL than Sherman and Browner, who combined for 11 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and five forced fumbles. There isn’t a more productive wide-out tandem in the league than White and Jones, who combined for 171 receptions, 2,549 yards and 17 touchdown catches. Usually a defense tries to stop the run and force an opponent to pass. But the Falcons use their passing game to open things up for the running game. Sherman and Browner will need to be on top of it, to prevent Jones and White from using their speed in getting over the top on them.

One to watch

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson vs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Wilson already has done something in his first playoff game that Ryan has been unable to accomplish – win it. That happened last week, when Wilson led the Seahawks to a 24-14 wild-card victory over the Redskins. He is stepping up a stage this week, but the Seahawks’ rookie QB has been unfazed by circumstance or game plan during the team’s six-game winning streak. Ryan, a first-round draft choice in 2008, has 56 victories during the regular season. But he’s also 0-for-3 in the postseason. Then there’s this: Ryan has thrown 11 TD passes and nine interceptions at home this season, compared to 21 TDs and five picks on the road. So the pressure is squarely on Ryan, rather than Wilson, in this one.

Fun to watch

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch vs. Falcons linebackers Stephen Nicholas and Sean Weatherspoon: Lynch has been on a roll, even for a back who rolls as consistently well as Lynch. He is averaging 111.8 yards and 6.5 yards per carry during the team’s six-game winning streak. And it was Lynch who ran for the game-winning TD last week against the Redskins. It’s also his presence as one of the options in the Seahawks’ zone-read option that has made the tactic so successful down the stretch. Nicholas (116) and Weatherspoon (114) are the leading tacklers for a Falcons defense that allowed 100-yard rushing performances to the Buccaneers’ Doug Martin (142), Cardinals’ LaRod Stephens-Howling (127), Panthers’ Cam Newton (116), Redskins’ Alfred Morris (115) and Broncos’ Willis McGahee (113). Morris and Martin ranked among the Top 5 in the league in rushing, but Newton and McGahee were 24th and 26th, while Stephens-Howling was No. 30 – in the NFC.

One tough task

Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor vs. Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll set the stage for this one by offering, “Nobody can cover him. He’s just killed everybody for a whole career.” And what a career Gonzalez has had. He has become the most productive tight end in NFL history, and his 1,242 receptions rank second only to Jerry Rice. In a passing game that features Jones and White, it was Gonzalez who led the Falcons in receptions with 93. When he caught his first NFL pass in 1997 for the Chiefs, Chancellor was 9-years old. But if there’s anybody who can contain Gonzalez, and make an impression doing it, Chancellor has the length (6-foot-4½ wingspan), coverage skills and physicality needed to pull it off.

Worth noting

This is the first postseason meeting between the Falcons and Seahawks. … The Falcons are looking for their first postseason victory since 2004. … They have advanced to the postseason in three consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. … Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel holds the NFL postseason record with four interception returns for touchdowns, and has seven overall in the playoffs. … This is the first time since their six-game winning streak started that the Seahawks will face a passing offense ranked higher than No. 18. The Falcons are No. 6, while the Bears were No. 29, the Cardinals No. 28, the Bills No. 25, the 49ers No. 23, the Rams No. 18 and the Redskins No. 20. … The Seahawks have scored at least 20 points in their past 10 games, after doing it only twice in their first seven games. … The Seahawks will play without sack leader Chris Clemons, who tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the third quarter of last week’s game against the Redskins. … Bruce Irvin, who will replace Clemons at the Leo end spot, led all NFL rookies with eight sacks during the regular season and added a ninth last week. … Rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles during the regular season (140) and also against the Redskins (nine).


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