A few more post-Combine mock drafts have surfaced, and the popular pick for the Seahawks with the 25th selection in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25 continues to be a defensive lineman – although three of the following four mocks have them going for three different D-linemen.
Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys vice president of player personnel who now is an analyst at NFL.com, has the Seahawks selecting Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd: “The 6-2½, 297-pound Floyd, who has excellent quickness, can be a very good inside player. The Seahawks’ new defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn, coached Floyd at Florida, so he should be pretty familiar with the prospect.”
In his latest mock, Don Banks at SI.com pairs LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery with the Seahawks: “The Seahawks need an upgrade for their pass rush, and are thought to be interested in UCLA defensive end Datone Jones, who we have going 19th overall to the Giants. Montgomery was the ‘other’ end at LSU, the one not named Barkevious Mingo. But he may be a safer, more consistent bet in the NFL. SMU defensive end Margus Hunt had a strong combine and is another name to track for Seattle’s neediest position.”
Doug Farrar of ShutdownCorner.com has the Seahawks going for UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones in this mock at Yahoo.com: “The Seahawks need pass-rush help from the inside and outside, and Jones would fit Pete Carroll’s front concepts like a hand in glove. Carroll prefers linemen who can strike through multiple gaps, and Jones has clearly proved his ability to do so. He’d give the Seahawks a lot of positional versatility, because he’s equally adept when playing run-stopping end and pass-rushing tackle.”
Peter Schrager at FoxSports.com also has his latest mock, and he breaks ranks by not only giving the Seahawks an offensive player but the same one he did in his pre-Combine mock – West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Smith: “What a steal this would be at 25. Russell Wilson silenced all of his critics (including me) who thought he was too small, didn’t have a big enough arm and wasn’t worthy of a third-round pick in 2011 (me, me, me) last season. Austin would be an incredible addition to an already potent Seattle offense. With the new free-access receivers getting off the line, dynamic slot guys such as Austin become all the more dangerous. He’s a lightning rod. This is Percy Harvin Part II. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Austin would make for quite a trio.”
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.”
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Jan. 11:
Marcus Trufant. No one on the Seahawks’ 53-man roster has played in more postseason games (10) than the veteran nickel back. And no one grew up watching this team longer than the Tacoma-born Trufant, either.
So, as the team puts in its final preparations for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta, who better to lead us through a trip down Postseasons Past?
We asked Trufant for his favorite team memory from the six playoff teams he has been on, and his selection was the obvious.
“The (NFC) Championship game we played during our Super Bowl run (in 2005) was pretty big,” he said of the 34-14 victory over the Panthers. “To be able to do it at home, be able to do it in front of the fans, it was a pretty good feeling.”
Especially for a player who followed the team as a kid growing up.
“It does kind of hit you like that,” Trufant said when asked if there was a moment in that game where it hit home that he had just helped his hometown team get to the Super Bowl. “But it’s just one of those things. It is football. And if you do right and your team is hitting on all cylinders, then the opportunity is there.”
Just as it for this season’s playoff team, which is one victory from a return to the NFC Championship game.
“For us now, that’s what we’ve got to do,” Trufant said. “We’ve just got to fight to be right. Try to do everything well and just try to practice hard and get better every day.”
We also asked Trufant for his favorite individual postseason memory, and his response was very telling for a player who has been a team-first, individual-accolades-a-distant-second warrior since the Seahawks selected the cornerback from Washington State University if the first round the 2003 NFL Draft.
“You know what? After a while a lot stuff just seems to run together,” said Trufant, who had a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown to ice a wild-card win over the Redskins in 2007.
“So I’m about being in the present. I’m just trying to help out the team to get another victory. We want to take it one step at a time and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
LONGWELL, CHUKWURAH READY
Kicker Ryan Longwell and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah just joined the team this week to replace the injured duo of Steven Hauschka and Chris Clemons. Coach Pete Carroll said after practice that both are ready for Sunday’s game.
“I thought Longwell did a good job,” Carroll said. “He hit his kicks and fit together nicely with (holder) Jon Ryan to get the timing down. … He’s a seasoned vet. He’s been through it. If anybody can handle it, he will be able to handle all the buildup to it.”
As for Chukwurah, who last played in an NFL game in 2007, Carroll said, “Pat did fine. He’s in a backup role for us. But he showed enough that he’s going to be dressing for the game.”
The official end-of-the-week status report, as issued by the team:
CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring)
S Jeron Johnson (hamstring)
RB Marshawn Lynch (foot)
WR Sidney Rice (knee)
Lynch practiced on a limited basis today after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday to rest a sprained foot. “He’s fine. He’ll be alright,” Carroll said. Johnson also got his first work of the week, on a limited basis. Maxwell and Rice did not practice, but Rice is expected to be ready of the game after practicing fully on Wednesday and Thursday.
For the Falcons:
CB Christopher Owens (hamstring)
DE John Abraham (ankle)
S Charles Mitchell (calf)
S William Moore (hamstring)
CB Dunta Robinson (head)
Abraham, who leads the Falcons with 10 sacks, has been limited all week.
STAT DU JOUR
Last week, the Seahawks allowed the Redskins to drive 80 yards to a touchdown on their first possession, but managed to come back and win the game. That’s not advisable this week, because the Falcons have been almost unstoppable when they score a TD on their opening drive. Here’s a look at what the Falcons did on their opening drives during the regular season, and how that worked out for them:
Opponent, outcome First drive
Chiefs, W, 40-24 Touchdown
Broncos, W, 27-21 Touchdown
Chargers, W, 27-3 Touchdown
Panthers, W, 30-28 Punt
Redskins, W, 24-17 Punt
Raiders, W, 23-20 Interception
Eagles, W, 30-17 Touchdown
Cowboys, W, 19-13 Punt
Saints, L, 31-27 Touchdown
Cardinals, W, 23-19 Interception
Buccaneers, W, 24-23 Field goal
Saints, W, 23-13 Touchdown
Panthers, L, 30-20 Punt
Giants, W, 34-0 Touchdown
Lions, W, 31-18 Punt
Buccaneers, L, 22-17 Punt
In the games where they’ve scored TDs on their first possession, the Falcons are 6-1 and the wins came by an average of 17 points. In their other two losses, they opened with punts. In their other seven wins, when they opened with five punts, a field goal and an interception, the average margin of victory was five points.
“We just don’t want to get too caught up in that,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “We want to play the whole game fast and explosive, regardless of what happens the first series. So we know we’re going to have to make some adjustments as this game goes on. But the biggest thing is to keep our poise with the crowd noise and things like that – nothing that our guys haven’t come across before.”
The team flew to Atlanta following today’s practice and will hold its Saturday walkthrough there.
The winner of Sunday’s game will meet either the 49ers or Packers in the NFC Championship game next Sunday. The Packers and 49ers play in San Francisco on Saturday night.
YOU DON’T SAY
“The big thing is having the corners that allow us to be aggressive. But the other thing is having a guy that can play the middle third that cover from redline to redline. You really need those three components.” – Bradley in discussing the virtues of cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner and Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas in matching up against the Falcons’ trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 10.
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times rehashes defensive end Bruce Irvin’s path to the NFL – a path that has led him into the starting lineup this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons, “Irvin didn’t start this season, but was more than a backup. He was a situational pass-rusher on the field for about half of Seattle’s defensive snaps. He had eight sacks this season, more than any other rookie in the NFL. Sunday in Washington, after Clemons was injured, Irvin had a sack of quarterback Robert Griffin III that demonstrated just how fast Irvin is. ‘It’s his great asset,’ Carroll said. That quickness has carried him all the way to the NFL. And now, 10 years after he was headed toward a dead end in Georgia, Irvin is returning to the town where he grew up — for the first starting assignment in a career that is just beginning. ‘He can be a double-digit sack guy for a long time once he gets going,’ Carroll said.”
Larry Stone of the Seattle Times says that for everything Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has accomplished in four seasons in the NFL, he has still yet to win a game in the playoffs, “This year, Ryan has received MVP chatter for leading the Falcons to the best record in the NFC. His coach, Mike Smith, said Wednesday that ‘individually, it’s been his best year in terms of most of the markers you look for in a quarterback.’ Except one, and therein lies the paradox. In three playoff games over the previous four seasons, Ryan has yet to produce a victory. He has thrown for less than 200 yards in all three of those games, and has more interceptions (four) than touchdowns (three). His playoff QB rating of 71.2 pales in comparison to his regular-season mark of 90.9. It’s getting dangerously close to being a legacy-killer for the quarterback selected third overall out of Boston College in the 2008 draft (15 spots ahead of Joe Flacco, who already has six playoff wins with the Ravens). But rectify that omission to his resume, and Ryan will be celebrated both as the man who led the Falcons out of the wilderness of a 4-12 record the season before he arrived, and the one who can take them to the next level.”
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says head coach Pete Carroll’s decision making as a head coach has improved, “It’s not that the coach is arrogant. He often gambles within games because he’s too hopeful. Carroll is the ultimate optimist. And during his USC tenure, that optimism often resulted in dramatic success. ‘I got going for nine years straight of going for it every single chance you get — forever,’ Carroll said. But he is learning that, in the NFL, being conservative is both a virtue and a life-saver. ‘I think we’ve cleaned things up,” Carroll said. “We’ve got a good formula for doing it. It’s interesting: It hasn’t come up as much. We haven’t had that many dramatic opportunities to go for it or not.” You get the feeling that, if the Seahawks advance far enough in the playoffs, Carroll will have to make some tough choices under great scrutiny. Will he continue to play it safe? Or will the riverboat gambler in him sneak out?”
Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times checks in with newly-signed kicker Ryan Longwell, “Longwell beat out three other kickers who were invited to try out Tuesday, heading into Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Atlanta. ‘It’s kind of an honor to put on the helmet that you grew up watching,’ he said. Changing kickers at this point of the season is “a big deal to us,” coach Pete Carroll said, but Longwell’s experience — winning a Super Bowl with Green Bay in 1998 — helped earn him the job, not to mention a 55-yard field goal in Tuesday’s workout. ‘When you look at Ryan’s background, the great experience he’s had, the time he’s had in playoff situations and all of that, to make this transition for a younger guy might be more of an issue, and we think he can handle that,’ Carroll said.”
John Boyle of the Everett Herald has a look at the signing of defensive end Patrick Chukwurah, “The 33-year-old Chukwurah, who most recently played two seasons in the UFL before that league folded, hasn’t played organized football of any sorts for more than a year. Yet he was impressive enough in a tryout Tuesday that the Seahawks signed him over other better-known defensive ends, a result that even he had a hard time believing. ‘Honestly, no,’ Chukwurah said when asked if he still thought an NFL comeback was realistic. ‘I was really set on moving on and starting the next chapter, so it’s definitely a blessing.’ “
Boyle also writes that the Seahawks are not letting the playoff pressure get to them, “Any player you ask will tell you a Super Bowl title is the team’s goal. But it has been clear the last two weeks that this young team, which has gotten better faster than most expected, isn’t tensing up now as the stakes become higher. ‘This team is in a real good place,’ said veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. ‘It’s good for us that we can focus and just kind of take the challenges as they come, and not get too high or too low. We’re just trying to stay the course, and that’s been good for us.’ Seattle’s levelheadedness has led to pretty consistent play all season — the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than seven points all year — and keeping things the same in the postseason has helped a young team from succumbing to the pressure of the playoffs. ‘It’s very important to just maintain the same routine,’ said fullback Michael Robinson. ‘(Head coach) Pete (Carroll) does a great job of keeping practice the same.’ “
Tim Booth of the Associated Press says defensive end Bruce Irvin is ready to step in for the injured Chris Clemons, “For most of his rookie season, Irvin has thrived being used on passing downs as a rush end opposite Clemons. Getting pressure from both sides on quarterbacks has worked well for Seattle with Clemons getting 11 1/2 sacks and Irvin having another eight in the regular season to set a franchise rookie record. Now that Clemons is out, Irvin will be called on not only to pressure the quarterback, but also be stout in the run game. ‘I’m still depressed that (Clemons) is down. He’s like an older brother to me. He showed me a lot, man,’ Irvin said. ‘Next year, I’ll be in this same role, me and (Clemons) rotating and whatever. I’m not looking to come in here and ball out and take over (Clemons’) spot. I’m not looking for that. My time will come and when it’s that time it will all handle itself.’ “
Liz Matthews of 710Sports.com has her report from Wednesday’s practice – a practice running back Marshawn Lynch sat out with a foot injury, “Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not participate in practice. Unlike most weeks when he is given a rest day for his balky back, Lynch was listed on Wednesday’ practice report with a foot injury.”
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com passes along a conversation with NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes, who believes that if the Seahawks can secure an early lead over the Falcons on Sunday, “it’s over”, “The Falcons, Seattle’s divisional-round opponent, have one of the league’s better passing attacks, ranking sixth in passing yards and fifth in touchdown passes during the regular season. Despite that, NFL Network analyst Jamie Dukes doubts their ability to come back if they were to fall behind to the Seahawks. ‘If they get up early, it’s over. Have a nice day, Atlanta Falcons,’ Dukes told “Bob and Groz” on Wednesday. ‘The Falcons’ line is not built to handle that pressure.’ ” Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” share their thoughts in this short video.
The staff at SportsPressNW.com passes along several notes from Atlanta head coach Mike Smith’s Wednesday press conference.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com passes along QBR ranks from Wild Card weekend, “Wilson made positive contributions, impressing those who have watched mostly from afar to this point. The visuals were all there: Wilson flipping a touchdown pass to fullback Michael Robinson, Wilson running interference downfield so his running back could gain additional yardage, Wilson firing downfield strikes to Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice. If tight end Anthony McCoy hadn’t dropped a pass deep in Redskins territory, Seattle might have fared better than its 1-of-6 showing in the red zone. On the whole, however, this performance from Wilson was hardly consistent with the ones that separated him from Robert Griffin III and made him second to Peyton Manning in Total QBR from Week 8 through regular season’s end.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson joined ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike”, and you can listen to the full audio podcast here.
ESPN The Magazine has a look into Wilson’s past as a professional baseball player, sharing conversations with the scouting supervisor of the Colorado Rockies, Wilson’s baseball coach at North Carolina State, the editor of Baseball America, and more.
Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com says Russell Wilson may be the best young quarterback in the League, “If Russell Wilson is too short, give me short! Facing Baltimore, first overall selection Andrew Luck wilted under a steady blitz. Experienced quarterbacks want to be blitzed — if Baltimore tries the same at Denver, Peyton Manning will eat the Ravens’ lunch. But Luck is just a rookie, and looked like one during his first-round exit. Facing Seattle, second overall selection Robert Griffin twisted his knee late in the first quarter, lost his amazing quickness, then lost the game. RG III throws himself at a defense, taking big hits. Experienced quarterbacks avoid big hits. But Griffin is just a rookie, and looked like one during his first-round exit. Then there was Wilson. Washington blitzed him hard, and by the fourth quarter, he wanted to be blitzed, because he was beating this tactic like a veteran — see more below. Wilson ran for 67 yards, including the game’s longest rush, but whenever a defender had him in his sights, he stepped out of bounds, slid or threw the ball away. Wilson played like a seasoned veteran. One reason is that he had the most college starts of the young-gun quarterbacks. Wilson started 50 games in college, versus 40 for Griffin and 38 for Luck. Add another dozen starts to RG III and he will avoid big hits. Add another dozen starts to Luck and he’ll be looking forward to the blitz. Wilson already has these skills.”
And Chris Burke of SI.com offers an X’s and O’s break down Sunday’s matchup between the Seahawks and Falcons, “Will Seattle continue to use Irvin off the left edge this coming Sunday? Carroll said only that Irvin will start at the “Leo” spot — a position in Carroll’s defense reserved for a fast rusher, almost like a 3-4 outside linebacker. Irvin, as mentioned, has done a lot of his work from left end, but will the Seahawks try to play the matchups? Playing Irvin on the left means he’ll deal with Clabo; on the right is Baker. Neither is a slouch, but Clabo, a 2010 Pro Bowler, may be the stiffer test of the two.”
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 28.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times has the story on Richard Sherman’s appeal of a four-game suspension, “Sherman had just been told by his attorney that he had won the appeal of his four-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. ‘I won!’ he told the players. Hoots and cheers echoed across the room. High fives were exchanged. ‘High fives, as old school as it is, is still the best way to celebrate,’ Sherman said later in the day, grinning like a kid discovering another gift under the tree. ‘There was a sigh of relief for the whole team knowing that that was done and over with and we could move on from it. Justice was served.’ “
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has the Seahawks and Rams injury reports from yesterday, noting the return of five Seahawks players to practice.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald has his take on Sherman coming out on top of his suspension, “For the past two seasons, Sherman’s supreme confidence has helped the Seahawks defense. Now, the cornerback’s belief in himself and in his innocence helped him restore some of his reputation, and will help the Seahawks in the 2012 playoffs.”
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com comments on the improvement of the Seahawks’ offensive line, “Seattle’s offensive line has been considerably better this season, so much so that it will send two members to the Pro Bowl. Okung and center Max Unger were named starters Wednesday for the NFC team, becoming the first Seahawks offensive linemen to play in the Pro Bowl since Walter Jones following the 2008 season. It is the first Pro Bowl selection for each player.”
Henderson also passes along a short video from 710Sports.com’s Mike Salk, who discusses the impact Sherman’s availability will have on the Seahawks as they make their playoff push.
Bill Swartz of 710Sports.com has his report from Thursday’s practice, “Linebacker Leroy Hill has a hamstring injury, while receiver Golden Tate came down with an illness. Limited in Thursday’s practice were right tackle Breno Giacomini (elbow), cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot). Receiver Sidney Rice was a full participant after sitting out Wednesday’s session with a sore knee. After one day out with a back problem, tight end Anthony McCoy was also full go. The St. Louis Rams are a pretty healthy team preparing for Sunday’s regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field. Running back Steven Jackson was over a Wednesday illness enough to do all the work in Thursday’s practice.”
Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from yesterday, “S Earl Thomas said it made his day better to know Sherman was going to be able to keep playing. ‘I came in a little shaken up just because you don’t know,’ Thomas said. ‘That’s my brother back there and it definitely feels good for him to take this journey and be on this team with us.’ “
Tim Booth of the Associated Press writes that even with a playoff berth secured, the Seahawks will look to continue their current win streak when they face the Rams in the regular season finale on Sunday, “Seattle is drastically different from the squad that floundered through a 19-13 loss in St. Louis in Week 4, and no one more so than quarterback Russell Wilson. At that time in late September, the Seahawks were still in the infancy of learning the unique qualities of their new quarterback. That was before Wilson’s running became a true threat as a complement to running back Marshawn Lynch. And it was before Seattle’s offense became the efficient machine it’s been the past three weeks. The whopping 150 points the Seahawks have scored the last three games stole the attention. But within that points eruption was a stunning run of offensive prowess led by Wilson. ‘He’s just an athletic guy. He’s been playing very well, as a rookie, as a young guy,’ Rams defensive end Robert Quinn said. ‘You’ve got the combo of being a premier quarterback, but the athleticism of some of the best out there as well.’ “
Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his best guesses for Week 17, picking the Seahawks to top the Rams, 27-13, “The Seahawks are 7-0 at home and about as hot as a team could be, having become the first team since the 1950 Los Angeles Rams to score 150 points over a three-game period. St. Louis has gone 3-0-1 in its past four road games, and 4-0-1 against the NFC West. I’m most interested in seeing how the young quarterbacks compare. The Rams’ Sam Bradford faces a tougher test behind a reshuffled offensive line. Advantage, Russell Wilson. Also, the winning coach should be coach of the year in the division, in my view. Sando’s best guess: Seahawks 27, Rams 13.”
Sando takes a look at how the Rams are preparing for quarterback Russell Wilson, “Dave McGinnis, assistant head coach for the St. Louis Rams, knows the coverage might have to hold up a little longer when his team visits Seattle in Week 17. ‘The thing about him is, it’s not panic scrambles,’ McGinnis told reporters in St. Louis. ‘He’s moving and he’s improvising, but he’s doing it with a purpose. He’s always looking down field and most all of those types of plays that he makes, they’re all positive plays.’ “
Sando also has a look at the play of a pair of young NFC West corners – Janoris Jenkins and Sherman, “Seattle’s Richard Sherman has two touchdowns over the Seahawks’ past three games, one on an interception return and the other on a blocked field-goal return. His two touchdowns against Arizona and San Francisco are more than the one touchdown the Cardinals and 49ers scored in those games.”
NFL Films previews the Seahawks’ Week 17 matchup against the Rams in this short video.
Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth has the story on Sherman’s successful appeal, “On more than one occasion during the process that was his appeal of a four-game suspension by the NFL, it was suggested to Richard Sherman that his chances of winning were slim and none. But Sherman, the Seahawks’ second-year cornerback, hasn’t just been there before. Slim and none have been his constant companions. ‘There were always people who said the chances were slim and none,’ Sherman said on Wednesday, when he was informed by his attorney that he had indeed won his appeal. ‘I told them, ‘My chances have always been slim and none. And I’ve always found a way to win those.’ You don’t make it this far without getting through some kind of adversity. This is just another phase. And I have great teammates and great coaches who supported me through it. The great fans we have supported and had faith through the whole process, and I was appreciative of that.’ “
Farnsworth also recaps the activities surrounding “Thursday in Hawkville” with a focus on Leon Washington and the team’s Pro Bowlers.
Finally, team photographer Rod Mar has an updated look at the week of practice in photos here.
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 27:
Pro Bowl glow. Five Seahawks were basking in it today, after being named to the NFC squad on Wednesday, when eight others received alternate status.
But the selection might have meant the most to Leon Washington, the kick returner whose career was supposed to be over after he severely broke his right fibula in a 2009 game while playing with the Jets. The Jets traded Washington to the Seahawks in a draft-day deal in 2010, and all he’s done this season is return his eighth kickoff for a touchdown to tie the NFL career record and rank second in the NFL with a 30.1-yard average.
“It feels great,” Washington said. “Just to know that all the hard work you put into something, it pays off – eventually. Considering my situation, where I came from with the broken-leg injury and getting traded, there are so many people to thank. My wife, first of all, because we’ve been through so much together. She was there with me when I broke my leg and has seen me comeback from that.
“Then I’m just so thankful for the opportunity – for coach (Pete) Carroll and coach (Brian) Schneider to give me the opportunity to do what I love to do. And then you think about all the guys who protect me and block for me when I return the kick. You’ve got to give a special thanks to them. Like I said yesterday, I want to give special thanks to my teammates. And the two key words in there are ‘special’ and ‘teammates’ – which means special teams. It’s definitely a team award.”
Washington also went to the Pro Bowl in 2008 while with the Jets.
Here’s what the others had to say:
Left tackle Russell Okung, on his first Pro Bowl selection – and with the disclaimer that he refuses to talk about himself: “This is about the team and what we’ve been trying to out together since Pete and John (Schneider, the GM) arrived. I hope you guys know I hate this (talking to reporters). But from a talent standpoint and the guys we got, I guess we’re pretty good.”
Center Max Unger, who also was voted to his first Pro Bowl: “What really makes it special is that it came from your peers. It’s the defensive linemen in the conference who voted for me, and that means a lot.”
Free safety Earl Thomas, who was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl: “I just try to play my part, and I appreciate that the coaches and players just respect the way I play and the way I prepare. It’s truly a blessing just to be a part of this game another year.”
Running back Marshawn Lynch, who went to the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season and also was voted to the AFC squad in 2008 while playing with the Bills: Sorry. The Beast Mode back doesn’t like talking about himself, either.
Last year, Thomas was the only Seahawk voted to the Pro Bowl. He was then joined by four teammates who were alternates – cornerback Brandon Browner, strong safety Kam Chancellor, fullback Michael Robinson and Lynch. This year, that many players were voted to the NFC squad.
“We’re just getting better every year,” Thomas said. “And we’re showing the world what we’re all about.”
BRYANT WINS NFC HONOR
The league didn’t have to worry about selecting this week’s NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Carroll did it for them.
After Sunday’s 42-13 victory over the 49ers, Carroll offered, “The play of the game for me was Red. Red knocking that ball down on that field goal, and then Sherman scooping and scoring on that thing for 90, that was enormous moment.
“I think the bell rang right there – we have a chance to beat these guys on this night.”
The league office heard it as well, and tabbed Bryant for the weekly honor.
Bryant’s block – his first this season, but fifth in the past two seasons – came on the third play of the second quarter and extended the Seahawks lead to 21-0. It also followed Sherman breaking up a third-down pass in the end zone.
Bryant is the second Seahawk to win Special Teams Player of the Week this season, joining Washington (Week 12); and fifth Seahawk overall to be honored, joining defensive end Chris Clemons (Week 3), Sherman (Week 10) and rookie QB Russell Wilson (Week 13).
Sherman was nominated for Defensive Player of the Week, after also making an end-zone interception; while Wilson was nominated for Offensive Player of the Week for throwing four TD passes. But the winners were Bears defensive end Julius Peppers and Falcons QB Matt Ryan.
HONORS ‘R US
Mike Sando at ESPN.com has selected his All-NFC West team and also handed out other honors, and the Seahawks are front and center.
Wilson is the division MVP. Says Sando: “Raise your hand if you thought the Seahawks rookie would become the best quarterback in the NFC West and the No. 1 reason Seattle would challenge for the NFC West title.”
Schneider is the division Executive of the Year. Says Sando: “Schneider gets the call over St. Louis Rams counterpart Les Snead largely because he was the driving force behind the team’s decision to draft Wilson in the third round.”
Coach of the Year? Sando is waiting until after Sunday’s game, because if the Rams upset the Seahawks it’s Jeff Fisher for going unbeaten in the division and posting the Rams’ first winning record since 2003. If it’s the Seahawks, it’s Carroll. Says Sando: “If the Seahawks close out the season with an 8-0 record at home and an 11-5 record overall, Carroll will get my vote as top coach in the division. Carroll risked public ridicule and perhaps even his job by going with Wilson, a third-round rookie, when free-agent addition Matt Flynn had recently signed a three-year deal for $19.5 million. The move was subjecting Carroll to criticism as late as Week 4, when the Rams picked off Wilson three times during a 19-13 Seahawks defeat. Carroll trusted what he knew to be true about Wilson, and he has been proved right.”
Seahawks on the All-Division team: Okung, Unger, wide receiver Sidney Rice, Lynch, Robinson and Wilson on offense; Clemons, Sherman and Thomas on defense; and Washington as the kick returner.
The official report, as released by the team:
Did not practice
LB Leroy Hill (hamstring)
WR Golden Tate (illness)
DE Red Bryant (foot)
OT Breno Giacomini (elbow)
CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)
RB Marshawn Lynch (back)
TE Anthony McCoy (back)
WR Sidney Rice (knee)
FS Earl Thomas (ankle)
CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)
After seven players sat out on Wednesday, the list was down to two today. Malcolm Smith continued to work for Hill on the weakside, while Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse filled in for Tate.
For the Rams:
S Craig Dahl (knee)
CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh)
RB Steven Jackson (illness)
LB James Laurinaitis (back)
WR Austin Pettis (shoulder)
CB Scott Wells (knee)
STAT DU JOUR, TEAM EDITION
Having already scored 173 points in December, the Seahawks need 27 against the Rams on Sunday to become the fourth team in NFL history to put up 200 in a calendar month. Here’s a look at the company the Seahawks are trying to join:
Team (month, year) Games Points
Frankford Yellow Jackets (November, 1924) 8 238
Los Angeles Rams (October, 1950) 5 220
New England Patriots (October, 2007) 5 217
Seattle Seahawks (December, 2012) 4 173
STAT DU JOUR, PLAYER EDITION
If Wilson can maintain his passer rating of 98.0, he will move into the Top 3 among rookie QBs in league history. Here’s a look at those top-rated rookies – as well as Wilson and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III, who can move into the top spot:
Player, team (year) Rating
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (2004) 98.1
Dan Marino, Dolphins (1983) 96.0
Greg Cook, Bengals (1969) 88.3
Matt Ryan, Falcons (2008) 87.8
Cam Newton, Panthers (2011) 84.5
With one game to go:
Robert Griffin III, Redskins (2012) 104.1
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (2012) 98.0
“Turnover Thursday” gives way to “No Repeat Friday” as the players will hold their final full practice before Sunday’s game.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It was great news this morning to hear that. I know we’ve had our fingers crossed with the whole process. When we heard the news this morning I think everybody was pretty excited about it.” – defensive coordinator Gus Bradley on Sherman having the appeal of his four-game suspension upheld
Head Coach Pete Carroll addressed the media this afternoon as part of his weekly Wednesday press conference ahead of this afternoon’s 2:00 p.m. practice and preparation for their Week 17 matchup with the St.Louis Rams on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Carroll said veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant will practice today, returning from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the last four games.
“We’ll see how he handles it,” Carroll said of Trufant’s return to the practice field at the nickel position. “We don’t know how it’ll affect his game status for Sunday yet.”
Third-year cornerback Walter Thurmond is still nursing a hamstring injury of his own and Carroll said he will not practice today. Thurmond has missed the club’s last two games.
On weakside linebackers Leroy Hill (hamstring) and Malcolm Smith (groin) Carroll said the pair will be dealing with their injuries they suffered in Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers throughout the week and will not practice today. If neither player is available by Sunday, second-year linebacker Mike Morgan is the expected backup at the position.
Wide receiver Sidney Rice, who was dealing with a foot bruise and knee injury heading into last week’s game, and defensive end Red Bryant, who has been managing a foot injury, will not practice today. Carroll expects the two to be fine for Sunday’s game against the Rams, but their practice time will be managed throughout the week.
Our Insiders Clare Farnsworth and Tony Ventrella will be back with more following today’s player availability and practice session. Until then, be sure to check out coach Carroll’s full video press conference below:
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 26.
The NFL notes that 2013 Pro Bowl rosters will be announced today at 7 p.m. ET on a special edition of “NFL Total Access.”
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has a look at the improvement of quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense, “Wilson’s yards per attempt — a metric that helps gauge how aggressively a team looks downfield — is up nearly 2 yards over the past three games, a significant bump. What has really exploded is Wilson’s rushing numbers, the game plan becoming focused upon accentuating Wilson’s talents. It’s not just running beyond the line of scrimmage, but moving in the pocket. He’s got license to scramble, evading defenders with maneuvers that are at times almost comical. Earlier in the season, Seattle was trying to grind out victories while grooming a rookie quarterback. Now, the Seahawks are trusting that same rookie to see how far he will take them. ‘We have a front-line, first-rate quarterback going out there in these games and you’re seeing it,’ Carroll said. ‘He’s balling. We trust him in his decision-making because he’s proven worthy of that.’ “
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune rehashes the race for offensive rookie of the year, making a case for Wilson, “Since Week 5, Wilson has thrown for 2,274 yards, completing 65 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions. During that same stretch Wilson has a 106.9 passer rating, the second best in the league over that span behind only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (110.8). In the red zone, Wilson has completed 56 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 105.6 passer rating, which is fourth-best in the league.”
John Boyle of the Everett Herald writes about how Carroll and the Seahawks are handling their recent success, “No longer are the Seahawks, the team playing in the NFL’s most remote outpost, the plucky little team that could. They’re quickly turning into bullies. Apparently, three wins by a combined margin of 150-30 tends to make people take notice. So is there any concern the Seahawks could lose their edge now that they’ve clinched a playoff berth and are being called the NFL’s hottest team? ‘Yeah, sure, there is always concern for that,’ Carroll said. ‘That’s what my job is, to not let that happen, so I better be concerned about that. I’m very confident about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and the language that we use and the way we talk, the way they’re talking. I love to hear their comments at this point and how they’ve dealt with the last few weeks. They’re right on point.’ “
Boyle also notes a roster move from Monday, December 24, as the club released wide receiver Deon Butler from the 53-man roster to make room for the addition of rookie strong safety Winston Guy, who had been serving a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Jim Litke of the Associated Press tries to make sense of the sound level exhibited by the 12th Man at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, “[Sunday Night Football producer Fred] Gaudelli and his crew hatched a plan to demonstrate that by having sideline reporter Michele Tafoya speak into a microphone as the sound reverberated, then take a step back and try again. When they ran through it before the game, he had a stadium staffer simulate the crowd noise over the PA system. At the point Tafoya’s words were drowned out the system was cranked to 50 percent of volume. ‘So I asked the guy, is it really going to be that loud? He looked at me,’ Gaudelli chuckled into the phone, ‘and said, ‘Double it.’ The guy was right. That much was apparent at the start of the broadcast, when Tafoya interviewed Carroll – remember, the game hadn’t even begun – and didn’t dare stand anywhere but uncomfortably close. Uncomfortable might be the right word to describe the 49ers as well, at least in the early going, when they had to burn timeouts as relatively inexperienced quarterback Colin Kaepernick was having trouble getting the play calls from his sideline. Right about then, he probably wished the 49ers had devoted more time to mastering their silent snap counts. ‘The crowd’s explosive, it really is,’ Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. ‘They love us so much, and it brings so much energy to our football team. They keep us in the game, obviously, and they keep us alert.’ “
Tim Booth of the Associated Press has reaction from Carroll on the club’s hope to continue to play with an edge, “The blowout of the 49ers grabbed the kind of attention the Seahawks have wanted. ‘The chip on the shoulder? That’s not something we just manufactured for the sake of getting fired up. The guys in this room feel that. Almost every one of these guys has their reasons. I feel like that myself. We just kind of share in that chip and we don’t even have to pass it around,’ Carroll said. ‘We all have one. That’s just kind of how it’s been. Just look, we’re up here in the Northwest and they like talking about us after they talk about everybody else. And that’s OK. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t amount to much but sometimes it does fuel you a little to keep you going. It works for us so we’ll stay with it.’ “
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com says last Sunday’s victory over the 49ers was “extra special” for wide receiver Doug Baldwin, “As if beating his college coach in lopsided fashion wasn’t sweet enough, Baldwin had his finest game of the season in the win. He had receiving touchdowns of 4 and 6 yards, making difficult catches on each. He made a bobbling catch on a 46-yard gain that set up the Seahawks’ second touchdown. Baldwin finished with four catches for 53 yards. It was the first multi-touchdown game of his career. Then again, big games against the 49ers are nothing new for Baldwin. Four of his seven career touchdowns have come against San Francisco.”
Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has updates from Carroll’s Monday presser, “Carroll said they emerged from the game fairly healthy with only a few issues. He said LB Leroy Hill has a hamstring injury that needs to be looked at. He also said Hill’s backup, LB Malcolm Smith, might have a groin issue as well. It’s something they need to check out. If neither would be available to play, LB Mike Morgan would be the backup at the weakside linebacker spot. Carroll said WR Sidney Rice and DE Red Bryant came out of the game feeling better. Rice had been dealing with a foot bruise and a knee injury heading into last week’s game. Bryant has been dealing with a plantar fascia injury in his foot. CB Marcus Trufant is expected to return to practice on Wednesday from a hamstring strain that has kept him out the last four games. Carroll said they still weren’t sure if CB Walter Thurmond would be able to practice Wednesday. He has missed the last two games with a hamstring strain as well.”
Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his latest “MVP Watch” where Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch show up on his list, “Wilson now ranks seventh in NFL passer rating (98.0) and eighth in Total QBR (70.0) for the season. He ranks third in both categories — 101.5 rating, 75.6 QBR — from Week 2 to present. Much gets made of Wilson’s success at home. He ranks among the NFL’s top five in road QBR after Week 1 (78.8). Only Ryan (85.4), Brady (81.5) and Manning (80.2) rank higher among quarterbacks with more than four road starts during that time. Ben Roethlisberger (72.8), Drew Brees (69.9), Rodgers (69.8) and Robert Griffin III (69.6) are next. Wilson needs one touchdown pass against St. Louis in Week 17 to tie Manning’s rookie record of 26, set in 1998. Manning also had 28 interceptions that season. Wilson has 10, including one on a dropped pass.”
Sando has his most recent “Stock Watch” item as well, and the Seahawks’ coach and GM – Carroll and John Schneider – along with the Seahawks’ receiver and strong safety Kam Chancellor represent three of his four units that are on the rise, “Seahawks’ receivers. Dropped passes doomed Seattle’s offense during a 13-6 defeat at San Francisco in Week 7. Outstanding catches played an important role in Seattle sprinting to a big lead against the 49ers in the rematch Sunday night. Baldwin’s juggling catch in the rain for a 43-yard gain was the longest play for either team. Baldwin added two scoring receptions. Rice made a leaping grab along the sideline. Seattle converted 11 of 12 times on third down while Wilson was in the game.”
Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth catches up with wide receiver Doug Baldwin, cornerback Richard Sherman, and special teams co-captain Heath Farwell on some of their favorite Christmas memories growing up.
We also have coach Carroll’s full video press conference from Monday available here.
A recap of the events at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 21:
Cornerbacks. Those who returned to practice, as well as the one who wasn’t at today’s practice.
Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond got some reps with the No. 1 defense. Trufant has missed the past three games, while Thurmond sat out last week’s game – both with hamstring injuries. Is it possible they could be ready for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field?
“They made it through this day,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll go all the way to game time with those guys. They’ve got to show us they can play.
“We’ve got to make sure we make a good decision on that. They have been out for a couple of weeks. But it’s good to just get them close to getting back.”
Trufant and Thurmond are listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game.
Richard Sherman, who leads the team with six interceptions, will be able to play against the 49ers, Carroll said. Sherman was excused from practice today and Thursday because he is appealing his four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
“I’m anticipating that we’ll have him,” Carroll said. “I have heard nothing else at this point.”
Missing practice time is not ideal, especially heading into such an important matchup, but Carroll said, “He is as smart a football player as we have on our team. He’s totally into everything that we’re doing. We can tell when he’s not out here, because he is so sharp and he communicates to other guys. He knows when he left that he was preparing to miss a couple of days. We sent him with a bunch of stuff, so he should be fine.”
In the meantime, second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane got most of the work with the No. 1 defense.
The official end-of-the-week status report, as released by team:
S Jeron Johnson (groin)
WR Sidney Rice (foot)
CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)
CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)
DT Alan Branch (ankle)
RB Marshawn Lynch (back)
CB Richard Sherman (not injury related)
RB Robert Turbin (illness)
RB Leon Washington (illness)
Branch practiced for the second consecutive day. “We’re surprised we got Alan Branch back,” Carroll said. “He’s going to go.”
Rice was limited today after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. “We’re still going to make sure he can run on game day,” Carroll said. “He feels pretty good right now. But we’ve got to get to game day and run him and see how he can tolerate it. He thinks he’s playing. He feels like he’s going to.”
Johnson was rested because of the groin injury he got in practice this week. “We don’t think it’s bad at all,” Carroll said. “There’s a really good chance he’s playing.”
For the 49ers:
LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)
DT Justin Smith (elbow)
LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)
WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)
DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)
K David Akers (pelvis)
OG Alex Boone (knee)
LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)
LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)
CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)
S Dashon Goldson (foot)
RB Frank Gore (wrist)
OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)
RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)
CB Carlos Rogers (knee)
LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)
S C.J. Spillman (illness)
LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)
Carroll is planning on having to face Justin Smith. “He’s a tremendous football player,” Carroll said. “I think he’s going to play. If there’s ever a guy that’s going to fight through whatever, he’s going to make it. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. He must really be hurt if he doesn’t play, because he’s going to get out there. He’s a fantastic competitor.”
STAT DU JOUR
Almost lost in everything else going on in Sunday night’s game is the impact that Gore has had on this series since entering the league in 2005. In the games where Gore has rushed for more than 100 yards, the 49ers are 4-0. When the Seahawks hold Gore to fewer than 100 yards, the 49ers are 3-6. Here’s a look at what he’s done against the Seahawks:
Triple-digit games (4-0)
Year Att. Yards Avg.
2006 24 212 8.8
2006 29 144 5.0
2009 16 207 12.9
2012 16 131 8.2
Double-digit games (3-6)
Year (W-L) Att. Yards Avg.
2005 (L) 2 5 2.5
2007 (L) 16 79 4.9
2007 (L) 13 72 5.5
2008 (W) 19 61 3.2
2008 (L) 18 94 5.2
2009 (L) 9 25 2.8
2010 (L) 17 38 2.2
2011 (W) 22 59 2.7
2011 (W) 23 83 3.6
The players will have a walkthrough on Saturday, their final on-field preparation for Sunday night’s game. And remember, the game starts at 5:20 p.m. because it was flexed into the primetime spot on NBC.
YOU DON’T SAY, PLAYER EDITION
“Yeah, we definitely talk about it. It’s a championship game. That’s the way we approach it this week – it’s a championship game. We’re going to have to prepare and play like it. We know it will be a great one.” – quarterback Russell Wilson when asked if the players have allowed themselves to talk about clinching a playoff berth with a win over the 49ers
YOU DON’T SAY, COACH EDITION
“I’m really looking forward to it. I know our guys are. It’s been really like a celebration of being a football coach and a player when you get here. It’s just that much fun at CenturyLink. The way that the fans respond so consistently and they love it so much, it is a factor. I mean, I can feel it. It changes the energy level. So hopefully we can perform up to that. We don’t have to do much about it, but show up and play well. And they’ll be doing their thing. It is a boost and we’re excited to be finishing up here at home.” – Carroll when asked about the final two regular-season games being played at CenturyLink Field
Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 20.
Larry Stone of the Seattle Times takes a look at how the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have changed since their first meeting of the season back on October 18, “In their past two games, the Seahawks have scored 108 points in wins over Arizona and Buffalo. The Seahawks haven’t changed quarterbacks like San Francisco, but they’re hoping it’s a different Russell Wilson on Sunday. In the first 49ers game, Wilson had his worst statistical performance, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 122 yards, with a key interception late in the game on a long pass intended for Braylon Edwards. But that’s another distant memory. ‘It all begins with the quarterback, obviously,’ said wide receiver Doug Baldwin. ‘Russell is playing at an extremely high level right now. It’s just the maturity and growth, and we’ve all come to grow with him. This offense as a whole has been able to rally behind the things he does well. At the beginning of the season, we were kind of searching for that.’ After the 49ers game, Wilson’s quarterback rating sat at a pedestrian 79.4. Since then, he’s completed 118 of 178 passes (66 percent) for 1,467 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions for a 111.3 quarterback rating. The Seahawks are 5-2 in those games.”
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has Wednesday’s injury report from both clubs, noting several Seahawks players who sat out practice.
O’Neil also previews Sunday’s matchup with the Niners in this short video, hinting that in a game matching the NFL’s top two scoring defenses, the club’s improved offenses under the Seahawks’ Wilson and 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick might be the ones that ultimately decide the outcome.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks run defense will be critical in Sunday’s game against the Niners, and catches up with linebacker Bobby Wagner on Sunday’s matchup, “Wagner, a rookie who played at Utah State, said he thinks he has an advantage because he played against Kaepernick, a second-year player from Nevada. The linebacker had one of his best games of the season at Carolina against perhaps the best running quarterback in the league, Cam Newton. Wagner had six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss. ‘I definitely feel like that helps because I’ve seen him a lot in college,’ Wagner said. ‘He’s not the same, obviously, (as) he was in college because he’s a lot more mature. He understands the game a little better. But at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he does. He runs, and he can sling the ball.’ “
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is taking in the benefits of sticking with Kaepernick as their starting quarterback, “In his first start in place of Smith, Kaepernick threw two touchdowns and had a rating of 133.1 against the Chicago Bears. And when Smith was deemed healthy enough for a return, Harbaugh decided to stick with Kaepernick. In five starts, Kaepernick has completed 66 percent of his passes for a 101.4 rating, and also rushed for five touchdowns at 7.2 yards per carry. Not only have the 49ers won four of those five, but they also beat New England on Sunday to snap the Patriots’ 20-game home winning streak. ‘He came in playing pretty well right at the start,’ Harbaugh said when asked of Kaepernick’s improvement since he’s been a starter. ‘There’s been some improvement in all the situations that he’s experienced … in five starts he’s experienced a lot.’ “
John Boyle of the Everett Herald has a look at the youth movement at quarterback around the NFL, starting with Harbaugh and Carroll’s decisions to roll with Kaepernick and Wilson, “Both coaches chose to go young at quarterback, taking the riskier path, and both by all indications made the right choice. As Harbaugh put it, it was the best thing at that time. Not the best thing for the 49ers’ future; the best move now. When Wilson and Kaepernick face off for the first of what should be many, many meetings, they won’t be young quarterbacks developing along with a rebuilding teams, they will be key players on two of the best teams in the NFC. Welcome to the new normal in the NFL”
Tim Booth of the Associated Press eyes the Seahawks recent success as they push toward the playoffs, “If Seattle (9-5) can get a victory over the 49ers on Sunday or in the season finale against St. Louis, it would be its second playoff appearance in Carroll’s three seasons. Yet this one would be far more deserved. When the Seahawks won the NFC West in 2010, they became the first division champion with a losing record at 7-9. It took a victory over St. Louis in the finale that season for the Seahawks to win the division on a tiebreaker, but Seattle at least justified its spot in the playoffs by upsetting then-Super Bowl champion New Orleans in the wild-card round. But that playoff trips was at the infancy of Seattle’s roster remodel that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been constructing. It was a mix of new faces and what the duo inherited that won the division in 2010. This group that’s pushing for a playoff spot has all been molded under the watch of Seattle’s decision-making duo. ‘I think we’re playing so much better in so many areas. We’re taking care of the ball the way we want to, and we’re getting after the football well now that we’re in the latter part of the season,’ Carroll said. ‘We’re running the football with consistency and we’re keeping the scores down defensively, and the kicking game is solid. These are all of the elements that make us team with not many holes right now.’ “
Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com recaps a conversation with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd, who joined 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” yesterday, “Cowherd thinks the Seahawks are the NFL’s second-best team, and he had them ranked that high before they scored at least 50 points for the second consecutive week. A panel of five ESPN colleagues unanimously had the Seahawks at No. 7 in their latest power rankings. The Seahawks’ relative lack of success as a franchise hurts their credibility, Cowherd thinks. ‘If they were called the Steelers and they did as many things well as they did we’d love them. But they’re called the Seahawks, so nobody wants them to give them any credit. This team has been fantastic,’ he said.” … You can listen to Brock and Salk’s entire conversation with Cowherd here.
Brock Huard of 710Sports.com has his latest “Chalk Talk” breaking down the Seahawks’ use of the trick play toss from Wilson to running back Marshawn Lynch, who threw back to Wilson, who spiraled it 44 yards downfield to wide receiver Golden Tate in Week 15′s win over the Buffalo Bills.
Liz Matthews of 710Sports.com has her report from Wednesday’s practice session, “Wide receiver Sidney Rice, listed last week on the practice report with a bruised foot, sat out Wednesday with a knee injury. Running back Leon Washington was excused early due to an undisclosed illness.”
Art Thiel of SportsPressNW.com looks ahead to Sunday’s matchup with the Niners, “Getting by San Francisco is Carroll’s biggest challenge. After the last meeting, he admitted that he couldn’t get his defense adjusted in time to stop the 49ers offense from trap-blocking the Seahawks’ defense into futility. In essence, he was outcoached, and he said Wednesday that the 49ers continue to do things that are hard to comprehend. ‘They were really good last year, and continue to grow and do more things,’ Carroll said. ‘The offensive line does really complicated stuff. They do a ton of things — pulling and trapping, kick-outs, getting guys on the edge — and are very consistent with it. We wonder sometimes how they can get it all done. Obviously, it’s great coaching.’ Having played for Harbaugh at Stanford, [cornerback Richard] Sherman knows well the style. ‘He’s always been kinda crazy with their formations and shifts,’ he said. ‘They’ve been that way since I’ve known their offense — switch-on, switch-off, this tight end pulls here, this fullback goes there . . . all kind of crazy. I recognize a lot of stuff, but stopping it is another thing. You know what’s coming, but can you stop it?’ “
Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his notes from Wednesday’s session, “Head coach Pete Carroll said that with all the formations, shifts and varying personnel groups used by the 49ers, they are perhaps the most challenging team the Seahawks have had to prepare for all season. ‘Yeah, that’s kind of the topic for the day,’ Carroll said. ‘It’s a very challenging team and it’s the running element, but then there’s Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, and then there’s the big fella Randy Moss out there running. This is a very talented football team and all of those guys’ present problems.’ “
Doug Farrar of YahooSports.com writes that the Seahawks and Niners see mirror images in each other, “…when it comes to styles and schemes — and styles make fights in football, just as they do in boxing — the teams built by these two coaches are as similar as any you’ll see in the NFL today. Both the 9-5 Seahawks and 10-3-1 49ers, who will tussle this Sunday night for control of the division, feature hallmarks that could be easily switched from franchise to franchise without too much trouble. Each team is currently sparked by a young quarterback making unexpected gains, each team is buttressed by a violent and consistent running game, and each team is truly defined by a defense that that stops opposing offenses from front to back. The two teams are tied for the NFL lead in scoring defense, allowing just 15.6 points per game each. ‘I think we are similar,’ Carroll said on Wednesday. ‘I can’t help but see that because they believe in playing big time defense as well as us, they believe in the running game, which we do, and they have a very strong emphasis on special teams, which we do. I think that’s really the three pillars of what we’re trying to put together here, that’s what I know we’re dealing with. I don’t know how they speak it or how they talk about it, but it’s certainly what’s obvious about their team and what you have to line up against. This a real matchup for us with a like approach as well.’ “
Mike Sando of ESPN.com breaks down the play of Kaepernick and Wilson against the same four opponents, “It’s looking like these quarterbacks will be matching up in the division for years to come. Wilson has more NFL playing experience. Kaepernick has an additional full season in the league. A look at how they’ve fared as starters against the same teams seems like a pretty good way to compare them so far.”
Sando shares a conversation with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. as the pair breaks down Sunday’s matchup, “Sando: Matt, let’s start off with the quarterbacks. Both already rank among the league leaders in the meaningful categories. Russell Wilson leads the NFL and Colin Kaepernick ranks third in Total QBR since Week 11, when Kaepernick became a starter. Both are top eight for the season. Who has the better QB? Williamson: Seattle. I’m really high on both. I think both are going to be legitimate starters and stars. San Francisco is a year ahead of Seattle in just about every aspect, but I feel like the opposite is true at quarterback. Wilson looks like he has started more games and is mentally further along. Fewer bad throws. So consistent. Never turns the ball over. He is way ahead of the curve. I think he is the better player, but I like both very much.”
Sando also rehashes injury situations around the NFC West, with several notes on both the Niners and Seahawks.
The analysis team over at ProFootballFocus.com has released their selections for the 2012 Pro Bowl Roster, and running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, and return specialist Leon Washington make their list.
Tony Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily” with a look at the similarities between the Seahawks and Niners.
And lastly, we have photos from Wednesday’s practice by team photographer Rod Mar.