The silence is almost deafening in Hawkville today. Coach Pete Carroll has given his players and staff the day and all of next week off as a needed break in their OTA and offseason conditioning schedule.
Sounds like a good time to dip into the mailbag as we head into the Memorial Day weekend. So let’s get started.
Q: Now that we have four running backs, besides Quinton Ganther and Louis Rankin, how do we plan on using all four? I mean Justin Forsett and Leon Washington are pretty much the same player. Who would get the majority of the reps? I live in Oklahoma, but was born and raised in Yakima so will forever be a Seahawk! GO HAWKS! – Jeremy, Tulsa
A: This is, and will continue to be, a popular topic, Jeremy. And the answers to all the continuing questions won’t play out until training camp, when Washington is scheduled to return from the broken leg that ended his 2009 season and all the backs put on their pads.
While Washington (5-8, 203) and Forsett (5-8, 198) might be the same size, they are not the same back. Washington is ridiculously fast, explosive and elusive. Forsett runs tougher than any back his size should be able to and most of his best plays last season – when he averaged 5.4 yards per carry – came after he broke the first tackle.
The two backs you didn’t mention are incumbent starter Julius Jones, the team’s leading rusher the past two seasons; and LenDale White, who was acquired in a draft-day trade with the Titans and provides the more physical style Carroll has been talking about adding to the mix since he hired in January.
This crowded backfield is a familiar situation for Carroll, who had a stable of high school All-Americans vying for carries during his tenure at USC. Carroll wants this competition to bring out the best in every player. I asked him once how he kept all of them happy. He said he didn’t care if they were happy, because he wanted each back to be hungry and do the most he could with whatever carries he got.
He now has a similar situation with the Seahawks, and who plays when and gets which carries will be decided by what Jones, White, Washington and Forsett do with the carries they get. It’s a situation that will be worth watching – and asking about – all summer.
Q: The recent article from ESPN about “line dancing” and the large amount of it coming from the Seahawks makes me even more excited about getting Russell Okung and Ben Hamilton last month. Do you see anyone challenging for the starting lineup now that we seem to have a solid line in Okung, Hamilton, Chris Spencer, Max Unger and Sean Locklear? – Bobby, Salem
A: In a word, Bobby, no. But it’s probably too early to make that a definitive statement. Ray Willis started 16 games at right tackle last season – the only Seahawks lineman to start all 16 games at the same spot – so he could push Locklear. Steve Vallos has started games at center and guard the past two seasons and has the kind of tenacity that line coach Alex Gibbs likes, so he also could be a factor.
But from what they’ve shown in minicamp and OTA practices, the No. 1 unit is as you laid it out: Okung, Hamilton, Spencer, Unger and Locklear.
As with the backs, the real assessing of the linemen will come when they put on the pads in training camp and especially the preseason games.
Q: I’ve been wondering how Okung has been doing since the training camps have started and also if Earl Thomas has been making big plays? – Chris, Washington
A: Good segue, Chris, even though training camp practices won’t start until late July. But the players have been going through minicamp and OTA practices, so the confusion is understandable.
Okung, the Seahawks’ selection with the sixth pick overall in last month’s draft, looks the part of being the long-term solution at the left tackle spot that Walter Jones manned for 12 dominating seasons. There have been the expected rookie rough spots, as well as the transition to Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme. But Okung has been fluid and athletic while practicing without pads. Again, it will easier to gauge the linemen when the pads come on in training camp.
The most noticeable element of Thomas’ game at this early stage has been his range, which Carroll raved about after the Seahawks drafted the free safety from Texas with the 14th pick in the first round. One play that stands out came on an interception by cornerback Marcus Trufant. Thomas followed a receiver who was going in motion away from the side of the field where Trufant made his pick. But by the time Trufant came down with the ball, Thomas was just a stride or two from him. He also has used his instincts and speed to break up a couple of passes on the sideline.
Q: What is the real rumor on the Seahawks’ interest in Terrell Owens? Do you think he would help this team or is T.O. what we like to call a poison that tears teams apart? – Cory, German (Michael in Kelso also asked about the team’s interest in Owens)
A: The rumor/report was that the Seahawks had shown “preliminary interest” in pursuing Owens, Cory. The truth is that general manager John Schneider said this week that the club probably will not move in that direction unless “something drastic happens.”
The Seahawks’ interest in Owens came before they drafted Golden Tate and signed Mike Williams.
As for Owens being a “poison,” that’s a tough label to slap on any player – especially one who has been as productive as Owens at his various stops around the league.
Q: What are the chances of the NFL playing an international game in Melbourne, the most sports crazy city in the world. The Melbourne Cricket Grounds hold 100,000 people, so venue wouldn’t be an issue. The city has eight different professional Aussie Rules Football teams, rugby, ice hockey, basketball and racing (horse and motor), so the dedication to sports is there. A prime time game in the U.S. (Eastern Time) at 7 p.m. would be at 9 a.m. in Melbourne. Would that cause any issues with the players and team’s pre-game warm-ups? I guess the NFL could call it a Monday Morning Football Game. – Ken, Seattleite on his way to grad school in Melbourne
A: Melbourne’s biggest problem, Ken, is this little place called Sydney. The NFL has played an America Bowl game in Sydney – it was in 1999 between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.
The league has cut back on the number of international games each summer. After playing 30 American Bowl games in the 1990s – in Tokyo, London, Montreal, Berlin, Barcelona, Toronto, Mexico City, Monterrey, Dublin and Vancouver – only seven were played in the 2000s. And there has been only one since 2005 – in Toronto in 2008.
The start time would not be a problem. When the Seahawks played the Broncos in Tokyo in 1990, the game started at 11 a.m. Sunday so it could be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday in Seattle. The problem is location, because the logistics of these games are very tough on teams that are trying to prepare for the rapidly approaching regular season. The travel time and accompanying jetlag are definite drawbacks.