A recap of the day’s activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Oct. 4:
First-quarter honors. After an offseason of uncertainty when it seemed the regular season would never get here, the Seahawks already are a quarter of the way through it.
With the players off today and the coaches working on the game plan for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands, we figured it was a good time to pass out some awards:
Best player – Earl Thomas. This has been apparent to anyone who’s watched the Seahawks during their 1-3 start. The second-year free safety is good, and only getting better by the game. Thomas leads the team in tackles (26) and also has been forcing plays by forcing the issue.
“Earl, he’s a flash,” John Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowl safety during his career with the Buccaneers and Broncos, said last Friday when he was in town to handle the analyst duties for Fox’s telecast of the Seahawks-Falcons game on Sunday.
“Every time I’ve got the film on, I think I’m in fast forward. Then I realize that’s just him. He’s got tremendous instincts. I met with him with the first week of the season and he realized there were a lot of things he needed to get better at. He’s worked hard at them. I think he’s got a very, very bright future. He’s got as much range as any safety I’ve seen. (Former Redskins safety) Sean Taylor is the last guy with that kind of range and the ability to get from centerfield over to the sideline.”
Best free-agent addition – Sidney Rice. He got off to a slow start because of a damaged labrum, but the Pro Bowl wide receiver from the Minnesota Vikings has been a playmaker in the past two games. Rice led the team with eight receptions for 109 yards against the Cardinals – in his first regular-season game with the Seahawks, and their only win. Sunday, he hooked up with Tarvaris Jackson for a 52-yard touchdown.
“Sidney is the kind of guy you can throw the ball to knowing that he’s going to make something happen with it,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Best rookie free agent addition – Doug Baldwin. Ricardo Lockette got most of the attention early, because of his ridiculous speed. But the best receiver – and player – of the 18 undrafted rookies the Seahawks signed on July 26 was the made-to-order slot receiver from Stanford. Baldwin has been making plays from the first day he stepped on the practice field in training camp, and he’s still doing it. He leads the team in receptions (12) and receiving yards (194), and it was his 48-yard run after the catch that produced the team’s longest play of the season – a 55-yard TD in the opener against the 49ers.
“He’s a really natural football player,” Carroll said on Monday. “Things come easy to him. He’s a really good special teams player as well, which tells you something. He has a real feel for the game in general.
“So he’s able to make sense of what we’re asking him to do and then he naturally kind of makes the right decisions, too. So he’s got a savvy that has helped him.”
Best free-agent “find” – Brandon Browner. From the day he walked into the building, Carroll has wanted a bigger cornerback to match up against what seems like the steady diet of bigger receivers the Seahawks have been force-fed the past two seasons. The coach found one in the 6-foot-4 Browner, who spent the past four seasons covering the much-larger field in the CFL. Browner has had his moments – good and not so good. But he has not backed down from any challenge, whether it’s the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald, the Falcons’ Julio Jones or the Steelers’ Mike Wallace.
“As his confidence grows and his sense for the game here in the league grows, he’s going to be a big factor,” Carroll said. “I like to see the hard, dirty work that he had to do in making those tough tackles and stuff. … He’s ready to go nose-to-nose with everybody and he’s going to get better. He’s going to keep improving.”
Best draft choice – James Carpenter. Another slow starter who would have benefitted from the offseason that wasn’t, the team’s first-round draft choice has only gotten better at right tackle with each game. He’s now blocking his man and then getting to the second level to block another.
“James Carpenter played a really good football game, and I’ve been saying that now for three weeks,” Carroll said on Monday. “So he’s really getting on it.”
Best third-day draft choice – K.J. Wright. They simply haven’t been able to keep this guy off the field. Selected in the fourth round with the idea that he could backup Aaron Curry on the strongside, linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. decided to take a look at Wright in the middle after the release of incumbent starter Lofa Tatupu prompted the move of David Hawthorne from the weakside to the middle. Wright started the opener in the middle because Hawthorne was out, and has started the past two games on the strongside.
“K.J. is very instinctive. He plays very smart situation football,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “He’s just a real good football player.”
VOBORA BACK, KONZ UP
Linebacker and special teams standout Matt McCoy was placed on injured reserve today because of the sprained knee he suffered in Sunday’s game. Linebacker David Vobora was re-signed to fill McCoy’s roster spot, because he can help on special teams and also in a situational role on defense if needed.
Also, linebacker Jameson Konz was signed off the practice squad. To clear a roster spot, fullback Eddie Williams was released. Williams had been signed when fullback Michael Robinson was out with a knee injury, but Robinson returned last week. In another practice squad move, tight end John Nalbone was signed and tight end Fendi Onobun reached an injury settlement and was released.
Vobora, who was raised in Eugene, Ore., and went to the University of Idaho, has an interesting story – which we covered after he was signed on Aug. 22. Vobora made the 53-man roster when the cuts were made on Sept. 3, but he was released the next day when the team claimed four players off waivers.
Konz, a seventh-round draft choice last year, is a versatile athletic who has played a number of positions on the practice squad – on both sides of the ball. We examined his versatility in this story.
STAT DU JOUR
Third downs have become the barometer by which to gauge the Seahawks’ defensive performances. When they play well on third downs, they “win.” When they don’t, they “lose.” Here’s a closer look at the “winning” and “losing” efforts:
Opponent (half) Third downs Score
49ers (second) 1 of 6 17-3, Seahawks*
Cardinals (second) 1 of 9 7-0, Seahawks
Falcons (second) 3 of 8 21-7, Seahawks
* — offensive points only
Opponent (half) Third downs Score
Steelers (first) 4 of 6 17-0, Steelers
Falcons (first) 6 of 8 24-7, Falcons
The players return from their “off” day to begin preparing for the Giants on Wednesday. Practice is at 1:30 p.m.
The team will travel to New Jersey on Friday and hold a walk-thru on Saturday afternoon.
YOU DON’T SAY
“That was an extraordinary emotional surge that happened in the stadium for our players. The fact that he lost his mind for a moment there; I’ve never seen him practice that, I don’t like us doing things that we don’t practice.” – a smiling Carroll when asked about Marshawn Lynch’s leaping somersault into the end zone as he was scoring on an 11-yard run against the Falcons