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BREAKDOWN: Packers at Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks

Image via Wikipedia

Midway into the exhibition season and already there’s concern about Seattle’s revamped defense.

The Seahawks surrendered three touchdowns on four possessions at the start of games against Tennessee quarterback Vince Young and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The starters have just one sack, which is a painful reminder of last season when Seattle accumulated just two sacks in the final five games.

The retooled defensive line has failed to generate a consistent pass rush and too often last week the ends failed to contain Green Bay quarterbacks who escaped outside the pocket.

The linebackers, one of the best groups in the conference just two years ago, appear in disarray. Second-year pro Aaron Curry has just one tackle and is slow adjusting to new pass-rushing responsibilities, David Hawthorne is out with a hip injury and three-time Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu, who missed 11 games last season due to injuries, hasn’t played because of a sore hamstring.

Marcus Trufant, who is playing like he did in 2007 when he was selected to the Pro Bowl, has been a pleasant surprise. Still, Kelly Jennings has yet to secure the other cornerback spot and rookie free safety Earl Thomas is prone to gaffes, such as the one that resulted in a 56-yard reception last week.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley acknowledged mistakes the first two exhibition games, but he sees improvement in a defense ranked 24th last season in yards allowed.

“Last week we had some busts,” he said. “Some coverage busts. Some alignment busts. We’re really stressing this week our communication on the field. That’s more important and once we get those things down, hopefully we’ll be more solid.

“It’s preseason and our focus is on us right now, like making sure our coverage principles and our pressure principles are all in place. It’s really a race for the next couple of weeks before that first (regular-season) game to improve in those areas.”

Next up: Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.

“You know he’s back there,” rookie defensive end E.J. Wilson said. “You know he’s in the game and everything that he’s done in the game, but it doesn’t matter when the game starts. He’s a quarterback just like any other quarterback and it’s our job to get to him.”

Veteran strong safety Lawyer Milloy said facing the 40-year-old Favre, who holds every significant NFL passing record, is the perfect situation for the Seahawks.

“Obviously there’s things we have to correct,” Milloy said. “For me it’s stopping teams on the first drive. That’s just all attitude. It’s getting to some of these young guys, getting to some of these new players and making sure they know the defense needs to set the tone and be focused when we get out there.

“Because when we settle down, you see what we can do. But in this league, you’re not afforded the time to settle down. Minnesota is a perfect situation for us because with their quarterback and their running back (Adrian Peterson), that’s a good test for us.”

Notes

• Despite the absence of two starters on the left side of the offensive line, coach Pete Carroll said QB Matt Hasselbeck will play into the third quarter against a Minnesota defense that led the NFL in sacks last season. OT Mansfield Wrotto and G Mike Gibson are replacing rookie Russell Okung (high ankle sprain) and Ben Hamilton (sore knee).

• LB Will Herring will start in place of David Hawthorne (hip), who will not play.

• TE Cameron Morrah (flu) returned to practice after missing two days.

• On the final play of practice, DT Quinn Pitcock drew several oohs and ahhs from teammates when he dropped into coverage, deflected a Hasselbeck pass before making a diving interception.

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NFC West Team Breakdown: Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks helmet

Image via Wikipedia

With only nine wins combined over the last two seasons the Seattle Seahawks went to work in the offseason, overhauling both the roster and the coaching staff.  With the NFC West wide open this year the Seahawks are hoping the changes have an immediate impact.

Pete Carroll returns to coach in the NFL for the first time since 1999 and while he put together one of the great college programs of the 2000’s he has his work cut out for him in Seattle.  A big first step toward getting back to the playoffs will be protecting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.  The veteran missed nine games in 2008 was healthier in ’09 but he still missed two games.  Hasselbeck was pressured way too much in ’09 and certainly the protection couldn’t be any worse than the final four games of 2009 when Hasselbeck was sacked 10 times and threw 10 interceptions.  To strengthen the line Seattle drafted tackle Russell Okung and signed guards Chester Pitts and Ben Hamilton.  Certainly the Seahawks don’t lack the weaponry with TJ Houshmandzadeh and tight end John Carlson.  The Seahawks also drafted flashy Golden Tate and are hoping to revive the career of Mike Williams.  Seattle’s once proud running game nearly washed out last year as the Seahawks ranked 26th in rushing and scored just seven touchdowns on the ground.  Looking to add a spark to the Julius Jones-Justin Forsett backfield tandem Seattle acquired Leon Washington in the offseason.

The next step in Seattle’s rebuilding project is to put more playmakers on the field.  Patrick Kerney led the team in sacks with a mere five however he retired in the offseason.  Deon Grant led the secondary with just three interceptions but in the offseason Grant signed with the Giants.  To help fix the secondary the Seahawks used one of two first round picks on safety Earl Thomas.  Seattle will need Thomas after routinely getting picked apart by opposing quarterbacks.  Much of the focus should be on Seattle’s linebackers.  MLB David Hawthorne led the team in tackles, registered four sacks and picked off three passes.  The Seahawks are also looking for more from 2009 first round pick Aaron Curry.  Not surprising, Seattle was much better defending the run.

Hasselbeck is now the dean of NFC West quarterbacks and the Seahawks need a full season from him.  The revamped offensive line should help keep Hasselbeck upright.  On defense the Seahawks need Thomas and Curry to jell quickly.  After two tours of duty in the NFL Carroll needs to prove he can be as successful in the pros as he was at USC.  It’s not far fetched to think the Seahawks can compete in the division if they stay healthy.This could be an eight or a nine win team which just might be enough to win the watered-down West.