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NFL Pre Season Week One In the Books

It’s here (and it’s about time)! The pro football season officially got moving over the weekend with a full slate of preseason action. Even though the games don’t count in the standings, there is plenty happening on the field and on the sidelines that have relevance for the regular season – and for next week.

For instance, the Seahawks failed to cover against Tennessee, but they did get a win for new Coach Pete Carroll while rolling up 322 yards. Carroll had hinted all week that he wanted to win in preseason and QB Charlie Whitehurst threw for 214 yards. Carroll bolted from the edge of the field to the bench in the second quarter to congratulate the defense following a three-and-out stop in the second quarter. He had a hug for Whitehurst for his first TD throw. Who says preseason is meaningless? Not the emotional Carroll.

Of note is that Seattle’s pass defense was shaky, a problem last season, and pass pressure is still the biggest question mark on Seattle’s defense. With Saturday’s victory, Seattle now has won its past six exhibition games. Seattle was undefeated in exhibition games last season, which didn’t do much to prevent the Seahawks’ 5-11 belly flop in the regular season.

The Patriots got a win over the Saints after building up a 24-7 lead. The offense has new looks – not just with personnel, but with a slight change of strategy. Last season the Patriots relied heavily on wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker to carry the offense. QB Tom Brady went to the shotgun a lot, too. Sports Betting at the Sportsbook

What they showed in the preseason opener is that there appears to be a slight change in philosophy. Brady was far more under center than usual and they used 2 and even 3 tight ends at times. Part of that was that they drafted two potentially talented tight ends in Rob Grankowski and Aaron Hernandez, while adding veteran TE Alge Crumpler.

The Patriots were a weak red zone team last season and it’s clear they want to spread the football around more, possibly run more and use the tight ends in an attempt to bolster their red zone efficiency. In the preseason opener, they were 6 of 13 on third down and very strong in the red zone.

What team looked the worst? Let’s call it a tie with the Lions, Rams and Bills, three bottom feeders from last season. The Lions lost 23-7 at Pittsburgh, though there was room for optimism. Detroit outgained the Steelers and held Pittsburgh to 3.3 yards per rush. With the starting defensive line on the field, the Steelers offense gained 12 yards.

The Rams got flattened at home by the Vikings and the big story was not Sam Bradford but the St. Louis offensive line, which looks as bad as ever. Bradford’s NFL debut consisted of six completions in 13 attempts for 57 yards and a passer rating of 58.8. But the real story came in all the hits Bradford absorbed by the Minnesota pass rush. Bradford was sacked four times and hit at least three other times. “We had some issues up front,” Steve Spagnuolo said. So, what else is new?

The Buffalo Bills’ backfield took a major hit as running backs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch were hurt early in the 42-17 preseason-opening loss to the Washington Redskins. Jackson is believed to have a broken left hand, while Lynch hobbled off with an injured ankle. Jackson’s injury is the most serious as head coach Chan Gailey said Jackson will miss the rest of the preseason. Gailey has been demanding a tough, physical game, and it’s taking a toll as they are loaded with injured players.

The final word of the weekend goes to the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff, who punished receivers by sending them to the toilet. Kansas City coaches hauled a mobile outhouse onto the practice field and told pass catchers to go in, have a seat and close the door. The port-a-potty was used for a unique kind of pass-catching drill that players, suppressing a laugh, hailed as effective in developing some quick hand-eye coordination.

The Chiefs, you see, led the NFL in dropped passes a year ago. Assistant head coach Maurice Carthon, who introduced the Chiefs to the port-a-potty drill, stood about 10 feet away and shouted to another coach when to fling open the door. The second the door opened, Carthon fired the pass and it was on the player to hang on.”It teaches you hand-eye coordination,” rookie wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. So if they bounce the football to them would it be a one-hopper in the hopper? Just asking.

Charlie Whitehurst: The Future Of The Seahawks?

While the Tennessee Titans were worried about their rookie Stafon Johnson, Seattle stood across the field and watched as their team barged through to a victory. The preseason games have provided a look at a lot of players and if the numbers are correct, NFL fans are anxious to see the actual season get underway. Fortunately for Seattle, the end result was rewarding. Charlie Whitehurst did everything that was expected of him on the field and managed to set a few records along the way.

This upcoming superstar quarterback threw for almost 215 yards and appeared to be thankful for the opportunity and the ability. Seattle’s quarterback indicated that this was far and away the best preseason game he had played in his five years in the NFL. The quarterback ended up in Seattle two seasons ago via a trade that gave him $8 million dollars. Charlie Whitehurst led the Seahawks to a 20-18 win in the preseason match against Tennessee and will now prepare for the next team on the ladder.

Two touchdown passes put the game out of reach for the Titans and first year coach Pete Carroll couldn’t have been any more excited. Seattle starter Matt Hasslebeck played before handing over the reigns to someone else for the rest of the game. The popularity surrounding the Seahawks quarterback and their back up should put their fans in an extremely happy place. Charlie Whitehurst has proven he is no shabby apple and folks better wake up and take note of his skills.

Camp Confidential: Seattle Seahawks

Elevated speakers pump out PG-13 lyrics and hip-hop beats all through Seattle Seahawks practice.

“I’m fresh, I’m fly, I’m always high,” boasts rapper Lloyd Banks of G-Unit fame, “got ya b—-es waving at me when I roll by.”

Later, it’s a song from Usher creating the visuals: “Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow.”

And this from another rapper, Akon: “I’m the boss, it only takes one call for a driver to hit you up and drop you off and that’s all. Guess what? I won’t be takin’ that fall. Homie, I got cake, that’s what I’m payin’ them for.”

Thirty-six-year-old safety Lawyer Milloy, the second-oldest player on the team behind kicker Olindo Mare, grooves on the sideline during a break for the first-team defense. His head coach and the Seahawks’ unofficial hype man, Pete Carroll, runs a spirited practice a few yards away. Afterward, I ask Milloy bluntly whether it’s credible for a 58-year-old white guy from Marin County to like G-Unit. Milloy laughs. He played for Carroll in New England more than a decade ago and he jumped at the chance to play for him again.

“The thing about a leader, the leader has to understand and know the people that he is leading,” Milloy explains. “[Carroll] is willing to step into our world a little bit and that’s the sign of a good leader, man — somebody that will get up there and rock to the music. He might not listen to the lyrics, but he can find the beat.”

In theory, anyway.

“I’m not saying he’s always on beat,” Milloy says, “but, you know, it’s just good to see that our leader is out in front. Everything he wants us to do, he’s leading by example.”

The big question upon Carroll’s hiring was whether his enthusiastic style would translate from USC to the NFL. Carroll isn’t running from his reputation as a rah-rah coach. He’s embracing it and winning over players, at least so far, with an approach to training camp that represents a 180-degree turn from the tough camp Jim Mora ran last summer. Mora’s own conditioning level was such that his resting heart rate was 41 and doctors couldn’t make a stress test tough enough to bring his rate to peak levels. If he could achieve such fitness, shouldn’t professional athletes half his age? The team worked harder during camp than anyone imagined. In retrospect, it’s possible the 2009 Seahawks never quit on Mora so much as they ran out of gas.

Carroll has given players full days without practice. Two-a-days ended after about a week. There have been no three-hour practices.

“Best training camp I’ve ever been involved with,” 10th-year receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. “We go harder than any training camp I’ve ever been in when we’re out there. Everything is fast, fast, fast. But he’s giving us ample rest and I’m not used to that. It’s very, very different, and I think it’s good because we took a conditioning test and everybody passed it very easily. That showed everybody was in shape. So now it’s just, work on your craft.”

Breakdown of the Seattle Seahawks Starting Wideouts.

T.J Houshmandzadeh:

Seattle’s passing game wasn’t pretty last year, despite the high-priced addition of Houshmandzadeh who flirted with a 1,000 yard season. He gave the Seahawks some reliability at wideout, but only found the end zone three times. Those aren’t top WR numbers. Houshmandzadeh turns 33 this year and had off-season surgery for a sports hernia — an injury that has a way of re-appearing. Given the unsettled situation at QB, expect this former Bengal’s fantasy numbers to continue their decline.

Golden Tate:

Tate, taken 60th overall, could end up as the steal of the 2010 draft. He’s a tough, yet dynamic playmaker who helped make Jimmy Clausen a household name. The sensible move would be to phase Tate in opposite T.J. Houshmandzadeh as the team’s starting flanker. The Seahawks are likely to use Tate as the team’s utility man a-la Minnesota’s Percy Harvin in 2009. Tate can stretch the field at flanker, run routes out of the slot, return kicks and punts or even man the wildcat. Loaded with potential, this is a guy dynasty leaguers should be interested in.

Read More At Seahawks Fans Blog

Seahawks Training Camp Update

With all of the roster turnover the Seahawks have gone through this offseason, they still are relying one player connected with the winning ways the team experienced during the Mike Holmgren years to help lead them back to respectability.

Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck continues to look impressive in the first days of training camp. The team has been giving Hasselbeck, who turns 35 in September, regular days off to keep his arm fresh.

The move also allows newcomer Charlie Whitehurst to get some much-needed work with the first unit. Received in a trade with the San Diego Chargers and given a two-year, $8 million deal to compete for the starting job with Hasselbeck, Whitehurst has been inconsistent at times for the Seahawks.

That’s to be expected for a former third-string quarterback stepping into a new system. However, Hasselbeck has picked up intricacies of new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ system quickly, and has looked liked the polished quarterback during Seattle’s glory days so far in camp.

“He really came out in command of what’s going on and made the whole thing work well today,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said about Hasselbeck’s first day of training camp.

Hasselbeck said so far the change Carroll has brought with him has been good for this team that only has won nine games in two seasons.

“Everything feels different this year,” he said. “Pete came in and just really wanted to change the culture, and it’s not that our culture was bad or anything like that. It’s just that this culture he’s trying to establish here is so much different.

“Take the crowd and the fans as an example. You never come out and not play in front of a crowd, so he’s trying to make things as game-like as possible. Whenever you’re out there stretching there’s music, he’s trying to make it like a game.”

Also helping the Seahawks get going this training camp is getting all of the rookie draft picks in camp.

Read more at Seahawks Fans Blog

Seahawks signed first-round pick Earl Thomas to a 5-year

Earl Thomas Signs A five year Deal

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s Twitter account, first rounder Earl Thomas has now signed with the team.

Just shy of 10pm this evening, Schefter tweeted:

“Filed to ESPN: Seahawks signed first-round pick Earl Thomas to a 5-year, $21.1 million deal that includes $12.32 million guaranteed.”

Entering the 2010 NFL Draft at just 20 years old, Earl Thomas was one of the youngest, and most talented options on the board this year.

Selected by the Seahawks in the first round with the 14th overall pick, the team expects great things from the Texas redshirt sophomore.

At 5’10″, 202 lbs, some have questioned his size for a top round pick, but his versatility and ability to adapt lessen the concern.

His bio reads:

“A collegiate strong safety, he has shown the man coverage skills to make a successful move to cornerback. With his natural hands and ball-hawking skills, along with playmaking ability, Thomas could be the perfect solution for a team looking for a game-changing type of free safety.”

And a game-changing player is exactly what the Seahawks need right now.

So what will Earl Thomas do with his newfound wealth? He plans to purchase his father, Earl, and mother, Debbie, a new home after theirs was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. Says Thomas, “A house for them will be one of the first things I purchase.”

You can follow Earl Thomas on Twitter here.

Pete Carroll all smiles in first Training Camp

Pete Carroll all smiles

Pete Carroll’s fists were pumping to the blaring rap of Jay-Z.

He was clapping, smiling and running with the thumping music and through the morning fog. He led his Seahawks in bounding joyfully over blocking pads, as defensive players whooped it up behind him.

He threw passes to the secondary in an interception drill. Once he got too involved, pushed away by a lineman who was trying to get into position for a snap.

After it all, when he had offensive players running laps for fumbles and botched snaps, the 58-year-old ambled up a hill and exchanged high-fives with some of the 1,500-plus fans who watched the start of training camp

Carroll didn’t just conduct his first practice as Seattle’s frenetic new coach on Saturday to start his first NFL preseason since 1999.

He lived it.

“Pete came in and said he wanted to change the culture … and this culture that he’s trying to establish here is so much different,” said three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who became Seattle’s starter in 2001 and has played for three head coaches since.

“There’s just a different feel to the start of this training camp. There’s a different feel every day you come to work. Not that the old one was bad, it’s just very different. And it’s working.”

Carroll’s idea is the same as it was at Southern California, where he built a dynasty for a decade then left for Seattle in January — months ahead of the NCAA slamming the Trojans with sanctions. He wants to make it ultra competitive, yet fun for his players every day.

He had a huge black scoreboard with the mandate to “ALWAYS COMPETE” painted on it installed this week. It hovers ominously over the northeast corner of the practice field to keep score during position drills.

Even in July, Carroll wants practice day to simulate game day.

“Whenever you are out there stretching there is music — he’s trying to make it feel like a game,” Hasselbeck said. “The energy we feel off the crowd is real.”

Leon Washington was running with Carroll. The recent Pro Bowl kick returner with the New York Jets participated in individual drills and was held out of team scrimmaging nine months after a compound leg fracture put his career in doubt.

“It’s just great to get to accomplish one of my goals, which was to get back on the field for the first day of training camp,” Washington said, grinning. “With all the energy out there, I wanted to jump right in there.”

At one point in the morning, Carroll was talking excitedly inside the defense’s huddle. As it broke, 325-plus pound Red Bryant grabbed Carroll and just about threw him out of the way as the tackle scrambled to get into his stance before the offense snapped the ball.

Carroll just laughed, regained his balance and backpedalled away.

“Coach Carroll, I feel like he wants to put the pads on,” Bryant said about a half hour later. “He’s so energetic, so I was not surprised he was in there.

“He be everywhere.”

Former USC receiver Mike Williams is getting a second chance at an NFL career with his old college coach. He was asked to compare this camp to Carroll’s with the Trojans.

“It’s better,” Williams said. “It’s a lot of fun. … You know, players reach just like everyone else and (we know) not a lot is expected in the first year for a team going in a new direction. But we’ve collectively bought in, man.”

How new an era is it for the Seahawks, who are 9-23 in the past two seasons? Soon after the morning practice, the coach and his PeteCarrollTV mini-production team put a video onto YouTube.

One could almost see former coach Mike Holmgren rolling his eyes from behind his executive desk in Cleveland.

“Today is just about feeling fortunate and being blessed about being part of a franchise like this and an opportunity like this,” Carroll told his Internet audience, which was up to 300 watchers within two hours of the video’s posting.

Talking into the camera from his lakeside office, Carroll said he was having fun with the players, “a bunch of guys who are really serious about doing something special.”

His reputation as a players’ coach is growing by the day. Carroll is giving his guys the day off from practice on Wednesday, just the fifth day of camp. Five days later they have another rest.

Almost nothing makes NFL players happier than days off.

Yet when Carroll’s Seahawks practice, they practice. He had them out in shoulder pads and thumping each other to the turf on the first day.

Cornerback Kennard Cox hit ball carrier Louis Rankin into the sideline with a shoulder drop at the end of a running play. Starting linebacker Leroy Hill put wide receiver Deon Butler into the boundary after a catch, drawing “oohs” and hooting from teammates, coaches and fans.

After the defense forced and recovered a fumble on the first play of group drills, starting defensive linemen Colin Cole and Chris Clemons gave each other leaping chest bumps — 582 pounds of airborne, thumping fun.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh is in his 10th NFL training camp. Seattle’s leading receiver said this was the first time he’d been in shoulder pads on the first day of camp.

“This might be the best I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “With the players’ schedule he’s made, you have to work hard — but they are taking care of you.”

Houshmandzadeh says he and his teammates are stoked.

“With Coach Carroll everything is just like it is in a game. Really,” he said. “The head coach is running around, I see him throwing the ball around in drills.

“Now, it’s just a matter of next week, can we maintain this energy?”