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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

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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.

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.

Niners deal Balmer to Seattle for sixth round pick

Trouble Kentwan signs with the Seahawks

Trouble Kentwan signs with the Seahawks

Kentwan Balmer, the 49ers’ former first-round pick who has gone AWOL from the team in recent days, is on his way to the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Terms of the deal are not yet know. Seattle needs depth along the defensive line and Balmer potentially could play multiple positions there, including nose tackle and defensive end. Moreover, former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, who drafted Balmer 29th overall in San Francisco, is now with the Seahawks.

***UPDATE*** I’ve been told that the 49ers will get a sixth-round pick in return for Balmer.

Balmer, meanwhile, has been unexcused from 49ers training camp since Wednesday. At that point, the 49ers sent him a so-called five-day letter, which gave the team the right to put him on the reserve/left list starting today. That would have shut down Balmer’s season for good.

Balmer was initially excused from camp to deal with a “personal issue,” but it soon became clear to the 49ers he did not want to return to the team. Asked Friday if he thought Balmer would be back, coach Mike Singletary said, “If Kentwan wanted to be here, he’d be here.”

Balmer has had trouble cracking the starting lineup since he was drafted in 2008 and was behind Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald at left defensive end. Balmer had spoken in recent months about frustration over where he was on the depth chart.

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.

Seahawks beat Titans, 20-18

There was a perfectly executed opening drive, a solid start for quarterback Vince Young, and some gritty play from the defense that was without several starters.

Young also threw an interception, however, and some guys competing for starting roles gave up some big plays.

In many ways it was a typical preseason opener. The Titans lost this one to the Seahawks, 20-18.

“I feel like we did all right out there,’’ Young said. “I made a mistake. … But as a whole I thought we did good for the first time out there.’’

Young was sharp on the opening drive and running back Chris Johnson scored a one-yard touchdown. Young completed his first five passes — including going 4-for-4 for 70 yards on the opening drive — as the Titans took a 7-0 lead just over five minutes into the game.

On the next possession, Young made a big blunder and Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted a poorly thrown ball intended for Justin Gage.

Young was 5-of-6 for 78 yards in 13 snaps. Johnson was done after one series, 10 plays. He had five carries for seven yards — six of those on his first carry.

“It felt good to get back out there for a few runs,’’ Johnson said. “We got a couple of runs in there, but we still have some work to do together. I think we’ll get things going more and more as the preseason goes on, and we’ll be ready when it matters.’’

The defensive starters held Seattle to one first down on its first two possessions. But the defense gave up a number of big plays in the second quarter, and the Seahawks opened up a 20-7 lead after three quarters.

Seahawks sign Bears Adrian Peterson

The Seattle Seahawks signed running back Adrian Peterson on Thursday. But as he has heard every time he does anything in recent years, the accompanying line is … no, not THAT Adrian Peterson.

This Adrian Peterson is a 31-year-old running back who spent the last eight years with the Chicago Bears as a backup before becoming a free agent this offseason, as opposed to the Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back of the same name.

The newest Seahawk was on the field Thursday afternoon wearing No. 42.

Wide receiver Matt Simon, signed just two days ago, was released to create a roster opening.

Peterson rushed just seven times for 51 yards for the Bears last year. In his career, he’s played 106 games with 1,283 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on 311 carries.

His best season was in 2007 when he rushed for 510 yards and also caught 51 passes for 420 yards.

Peterson joins a running back competition that already includes Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, Leon Washington, Quinton Ganther and Louis Rankin.

UPDATE (4:25 p.m.): Coach Pete Carroll said after practice that Peterson was brought in because the team is concerned about running back depth in Saturday’s game, largely because Rankin has been sidelined with a sore hamstring.

Carroll indicated Peterson, who practiced today without having even seen a playbook yet, would get some action in the preseason opener. Though the coach wasn’t giving any clues on how much the starters will play Saturday, my guess is Washington won’t play much — if at all — as he returns from last year’s broken leg.

The team won’t want to overuse Forsett or Jones in the preseason opener either, thus Peterson’s arrival.

Peterson said he was still living in Chicago just being patient and waiting for a call.

“It’s still early,” he said.