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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.

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Seahawks: Given permission to talk with Jackson

Vincent Jackson, a player with the San Diego C...

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The Seahawks have been granted written permission by the San Diego Chargers to discuss contract terms with holdout Vincent Jackson(notes),  Seattle general manager John Schneider said through a team spokesman Friday. Chargers GM A.J. Smith declined to comment on the situation, but the Seahawks said they have talked to Jackson’s agents about the contract compensation that could pave the way for a trade for the wide receiver.

While no significant progress has occurred to this point, two sources close to the situation said San Diego is committed to trading Jackson, who is believed to be seeking a long-term contract worth more than $9 million per season, because the team expects that he will not report at all this season

According to one of the aforementioned sources, the Seahawks received the letter granting them permission in the past two weeks. Earlier this offseason, Seattle was reportedly interested in signing Jackson as a restricted free agent, but no deal was struck. Jackson’s rights have since reverted exclusively to the Chargers. However, the two sides have not been able to agree on a long-term contract.

While it’s unclear what the Chargers seek in return for Jackson, the Broncos received two second-round picks when they shipped Brandon Marshall(notes) to Miami in April.

Both Jackson, who is represented by Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod, and the Chargers have held their ground. Jackson did not sign the one-year tender of $3.268 million by June 15. After that, the Chargers reduced the one-year tender to $583,000, furthering the divide between the sides.

Last week, the Chargers sent Jackson (along with holdout offensive tackle Marcus McNeill(notes)) a letter informing him that he would be placed on the Roster Exempt List if he didn’t sign his tender offer by Friday. The designation means Jackson would be ineligible to play for three games following the day he signs and that he has to report by Week 8 in order to get his six games and accrued season.

Jackson has developed into one of the best deep threats in the league, averaging 17.8 yards per reception over the past two seasons. He has also averaged 57 receptions, 1,132 yards and eight touchdowns in that time. For his five-year career, Jackson has averaged 17.2 yards per catch.

Despite the production, San Diego apparently has been hesitant to re-sign Jackson to a long-term deal partly because of off-field issues. Jackson is facing a three-game suspension whenever he plays again because of violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. He has twice been charged with driving under the influence.

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.

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.”