Good read from Pete Dougherty about the problems the secondary is having without Charles Woodson in the lineup. He details some of the struggles both Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee had Saturday night.
On the Seahawks’ first touchdown drive, Hasselbeck threw back-to-back completions for 31 yards total against Underwood, who didn’t get deep enough on a zone drop to challenge receiver Mike Williams before giving too much cushion to receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. On the Seahawks’ second touchdown drive, Houshmandzadeh kept the drive alive on a third-and-4 by beating Underwood on a quick slant for a six-yard gain.
Lee wasn’t thrown at as much and had solid coverage on a third-down incompletion to receiver Deion Branch that ended the Seahawks’ first possession. But on the second-quarter touchdown drive, Lee had a five-yard penalty for illegal contact, and several plays later gave up a 21-yard completion to Houshmandzadeh on a crossing route. Lee also bit too hard on a bootleg by Hasselbeck on which the quarterback ran free and hit Williams for a 13-yard gain that set up the touchdown.
Now I would only caution fans that, while all of the above is disappointing, it is not unexpected for a couple of guys who are getting their first real exposure against good veteran receivers while playing in a beyond-vanilla defense that is generating zero-pass rush. We've seen Nick Collins, two-time-Pro-Bowler-Nick-Collins, beat for touchdowns on successive weeks where the quarterback had all day to throw. The young guys are going to give up plays as long as they are being asked to cover guys for four or five seconds.
Dougherty makes the right point in the lead, though, that this defense is predicated on the presence of Woodson. His ability to play all over the field will allow Capers to get as creative as necessary when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. And as it turns out, Capers may need to get damn creative as only Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo have shown any pass rushing ability whatsoever, and that has been against sub-standard talent. (Obviously, getting Clay Matthews back on the field is a must...)
All in all, however, I am not overly worried about the defense. They are playing without a lot of parts at the moment and are going beyond vanilla. Remember the preseason the year Mike Sherman was hired? All anyone talked about was how terrible the defense looked and how Favre was obviously going to have to carry the team. Then, come Week One, the defense looked shockingly good.
No, I'm not saying Dom Capers is Ed Donatell. (God help us all.) I am saying that there are way too many moving parts and there's way too much going on behind the scenes to judge anything when it comes to this defense. I'm confident that we have not seen even an inkling of what this defense will truly look like once the games matter.