Welcome to another edition of Opposition Research, where I’ll be taking a look at the next Packers preseason opponent, the Seattle Seahawks. When these teams met in the 2009 regular season, the Seahawks had already been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, and the 48-10 victory clinched a wild card spot for Green Bay. Let’s take a look at what’s happened since that December romp.
Coming into this season, the Seahawks are…getting closure after a referee came out and acknowledged that, yes, the Seahawks only lost the 2005 Super Bowl because of a bad call. This take from Art Thiel is priceless – read it all:
Via one heartsick grunt, the NFL announced sideways, nearly half a decade afterward that, yes, the Seahawks were hosed in Super Bowl Ex-Hell.
Referee Bill Leavy’s unexpected, unprompted confessional Friday to the media at a routine Seahawks practice in Renton seemed to catch all by surprise, given that the NFL owns up publicly to errors only slightly more often than the Pope.
And it wasn’t really the NFL who owned up.
It was Leavy unburdening himself. Apparently suffering from years of guilt and lost sleep, Leavy decided to seek forgiveness from whatever football gods care about the Seahawks (I’m thinking it’s a single god, part-timer, doesn’t work weekends).
Nine players remain on the roster from that team, and it seemed like the purging was healthy for all parties involved.
Meanwhile, on the football field, Jim Mora was given his walking papers after a disappointing 5-11 season, and new coach Pete Carroll is a fist-pumping, Jay-Z listening, Twitter-savvy guy. When he escaped USC and took the reins of the Seahawks this offseason, he did so with great enthusiasm (and, no doubt, a huge sigh of relief that he was no longer in charge of a scholarship-depleted team). In fact, it sounds like he leapt around like a giddy little kid on Christmas:
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 in a rousing drill he calls “The Bags,” as defensive players whooped it up behind him.
After it all, after he had offensive players running laps for fumbles and botched snaps, the 58-year-old coach exchanged high-fives with some of the 1,500-plus fans who watched the start of training camp.
And it didn’t stop in training camp. He talked up the importance of Seattle’s first preseason game as if it were a bowl game. Even before kickoff, he hugged each of his players and high-fived the guy who sang the national anthem. And, despite the victory meaning absolutely nothing, Carroll was psyched to start his tenure off with some good news. Expect a similarly ebullient Carroll this week. (My god, just writing that made me tired.)
The fans at home are… adamant that there is no controversy over the starting quarterback spot, that Charlie Whitehurst, who was snapped up from behind Philip Rivers and Billy Volek in San Diego, is not ready to take over from aging and oft-injured veteran Matthew Hasselbeck after one preseason outing. Many fans argue that although Hass performed poorly against the Titan’s #1 defense and Whitehurst was solid against the #2 defense, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that Whitehurst would have performed similarly well against a starting defensive unit. That being said, Whitehurst is steadily gaining fans:
He did it through good process: pocket awareness, reads, timing, decisiveness. He did it though apparent ability: crisp rollouts, mid-range zip, a beautiful rainbow to Deon Butler streaking up the left sideline. Whitehurst played the preseason game every hope-drunk Seahawks fan was desperate to see. He put it all together. He played like a somebody.
All preseason intrigue aside, the team believes that if Hass can stay healthy (something that’s been hard to do the last few years), he is able to raise the level of play around him. Hass himself seems pretty pumped about Carroll’s philosophy of winning, and has taken the news that his job may not be as secure as it once was with humility and good humor. Personally, I’m rooting for the guy, but if Whitehurst gets time against the Packers #1s and is able to move the ball, I think that Hasselbeck’s fans will get a little more nervous.
The Seahawks hope that this preseason game will…give them an idea of what their running game will look like this year. Seattle dipped frequently into free agency at the running back position, bringing in Leon Washington from the Jets, Quinton Ganther from the Redskins, and (briefly) LenDale White from the Titans. Along with Justin Forsett and Julius Jones, the Seahawks seem to have a nice group of rushers…but who’s going to make the final ‘committee’?
Is Washington an automatic upgrade? (By the way, watch that video, if only to see Pete Carroll punching ex-Packers front office guru John Schneider in the gut…as a celebratory gesture. Seriously.) On paper, no question. The guy averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2008 for the Jets (4.8 ypc career). However, coming back from a compound fracture suffered 10 months ago against the Raiders, will he have the same burst? That’s something to watch for.
Doug Farrar, as usual, brings the goods:
Between Forsett, Julius Jones, Leon Washington, and Quinton Ganther, it’s fair to say that if one Seattle back gets over 200 carries this season, he’ll have done it impressing the bejeezus out of his coaches, and quite possibly at the expense of someone else’s injuries.
Something to chew on… how is Seattle going to muster a pass rush this year? Patrick Kerney, who had 14.5 sacks in 2007, finally retired. Darryl Tapp, he of biting-Aaron-Rodgers-fame, was traded to Philadelphia. Their first-round pick from 2008, Lawrence Jackson, was just shipped to Detroit — a loud statement, since Carroll was his college coach and has already given up on him. After already losing Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson last year, the Seahawks are crossing their fingers that Kentwan Balmer (newly arrived from San Francisco) and Chris Clemons (from Philly, as part of Tapp trade) can add some spark to the defensive line. Clemons did well in the first preseason game, beating Pro Bowl tackle Michael Roos for a 13yd sack of Titans QB Chris Simms. Also key will be the effectiveness of 6-foot-4, 323-pound converted defensive tackle Red Bryant at the strongside defensive end position…this guy is a monster. It should be interesting to see what the Packers offensive line, which did so well against the Browns’ frequent blitzing, will do against this group.
Keep your eyes on…
We have no idea what kind of football player first-round safety Earl Thomas will turn out to be, but he seems like a pretty good guy. Like a lot of rookies, he had plans for his signing money before he got it, but unlike many, his ambitions are close to home – moving his parents out of tiny bedroom in his grandparents’ Texas house after their own home was destroyed in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Good heart, by the sound of it. But good football player? He’s young (came out two years early) and has a lot to learn, but the kid runs a 4.3 40, and hits with abandon. Keep your eyes peeled for #29.
I’m intrigued by former USC receiver Mike Williams, who’s back in the league again after having, at one time, been up to 270 lbs. In the first preseason game, he looked fast and mobile, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he’ll be able to make the Seahawks 53-man roster and make use of the second chance he has to work with his college coach.
Finally, in complete contrast to how the Packers treated Ryan Grant’s concussion in the first preseason game, Seattle’s second year linebacker Aaron Curry missed 9 days of practices after a hard hit on tailback Justin Forsett rattled his brains. For a guy needing to prove he’s worth $34 million after an underwhelming rookie outing, Curry is afraid of what his concussion means for his future, and is also extremely wary of head injuries in general, after following all of the discussions in the media and Washington. He’s likely a go for this game, but you have to wonder if he’ll hit with the same ferocity as before his concussion.
- One of Seattle’s biggest question marks is the offensive line. With Walter Jones now officially retired, the Seahawks hope that rookie Russell Okung can be the answer they need to keep pressure off Hasselbeck. Okung lost significant practice time waiting for his contract, so catching him up will be a top priority for Seattle. Watch the Packers test him early.
- TJ Houshmandzadeh is kind of a weenie. First he was unhappy with life in Cincinnati, so he went to Seattle, where they signed him to a $40M contract. Then he became unhappy with life in Seattle when Matt Hasselbeck threw to other receivers instead of him. Then he became even more unhappy that his old team wasn’t missing him:
It didn’t help Houshmandzadeh’s mindset as he watched the Vikings, energized by Brett Favre’s ageless right arm, reach the NFC championship game, and saw his former Bengals teammates roll to their first AFC North title since 2005. Did he regret his decision to sign with the Seahawks?
“Hindsight is 20-20,” he says. “The Vikings, the Bengals … it was tough. But it’s a new year. Neither one won the Super Bowl, so that helps.”
For my money, I’d rather watch second year guy Deon Butler or tight end John Carlson. Both are more fun to watch as receivers, and neither is as grouchy or me-first as Housh. But, at the end of the day, it’s another preseason game. It may not mean much, but it’s Packers football, huzzah.