Hasselbeck's play solid - team a little rusty

If Mike Holmgren is looking for a well-oiled machine, he'd better head out to the garage and fire up his harley. Saturday's performance by the Seattle Seahawks in their preseason home opener at Husky Stadium was, well, less than stellar. ...

Maybe this story should begin by applauding Matt Hasselbeck's outstanding performance Saturday against the Cardinals in a 16-13 loss. He was impressive, with 11-of-17 passes completed for 104 yards in the first half.

Maybe this story should highlight his agile scrambling ability, confidence and leadership, because he truly possesses these characteristics. Hasselbeck is the best Seahawks quarterback since Warren Moon. He has learned from the great Brett Favre how to maneuver around the pocket and make something happen in the middle of chaos. But he will see increasingly complex blitz packages. He'll have to get up when a 300-pound man falls on top of him. He'll have to do this every week for 16 weeks during the regular season and then maybe in the playoffs.

Can he do it? Probably. But one of the biggest obstacles he could face this season reared its ugly head Saturday against the Cardinals: Dropped passes; fumbles; penalties that killed offensive drives and allowed opponents to score; and injury to key players.

Hasselbeck showed significant ability to scramble, improvise and make things happen Saturday when a play would break down. Holmgren had much of his success in Green Bay because he had a big-time player in No. 4 (Favre), who made a living at giving his receivers the extra seconds to get open and when they couldn't, he'd run for the first down markers.

We have seen how Holmgren fared with an average quarterback. Now the question is: Can he do it without Favre? Any coach in the league could have had consecutive playoff appearances with the best quarterback in the NFL at the helm. The answer lies in Hasselbeck, who has learned a great deal from watching Favre and so far, Mr. August appears ready to fill the shoes handed to him. Hasselbeck's real test may come at mid-season, when teams start to get a feel for his tendencies and actually spend an entire week preparing to shut down the parts of the offense that are working well for the Seahawks.

What wasn't working well last Saturday was the receiving. Jackson dropped three passes that he touched. Mack Strong and Karsten Bailey fumbled. Heath Evans dropped a pass. there were penalties that both killed drives for the Seahawks and provided scoring opportunities for Arizona's offense. And the defensive line wasn't penetrating as well as some may have expected, which left the linebackers to make many of the tackles on running plays.

The secondary is now a concern after Shawn Springs (torn hamstring) and Willie Williams (fractured forearm) suffered injuries that will cause them to miss significant time. With rookie corner Ken Lucas and second-year man Ike Charlton as the next best defensive backs on the team, opponents will try to exploit their inexperience. Now more than ever, the defensive line must pressure the passer with a combination of blitz packages to help their young corners.

Hasselbeck will play as well as his surrounding cast allows. With an impressive depth of talent on the team, it may just be a matter of time before they begin to gel. Let's hope this happens quickly because they face a brutal season-ending schedule, with five of their last seven games away, which makes a quick start essential.

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