Preseason Perspective

After the Seahawks' tough and rather sloppy loss to the Cowboys on Monday night, Steve Utz takes an objective step back to answer the questions raised by such a performance.


1. a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person’s point of view
2. a measured or objective assessment of a situation, giving all elements their comparative importance

With my first chance to view our beloved Seahawks in action this season, from a “live and in person perspective” out of the way, it is incumbent upon your intrepid columnist to offer up a series of opinions, comments, and commentary about the Seahawks-Cowboys game.

Game Planning

The usual statement is that the Seahawks don’t game plan pre-season games, which is not strictly true. What the Seahawks don’t do is game plan for the specific opponent they will face. The team does game plan to get certain players onto the field in certain situations so they can evaluate them and determine if they are worthy of a roster spot. Of course, that means that winning the game is somewhat secondary to selecting players for the regular season.

At first glance, it might appear that the Cowboys did game plan (especially on defense) to beat the Seahawks, but a little perspective should be applied here. The Seahawks offense is fairly well set for 2005. Barring injury, probably 9 or 10 of the 11 starting spots are already decided. Therefore, the starters didn’t need to play a lot of minutes. Conversely, there are quite a few backup and support positions that are up for grabs and a lot of players available to select from.

The Cowboys defense, in comparison, is installing a new system (the somewhat over-hyped transition to the 3-4 from the 4-3) and there are several new players (both veteran and rookies) that are learning that system and fighting for roster spots. The Cowboys, in this position, were forced to play their prospective starters more in the game, and to call the game more like they would a regular season game in order to get things up to snuff for September.

In short, our second- and third-string offense played quite a few snaps against their first-string defense. The Seahawks started substituting on offense before the Cowboys did on defense.

Play Calling

This is related to game planning, of course, but it bears reviewing.

These comments are based the Game Book, the summary sent out to the league for distribution to media outlets. Some of the statistics get changed later after review of the game film, but it makes a useful tool for writers to get a more detached view of what transpired.

In the Dallas game, the Seahawks attempted 53 pass plays, including 4 Seneca Wallace scrambles. They attempted only 16 rushes. Obviously, this is skewed heavily toward the pass, even more so than one would expect in a pass oriented offensive system like Seattle runs. It calculates out to nearly 76% of all offensive plays being passes. That allowed completions to 11 different players, an admirable accomplishment. Given that the Seahawks are selecting from about 6 receivers to take over 3 roster spots, it was sound strategy.

If the team had run more and passed less, they might have won the game. But the RB and FB spots are pretty much decided with Shaun Alexander and Mack Strong. The backup RB/FB spots are somewhat undecided, but the WR situation dictated the play calling strategy. Look for a more conventional game plan against Kansas City, at least for the first 3 quarters.

Player Performance — QB

Seneca Wallace did not have a particularly good game. That is probably good news, as it quieted the subsurface rumors of a quarterback controversy. Not that such rumors had any credibility to begin with, but it was readily apparent that Hass is the man, and will be for the foreseeable future. Seneca is not in danger of losing his 2nd spot against David Greene, yet, either.

In fact, Wallace showed us he is human, and not yet the superstar that played in New Orleans.

David Greene played like a rookie. That is, he came out and made several mistakes, but engineered a decent drive for a field goal in the fourth quarter. With some more playing time in the remaining two pre-season games, he will probably be ready to hold the clipboard as our #3 QB. After all, if our third-string QB starts any games this season, we’d be in deep trouble anyway.

Player performance — WR

This position is starting to stabilize. Long-time fan favorite Jerheme Urban continued to play himself out of the lineup with continuing drops. Meanwhile, DJ Hackett is looking like he could be a reliable 3rd or 4th option at wide out, something the Seahawks haven’t really had in a few years.

Bobby Engram looked like his move to split end from the slot position will be a success.

Both Jurevicius and Pathon showed why they were brought in as free agents. They caught just about everything thrown within their reach. They weren’t flashy, but they were reliable, and isn’t that what the West Coast Offense is about, anyway? Catching the ball is the most important thing.

Stevens continued his sterling performance exhibited all off season. Hopefully, this year it continues into the regular season. Having a big, reliable tight end to attack the middle of the field would be a big boost to the offense, and would help the outside guys immeasurably.

Player performance — Defense

Tubbs and Darby continue to be the men on the inside. Run defense? Look at the stats. In Julius Jones’ first seven runs, he gained 2, 2, 1, 3, 1, 3, and 2 yards. Meanwhile the Cowboys had a 3 and out resulting in a FG attempt after the Seattle turnover that gave them the ball on the Seahawks 33, a punt after a 4 play drive, and a sack that led to a punt at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. All in all, not a bad 1st quarter for the Seattle starting defense.

Lofa Tatupu saw his first real game time and had mixed results. Will he beat out Niko Koutouvides for the starting position? Good question. The battle is far from over. Look for some more sterling play from both of these guys in the next two pre-season games.

The secondary continues to look for that #4 CB and #3/4 safety that will spare the fans white knuckles when they are on the field. Perhaps that is a luxury that many teams search for, but it sure would be nice.

At least there has been some noticeable pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year so far. Teams will be less able to game plan against our DL pass rush if they must account for the DT’s as well as the DE’s. The Tubbs stunt for a sack was a thing of beauty. It is an axiom in the NFL that for blitzing to be effective on a consistent basis, it has to be as an adjunct to good pressure by the 4 down linemen. Perhaps, the Seahawks are finding that situation. Depth on the DL remains a bit of a concern, though, especially after the release of Woodard. The run defense, especially, decreased in effectiveness when Tubbs and Darby were given a rest.

Overall Performance

The game was sloppy, no denying. Perhaps the fatigue from camp was a factor, a holdover from that poor practice Tuesday that resulted in a rare day off. Maybe there was a bit of complacency following the rather easy victory over the New Orleans Saints. For whatever reason, committing 12 penalties is unacceptable. Several mental breakdowns cost the team points and field position.

Special teams coach Bob Casullo still has much work to do. Granted, many of the guys that committed the errors will not be in uniform come September, but the overall lack of discipline in that area must be overcome.

The Dallas game was the team’s first outing against a 3-4 defense this season, and it showed. It was good, though, in that it let them see it and play against it. Hopefully, lessons were learned that can be applied when we face division foe San Francisco, a recent convert to that system.

When put in perspective, a loss in pre-season can be tolerated. After all, if you’re going to have a sloppy game that showcases mental errors and lack of discipline, you should do it when it doesn’t really count. Except that for many of these players, it will be a last chance to earn a roster spot. The fact that it wasn’t a complete and total blowout by the Cowboys says that the players at least continued to fight until the end. While some players may have screwed up, it didn’t appear that any had given up.

When you put it into perspective, losing to the Cowboys in pre-season isn’t a disaster; it’s more of an annoyance.

Steve Utz writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Send your feedback to Steve at Top Stories