Seahawks WR Bobby Engram is questionable on the injury report with a suspected thyroid condition. More tests were planned before the team issues a definitive diagnosis. For now, Engram is too sick to practice and he might not play Sunday. "They are still in the evaluation process as to what it is," coach Mike Holmgren said. "They are thinking it has something to do with his thyroid. More news is forthcoming. He is not going to be around -- he is resting at home -- and he just didn't have a lot of energy." WR D.J. Hackett would be active if Engram doesn't play. Hackett is a big-play threat wwho has been in the inactive list since the team added WR Deion Branch. Some have suggested Hackett should have been active all season.
On Wednesday, Holmgren talked about what Engram’s absence might mean to the gameplan this Sunday against the Rams. “It probably will be a little different - Hackett will factor in. That is the one position where we have some flexibility. Getting Jerramy (Stevens) back also will affect how we substitute and do things like that.
As to who might move into the slot, Holmgren said that it could be just about anyone, though Branch’s role will likely stay the same – he might start at split end. “At training camp they all play the position, no one switches them around,’ Holmgren said. “They are all capable of playing that position. Deion is the newest, so we’re not going to mess with him, we’re going to leave him where he is, but all the other guys could be in there and probably will be in there.”
Nate Burleson could see most of that slot time, and Holmgren also talked about why Burleson hasn’t really impressed yet – he’s dropped several catchable balls and has only brought 7 passes in. “I just think we ask a little bit more of our wide receivers, perhaps,” Holmgren said. Burleson came over from the Vikings in the offseason. “He was bothered just a little bit by a hand injury. There have been a couple of nagging things like that that bother some guys. And then forget about Nate for a second - our passing game really hasn't been up to snuff to be honest with you. He's been a victim of that a little bit.”
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Locklear has fared surprisingly well in this matchup over the years. Locklear should benefit from the bye week. He had been bothered by a sprained knee. He is wearing a brace but seems to be moving well. He'll need to be at his best in this matchup, particularly given that this game will be played on the road in a dome. Little forced the game-saving Brett Favre fumble in Green Bay last week.
Holmgren talked about his offensive line on Wednesday as well – the unit has provided disappointing results so far. After being sacked 24 times all last season, Matt Hasselbeck has suffered 13 takedowns through four games already this year.
“They've just been OK, you know? I expect a lot from them, you know, and they kind of set the bar last year, I thought, in playing well. But I know we have too many sacks. The quarterback is getting hit too much. Our rushing yardage isn't what it was. I've said this a million times. Offensively, you start with your offensive line. They must get the job done otherwise it's pretty hard to do anything else, regardless of who's playing. So those guys have got to get it done. They know that. They're offensive linemen. They know that. And, yeah, we've had some changes in there so my thinking, I feel, that we're just going to continue to improve over the course of the season, but we started off a little rough. I will say that.”
When asked how much the loss of LG Steve Hutchinson has impacted the line, Holmgren was succinct. “That's part of it. Part of the deal when you take a great player out of the mix, and then really you're putting in a player whose natural position is center (Chris Spencer), but he'll be fine in there. Give it a few games. They've been nicked up just a little bit, (Sean) Locklear and (Chris) Gray didn't practice, but every team goes through that. People do that. Then Shaun (Alexander) gets hurt, and so it changes things just a little bit. But look it, having said all that, they've got to get it done. You've got to get it done anyway. There's no other way to look at it. And they know that. We've got good guys up there. They're willing to accept responsibility. They're pretty honest when they look at the film about what happened. I don't hear very much. That's the nature of the offensive line, and certainly that's the way our offensive line approaches their job. So my feeling is we will get better because as I've said, we've started off a little rough in my opinion.”
Holmgren also talked specifically about the job Spencer has done in replacing Hutchinson after Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack’s persistent injuries have taken him out of the picture. Spencer’s sternest test came against the Bears two Sundays ago, when he was matched up against Tommie Harris, the best defensive tackle in the NFL. After a good early showing, Harris seemed to have his way with Spencer later in the game.
“If you want to talk about Chris specifically for just a second, I think he was going against a very, very fine player who has given everybody fits all year. And then (he’s) seeing things for the first time, playing against that guy for the first time. Some tough things happened. On the good part of it, he's aggressive. He cares a lot, he practices hard and he's smart. So in those types of situations, while there is a learning curve you do eventually get to where you want to get to. I have no doubts about that. That he will be better this week than he was last week and he'll be better next week than he is this week. You know those kinds of things because of the nature of the young man, and also his athletic ability. He's going to be OK. But now, having said that, we have to figure out ways to take some of the pressure off him or anybody that is in that situation. And while a player gets beat every once in a while, then you see a few plays where he's aggressive and knocks people off the ball, that is encouraging to me.”
Holt has owned this matchup over the years. He caught eight passes for 126 yards and a touchdown at home against the Seahawks last season. Trufant was not in coverage every time, but he did get beat deep. Seattle's secondary played very well over its first three games, containing some talented receivers (Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Plaxico Burress, etc.). The secondary struggled badly at Chicago before the bye. Which Seattle secondary will show up Sunday?
Holmgren knows how important this matchup is, and he had a few words for his secondary. “I think our secondary, for the most part, has played pretty well and has been victimized by deep throws, big plays. Other than that, they’ve played pretty aggressively and done some good things. But the home run, I mean, shoot, you’ve got to take care of that. We talk to them. They know it. If someone wants to take a chance on defense every once in a while, (they) can get burned. And we were victimized by that. A game ball was given to a couple of our secondary people the first couple weeks of the season for outstanding play. But we did not do a good job against Chicago.
”That’s one of those painful lessons that you have during the season. It allowed us to re-emphasize that, talk about it. You wouldn’t think you had to. Guys have other responsibilities, and they’re trying to make plays. I said this last year, and I truly believe this: our best football is absolutely ahead of us, on both sides of the ball. We’ve had some changes, we’ve had a couple new people in. Before it all starts clicking, sometimes these things … hopefully you can still get out with a win after a couple mistakes, which we were able to do in the first couple ballgames.”
How does one gameplan for Holt AND Isaac Bruce? “You pick your poison. Those guys are special players. I’ve said that all along. I admire them as football players. I’ve played against them many, many, many times. They’re good. Tough guys. We just have to rally. You have to play good team defense, sound defense, you have to take the right angles. You have to be in the game thinking all the time. Actually, your week of preparation, you have to study those guys all the time. You have to study them or they’ll make you look foolish. You have to prepare yourself off the field as well. But we’ve played them enough.
”They shouldn’t surprise us. They’re good players, we know it, let’s play.”
Sunday will soon be here, Coach…