Battles Heating Up in Seahawks Backfield

Though Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has said all along that he plans on using a two-back tandem to run the ball this season, very few believed him because Maurice Morris has proven throughout his seven-year career to be a very effective backup but only a marginal starter.

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It was always assumed that once things start, Julius Jones was going to separate himself from Morris and be used as the primary halfback in Holmgren's two-back offense.

But as eager as he may be for that to happen, Jones has yet to be given that opportunity to shine -- and Morris used his opportunity to his advantage. After Holmgren gave Jones only one play in which to participate in the team's scrimmage, Jones assumed he was going to get his chance for significant carries in the preseason opener in Minnesota on Aug. 8. After all, Jones has been the featured back in most of the team's training camp practices.

But Holmgren put Morris in as the starter, giving him six carries that resulted in 62 yards, including two carries of more than 20 yards. Jones got just four carries -- fourth-most on the team -- and produced 15 yards with a long carry of 12.

Holmgren said Jones would get the start when the Seahawks play host the Chicago Bears this Saturday, but his handling of the backs so far indicates that he is staying true to his declaration of a running back-by-committee approach.

"It's a pretty good situation," Holmgren said. "Pretty competitive there, as well. The challenge will be to juggle the halfbacks."

Jones for now is saying all the right things; that he is used to being part of a shared backfield after he and Marion Barber split duties in Dallas. But he also was happy to be out of Dallas, so it only makes sense that he would not want to jump back into the same situation in Seattle, especially since Morris is entering the final year of his contract and is not likely to be brought back after this season.

Also, rookie Justin Forsett has emerged as a viable candidate to make the team, and keeps impressing the coaches with his hard-nosed attitude despite his small stature.

After his team-leading 51 rushing yards in the scrimmage, Forsett had 58 yards on 13 carries against the Vikings, a total that was greatly reduced when he lost 13 yards on his final carry of the game.

T.J. Duckett, meanwhile, did himself no favors by gaining only nine yards on seven carries against Minnesota, fumbling the ball twice. The Seahawks got the ball back both times -- once because of a facemask penalty and once because the officials said Duckett was down before he fumbled. However, Duckett was brought in to be the short-yardage back, and he did pick up seven yards on a second-and-one situation and five yards on a third-and-five.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes Aug. 21. Team moves to its new facility in Renton on Aug. 18.


--Though he said he did not want to wear the speaker in his helmet during games, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was wearing the defensive speaker in Friday's game against Minnesota. Linebackers coach Zerrick Rollins is the key communicator.

--Though he has been to the Pro Bowl three times and teammate Julian Peterson has been to four, Tatupu said Leroy Hill is actually the best linebacker on the team. "Julian makes everything look easy," Tatupu said. "But for Leroy, everything is easy."

--In Friday's game against the Vikings, rookie Brandon Coutu handled all the kickoff duties while veteran Olindo Mare took all the field-goal attempts. They are likely to switch roles against the Bears. Coutu placed all but one of his kickoffs inside the 10-yard line - though they were playing in a dome.

--Defensive tackle Howard Green had the game of his life in Minnesota. Up for one of the final spots along the defensive front, Green had two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception to end the game, the first interception of his career. "You kind of root for guys like Howard," Holmgren said. "The only thing I said was, 'When you intercept a ball, get up and run with it. Go the other way with it. That's what you're supposed to do when that happens.' I think he took the ball home, kept it, slept with it. It's great though."

--The Seahawks had a dry run at their new practice facility last week. It does not officially open until Aug. 18, but the Seahawks shipped everything 12 miles south of their current facility and practiced for a day on the shores of Lake Washington. On a glistening day, a bald eagle even flew overhead during the scrimmage. The fields and the building are immaculate, costing $60 million to build. "This place is crappy," defensive tackle Craig Terrill said to assistant coach John Jamison. "I can't practice here."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Special teams in the preseason, it's wild. We're just trying to get different combinations and find people that can do that." -- Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren after his kickoff units struggled greatly against the Vikings, at one point giving up a 53-yard return.


--LB Wesly Mallard was placed on IR with a knee injury. He had a chance to make the team in a special teams capacity, but David Hawthorne may earn his spot now.

--CB Derrick Johnson was signed. He injured his toe on the third play of practice. Very unlikely to make the roster.

--OL Chris Gray was placed on IR with a back injury. A 16-year vet who risked paralysis with a further injury, his absence leaves a gaping hole at backup center.

--C Ben Claxton was signed. He will back up Steve Vallos until Chris Spencer returns from his back injury. Claxton has not played since being in Oakland's training camp last year. He is unlikely to make the team.

--DT Kevin Brown was signed. With injuries to four defensive tackles, Brown was a welcome addition though he is not likely to make the roster.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Lawrence Jackson vs. Darryl Tapp for RDT - Though both these players will be a three-man rotation with Patrick Kerney once Kerney returns from his calf injury, Jackson made a case for himself to start after Friday's game in Minnesota. While Tapp did very little - and has done very little since getting four sacks in a game midway through last season - Jackson was all over the field on Friday evening recording a sack of former USC teammate John David Booty and forcing him to fumble. Jackson also chased a running back 20 yards downfield to make a tackle.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The coaches really want second-year cornerback Josh Wilson, a second-round pick, to succeed, but he played poorly against the Vikings, giving up several receptions and missing a few tackles. Kevin Hobbs may be the better choice. And while Chris Cooper and Larry Tripplett have not been healthy, defensive tackle Howard Green had two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception to take the lead in that race.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Matt Hasselbeck - While doing nothing spectacular during training camp, Hasselbeck came out against the Vikings and looked like he was in midseason form. He had a command of the game while leading the Seahawks on their opening drive for a touchdown, a pass to Jordan Kent in the back corner of the end zone. In two series, Hasselbeck completed seven of eight passes for 70 yards and, in his 10th season, looked completely at ease.

ROOKIE REPORT: DE Lawrence Jackson had a fantastic game, recording a sack of former teammate John David Booty and causing him to fumble. ... TE John Carlson did not start despite returning to Minnesota, where he grew up 67 miles away. He had two receptions. ... FB Owen Schmitt said he needed to make a lot of improvements but Mike Holmgren singled him out several times for his play. ... PK Brandon Coutu had seven kickoffs, six of which landed inside the 10 - though he was kicking in a dome. He is likely to get field-goal attempts in Saturday's game. ... RB Justin Forsett continued to impress, gaining 58 yards on 13 carries.

INJURY REPORT: WR Deion Branch is out with a knee injury. The team says he could be back the first week of the season. Common sense says not until October.

--P Ryan Plackemeier is out with a pectoral injury. He should start punting this week.
--DT Marcus Tubbs (knee) could begin doing drills this week.
--LB Will Herring has an undetermined illness that makes his joints swell. He is out for the foreseeable future.
--C Chris Spencer (back) could begin practicing this week.
--T Floyd Womack (knee) is out for another week.
--DE Patrick Kerney (calf) may begin practicing lightly this week.
--DT Larry Tripplett suffered a leg injury and is likely to miss up to a week.
--LB Eric Wicks suffered an ankle injury and it likely out for 3-4 days.
--LB Matt Castelo (knee) is likely to miss 3-4 days.
--WR Logan Payne broke a rib and is out until it heals with rest.
--DT Nu'u Tafisi has a knee injury and is out for up to a week.
--DT Red Bryant tore cartilage in his knee and will miss 4-5 weeks.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck slightly hurt his back and will miss a few days at the most.
--LB Lofa Tatupu had a minor knee injury and is out for a few days.
--OT Will Robinson suffered an ankle injury and could miss several weeks.
--CB Jordan Babineaux suffered a knee injury and is for a few more days.
--DL Chris Cooper has a knee injury and is day-to-day. Top Stories