News & Notes: New Targets in Passing Game

Matt Hasselbeck is getting more comfortable with his new security blanket, veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. After hooking up on just one short pass over the middle against San Diego in the first preseason game, Hasselbeck found Houshmandzadeh on a regular basis against the Broncos.

The 32-year-old receiver finished with five catches for 41 yards in a half's work, including a 2-yard touchdown pass on perfectly thrown fade route by Hasselbeck, Houshmandzadeh's first touchdown as a Seahawk.

"It's going to be critical to our success," Hasselbeck said about the burgeoning relationship between the two players. "We misfired a bunch, but we also connected a few times. He and I, we've got a good working relationship. I think we'll get on the same page real quick."

Houshmandzadeh, who spent the first eight seasons of his career in Cincinnati, understands it will take some time for the two to get on the same page. "We have some games to get it corrected and a bunch of practices to get it right," he said. "He's not used to me 100 percent yet, and to be able to just trust that I am always going to get open. I think that's the key, trust. If I have man-to-man, I am probably going to win 90-plus percent of the time."

Besides getting sacked three times, overall Hasselbeck was effective in his first, extended playing time of the season. He led Seattle on two scoring drives, and finished the first half 16 of 23 for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

Hasselbeck also established a good connection with rookie receiver Deon Butler, finding the speedy rookie on a 34-yard go route for the team's first score. The two also hooked up on a 13-yard crossing route that converted a first down.

Head coach Jim Mora said it's important for Hasselbeck to continue to develop those relationships with his new receivers. "We're doing some things that are new for them," Mora said. "He started the game tonight with two receivers that he really has thrown much to in his career. So, we're working through all those things.

"That's what these games are for, that's what practice is for. You're right, after the first throw, they got going, and they found a rhythm. They were communicating better verbally and non-verbally. You could see them doing things on the field with their eye. It was good to see because that's what we want to be able to do."

CAMP CALENDAR: The Seahawks broke camp on Friday, as players were allowed to move out of a team hotel and back home.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--Coach Jim Mora informed reporters on Wednesday that defensive back Marcus Trufant has a "disk issue" that was discovered after the cornerback had an MRI performed on his back. Mora said Trufant's injury is improving, and he will not need surgery. Trufant injured his back during a backpedal drill July 29, two days before the start of the team's training camp.

"It's good that we found this out now rather than in the middle of the season and try to push him through it, because now we can make some decision on how we move forward," Mora said about Trufant's back.

Trufant, 28, has been rehabilitating in the pool at the team's Renton facility but hasn't appeared on the practice field during workouts. Mora described Trufant's injury as similar to Matt Hasselbeck's back injury last season and said that team trainers' experience in dealing with the quarterback's bulging disk should help in the treatment of Trufant.

Hasselbeck, who missed nine games with the hard-to-diagnose injury last season, said Trufant might want to seek counsel other than himself in dealing with his back injury. "I'm probably the last guy he should take advice from on that, really," joked Hasselbeck. "Do it some other way. Don't do it the way I did it."

Mora said Trufant also does not have a timetable for returning, and that the team will approach the regular season as though neither Jones nor Trufant will be ready for Seattle's opener against the Rams.

--After two games, the Seattle Seahawks running attack has yet to get on track. The Seahawks finished with 33 carries for 92 yards in their first exhibition game of the season at San Diego, for a 2.8-yards-per-carry average. Well, the Seahawks remained consistent as Saturday's contest against the Broncos was more of the same. Seattle was held to just 72 yards on 23 carries for a paltry 3.1 yards-per-carry average.

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp expects better, particularly if he wants to create the kind of balance he prefers. Knapp has implemented a new zone blocking scheme in Seattle. His offenses have had success running the ball wherever he's coached, finishing in the top 10 in the league in rushing during stops in San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland. "It was OK, not great," Knapp said before the game, referring to how the running game looked against the Chargers last week. "There's definitely some room for improvement. We didn't get the breakout runs."

Seattle should have fared better running the ball against the Broncos. Denver finished 27th in the league against the run last season, giving up an average of 146 yards a game for a 5-yards-per-carry average. As Knapp sees it, the problem with Seattle has been its ability to break any long runs. In their first two games, the Seahawks' longest run from scrimmage was an 18-yard scramble by quarterback Seneca Wallace in the second half of the Denver game.

--In a show of solidarity all of the Seahawks offensive linemen got their heads shaved in Mohawks except for guard Mansfield Wrotto, who already was bald.

--The Jim Mora Celebrity Golf Classic will be held at the Tournament Players Course at Snoqualmie Ridge on Monday. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Jim Mora Count on Me Family Foundation and the Nutrition and Fitness for Life Program at Virginia Mason, both focusing on children's well-being. The shotgun start is at 8:30 a.m. Fans are invited to the course to watch the event, there is no admission fee.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They hit pretty hard, but it was good just to do it, and get the feel. It's been a while since I've been hit. It felt good." -- Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on getting sacked for the first time since the team's Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Owen Schmitt vs. Justin Griffith for fullback - Second-year player Schmitt is looking to earn the starting job after last year's fullback Leonard Weaver left in free agency. The coaching staff has been pleased with his performance so far, but wants him to do a better job sustaining blocks. Griffith is a veteran coming off reconstructive knee surgery who knows the offense and could slide into the starting job if Schmitt falters.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Brandon Coutu improved his chances of winning the kicking job with his performance against Denver, making 2-of-2 field goals, including a career-long 52 yarder. Incumbent Olindo Mare has been hampered by a knee injury.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Kelly Jennings -- The much-maligned first-round pick has played better of late, and has a forced fumble, and interception and a pass deflection in the first two games.

ROOKIE REPORT: Rookie defensive end Nick Reed had another strong performance, finishing with 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and tipping a punt. ... Wide receiver Deon Butler continues to struggle returning kicks. ... Defensive lineman Michael Bennett out of Texas A&M notched another sack against Denver.

INJURY REPORT: Starting center Chris Spencer injured a quad on Seattle's last drive of the half and had to be carted off the field. Mora said he'll get an MRI today. Spencer had sprained an ankle early in camp that forced him to miss a few days of practice. The Seahawks already are thin on the offensive line and can't afford another injury. Craig Terrell also suffered a leg injury and had to be helped off the field. ... Seattle coach Jim Mora held rookie linebacker Aaron Curry out of Saturday's game. Curry suffered a slight groin pull in the team's Tuesday night practice at Husky Stadium and did not practice the rest of the week. With Curry practicing only a little over a week since arriving at training camp Aug. 7, eight days late, Mora is concerned that the Wake Forest product might be experiencing a case of dead legs. So Mora is taking a cautious approach. Curry played about three quarters against San Diego at both linebacker and defensive end during passing downs. ... Veteran linebacker D.D. Lewis started in place of Curry. ... Starting running back Julius Jones also did not play against the Broncos Saturday. Jones suffered a thigh bruise against San Diego and practiced sparingly during the week.


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