Seahawks Find Plenty of Performance Flaws

The Seattle Seahawks have become the class of their division for the last three years, but their 2007 preseason to date leaves them with plenty of concerns. Will those get fixed against the Vikings?

For a veteran team coming off three straight division titles, the Seattle Seahawks find themselves dealing with a surprising number of questions halfway through the preseason. A win at San Diego was filled with the kinds of inconsistencies expected of an exhibition opener. But a 48-13 debacle at Green Bay left the staff stunned.

"There is losing a game in the preseason and then there is playing poorly," head coach Mike Holmgren said. "In the preseason, sometimes if I am getting my answers from the right players, which is a big goal for us, I can handle losing a game here and there. I cannot tolerate how we played (against the Packers)."

Among the greatest concerns coming into camp was the status of a reconfigured offensive line. Walter Jones was unquestioned at left tackle, of course, and young starters Rob Sims and Chris Spencer, at left guard and center, were expected to take over their spots for years. The right side of guard Chris Gray and tackle Sean Locklear was to be challenged by Floyd Womack and Ray Willis.

But with Jones and Locklear out nursing injuries, the line has only further unraveled rather than solidifying into a cohesive unit. Sims and Spencer, and Gray, for the most part, were steady against the Packers, but the backup tackles were horrendous. Tom Ashworth was repeatedly beaten at left tackle, and Womack was tossed around with embarrassing ease.

The Seahawk staff was shrewd in one regard, however; sensing imminent protection issues, they kept starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck off the field. That left Seneca Wallace and David Greene to absorb six sacks and countless hurries. Wallace only added to staff insecurity by losing two fumbles, while Greene threw three interceptions.

Special teams, under new coach Bruce DeHaven, performed poorly. On one kickoff return, the Hawks were flagged for three separate holding violations. Some of those, of course, were by players who won't be on the team come September. If there was a bright spot for the Seahawks on special teams, though, it was rookie kickoff returner Josh Wilson. While still learning the ropes as a nickel cornerback, Wilson showed enough speed to get to the sideline and turn it up-field on kickoffs. He fumbled his first return of the season in the San Diego game, but unfailingly held onto the ball on a rainy night in Green Bay.

Another area of solid play continues to be the receivers, especially Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu. Burleson has had a strong camp and is playing with far greater confidence than last season, when a thumb injury caused him to get off to a slow start. Burleson turned a short route into a 55-yard catch-and-run against the Packers. With those efforts, he's challenging D.J. Hackett for the starting job at split end.

After the loss, Holmgren promised to remind players that nobody has earned roster spots yet, a move geared toward improving the intensity and focus that has been lacking thus far.

The Seahawks benefit from having their final two preseason games and their regular-season opener all at home at Qwest Field.

NOTES

  • Finding ways to get 80 players enough action to analyze on film is tricky for a coaching staff.

    "In fairness to the athlete, if he's competing for the sixth linebacker position or the fifth wide receiver position, you have to get those guys into the games," coach Mike Holmgren said. "You have to let them play and then make your evaluations off that. It's not always fair but that's what we try to do. Those types of things, the battle for the third tight end or the second tight end, the nickelback, the fourth corner; that's why it's important we get those young guys in there to play."

  • QB Matt Hasselbeck entirely endorses the notion of not beating up a veteran team during the preseason and training camp.

    "I think if you have an older team it probably makes a little more sense," Hasselbeck said. "You look at Walter Jones, for three years he didn't even have a minicamp or a training camp and those were probably his three best years. It is probably on a person-to-person basis and that's Coach Holmgren's job to decide. At the same time if you haven't played together with guys, if you're playing with a new person next to you or if you are relying on a new person, I think it is important to get out there and get as much work as you can done."

  • Holmgren has developed an appreciation for rookie cornerback and return man Josh Wilson, even though he's going through a steep learning curve.

    "He's doing fine," Holmgren said. "He's learning. Every day he sees something a little bit new. I love his attitude. We're counting on him for a lot this year."

  • RB Shaun Alexander, always optimistic, sees the 2007 Seahawks as having the same potential as the 2005 Super Bowl Seahawks.

    "There is no doubt in my mind," he said. "I see the way our chemistry is with this team. I have a better feeling about this team than any other team in Seahawk history. I told everybody, it's always talent, then coaching, then chemistry, then health. That's just how it works with football. It's the greatest team sport in the world and it's because you have a bunch of people all coming together that have different talents that you have to mesh together to have one guy make a great play; whether it's a defensive stop in the hole or a DB picking off a pass. It's all because the D-line pushed and the linebackers were up underneath and they guy could make a jump. Whether it's me scoring a touchdown or a receiver making a great catch in the back of the end zone. It's all 11 guys coming together to make one play. That's all chemistry and that's all talent and that's all coaching. That's what gets you there and that last thing is just health. We have the first three already."

    Trying to build depth in the secondary, the ‘Hawks signed CB DeJuan Groce and released backup P Kyle Stringer. Groce was a fourth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2003 and started 15 games in 2005. He played in 12 games for the New Orleans Saints last season and was released by the Saints on June 15.

    Groce has 54 NFL games to his credit with 20 starts and three career interceptions.

    The Hawks also dealt with dwindling depth at tight end by signing TE Andy Stokes.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It is just unacceptable. And so we will fix it." — Coach Mike Holmgren after a 48-13 drubbing at Green Bay.


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