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A show of hands
Seahawks players Tyler Lockett and Kam Chancellor squared off in the final round of the 2016 Ellis Island Invitational on Wednesday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, a basketball shootout elimination bracket the team started at the beginning of training camp. Tacoma native NBA all-star Isaiah Thomas also joined the fun. View
The topic was the four-headed, eight-handed, pass-catching monster that is the Arizona Cardinals wide receivers, and Gus Bradley’s immediate response pretty much said it all.
“We could sit here for hours and talk about those guys,” the Seahawks’ first-year defensive coordinator said.
Actually, Bradley and his players have spent the entire week talking about Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Breaston and former-Seahawk-turned-Cardinal Jerheme Urban because the Seahawks host the Cardinals at Qwest Field on Sunday.
“You can’t get in a situation where you double (cover) one guy, because their other guys are very effective,” Bradley said.
Then there’s the fact that running back Tim Hightower is actually the team’s leading receiver.
“So you can’t go into the game saying, ‘Hey, we’ve just got to take this one guy away and we’ll be successful,’ ” Bradley said. “That’s not the case with them.”
Where to begin in trying to dissect this passing game, and how to defend these receivers?
At the top, which is where the 6-foot-3, vice-handed Fitzgerald makes too many of his catches – up and over the defender, or defenders as if too often the case.
Seahawks coach Jim Mora calls that pinnacle of a point where Fitzgerald makes those catches “the moment of truth” for the defender. Either he is able to get position on Fitzgerald and time his jump just right, or things can go wrong in a hurry.
“There’s a ‘wow’ factor,” Mora said. “The guys just make these spectacular catches, especially Fitzgerald.”
So what’s the counter to that? “You have to attack the ball,” cornerback Kelly Jennings said. “You can’t wait on the ball at all, because he’s going to go up and attack it. So if you wait, he’s going to make the play.
“You almost have to time your jump before he does.”
Next up is the 217-pound Boldin, who brings a defensive mentality to mix.
“He just plays angry,” Mora said.
Mora has used the term “violent” to describe the play of his own rookie linebacker, Aaron Curry. And he means it as a compliment.
“Boldin plays that way on offense,” Mora said. “You don’t see that all the time out of receivers. He’s trying to punish defenders.”
Jennings agreed. “Boldin is almost like a linebacker,” he said. “He’s trying to knock you down. He’s trying to run you over. He’s trying to push you down.”
To say this is a tough challenge might be understating the situation.
“Toughest? Some teams do different things, different schemes,” Jennings said. “But form a physical stand point I would say this is the toughest. Because it’s two of the most physical receivers I’ve faced.”
If defenses get too preoccupied with Fitzgerald and Boldin, Kurt Warner will go to Breaston and even Urban.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Mora said of Urban. “He’s just the most uncelebrated of the four.”
Complicating the situation is that the Seahawks are shorthanded in the secondary. Marcus Trufant, their best cover corner, is on the physically unable to perform list because of a bulging disc in his back. Ken Lucas, who was signed in free agency to give the team a bigger and more physical presence opposite Trufant, spent the week in Mississippi following the death of his father last Friday. He was scheduled to rejoin the team Saturday.
So the starting corners in practice all week were Josh Wilson, who is 5-9, and Jennings, who weighs 180 pounds.
“We’ve got to be solid at the point, no doubt,” Bradley said.
Mora, of course, was the Seahawks’ secondary coach last season when Fitzgerald and Boldin combined to catch 23 passes for 337 yards in the Cardinals’ 26-20 victory at Qwest Field. In the rematch in Arizona, Fitzgerald had five receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns, while Breaston added five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown and Urban had four for 43 and a score.
Asked what preparing for those tasks was like, Mora offered, “Daunting.”
Asked what it is like to prepare for the rematch as the head coach, he added, “More daunting.”
Hmmm. Maybe that says it all. Read