Monday Metatarsal Musings

Posted Aug 22, 2011

Or footnote: A look at three things that went well in Saturday’s loss to the Vikings, and three things that need work as the Seahawks prepare for this week’s game against the Broncos in Denver.

The Seahawks’ first offensive series on Saturday night started with a pass going off the hands of slot receiver Golden Tate and included a false start penalty against tight end Zach Miller and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen whiffing on a sack.

Go figure? No, it figures. The Seahawks were playing their preseason home opener, and doing that in a year when the 136-day lockout erased the offseason minicamps and OTA sessions and condensed training camp into the equivalent of a two-minute drill.

They also were playing the Vikings, and who knows new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson better than Leslie Frazier. The Vikings’ first-year head coach was the team’s defensive coordinator the past four seasons – when Bevell and Jackson also were in Minnesota.

The No. 1 offense, with Bevell calling the plays and Jackson attempting to execute them despite being almost constantly harassed by the Vikings’ pass rush, generated 139 yards in the first half – but failed to score. The exclamation point on the pointless performance was Justin Forsett failing to get into the end zone on four tries from 2, 1, 1 and 1.

“Just consistency,” Forsett said after game when asked what areas need improvement as the Seahawks prepare for Saturday night’s third preseason game against the Broncos in Denver.

“We need to go out and we’ve got to have a hunger and fight about us that we’re not going to be denied and we’ve got to carry that with us every game.”

With that said, here’s a look at three things that worked in the 20-7 loss to the Vikings and three things that need work this week:

What worked
The young defensive backs.“The kids,” as coach Pete Carroll calls them, came to play. Again. The group that includes cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell and safeties Josh Pinkard, Mark LeGree and Jeron Johnson kicked you-know-what and took names when they took over from the starters.

The biggest play – and best – was Pinkard poking the ball from the grasp of Vikings wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux at the 2-yard line to turn what would have been a touchdown into a touchback. But Johnson, who broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone to ice the win over the Chargers in the opener, had three solo tackles; while Sherman had three total tackles.

Brandon Browner also can be included in the group. He’s 27, but also looking to get back into the NFL after playing the past four seasons in the CFL.

“Those guys continue to compete,” Carroll said, specifically mentioning Sherman, Browner and Maxwell. “They’re really in the mix. They’re more than just young guys getting a shot, these guys can play football and we’re really excited about what they’re adding.”

Charlie Whitehurst. What a difference a year can make. The team’s incumbent backup QB is playing with more confidence, which is allowing him – and the No. 2 offense – to play faster. Whitehurst completed 14 of 19 passes for 97 yards and the team’s only touchdown against the Vikings, after a 14-of-20, 115-yard outing in the opener.

He’s also completing 71.8 percent of his passes, which ranks eighth in the league after two weeks of the preseason.

“I feel more comfortable now, and it’s just a process moving forward,” Whitehurst said.

Red Bryant. The team’s five-technique defensive end didn’t play in the opener. He did on Saturday night, and the difference was more than noticeable. Bryant was not credited with a tackle, but his disruptive presence made things easier for those around him.

Just ask David Hawthorne, the middle linebacker who shared team-high honors with four tackles.

“Red was being Red out there,” Hawthorne said. “He was throwing people around. It’s good to have him back with us.”

The Vikings ran for 28 yards in the first half, with Adrian Peterson averaging 2.7 yards on six carries. After Bryant called it an evening, the Vikings ran for 114 yards in the second half.

What needs work
The pass protection. If not for his scrambling ability, Jackson would have been sacked several times. It is easy to blame the ineffectiveness of the No. 1 offense on Jackson – too easy. It’s also incorrect. The Vikings got 10 hits on the Seahawks’ QBs, including four by end Adrian Awasom. It would have been more without Jackson’s mobility and escape-ability.

“He was fighting for his life a little bit,” Carroll said. “They made it hard on him. I did see some very good things tonight – he showed again that he can get out of trouble and save plays.

“I’m not in any way disappointed in what he did. We need to protect him better.”

Penalties. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 84 wrong-way yards – eight times in the first half for 69 yards. That’s unacceptable, even if this was only the second preseason game. There were three false start penalties, a disconcerting continuation of the problem the linemen have been having in practice. But two of them were on wide receiver Mike Williams and Miller.

The worst infraction, however, was linebacker Aaron Curry ripping the helmet off Vikings guard Ryan Cook and then throwing it. Unacceptable? Carroll pulled Curry out of the game.

“That was a bad play,” Carroll said. “That was bad judgment right there. … He can’t take the liberty to hurt our football team like that.”

Timing, and time. The second plays directly into the first. No team has had enough time to get ready for the preseason games, and the squeeze on the Seahawks has been even greater because there are only 17 players on the 90-man roster remaining from the team Carroll inherited 18 months ago.

There’s a new offense, and Saturday night it featured six new starters. But the give-that-guy-a-nametag situation also spilled over to the No. 2 offense.

“I’m not sure exactly how to pronounce it. I think I formally met him just yesterday,” Whitehurst said, referring to running back Vai Taua, who was signed Aug. 14; but also Thomas Clayton, who was signed Aug. 5.

“Those guys really hit the hole. Both of them are explosive. They were both close to making big, big runs.”