A packed house at Seattle's Cinerama Theater greeted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll with a standing ovation during Wednesday night's Seahawks Town Hall. But for Carroll the night was more about showing love to those fans than receiving it.
"It's a pretty important opportunity," Carroll said. "They give us so much, so for us to give back is nothing in comparison."
Carroll also noted that keeping fans informed also creates a better home-field advantage on Sundays.
"Our messaging is important," he said. "When we can stay connected, we can keep the following informed and included… It's important that they're on the same page and know where we're coming from. They'll be more effective in their support when it makes more sense to them. We're tying things together by doing this."
Wednesday's night's event, which featured Carroll, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable and assistant head coach/defense Rocky Seto also included plenty of interesting information about the 2015 Seahawks. Here's some of what we learned:
1. Carroll is excited about this team's depth
It seems impossible that the Seahawks could ever match their depth in 2013, a championship season in which talented defensive backs like Ron Parker, Antoine Winfield and Will Blackmon didn't make the 53-man roster, and in which the defensive line rotation was deep enough for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to come off the bench. But based on what Carroll has seen so far, he says, "our depth may be the best it has been."
There are several reasons for Carroll's optimism. He loves what the rookie offensive linemen have brought to the competition, and he says the return of Cassius Marsh from injury, as well as the presence of Frank Clark, Obum Gwacham and Ryan Robinson means the defensive line "is the fastest we've been." Carroll also pointed out that all of that speed will make a difference on special teams. Carroll also singled out the return of fullback Derrick Coleman as a huge factor on special teams, he's also obviously excited about what Jimmy Graham will add to the tight end group, and thinks third-round pick Tyler Lockett will upgrade the return game.
2. The Seahawks are bouncing back well from Super Bowl XLIX
Kam Chancellor touched on it last month during OTAs, and Carroll backed it up Wednesday, saying his team has come back extremely well from a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XLIX.
"We all had to deal with that," Carroll said. "Everybody did… Just as the (Super Bowl XLVIII) win had a huge, lifelong impact, I think this game did to. They're the same in that regards. It's how we deal with it that's so crucial.
"Our guys have come back, we've given them an opportunity to deal with it individually knowing that everybody's going to feel a little differently, myself included, and we're going to work our way through it. And what've I've seen is these guys come roaring back. We try to put together the best offseason of our lives every year, and this offseason has been flying by. The guys' attitudes have been on it, they've been working like crazy, they're in the best shape they've been in, they're faster. We've had five OTA practices now, and every one has been better than the one before with enthusiasm, excitement, intensity and focus."
3. Tom Cable is really excited about J.R. Sweezy
When Cable showed fans video of his right guard in action, he sounded almost giddy describing each play. Describing the gritty characteristics the Seahawks look for in linemen, and really all players, Cable said Sweezy, "epitomizes this whole thought process."
Cable also said Sweezy, who he thinks is one of the best guards in the league, is "just as physical and probably just as ornery as" former Seahawks guard Steve Hutchinson—high praise for somebody who before the Seahawks drafted him in 2012 had never played offensive line.
4. The emphasis on athletic linemen is bigger than ever
Carroll and Cable have always preferred to have linemen who can move over those who can't, but the focus on athleticism is clearly growing. Cable went so far as to list measurables they look for in linemen such as a 31-inch vertical leap and 9-foot broad jump during an interview on Sports Radio 950 KJR. During the Town Hall, Cable added, "What we're looking for is the right characteristics—good movers, runners, jumpers, powerful, they have some grit to them. Guys who have great perseverance and passion for what they're doing."
Cable's short summary of what he wants in a lineman? "Explosiveness, athleticism and a good brain."
5. The battle to replace Max Unger is wide open
Speaking of athletic linemen, Seattle's center competition is far from settled, though Lemuel Jeanpierre has been getting the bulk of the first team reps so far in OTAs.
Cable described the current "amazing competition at centers" as a five-man battle between Jeanpierre, Patrick Lewis, Kristjan Sokoli, Will Pericak, and Drew Nowak, but said, "We're getting closer to kind of dialing this thing and turning it into a two or three-man competition instead of a five-man."
Regardless of who comes out on top, Cable said, "We're going to have a heck of a center, because I think we have some awesome candidates.
6. Even though he's a former lineman, Cable sees the running game success as a group effort
Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson and the offensive line deservedly get a lot of credit for helping the Seahawks lead the NFL in rushing yards last season, but Cable said another group played a big role in that success.
"I try to tell (the receivers) every chance I get, we're the best running team in football because of them," Cable said. "It's not because of 24, it's those goons up front or Russ or whatever; it's really the receivers."
Cable's point isn't that Lynch, the O-line or Wilson aren't huge parts of Seattle's rushing success, but rather that the receiver blocking is often what makes the difference between a 5-yard gain and a long touchdown run. Lynch would have had a nice run in Arizona last December without his receivers; he had a spectacular 79-yard touchdown run in part because of Ricardo Lockette's blocking.
"Those big runs you see, those runs of 10 or more, that's all the wide receivers," Cable said. "So they should get a ton of credit for us running the ball the way we do… I don't think there's a (receiver) group tougher in football."
It also takes the right attitude and a willing head coach to be as successful as the Seahawks when it comes to running the ball.
"It's very difficult to run the ball in the NFL, and most guys don't have the patience for that," Cable said. "Coach is great that way; he gets that it's an ugly 1, 2 or 3 (yard gains) in the first half, you feel your way through and go and adjust at halftime. Then it's 3s, 4s and 5s, then in the fourth quarter you finish, you just step on them. That mindset and mentality is team wide, and it starts with Coach… To run the ball you've got to be pretty hard-nosed, and that's what we all are."
7. Lynch and Wilson have a symbiotic relationship
OK, so people who have been watching the Seahawks over the past three seasons already know this, but Cable really drove the point home Wednesday that neither his star running back nor his quarterback would be as successful without the presence of the other.
"What's really important to understand is that Marshawn needs Russ like Russ needs Marshawn, so it's like ham and eggs, it's peanut butter and jelly," Cable said. "They've got to have each other for this thing to work. Neither one of them is bigger or greater than the other, and they probably wouldn't be very good without the other one, to be quite honest with you. One's a bruiser, he's the street brawler and the other guy, he looks like the artist when he plays. They're both very productive."
8. Seattle's emphasis on shoulder tackling is working
We'll have more on this later, but the Seahawks are putting out a revised version of the Seahawks Tackle Teaching Tape video that was such a hit last year. Seto went over clips from the video—many of the big hits drawing cheers from the crowd—showing the key points to Seattle's "Hawk Tackle" technique. This video, like last year's, will be available to football coaches at every level, the hope being that more teams can learn a technique that is both more effective and safer than leading with head.
In fact, Seto went as far as to say that these videos will be "one of Coach Carroll's biggest contributions to the game."
"Our players have gotten healthier," Seto said. "We've been able to lower our head injuries with our defensive players, and our missed tackles have been down implementing this style. So if you're high school coach or a Pop Warner coach, it's a new game. When I was playing and even coaching early, I was taught to get my head across a tackle, or see what I hit, which in effect put my head in the line of fire. It has worked beautifully in terms of getting guys down, but now we know better."