9/24/08 Mailbag with Mike Kahn

Mike Kahn answers your questions during this bye week edition of "Mailbag with Mike Kahn"

It's time to reboot.

Going into the bye week coming off a 37-13 win over the Rams was huge for the Seahawks, who have continued to show muscle in the running game progressively in each of the three games so far this season.

Consider they ran for 85 yards in the opening game loss at Buffalo, the 169 yards against the San Francisco 49ers and 245 Sunday against the Rams. When you consider 499 yards in three games, it is the kind of running game that big-time football teams consistently put on the field.

Moreover, that kind of rushing attach will in the long run strengthen the defense through ball control and augment the explosive passing game for Matt Hasselbeck once Bobby Engram and Deion Branch return healthy.

With 312 yards rushing through three games, Julius Jones is third in the NFL in rushing, and has two rushing touchdowns of more than 20 yards – it's the kind of explosiveness that the Seahawks hoped for when he was signed in the offseason. His back-to-back 100-yard games mark the first time in two years they've had that and the 245 yards as a team – particularly the 79 yards and two touchdowns from T.J. Duckett – packed the most formidable punch the Seahawks have had since the 320 yards rushing during the 2005 season.

The defense has shown considerable ability to shut down the running game, particularly in the last two games with Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson, and greatly improved the pass defense against the Rams.

But what stood out to jump start the team and carry it through that win was the play of Hasselbeck, who began the game 7-of-9 passing and finished the game completing strikes to seven receivers. And to top it off, he was the one leading the way downfield in Jones' 29-yard touchdown run. In the end, he completely sold out, throwing a cross-body block that knocked down not just one, but two Rams defensive backs.

It turned on the entire Seahawks team as Hasselbeck came off the field grinning ear to ear. Then again, not everybody was thrilled, namely coach Mike Holmgren. Just the thought of Hasselbeck downfield throwing his body around is enough to keep Holmgren awake at nights.

But in retrospect, he appreciated the effort, and the effect his leadership has had on the rest of the team.

"I think Matt phoned me last night and said, 'Did you see the play?'" Holmgren said. "Yeah, it's the play of the day. It's phenomenal. It was a great play. Bless his heart. It was a great play. It showed his competitiveness, it showed his willingness to do anything to win, it was a great play … very athletic. His teammates love him for it. It's all good stuff.

"My point – and Matt won't listen to me, so I want you to listen to me - is that I've seen quarterbacks get hurt doing that. And you can't, for the sake of one great play, lose your quarterback. You just can't. [You could] jam an elbow, goofy stuff, sprain a wrist. But the thing is, you can tell the player that until you're blue in the face, and when it comes to the game and here I am and here they come, he's hearing the drums beating too. He is. I mean, I can sense kind of what that huddle was like. He's going to do it. You just hope it's not a burn and crash deal."

Nonetheless, he did it, he didn't get hurt and it was a touchdown with great leadership and they go into the bye with momentum and a happy face. Let's take a deep breath and keep it rolling as the post-bye games begin Oct. 5 in New York against the Giants.

From: Brett


Mike,

I have not hit the panic button yet. I am marking off the days until our receivers get back though. We have one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional football, a top-5 quarterback, and a defense that gets better and better. By the way Buffalo is 3-0 and a legitimate contender to win its division.

My question is, with all the talent at running back, why only a few balls thrown to them out of the backfield? Last year, Leonard Weaver was awesome catching and running, and Julius Jones just proved he is going to be a big weapon. If the O line keeps getting up like against San Fran, let's get some big plays in the flats! Come on coach, show us the screens!

Brett,

One reason that they haven't had much luck throwing to the backs is because the receivers haven't required double teams so they haven't been open. If there is no concern downfield with the receiver, the drops aren't as deep and the check downs aren't open. Once Bobby Engram and Deion Branch return – requiring far more attention from the secondary – that will open up the underneath routes of screens and flat passes exponentially more.

The intent is certainly there, but it will require the full complement of receivers before there will be the kind of open field opportunities that you're talking about. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Gordon


Mike,

First thing's first – it was great game on both sides of the ball against the Rams. It's fun to watch the Hawks run!! And with the progression of Michael Bumpus and Billy McMullen, are we going to be seeing a deadline trade for maybe a little bit more security on defense, maybe a run stopper or cornerback in case of injuries to one of our starters? We do have a great starting 11 and it's nice to see them pull it together, but if one of them goes down we end up with a serious weakness in our defense.

Gordon,

I don't know about adding another player to the roster at this point. There are four corners: Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Josh Wilson andKevin Hobbs, plus versatile Jordan Babineaux, so I don't see any point in that. And I think the defensive tackles are doing fine. Brandon Mebane and Rocky Bernard have played well, and Howard Green has turned out to be a free agent find. I don't see where there has been a problem at all with the run defense – they did a great job with Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson.

If anything, when everybody is back, maybe somebody gets moved to add a draft choice if possible from losing one in the Keary Colbert deal with Denver. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Rick


Mike,

It is evident that Julius Jones thrives in games that he is the primary running back. Is it possible that the decision could be made to keep him as the main back and Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett placed in second and third spots? I am relieved that we have such a solid ground-game again.

Rick,

How Mike Holmgren handles the running back situation after the bye week beginning in New York against the Giants will be one of the more interesting stories. With Jones averaging 133.5 yards the past two weeks and ranking third overall in the NFL with 312 yards, he has obviously made a strong case for himself. Duckett has been a superb short yardage back, so that will still be his primary responsibility.

We'll find out soon. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Patrick


Mike,

I was wondering if you knew why the Seahawks kept both Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu on their 53-man regular season roster and cut Justin Forsett.

Patrick,

It's an interesting scenario, but there is the obvious. They want Coutu for the big picture in the years to come and were certain they would lose him if they attempted to get him through waivers to the practice squad. They took a calculated risk that Forsett would slip through waivers and then sign him for the PS.

Unfortunately, the gamble didn't work and he's on the Colts now. But keep in mind he was at best their fourth running back, and other than the Bears game, he didn't have much of a positive punt return experience. They are solid on kickoff returns. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Dan


Mike,

I am a Packers fan living in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I congratulate the Seahawks for taking back Koren Robinson. When he was with the Packers he was a real feel good story, how well he was doing while suspended, then coming back to play were weekly updates in the media. All summer I have been tracking Koren to see where he would end up. I am delighted he's found a home. He was an inspiration to us here in Wisconsin and I think he will be for you too.

Dan,

That's an interesting perspective on Robinson. Wherever he's been, people have enjoyed his presence and wish him well. Essentially, it's all up to him and how well he handles himself in the short run and the long run. There are a lot of people in his corner and hopefully, he will utilize it to gain strength is his development on and off the field. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Dustin


Mike,

I've been transplanted to Portland and I've never seen as much bad luck with injuries as the Seahawks have faced, most importantly on the offense end. With that being said, we all expected the defense to be more consistent with their blitzes and have more enthusiasm. Lofa Tatupu needs to take more control as the leader, don't you think?

Dustin,

The good news is people are getting healthy and the bye week will go a long way toward getting a lot of guys healed up for the long run of the final 13 games plus the playoffs. Normally, an early bye week isn't helpful, but this is clearly the exception under the circumstances of the injuries.

The defense rebounded well this past weekend against the Rams. They've done a great job of shutting down high level running backs in Frank Gore and Stephen Jackson. Tatupu is doing fine, and will be even better as the season goes on. He needed some time to help his sore knee and hand. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Josh


Mike,

It's pretty evident the Seahawks must win on the road to have any chance of playoff hopes. Every year you hope to win all your home games especially with the advantage of playing at Qwest Field. Now that plan has been altered. We need to win all games against NFC west opponents home and away plus steal some tough games on the road. I just don't know if our depleted offense can come through. A win streak of about 5 or 6 games is just what the Hawks need to gain confidence for the tough last half of their schedule.

Josh,

My theory for making the playoffs has always been how to arrive at 10-6, to assure the NFC West title, and I still believe that will win the division. The most practical sense is to hope for a 6-2 or 7-1 record at home, which is right on with what it has been during the course of Qwest Field history. If that's the case, they'll need to finish at least 3-4 and hopefully 4-3 away from home.

It does no good to break down which games is which because teams can change so quickly due to injuries. The margin of error is shrinking, but if they come out of the bye week hot, they can roll right into their fifth division title in a row and from there, anything can happen. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Andy


Mike,

Hello Mike! I've been a Seahawks fan since they formed the team in the mid-70's when I was a student at Renton High School. I now teach in Pennsylvania and it is more than a little difficult to keep up with my favorite team. The last I heard, Jordan Kent was still on the team. Is this still true? If so, why isn't he our go-to-guy? I realize he is young and has very limited football experience, but he seems to carry a lot of innate skills and be willing to work to develop them. I don't recall seeing him in the last game. Was he there?

I know we're very low on able-bodied receivers and Koren Robinson and Keary Colbert should provide us with two more options. As I recall, aside from his off-field problems, Koren was quite good on the field, playing several years with Matt Hasselbeck for Coach Holmgren. Also, with Mo Morris hurt, our running backs do not appear as deep as they were in training camp. Thanks for your time and thoughts.

Andy,

Kent does have a lot of innate skills, and had a good preseason, but he still has to develop as a consistent NFL receiver catching the football and running routes the same way. He is so young in his game, another season on the practice squad will only help him. If he makes the same progress from this year to next as he did from last season to now, he'll be a factor next season on the roster.

We'll just have to wait and see how much of a factor Robinson and Colbert are. Of course losing Morris cuts into the depth, but only temporarily because his injury has not been considered serious. Besides, with Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett at tailback, if they needed a third one, Leonard Weaver would slide back to the position – which he does on short yardage occasionally anyway – and rookie Owen Schmitt would move in as the blocking fullback. So they're fine at halfback. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

From: Trox


Mike,

For one, I'm glad for the injuries and bad breaks. These things usually even out. I would rather start off slow and finish strong. Isn't that what happened with the Steelers (2005) and Giants (2007) Super Bowl runs? Odds are good that things will turn around for the better. When they do there will be a lot of great football and payback...especially with the 49'ers. Don't be surprised if we get Deion Branch andBobby Engram back for the Giants game that we pull off the upset. Take care 12th man … good times are a comin'!!"

Trox,

That's the positive spin and what everybody in and around the team is hoping. It will be tough coming out of the break in New York against the Giants, but getting to 2-2 will be huge compared to 1-3, and the 49ers game won't be haunting. More than anything, it's just a matter of winning the division by any means it takes. Does it mean they can run the table at home the rest of the way … they've done it before.

On the road, it must be proven they can win the big games – sweeping the division road games would be a great start and hopefully winning one or two more. If that's the case, they can build momentum going down the stretch and open the door for a great post-season run. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,

Mike

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