By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
The concept is simple … keep the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense off the field and get the ball back to Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander and the rest of the Seahawks offense.
If only it were so simple to execute.
"We've got to start by stopping the run," Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall said. "That's our primary focus. And then we have to do our best to contain and prevent (quarterback) Jeff Garcia from getting into a rhythm with (Joey) Galloway and their other receivers. We've got our work cut out for us."
Oh, defensive coordinators always say that. But in the case of the Seahawks defense, with four new starters, it will be different. With the addition of three free agents – defensive end Patrick Kerney, strong safety Deon Grant and free safety Brian Russell – along with new starter Darryl Tapp, it changes the look of the defense.
The question is whether it changes the feel.
"They're professionals," Seahawks Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson said. "It would be different for them if everybody else were just rookies or they were rookies – like it was for Lofa (Tatupu) and Leroy (Hill) a couple of years ago. These guys are veterans of the game, they know how to talk to people, they know where they're supposed to be and they've been in a couple of different schemes, so they know the game and they came in here ready to work. They have the same mindset we all have … it's a short window of opportunity for us to win it, we've got a good team here, so let's all work together to get to the next level."
So much of the success seems to be predicated by the communication instilled by Russell and Grant in the secondary. Tatupu calls the signals in general, but Russell, a former quarterback at San Diego State, is kind of the quarterback too. Grant is the co-captain of the defense with Tatupu – so the trio is vital to the success of the run and the pass.
"That makes a big difference to me," Tatupu said. "I've got to align the guys in front of me, but knowing those guys are behind me seeing things that maybe I don't see, helps everybody. And I know their experience helps all of us."
Kerney is the odd combination of a thinking man's football player with proletarian approach to the daily routine. Nobody works out harder and his non-stop charge from left end sent him to the Pro Bowl.
After surgery for a torn pectoral muscle last year, he's healthy and ready to return to his previous stature by helping this defense move to a new level.
"I feel great and I like my fit right now with what we're doing," Kerney said. "It's a fun group to work with, a lot of blue collar work ethic and a great offense for support. There are a lot of intelligent guys. We have a quality game plan as a security blanket. We're able to have knowledge to apply. When you see formations that you recognize, it eliminates a lot of nerves and help us as we adjust to each other."
Wednesday and Thursday, crowd noise was pumped into the practice field from a loudspeaker that made the area feel like a horror movie. But knowing how excited and loud the fans at Qwest Field get, it was imperative that they got a handle on what it would be like to communicate with each other despite not being able to hear.
Russell played in Minnesota for four years, so he knows what it's like to play in an ear-blistering loud stadium, and agrees with Marshall's idea of simulating game noise conditions.
"We haven't had that here – the noise wasn't deafening during the preseason games, but we have to be able to operate, make checks and audibles and all those things on defense … and basically, when you can't hear each other," Russell said. "When that corner on the other side is not reading your lips, you've got to be able to communicate with hand signals and what-not. It just gets us ready for that. Sometimes, when you can hear everybody loud and clear, it's almost a crutch. It's easy to hear Lofa make his call or his check across the board, and you never miss a beat. But you can't go in prepared the fact that it's silence for a defense."
The question remains how they handle the pressure of a regular season game together. They've had all the practices and preseason games they can stomach. These games count and the way they will respond together remains a mystery.
It's easy to surmise they'll be fine, but the intensity level is up, the way they blitz, and stunt and scheme will be a little bit different as well.
"Deon and Brian and Pat … they're proven vets and they picked up our defense right away," Leroy Hill said. "They fit right in. I feel that something special is going on here. We've got a lot of playmakers on this defense that have a history of making plays, so it's just a matter of us doing it together. These new pieces we have on defense, they're good pieces, but until we get through that first game, we won't know. Everybody has to have a measuring stick, and our first one will be Sunday."
This and that
Jordan Babineaux completed his second full practice after missing essentially all of training camp from the bruised knee he suffered the first practice of camp. … Ben Obomanu continued to run on a separate practice field, but hasn't practiced since straining his hamstring a week ago Tuesday. … The Sea Gals will sign autographs with the unveiling of the 2008 Calendar at the Fox Sports Grill today at 6 p.m., with Warren Moon as the host.