With the bye week here, it's time to seriously iron out the kinks for the Seattle Seahawks and contemplate some interesting decisions when they travel to New York to play the Super Bowl champion Giants on Oct. 5.
Coach Mike Holmgren had the players hold their own morning workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, emphasizing leadership and focus while the coaching staff goes over some of the decisions they will make for playing time and the roster as they head east with a 1-2 record.
Holmgren said he was informed he will have the services of previous injured players Mo Morris (knee), Deion Branch (knee), Bobby Engram (shoulder), Sean Locklear (knee) and Seneca Wallace (calf) for the game.
Although not completely sold on the information, whichever players are ready to roll, it will have an effect on the present situation.
"Well, to look forward to having the whole group there is good," Holmgren said. "We just got out of a meeting talking about how difficult it was going to be to choose the deactives. Think about that for a second. That's a good thing. It's a nice problem to have, whereas the last few weeks, all the deactive guys were injured. Then I had no decision, I just kind of list those guys.
"We're going to have a little bit of a decision to make at wide receiver, of all positions, when we come back. It'll be interesting to see how Branch and Engram feel when they get back in there. They've been out a while. But right now, the medical people are telling me that probably they're good to go."
It will have an impact on newcomers Billy McMullen, Keary Colbert, Michael Bumpus, and Koren Robinson, who actually missed his first game with a sore knee after two years of football inactivity. But it will also give them six receivers – including Engram and Branch, with Wallace becoming an option again – although obviously less likely.
Just as interesting is what will happen at running back. The Seahawks are coming off a 245-yard game in the 37-13 win over St. Louis Sunday - the most yards rushing by the team in three years. Julius Jones had his second consecutive 100-yard plus game – ranked third in the NFL with 312 yards rushing overall. The season began with Morris starting and Holmgren insisting they would share the position and start every other week.
Considering the success the past two weeks, and the fact they ran the ball more (46 times) than any other game in Holmgren's 10 seasons as coach, and T.J. Duckett bringing a formidable 79 power rushing yards and two touchdowns, it's easy to wonder if it has changed in the wake of the growing success the past two weeks.
"That's a good question, and I'm not prepared to answer it right now," Holmgren said Monday. "I've got a week to think about it. Mo, prior to getting injured, was playing well, and making plays, and making good runs and doing fine. (Sunday), when Julius needed a break, I substituted Duckett in the game. My feeling is, Mo and Julius, those types of things will take place with those two guys instead of Duckett, although there's probably a place for Duckett late in the game, in the second half.
"There's a place now. He earned that yesterday. But how, and how many snaps, and percentages, I don't know. Sometimes it'll have to just be a gut feeling."
The other interesting scenario is on the offensive line with Ray Willis playing so well at right tackle and Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack at right guard. Locklear played sparingly on Sunday but has proven to be one of the best right tackles in the conference.
"That's a good one," Holmgren said. "That's something we talked about this morning and we'll deal with that. We'll think about it and deal with it as we go along here because Ray Willis has been doing a nice job at right tackle and brings a real physical presence to the right side of the line. But Lock, he was there for a long time, he's a good right tackle, very good pass blocker. You now have three players for two positions: you have Locklear, Womack and Willis for the right guard and right tackle positions. Right now I can't tell you how we're going to do that."
But as Holmgren said, those are all good decisions to have to make instead of have to reach deep into the roster for the who, when and where.
The good news is the players are returning, perhaps the return of good Karma after a horrific struggle at too many positions. Also this week came the news that Giants' 6-5 wide receiver Plaxico Burress has been suspended by the team for the game – and that relieves some defensive stress from cornerbacks Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson from dealing with the towering Burress.
More than anything, it's all about coming out of the break with an elevated and consistent performance with the hope of returning home from New York with a win and the prospect of rising above .500 when the Green Bay Packers come to town on Oct. 12.
"Well, I think we had a chance to be 2-1, and we're 1-2," Holmgren said. "We let one slip away against San Francisco, I think, and they probably feel differently, but we could've had a better record. Buffalo, I don't think we played well enough to win the game. But you look around the league and it's early. It's the point I made a couple weeks ago: it's early.
"Stuff happens and people are sorting it out, people are having to deal with injury. There's all sorts of reasons. A few teams start off 3-0, the Giants being one of them. They're playing very well, Super Bowl champs. But it's a long season. Had we not played a good football game yesterday (Sunday), then I would've been a little more concerned. That was a good game for us yesterday for a lot of reasons. It was important. It was an important game for us to get playing and to do some good things, have a little bit of a good feeling in the locker room, have the players feel better about their performance. That's all real healthy stuff. And now we'll take a break, and now really, the season starts all over again for us."