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Mail Bag with Mike Kahn: 8/10/08

Chicago Bears come to QWest Field for preseason home opener.

MINNEAPOLIS - Following Friday's win at the Vikings, the Chicago Bears come to Qwest Field this Saturday for the preseason home opener. The third game is Aug. 25, a Monday Night Football national telecast at San Diego against the Chargers. And the preseason is wrapped up Aug. 29 at Qwest against the Oakland Raiders.

So it's all beginning, this 2008 NFL season ... five months until the regular season ends, and hopefully that will take us into a long January for the Seahawks, and Feb. 1 to Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl XLIII against some very lucky team from the AFC ...

Thankfully, this bound-to-be-bumpy ride is already underway.

Now on to the e-mail of the week:

From: William


With Chris Gray retiring do you think the Seahawks will go out and sign another lineman? And do will first round draft pick Lawrence Jackson be a starter or will be a situational pass rusher.


The Seahawks did sign center Ben Claxton for depth at center, and Tim Ruskell's personnel department is always active, but they have drafted so many offensive linemen over the past four drafts still on the roster (Chris Spencer, Ray Willis, Rob Sims, Mansfield Wrotto and Steve Vallos), that this is an opportunity to really enhance the development of this young group under the guidance of offensive line coach Mike Solari and assistant Mike DeBord. Nonetheless, it would not be surprising to see an addition in the final weekend after all the cuts are made.

As far as Jackson's status goes, it's difficult to tell exactly what they have in mind when it comes to starters. But whether he starts or not, he will play a lot on the edge and inside. His level of knowledge and instincts are much more mature than the average rookie and he'll be a significant factor as line coach Dwaine Board rotates his players to keep them fresh. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Nate


The season is so close I swear I can taste it!! I'm like a little kid at Christmas - I can't sleep, I can't eat.... OK, well, I CAN eat, but you get the point! Thank you, Mike, for feeding us little morsels during the off season and keeping that football monster in all of us satisfied!! I am perhaps more excited to watch this rookie class during the preseason than any other class since I first became a fan at 6 years old in 1984!!

So here are my questions; how do you honestly see this wide receiver situation working out? Which 3 of the 4 young guys do you see making the squad? I'm a big fan of Justin Forsett - if he just explodes in the preseason, do you think he'll be given a shot in the regular season at running back even though they brought in T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones? It seems like the ever-changing and all-important line took another hit with the retirement of Chris Gray (whom we will ALL sorely miss!!!!!), I know Chris Spencer is already the starter, but do you think he is ready to be the full time guy, and does he have the same locker room presence as Gray does? Thanks again, Mike!!


Well now, where to begin ... let's start the receivers. Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor have really stepped up their games over the past week. And the cracked rib of Logan Payne does set him back - despite the fact he's still working very hard, although not in live practice. It will be interesting to see how long he is out. To be sure Jordan Kent has improved the most dramatically of the group, but he also had the furthest to go. The fear is, of course, that whoever goes to the practice squad is vulnerable to be signed to another team's 53-man roster. There's still plenty of time to see if they separate more.

Forsett has been all the buzz the past 10 days, but it's hard to figure out how he can make the 53-man roster. Jones and Mo Morris are the halfbacks, and Duckett is a hybrid. And Leonard Weaver is the starting fullback, with David Kirtman and rookie Owen Schmitt battling it out at backup fullback. Holmgren said he almost always goes with 11 with a combination of backs and receivers, and this could be the toughest call yet. As for Spencer, this will be his third year as a starter, and yes he's ready to be the starter. He's a good locker room guy too. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Dan


Ok, I am excited that we have some running back that hit the hole hard. I am really hoping that Jones' ability to hit holes quickly will set the Hawks up with a lot of 2nd-and-6 and 3rd-and-2s. Also, I remember Weaver making some big runs during some of the preseason games last year. Do you think that the quicker fullbacks available this year will result in the Hawks using the fullbacks more in the running game?


You are right about the ability of Jones to hit the hole quickly and the impact it should have. It should be apparent fairly quickly that the running game will make more of an impact this season. Spencer needs to get back on his feet and get in the middle of the offensive line for it to truly progress, but Steve Vallos has grown dramatically with all the reps and attention he has received. But that position will be paramount for their success.

As for Weaver and certainly Duckett on occasion, there is a lot of speed with those power backs, and particularly Weaver is an exceptional receiver. This will be very interesting to see how they utilize their potential in the offense. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Ryan


My question is in regard to Deion Branch... I hear so much chatter about his kind of injury, its difficult to separate fact from fiction. I guess the best way to sum it up is; what can we expect from Branch when the team gives him the green light to get back on the field? Will he be able to jump right back in the starting line up and perform at the level he did before, thus moving Doug Baldwin back to the slot? Or will he be slower or less sharp when he returns? Basically, will he have a chance to be a quality receiver for us this season or will the nature of his injury not let him be 100% until sometime next season?


It's impossible to know how Branch's body will react once he's back on the field. The rule of thumb with ACL surgery tends to be nine months, which will take us to October since his surgery. And the overall recovery back to previous speed, if ever met, usually takes until the next year. However, Branch has worked at an extraordinary pace, showing great strides in regaining his speed, straight ahead - and even more surprisingly - laterally.

Holmgren keeps saying the hope is he'll be ready for the opening game, but that's really hard to fathom. When he does come back, though, the expectation is he'll return to the starting flanker spot, with Engram returning to the slot. It's just too early to know just when that will be. And yet, we're all waiting with baited breath. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Fido


I read that there is a German player on the roster, offensive lineman Samuel Gutekunst. Is there any chance that he will make the practice squad? Greetings from Germany..


Yes, he will make the practice squad considering the NFL has a provision with the players association regarding European players. Sixteen teams have players this season and another 16 will have one next season. Those clubs have the ability to keep an 81st player on the active roster during camp and ninth player on the practice squad once the regular season begins.

Gutekunst will make the practice squad under those circumstances. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Ben


The development of Kelly Jennings into a legitimate starter brings a smile to my face as I think back to the ESPN analysts crying foul when we drafted him in 2006. It seems that Richard Sherman and Jennings at the corners along with our "don't-get-beat-deep" safeties Brian Russell and Deon Grant, makes the reliability of the of our secondary the perfect compliment to our aggressive front seven.

However, injuries are a reality of the NFL. Do you think Josh Wilson has progressed with his cornerback duties enough to start at one of the outside positions if there are injuries and Jordan Babineaux is occupied at safety? Also, how do Kevin Hobbs and C.J. Wallace look incase they are asked to play a larger role in the starting rotation?


Indeed, Jennings has advanced, and perhaps much more than anyone realizes. He is a superb cover corner, coming off an excellent first year as a starter, plus the experience and confidence gained should help him move up another notch and result with an even higher level of play.

As for depth, Wilson and Hobbs are battling it out for the third corner, and Babs remains the most versatile of the group. Wallace is on a continued growth cycle, so it really is a very solid top eight in that secondary. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,


From: Dave


I am just wondering what your take is on the NFC and what the Super Bowl chances are for the Hawks. I know that Dallas has the biggest hyped team in football.....though not my fave, so given our corners and their receivers....will we be able to beat them? By the way.....please let Julius Jones know that the fans are behind him as well as the rest of the team and that a NFC Championship over the Cowboys would make my year. That's not to mention that a Super Bowl ring would look good with the blue jerseys. Have a great day! GO HAWKS....this is the year


All things being equal injury-wise, if the Hawks can get to that point by the regular season, their chances are very good to win the NFC West, but to move beyond that they must play better on the road this season and work on retaining homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

The bottom line is they are an above average road team and a great home team - 34-7 since the final game of 2002. So if they can get to 12 or more wins during the regular season, their chances of going to the NFC Championship game are enhanced enormously. And if they host the NFC Championship game, that enhances their chances of going to the Super Bowl exponentially. Thanks for writing.

Yours in sport,



Lawrence Jackson on the Seahawks Scrimmage

Lawrence Jackson was the 2008 first round draft choice of the Seahawks and four-year starter at defensive end for the University of Southern California. The 6-4, 271-pound defensive end will periodically blog for during his first NFL training camp. Sunday he talked about the Saturday scrimmage at Qwest Field and reflected on how he got started in football in elementary school.

The scrimmage went pretty well. I had some things technique-wise I really wanted to get done, and I think I did a good job of that. There's always room for improvement, but I think yesterday helped me make strides with my technique in a game-type atmosphere.

I started playing football in fourth grade. I'd been playing street football most of my life until that point, but I hadn't had any real contact. But I remember my parents took me to the snow in the mountains - I had never seen snow before. And about 15 feet away from me was a snowman. So I took off after hit, figuring I would fly right through it. But when I hit it, it kind of knocked me back. I hit it pretty hard and that's when I kind of fell in love with the contract of football.

After that I decided I wanted to play football. They put me in Pop Warner, but I only played a year because I was always overweight. I didn't have a weight problem, but I was just a lot bigger than the kids my age and smaller than the older kids. My first year I was one of the better players on the team and I realized how much I loved playing the game. The coach told me that I had a lot of natural ability, and I remember him telling me, 'Hey, if you ever need me to vouch for you to play in high school, I think you can play with anybody and any type of situation.'

That really gave me confidence as a football player at a very young age.

In Pop Warner for the year, I played center and nose guard. After that, it was just flag football until I got to high school. That's when I made the move to defensive end, and I also played tight end. My junior year, I had to play guard a little bit. My senior year I played defensive end, tight end and linebacker.

Defense always seemed more natural to me all along. I really wasn't a great pass-catching tight end. We ran a double-wing offense and the right side was the dominant side. The line would always have guys pulling, and that made my job a lot easier to deal with.

You've got to feel that way about defense. If you got two missiles coming at a high speed, you can't be the one that takes the blow. You've got to dish it out as much as you can. Even to this day, playing defensive end is what I've always felt I was made to do. You never know if you're going to make it to the NFL. But I always felt very natural in the way I can play the game.

I wake up in the morning and I can't wait to play football even though my body hurts. It's what I love to do. Even in high school, playing defensive end in football was always a natural thing for me to do and I'm lucky to be able to do this for a living.


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