The Seahawks play host to the Chicago Bears Saturday night in the second preseason game, but what was on everybody's mind as the weekend came was bidding adieu to the offices and practice facility in Kirkland.
After 22 years of existence in the shadow of Northwest University, the Seahawks entire operation will open shop in the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on the banks of Lake Washington in Renton Monday.
Memories abound for those who remember the move from Carillon Point in 1986, the renovation that took place in the 1990s in Kirkland, and the exponential growth of the organization that rendered the Kirkland facility obsolete.
"There are too many (memories)," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "Any time you move from a smaller place into a bigger place, and I did this once before in San Francisco. In a building like this one, you see each other every day. It really creates a family-type of feeling with your support staff, the secretaries, the players ... when you go to a much larger building, you have to work at that, and I think it's important. I think you have to work at it, because you can't just walk next door now, you might be on a different floor. It's not quite as easy.
"But I think that feeling [in] an organization, once you have that feeling, you can't lose that feeling. So I'm going to be talking a little bit about that to the team and to my staff and things like that in my last year, because I think it's important. Those are the things that I think about when we're moving into our new place."
Before the move and the first official practice on Monday, there is the not so small matter of the Bears at Qwest Field. Each game grows in importance for the guys on the bubble to make the team, and they must perform. It's at the point of camp where injuries aren't going to be excuses if they're trying to make the cut. The first cut down date is minor, only four must go from the 80-man roster by Aug. 26 - a week from Tuesday to put it into perspective. More pertinent, it's only a little more than two weeks to the Aug. 31.
It's not time to rest on the laurels of last week's 34-17 win at Minnesota.
"Well I expect the guys that played well to continue to improve," Holmgren said. "Our goal at training camp, whether you're talking about practice or certainly the games, is to get better every day. (If) you're not running in place, you're getting better. So if they played pretty well, I was happy for them in the first game, but they can't take a deep breath and think they've arrived. They've got to play better this week. And for the guys that struggled just a little bit, they have to know that they're running out of time. And we're going to have to make some decisions in the next couple weeks and they've got to show us (they belong here)."
It also provides some extra time to breathe for the starters such as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, trying to get some of the physical kinks out before the regular season, such as his stiff back. Expect Charlie Frye to see a lot of action at quarterback against the Bears, along with Seneca Wallace. This is one of the key times to see how far Frye has come, so it could possibly open up other position possibilities for Wallace.
"It certainly is not an open competition here," said Holmgren, stating the obvious for a reason. "Matt's number one, Seneca is two, and Charlie is three. But, our thing, where we're experimenting and looking, is to feel enough confidence in Charlie's ability to do the job that I can use Seneca in other things. So it's not really competition, but we're juggling things to maybe look at something else, and that's Seneca playing a little bit more at another position."
Regardless, it will be interesting.
On to the e-mail of the week:
Julius Jones has been one of the off-season's biggest question marks for the Hawks and I am anxious to see him start this Saturday. How well is he fitting into Mike Holmgren's system so far in camp? Do you think he can be a Brian Westbrook-type of player in this West Coast Offense-style system?"
He has looked terrific in camp. Not only does he hit the line of scrimmage hard and with quick cutting ability, but he explodes on contact. In addition to showing that, he has very soft hands and attacks blitzing linebackers when blocking.
So far he's been everything that he was billed coming out of Notre Dame and his first couple years in Dallas, now we'll get a chance to see him play with a chip on his shoulder to prove all the naysayers wrong. Sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders with an athlete. Let's reserve judgment about comparing him to Westbrook, but he certainly is talented and versatile. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
Ever since we got Julius Jones all I've been hearing is how great he is. But in the game against the Vikings it was Mo Morris and the seventh round pick Justin Forsett who were great. If you look at the replays and the stats, if you look at the replays and the stats Jones couldn't do anything. In my eyes the one who should get the starting spot is Morris. He's been here a long time and he's proven that he can run the ball consistently. The No. 2 spot should go to Forsett.
One preseason game isn't an indicator of what Jones is capable of doing. I've been watching him every day in practice and he's played extremely well. Morris had a great first quarter against the Vikings with the first team offense, Forsett ran hard in the second half against the Vikings second and third team defense. That's not to denigrate what either accomplished, and they have been very good throughout camp. But it's impossible to have a complete picture of Jones after watching one preseason game.
You'll get a better idea of how talented he is as the preseason and regular season get underway progress. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
I was REALLY impressed with David Hawthorne's performance in the 1st preseason game against Minnesota. Granted, Adrian Peterson was not in the game, but it looked like all the linebackers - starters D.D. Lewis and Lance Laury included - were ready to hurt people. Congrats to Howard Green on a great game as well! GO SEA-FENSE! Now then, my question has to do with Full Backs: Who is most likely to back-up Leonard Weaver at fullback? How has David Kirtman progressed, and can his skill match the size and power of rookie Owen Schmitt?
You were not alone in being impressed with Hawthorne. Everybody knows about this rookie middle linebacker from TCU now ... if they didn't before. He played this past season as a graduate student, and obviously the Seahawks were thrilled to reel him in after the draft. And you're right, the second group of Hawthorn, Lewis and Laury are into hitting every bit as much as the Pro Bowl-caliber trio of Bobby Wagner, Julian Peterson and Leroy Hill. They are going to be fun to watch all season.
Regarding the backup for Weav, that is quite the contest right now. Kirtman has come a long way as far as catching the ball, and he's puffed out physically about 15 pounds worth of muscle to enhance his blocking and special teams play. Schmitt has really good natural fullback skills - blocking and catching the ball - and he's a great hitter on special teams as well. There are so many contingencies with regard to numbers considering T.J. Duckett can play fullback, and Justin Forsett has made a huge push to be included. The question is how many backs can they keep when two receiver spots will be taken by Engram and Branch? Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
With Doug Baldwin and Deion Branch out to kick off the season, do you think that Seneca Wallace will be used at wide receiver Is Charlie Frye doing well enough that he could fill in at the backup and allow Seneca to make that move?
Frye has progressed a long way in the offense and Holmgren talked a lot about how they're working on his mechanics to enhance the velocity of his throws, so this is quite a task he has in front of him this preseason. We'll find out a lot about him in the second and fourth games of preseason. Those two games, plus practice, will go a long way toward telling the future of Frye with the Seahawks.
The coaching staff would love to have Wallace at their disposal to return kicks and play wide receiver, but he has looked outstanding at quarterback, and the concern of him getting hurt playing different positions is very real and risky in the big picture. Nonetheless, Frye is an experienced quarterback, is very bright and knows the system, so it should allow for a little flexibility. We'll know more over the next few weeks. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
My question is why don't the Seahawks let Matt Hasselbeck throw the ball more Hasselbeck is a outstanding quarterback who is very underrated and will be until he has a outstanding year. So why don't the Hawks like last year put the team on Hasselbeck's shoulders and let him lead us to the Super Bowl. If I remember right, that playoff game against the Redskins when Shaun Alexander got hurt, Hasselbeck is the one who stepped up and won that game for the Hawks and last season when the running game fell apart, Hasselbeck is the one Holmgren felt would win him the games.
Hasselbeck had the best statistical season of his career last season, and the Seahawks didn't go any further than they did in 2006, so it really put into perspective that the offense is most effective when there is balance. Hasselbeck will tell you that himself. If he's throwing all the time, it opens the door for the defense to just tee-off on the offensive line and that doesn't benefit anybody.
He is a super quarterback and everybody knows it. He steps up his game when necessary, and runs a great two-minute offense. But the intention this season is to step-up the running game so defenses will have a lot more to focus on when they play the Seahawks this season, including backs that catch the ball very well too. None of that is a knock on Hasselbeck, just ways to help him and keep him healthy. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
Now with Engram out for 6-8 weeks and Branch still on the mend. Who is being penciled in at the starting flanker spot? Does Courtney Taylor or Jordan Kent have what it takes to seize the opportunity? Or will we try to trade for a veteran like Joe Horn or look into
Right now, it seems Taylor is the leader in the clubhouse, but that is subject to change as Holmgren puts it because Kent, Obomanu, Payne and Bumpus have all made a case for themselves. And when you consider they're going to have to carry Branch and Engram on the 53-man because of their anticipated availability early in the regular season, they are limited with what they will do. Why add another aging receiver when the staff actually likes all of the young guys, particularly with a complicated system to learn such as Holmgren's?
The youngsters are all talented and improving, so to lose one or multiple young receivers to go after someone near the end of his career is a gamble that doesn't have a lot of upside to it. So my guess is they'll stand pat unless it's another young receiver they like and comes free. There aren't any guarantees at this point, though. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
The Seahawks are as deep as they have ever been at almost every position. With that, are they planning to keep two punters and two kickers on the roster to start the season and be forced to let some of those talented players go? Also, with young talent coming into its own on the offensive line, could this be the end of the road as a Hawk for Floyd Womack if he gets injured again? He is a versatile and has great "character", but rarely can be depended on because of health issues.
Yes, they are deep, and I wouldn't worry about keeping two punters and kickers. In a lot of ways with the 80-man roster, that's a stretch keeping four instead of two during camp. But they drafted Brandon Coutu to push Olindo Mare, and they're having a great battle. And when Ryan Plackemeier got hurt, they brought in Reggie Hodges, who has responded far better than anyone anticipated. So what we really have here is a great competition going at both spots. But two of the four won't be on the active roster.
As for the offensive line, Womack needs to be healthy to stick around. Steve Vallos has enhanced his value exponentially by learning center as well as being a guard with starting center Chris Spencer still on the mend. Meanwhile, Ray Willis also can play guard and tackle. Mansfield Wrotto is a guard, who has also learned center, and young tackle Kyle Williams has improved a lot. So the competition from young linemen is as strong as it has ever been. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
With Spencer missing all this time taking snaps during the pre-season - and his principle difficulty being lack of experience recognizing the defenses and making appropriate calls for the line - why can't a more experienced guy like Walter Jones make the calls? I know that's not the traditional way to run things but, if Chris is slow making calls and Vallos, as Matt commented, is likewise slow (even when the Viking defense was very basic according to their coach), why risk making mistakes on the line?
I know they looked pretty good in the first preseason game - Vallos really came up big, eh?!!! Wow! - and that both Chris and Steve will continue to grow into the position, but Walt has seen everything (probably Mike Wahle as well) and it just seems you risk less and protect Matt better - at least for now - by letting a more experienced guy make the call while the young guys learn. What do you think?
Actually, Vallos is getting better all the time, although Hasselbeck certainly kept it simple for him. Really, it has to be the center or the quarterback, although they all talk on the line - particularly to the guys next to them. But Walt couldn't make a call for Rob Sims at right guard or Sean Locklear at right tackle, just as Locklear couldn't make calls for Wahle or Jones. It's just too far down the line, particularly if somebody is blitzing from the outside - it can be 8-10 yards away from where a guy on the opposite side is lining up. He'd never seen him and could be distracted from noticing a change from his outside if he's looking at the other side of the line.
So that's why it's always the quarterback or center because they have the best vantage point. Hasselbeck is one of the brightest quarterbacks around, so he's eminently capable of helping ... but the center has to do it and his buddies have to be prepared to help point things out to each other. It also helps immensely that new offensive line coach Mike Solari and his assistant Mike DeBord are going over the top to explain every look these guys will get on a daily basis. They're coming along, it's just a bit of a hike from the exceptional and experienced line they had. It's the inevitability of change through age. Now is the time they gain experience. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,
I was impressed with our receivers in the first preseason game, but I thought Justin Forsett stole the show. I just hope management and coaches don't let the money spent on the other running backs cloud their judgment if Forsett keeps playing like this. Don't forget Leonard Weaver can play tailback on short yardage and Owen Schmitt can block for him. There are going to be some extremely tough cuts after the last preseason game, especially with (Washington Redskins coach) Jim Zorn ready to sign our castoffs.
The whole concept of cutting this team down at wide receiver and running back is getting tougher by the day. The play of Forsett at running back, the improvement Schmitt, and Bumpus showing strong at wide receiver compounds the deal. It's a tribute to the scouting department, and that results with a headache for the staff trying to get the numbers to match up.
Forsett is one tough kid, who brings the focus and attitude on every play. That's not to say the others don't, but it's also the case of an undersized player motivated to an entirely different level. The strength of a guy who is 5-foot-8 is extraordinary. The next few weeks will prove to be a fascinating exercise in personnel juggling. Thanks for writing.
Yours in sport,