Seahawks Mailbag: Starting Faster, Why No. 74 Is Eligible & More

Seattle's George Fant, an offensive lineman who often lines up as an eligible receiver for blocking purposes, heads downfield after catching the first pass of his career.
Seattle's George Fant, an offensive lineman who often lines up as an eligible receiver for blocking purposes, heads downfield after catching the first pass of his career.

The Seahawks head to Arizona in Week 4, looking to bounce back from a tough loss to the Saints. But before we turn our attention to that game, it’s time once again to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I couldn’t get to yours this time around. And remember, you can now submit questions any time you’d like at Seahawks.com/SeahawksMailbag.

@Xaikar asks, “Can we start pretending every quarter is the fourth quarter?”

A: There was plenty of frustration in this week’s questions about the way the Seahawks started the game against the Saints, and I get it, but it wasn’t like the Seahawks fell behind early because of some super conservative game plan. The Seahawks threw on the first play of the game, but had a penalty for a block in the back that all but derailed that drive before it started, then the Saints returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown. New Orleans’ next score came on defense when the Saints returned a Chris Carson fumble for a touchdown.

That being said, the Seahawks have traditionally been a better team late in games than early, but the way Carroll sees it, that definitely beats the alternative. And it’s not like the Seahawks don’t want to start games fast; it’s just that they know that not doing so doesn’t necessarily mean the game is lost.

“We’d like to start fast, but I’m not going to fret over when we don’t,” Carroll said. “We just need to get going and get playing. If you think about it, the very first play of the game we had a penalty. It was first and 20, and then we lost a couple. Then we completed another one and lost a couple more, and then we punted it and they ran it back for a touchdown. That’s our start to the game, that’s about as bad a start as you can have, other than just giving up a touchdown right off the bat. So we were overcoming from the beginning.”

@CoreyThomas asks, “Is Rashaad Penny going to get more carries going forward due to Chris Carson’s fumbling issues?”

A: This is an interesting one, and the best answer I can give at this point is, we’ll see. First, Penny has to get back from his hamstring injury, but when he does, will his workload increase at Carson’s expense?

For now, Carroll says the Seahawks are addressing Carson’s fumbles—he’s lost one in each game—in “every way possible,” but Carroll also stated pretty strongly that they still have faith in Carson. Does that mean the workload won’t change at all? Not necessarily. Could Penny get a bit more work when he’s healthy? Possibly, though the split in workload wasn’t all that unbalanced the last time both played, with Penny getting 10 carries to Carson’s 15 in Pittsburgh. But I don’t get the impression that Carson is suddenly going to find himself in Carroll’s doghouse while Penny gets all the carries.

“We do believe in him, we’re going to continue to show him that,” Carroll said Monday. “He’s a terrific football player and we want to make sure to maintain that level of play from him. We’ll work at it. We’ll work with him on it. There’s a lot of technical stuff that’s really important. Right down to the last instant of that play that he fumbled on, there’s another thing that he can do to ensure taking care of the ball a little bit longer. He thought he was secure and thought he’d taken care of it and then bam, all the sudden the ball comes out. That’s part of life. That’s real in the league and all that and he’s going to have to be really on it because guys are going to continue to come after him just like anybody would.”

Marti Tennant from Roy asks, “At previous games, we keep hearing ’74 is eligible, 74 is eligible.’ Everyone around me looked at each other and shrugged. What does that mean?”

A: There’s a couple things in play here, but mostly it is about avoiding potential illegal formation and/or illegal man down-field penalties. Plus it keeps alive the awesome possibility of an offensive tackle catching a pass.

By NFL rules, players wearing O-line numbers (50-79) are ineligible receivers, and therefore cannot catch a pass. That also means they can’t be downfield on a passing play without getting flagged for an ineligible man down field. By reporting eligible, however, George Fant, AKA, “No. 74 is eligible,” is free to run routes and even catch the occasional pass.

Fant being eligible, essentially making him a tight end, also changes some things the Seahawks can do formationally since there are rules about the number of eligible receivers on the line of scrimmage, teams having to have eligible receivers on both ends of the line of scrimmage, etc.

So long story short, it’s a way to get an extra offensive lineman on the field without creating illegal formation issues, while also keeping alive the outside shot of seeing a 300-plus pounder with the ball in his hands.

@HollNicky asks, “How is Phil Haynes’ recovery coming along?”

A: Because Haynes, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, is currently on the physically unable to perform list, Carroll hasn’t been asked about the rookie guard anytime recently, so I don’t have any specific updates for you.

That being said, Carroll did say on Aug. 21 that “it was a race to the opener if he can make it or not,” which would imply that he wasn’t super far from being ready for the start of the season. Based off of that, if there have not been any setbacks, it’s entirely possible that Haynes will be ready to come back when eligible to do so after six weeks of the regular season. As Carroll said in August, the Seahawks have “really high hopes for” Haynes, who had sports hernia surgery in the offseason, so while it’s unlikely a rookie would come off of PUP and step into a starting role, he could provide some valuable interior line depth for the second half of the season.

Nick Stumbo from Gresham, Oregon asks, “Has a team ever gone further into a season without a made field goal?”

A: This is an oddity I hadn’t even noticed until Nick pointed it out, but indeed the Seahawks have no made field goals, and just one attempt, through three games. It’s hard to fault Jason Myers, whose only miss was from 58 yards, and he’s a perfect 10 for 10 on extra points. So this isn’t an issue with the kicker, but rather an indication of how good the Seahawks have been in the red zone this year. In fact, the Seahawks currently lead the NFL in red zone scoring percentage, turning 88.9 percent (8 of 9) of their trips to the red zone into touchdowns.

Terry Demara from Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Florida asks, “What was the call against Al Woods on the third-quarter field goal attempt?”

A: We touched offensive illegal formation earlier, and what Woods was flagged for Sunday was a version of it on the other side of the ball. To protect long snappers, who begin the play in a pretty vulnerable position with their heads down, the league has long made it against the rules to hit them after the snap. To further protect them, another rule was added recently that says defensive linemen have to be lined up outside of the snapper’s shoulder pads. While not lined up directly in front of New Orleans’ long snapper, there was unfortunately some overlap in Wood’s alignment, leading to a penalty that prolonged an eventual touchdown drive.

“It was couple inches,” Carroll said. “It’s a new rule, the official stepped in there to really double check it and make sure he saw it. As I saw him step up, I was kind of hoping he would step up and pat him on the hip and let him know, ‘hey you’re in the…’ but he didn’t. That was a really, really costly penalty. A really costly penalty unfortunately. It’s just a matter of, ‘here’s your shoulder, if you’re here it’s a penalty, if you’re here it’s not.’ The rule’s fine, I don’t care too much about the rule so much. We were wrong.”

Ron Rhoades from Depoe Bay, Oregon asks, “Do you practice tackling at practice?”

A: Do I? Goodness no. I would probably badly injure myself doing that, plus I think it would be frowned upon if a member of the digital media department suddenly jumped into practice.

If you mean do the players? Then yes, they practice tackling quite often, even if they don’t tackle at full speed in practice so as to reduce the risk of injury. If this is a question related to Sunday’s loss, then yes, it’s fair to criticize the missed tackles—Carroll was quick to point out that it was an issue—but over the years, the Seahawks have been a very good tackling team under Carroll.

@JaredVonTobel asks, “Are any of the slipping issues attributed to the new turf the team installed during the offseason?”

A: The Seahawks did indeed replace the FieldTurf surface they and the Sounders use at CenturyLink Field, but I don’t think that was the issue. Any wet field is going to be somewhat slick, that’s just basic physics, but other than Chris Carson, who changed cleats after a couple slips, the slipping didn’t look any worse than any other wet game, at least not that I noticed. If anything, a new surface should be a little grippier than a matted down older surface.

And while some players were slipping at times Sunday, as Carroll noted, Saints running back Alvin Kamara didn’t have any issues with it, and Russell Wilson was making Saints pass-rushers miss pretty regularly without falling down.

Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' Week 3 game against the New Orleans Saints. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.

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