The Seahawks signed a veteran starter who is a former first-team All-Pro, but as of now at least, Damon "Snacks" Harrison is on the practice squad. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll explained what the plan is for the big defensive tackle, which leads the things we learned from Carroll's Wednesday press conference. Additionally, you can find today's injury updates from Carroll here.
1. The plan for Snacks.
And no, we're not talking about what you're going to eat between lunch and dinner, but rather how the Seahawks will bring Harrison along. Despite his impressive pedigree, Harrison is starting on the practice squad because A. new rules allow him to, and B. before Wednesday he hadn't taken part in a football practice since the end of last season.
"Damon's been a real force in the league, and he's got a real special style—he's so big and so strong and stout in the middle," Carroll said. "This opportunity to get him now and to get him on the practice squad is to give him a chance to work and get ready and learn what we're doing and see where he can fit in as soon as possible.
"You've noticed we've been able to use players off our practice squad that have been playing our games and they've been part of it. It's an expanded roster in this new format, and we're trying to take full advantage of that, make the most of it. He's a player that's got big character in the locker room—his attitude and personality that you add to the team is really special. Whenever we can do that, we're trying to get better, so hopefully he'll be able to add in. Right now we just want to get to work and get him going with us."
And while an eventual promotion to the 53-man roster is all but inevitable, Carroll isn't sure yet if that will happen ahead of Sunday's game against Minnesota.
"Let me see him on a practice field first, I've got to see what he looks like running around," Carroll said. "Learning the defense, he'll be he'll be fine there. He's really smart football player, that's not going to be a problem. It's just how fit he is and all that. He's a big man, so we got to see what he looks like."
2. Carroll is a fan of the new practice squad rules.
Harrison being able to join the practice squad even as an experienced veteran is just one of many examples of how practice squads are different this year. Instead of 10 players, teams can have 16 this year, including up to six veterans with any amount of experience. Another big change is that two players can be elevated to the roster for a weekend without the team having to release anyone, creating a temporary 55-player roster with 48 active on gameday, with those players reverting to the practice squad the day after the game. The Seahawks and most teams around the league have been taking advantage of that, and those players being elevated have made contributions, most notably Ryan Neal and Shaquem Griffin, who both played big roles late in a Week 3 win over Dallas, and later earned promotions to the 53-man roster.
While those changes were made because of all the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, Carroll would love to see them stick around.
"I think this is great," Carroll said. "It's great for a lot of reasons. When you're practicing—if you can imagine being on a football team and you're on a practice squad you know you can't play, as opposed to now you're practicing and you've got a chance that you could be playing in this game, and all 16 guys have a shot. It's just better. It's just a better way. I don't know what will happen in the future, but the flexibility, the opportunity to use those variables to coach, it's a cool part of it. It does call for John (Schneider) and I and the personnel people and the football staff to really work together on this, but I think it's a great. It's a great new way, I hope we can find a way to keep something similar to this. Plus you get 16 guys instead of 10 guys, you've got more guys playing football that love the game… That's a lot of players who get to play the game that wouldn't get to play otherwise."
3. There's some familiarity with new defensive end Jonathan Bullard.
While Harrison was the biggest name added Sunday, he isn't the only newcomer to the defensive line; Seattle also signed defensive end Jonathan Bullard off of Arizona's practice squad. The Seahawks add Bullard feeling like they know him pretty well, not just because they've played against him—he had a sack of Russell Wilson and three tackles against Seattle last year—but also because he played for Seahawks defensive line coach Clint Hurtt when he was an assistant in Chicago.
"We have some background with him," Carroll said. "Clint coached him a while back and so we have some inside scoop on him. We're excited to see how he fits into the rotation."
4. What makes a for a good defense?
To Carroll, there are three basic elements to playing good defense, and the good news is that through four games, the Seahawks have been pretty good at two of them, getting turnovers and stopping the run. The bad news? Through the first three games at least, Seattle was one of the worst teams in the league at the thing he calls the biggest priority, stopping big plays.
But the Seahawks did see a big difference in the number of explosive plays they gave up last week, and if they can continue to improve there, the fact that they're giving up 3.4 yards per carry and have forced eight turnovers through four games means the Seahawks still have the ability to be a good defensive team despite giving up a lot of points and yards early in the season.
"It really starts with—and this is this is going to hit right to home here—but it starts with not letting people have easy plays, easy long plays, that's where it begins," Carroll said. "If you're giving up long plays, you're not playing well. So you noticed the emphasis just from two weeks ago last week how important it is for us to just get that out of our football. I'm not accustomed to that, and I let these guys know it that we needed to fix that now. So that's where it starts—if you give it up long plays, you're no good. Fortunately we survived kind of the growing pains of getting the season started with having a really productive offense, and guys come through too, players came through at the end games and did the things we need to do to win.
"So it starts there, then the next thing is if they can run the ball at you, then you're no good, because it's too easy for them to be on offense if they can run it. So as basic as that sounds, long plays, running game, and then getting after the football. If you can get after the football and take it away from your opponent, that makes all the difference in the world, and of all of the things, other than just giving up easy plays, if you can get the football, you can change the fortune of your games and seasons and stuff like. Fortunately our guys are hawking and football pretty good right now, and we're just getting started. We have not been knocking the ball out as much as we want, fumbles and stuff, but we're on it and if we can get that going and get our numbers going—we've always anticipate being on the top of the league and turnover ratio, it's just a goal of ours—and when you're doing that you usually can win."