Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Hello Hawk Fans! If you read my last week’s preview of the Seattle Seahawk’s game against the Indianapolis Colts you know that I thought the Hawks would win. If you were paying attention, however, you also know that I said the smart money was on the Colts by three points or so. Had you taken the Colts and the points you would have been a winner. I said I thought the Seahawks would win because I believe in them and am emotionally invested. That does not mean that I abandon my head when it comes to games like last week’s against the Colts. My head says that it is tough to win away from home in the NFL and that the Colt game was a second consecutive road game with a 10 AM start. Add to that facing a quarterback like Andrew Luck, receivers like Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton and a solid Colt defense and you have the recipe for a loss, albeit by a slim margin; hence the three point prediction…which turned out to be six in fact.
Regardless of the loss, there were some good things that came out of last week for the Seahawks. First, for once they started fast at a 10 AM start venue. That bodes well for upcoming east coast games this season against the Falcons and Giants. Second, they rushed as a team for over 200 yards with both Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson going for more than 100 each. Usually the Hawks win a game where they run the ball so successfully, but their inability to convert third downs in the second half did them in. They need to find out how to quit trading in 7s for 3s and no better way for that than converting on third downs.
Presumably at practice this week the Hawks have addressed those third down miscues and are now ready for this Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. University of Washington Husky fans have had this date circled for months as the homecoming of former Husky quarterback Jake Locker who now calls signals for the Titans. Locker displayed his marvelous athletic and quarterbacking gifts across a four year Husky career from 2007 to 2010 during which he endeared himself to Husky fans with his tough play and for deciding to return for his senior season when he surely would have been a high NFL first round draft choice had he elected to turn pro. Through his UW career Locker led the Huskies out of the “slough of despond” (a 0-12 season in 2008) to a return to bowl game success at the 2010 Holiday Bowl against Nebraska. For this Husky fans love him unequivocally and overlook what was his obvious quarterbacking weak point at the time, a tendency to be scatter armed.
Despite this weakness and sensing his untapped potential, after his senior season the Titans took Locker with the 8th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. He spent his first season as the understudy to another Hawk favorite, our 2005 Super Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who had left the Hawks for Tennessee following the 2010 season. Locker learned well from Hasselbeck and by 2012 was the Titan starter. Through the first three games of this season Locker took the Titans to a 2-1 record and looked to be starting to live up to his full potential at last; hitting his receivers at a 62% clip, while throwing six TDs with no interceptions. The only Titan loss was to the Houston Texans in overtime, a team the Hawks barely beat. In week four against the Jets, another Titan victory, Locker was tackled at an odd angle and injured his hip and knee. As a result he missed last week’s Titan loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and will miss this week’s game against Seattle. With Locker’s history here you can count on Hawk fans to give him a warm reception when he is introduced at Century Link Field.
As sad as we are for Locker’s injury, his absence is a bonus for the Seahawks. Replacing him as the Titan’s QB is the veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, a graduate of Harvard, played the last four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and was at quarterback when the Hawks destroyed them 50-17 last December in Buffalo. He can be a shifty scrambler at times and, though accurate most of the time, also has a tendency to be intercepted. He threw two picks last week against the Chiefs and between the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Bills he threw a total of 39; a rate of nearly twenty interceptions a season.
The top Titan rusher is Chris Johnson who is one of the league’s premier running backs. In 2009 he rushed for over 2,000 yards, one of six NFL rushers in history to accomplish that feat, and last season he ran for just over 1,200 yards. This season Johnson seems to have gotten off to a slow start, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry which is a drastic fall from his career average of 4.6. He is now in his sixth NFL season and it could be that all the hits are starting to catch up to him. We will see as the season moves along. In Kendall Wright (26 receptions and 1 TD) and Nate Washington (22 receptions and 2 TDs) the Titans have two gifted receivers who will attract a lot of attention from the Hawk Legion of Boom. As a team the Titan offense ranks 15th in the league in points scored, 26th in total yards gained, 26th in passing yards (just behind the Seahawks) and 13th in rushing yards.
Meanwhile, it speaks well for the Hawks that they are 4-1 at this juncture of the season despite all the injuries they have had. The decimation of the offensive line will start to alleviate this week with the return of Pro Bowl center Max Unger. Though still not certain to play, tight end Zach Miller is improving and as of this writing any action from him is a game time decision. Currently the Hawks are the number two rushing team in the NFL and in the Titans are going up against the number 14 rushing defense; an advantage for the Hawks. Look for Marshawn Lynch to have a solid day on the ground.
The Seahawk air game has yet to get going much this season, largely because of the opposing pass rush through the leaky, patchwork offensive line. With the Titans being 9th in passing yardage allowed they can be tough to throw against, but with the offensive line starting to stabilize a bit Russell Wilson may get more time to pass the ball downfield. When he does he will need to be alert for the Titans’ cornerback Alterraunn Verner and safety Bernard Pollard; these two guys being the Tennessee version of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Verner leads the league in interceptions with four and Pollard, with two picks of his own, is a ferocious tackler who was fined by the league $42,000 for a hit he laid on Andre Johnson of the Texans. After hearing of the fine Pollard was none too pleased stating that the league is making it harder and harder to play defense:
“Flag football, that’s what they want,” he said. “For us as players, it stinks!”
I’m sure that Kam Chancellor would agree. During the 2011 season he was nailed with $40K in fines of his own, at the time nearly a tenth of his salary, for hits leveled on two different receivers. (His famous hit on Vernon Davis last year, that knocked the 49er tight end from the game with a concussion, did not result in a fine on Chancellor. He was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness on the play but when the league office reviewed it they found that the hit was not illegal.)
The odds makers have listed the Hawks as 13 point favorites for this game and I think with the venue being 12th man haven Century Link Field and with Jake Locker sidelined, that is about right. Look for the Hawks to improve on converting third downs in this game and to have a good day running the ball while taking advantage of at least two Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions. If they do these things they should be sitting at 5-1 come late Sunday afternoon.
And this time it’s not just my heart doing the talking, but my head as well.
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved