Through the Seattle Seahawks' 2010 training camp, we'll be following running back Justin Forsett(notes)(notes) as he tries to take that next step from offensive cog to feature back in his third NFL season. In this third installment (you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here), Forsett reflects on his performance in the preseason-opening win over the Tennessee Titans.
RENTON, Wash. -- In the first preseason game of his third NFL season, Seattle Seahawks running back Justin Forsett did what he could to make his name stick out in a very crowded field. Between Forsett, Julius Jones(notes), Leon Washington(notes), and Quinton Ganther(notes), it's fair to say that if one Seattle back gets over 200 carries this season, he'll have done it impressing the bejeezus out of his coaches, and quite possibly at the expense of someone else's injuries. Head coach Pete Carroll preaches competition at every position, but the team's backfield is ridiculously congested even by those standards.
But in a 20-18 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Forsett showed his ability to get around in all aspects of the Seahawks' new blocking scheme - that is to say, offensive line coach Alex Gibbs' blocking scheme. On two back-to-back plays in the second quarter, Forsett ran inside and outside zone with aplomb, gaining a total of 17 yards on those plays and setting the stage for Seattle's first touchdown. The first play happened on third-and-1 from the Seattle 27-yard line with 9:37 left in the first half.
The Seahawks lined up in a three-wide set against Tennessee's nickel defense (diagrammed play). Forsett's impressive ability to diagnose an outside lane and blow through it made the play, but two killer blocks set the stage. First, rookie left tackle Russell Okung(notes) took end Jacob Ford's(notes) rush momentum and used it against him, taking Ford out of the play and giving Forsett a quick gap to explode though. At the same time, receiver Mike Williams was blocking cornerback Jason McCourty(notes) downfield, which allowed Forsett to accelerate outside for extra yardage.
"Sometimes, zone schemes bounce out wide," Forsett said of the run. "The offensive line did a great job, and Mike Williams had a great down-block on the defensive back for me, and I was able to get some extra yards."
Williams, who ballooned up to 270 pounds and washed out of the league in 2007 after the Matt Millen Detroit Lions made him the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft, is basically down to his last shot in the NFL. He's been playing like it all preseason, which Forsett appreciates. "Oh, he's been great," Forsett said of Williams on Tuesday. "He's an excellent player as far as going out and giving 100 percent effort. He's doing one heck of a job as far as blocking and catching the ball, and as a runner, you can't help but respect that type of effort. He's grateful for his opportunities, and he's making the most out of them."
On the next play, Forsett slipped back inside for a four-yard gain behind the zone slides of Okung and left guard Steve Vallos(notes), and Okung's devastating cut block. This was as textbook an example of the Gibbs inside zone as you'll ever see, Forsett explained the differences between this year's zone blocking schemes and the ones implemented in 2009 by former Gibbs pupil Greg Knapp.
"It basically comes down to timing. [Gibbs] wants us to make sure that we're patient with our steps - taking direct steps instead of the drop-steps we took last year. Now, it's about getting up in front of that zone, so that we can see those cuts and those lanes open up for us. The drop step - it was too much of a delay. That's what Gibbs believed, so he switched it up, and we're [running with a] leading step now."
The inside run tied into the big picture, as Forsett also detailed. "It's the same for outside zone and inside zone. We were running an inside zone play, and it was a tighter run - we just have to wait for the flow of the offensive line to see where we're going to make that cut. I have to make sure that my pads are parallel to the line of scrimmage so that I can see from right tackle to left tackle and see each end of the spectrum."
Forsett also brought in a 30-yard catch later in the second quarter, turning a third-and-8 at the Seattle 25 into something far more productive. "Oh yeah - that was nice. Third down play, you've got to be able to be clutch in that moment, Third down is a big down for us, and I was thankful that I was able to make a play."
Forsett will be asked to make more plays this Saturday when the Green Bay Packers come to Seattle's Qwest Field, and this will be a tougher test. In 2009, the Titans ranked 26th in Football Outsiders' Defensive Rushing DVOA metric, while the Packers' 3-4 defense ranked fifth. Forsett hopes to see enough time in this game to make a difference again. "I don't know yet, but I'm looking forward to playing and making the most of my opportunities."
So far, so good.