By John Murphy, Yahoo! Sports
September 2, 2006
More on Seahawks: Free safety Hamlin returns to lineup
SEATTLE – Seattle Seahawks All-Pro running back Shaun Alexander's time on the playing field in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Raiders did not last long – he logged just five carries. However, that was enough time for him to reach the end zone, something he did 28 times a year ago.
"It's obvious what we like to do, but (I) also like to keep things simple in the preseason. … If a team likes to blitz they can have a big night against us in the preseason, so I always remind all of our guys not to get too high or too low based on the results of these games," explained Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren after a 30-7 victory that helped improve the team's preseason record to 2-2.
On the surface, the Seahawks have not changed their focus on offense – get the ball in the hands of Alexanderv and allow him to make the reads/cuts in order to supply them with one of the game's most productive ground attacks. Yet, circumstances could alter the production of the reigning league MVP and direction of the defending NFC champs' offense.
The offense has had its struggles in finding consistency and chemistry thus far as a number of projected starters and key contributors have missed time this preseason. All-Pro offensive tackle Walter Jones, center Robbie Tobeck, wide receiver Darrell Jackson and tight end Jerramy Stevens all missed the contest against the Raiders. Additionally, backup tight end Itula Mili has been out of action, and the team may have lost versatile backup running back/fullback Leonard Weaver for an extended period of time after he suffered a high left ankle sprain in the first half of Thursday's game.
"You are never sure how those high ankle sprains are going to respond to treatment, but they can be lingering injuries, so I don't really have a timetable right now on him (Weaver)", Holmgren said.
Yet, Holmgren's concerns likely extend beyond Weaver's health.
Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has definitely settled into the offense, but the Seahawks likely will need to look downfield a little bit more at some point. Most of their routes seem to be short-to-intermediate with a number of crossing patterns and out routes. That may very well be a product of speed … or lack thereof.
The fact that the Seahawks lack the outside speed to vertically challenge most defenses will allow opposing defensive coordinators the chance to play eight in the box early to stifle the run, especially if Jackson and Stevens remain out of the lineup. Another item that could become an issue is the fact that the corps of receivers who were active against the Raiders were not physical in going after the ball. The Raiders' first-string defense knocked away three passes in the first half.
The Seahawks hope that Jackson will return to the practice field as early as Monday, but have no guarantees he will be in the starting lineup for Week 1. "We would hope he could make a smooth transition back, but it is hard to imagine he could play a whole game next week after missing all of camp," Holmgren said.
Besides missing both Jones and Tobeck, although both stated they could have played if it was a regular season game, starting left guard Floyd Womack has also been banged up some in camp. That's definitely a troubling sign since he has been a bit injury-prone over his career.
The line's depth is clearly not what it was just a year ago, having lost All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson (Minnesota) in free agency and now looking to guys like Ashworth (tackle), Rob Sims (rookie guard) and Ray Willis (tackle) to contribute more than the backups have in recent years.
"(We) have some young guys up front that have gotten a long look in camp, but that is obviously different than live game action," Holmgren said. "[Chris] Spencer can play a number of roles for us and so can Ashworth. The health of the starting five is clearly one of the key areas in order for us to be successful."
Holmgren also noted that the short-term injuries to Stevens and Mili might have the Seahawks coaching staff and front office observing the waiver wire for additional depth at that spot before next week's season opener.
"Those injuries have hurt us, but you can only do some much with the roster. It's not like you can have 4-5 tight ends on a roster, and we know both of those guys are going to make the final cut … but yes, tight end is one area we might want or need to look at," Holmgren said.
The Seahawks have tried to compensate by increasing the reps of wide receivers Nate Burleson and D.J. Hackett. And one might figure the injury woes could open the door to more playing time for wide receiver/return specialist Peter Warrick. Instead, the former Bengals first-rounder had his role diminished and was released on Saturday.
Despite all the woes, there have actually been a couple signs of encouragement.
Holmgren was quick to point out that the team liked what it has seen out of free agent Will Heller. Heller likely would have made the team as the No. 3 tight end, replacing departed free agent Ryan Hannum (Dallas), but now stands to potentially earn a starting role against the Lions next Sunday. He is a capable blocker, but lacks the receiving skills and downfield speed of either Stevens or Mili.
Another good sign was how well third-string running back Marquis Weeks played – at all levels of the game. He had several big runs, including a tough 24-yard effort, while showing good hands as a receiver out of the backfield, and also being credited with picking up the blitz on a few occasions. Weeks has also been tried on kickoff returns, so Thursday's effort with Weaver's injury may have earned him a roster spot over last year's kickoff return specialist Josh Scobey, who had his left calf heavily wrapped after the game.
John Murphy is Yahoo! Sports' NFL personnel and college prospect evaluator. Murphy's seventh annual NFL Draft Bible package for the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft coverage is now available. Learn more at www.nfldraftbible.blogspot.com.
Updated on Saturday, Sep 2, 2006 5:49 pm, EDT
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