NFC West: Charlie Whitehurst
ESPN.com Seattle Seahawks reporter Terry Blount makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: Green Bay Packers
All the pregame hype will center around the so-called Inaccurate Reception, the controversial Hail Mary catch by Golden Tate two years ago that won the game over the Packers at Seattle on a Monday night. Tate has moved on to Detroit, but the Seahawks now have too many weapons for the Packers to stop, no Hail Mary required. Prediction: Win
Week 2: at San Diego Chargers
The Chargers better hope they play a lot better than they did in the preseason game at Seattle, a 41-14 victory for the Seahawks on Aug. 15. San Diego will play better, but not good enough to beat a much better team. Prediction: Win
Week 3: Denver Broncos
The Broncos and their fans got a tiny bit of meaningless Super Bowl revenge in the preseason opener with a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks in Denver. Enjoy it while it lasts, boys. Repeating that outcome in Seattle is not an option. Prediction: Win
Week 5: at Washington Redskins
Traveling coast to coast to play on the road for a Monday night game is a tough task against any NFL opponent, and even tougher against quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the Seahawks catch a break in this one by coming off a bye week with plenty of time to prepare and be fresh for the journey. Prediction: Win
Week 6: Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave Seattle a little bulletin-board material last month when he said the Seahawks were to blame for the increase in penalty flags during the preseason. There won't be near enough flags against Seattle for the Cowboys to win this one. Prediction: Win
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams
Any division game in the NFC West is a rugged battle. The Rams have a defensive line that gave the Seahawks problems a year ago. But they aren't strong enough overall to beat Seattle, even at home in their out-of-date dome. Prediction: Win
Week 8: at Carolina Panthers
The Seahawks were fortunate to win the season opener at Charlotte a year ago. That Panthers team was better than this one, but back-to-back road games against very physical defensive teams will end the Seattle winning streak. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Oakland Raiders
Coming off their first loss of the season and returning home against an outmanned opponent, is there any doubt? Prediction: Win
Week 10: New York Giants
The Seahawks easily defeated the Giants 23-0 last year in New Jersey, a dress rehearsal for their Super Bowl victory at the same location -- MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks won't need a rehearsal to roll past the Giants in this one. Prediction: Win
Week 11: at Kansas City Chiefs
This likely will be a low-scoring game between two strong defensive teams. Odds are against any team that has to try to win by matching its defense against the Seahawks' D. Prediction: Win
Week 12: Arizona Cardinals
The last time the Cardinals played at CenturyLink Field was last December when they handed the Seahawks a 17-10 loss. That won't happen again unless the Seahawks get caught looking ahead to the 49ers game. The Seahawks don't look ahead. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at San Francisco 49ers
It's a Thanksgiving night, national TV game in the 49ers' shiny new stadium against the hated Seahawks. If San Francisco can't win this one, its time as a championship contender is over. Prediction: Loss
Week 14: at Philadelphia Eagles
This is the toughest part of the season for the Seahawks with back-to-back road games against likely playoff contenders. But the 10 days between games will help and be enough of a cushion to keep Seattle from losing two in a row. Prediction: Win
Week 15: San Francisco 49ers
This is a game that could decide which team wins the NFC West. No way the Seahawks lose to the 49ers twice in three weeks, especially not in front of a rabid full house of 12s. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals probably will be fighting for a playoff spot, and the Seahawks already will be in at 12-2. That difference will be just enough for Arizona to win at home in the same stadium where the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl a few weeks later. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
For the second consecutive year, the Rams close the regular season in Seattle. And for the second consecutive year, the Seahawks will beat them without much trouble. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 13-3
1. Return specialists. The Chargers didn't do much to help the Seahawks identify their next kickoff returner. Seattle returned only one kickoff all evening, with cornerback Jeremy Lane gaining 21 yards on that play. Not much to go on there. Cornerback Walter Thurmond nearly scored on a punt return that gained 46 yards. Receiver Perez Ashford had a 27-yard punt return. Corner Will Blackmon had a 19-yarder. Seattle was set in the return game with Leon Washington last season, but the team released him after acquiring Percy Harvin, who subsequently underwent hip surgery and is out indefinitely.
2. Backup QBs and a guy taking their handoffs. Brady Quinn and Tarvaris Jackson both outplayed Chargers backup and former Seahawks starter Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson was especially impressive, completing all but one of his nine attempts for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder to Stephen Williams. Jackson was accurate on that deep pass and on a separate 41-yarder to Williams. Quinn nearly took a safety early in the game before rebounding to find Jermaine Kearse for an 11-yard touchdown. Quinn completed 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. The No. 2 job behind Russell Wilson is Jackson's to lose, in my view. He only strengthened his position with this performance. In the backfield, rookie second-round choice Christine Michael carried 16 times for 89 yards, breaking free for a 24-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He looked good.
3. Rookie TE Willson. The Seahawks are looking for rookie fifth-round pick Luke Willson to develop into a solid second tight end to pair with starter Zach Miller. Willson could not come down with an early third-down pass from Wilson. He did catch another pass for a 15-yard gain and third-down conversion, this one from Quinn. Cooper Helfet made the most impressive reception by a Seattle tight end, diving to make a 23-yard reception.
The Seattle Seahawks could not have known before acquiring Percy Harvin from Minnesota that the dynamic receiver would require hip surgery before he played a snap for the team. They certainly knew Harvin carried medical risks in general, however. The fact that Harvin will have surgery Thursday exposes the Seahawks to criticism from those who considered Harvin prone to injuries.
Now, what? The trade to acquire Harvin becomes a short-term success if he returns in time to play a leading role in the playoffs this season. The trade becomes a long-term success if Harvin produces at a high level upon returning from this injury. But if Harvin continues on the course that led him to miss practices frequently and 11 of 67 total games (16.4 percent) with Minnesota, Seattle will fall far short of getting adequate return on investment.
Injuries happen. Good decisions sometimes turn out badly. Still, the Harvin acquisition was the highest-risk move Seattle has made since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in 2010. The risk stemmed from the massive contract Harvin received ($25.5 million guaranteed) and the draft picks Seattle sent to Minnesota after the team that knew Harvin best, the Vikings, decided he wasn't worth the investment.
Seattle hasn't been afraid to wheel and deal under Schneider and Carroll. We recount some of the trades here.
Five trades to like
2010: Seattle trades Darryl Tapp to the Philadelphia Eagles for Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick used for E.J. Wilson. Clemons fits the Seahawks' defense perfectly and quickly becomes a quality starter. Tapp remained a rotational player.
2010: Seattle trades a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 conditional choice to Buffalo for running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch becomes the team's most important player on offense, at least until Russell Wilson arrives in 2012.
2010: Seattle trades a 2010 fifth-round pick to the New York Jets for Leon Washington, and a 2010 seventh-rounder used for Dexter Davis. Washington scores four touchdowns on kickoff returns over three seasons with Seattle. Washington was an injury risk, but Seattle gave up relatively little to get him.
2010: Seattle trades receiver Deion Branch to New England for a 2011 fourth-round pick used to select linebacker K.J. Wright. This one makes the list only because Wright panned out as the fourth and final 4-3 strong-side linebacker drafted that year.
2011: Seattle trades cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati for defensive lineman Clinton McDonald. Jennings did not fit in a super-sized Seattle secondary. McDonald became a valuable rotation player for the Seahawks.
Two trades to spike
2010: Seattle trades a 2010 second-round choice and a 2011 third-rounder to San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and a lower 2010 second-round choice. The Seahawks needed to acquire quarterbacks, but Whitehurst never impressed before or after joining Seattle.
2010: Seattle trades guard Rob Sims to Detroit for Robert Henderson and a 2010 fifth-round pick. This one doesn't look so bad in retrospect because that fifth-round choice became Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately, Sims was a good, young starter at a position where Seattle needed good, young starters. Sims didn't necessarily fit the scheme Seattle's line coach at the time, Alex Gibbs, was running. But Gibbs wasn't long for the job and Seattle would wind up using future picks for guards, notably John Moffitt and James Carpenter, who converted from tackle.
Note: Trade info from prosportstransactions.com.
The chart below ranks these QBs by most starts since 2010 with at least 15 action plays and a Total QBR score in the 90s.
For additional context and to avoid implying any similarities between emerging star Colin Kaepernick and journeyman backup Brady Quinn, I've included an additional column showing cumulative QBR figures for all starts since 2010, regardless of how many action plays (all QB plays except kneel-downs, spikes and handoffs).
The information reflects negatively on St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who has just one 90-plus game out of 42 qualifying starts and a cumulative QBR score of 42.3, well below the 50-point mark indicating average play.
Some context is in order. QBR assumes an average supporting cast. Some quarterbacks on the list have played with exceptionally weak supporting casts. Bradford has arguably played with the weakest of the group, especially when factoring for the injury problems that wiped out Bradford and the Rams in 2011 in particular, when St. Louis led the NFL in adjusted games lost.
The Rams think Bradford's production will improve significantly in 2013 and especially beyond now that the team has acquired fresh, fast talent on offense. So, while we might reasonably have expected Bradford to have provided a few more exceptional performances to this point in his career, a case can be made that he has too often found himself in survival mode.
The Seattle Seahawks have acquired 13 of them, including current contributors Percy Harvin, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald.
Palmer, acquired by the Arizona Cardinals from the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, joins Vonnie Holliday, Kevin Kolb and Kerry Rhodes as veteran acquisitions for the Arizona Cardinals over the past three seasons.
The chart lists all 27 for NFC West teams. Shading identifies players still on the acquiring teams' rosters.
Seattle already has 10 choices in the 2013 draft. For trading purposes, the 2014 fifth-rounder Seattle is receiving would equate to a sixth-rounder this year. The 2015 conditional pick will presumably hinge on how well Flynn performs.
Oakland has only seven picks this year, none in the second or fifth rounds. The team wanted a quarterback without giving up picks in the 2013 draft.
Flynn becomes the third quarterback Seattle has traded since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived for the 2010 season. The team previously recouped seventh-round choices for Seneca Wallace and Tarvaris Jackson.
Seattle has also acquired one quarterback by trade over that span, adding Charlie Whitehurst from San Diego in 2010 for a 2011 third-round pick and an exchange of 2010 second-rounders. The Seahawks later got a compensatory seventh-round choice for Whitehurst after the quarterback re-signed with the Chargers in free agency.
By trading Flynn, the Seahawks gain $3.25 million in salary-cap space for 2013. They also clear $8.25 million in space for 2014. That was important because the team has already allocated most of its projected cap allotment for 2014 -- about $118 million -- for other players. The team could certainly gain 2014 cap room through a variety of means, so it's not like moving Flynn was critical. But there was no way under current circumstances the team was going to carry that $8.25 million cap figure for Flynn one year from now.
- Four starts: Stanton has started four games since Detroit made him a second-round choice (43rd overall) in 2007. There's not enough evidence to say much about his prospects. The chart below shows four-start totals for Colin Kaepernick, Kolb, Sam Bradford, Stanton, Russell Wilson, John Skelton, Charlie Whitehurst and Ryan Lindley. They are or recently were young NFC West quarterbacks of note. Wilson's hold on the starting job in Seattle appeared tenuous after four games last season. He finished the season in the Pro Bowl. Four games isn't enough to go on.
- Circumstances matter: Matt Millen drafted Stanton in Detroit. New Lions leadership drafted Matthew Stafford a year later. That new leadership wanted Shaun Hill as the backup. When injuries forced Stanton into action during the 2010 season, he was the quarterback of record for victories over Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Beating the Buccaneers gave the Lions their first road victory since 2007. To summarize, Stanton walked into a horrible situation in Detroit. That situation got worse for him through no fault of his own. He later signed with the New York Jets only days before the team acquired Tim Tebow. The Jets then traded Stanton to Indianapolis right before the Colts drafted Andrew Luck. It's been one misfortune after another for Stanton. Things could be looking up for him in Arizona.
- Hoyer in picture: Stanton got a three-year contract worth $8.2 million. The team previously placed a $2 million tender on quarterback Brian Hoyer, meaning any team signing Hoyer would have to send a second-round choice to Arizona if the Cardinals chose against matching.
This can be a nerve-racking time for teams and fans hoping to keep favorite players.
Using the franchise tag almost always keeps a player from leaving in free agency. Teams must balance those concerns with a player's actual value. This year, deciding against using the tag could allow good-not-great NFC West players such as Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker and Danny Amendola to reach the market and sign elsewhere.
It's tough losing key players, but for some perspective, let's revisit the list of 2012 NFC West unrestricted free agents to change teams during the UFA signing period last offseason:
- St. Louis Rams (6): receiver Brandon Lloyd, linebacker Chris Chamberlain, punter Donnie Jones, guard Jacob Bell, linebacker Bryan Kehl and defensive tackle Gary Gibson. Lloyd was a better fit in New England than he would have been with St. Louis. He caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns with the Patriots, starting more than 11 games in a season for the first time since 2006. The Rams did not miss any of the other UFAs signing elsewhere.
- San Francisco 49ers (6): receiver Josh Morgan, guard Adam Snyder, linebacker Blake Costanzo, safety Reggie Smith, safety Madieu Williams and guard Chilo Rachal. The 49ers could have used Costanzo in particular on special teams. Overall, though, they could live with losing these players.
- Seattle Seahawks (5): tight end John Carlson, safety Atari Bigby, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove and linebacker David Hawthorne. Keeping Carlson would have helped the offense. However, the Vikings overpaid for him, and Carlson suffered an injury that prevented Minnesota from getting an immediate return on its investment.
- Arizona Cardinals (3): cornerback Richard Marshall, safety Sean Considine, guard Deuce Lutui. The Cardinals ideally would have held onto Marshall, but they signed William Gay for much less and seemed to get by fine with him. Their defense improved. Gay was subsequently released.
Arizona caught a break, it appeared, when one of their candidates, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, became available earlier than expected following a divisional-round playoff defeat.
McCoy will reportedly have a second interview with the Cardinals after meeting with the San Diego Chargers.
The chart shows some of what Arizona has to offer relative to what the four other teams have to offer. Most or all of the other teams appear to have more attractive quarterback situations.
Ken Whisenhunt, Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith make appearances.
The mailbag closes with Clayton's thoughts on what Seattle could do with backup quarterback Matt Flynn after the season. Flynn earns $5.25 million in salary next season. That figure isn't high enough to force the team's hand or dissuade another team from acquiring Flynn as a potential starter. But its more than what backups typically earn, particularly given his $6.5 million average over the three-year life of the deal.
The situation might be different if starter Russell Wilson were earning what top starters typically earn. Wilson is scheduled to earn less than $600,000 in salary last season. The combined 2013 salary total for Wilson and Flynn is considerably less than the 2011 total Seattle carried for Charlie Whitehurst ($4 million) and Tarvaris Jackson ($4 million).
As a result, the Seahawks could maintain the status quo at the position if they wanted to do so. They could attempt to trade Flynn if they wanted value in return for a player no longer projecting as a starter. Seattle has already paid a $6 million bonus to Flynn. That bonus carries a $2 million cap charge in each year of the deal. Only the Seahawks would have to account for those charges if Flynn were traded. The acquiring team would be responsible for the $5.25 million and $6.25 million salaries in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
I'm not sure what the Seahawks would take in exchange for Flynn. Might a third- or fourth-rounder make such a deal worthwhile? I don't know the answer to that question. The scarcity of available quarterbacks and the Seahawks' ability to carry Flynn on their roster without financial hardship lets the team consider options on its terms.
That makes it tough to criticize the Bills too harshly for making a move that could cost them when the Seahawks face Buffalo in Week 15.
I thought I'd use the occasion to review NFC West player trade acquisitions since early 2010. The time period dates to John Schneider's arrival as the Seahawks' general manager. It also covers Trent Baalke's stint in the role for San Francisco and Les Snead's hiring as GM in St. Louis. Arizona fans might find the subject helpful, too, as they consider whether longtime GM Rod Graves, perceived as relatively inactive, has been aggressive enough in procuring talent.
Players acquired: 12
Overall impact: Significant
Best acquisitions: Lynch, Chris Clemons, Leon Washington.
Worst acquisition: Charlie Whitehurst
Also acquired: Clinton McDonald, Kellen Winslow, Kentwan Balmer, Kevin Vickerson, LenDale White, Robert Henderson, Stacy Andrews, Tyler Polumbus
Comment: Lynch has 3,043 yards rushing since making his Seahawks debut. Only Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice have more over that span. His 27 rushing touchdowns rank tied for fourth. Seattle got him for a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 fifth-rounder. Clemons, acquired from Philadelphia along with a fourth-round choice for Darryl Tapp, has 31 sacks since Seattle acquired him. That ranks eighth in the NFL. Washington, acquired for a 2010 fifth-round choice, has four kickoff returns for touchdowns since the Seahawks acquired him. That is tied with Jacoby Ford for most in the NFL. He averages 31.2 yards per kickoff return this season, a career-high figure that ranks third in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns. The Whitehurst deal was a rip-off, but a least the Seahawks didn't commit too much financially. It's a deal Seattle won't hear about much if current starting quarterback Russell Wilson continues on his current course.
Players acquired: 4
Overall impact: Moderate to high
Best acquisitions: Kerry Rhodes
Worst acquisition: Kevin Kolb
Also acquired: Vonnie Holliday, Charles Scott
Comment: Kolb cost too much for what Arizona has reaped in return. The team was desperate for quarterback help at the time, however, and the move was defensible under the circumstances. Rhodes has been a solid starter since Arizona acquired him from the New York Jets for a 2010 fourth-round choice and a 2011 seventh-rounder. His fumble-forcing sack against Michael Vick triggered a blowout. His pass defensed in the end zone helped preserve a victory at New England. His interception against Miami set up the winning field goal in overtime. Rhodes also had two picks and a forced fumble against the Jets. He and Green Bay's Charles Woodson are the only NFL players with at least eight picks and four sacks since 2010.
San Francisco 49ers
Players acquired: 1
Overall impact: Moderate
Best acquisitions: Ted Ginn Jr.
Worst acquisition: N/A
Also acquired: N/A
Comment: Ginn has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown since joining the 49ers. He has averaged 11.9 yards per punt return, second only to Patrick Peterson's 12.2-yard average since 2010 among NFC West players with at least 10 returns over that span. Ginn's kickoff return average with the 49ers (23.5) ranks below the NFC West average (24.6) since 2010. Ginn has not made a significant impact as a wide receiver.
St. Louis Rams
Players acquired: 6
Overall impact: Low
Best acquisitions: Mark Clayton, Brandon Lloyd
Worst acquisitions: N/A
Also acquired: Bobby Carpenter, Dennis Morris, Kevin Payne, Wayne Hunter
Comment: Hunter is the only veteran player acquired through trade by the Rams' current leadership. He has been better than Jason Smith, the player St. Louis traded away in the Hunter deal. Clayton was looking like a terrific last-minute acquisition in 2010, but injuries prevented him from making a sustained impact. Lloyd wound up being a short-term rental during a lost 2011 season. He did provide a needed upgrade. I didn't see any "worst" acquisitions for the Rams. These were small-stakes deals.
Their 19-13 victory over Seattle made them 1-0 in NFC West games under Jeff Fisher after the team went 4-26 against the division over the previous five seasons.
One victory is not a trend, of course, but the Rams' performance in reaching 2-2 following a 15-65 run begs for some explanation.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down some of the differences between Fisher's Rams and previous St. Louis teams. Miklasz: "This group limits the damage. It cuts its losses. It makes plays. It puts up resistance. The Rams are 7th in the NFL in stopping opponents on 3rd down, allowing a conversion rate of 31.1 percent. The Rams lead the NFL with eight interceptions. They’ve been dinged by only two TD passes, which is tied for first. The Rams TD/INT ratio of 0.25 is the best in the league. They’re limiting quarterbacks to a passer rating of 64.2; that’s No. 2 in the league. And that Rams defense that isn’t so rigid against the run? Yesterday Seattle ran the ball four times on third down and short (0-2 yards). The Rams held them to six yards on the four rushes, and twice prevented a first down."
Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News offers a report card for the 49ers' performance during a 34-0 victory over the New York Jets. On the pass defense: "Poor Mark Sanchez, he didn’t stand a chance against a revived pass rush that sacked him three times, forced him to commit two turnovers and limited him to 103 yards on 13-of-29 passing. Stars of the game: Aldon Smith (two sacks, forced fumble), Patrick Willis (interception off Ray McDonald tip), Ahmad Brooks (sack), Carlos Rogers (two fumble recoveries after receptions, plus TD return)."
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wasn't interested in promoting any frenzy over Colin Kaepernick's performance against the Jets. Ostler: "The coolest play of Kaepernick’s day was very subtle. Late in the second quarter, he handed the ball to Frank Gore. Then Kaepernick trotted toward the sideline, but stayed on the field and lined up as a wide receiver. The Jets saw him and called a timeout. What this showed: The 49ers’ secret weapon is cooler than the Jets’ secret weapon. The Jets have Tim Tebow, who makes foes nervous. Twice this year, Tebow’s presence caused the opposing team to burn a timeout. On Sunday, it was the Jets burning the timeout. Maybe Kaepernick’s appearance on the field early, just after Tebow made a cameo for the Jets, was Harbaugh’s way of giving the middle finger to the opposing coach. I’ll see your Tebow and raise you a Kaepernick."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says second-year guard James Carpenter exceeded expectations in his first game back from a knee injury. Coach Pete Carroll: "James played really well. He did a very, very good job. He had a couple errors in the game, which you just about have to anticipate. But we ran a lot to the left. He did a really good job of covering his guy up."
Also from Farnsworth: Seattle's defense, though generally stout, hasn't been as good on third down.
Art Thiel of Sports Press Northwest seeks meaning in Carroll's lengthy comments about Matt Flynn's health. Thiel: "Carroll has created a controversy when many Seahawks fans were willing to give the benefit of the doubt on Russell Wilson. His inexperience combined with protection failures and the absence of game-changing receivers has made a hash of the offense, failing to get more than one touchdown off an ordinary Rams’ defense in a half-empty road house. Unless Carroll activates Portis until Flynn heals, the Seahawks run a fairly high risk of disaster. Unless, of course, he wants to make another deal for the return of Charlie Whitehurst."
Cole Schultz of Pro Football Focus gives high marks to Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin for their work against the Rams. Schultz: "Okung was adequate in pass protection (he gave up just a pair of hurries), but in the run game he made life miserable for Robert Quinn and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Okung forced the duo out of the running lanes multiple times, as evidenced by Lynch’s eight yards per carry on runs to either side of Okung. Much of Okung’s good work was undone by his teammate on the other side. Breno Giacomini had a rough go of it in every facet of play."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the schedule can work in the Cardinals' favor once the team gets through its Thursday night game at St. Louis. Somers: "They will have played 10 games, including the preseason. They have four more before the off week (Nov. 11), then a seven-game run to finish the season. The Cardinals might have drawn up that schedule differently had they been in charge, but not that much differently."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sizes up the Cardinals' situation at corner, where Greg Toler's return to health is a factor. Urban: "Toler ended up playing across from Patrick Peterson at cornerback instead of William Gay, and in nickel, instead of Jamell Fleming (with Gay staying at nickel). Gay played 50 defensive snaps Sunday, Toler 44 and Fleming 12."
None of it was enough for Seattle during a 20-16 defeat to the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times gives rookie quarterback Russell Wilson an "incomplete" grade for his efforts. O'Neil: "Four yards were all that separated Seattle from the kind of comeback it never could manage last season. The proximity only made this loss more painful as the Seahawks ran seven plays from inside the Arizona 20-yard line in the final minute, including four from inside the 10. Wilson threw to four receivers but couldn't complete any one of them." Noted: Seattle quarterbacks have only one fourth-quarter comeback victory over the past three-plus seasons. That one belonged to Charlie Whitehurst against the New York Giants last season. Seneca Wallace had the previous one, way back in 2008. Matt Hasselbeck had 10 of them from the 2002 through 2007 seasons.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the manner in which Seattle lost seemed all too familiar. Brewer: "This was neither the ending nor the performance the Seahawks had hoped for to start the year. They had become a trendy playoff pick. Wilson, a 5-foot-11 rookie quarterback, made national headlines after winning the Seahawks' well-publicized competition. If you closed your eyes and absorbed all the optimism, it would probably make you levitate. Well, now you've been reintroduced to gravity. Splat."
Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle offers positives and negatives for Seattle from Week 1. Salk: "Wilson was under serious pressure throughout the game, especially in the first half. He did look tentative early (especially on the botched receiver screen to Sidney Rice that should have been ruled a fumble), but he also showed some of the poise and decision making that won him the job. His touchdown pass was a thing of beauty -– changing the play at the line to capitalize on something he had seen, staying calm in the pocket and then firing a strike to Rice. Wow. Furthermore, he threw three balls on the final drive that hit receivers' hands in the end zone. If one of those three had been caught, we are having a very different conversation."
John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks a designed rollout near the goal line could have put Wilson in position to win the game with his legs.
They did re-sign third quarterback Josh Portis to their practice squad. But with rookie third-round choice Russell Wilson starting and backup Matt Flynn scheduled to earn $19.5 million over the next three seasons, the team appears set atop its depth chart at the position.
Placing Portis on the practice squad, where he could sign with another team, appealed less when Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst were the top two quarterbacks last season. Portis was a bigger part of the team's plans for the position at that time.
The Seahawks are carrying one more running back and one more defensive back than they did for Week 1 last season. Seattle is one lighter at quarterback and on the offensive line. The team went into last season with 10 offensive linemen, one more than usual, while left tackle Russell Okung was returning from injury.
Seattle announced having added seven players to its practice squad: Portis, safety DeShawn Shead, receiver Ricardo Lockette, guard Rishaw Johnson, tight end Sean McGrath and two linebackers, Korey Toomer and Allen Bradford. All were with the team in camp. One spot on the practice squad remains open.
For download: Seahawks roster featuring 27 columns of info on the 53 active players, seven practice-squad players and every player on the team since roughly 2007.
This file also includes summary information comparing the Seahawks' roster to league averages in various categories. Note that defensive end Chris Clemons, 30, is the only Seattle starter in his 30s. Linebacker Leroy Hill will join Clemons on the list Sept. 14.
I do not have a jersey number for new tight end Evan Moore. You'll find his name atop the roster for now. Moore began his career with Green Bay in 2008. Seahawks general manager John Schneider was with the Packers then.
Jackson leaves Seattle with the respect of his soon-to-be-former teammates. He played through a torn pectoral muscle last season, never complaining about anything -- even as the Seahawks ran through receivers and shuffled their offensive line repeatedly.
Seattle's trade with Buffalo is not yet final. We should expect Jackson to rework his contract for the Bills. We should also expect the Seahawks to receive a late-round draft choice in return. A seventh-rounder that could upgrade based on playing time would represent fair value.
Jackson started 14 games and played in 15 for the Seahawks. He did what the team expected him to do upon signing from Minnesota in free agency: put his familiarity with the offensive system to use as a short-term bridge to whatever future awaited the Seahawks at quarterback. He was much better than Charlie Whitehurst, for sure.
Jackson struggled to make plays late in games (zero touchdowns, six interceptions and nine sacks in the final two minutes of halves). That was his failing in Seattle. But the Seahawks knew they were getting Jackson, not Joe Montana. And in fairness to Jackson, he wasn't exactly throwing to Jerry Rice or Steve Largent, either.
Jackson is ideally suited as a backup and would have fit as one in Seattle if the team hadn't been so aggressive about upgrading the position. That is one of the lessons of his departure after one season. Keeping Jackson would have been comfortable for the coaches. He knows the system. The Seahawks aren't into comfort. They're always looking for the next guy -- even the next backup.