NFL Nation: Russell Okung

A Seattle blueprint worth following

February, 10, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In the week-plus following the Seattle Seahawks' victory in the Super Bowl, there has been much discussion about a paradigm shift. The idea is that building a dominant defense to pair with a power running game and doing it mostly through the draft is the way to go rather than continuing to add weapons to build a dynamic aerial attack in the so-called "passing league."

Probably too much has been made of that considering that following Seattle's blueprint to perfection is a lot easier said than done. Draft and develop is the right idea but it's far more difficult in execution than elocution.

[+] EnlargeEarl Thomas
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsThe Rams have a chance to draft someone like safety Earl Thomas with their two first-round picks this year.
In many ways, the Rams have followed a similar path to Seattle in their rebuilding, investing heavily in the defensive line and the defense as a whole. The NFC West division is built on a foundation of defense and the Rams have put resources into keeping up with Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco in that regard.

That isn't to say the Rams are trying to duplicate exactly what Seattle has done. Not that it's the wrong path to follow but with two picks in the top half of the 2014 NFL draft, there's one blueprint absolutely worth following for the Rams: doing everything possible to come up with a facsimile of Seattle's 2010 first-round haul.

For all the talk of what a find quarterback Russell Wilson was or what a steal the trade for Marshawn Lynch became, Seattle's path to the championship was largely set in motion by a pair of home run selections in the first round of the 2010 draft.

That year, the Seahawks had pick Nos. 6 and 14 and had needs at offensive tackle and free safety, among other spots. They had the additional pick from a trade the season before in which they fleeced Denver out of a future first-round pick in exchange for a second-round choice which became cornerback Alphonso Smith.

Seattle had a pair of fastballs right down the middle and hit them both of the park, selecting tackle Russell Okung at No. 6 and safety Earl Thomas at No. 14.

Okung has battled injuries but when healthy is one of the elite tackles in the game. He went to the Pro Bowl in 2012.

Thomas is the heart and soul of the "Legion of Boom" and has established himself as one of the game's elite players regardless of position. He has earned three Pro Bowl trips and been named first-team All Pro three consecutive years.

Coincidentally, of the Rams' needs heading into this year's draft, a big, physical offensive tackle and a rangy free safety rank pretty high in the pecking order. Although the sample size is too small to make sweeping declarations, the Rams did well with two first-round picks last year when they grabbed receiver Tavon Austin and linebacker Alec Ogletree.

General manager Les Snead is well aware of just how much having two first-round picks can alter a team's future.

"I even have a little chart hanging on my grease board that basically has every team that had 2 picks in the first round in the history of the draft and who they drafted," Snead said. "So basically what you're telling me is we've got to pick Hall of Fame players. We'd better prepare as thoroughly as possible."

Seattle landing Okung and Thomas is just one example of a franchise-altering first round. Perhaps the most famous two-pack of picks in league history is the 1996 NFL draft when Baltimore used the fourth pick on tackle Jonathan Ogden and the 26th selection on linebacker Ray Lewis. Ogden is already in the Hall of Fame and Lewis will join him soon after he becomes eligible.

Of course, Rams fans with a good memory might still have nightmares about that same draft. Armed with picks 6 and 18, the Rams took running back Lawrence Phillips and receiver Eddie Kennison. Those two whiffs certainly did nothing to help the Rams get back to respectability, especially considering they could have potentially had Eddie George and Marvin Harrison instead.

At first glance, this year's tackle class appears to have some elite talent with players like Auburn's Greg Robinson and Texas A&M's Jake Matthews. It remains to be seen whether any of the top safeties would merit a pick in the range of the Rams' 13th pick or if the Rams would even select one in the first round. Other positions will obviously be under consideration as well.

Expecting to land a pair of Hall of Famers like Ogden and Lewis is probably asking too much. But there's no doubt the Rams could do a lot worse than adding a duo like Okung and Thomas to fill positions of need.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- He is the X factor, the unknown addition who everyone knows.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin will play in Super Bowl XLVIII. If this was your company softball team playing for the league title, you’d be adding a ringer moments before the first pitch.

It is one of the most unusual situations ever, adding a Pro Bowl-caliber player who only played in six quarters all season, for the biggest event in sports.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/John FroschauerSeattle is excited to have Percy Harvin healthy and in the lineup for the Super Bowl.
In the view of some fans, Harvin was supposed to be the final piece to get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. They accomplished that without him, but can he help them win it now that he’s back?

“It’s not about me,” Harvin said. “I’m just adding another playmaker. We already have three or four good receivers out there. I’m just adding to the mix.”

The mix now has a player who might be the fastest man in the NFL. Speed is a dangerous thing when you add in all the other skills Harvin possesses -- a precise route-runner, elusive ball carrier and explosive kick returner.

“His acceleration is unbelievable,” Seattle tight end Zach Miller said. “He’s a playmaker. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he is so explosive and so fast. He’s definitely a threat to score every time he touches the ball.”

Harvin has started almost every interview this week with this statement: “I’m just glad to be here.”

Obviously, but considering what he has endured this season, it’s a little like leaving a prison cell for a penthouse suite on Park Avenue.

He signed a six-year, $67 million deal with the Seahawks last March and was widely viewed as the offensive weapon that would propel the Seahawks to the next level. But Harvin had major hip surgery on Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum.

He returned Nov. 17 for the game against his former Minnesota Vikings teammates, showing his talent with a 58-yard kickoff return and a spectacular one-handed catch on a third-down play that kept a scoring drive alive.

Maybe it was too much too soon. Harvin aggravated his hip injury, which became inflamed afterward. He missed the rest of the regular season. Seattle coach Pete Carroll was about to put Harvin on injured reserve before the playoffs started, but Harvin convinced Carroll he could play.

Harvin caught three passes in the New Orleans playoff game, but suffered a concussion at the end of the first half. He didn't make it through the mandatory concussion protocol in time to play in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco.

“It’s been weird, frustrating, disappointing, all the above, man,” Harvin said. “I had a tough time, and it wore on me a little bit. But my teammates have been A-plus-plus. This whole organization has been top of the line.”

Harvin said one teammate helped him more than any other.

“A couple times I was really down," Harvin said. “But [cornerback] Richard Sherman, I don’t know how he even read me, but he came up and said, ‘Man, I kind of see you’re really down. You’ll get through this. We have your back.’ I’m so grateful for that.”

Now Harvin is back for the biggest game of his life. And he’s smiling, something he hasn't done much of this season. He was grinning from ear-to-ear at every media session. Something has changed beyond the obvious. Harvin is healthy, finally, and he knows he has a chance to show what he can do on the NFL's biggest stage.

“You can really see it in his eyes,” Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung said. “You know that anytime Percy gets the ball, he’s looking to run by a guy and score. Anytime you have a guy like that, he’s hard to beat. He has a zeal for the game. I can’t wait to have him out there. It’s almost something magical.”
Age: 43

Position: Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator

[+] EnlargeDarrell Bevell
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsDarrell Bevell has been an assistant in smaller markets during his entire NFL coaching career.
Recent background: Bevell has served as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons. His offense ranked 23rd in points per game in 2011 (28th in yards). But in the past two years they’re ninth and eighth, respectively, in points per game (and 17th both years in total yards).

Past stops: Bevell started his NFL coaching career as a Green Bay offensive assistant in 2000. Three years later he became their quarterbacks coach and three years after that Bevell was named Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. Quarterback Brett Favre posted a career-best 107.2 passer rating under Bevell in 2009, when the offense finished No. 2 in points per game (In his five years with Minnesota, they were 26th, 15th, 12th, second and 29th in points per game). Bevell was not retained when interim coach Leslie Frazier became the head coach for the 2011 season. He started four seasons at quarterback for the University of Wisconsin.

What I’ve heard about him: Seattle coach Pete Carroll expects Bevell to be a head coach in 2014. While the Seahawks’ offense has been inconsistent, what’s impressed many is that they’ve still been productive despite playing most of the season minus receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and half the season without tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Bevell is considered matter-of-fact and not flashy, but open and honest. One ex-NFL general manager said he likes Bevell and thinks he’s a good coach, but said his personality is not that of a head coach.

Potential fit: Bevell has done excellent work in Seattle. They’re still playing with a young quarterback who was a third-round pick and they haven’t played much with their true starting lineup. Yes, Russell Wilson would have gone in the (late) first round had he been a couple inches taller. Still, he’s a young quarterback and Bevell and the Seahawks have done a good job winning with him (yes, with a great defense). It was Bevell who wanted Wilson to start right away over Matt Flynn, so he has some conviction and doesn’t appear afraid to make what was considered a gutsy move after they traded for Flynn. It's not like every team was raving about Wilson before the draft, either. I like that Bevell is younger. But I’d very much worry about his low-key personality in this organization. That’s not the sort owner Dan Snyder wants or needs; I think it would make it harder for Bevell to thrive in Washington. Also, several coaches from the past have talked about working in a big market; Bevell has been in Green Bay, Minnesota and Seattle. I'd worry about him being overwhelmed by the demands of the job in Washington, from maneuvering inside the organization -- knowing how to handle the owner is only part of it -- to dealing with outside pressures.

Suggested reading: A little bit on his offensive philosophy. Really, the first graph is the one that’s applicable. … A little bit more on his philosophy regarding audibles, from his Minnesota days. … A year ago, Bevell said, “We’re a running team.”… Too much verbiage? ... Vikings' loss was Seahawks' gain. ... An interesting look on his time in Minnesota.
RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin will not practice this week, coach Pete Carroll said Monday afternoon. That virtually rules out any chance of Harvin playing in the season finale against St. Louis Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

Harvin
Carroll also said Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung will be a game-time decision this weekend. Carroll is hopeful Okung will play.

Okung left Sunday's loss against Arizona in the fourth quarter because of soreness in his big toe, the same toe that caused Okung to miss eight games this season because of ligament damage. Rookie Alvin Bailey replaced Okung for a few plays before Okung returned to the game.

Right guard J.R. Sweezy is expected to return after missing the Arizona game because of a concussion.

Sweezy misses practice with concussion

December, 19, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Starting right guard J.R. Sweezy and cornerback Jeremy Lane were surprises on the injury report Thursday as two players who did not practice.

Lane is listed as having an ankle injury, but Sweezy is the bigger concern because of a concussion. It's not known when the concussion occurred since Sweezy was not on the injury list Wednesday and participated fully in practice.

Any player who doesn't practice Thursday because of a concussion causes doubts about whether he will play that weekend. If Sweezy can't play Sunday, it's likely Paul McQuistan would start at right guard.

McQuistan has been splitting time at left guard with James Carpenter, who started the last two games. McQuistan started the first 12 games this season, including four at left guard and eight at left tackle when Russell Okung was injured. Sweezy has started all 14 games at right guard.

Receiver Percy Harvin was the only other player who did not practice Thursday. Tight end Zach Miller (bruised ribs) and running back Robert Turbin (groin) were limited at practice.

Power Rankings: No. 2 Seattle Seahawks

November, 19, 2013
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A weekly examination of the Seahawks' ESPN.com Power Ranking:

Preseason: 1 | Last Week: 3 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002

Back-to-back convincing victories have enabled the Seahawks to move up each of the last two weeks in the Power Rankings, from fourth to third last week and third to second this week behind Denver.

Seattle is 10-1 heading to its bye week after winning the last two games by a combined score of 74-31, including the 41-20 victory over Minnesota on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

The Seahawks are in the unusual situation of heading into the last five games of the season almost fully healthy. Offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini returned Sunday after being out for two months, and receiver Percy Harvin got everyone's attention in his debut game as a Seahawk with a 58-yard kickoff return that gave fans a glimpse of his explosiveness.

The only major injury for Seattle right now is starting cornerback Brandon Browner with a severe groin pull. However, it looks as if Browner might be able to return for the playoffs, or possibly even the end of the regular season.

And the secondary may be the deepest area of the team. Walter Thurmond, who started for Browner on Sunday, had a 29-yard pick-six in the second half.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 11

November, 18, 2013
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A review of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 41-20 victory against the Minnesota Vikings:

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/John FroschauerSeattle is hoping that Percy Harvin will be able to produce during Saturday's playoff game.
Oh that offensive line: With all the starters back on the offensive line, the Seahawks looked like the offense that can make the big plays that matter. Russell Wilson was sacked only once (which he called a coverage sack) and wasn’t hit much. Returning tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini did have a little rust after the long layoff. Okung was flagged for holding on what would have been a 58-yard gain for Seattle on a deep pass to Percy Harvin that was an interference call. And Giacomini was beaten by Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison on the one sack. But overall, it was a strong effort and showed how good the line can be with all its starters in the game.

Percy's tumor talk: Harvin shocked everyone after the game when he said he had a tumor removed last year. No one knew for sure what he was talking about at first or how serious it was. But the Seahawks' public relations staff later learned that doctors found a tumor (apparently benign) on his appendix when Harvin had an appendectomy in late November in Minnesota, three weeks after he went on injured reserve with an ankle injury. That little oddity aside, Harvin showed his stuff in his Seahawks debut with a 58-yard kickoff return and an athletic 17-yard catch on his finger tips that kept a Seattle TD drive alive in the second quarter.

Wilson stays perfect at home: Wilson just can do no wrong at CenturyLink Field. He now is 13-0 at home in his NFL career, and those 13 consecutive home wins are a franchise record. Wilson was 13-of-18 for 230 yards with two TDs and a 151.4 quarterback rating. Both TD throws were eye-catching. The first was 19 yards to Doug Baldwin when Wilson lofted it over two defenders in a place where Baldwin was the only person who could catch it in the back corner of the end zone. The other TD toss was an improvising move when Wilson was scrambling in the middle of the field and let go a shovel pass to Marshawn Lynch at just the right moment for a 6-yard score. Wilson’s 13 completions went to eight different receivers, including four catches for tight end Zach Miller.

Hauschka is a kicking clinic: Seattle kicker Steve Hauschka is having a remarkable season. He was 2-for-2 on field goals Sunday, including a 50-yarder, and has made 24 of 25 attempts this season. His only miss was a blocked attempt at Indianapolis, which wasn’t his fault. Come playoff time with a game on the line, Hauschka could be the difference for the Seahawks.

Harvin leads list of returning Seahawks

November, 15, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Percy Harvin won’t be the only Seattle Seahawks player returning to the field Sunday after a long layoff.

Okung
Harvin
Starting offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini also are expected to play against the Vikings. Giacomini hasn’t played since Week 3, and Okung has been out since the second game of the season.

The Seahawks will have to make a roster move Saturday to activate Okung off injured reserve. That move could include placing cornerback Brandon Browner on IR, which would end his season. Browner has a groin injury, which coach Pete Carroll called “severe” this week.

But most of the news this week for the Seahawks is good, starting with Harvin’s likely 2013 debut Sunday against his former teammates.

“I definitely think I’m ready to play,” Harvin said Friday after practice. “I still have a lot of work to do, but it was great to be out there with my teammates running plays and going to the huddle. Hopefully everything goes well [Saturday] and I can look forward to the game.”

Harvin officially is listed as probable, and coach Pete Carroll said they will see make a final decision before the game.

“He came through the week very well,” Carroll said. “He did everything we asked him to do.”

So how much will he play Sunday?

“You’ll just have to wait and find out," Carroll said.

Carroll also said Harvin was asking him if he could return kickoffs Sunday, but Carroll said early in the week he thought that was too much for his first game back. When asked about it again, Carroll smiled and said: “I’m standing by what I said.”

The Seahawks had 14 players listed as probable on Friday’s injury report, including defensive linemen Red Bryant and center Max Unger. They both missed the Atlanta game with concussions, but both players practiced all week and Carroll said they are ready to go.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Carroll called McDaniel a game-time decision.

Back-up cornerback Jeremy Lane, who did not practice Thursday because on a thigh injury, is listed as probable, and Carroll said Lane is fine. Lane’s availability is a big deal for two reasons.

The Seahawks need the depth at cornerback with Browner out (Walter Thurmond will start for Browner), and Lane is one of the best in the league as a gunner on punt coverage. Minnesota’s Marcus Sherels leads the NFL with a 16.3-yard average on punt returns.
RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin was a full participant in practice Thursday for the first time since his hip surgery in August, increasing the likelihood that he will play Sunday against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Harvin
Harvin did not speak to reporters Thursday, but he is expected to talk Friday. If he plays Sunday, it would be his first appearance in an NFL game since Nov. 4, 2012, when, coincidentally, the Vikings played at Seattle.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said he doesn’t anticipate much of an adjustment period once Harvin joins the offense.

“I feel so comfortable with Percy,” Wilson said Thursday. “I threw a ton with him this offseason before the injury really popped up, so it was one of those things where we had a really good relationship before. I trust what he does.”

Wilson believes Harvin can make an immediate difference for the Seahawks.

"He’s in and out of his breaks really quickly,” Wilson said. “He’s just a great football player. You want to give him the ball as much as you can. On our offense, we have so many guys that we can use. You add Percy into the mix and he brings a whole other explosive mentality to our football team.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman returned to full participation Thursday after missing practice Wednesday with what was listed as a hip injury. Sherman said he really just needed a day to rest.

Offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini and center Max Unger also were full participants in practice, as was defensive tackle Red Bryant. Unger and Bryant missed last week's game with concussions. The Seahawks will need to make a roster move by Saturday to activate Okung.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (hamstring) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (thigh) did not practice. Cornerback Brandon Browner has a groin injury and will not play Sunday, but the Seahawks have not said how long Browner will be out.

Harvin has an MRI that shows he's OK

November, 1, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Just to be safe, the Seahawks decided to have receiver Percy Harvin get another MRI this week on his surgically-repaired hip.

Harvin
"We did another MRI to make sure we were seeing everything right," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Friday. "There were no complications."

Harvin, who had hip surgery Aug. 1 to repair a torn labrum, did not practice this week after doing so for the first time last week. Keeping him off the field this week was only a precautionary measure by the Seahawks, who continue to be conservative about his return.

"We've been quiet with him," Carroll said. "We just wanted to make sure we don't waste our opportunity with him on the practice field."

Carroll means they don't think it's productive for Harvin to practice every day if he's not going to play in the upcoming game. The Seahawks have until Nov. 12 to take Harvin off the physically unable to perform list and add him to the 53-man roster.

However, it doesn't mean Harvin will play immediately once he's added.

"If he was banged up, we certainly wouldn't mind keeping him on the team as one of the inactives," Carroll said. "If that's what it winds up a few weeks from now, that's what it is. But we're hoping to get him back. He was fine last week, but the wear and tear of the comeback got to him a little bit, so we're just slowing it down."

Running back Marshawn Lynch practiced Friday for the first time this week. Carroll said Lynch will start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

"He's fine," Carroll said of Lynch. "He feels good. His knee was a little sore, but he was raring to go [Friday], so he's ready for the game."

Lynch showed frustration at times Monday night at not getting enough carries. He had only eight for 23 yards in the 14-9 victory at St. Louis.

"He's going to get more involved than he did last week, let's just say that," Carroll said Friday. "We have to play better so he gets his opportunities. We only had 40 [offensive] plays in that game."

Free safety Earl Thomas was not at practice because of an illness, but he also will start Sunday.

"Earl showed up sick [Friday] morning, so we sent him back home," Carroll said. "But Earl's fine. He just wasn't feeling well and had a tough night, so we wanted to make sure he'll be rested for Sunday."

Pro Bowl offensive tackle Russell Okung, who is on injured reserve with a torn ligament in a big toe, could have begun practicing again Friday, but Carroll said that will happen next week.

"We're talking about him being on the field Wednesday," Carroll said of Okung. "He might work out at the stadium on Sunday. We're real encouraged with his rehab. He's shown every day that he can handle it."

Carroll said he also expects starting right tackle Breno Giacomini to begin practicing next Wednesday. Giacomini, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 30, stayed on the active roster and can return at any time. Okung cannot return until the Nov. 17 home game against the Minnesota Vikings.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Pro Bowl right tackle Russell Okung can return to practice Friday.

Okung
Okung is on injured reserve and isn't eligible to play until the Nov. 17 home game against Minnesota, but his recovery from a torn ligament in a big toe is going well.

Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 30, is also getting closer to returning and might be back in two weeks.

Carroll also said receiver Percy Harvin did not practice and his return remains day to day. The Seahawks have two more weeks to activate Harvin off the physically unable to perform list, but his return this weekend appears unlikely since the Seahawks activated receiver Ricardo Lockette off the practice squad Wednesday.

Running back Marshawn Lynch, guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive end Michael Bennett did not practice Wednesday, but it was a short workout because of the game Monday night. Lynch was listed on the injury report as having a knee injury, and Sweezy was listed with an elbow injury. Bennett missed practice because of an illness. All three players finished the game Monday at St. Louis.

Fullback Derrick Coleman and safety Jeron Johnson, who are both suffering from hamstring injuries, did not practice Wednesday. Neither played at St. Louis.
RENTON, Wash -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team still has a ways to go before either of its starting offensive tackles can return to the playing field.

Carroll remains hopeful Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, who has a torn ligament in a big toe, can return the first week he's eligible to come off injured reserve -- the Minnesota Vikings game in Seattle on Nov. 17.

Giacomini
Okung
“We're real encouraged he will make it back then,” Carroll said Tuesday. “Russell has a process of four more weeks he has to get through. He has two weeks to go and then he will have a chance to practice with us.

“After that, which is four weeks from now, he'll have a change to return. He's doing really well with all the rehab stuff he needs to do. We'll be happy to get him back wherever we can get him.”

Carroll said he's is uncertain of when right tackle Breno Giacomini, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 30, might return.

“Breno is in the process of recovering, too, but we don't have a real clear timeline on that one,” Carroll said. “We had hoped he would make it back a little sooner than it looks like right now. He's a big man and it's taking him some time to get right.”

“It's going to take him a couple of weeks after we get him back on the practice field to get back [in a game], but he's not ready [to practice] yet.”

Giacomini had fluid drained from his knee last week.

Coleman's injured more serious than first thought: Michael Robinson, who was re-signed on Tuesday after being released at the end of the preseason, will be the only fullback healthy for now.

Derrick Coleman, who was the starter a fullback, suffered a hamstring injury in the Arizona game last week and will be out indefinitely.

“We don't know how long it's going to take,” Carroll said. “It could be anywhere from four to six weeks, although he thinks he's going to get back way sooner than that. He's had some history of really quick healing and we're going to see if he can pull it off again.”

But Carroll is confident Robinson, the team's starting fullback for three seasons, can get the job done.

“It's a chance to have continuity right off the bat,” Carroll said. “Fortunately, we were able to get a guy back that we really think a lot of and a guy who has done a lot of great things for us.”

Tate's shoulder still hurting: Carroll said receiver Golden Tate was unable to get through the full practice Tuesday because of problems with a shoulder injury from the Arizona game.

“It's his neck and shoulder where he got popped pretty good,” Carroll said. “He's a little sore. He started practicing and didn't finish [Tuesday]. We'll have to wait and see what that means.”

Wagner may practice Thursday: Carroll said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who has a high ankle sprain and has missed the past two games, is getting close to returning.

“We're going to wait and see on Thursday what he can do,” Carroll said of Wagner. “He's made great progress and has surprised the trainers. We won't know until we see him on the practice field.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard ShermanUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBackup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to face a stifling Seattle secondary and the league's best corner in Richard Sherman.
Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks is a matchup between two winning teams coming off losses, and both are missing key players on offense.

Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the Titans. Both starting tackles -- Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini -- are out for Seattle. Tight end Zach Miller could also sit.

The Seahawks have a 10-game home winning streak on the line, hoping to rebound after their first defeat of the season, 34-28 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Titans hope to get a stagnant running game going and find some consistency with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Paul, it looked like Fitzpatrick had a rough first outing for the Titans subbing for an injured Locker. Do you think Fitzpatrick will improve, and how difficult will it be for Tennessee to have success on offense while Locker is out?

Kuharsky: Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of playing better than he did in the loss to Kansas City, when he had three very bad quarters and one good one. I'm not sure what the Titans can do to help him if they are unable to run the ball. If they can bring some balance with Chris Johnson (and maybe Shonn Greene, who's still trying to get back after knee surgery), it could be a lot less difficult. Fitzpatrick hardly has Locker's excellent speed, but he scrambled around pretty well against the Chiefs. With Locker in the first four games, the Titans didn't turn the ball over and overcame their deficiencies running the ball. Without him, they need Fitzpatrick to imitate the mistake-free youngster. But Fitzpatrick is more of a gunslinger than Locker and is streakier, and that's probably too much to ask.

Terry, the Titans pledged to be a great running team. It hasn't really panned out that way. Last time Johnson was in Seattle, he had a 2,000-yard season. What's the run defense going to be like?

Blount: It's been all but impossible to run up the middle on the Seahawks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is as strong a run stopper as there is the NFL, and it takes two blockers to handle 325-pound Red Bryant. If that fails, it's tough to get past middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. But Wagner probably won't play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. Nevertheless, it's difficult to establish a running game on the Seahawks. Seattle is an aggressive outside pass-rushing team, so occasionally a back can get yardage outside, but not often.

Paul, Locker told us on the conference call Wednesday what a disappointment it is that he won't get to play this weekend in front of family, friends and University of Washington alumni who love him for all he did to help turn around the Huskies football program. He is a beloved guy here and a huge hero in this community. How is he viewed in Nashville?

Kuharsky: Nothing close to that yet. People who have given him a chance know he's an eminently likable guy, a hard worker and a well-respected leader, but plenty of fans called talk radio over the offseason talking about why Fitzpatrick would be a better choice or how it should at least be a camp competition. Even after Week 2's overtime loss in Houston, when he overthrew a wide-open Kenny Britt on a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, there were calls for change. (It's a throw he's got to make.) The game-winning drive against San Diego showed people what he can do. Locker also had a fantastic two-plus quarters against the Jets, which seems to have done a lot to win more people over. In playing style and development arc, I think he is a lot like Steve McNair so far. If that holds true, impatient fans will wind up happy.

Terry, home field is viewed as such a giant advantage for the Seahawks. Can you give us a tangible feel for just how loud and crazy the atmosphere is there?

Blount: In the San Francisco game, where the outdoor stadium decibel record was set at 131.9, it was so loud that it was difficult at times to even hear people talk in the enclosed press box. I know every team believes its stadium is one of the loudest, and I've been to most of them, but trust me, there is nothing like CenturyLink Field. It's deafening.

Paul, cornerback Alterraun Verner is off to an outstanding start this season with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is viewed by some as the best corner in the NFL, but is Verner the most underrated?

Kuharsky: He could have had another two picks last week on balls he didn't manage to haul in. Verner has been really good. The team wasn't sure what it had in him. The Titans knew they got a good football player out of UCLA three years ago. But as they revamped this offseason, with Gregg Williams joining the coaching staff and the Titans determined to get more aggressive, they figured a big increase in press-man coverage would move them away from Verner's strengths. They wanted Tommie Campbell, a faster and bigger guy to win the job. (Some wrote about how Campbell has some of what makes Sherman so good.) But Campbell didn't catch on and bombed in training camp, and Verner proved to be better. If Coty Sensabaugh hasn't recovered from his concussion for Sunday, Verner will start in base and move into the slot in nickel, with Campbell replacing him outside.

The Titans rush pretty well, and Verner is getting his hands on balls all over the field. Who has had the best success slowing Russell Wilson and how?

Blount: Even though Seattle came back and won the game, the Texans had the most success because of their talented defensive front and all-everything defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Both Houston and Indianapolis took advantage of Seattle missing starters on the offensive line and teed off on Wilson on third down. Nevertheless, Wilson is the best I've ever seen making the most of a bad situation and finding the opening the defense gives him. Anticipating when Wilson will roll out and cutting off his running lanes is the key, but it is far easier said than done.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 4

September, 30, 2013
9/30/13
9:00
AM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 23-20 overtime victory over the Houston Texans:

A telling victory: It says a lot about a team's character when it does as many things wrong as Seattle did Sunday and still found a way to win. The Seahawks were down 20-3 at halftime and had given up 324 yards to the Texans, but completely turned things around in the fourth quarter to eventually win in overtime. "We showed we can prevail no matter what happens,” said defensive end Chris Clemons.

[+] EnlargeRichard Sherman
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderRichard Sherman's interception for a touchdown tied the game late in the fourth quarter.
Stats can be misleading: If you try to judge the Seahawks by what you read in the box score, you are making a big mistake. Seattle isn't 4-0 because it puts up better numbers than its opponents. The Seahawks are undefeated because they are at their best when things seem to be the worst. This team is all about making big plays in crucial situations. They thrive on it. And they are willing to take risks on plays that can shift the game in their favor and change the outcome: cornerback Richard Sherman jumping in front of a pass for a 58-yard pick-six, Golden Tate catching a punt at the goal line and returning it to the 31, quarterback Russell Wilson going for the extra yards running rather than sliding to avoid a hit, etc. Sometimes the risks come back to bite them, but most of the time they become big plays that give Seattle the edge.

The offensive line must improve: It's remarkable Seattle was able to come from behind and win Sunday on a day in which three offensive line starters were out with injuries. Wilson rarely had time to make throws downfield because the backups struggled against the talented defensive front for Houston. But the Seahawks cannot expect to keep winning when the offensive line plays as poorly as it did Sunday. Center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini might be back soon, which will help. Left tackle Russell Okung is out for a least another six weeks. Seattle will have to fight through this, which it did Sunday, and hope the line gets better. Rookie tackle Michael Bowie, who started for Giacomini on Sunday, has the physical skills to become a good player, but he needs more playing time. His first start came against one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL in J.J. Watt, so Bowie's performance is bound to improve if he starts again this weekend for Giacomini. The Seahawks are fortunate they have the most elusive quarterback in the league in Wilson, but he won't stay healthy if the line doesn't show progress.

Lynch hitting his stride: Running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 98 yards on 17 carries Sunday, including a Beast-Mode special in the first quarter Sunday when he broke at least six tackles on a 43-yard run from the Seattle 2 to the 45. The Seahawks need Lynch to keep it up and take some of the heat off Wilson and the offensive line in pass blocking. The more an opponent's defense has to focus on Lynch, the more pressure it takes off the line in pass blocking and the better Wilson is at making big throws downfield. As bad as the O-line is at times in pass protection, it can be pretty good overall in run blocking.

Rapid Reaction: Seahawks 23, Texans 20

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
4:41
PM ET

HOUSTON -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 23-20 overtime victory against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.

What it means: Even on a day when the Seahawks looked awful in many areas of the game, they still found a way to win, pulling off a stunning come-from-behind victory on the road. This game showed the Seahawks have some problem areas on the offensive line and can give up big yards on defense. But it was quarterback Russell Wilson's scrambling and running downfield that got Seattle back in the game in the fourth quarter. Then a Richard Sherman 58-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game before a Steven Hauschka 45-yard field goal won it. This is the first time the Seahawks have ever won the first four games in a season.

Stock watch: An awful day for the Seattle offensive line, but no one should be surprised with three starters injured. Free safety Earl Thomas had an early interception off a tipped ball and Sherman tied it in the fourth quarter with the pick-six, but the Seahawks struggled on defense in the first half. It was a season-worst day for the defense early, but things changed in the second half and overtime when the Seahawks' defense looked like the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

First half woes: The Seahawks gave up 324 yards in the first half, including 226 yards passing. The Texans led 20-3 at the half after Houston receivers were wide open in the middle of the field against the highly acclaimed Seattle secondary. What happened?

Wilson a sitting duck all day: With three starters out on the offensive line, including Pro Bowlers Max Unger and Russell Okung, the backups up front were no match for defensive end J.J. Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and the other Houston pass-rushers. Wilson was sacked five times and under pressure on almost every pass play, yet still managed to bring the Seahawks back in the fourth quarter and lead the team to victory.

What’s next: The Seahawks travel to face the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. It will be the second consecutive 10 a.m. PT start time for the Seahawks and the third of five 10 a.m. starts this season.

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