NFL Nation: Zach Miller

CHICAGO -- Finally, it seemed Zach Miller conquered all the injuries that were derailing his NFL career, only to watch it come crashing down Thursday during Chicago’s 20-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Miller
Miller
Playing against the team that drafted him in 2009, Miller suffered a foot injury during the second quarter and was carted off the field. Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer, once a teammate of Miller’s in Jacksonville, called the injury “heartbreaking.”

“Zach is a guy I’ve been trying to spread the word on,” Palmer explained. “I tried to get Arizona to get him last year. He’s worked so hard. He was dealt a really bad hand last year, and he just worked through it. I talked to him throughout the whole process. He’s one of my best buddies. He’s had an unbelievable camp. This is the kind of camp when you come off the streets, this is the kind of camp you dream of.”

Perhaps it is now a nightmare for Miller.

Making his Chicago Bears debut against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Prior to that, Miller had impressed the coaching staff by taking advantage of every repetition given to him, and those snaps certainly increased when tight end Martellus Bennett was suspended indefinitely.

Miller wasn’t available to speak with the media after the game. At halftime, Miller received X-rays, but was expected to undergo more tests later.

“You’re patient. There weren’t a lot of opportunities early, but when he got those opportunities, he made the most of them,” Palmer said. “Goes in the game last week and has six catches and two touchdowns, and we’re riding high. He’s so confident. And then to get one of those injuries; it's not a work-ethic injury. It’s not that he’s out of shape or has bad technique. It’s just a total bad luck injury.”

Miller played in 29 games over his first two years in the NFL, but since 2011, he’s participated in just four contests.

Bears coach Marc Trestman said the club would know more Friday about the extent of Miller’s injury.

“He’s going to rehab and do everything they ask him to do, and he’s going to contribute somewhere,” Palmer said. “If it’s here, hopefully he comes back. Whatever his situation is, he’s going to play a long time in this league because he is a great player.”

W2W4: Chicago Bears

August, 14, 2014
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The Chicago Bears (1-0) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) in preseason game No. 2 at Soldier Field. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

1. Backup quarterback battle: Jordan Palmer received first crack at the No. 2 job in the preseason opener, but in this matchup, the plan is for the Bears to go with Jimmy Clausen once Jay Cutler is finished for the night. Palmer played fairly well in the preseason opener, but Clausen stole the show when he came in, finishing with two touchdown passes and a passer rating of 134.6. If Clausen performs similarly against the Jaguars, it’s likely the Bears take away all the suspense in this battle and name him the No. 2. Remember, Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009, which makes the backup quarterback job important.

2. Linebacker play: Collectively, the group played poorly in the opener against the Eagles. But in its defense, the team was matched up against a high-octane, no-huddle offense that featured plenty of zone-read concepts that the Bears hadn’t game-planned for. Specifically, Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin need to play better. Considering he started nine games as a rookie, Bostic should be poised to take a major step in his development, but we haven’t yet see that. McClellin is making the transition from defensive end, and the staff remains confident he’ll progress enough that the team would feel confident about making him the starter on the strong side.

3. Zach Miller’s bid for the No. 2 tight end job: Incumbent Dante Rosario missed practice Tuesday with soreness in his calf, and if he’s held out of this matchup, Miller basically will receive the opportunity to solidify what appears to be a stranglehold on that No. 2 tight end spot. Miller caught six passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns in his preseason debut, and has since been given more repetitions with the starters when the offense goes to two-tight-end sets. Another strong showing by Miller in this game could outright win him the job, and he needs to take advantage. So far, Miller has taken advantage of every opportunity he’s been given. This game should be no different for him.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Lovie Smith finished 10-6 in his final season with the Chicago Bears before being fired. Marc Trestman comes in and leads the Bears to an 8-8 record in 2013. Yet expectations soar here on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, where crowds for training camp practices routinely swell to 10,000.

It’s easy to see why. For a fan base accustomed to hard-nosed defense and shaky-at-best offense, Trestman flipped the script in 2013, taking Chicago’s attack to new heights with a major assist from general manager Phil Emery’s shrewd personnel moves.

The Bears broke record after record on offense last season, and the defense stumbled to historic lows.

If Trestman and Emery could basically work a miracle on offense in just one season, why can’t they do it on the other side of the ball in 2014?

“[I] feel very good about the competitive depth and the fights for positions that we're going to have,” Emery said. “Out of the three camps, I would say this camp has the best competitive level among the roster from 1 to 90.”

Emery achieved that by loading up on defenders: acquiring a mix of players poised to hit the sweet spot of their careers in Lamarr Houston and Willie YoungJared Allen, and drafting potential stars such as first-round pick Kyle Fuller. The Bears bolstered those moves with an overhaul of the scheme and additions to the defensive coaching staff.

“We started [with], ‘What could we do to get this team better?’” Trestman said. “I sat down with Phil [Emery], and we began to lay out a road map together on how we were going to rebuild this football team, and here we are at a stage where I don’t think there’s a player in our meeting room who doesn’t feel like there’s hope and high expectations. Now, it’s time to go to work.”

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJay Cutler is more comfortable in coach Marc Trestman's system, and all of his offensive weapons are healthy and ready to go.
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. Jay Cutler’s grasp of the offense is firmer in Year 2 of Trestman’s system, and his performance this year at camp is significantly different from in 2013. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said Cutler is his own problem solver and is making on-field adjustments so instinctively that he doesn’t need guidance from the staff. In his first camp under Trestman, Cutler misfired routinely, and there were concerns about whether he’d be effective in the regular season. After one particularly bad session in 2013, Trestman gathered Cutler and the other quarterbacks in the middle of the field in what could be described as a turning point. That’s not happening this year at camp as Cutler has become a bona fide field general.

2. Brandon Marshall is Brandon Marshall. He wasn’t at camp in 2013. He was coming off hip surgery that hindered his season preparation. Fully healthy now with an offseason to condition, Marshall is ready to go -- and with full comprehension of the offensive system. Throw in Alshon Jeffery’s ascension and you have the makings of something lethal on offense. The duo has certainly looked that way at camp as both routinely make so many eye-popping plays that Cutler could almost throw it up blindly and one of them would come down with the ball.

3. There’s a nastiness on defense and intense focus reminiscent of the units put on the field in Smith’s heyday. Practicing against one of the best offenses in the league, the defense should be losing more than it does at training camp. But this group routinely bests the offense, with dominating play by the front seven as a hallmark. Chalk it up to a combination of personnel additions and a culture shift brought about by an overhaul of the scheme and the acquisition of no-nonsense, get-in-your-face coaches such as Paul Pasqualoni, Reggie Herring and Clint Hurtt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mundy
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Bears brought Ryan Mundy in to compete at safety, but the position, at least in camp, continues to look shaky.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The defensive line makes plays at training camp. The corners and linebackers make plays. But you rarely see the safeties making an impact. That could be a result of a lack of chemistry because, with both spots up for grabs, the Bears are using several combinations at the position involving players such as Ryan Mundy, rookie Brock Vereen, Danny McCray, Adrian Wilson and M.D. Jennings. Horrid play at this position in 2013 contributed significantly to the defense’s demise, and we haven’t seen many indications at camp that the Bears will turn that around in 2014.

2. Protecting Cutler could become an issue if some of the injuries suffered by the team's offensive linemen linger. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and tackle Jordan Mills (foot) missed the preseason opener, and the latter was seen wearing a walking boot when the club returned to training camp after that game. Reserve center Brian de la Puente is expected to miss time to a knee injury, and reserve guard/tackle Eben Britton still hasn’t returned from a strained hamstring suffered earlier at camp.

3. Cutler hasn’t played an entire 16-game season since 2009. So naturally, you’d think at some point in 2014 the Bears will have to turn to the backup quarterback. The problem is the candidates vying for the No. 2 job -- Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen -- have done little to inspire confidence the way Josh McCown did last year at training camp. For the most part, Palmer and Clausen have been merely average at camp, misfiring on occasion and making mistakes typical of players acclimating themselves to a scheme. The duo needs to pick it up or the Bears could wind up looking outside the current roster for a suitable No. 2.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Chris Conte says he’s the best athlete in Chicago’s secondary. He needs to prove it, which he'll finally have a chance to do now that he's off the physically unable to perform list. Conte certainly possesses the athleticism to be a playmaker on the back end, provided he regains his confidence. But time is running out for Conte to make a real push for one of the two open jobs at safety. What Conte has going for him right now is that none of the safeties vying for the starting jobs is making plays at camp.
  • The Bears hired martial arts expert Joe Kim to teach the defensive linemen hand fighting techniques as part of the scheme overhaul that requires the front four players to be technicians with their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the results manifest themselves on the field. Every day after practice at camp, several defensive linemen -- and even some defensive backs -- work intricate hand fighting moves with Kim for several minutes. The players say the moves become almost natural once routinely put into practice on the field. We’ll see whether Kim’s assistance plays a role in the front four anchoring a run defense that finished last in 2013.
  • Zach Miller and Matthew Mulligan are pushing Dante Rosario hard for the No. 2 job at tight end. Miller is more of a move tight end, and Mulligan is a classic in-line blocker who shows some impressive skills as a receiver. The two have received extra reps because of Martellus Bennett's suspension.

Bears Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
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BOURBONAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Morning showers soaked the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University on Tuesday. So the Bears moved their session across the street to Ward Field, where the club could practice on FieldTurf. “The players handled the transition today and the weather. We moved some things around, went indoors for our walk-through, came out here for the first time in full pads, got a lot of work done, moved some guys around and we made it through the day,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “We wanted to make sure we got this one in. We had Plan B and Plan C. Plan A worked pretty good and we got a lot of work done.” According to a school official, the same company that installed the surface inside the Walter Payton Center laid the FieldTurf at ONU, with the work being completed approximately three weeks ago. The school’s soccer teams used the field for the first time on Monday, and the Bears were the first football team to put the surface to use.
  • Zach Miller continues to state a strong case to win the job as the club’s No. 2 tight end. Miller put together another solid outing, catching every ball thrown his way during the various team periods.
  • Backup quarterback Jordan Palmer struggled during Tuesday’s workout, throwing a pair of interceptions to safety Chris Conte and defensive end Willie Young. The INT thrown to Young hit the defensive end squarely in the chest. Conte secured his pick in the end zone during a red-zone drill on a pass intended for Micheal Spurlock. Trestman declined to say whether Jimmy Clausen had overtaken Palmer on the depth chart. “I don’t think we’ve had any movement there at all,” Trestman said. “We’ll move people around. We’ll see how they play in different environments and we’ll make a decision when we have to.”
  • Trestman said “it’s too soon to talk about” whether Conte will play Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Conte came off the physically unable to perform list on Monday and has practiced just two days.
  • Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take snaps at safety with the starters. The club did work in Conte and Adrian Wilson with the starters as well.
  • Brandon Marshall spent time catching punts during special-teams periods, but don’t expect the club to use him in that capacity during games. “Brandon Marshall likes to get into some drills that maybe he shouldn’t be in,” special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said.
  • Non-participants for Tuesday’s session included Chris Williams (hamstring), Eben Britton (hamstring), Jordan Mills (foot), Brian De La Puente (knee), Marquess Wilson (collarbone), Isaiah Frey (hamstring) and Lance Briggs. Briggs isn’t injured. He was given a day off, which Trestman routinely does for veterans.
  • Keep an eye out for linebacker Jerry Franklin, who is taking snaps with the starters on some of the coverage and return units on special teams. He’s also been taking reps with the second team on defense.
CHICAGO -- With Martellus Bennett serving an indefinite suspension, reserve tight end Zach Miller took full advantage of the extra repetitions, catching six passes for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Chicago Bears soared past the Philadelphia Eagles 34-28 on the strength of strong play from their quarterbacks.


Chicago's top three signal callers combined for 339 yards and four touchdowns.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chicago Bears' first preseason game of the year:
  • Considering Jay Cutler hasn't played an entire 16-game season since 2009, Chicago's competition for the No. 2 quarterback is vitally important. Both candidates made strong cases with Jimmy Clausen coming out with a slight edge. After Cutler performed sharply in two possessions (9 of 13 for 85 yards and a TD for a passer rating of 112.7), Jordan Palmer entered the game with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. Palmer started 3 for 3 for 39 yards before throwing an interception to Nate Allen on his fourth attempt. Palmer completed 8 of 11 for 104 yards and a touchdown to go with a passer rating of 94.9.

    Clausen, meanwhile, passed for 150 yards and two TDs for a passer rating of 134.6. Clausen's first scoring strike came on a 73-yard bomb to Chris Williams. He later hit Micheal Spurlock for a 22-yard touchdown, before finding Rosario for the conversion.

    Clausen may lead the No. 2 QB derby right now, but don't expect coach Marc Trestman to make a decision about the backup until later in the preseason.
  • Chicago's revamped defense put together a strong showing in the three possessions the starters played. Ryan Mundy and Sherrick McManis contributed interceptions as the defense held Philadelphia's first-team offense to 55 yards and 0-for-2 on third-down conversions. Remember, the Bears ranked last against the rush last season. But their starters limited Philadelphia's starting offense to 11 yards on four attempts. The front four generated plenty of pressure in the passing game, too. Mundy's interceptoin with 13:26 left in the first quarter came from a rushed Foles throw due to heavy pressure from Lamarr Houston.
  • Mundy and Danny McCray came out with the starters at safety, while Adrian Wilson and rookie Brock Vereen worked with the second team.
  • Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller received an extended look in his NFL debut. Although the starting defense played just three possessions, Fuller stayed in the entire first half and contributed three tackles.
  • Center Brian De La Puente suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter. The severity wasn't immediately known. De La Puente left the field under his own power, but shortly after the team announced he'd be out for the game. Williams suffered a hamstring injury on his touchdown reception and was unable to finish the game.
  • Non-participants Friday included Chris Conte and Craig Steltz, who remain on the physically unable to perform list. Tim Jennings (quadriceps) and Isaiah Frey (hamstring) were also held out along with Eben Britton (hamstring), Kyle Long (ankle), Jordan Mills (foot) and Bennett (suspension).
Tight end Zach Miller has reached an agreement with the Seahawks to restructure his contract, as first reported by 710 ESPN Seattle, ensuring he stays with the team through the 2015 season.

Miller was scheduled to make $6 million in 2014, which would have counted $7 million against the salary cap. The new deal will pay him $3 million this season, but it could increase to $4 million if he meets incentive clauses in the agreement.

Miller, 28, has been Seattle's starting tight end since leaving the Oakland Raiders and signing with the Seahawks before the 2011 season. He is an integral part of the Seattle offense and is considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL.

By getting Miller to agree to a restructured deal, it likely means the Seahawks won’t sign free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who visited Seattle earlier this week.

ESPN’s Josina Anderson is reporting that free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton is still in Seattle Saturday morning talking to the Seahawks. He has plans to also visit with the Dallas Cowboys if a deal is not reached with the Seahawks.

Seahawks' to-do list after Bennett 

March, 10, 2014
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Michael Bennett checked in at No. 7 when ESPN.com NFL scout Matt Williamson joined me in ranking all players from the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos heading into Super Bowl XLVIII. The ranking was arguably on the high side, but there was also no denying what Bennett brought to the Seahawks’ defensive line in his first full season with the team. The way Bennett and the Seahawks’ defensive rotation played during a 43-8 victory over the Broncos provided some validation.

Re-signing Bennett was important for the Seahawks as they attempt to sustain their championship success. The four-year contract agreement they reached with him Monday gave Seattle its first key victory of the 2014 offseason.

The new deal for Bennett, which pays him $10 million the first year and $6 million in the second, contains $16 million in guarantees and should fit nicely into the contractual void created when the Seahawks parted with starting defensive end Red Bryant last week. Seattle got good value from Bryant over the years, but he was a two-down player set to turn 30 years old in April, and injuries had limited him significantly in 2012. Bryant’s salary was scheduled to reach $8.5 million this coming season even as he was becoming less valuable within a deepening rotation.

With Bryant gone and the 28-year-old Bennett back in the fold, the Seahawks are in position to pursue a plan that will include rewarding other key players. First, however, Seattle figures to pare back in other areas while diving into the market.

Here’s a look at what should come next for the defending Super Bowl champion
NEW YORK -- The talk is over, and the day finally is here: Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are five things the Seattle Seahawks must do well to defeat the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium:

1. Pressure Peyton Manning: It’s a mammoth task against a quarterback who gets rid of the football so quickly, but it isn’t so much about getting sacks as it is putting enough pressure on Manning to take him out of his comfort zone.

Everyone knows Manning is a classic pocket passer. He likes to step up in the pocket to make his throws. That will make it difficult for a talented edge-rusher like Cliff Avril to get to Manning.

Bryant
So the Seahawks have to get pressure up the middle with their defensive tackles -- Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Big Red Bryant will also get a push in the middle sometimes, and they might use some stunts with end Michael Bennett rushing up the middle when he lines up outside. Also, look for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to blitz a couple of times.

"There’s no certain way to get to Manning," Bennett said. "It comes down to doing what we do and beating your man."

2. Let the quiet Beast loudly rumble: It’s been a strange and somewhat stressful week for Marshawn Lynch, having to do media sessions on three consecutive days. Not his cup of tea, and a distraction the Seahawks could have lived without, but that is all behind them now.

Lynch
Lynch was successful on runs up the middle in the first two playoff games this season, but the Seahawks should try more off-tackle runs and toss sweeps against Denver. The Broncos have Terrance Knighton at nose tackle, a mountain of a man at 340 pounds. He’s a run-stuffer.

When asked what his biggest concern was regarding the Denver defense, Lynch didn’t hesitate. "Pot Roast," he said, which is Knighton’s nickname. "He’s a big boy."

The Seahawks might use a third tackle with Alvin Bailey, as they did against the 49ers, to line up with tight end Zach Miller and use a muscle push to run Lynch off the edge of the line and hope he goes Beast Mode.

3. Keep the Broncos guessing with Harvin: The Seahawks need to make the most of their X factor in receiver Percy Harvin. The Denver defense can’t know exactly how to account for a guy who played only six quarters this season, but they know he’s faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire.

Harvin
So make them worry about Harvin on almost every play by putting him in motion and lining him up in different spots. Get the ball to him early so Denver will know he’s part of the plan. Someone for Denver will have to spy him, meaning someone else on the Seattle offense -- receivers Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin -- will get free.

"We’re excited to have Percy back, because he brings more to the table," Tate said. "He's going to open it up for other guys more."

4. Punish the Broncos on crossing routes: The Seattle defense can’t allow Manning and his receivers to nickel-and-dime them to death with short passes over the middle and quick slants.

Chancellor
And if receiver Wes Welker wants to try a pick-play block, have strong safety Kam Chancellor waiting to greet him. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright also have to get physical on these plays and let the Broncos know there is a price to pay every time they catch a pass in the middle of the field.

"We are a physical bunch," Chancellor said. "We like to be physical. We like to be hands-on. We like to make you feel our presence. That’s how we operate."

5. Play with poise: This is the most important point. Seattle is the more talented team overall, but the Seahawks must play smart and not get over-amped in the biggest game of their lives. Careless personal fouls and false starts can be the difference in the game, and too much emotion can cause a player to make a mistake he wouldn’t normally make.

Sherman
The Seahawks did a great job of controlling their emotions in the NFC Championship Game against the hated 49ers. Well, until the end when cornerback Richard Sherman went on testosterone overload after the game-saving play. But the game was decided at that point, so have at it.

The same is true in the Super Bowl. Play your game and don’t give the Broncos a freebie. Do what you did to get here.

"Respect the journey," said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. "But at the same time, enjoy the moment. Take it all in. It is real. Just be poised and respect the process. I’m going to play with a smile on my face and just go for it."

Good advice. If the Seahawks follow it, that should be enough.
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.”

Redskins, Seahawks took different paths

January, 21, 2014
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Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan started new jobs in the same offseason. Four years later Carroll is in the Super Bowl; Shanahan is unemployed. Why did the Seahawks improve while the Redskins did not? Seattle won nine games combined in the two years before Carroll and a combined 38 in the next four years, while the Redskins won a combined 12 games in the two years before Shanahan and a combined 24 in the ensuing four years.
  • The Seahawks had two first-round picks in 2010 while the Redskins had two picks in the first four rounds. Seattle landed two excellent starters in tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas. Washington took tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Perry Riley. Williams is a Pro Bowler and Riley is a starter, good in some areas but who struggles in others.
  • The Seahawks hit on lower-round picks in 2010, selecting cornerback Walter Thurmond in the fourth round and safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth. Chancellor’s physical style sets a tone in the box, and Thurmond is an excellent slot corner and might as well be considered a starter. Seattle also took starting receiver Golden Tate in the second round. The Redskins whiffed on the rest of their 2010 class, none of whom were on the roster this past season.
  • Wilson
    Among the players Seattle unloaded in the 2010 offseason: corner Josh Wilson, who signed with the Redskins a year later; and defensive lineman Darryl Tapp, who played here this past season. The Seahawks wanted big, physical cornerbacks. Wilson was too small for them. Seattle clearly had a blueprint.
  • In 2011, the Seahawks had nine picks (the Redskins had 12). Seattle found three more starters in guard James Carpenter (drafted as a tackle in the first round); corner Richard Sherman (fifth round); corner Byron Maxwell (sixth round; a replacement for the suspended Brandon Browner) and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (seventh round). Eight of the nine remain on the roster.
  • Meanwhile, the Redskins drafted 12 players, finding one good starter in linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and another starter in end Jarvis Jenkins. It wasn’t a bad draft, but it wasn’t a game-changer either. Nine of the 12 remained on the roster in 2013.
  • Wilson
    Griffin
    Both teams found quarterbacks in 2012, with Seattle getting Russell Wilson in the third round and the Redskins trading two future first-rounders and a second-rounder to swap positions with St. Louis to get Robert Griffin III. I agreed with the move, so I’m not going to second-guess it; besides, it’s not as if Ryan Tannehill, a player they liked, has torn it up in Miami (though, yes, they would have had more picks). There is no way Seattle could have anticipated what Wilson has become, and the Seahawks had also traded for Matt Flynn. But they quickly saw what they had in Wilson.
  • Both quarterbacks obviously made tremendous impacts as rookies. Griffin’s knee injury and other issues led to stumbles in 2013. But when he struggled, so, too, did the Redskins. When Wilson struggled, he could rely on the run game and defense to win. Big difference when you don’t have to carry a team -- and that’s because of how both were built.
  • Seattle drafted 10 players in 2012 -- eight played defense; three are starters (end Bruce Irvin, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and J.R. Sweezy, an end in college but now a starting offensive guard). The Redskins also hit on running back Alfred Morris in that same draft, and quarterback Kirk Cousins looks like a good backup who might yield a draft pick in return some day. But aside from them and Griffin? So far, nothing.
  • This past season, of the Redskins' top five defensive backs (including No. 3 corner David Amerson), four were picked in the first two rounds of their respective drafts. Of Seattle’s eight defensive backs, only one was drafted before the fourth round.
  • In the 2013 draft, Seattle added no starters, but that’s not a surprise given the Seahawks’ talent level. The Redskins added Amerson, who was their No. 3 corner. But nobody else provided any help. Even on special teams.
  • All totaled, of the starters listed on Seattle’s current depth chart, 16 were drafted by them or signed as an undrafted free agent. That includes nine defensive starters, and the lone two who weren’t drafted by them were acquired in trades, including end Chris Clemons. Of the four offensive players not drafted by Seattle, one was signed off a practice squad; another was acquired in a trade (running back Marshawn Lynch) and only one was considered a bigger free agent signing (tight end Zach Miller).
  • Seattle built a team that could withstand the loss of receiver Percy Harvin, who has caught one pass this season after being acquired in a trade. He might play in the Super Bowl. They signed pass-rush specialist Cliff Avril, who recorded eight sacks, but was not a starter.
  • Seattle is just more proof that you can succeed without having to spend big money. And the Redskins are proof as to what happens when you don’t successfully draft and develop.

Seahawks smacked down on clinch plans

December, 22, 2013
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Pete Carroll AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonSeahawks coach Pete Carroll saw his team held to 192 yards at home by a stingy Arizona defense.
SEATTLE, Ariz. -- It was supposed to be Clinch Sunday for the Seattle Seahawks and their rabid fans.

There was a hitch in the clinch celebration.

The Arizona Cardinals played the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas week.

For the rest of the NFC contenders, enjoy your reprieve. Seattle was inept on offense Sunday, had 102 yards on nine penalties, and failed to hold the lead late in the game, giving you life to fight another week.

In an old-fashioned defensive smackdown, with two NFC West teams slugging it out like it was 1999 (or maybe 1959), the Cardinals prevailed 17-10. Arizona is now 10-5 and still in the playoff picture.

The Cardinals came to Century Link Field, the place where no visitor had won in two years, and outmuscled the most physical team in the league.

“It was two defenses just duking it out all day,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “You have to give [Arizona credit]. They played really well on defense, harder and tougher than we wanted them to be.”

An opponent playing harder and tougher than Seattle is a surprise. The Seahawks sat in the dressing room afterward saying it didn't matter, and it won’t if they win next weekend at home against St. Louis. But one look in the players' faces and it was clear they were stunned.

Seattle's 14-game home winning streak was over to a team it was favored to beat by 10 points, and the Seahawks didn’t see it coming. A game one week from now that could have been a glorified practice session is now a showdown for everything they have worked for all season.

“We can’t harp on this," Seattle free safety Earl Thomas said. “This is no time to panic. Everything we’ve worked for is still right in front of our face. There’s not anything different.”

Well, a few things are much different than most people thought. The Seahawks have lost two of their past three after going 11-1. And the offense hasn’t looked overly impressive, even in the 23-0 win against the New York Giants last week.

For the first time all season, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense looked overwhelmed.

“You have to credit their defense,” said Wilson, who was 11-of-27 passing for only 108 yards and was sacked four times. “But we can play better and we can do better. We had some opportunities to make some big plays, but for whatever reason, we were a little bit off.”

That might be understating it just a tad. In a game that could have clinched the NFC West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Seattle offense looked completely out of sync and unable to find any answers to the rugged Cardinals' defense.

“It’s impossible not to feel frustrated," said Seattle tight end Zack Miller, whose 11-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter was the only time the Seahawks reached the end zone. “But we still control our own destiny.”

After the 34-7 victory against New Orleans on Monday night three weeks ago, that destiny seemed assured. The Seahawks appeared Super Bowl bound.

That destiny is a little in doubt now. This game left some questions to answer, and it also had some head-scratching moments near the end.

What was a magnificent defensive battle became a sideshow circus of bizarre calls in the fourth quarter.

Two big calls went against Seattle. First, an apparent fumble by Arizona running back Rashard Mendenhall at the Seattle 16 was reviewed, but upheld as called as no fumble.

“We could not determine the status of the runner’s knee," referee Scott Green said. “The ball does come loose, but we never got a [video] shot that showed the status of his knee or any other part of his body being down, so therefore, you go with the call that was made on the field.”

The Cardinals kicked a field goal moments later to go up 9-3.

Later came a controversial interception on Seattle's last possession, when a pass intended for Doug Baldwin appeared to hit the turf, bounce in the air and was ruled an interception by Karlos Dansby.

“Again, we didn’t have indisputable evidence that it hit the ground," Green said. “Therefore, we went with the call as it was made on the field, which was an interception.”

However, maybe the craziest play of the game went Seattle’s way. After the Seahawks tied it 9-9 on the pass from Wilson to Miller, Hauschka’s extra-point attempt was blocked.

But Hauschka got another chance when the Cardinals were flagged for lining up over the center, which isn’t allowed. Hauschka made the second attempt and the Seahawks led 10-9 with 7:26 to go.

But don’t say Seattle lost this game because of the officiating. They lost because the Cardinals' defense was dominant.

So were the Seahawks -- until the end. After keeping Arizona out of the end zone all game, the Seahawks' defense couldn’t do it when it mattered most. The Cardinals drove 80 yards and scored on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd on a third-and-six.

The home-field magic was over.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned, you’re going to have ups and downs in life,” Wilson said. “At the end of the day, we still have to win the next game. That’s doesn’t change for us. We lost this one and we shouldn’t have lost it. We’ve had a really good season, and we just have to finish strong. Now the last game of the season is a championship game. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Sweezy misses practice with concussion

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
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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.

Zach Miller, Max Unger will play Sunday

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
5:36
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RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks tight end Zach Miller returned to practice Friday and will start Sunday against the New York Giants, as will center Max Unger.

Bryant
Miller
“Zach got work [Friday], and all the guys that we were sort of taking care of made it back,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “They’re good.”

Miller did not practice earlier in the week because of bruised ribs. Unger returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after suffering a strained pectoral muscle in the San Francisco game.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel wasn’t at practice Friday because he was sick, but he is expected to play Sunday.

Receiver Percy Harvin did not practice this week and will not play.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a bit before we get it right,” Carroll said of Harvin. “He’s doing a ton of stuff to get it back but hasn’t turned the corner. We’ll keep doing whatever it takes to get him back.”

Harvin made his season debut against Minnesota on Nov. 17 but aggravated his surgically repaired hip and hasn’t played since. Carroll was asked Friday if Harvin still is vulnerable to injuring or aggravating his hip.

“If they [doctors and trainers] aren’t releasing him to get back out there, that means he’s vulnerable,” Carroll said. “We’re going to make sure we take our time, and we still have a number of games left. If we can get him there, we’ll take it when it comes.”

Cornerback Brandon Browner remains out with a groin injury while he awaits news on his appeal for a substance-abuse violation. Cornerback Walter Thurmond has two games remaining on his suspension for a substance-abuse violation.

Malcolm Smith will start Sunday at outside linebacker for K.J. Wright, who had surgery Wednesday to repair a foot fracture and is out for the season.

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
11:52
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SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 34-7 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night at CenturyLink Field:

What it means: The Seahawks proved they are the best of the best in the NFC with a convincing victory over the Saints, which gives Seattle a two-game advantage in the race to have home-field advantage in the playoffs. But in reality, it’s more than two games because the Seahawks have defeated both the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans, which gives Seattle the tiebreaker over both teams that are two games behind them with four games to play, and the Saints and Panthers have to play each other twice.

Stock watch: In MVP considerations, Russell Wilson has moved ahead of Drew Brees by clearly outplaying his idol Monday night. Wilson was sensational in the first half, completing 14 of 19 passes for 226 yards and two TDs. And the Seattle defense destroyed the potent New Orleans passing game, including a 22-yard touchdown for defensive linemen Michael Bennett after defensive end Cliff Avril knocked the ball out of Brees' hand and Bennett caught the deflection.

Miller a tough tight end, too: This game was supposed to be about the Seahawks defense against New Orleans star tight end Jimmy Graham, but the Saints had a tough time covering Seattle tight end Zach Miller, who had a 2-yard TD catch after a 60-yard catch in the first quarter.

Maxwell and Lane up to the task: Fears of Brees lighting up the Seattle backups in the secondary were unfounded. All the distractions this week surrounding the suspension of Walter Thurmond and possibly Brandon Browner, who is out with a groin injury, didn’t hurt the Seahawks at all. Byron Maxwell played well as the starter, and Jeremy Lane also did a good job in the slot on the nickel packages.

What's next: The Seahawks fly south to play their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers in Candlestick Park. This was expected to be a game that might decide the NFC West, but Seattle has a three-game lead with four to play, so it isn’t the game it might have been, but it is important to San Francisco’s playoff hopes.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 11

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
8:00
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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.

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