Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin

Harvin doesn't practice Thursday

December, 5, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin did not practice again Thursday, which brings continuing doubts about the chances of him playing Sunday at San Francisco.

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Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Harvin would run on his own before practice Wednesday and they would evaluate where he was in terms in practicing Thursday.

Harvin made his season debut Nov. 17 against Minnesota but did not play Monday night against New Orleans because of soreness in his surgically repaired hip.

Linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has a thigh injury, also has not practiced this week, but Carroll said Wednesday that he expected Irvin to play this weekend.

Cornerback Brandon Browner, who was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, did not practice Thursday. Browner has a strained groin, but he is also awaiting word from the league in his appeal of a possible one-year suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

Backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson missed practice because of an illness. Tight end Kellen Davis (strained neck) was limited.

Receiver Golden Tate and running back Marshawn Lynch returned to full practice participation.

Five Seahawks under the radar

November, 24, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks have their share of limelight players who receive plenty of recognition nationally, like quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas.

Here are a few players who don't receive that type of praise but who have contributed to the 10-1 record:

Best rookie: Tight end Luke Willson was a steal as a late fifth-round pick. Few people had heard of the 6-5, 250-pound Canadian who played college ball at Rice -- another example of GM John Schneider's ability to find quality players other teams overlook.

Willson
Willson has 12 receptions for a 14.2-yard average per catch. The Seahawks knew he could catch and had good speed, but he has performed better as a blocker than most people expected.

He started two games when Zach Miller was out with a hamstring injury, but officially, Willson has started seven games because the Seahawks opened with a two-tight end set, showing their confidence in Willson.

He is an all-around athlete who played, hockey, soccer and baseball in high school, including a stint on the Canadian Junior National Team, along with football. But he also is a brainiac (typical of Rice grads) who had a 4.0 GPA.

Best new position: It's Bruce Irvin moving from defensive end to outside linebacker. After missing the first four games due to a PED suspension, Irvin stepped into his new spot and made an immediate impact with a sack in his first game back.

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Irvin's speed has enabled to do things at linebacker that he didn't do at defensive end, like intercepting a pass 30 yards downfield in the game at St. Louis.

Irvin has 28 tackles (20 solo), two sacks, five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Irvin loves playing linebacker and believes he can do more things without constantly taking on huge offensive tackles.

Most underrated player: This one will surprise you. I'm going with punter Jon Ryan, the other Canadian on the Seahawks. Ryan doesn't rank among the league leaders in yards per punt, which is a misleading stat in regard to a punter's value.

Ryan's success comes from how high he kicks the ball. Returners appear to wait forever for the ball to come down, so they don't get many opportunities to gain any yards after the catch.

Only 11 of his 44 punts have been returned. But here's the eye-popping numbers. The 11 returns totaled a measly 15 yards. And one of those was 10 yards, so the other 10 totaled only 5 yards.

Eighteen punts were downed inside the 20. Ryan completely shut down the best punt returner in the league -- Marcus Sherels -- last week against Minnesota. All Sherels could muster was three fair catches. On the other two Ryan punts, one was downed at the 7 and the other went out of bounds at the 20.

Ryan is a major field-position asset for the Seahawks.

Best offseason acquisition: Now this is a tough one because Seattle has three new players -- Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett -- who have made a big difference on the defensive front line, but I'll go with Bennett at defensive end.

Bennett
Bennett is tied with Avril for the team lead with 6 1/2 sacks, but he also has 16 quarterback hurries and 20 tackles.

Avril missed the first game of the season with an injury and feels like he's just starting to find his rhythm. He has three forced fumbles, including one on a sack in the Minnesota game.

But McDaniel also is a good pick from his defensive tackle spot. He has 44 tackles, including tying his season-high with seven against Minnesota when coach Pete Carroll singled him out as having his best game.

Honestly, I'm good with picking any of these three guys. They have dramatically improved the defensive front for Seattle, which was one of the team's top priorities after last season.

And, of course, I haven't even mentioned receiver Percy Harvin, who could win this category by the end of the season.

Best return: Some would say defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, whom I listed earlier this week as the most pleasant surprise on defense this season since he came back in Week 2 after being released at the end of preseason.

But my pick here is fullback Michael Robinson. He has helped throw some key blocks for Marshawn Lynch in the last three games, but maybe just as important is his leadership in the locker room and the respect he has from all his teammates.

As this young team heads toward a possible Super Bowl run, having a veteran leader like Robinson is a big asset to keep everyone pointing in the right direction.

Irvin making big moves at linebacker

October, 31, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- A lot of surprising things happened Monday night at St. Louis, but maybe the biggest shocker was seeing linebacker Bruce Irvin do his cornerback imitation.

And it was a good one, coming up with an interception on a deep sideline pass, just like his buddy Richard Sherman often does.

Irvin was step-for-step with Rams receiver Brian Quick, who came out of the backfield to force Irvin to cover him on a speed route outside. Irvin was right there for the pick, not bad for a guy who was seen only as a pass-rushing specialist.

[+] EnlargeBruce Irvin
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesBruce Irvin's interception Monday night showcased the versatility the Seahawks first saw in him.
“I played quarterback in high school,” Irvin said. “I just waited for my opportunity to show I could be more than a rush end.”

The Seattle Seahawks gave him that chance by moving him from defensive end to linebacker this season. But Irvin missed the first four games while suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing-drugs policy, so no one knew for sure how the move would work out.

A lot of doubts about Irvin’s ability to play linebacker were erased in St. Louis when he had nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble to go with his surprising interception.

“Bruce had a fantastic game for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He was all over the place. He just looked really comfortable playing the position and all of the different things that we’re doing with him.

"If there was a thought that this was an experiment at one time, it’s totally working out and we’re really excited about what he’s doing. He’s a gifted athlete.”

The Seahawks took a lot of criticism when they drafted Irvin in the first round last year. Many experts said it was a reach and a gamble on a player who had a troubled past before he made it to West Virginia as a major college player.

“But Pete has recruited me out of junior college,” Irvin said. “He saw a kid that had a lot of baggage and personal issues, but a guy that if he surrounded him with a lot of positive things, he could get great production out of him. I will always thank Pete for taking a chance on me. He believed in me, and that means a lot.”

Irvin was seen as a bit of a ‘tweener’’ by many draft experts – too small to play defensive end and too bulked up to play outside linebacker.

“In the process of him getting prepared for the draft, some scouts worked him out at linebacker,” Carroll said. “The results were them saying he doesn’t have what it takes to play linebacker. They said he was uncomfortable with it and a fish out of water.”

Irvin doesn’t remember that workout, but Carroll never believed it, anyway.

“I heard that and I totally dismissed it,’’ Carroll said. “I’d already seen him do stuff that was like a defensive back playing defensive end. He showed those things in college, so I didn’t buy into that. I don’t know what happened in that workout, but it must have been horrible. I can’t imagine the drills they put him through that would show that.”

Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton agreed with Carroll and wanted to give Irvin a shot this season at moving to linebacker. Irvin is thankful for the chance. He felt his days were numbered as a defensive end.

“In order for me to keep up with those huge linemen, I would need to put on 20 or 30 pounds,” Irvin said. “I’m a speed guy. Playing linebacker gave me the chance to use my speed and make plays. I tell Ken Norton every day, ‘You saved my career making me a linebacker.’ I just want to keep working hard so he’ll know he made the right decision.’’

That seems obvious now, but an interception on a deep sideline route was more than anyone expected. Irvin said he got a little help on that play from free safety Earl Thomas.

“He told me to look out for the wheel route,” Irvin said. “I really look up to Earl. He’s our leader out there.”

Irvin’s teammates believe in him. So do his coaches. A cornerback-like interception on a deep pass was a bonus.

“That was my first one ever like that,” Irvin said. “I think this shows I’m capable of doing more than just coming in on third down to rush the passer. I like to prove people wrong.”

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

October, 28, 2013
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ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 14-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams Monday night at Edward Jones Dome:

What it means: The Seahawks can beat a weak opponent in a half-empty stadium on a night when Seattle's offensive line could not have played worse. But it came down to the last play when St. Louis had fourth-and-goal at the 2 but couldn’t complete the pass.

Stock watch: One big play was the difference, an 80-yard touchdown pass to receiver Golden Tate that will be remembered for his classless taunting instead of his exceptional athletic move to come up with the ball over the defender. Tate’s stock goes up by making an outstanding leaping catch on a deep throw, outbattling the defender for the ball. Then his stock goes way down as he heads for the end zone for an easy touchdown, but taunts St. Louis safety Rodney McLeod. Tate sticks his arm out and moves his fingers as if to say, “Don’t yap.” McLeod almost runs Tate down in the process. Completely uncalled for. Act like a pro.

Rice hurt: Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice walked to the locker room in the first half with a reported knee issue and did not return.

Defense can’t stop the run, but gets it done: The Seahawks gave up 200 yards rushing, but kept St. Louis out of the end zone and came up with two interceptions -- one by Bruce Irvin and one by Richard Sherman, giving the Seahawks 13 picks this season.

Horrendous offensive play: Worst effort of the season by the Seahawks' offensive line. Russell Wilson was sacked seven times and under pressure every time he dropped back to throw. And the run blocking wasn’t much better. If you're grading, it was an F.

Offensive lows: With the men up front playing so poorly, the Seahawks had 38 total yards in the first half, their fewest yards in any first half since 2001. Seattle had only 42 yards before Tate’s 80-yard touchdown.

What's next: The Seahawks play at home for the first time in three weeks when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Century Link Field on Sunday. Seattle has won 12 consecutive home games.

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman feels like he missed out on a golden opportunity, a one-time chance to play against NFL legend Brett Favre.

Favre, 44, was contacted by the St. Louis Rams about coming out of retirement one more time and helping the team while starting quarterback Sam Bradford is out with a torn ACL. Favre might have started Monday night against Seattle, but he declined the offer.

“Man, that would have been so cool, just to say I did it,” Sherman said. “I would have loved that, just to have the opportunity to play against him one time.”

And what if he came up with an interception off Favre?

“Oh, that football would have been up on my mantel," Sherman said.

Seattle safety Chris Maragos, a Wisconsin native who played college ball at the University of Wisconsin, grew up watching Favre play for the Green Bay Packers.

“Man, any kid from Wisconsin would love to play against him,” Maragos said. “That would have been exciting. He had a great career.”

Defensive end Cliff Avril has a nice memory from a game he had against Favre a few years ago.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to sack him once,” Avril said. "It would’ve been cool if he was out there, but I heard about it and took all that with a grain of salt.”

Linebacker Bruce Irvin said it’s all the same to him, whether it was Favre or journeyman quarterback Kellen Clemens, who will start Monday for the Rams.

“It wouldn’t matter to me,” Irvin said. “We have the same mentality no matter who’s back there. But it would have been really interesting.”

Second-year cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn’t think Favre could have helped the Rams against the Seahawks' defense.

“I don’t think it would have made a difference," Lane said. “But it would have been kinda cool. We would have been real tough on him, but I would have wanted to meet me after the game.”
RENTON, Wash. -- The last time the Seattle Seahawks lost a regular-season game, they proceeded to go on a six-game winning streak. Can they do it again?

The Seahawks lost at Miami on Nov. 25, 2012, dropping their record to 6-5. They didn’t lose again until the playoff game at Atlanta on Jan. 13, on a field goal with eight seconds remaining. This season, Seattle won four in a row to start this season before a 34-28 loss at Indianapolis last week, when the Colts came from behind in the fourth quarter after trailing 28-23.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman both believe the team is much better now than it was 11 months ago after the loss at Miami.

“We’re more mature,’’ Sherman said Wednesday. “We pretty much have the same players, just a year older.”

That’s a little misleading. Fifteen Seahawks players were not with the team at that time last season, but 20 of the current 22 starters were.

“Now we have guys that have been to Pro Bowls and have seen a lot more ball than we did then,” Sherman said. “I think we’re just more capable. We’re more ready. We’re just better than we were them. So hopefully, the result will be the same.”

Wilson said the team has a better sense of its capabilities than it did 11 months ago.

“I think our team is much more competitive,” Wilson said. “I believe we know who our guys are, who our leaders are and what we need to do to be successful.”

Maybe the biggest difference is Wilson. He was a rookie with only 11 NFL starts when Seattle lost at Miami last season. Three other current starters -- offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy, outside linebacker Bruce Irvin and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner -- were in their first season, too.

But even as a rookie, Wilson doesn’t think he was ever flustered.

"I don’t remember the last time I was ever flustered," he said. "I think the biggest thing for me is just I stay composed. I know that I’m still really young. It’s my second year in the league. I’m just starting. I understand that there’s going to be a process to learn the whole thing.

"We understand that playing in the situations, you learn from them. You grow from them, whether it’s good or bad. It’s one of things that you use each situation to try to understand it the best way that you can."

Whether Seattle can put together another six-game winning streak after a regular-season loss remains to be seen. But Wilson and Sherman are convinced this team is better prepared to do it now than it was 11 months ago.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was walking on crutches Wednesday and wearing a protective boot over his sprained left ankle.

“Bobby will see if he can make it back by game day,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “But it will go all the way to Sunday.”

If Wagner doesn’t play, K.J. Wright will move from his outside linebacker spot to Wagner’s middle linebacker spot. Malcolm Smith and Bruce Irvin would start at the outside spots.

Carroll is confident that Pro Bowl center Max Unger will return this weekend after missing the last two games with a triceps injury. Unger was a full participant at practice Wednesday,

“We’re counting on him coming back this week,” Carroll said. “We’re really hoping Max will secure the calls.”

The Seahawks were missing four starters up front in the 34-28 loss to Indianapolisn on Sunday: Unger, tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini and tight end Zach Miller.

Okung and Giacomini still are out, and Miller (strained hamstring) will be a game-day decision, Carroll said. But Carroll believes Unger’s return is a big key to the backup players performing at a higher level.

“Max is one if your team leaders,” Carroll said. “He is the guy who has the greatest command of what we’re doing up front. He will help other guys play well and make the right choices. And he’ll help the quarterback [Russell Wilson], too, in identification.

“We missed that the last couple of weeks and it’s made a difference in our pass protection. There are some spacing issues that we don’t want. Max can get everybody on the right guys. The biggest issue has been the inconsistency on communication. We’ve had to suffer through that and it’s why Russell has had to run more.”

Carroll also was asked how wide receiver Percy Harvin looks since returning to the Seahawks facility after rehabbing in New York following his hip surgery Aug. 1.

“Percy has been working hard,” Carroll said. “He’s excited and he’s running and we’re hoping there are no setbacks along the way. We’ll keep progressing with it.”

Harvin is eligible to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list for the game against the Arizona Cardinals next week, but Carroll does not see that happening.

“I don’t think that is realistic,” Carroll said. “I think that’s too soon, but it’ll happen when he’s ready to go and we get a chance to prepare him so he’s physically capable of being safe.

“He’s a full-on, full-speed football player. He’s got to be ready to go. When he comes back, we want him to be able to endure the rigors of the end of the season. It’s not important to rush him back. It’s important to wait it out and be patient and get him out there when he’s ready to go and withstand the load of the game.”

Defensive tackle Michael Bennett (quad) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Running back Marshawn Lynch also did not practice, but he is not injured.

Carroll also said that cornerback Jeremy Lane (hamstring) and running back Spencer Ware (ankle) will be game-day decisions this week.
INDIANAPOLIS -- In a bit of a surprise move, the Seattle Seahawks released wide receiver Stephen Williams Saturday in order to place linebacker Bruce Irvin back on the active roster.

It’s no surprise that Irvin was activated after a four-week suspension for performance enhancing drugs. But releasing Williams means Seattle enters Sunday game against the Indianapolis Colts with only four wide receivers -- Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice and Jermaine Kearse.

Williams was signed in the offseason as a free agent who spent two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Williams, 27, had a strong preseason with three long touchdown receptions that showcased his speed and his ability to outjump defenders for the ball by using his 6-foot-5 frame. But Williams did not have a catch in the first four games and didn’t help much on special teams.

The fact that Seattle did not release an offensive lineman (10 are on the active roster) may mean that starting center Max Unger isn’t likely to play Sunday. Unger, who missed last week’s game with a triceps injury, is listed as questionable. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that Unger, along with tight end Zach Miller (hamstring), would be game-time decisions.

Roster move coming to activate Irvin

October, 4, 2013
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Linebacker Bruce Irvin will play Sunday, which means the Seattle Seahawks will have to make a roster move before then. Irvin is returning from a four-week suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and the Seahawks must let someone go before they can activate Irvin.

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“He’s done really well,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday about how Irvin has looked in practice this week. “It’s just a little rough around the edges on some stuff, but he’s in great shape and he’s ready to go. He’s really charged up and he’s done a lot of studying over the time that he was out. He has come back ready to take advantage of this. He doesn’t want to wait another game to get going.”

The Seahawks also will have safety Jeron Johnson back this weekend; he’s been out with a hamstring injury. But the problems on offense could be worse than last week. Tight end Zach Miller and center Max Unger are listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

Cornerback Jeremy Lane is doubtful with a hamstring injury. Carroll said rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill (shoulder injury) is ready to go after practicing this week, but they plan to hold him out one more week.
RENTON, Wash. -- It’s hard to tell who is more exciting about Bruce Irvin coming off of suspension, Irvin or Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.

Norton was asked if Irvin will make a difference for the Seahawks' defense.

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“Absolutely,’’ he said. “I’m mean, that’s Bruce Irvin, a first-round pick. That guy does everything. They are going to be chanting his name. You are going to see what we’ve been missing.”

Norton believes Irvin is a bit of a changed man since his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

“He really understands what he did wrong, and he’s very happy to be back,” Norton said. “Sometimes absence make the heart grow fonder. He appreciates this game a little bit more. He was in the building at 6 [Wednesday morning] studying. It’s great to see him with that type of attitude. Sometimes things have to happen to you in life to appreciate it.”

Norton said the team has no plans to ease Irvin into the mix.

“We’re gonna put him right in there,” he said. “There’s no waiting. He’s gonna jump right in there and we’re exciting to get him going. It’s like having a new toy.”

But Irvin, who led all rookies last season with eight sacks, is learning a new position, moving from defensive end to strongside linebacker.

“This is his first year playing linebacker, so there’s still some development,'’ Norton said. “But when you look up 'linebacker' in the dictionary, his face shows up. He’s gonna do it all. He’s gonna rush the passer, he’ll play the run and he’ll be buzzing to the flat and flying around. We’re expecting a lot of him. We have a plan for him and he’s gonna shine.”

Seahawks sign a quarterback from the 49ers: The Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers are now even this fall when it comes to claiming each other’s draft choices.

Seattle now has a third quarterback, having claimed rookie B.J. Daniels, the 49ers' seventh-round draft pick out of South Florida, off of waivers Wednesday. To make room, the Seahawks released rookie linebacker John Lotulelei.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear the 49ers valued Daniels and his future with the team, and had every intention of signing him to their practice squad. “We have a plan for him,” Harbaugh said.

Apparently, so do the Seahawks, and they know the feeling of losing a guy they wanted to keep around. Before the season began, Seattle released receiver Chris Harper, a fourth-round draft pick, hoping to add him to the practice squad. But the 49ers added him to their 53-man roster.

Double Coverage: Seahawks at Texans

September, 27, 2013
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Matt Schaub and Russell WilsonGetty ImagesMatt Schaub and Russell Wilson have combined to throw 12 touchdowns through Week 3.
When they saw each other at the Pro Bowl earlier this year, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt told Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson that if Watt had just stayed another year at Wisconsin, they might have won a national championship together.

“I wish I knew he was coming,” said Watt on Wednesday, who left Wisconsin after his junior year, just as Wilson arrived.

Sunday at Reliant Stadium, they might see a lot of each other. The matchup between the Texans and Seahawks will pit the league’s two best defenses against each other. But Wilson won’t be easy to contain for a Texans’ defense that gave up only 236 yards in last week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are coming off such a dominating win over the Jacksonville Jaguars that Wilson didn’t need to finish the game.

Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take a look at the matchup.

Ganguli: So Terry, what makes Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman special?

Blount: Preparation, enormous athleticism and confidence are what makes him special. I know many people outside of Seattle just see Sherman as a arrogant guy with a big mouth. That's a big mistake. Sherman is an extremely hard worker who spends hours studying film of every receiver he faces. Consequently, he rarely gets fooled on a play, and the few times when he does, he has the athletic ability to react quickly, overcome it and get back to the ball.

Tania, how do you think Andre Johnson will do against the talented Seattle secondary, and especially a head-to-head matchup with Sherman?

Ganguli: The Texans are considering Johnson day-to-day right now. He didn’t look right when he tried to play Sunday after suffering a shin bruise in Baltimore and ultimately recognized that it was better for him to leave and heal than play hindered by the injury. If they don’t have him, the Texans will look to rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a budding star who has shown talent from the moment he arrived in Houston, but also improved steadily as a rookie.

And speaking of young players, how has quarterback Wilson changed in his second year?

Blount: Wilson is willing to take a lot more chances on difficult throws now because he understands what his receivers are going to do and where they will be. In the Jacksonville game, he made what appeared to be a dangerous throw in the middle of the end zone when Sidney Rice had three defenders near him. But Rice had signaled Wilson to toss it up high and Rice would get it, which he did. Wilson knows the offense now and has complete confidence to make plays at clutch moments, and his teammates believe in him.

Wilson is at his best when he scrambles and improvises, often resulting in big plays downfield. Can the Texans defense contain him?

Ganguli: The most mobile quarterback they faced so far this season was Titans quarterback Jake Locker, who threw two touchdown passes but had a QBR of 44.3 against the Texans. They haven’t faced a quarterback who is such an accurate passer while having the ability to use his legs and improvise. Wilson’s numbers have been among the best in the league this season. That will be a challenge for a defense that wants to be the best in the league.

You wrote that the loss of left tackle Russell Okung didn’t hurt much against the Jaguars, but how do you see it impacting the Seahawks going forward?

Blount: Tania, this has to be Seattle's biggest concern entering the Texans game. The Seahawks may be the deepest team in the league, but the offensive line, and particular the tackle spots, is a thin area. They are no match for J.J. Watt. Paul McQuistan moved from guard to left tackle to replace Okung, but the team is weaker without Okung on the field. Right tackle Breno Giacomini probably won't play because of a knee injury. That means rookie Michael Bowie, a seventh-round draft choice, will have to go head-to-head with Watt. Bailey is talented, but he has a lot to learn. Throwing him out there this week against Watt is truly scary for the Seahawks.

I know the Seahawks have major concerns about trying to stop Watt and keeping him off Wilson. Do you see Watt having a big game Sunday?

Ganguli: Watt has a keen ability to exploit weaknesses in inexperienced players. And if he doesn’t know it right from the start, he figures it out eventually. He’s a player with work ethic to match his talent, which isn’t always the case with athletes of his caliber. Watt has been the third most effective player at disrupting opponents’ passes since he entered the NFL. He ranks behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith and Minnesota’s Jared Allen. Watt has played very well this season and he’s determined to have a better year than he did last year when he led the league with 20.5 sacks and 16 batted passes.

The Seahawks secondary gets the most attention, but how has their defensive front played and what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Blount: This was an area of needed improvement at the end of last season, so the staff made a major effort to bring in veterans who could help with the pass rush. It worked. Defensive linemen Michael Bennett, a free agent Seattle signed after he spent four years in Tampa Bay, has been a force up front. Cliff Avril, the biggest offseason acquisition, was hurt all preseason, but is back now and just starting to contribute. Defensive end Chris Clemons, the team's top pass-rusher last season, returned last week after offseason ACL surgery. And O'Brien Schofield, who was released at Arizona, has been strong at linebacker and defensive end. This is a much stronger, deeper and quicker group than it was a year ago, and it still doesn't have Bruce Irvin. He returns next week after a four-game suspension for PEDs.

Tania, these teams have two of the best running backs in the NFL in Arian Foster in Houston and Marshawn Lynch at Seattle. Which running back do you think will have the upper hand on Sunday?

Ganguli: The running back situation has been interesting in Houston this season. The Texans eased Foster into the season after he missed the entire preseason and in the meantime backup Ben Tate has played very well. Tate is in a contract year and if he keeps up the way he’s started, he’ll be making some money after the season. His yards per carry have been strong and even better have been his yards after contact, 4.5 yards, the best in the NFL. If we’re talking fantasy numbers, Lynch will definitely have the upper hand on Sunday. Foster will be sharing his load with Tate.

Last question from me: What is one name Texans fans might not know that they will after Sunday’s game?

Blount: Great question. I'll pick a couple. First might be middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-year player who is growing into one of the best linebackers in the league. Another is slot receiver Doug Baldwin, an exceptional possession-type receiver who has a knack for making the big catch on third down.

And finally, everyone talks about how the Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in the NFL, but I’m a Houston native who has seen some pretty rabid fans down there, as well. How much of a factor can the crowd be Sunday at Reliant Stadium?

Ganguli: They are a rabid bunch and have the added benefit of a perpetually closed roof that keeps their rabidity trapped like a greenhouse gas. They’ve been frustrated recently, but if their team plays well on Sunday, it will be loud.

.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 3

September, 23, 2013
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An examination of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 45-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

[+] EnlargeSidney Rice
AP Photo/Stephen BrashearSidney Rice pulled in two touchdown passes in a 45-17 rout of the Jaguars.
A cleaner and better offense: The Seahawks offense accomplished two big goals Sunday of cutting down on senseless penalties and getting off to a better start, especially in the passing game, than in the first two games. Seattle had only three offensive penalties for 20 yards. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, including three in the first half, and Tarvaris Jackson also had a touchdown throw.

Was Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung missed?: Well, not much when you play a team as weak as the Jaguars, but the real question is whether it will hurt the Seahawks in coming weeks against better opponents. First up are the Houston Texans and monster defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Paul McQuistan had some good moments and some bad moments Sunday in Okung's left tackle spot. “He did alright and hung in there pretty nice,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of McQuistan. Carroll was happy rookie tackles Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey got to play in the lopsided game. “To have a chance to get them in the game was awesome,” Carroll said. “They got significant playing time.”

An abundance of riches on the defensive line: With the return of defensive end Chris Clemons, who looked good in pressuring the quarterback on passing downs, the Seahawks have a scary bunch up front. The coaches had a goal in the offseason to shore up the pass rush with free-agent acquisitions, and it worked. Defensive end Michael Bennett has been sensational. He had 1.5 sacks Sunday and a tackle for loss. O'Brien Schofield has been a solid contributor, starting at linebacker Sunday for injured Malcolm Smith. And defensive end Cliff Avril is another pass-rush specialist who adds to the attacking defense. Defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin will add to the depth in two weeks when he returns from suspension.

Staying focused: The Seahawks pounced on the Jaguars from the outset, not allowing for any type of letdown or lack of effort against a lesser opponent. Seattle led 31-0 before Jacksonville scored. The Jaguars had only 20 yards rushing in the first half and only 44 yards passing. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had 55 yards rushing in the first quarter on nine carries. Seattle came out smoking and had the game won by halftime, when they were up 24-0. The final score is misleading because the Seahawks were playing mostly reserves in the second half, and all of Jacksonville points came in garbage time long after the outcome was decided.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 2

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
12:35
PM ET
SEATTLE -- An examination of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers:

[+] EnlargeCliff Avril
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonOffseason acquisition Cliff Avril forced a fumble, leading a dominant defensive showing by Seattle.
Dominant defense: The Seahawks shut down one of the best offenses in the NFL, keeping the 49ers out of the end zone and holding San Francisco to 207 yards of offense. After a career-best 412-yard effort in Week 1 against Green Bay, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was held to 127 yards passing and threw three interceptions. And the Seahawks did it without three of their best defensive players: defensive end Chris Clemons, cornerback Brandon Browner (out with injuries) and defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin (suspended for the first four games). Defensive end Cliff Avril, the Seahawks' top offseason acquisition on defense, finally got on the field and showed his worth by forcing a Kaepernick fumble on a sack. The Seattle defense has allowed one touchdown in the first two games.

Okung and the offensive line: The Seahawks lost Pro Bowl offensive tackle Russell Okung to a foot injury in the first half. His status for Week 3 is unknown, but this is one of the few areas where Seattle doesn’t have much quality depth. The Seahawks had to move left guard Paul McQuistan to Okung’s left tackle spot because the backup tackles -- rookies Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey -- were inactive. McQuistan, who hasn’t lined up at tackle all summer, settled in and did OK in the second half after getting burned a couple of times by 49ers speed-rusher Aldon Smith. However, the offensive line played much better overall than in the season opener against Carolina. The line opened some nice holes for running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 98 yards and scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving.

Slow starts for Wilson: For the second week in a row, quarterback Russell Wilson got off to a horrible start. He was 0-for-6 passing in the first quarter and completed one of his first nine throws. Wilson improved as the game progressed, completing 7 of his last 10 passes. But he admitted he missed some throws early that he normally makes. Wilson always seems to find a way to get it done, but the Seahawks need him to start games the way he finishes them. Maybe a shower will help. During the one-hour lightning delay Sunday night, Wilson took a shower in the locker room, saying he wanted to start fresh after the break. Hey, whatever works.

Avoiding a letdown: The Seahawks are coming off an emotional home opener against their division rival in a game many people viewed as a battle for NFC supremacy. Now Seattle will face one of the worst teams in the NFL in the Jacksonville Jaguars. It would be easy to look past Jacksonville and start thinking about a road game against the Houston Texans one week later.
The NFC West complied with the 75-man roster limit Tuesday by releasing some players and placing others on various reserve lists.

The chart shows how many players each team from the division is carrying by position. Note that figures for defensive lineman and linebacker can be tricky, so a generic "front seven" figure could be more relevant in some cases.

One observation per team:
  • Arizona Cardinals: Injury concerns have led the Cardinals to carry additional players at tight end. Starter Rob Housler suffered a high-ankle sprain and might not be ready for the opener. Veteran Jeff King has not yet played during preseason. The team added Richard Quinn as short-term insurance. Housler and King both passed physicals and have practiced during camp, making them ineligible for the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Both are expected back sooner than PUP rules would allow, anyway. For now, though, their injuries are creating roster challenges. Guard Jonathan Cooper is also ineligible for PUP. He could go on the injured reserve list with a designation for return later in the season.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have 10 wide receivers on their 75-man roster, tied for most in the NFL even after placing Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham on the PUP list. Four or five of their remaining cuts figure to come at that position. The 49ers' wide receivers are the oldest in the NFL by average age thanks to Anquan Boldin (32) and Kassim Osgood (33). If Osgood sticks on the 53-man roster, special-teams contributions will explain why. Boldin, Jon Baldwin, Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore would be by picks if the team kept five.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Defensive end Chris Clemons remained on the roster instead of shifting to the reserve/PUP list, another indication the team thinks he could return from knee surgery sooner rather than later. The PUP designation would allow Clemons to resume practicing between Oct. 15 and Nov. 19, but all signs point to Clemons being ready before that. Seattle needs him, too. Bruce Irvin faces a four-game suspension. Cliff Avril has a hamstring injury that could affect his availability for the opener. Keeping Clemons in play for Week 1 makes sense as long as there's a chance he could be ready by then.
  • St. Louis Rams: The Rams are a little heavy at tight end while Cory Harkey recovers from injury and Lance Kendricks gets back to full speed following knee surgery. The Rams' roster appears pretty normal overall. The decisions looming appear straightforward. That could change as the team continues to build its depth.

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