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3 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Sept. 05, 2011
Sept. 05, 2011

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Sept. 5, 2011

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
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Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
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3 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

A green O-line will try to awaken a dormant ground game

This is an article from the Sept. 5, 2011 issue

Pete Carroll could sense the question coming. The giveaway was the incredulous look on his inquisitor's face.

Carroll saw the look often during training camp. And it was usually followed by some variation of: Really? You're going to start an offensive line that includes two rookies, a second-year player and a third-year man?

"People think we're stupid," says Carroll, "but we don't care what people think. We believe in what we're doing. It's going to be difficult, it's going to be a challenge, but [these guys] are going to fight you every step of the way, which is why we think we can get this done right away."

After Carroll was hired away from USC last year, he and general manager John Schneider discussed a desire to get the team younger, bigger and more physical. But a franchise can't be rebuilt in one off-season, so they focused on areas other than the O-line. With that group now made over as well, only 17 offensive players remain from the roster Carroll inherited.

New offensive line coach Tom Cable smiles at the challenge before him. He has never seen this type of turnover and commitment to youth on an NFL line, and he compares it to being in college, asking a handful of redshirt freshmen to replace a group of graduating seniors.

"But this is a lot of fun because the guys are learning to work and play with the right spirit," says Cable, who coached the Raiders for three seasons. "Usually we come out each day and have something that we focus on, and it's really fun to see the whole group take a task or goal and make it work all day. Line play is about habits. You either have good habits or you don't. I think these guys are learning how to apply those habits consistently."

The overhaul was necessary—and Cable, who has been entrusted with the run game as well, appears to be the right man to lead it. Last year the Seahawks finished 31st in total rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. Cable's Raiders, meanwhile, were second in both. Carroll is handing the reins of his offense to Tarvaris Jackson, who completed only 48 passes in the past two seasons as a backup for the Vikings. So Seattle will need a consistent ground attack from Marshawn Lynch (who ran for 573 yards in 12 games last year after being acquired from the Bills during the season), Leon Washington and Justin Forsett to take some of the pressure off Jackson as he moves into his new role.

Carroll and Schneider sought a certain personality type when putting their new line together. The players not only had to be big and physical, but also smart and nasty. The left tackle spot belonged to their 2010 top draft pick, Russell Okung (6'5", 310 pounds), but the rest of the unit was open for change.

Seattle started by using its first two picks in April's draft on Alabama tackle James Carpenter (6'5", 321) and Wisconsin guard John Moffitt (6'4", 319). Then by the Seahawks moved third-year pro Max Unger (6'5", 305) back to center, the position he played along with right guard as a rookie. (Unger started last season at guard but was lost for the year with a toe injury in the opener.)

The only element missing from the group was experience: The four youngsters had a total of just 27 NFL start. So two days after the lockout ended, Carroll went out and got 6'7", 325-pound free-agent guard Robert Gallery and his 91 career starts. Gallery played for Cable in Oakland and is prepared to help deliver his old coach's message to his young linemates. "I think I've got almost three times as many games played as the guys in our meeting room," says Gallery, the second pick in the 2004 draft. "But it's cool because there is a lot of young energy. I'm glad to come in and share some wisdom that I've learned over the years. These guys listen and want to learn."

The players are as different off the field as they are alike on it. Carpenter is fairly quiet, while Moffitt is talkative and quick-witted. When told what Cable said about all of the youth on the line, Moffitt smiled and said, "That's O.K. I can't remember ever having a coach as old as Cable."

"We feel really good about the guys," says Carroll. "It's a brand new group that we feel we can really mold. They're athletic and have really good attitudes that we can see being together for a long time and be the foundation of this program. We obviously took drastic measures to get this done, but it's part of the plan that we've had in place. We weren't able to get it done last year, but we feel good about what's taken place."

Carroll realizes such talk might be met with skepticism, but he doesn't care. Carroll lives his life without a rearview mirror. The decision has been made. Now it's time to see what will happen.

PROJECTED LINEUP

WITH 2010 STATS

OFFENSE

2010 Rank: 28

QB TARVARIS JACKSON

ATT 58

COMP 34

PCT 58.6

YARDS 341

YD/ATT 5.9

TD 3

INT 4

RATING 63.9

RB MARSHAWN LYNCH

ATT 202

YARDS 737

REC 22

TTD 6

FB MICHAEL ROBINSON

ATT 12

YARDS 77

REC 8

TTD 0

WR SIDNEY RICE

REC 17

YARDS 280

AVG 16.5

TTD 2

WR MIKE WILLIAMS

REC 65

YARDS 751

AVG 11.6

TTD 2

TE ZACH MILLER

REC 60

YARDS 685

AVG 11.4

TTD 5

LT RUSSELL OKUNG

G 10

SACKS 4

HOLD 0

FALSE 3

LG ROBERT GALLERY

G 12

SACKS 2

HOLD 2

FALSE 3

C MAX UNGER

G 1

SACKS 0

HOLD 0

FALSE 0

RG JOHN MOFFITT (R)

G 13

STARTS 13

RT JAMES CARPENTER (R)

G 13

STARTS 13

RB JUSTIN FORSETT

ATT 118

YARDS 523

REC 33

TTD 2

WR BEN OBOMANU

REC 30

YARDS 494

AVG 16.5

TTD 4

DEFENSE

2010 Rank: 27

DE CHRIS CLEMONS

TACKLES 49

SACKS 11

INT 0

DT ALAN BRANCH

TACKLES 35

SACKS 2

INT 0

DT BRANDON MEBANE

TACKLES 31

SACKS 1

INT 0

DE RED BRYANT

TACKLES 18

SACKS 1

INT 0

LB AARON CURRY

TACKLES 71

SACKS 3½

INT 0

LB DAVID HAWTHORNE

TACKLES 104

SACKS 0

INT 1

LB LEROY HILL

TACKLES 0

SACKS 0

INT 0

CB MARCUS TRUFANT

TACKLES 80

SACKS 0

INT 1

SS KAM CHANCELLOR

TACKLES 12

SACKS 1

INT 0

FS EARL THOMAS

TACKLES 72

SACKS 0

INT 5

CB BRANDON BROWNER*

TACKLES 51

SACKS 0

INT 5

DB WALTER THURMOND

TACKLES 33

SACKS 0

INT 0

SPECIALISTS

K JEFF REED

FG 24

FGA 32

XP 32

PTS 104

P JON RYAN

PUNTS 78

GROSS 41.7

NET 37.3

BOLD: Projected starter

Italics: New acquisition

(R) Rookie: College stats

* 2010 CFL statistics

TTD: Total touchdowns

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

SACKS: Sacks allowed

HOLD: Holding penalties

FALSE: False starts

2011 SCHEDULE

2010 RECORD: 7--9

September

11 at San Francisco

18 at Pittsburgh

25 Arizona

October

2 Atlanta

9 at N.Y. Giants

16 BYE

23 at Cleveland

30 Cincinnati

November

6 at Dallas

13 Baltimore

20 at St. Louis

27 Washington

December

1 Philadelphia (Thu)

12 St. Louis (Mon)

18 at Chicago

24 San Francisco (Sat)

January

1 at Arizona

COACH PETE CARROLL

AGE: 59

SECOND SEASON WITH THE SEAHAWKS (7--9)

Carroll is a blend of college enthusiasm and NFL know-how. He shocked everyone last season by leading the Seahawks to a division title, then knocking off the defending champion Saints. His penchant for remaking the team is a plus in the long run, but it could lead to some growing pains this season. Carroll values size, athleticism, smarts and physicality. His guys all have that. All they need is experience.

SPOTLIGHT

TARVARIS JACKSON, Quarterback

The Vikings seemed to be anointing their quarterback of the future when they selected Jackson in the second round of the 2006 draft. But after an erratic 2007—his first as a starter—in which he threw 12 interceptions against only nine touchdown passes, followed by a demotion to backup behind Gus Ferotte the next season, Minnesota lured Brett Favre out of retirement to take over in 2009.

Now Jackson is the Seahawks' quarterback of the future. He wasn't Seattle's first choice, but when the team was unable to come to terms with free agent Matt Hasselbeck, Pete Carroll wasted little time signing Jackson to a two-year, $8 million deal and declaring that the starting job was his. Carroll hopes that a change in scenery will allow the 28-year-old—who has a big arm, athleticism and the comfort of knowing he's with an organization that believes in him—to realize his potential.

Jackson spent the off-season working out in Arizona with Larry Fitzgerald and former Cardinals offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan and should benefit from having already worked with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Sidney Rice in Minnesota. Rice (6'4") and Mike Williams (6'5") give him big targets, and Zach Miller is a mobile tight end who can work the seams. If the Seahawks can mount an effective running game, a breakthrough season is possible.

PHOTOPETER READ MILLERPHOTOPETER READ MILLERFREE LYNCH A newly assembled line is being fast-tracked to spring last year's playoff hero for game-breaking runs like the one he had against the Saints.PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JACKSON)