Charlie Todaro

Tarvaris Jackson Must Steady Pulse or Face 12th Man


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Starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has led the team to 17 points and an 0-2 start.

The much-maligned acquisition has been under public scrutiny since he came to Seattle. On Sunday, Jackson gets a chance to make one final "first" impression; unlike the preseason, the result of this home opener counts.

I'll get this out of the way now: Jackson should absolutely start Week 3, and barring a complete catastrophe he should start Week 4. Jackson started the season with two tough road games and he should play the remaining half of the football season’s first quarter, the back-to-back home games versus Arizona and Atlanta.

Now is not the time for Charlie Whitehurst.

Head coach Pete Carroll admitted during his Wednesday presser that he expected the offense to be further along at this point. The lack of continuity is partly tied to the injuries of left guard Robert Gallery and wide receiver Sidney Rice, two players Seattle considers crucial to the success of the program, but is also a result of youth across the offensive line.

Carroll also acknowledged his impatience, saying he would like the offense to improve as quickly as possible; no surprise—the author of Win Forever may have unrealistically high expectations.

One thing Carroll did not do was blame Jackson; rather, he continued to praise his play. Carroll is an "upside-guy" and he's not going to throw the quarterback under the bus. It takes 11 guys to move the ball.

Jackson was sacked five times in Week 1 and five times in the second half in Week 2. The running game is ranked dead last. Seattle has one offensive play over 20 yards, good for worst in the league. Carroll’s comments have validity, but “Captain Jackson” shouldn’t get a free pass.

An underwhelming performance, thus far

By the numbers, Jackson has been adequate.

His completion percentage is above 60 and he is not forcing throws.

For the most part, Jackson has protected the football. Carroll admitted the Hail Mary interception in Week 1 was his call, not Jackson's fault; both of Jackson's Week 1 fumbles came on heavy hits after breakdowns in pass protection. Jackson needs the team to perform in order to do his part.

However, what’s missing is consistency, an ability to sustain drives and the downfield passing game.

Jackson has been, at times, too slow on crucial throws. He has lacked quick anticipation on certain timing routes and has shown an unwillingness to trust his receivers and throw into tight windows.

He’s thrown too many high passes in crucial situations, such as two notable third downs inPittsburgh, one going through the hands of Ben Obomanu in the second quarter and the other out of the reach of an extended and exposed Doug Baldwin—who took an awkward hit—on 3rd-and-4 in the third quarter.

 

 

 

Jackson missed a few downfield opportunities in the second half against the 49ers. During the first half the play calling was extremely limited and the 49ers had no problem adjusting. Jackson didn’t throw downfield at all versus Pittsburgh. Additionally, we have yet to see Jackson’s athleticism accentuated in the passing game.

He’s bobbled crucial snaps in both games—a third down in the red zone in Week 1 and another to start a poorly executed two minute drill to end the first half in Week 2.

Hence the questions: Why haven’t we seen Jackson’s strengths? Why does he sometimes look afraid to throw the football? What’s wrong with this offense?

The role of the coaching staff

While the offense hasn't been able to move the ball, it's partly because the coaching staff hasn’t asked Jackson to do too much on offense. Due to the shortened offseason and lack of continuity, the staff hasn’t been able to open the playbook as much as they would’ve liked.

They didn't ask Jackson to throw downfield in Pittsburgh. The primary goal was keeping Jackson upright.

Ironically, Seattle's longest play in Pittsburgh—a 17-yard pass to fullback Eddie Williams—was a play where Jackson chose the underneath option instead of throwing downfield.

 

 

 

While Jackson hasn’t impressed, per se, he certainly hasn’t played his way out of the position. According to Carroll, he’s done what the coaching staff has asked of him.

 

Jackson has missed throws, but not enough for the staff to lose faith in his potential; faith has been consistent from the start.

Now, they want to open up the playbook with Jackson and see where his potential can go; per Carroll, this is a team effort. They need to protect the quarterback and move the football.

Among the first words Carroll spoke on Wednesday: “There’s a real sense of urgency for us this week…This is a very important step we have to take here to get back on track, where we can feel good about what we are doing.”

Jackson’s most important week as a Seahawk

As previously highlighted, Carroll has been extremely supportive of Jackson. If Carroll is going to blame himself and says the coaching staff needs to do more, as he did after the loss in Pittsburgh, the coaching staff needs to give Jackson the chance to show his potential.

On Sunday, come out strong, win the early time-of-possession battle and establish balance on offense with the run and pass, but also using all three running backs consistently. Carroll mentioned on Wednesday that Marshawn Lynch didn't get enough "running time" in training camp, so don't force him into the role when the other backs are capable. And more so than the first two weeks, rely on LeonWashington and Justin Forsett—keep the defense guessing.

 

 

Get Mike Williams and Zach Miller involved, period. If Sidney Rice returns, the intermediate passing game should open up.

 

As a result, the quick passes should be there too—slants, screens, two-man combination routes to create a pick and separation. Seattle has used this method to get Doug Baldwin the ball, beginning in the preseason.

And finally, to beat a dead horse, take shots downfield.

The caveat is that play-calling and game-planning is only half the battle. As an extension of Carroll, “Captain Jackson” must practice and play with the urgency that Carroll spoke of.

If Carroll believes he needs to help more, the starting quarterback needs to follow the coach’s lead.

The phrase “game manager” has been thrown around consistently to describe what Carroll wants out of his signal caller. Beyond managing the game, Jackson needs to manage his offense, the 10 guys he leads, play in and play out. This involves understanding the psyche of the offense, learning how to treat certain players as individuals and the huddle as a whole.

If the offensive struggles are not only on Jackson, then all 11 men must step up. The point is Jackson must be the leader.

 

Unlike the first two weeks, Seattle is at home and can control the environment. Undoubtedly enthusiasm will be flowing. The question is whether the Seahawks control the enthusiasm to their benefit.

 

Jackson has shown his physical toughness after being pummeled for the first two weeks. Now he must show the same toughness as a leader and commander, taking advantage of the crowd and keep “hanging tough.”

 

The more Jackson can show his fanbase he has the potential the coaches see, the less difficult it will be for the Seahawks to bounce back and steady their season.

Carroll summed up the next step in his post-game speech in Pittsburgh, immediately moving forward instead of looking back. “Next week we get to play at home, but that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t get it right," he said. "Let’s get this thing going. Let’s come back, stay together and get rolling…This is the week we start marching. It doesn’t have to be like this.”

Jackson needs take those comments to heart. The goal is progress, not perfection.

However, if this stagnant trend continues, which started in the preseason, the fans may not hesitate to remind the team of a player whose heart was beating strong during the preseason, backup Charlie Whitehurst.

The 12th man could help resuscitate Jackson in Week 3, but there’s also the chance they remind the organization that Whitehurst has a pulse.

Jackson must steady the pulse of the Seahawks’ offense. Another flat-line performance and the heartbeat for a quarterback competition will thump stronger.

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