Charlie Todaro

Seattle Seahawks: Defensive Improvements Needed


 Seattle's loss in Pittsburgh wasn't unexpected.

However, after giving up 421 yards of offense to the Steelers, it's clear the Seahawks' defense is not as strong as they appeared in Week 1.

The Steelers are one of the more dynamic offenses in the league when clicking on all cylinders. Seattle had opportunities to slow down Pittsburgh's attack, they just couldn't convert.

Improving on defense is a must heading into the home-opener, especially if they want the full support of the 12th man.

Tackling Needs to Be Sharper

After Week 1, Pete Carroll acknowledged that there were tackling problems around the NFL, partly because of the lockout.

In Week 2, poor tackling contributed to Seattle's loss

Pittsburgh's backs often found themselves running into the second level. David Hawthorne was underwhelming in his return and minus an early, strong tackle on Mendenhall, was largely a non-factor. Leroy Hill lost containment on a Mendenhall 9-yard run, possibly held on the play and finished with only two tackles.

Seattle needs these two to provide consistency in the middle of the defense

The receivers spent too much time zig-zagging across the field through Seattle defenders. Strong safety Kam Chancellor provided his usual heavy-handed hits, but was too often victim to the Steelers' fleet-footed players when tackling one-on-one.

On the third play of the game, a 3rd-and-2, Emmanuel Sanders juked Chancellor nearly off his feet. On Mendenhall's 2-yard touchdown run the next drive, Chancellor ineffectively hit a spinning Mendenhall at the line.

But the notable gaffe came on the Issac Redman touchdown run (see the video).

On special teams, Seattle gave return man Antonio Brown second and third chances; poor angles to the ball by Seattle tacklers contributed to Brown's success. Seattle was lucky not to have a repeat performance of Week 1's special teams meltdown.

The Steelers won the time of possession battle 38:44 to 21:16, partly because Seattle missed too many tackles on early downs and Pittsburgh went 8 for 15 on third down. The Seahawks need to wrap up and and finish the play; get off the field and give the offense more opportunities to gain a rhythm.

The Cardinals are allowing teams to have the ball for 42 seconds more than the Seahawks, good for second-worst in the league—Seattle is in the bottom five. Something has to give this week, and it's an opportunity for the defense to control the game.

Continued Contributions from Veteran Depth


Seattle Seahawks Lessons Learned: Week 2 Recap

seahawkssteelersSeahawks vs. Steelers: Things We Learned from Seattle's 24-0 Loss

The Seahawks continued their East Coast time-zone woes with a 24-0 drubbing at the hands of thePittsburgh Steelers, moving to 0-2 on the year.

Seattle hung tough early with a goal-line stand, but the game went downhill from there. They were down 17-0 at halftime, after being down 16-0 at half in Week 1, but this time the second half saw no real turnaround.

The offense never found a rhythm, the defensed proved to have issues with the Steelers' balanced offense, and Seattle looked overmatched for 60 minutes. Here are seven postgame thoughts.

The Offense Was Stale in the First Half, Again; No Turnaround This Week

The offense was unable to pick up where they left off in San Francisco. For the game Seattle went 2-for-12 on third down and averaged 2.4 yards per carry, and balance was again issue as they fell behind early with nine runs compared to 34 dropbacks.

Seattle's offense improved in this week's first half, barely; after three first downs and 37 total yards last week, they registered four first downs and 81 yards of offense in Pittsburgh. Improvement yes, but not what the Seahawks were hoping for.

Unfortunately the struggles continued, dissimilar to their second-half "outburst" in Week 1; Seattle finished with eight first downs in the game, allowed five second-half sacks—pass protection was improved for much of the game—and Seattle provided few positives to build on going forward.

Perhaps the most discouraging statistic about the Seahawks' offensive performance: they didn't run a play in Steelers territory until there was just under 10 minutes left in the game.

The offense went no huddle for the majority of the fourth quarter and registered four of their six plays over 10 yards in the game in perhaps the only silver lining in this one.

The Run Defense Can Be Stout...but There Are Plenty of Holes

The Seahawks' run defense was supposed to be a strength for Seattle, after they held Frank Gore to under three yards a carry in Week 1.

Things didn't turn out as planned. After Earl Thomas knifed through the line to stop Rashard Mendenhall on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the Steelers' first drive, the Steelers found plenty of running room.

The defense struggled to consistently wrap up and Steelers runners were able to keep the play alive; after five tackles for loss against the 49ers, the Steelers lost two yards total on two negative runs.

Minus Roethlisberger's scramble yards, the Steelers ran 17 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the first half for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. They set the tone for the game, winning the time of possession battle, 38:44 to 21:16.

Seattle can't compete without a stout run defense. We saw a balanced Pittsburgh offense expose holes in the defense that were covered up by the 49ers' conservative game plan in Week 1.

Brandon Browner Struggled, but the Coaching Staff Didn't Help

Seahawks vs. Steelers: Keys to Victory


mikewilliamsThe Seahawks head to Pittsburgh in Week 2 for the second game of their two-game road trip to start the season.

In Week 1, Seattle suffered an unfortunate meltdown in the final minutes against San Francisco to lose 33-17. The Steelers got walloped 35-7 opening the season in Baltimore. Both teams are looking to rebound.

The Seahawks have started 0-2 15 times in their history and haven't once made the playoffs when that's happened, while they made the playoffs six of 11 times when starting 1-1. No team wants to start the season 0-2, and the young Seahawks are no exception.

Here are seven keys to a Seahawks victory.

The Offensive Line Must Protect and the Offense Needs to Start Quickly

The Seahawks face one of the leagues most dynamic defenses in Pittsburgh. Seattle put up 37 yards of total offense last week in the first half. They gained a rhythm in the second half, which proved to be too little too late. This week, good protection and getting Tarvaris Jackson in sync early are paramount.

Success starts up front. Robert Gallery has been practicing all week and is expected to return, moving James Carpenter back to right tackle. Though pass protection was spotty during the preseason, Gallery's veteran presence should help stabilize an offensive line that let Jackson get sacked five times and hit eight others in Week 1.

Seattle must hope Gallery is ready to play a full game, as in-game shuffling would give the Steelers' defense an added advantage.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows Seattle must shake their trend of starting slowly, which has been an issue since the preseason. We have yet to see the Seahawks get on the field, move the ball and put points on the board.

The Seahawks need to get Jackson in a rhythm, calling plays to get the ball out versus an aggressive defense. Three-step drops or putting him the shotgun, coupled with quick developing routes, should give Jackson some early, easy options.

This will allow him to make quick decisions, gain confidence with the ball and hopefully prevent Troy Polamalu from getting an early lock on Jackson's eyes. Once a rhythm is established, putting Jackson on the move to accentuate his athleticism and slow down the blitz would be a smart move.

Then, Seattle can attack with slower-developing plays, something the Ravens had success with on first downs once they established the run and began to move the football. Seattle would be wise to experiment with roll-outs on first or second-and-long to see if they can bait the Steelers defense into being overaggressive.

Jackson was elected team captain by his teammates and he showed his toughness versus the 49ers. This week, he needs to show that leadership and ability on the field. He revealed on Thursday that "it's about winning, at all costs."

Jackson and the first-team offense need to be in that mindset for 60 minutes on Sunday.

Find Balance on Offense

Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers Recap

hawks49ers2The Seahawks opened the season on the road with a 33-17 loss to the 49ers. Seattle dug themselves into a 16-0 halftime hole and managed to pull within two at 19-17 with 3:56 remaining. Two Ted Ginn return touchdowns later and the Seahawks' second-half work, if judging by score, was erased.

For the second year in a row, the Seahawks went to San Francisco and walked away disappointed; in 2010 they were thoroughly beat and on Sunday they scratched back, only to fall apart in the end.

At least this time around Seattle was competitive in the fourth quarter, which merely serves as a silver lining. After a tough defeat, this young team has a lot of information to digest heading into Week 2.

The Seahawks Offense Wasn't Balanced and Balance Is Key

One of the main concerns heading into the season was if offensive coordinator Darell Bevell could create a balanced attack for the Seahawks, helping Tarvaris Jackson be the game managing quarterback Pete Carroll wants.

Though the time of possession battle was was barely won by the 49ers (31:07 to 28:53), they were a significantly more balanced offense and controlled the game. Jackson had 37 pass attempts and was sacked five times, and Seattle had 22 carries. By contrast, Alex Smith had 20 pass attempts and wasn't sacked once with the team recording 32 running attempts.

The difference here was the Seahawks having three turnovers and creating zero—a major concern heading into the season being whether they could create a positive turnover margin. The 49ers could execute their game plan while the Seahawks were scrambling.

Seattle was strapped by stagnancy in the first half; seven possessions, 25 plays, 37 yards, three first downs. The second half saw better ball movement, but the passing game reigned supreme as the offense played from behind.

A couple of things I would like to see change next week:

1. One of the most telling statistics is the distribution of carries at running back; Marshawn Lynch had 13 carries, Justin Forsett had three and Leon Washington had zero—his only carry was offset by a penalty.

Nearly 70 percent of the touches in the backfield is too high for Lynch; I'll continue to maintain the Seahawks need to mix and match the running backs, a split 50-50 type split between Lynch and Washington/Forsett is in the best interest of creating a dynamic, balanced attack.

2. Earlier in the preseason Jackson revealed that a major difference between his college and NFL experience was learning how to execute full-field reads instead of one-side-of-the-field reads. Early in the game it looked as though Seattle was trying to keep him comfortable by calling plays, pass or run, that would play to that strength of one-sided reads.

Consequently, they failed to horizontally stretch the field; the 49ers defense was able to contain the offense to one side of the field, rolling their coverage and taking away the deep ball. A major key heading in was getting Mike Williams involved early; he was targeted zero times in the first half and the defense did a good job matching up with Seattle.

The theme here; next week, the Seahawks need to start with a more balanced game plan, using the entire field and all of their backs.

The Center of the Defense Is Strong and the Pass Rush Is Lacking


Seattle Seahawks 2011 Season Preview

tarvaris1The Seahawks surprised with 284 roster transactions in year one of the Pete Carroll and John Schneider regime, en route to a division title. But, the intensity of year one served as a primer for the impact of the changes in year two. Only 10 old regime players made the active roster, and many questions exist.

Seattle managed to squeak into the playoffs in 2010, but realized going into 2011 that squeaking in wasn't sustainable; with the extended offseason and a largely new coaching staff, now was the time to rebuild the roster and pursue continuity.

The Seahawks are the defending NFC West champs and intend to own the division, but they have a laundry list of concerns to tackle for their goal to become a reality.

Will This Team Prove "It's All About the Ball?"

This is one of the main tenets of Carroll’s football philosophy; “turnover Thursday” is a regular part of the Seahawks’ practice routine. At USC, Pete Carroll won 53 straight games when they won the turnover battle; the Seahawks were a paltry -9 in turnover margin last season, in the bottom quarter of the league.

As a young team that will continually be working on learning Carroll's message, the importance of ball security and creating opportunities will be one of the most consistent messages preached to the players this season; the ball is the main focus in all phases of the game.

On offense, the quarterback has to play within the game plan and nothing more. Matt Hasselbeck’s untimely turnovers contributed to Seattle’s 3-7 finish to the 2010 season and the Seahawks need Tarvaris Jackson to be a "game manager." Jackson came to Seattle because he knows the system; he needs to emphasize ball security.

For all offensive players, ball security is more important than fighting too hard for an extra yard; running back Marshawn Lynch's three fumbles in 2010 all came while fighting multiple defenders, a tendency he must refine in 2011.

On defense and special teams, the goal is to create opportunities by finding the football; knock at the ball when tackling, get hands up in passing lanes and take care of possession on returns before trying to create big plays--Leon Washington has "guidelines" for taking the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.

Seattle has gotten younger, more athletic, more aggressive and bigger; the defense was active forcing fumbles and breaking up passes this preseason; former USC linebacker Malcolm Smith caused multiple fumbles.

Seattle must improve upon their -9 margin, which means taking better care of the football on offense and creating more opportunities on defense and special teams. Only five of the 14 teams that finished with the zero turnover margin or better missed the playoffs in 2010--the Rams were one of them. TheSaints, Colts and Seahawks made the playoffs with a negative margin. Seattle must improve here or their playoff chances will be slim.

Can They Stay Healthy?