MMQB: "A Single Step"

Yep...it's the preseason!

After a radical, shape-shifting offseason, the Seahawks made their way down to the Big Easy to begin their 2005 campaign. Several impressive individual performances marked the day, but the outstanding play of a third-year backup quarterback was the top story.

Seattle Seahawks 34, New Orleans Saints 15
Friday, August 12, 2005
The Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana


“A Single Step”…in the preseason, this phrase is both an encouragement and a warning. Encouragement in that this inaugural Seahawks game of 2005 was the first chance to see Tim Ruskell’s team – his “Experiment in Character” - in action against a live enemy. Conversely, it's just as much a warning to those who place too much stock in schemes and scores too early – this contest was far more about who clawed their way up the depth chart, and who lost their grip.

There are many miles to go.

Play Of The Day: Toss-up between Seneca Wallace’s 24-yard TD scamper halfway through the second quarter, and FB Leonard “The Hydrant” Weaver (Nickname © 2005 Seahawks.NET!) bashing his way to an amazing 40-yard touchdown jaunt with 9:48 left in the game.

Handouts To The Standouts: Seneca Wallace, for (hopefully) bringing all that “Couch-speak” to an end…Jerome Pathon, for his great TD catch from Wallace…Tracy White, for leading all defenders with 6 tackles and 2 assists…Bryce Fisher, for his ability to pursue…D.J. Hackett, for racking up two fine catches and continuing a strong training camp performance…Marquis Weeks, for impressing with good burst and some really nice second-half runs…Chuck Darby, for displaying his “seven-foot wide” heart and an intriguing ability to pester offensive linemen to death…Craig Terrill, for upping his stock in the second half, and Ray Rhodes, for coming out of the booth!

Things That Made Me Go, “Blech!”: Andre Dyson’s first-quarter “stinger” (Mike Sando of the Tacoma News Tribune reported seeing Dyson walking around the team’s locker room, implying that the injury was not serious)…Jerheme Urban’s slippery fingers…Bryce Fisher’s whiff of a first-quarter sack…Shaun Alexander, for whiffing an important pass block in the first quarter (the more things change…), and Jordan Babineaux, for getting toasted on a 57-yard bomb from the immortal Kliff Kingsbury to the equally immortal Michael Lewis (although Babineaux gets full marks for catching up to Lewis and batting the ball out of his hand and out of bounds, which probably saved a touchdown).

Offense (First Half – A, Second Half - A): Who helped themselves tonight? There was little doubt that Seneca Wallace had all eyes on him coming into this game. The third-year QB had shown impressive control, accuracy and poise through training camp, but it would be his ability to prove it in the preseason that would be the difference between the quarterback depth chart being one less concern for Mike Holmgren, and the concept of a possible Tim Couch sighting on the “bad end”. Wallace knew what the game meant, and he did everything he possibly could to meet the challenge. Throwing 12 completions and one TD pass on 20 attempts in two quarters, Wallace showed that his maturity is real. He also exhibited his freakish, Vick-like speed and mobility on a 24-yard TD run, and several zigs and zags to elude pressure in the pocket. Forcing a defense to adjust to his speed after the relatively stationary accuracy of Matt Hasselbeck is about the equivalent of asking MLB hitters to face Jamie Moyer one night and Felix Hernandez the next. Wallace will frustrate defenses in some really interesting and entertaining ways, and his growth as a pure passer was extremely encouraging. His 33-yard touch pass to D.J. Hackett with 5:37 left in the first half was matched by a pretty 28-yard TD toss to Pathon on the very next play.

Of those running backs fighting for roster spots, Kerry Carter, Marquis Weeks and Weaver all saw time and all impressed in different ways. With Carter, it was the repeated ability to eat up tough yards and precious time on 10 carries for 58 yards. Weeks, for his part, showed an elusiveness and eruptive ability not unlike Maurice Morris. Weaver simply overwhelmed on the aforementioned 40-yard TD run, breaking at least four tackles on his way to paydirt. Safe to say that in this game, the spots behind Shaun Alexander, Maurice Morris and Mack Strong were in no way decided.

Hackett and Pathon were the most notable receivers (2/46/0 and 3/42/1, respectively), while Bobby Engram continued his reliability from past seasons with an early TD catch. Joe Jurevicius caught only one ball for 10 yards, but it was his killer block that freed Wallace on his TD run.

As to the Hype Kids of camp, Jerramy and Jerheme? Stevens showed nothing but a drop on a Wallace pass. Urban, who muffed a TD catch during last Saturday’s scrimmage, was the victim of two unproductive plays. One was a near-catch - actually good coverage by Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie, but the other one was a relative gimme. Urban needs to step it up...and soon.

And Taco Wallace? Oy vay. Two punt returns for a grand total of -5 yards begs the question: If he plays in Europe next year, would he have to change his name to "Crepe", or "Blintz"?

Defense (First Half - A, Second Half - B): The 26th-ranked defense in the NFL in 2004 endeavored to turn things around right away in the new season. This they did on the Saints’ very first drive, with an ability to work in concert that was not often seen down the stretch last year. New Orleans had 3rd and 1 at their own 28 when Chuck Darby blew up a double-team, allowing MLB Niko Koutouvides to penetrate and force a Deuce McAllister fumble at the 23. Safety Michael Boulware, who has a Forrest Gump-like ability to be in precisely the right place at exactly the right time, recovered the fumble at the 19. The Seahawks scored their first touchdown of 2005 two plays later on a 13-yard crossing route from Matt Hasselbeck to Bobby Engram.

Seattle’s defensive line, long a cause for extreme concern, looked fairly strong when going first team against the Saints. Darby, a Ruskell acquisition from their Tampa Bay days, has the speed and agility to complement Marcus Tubbs’ penchant for taking on double teams, thus empowering the havoc behind and around him. Defensive ends Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher displayed good tandem pressure and pursuit – Fisher has a respectable extra gear when he’s near the quarterback. Now…if he can just wrap up his man consistently when he gets there, that’ll be the end of the “What’ll we do without Chike Okeafor?” debate. Fisher paid for his miss on Aaron Brooks in a karmic sense when his subsequent ankle tackle of Brooks behind the line of scrimmage was ruled…an incomplete pass, gifting the Saints with 12 extra yards of field position. Good to know that the officials are already in regular season form! The impressive motor of DT Craig Terrill aside, the D-line backups looked like…well, D-line backups.

The Seahawks also have many questions at linebacker…basically, at this point, it’s Jamie Sharper and whoever wins the dogfights. Both Tracy White and Leroy Hill were effective and quick, and Koutouvides got his reps and made his case in the middle as his rival, second-round pick Lofa Tatupu, missed the game with a hamstring injury.

Before his first-quarter “stinger” (acquired when trying to tackle Saints fullback Mike Karney), new CB Andre Dyson impressed by draping Joe Horn with textbook coverage on an early incompletion. Safety John Howell’s interception was more a gift from backup Todd Bauman than anything else, as Bauman threw up a directionless lobber, prompting the “What would the media say if Brett Favre had thrown that awful pass?” essay question in the Seahawks.NET Chat Room.

Of course, the most notable aspect of Seattle’s D on this day was the location of its architect. Yes, Ray Rhodes was actually persuaded to step down from his gametime scouting booth and roam the sidelines – during the game! What dividends will be paid by such revolutionary tactics remains to be seen.

Special Teams (C+): There’s no doubt that new special teams coach Bob Casullo will have a lot to say (loudly!) about the overall special teams performance in this game. The Saints were able to amass disturbingly impressive return yardage, Tim Galloway bungled a snap on a late Chris Kluwe punt (leading to a safety), and the extra point following the Hass-to-Engram TD was marred by too many men on the field. Whether these issues are Casullo’s Excedrin Headache #1, or merely a tribute to the exiled Mark Michaels, is not known. Given the work Casullo was seen doing in Cheney this past week, don’t expect such goofiness to stand.

Irrelevant Factoid of the Week: Interesting enough, we suppose, that the Seahawks are the only team in NFL history to draft two players named “Marcus” in the first round in consecutive years (Trufant in 2003 and Tubbs in 2004)…but what are the odds of this? One of the team’s final 2004 cuts was Colorado DE Gabe Nyenhuis. Seattle’s last draft pick in 2005 was, of course, Oregon State OG Doug Nienhuis. Too bad Gabe couldn’t grab a roster spot last year…if nothing else, it would have made those third-string 7-on-7s a bit more grammatically interesting.

Put that on your Scrabble board and rack up those preseason points!

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at doug@seahawks.net.

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