Seahawks Trying to Get Ground Game Going
Julius Jones (Getty)

Posted Sep 1, 2009


After struggling to run the ball in the first two preseason games, the Seattle Seahawks finally got their running game going Aug. 29 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has implemented a new, zone running scheme based on the offensive line blocking to an area instead of a specific man, and the running backs using a one-cut, downhill running style. The Seahawks, who averaged just over 3 yards a carry in those first two exhibition games, finished with 112 yards rushing against Kansas City. Julius Jones led the charge with 57 yards on 15 carries for a 3.8 average. Backup Justin Forsett chipped in 45 yards on 12 carries, also averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

"It's not just going to happen overnight," Jones said about the running game. "You've got to wear and tear a team down. And I believe we were able to do that toward the second half."

The difference for Seattle appeared to be the insertion of fullback Justin Griffith into the starting lineup. Griffith is familiar with the zone blocking scheme, having played for Knapp in Atlanta and Oakland. Griffith said the team is getting a better feel for the system.

"You've got to continue to do it in practice, and then in the game you start doing the stuff you've been doing in practice," Griffith said. "You stay with the technique, you stay with your reads and eventually you'll start popping some big ones in there.

"That's the way the zone scheme works. Everybody might not get it the first game. You might not get it the second game, but eventually it will start going."
Seattle head coach Jim Mora emphasized being patient within the system and not forcing it.

"It's repetition," Mora said. "It's so new. What we're doing is new, and I think a lot of people, including myself, want instant results. And it's just not like that. It takes time. And we're not anywhere close to where we want to be, but we're getting better. Tonight was a positive sign."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Is WR Deion Branch on the way out? The veteran will make $5 million this season to be Seattle's third receiver, but the Seahawks have a lot of depth at the position and may want to let Branch go in order to keep another player at a different position.

--It wasn't exactly how the Seahawks drew it up, but Matt Hasselbeck completed a Brett Favre-esque shuffle pass midway through the second quarter that resulted in a 17-yard gain for receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The play was a called sweep to the opposite side, but Hasselbeck and center Steve Vallos fumbled the snap, leaving the quarterback with the ball and 2 yards between himself and a first down.

"The ball just popped out like a football follies kind of video," Hasselbeck said. "And there was T.J, and I kind of gave him a chest pass and he did the rest."
So Hasselbeck did the smart thing, shoveling it over to Houshmandzadeh so he could take the hit. The veteran receiver turned the broken play into 17 yards and a first down.

"It was kind of a way for me to be lazy a little bit," said Houshmandzadeh, who said he saw Hasselbeck losing the ball. "I sat there and didn't block anybody. And he realized that somebody was going to get hit, so he passed it over to me so I could take the hit.

"But as long as I can get the ball, I'll take any hit."

Kicker Olindo Mare later missed a 27-yard field goal on the drive.

--Mora said the team decided the night before the game not to play recent free agent pickup running back Edgerrin James. "He wanted to come out and go through pre-game warm-ups so he could feel what it was like and just get a feel for how we do things, and then he went in and changed," Mora said.

Mora went on to say that James will probably see his first action in the team's regular-season opener against the Rams. James spent most of the night shadowing running back Justin Forsett. "It's good to have a guy like that, who has been around and knows what he's talking about," Forsett said about James. "He was showing us what the defense was doing - the rotation of the secondary - which helped our game out."

--Rookie Max Unger, a University of Oregon product, continued his campaign to earn a starting job, started at right guard for Seattle. Mansfield Wrotto, Unger's main competitor, came in at left guard in the second half and Unger played center in the final half for Seattle.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "What I liked is the way we responded to some adversity on the road. Once again, realizing it's preseason, but still it's a chance to build something. If you don't face adversity, you don't know how you're going to handle it. So sometimes in games like this it's a real positive that you can build on when you do get some adversity. So I was kind of happy about that because we did respond the right way." - Seahawks head coach Jim Mora commenting on his team's 14-10 win over Kansas City.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Olindo Mare vs. Brandon Coutu for kicker. Mare missed from 52 and 27 yards, making the competition much tighter heading into the team's final preseason game on Thursday. Coutu also was woefully short from 51 yards, and has consistently been 5 yards shorter than Mare on kickoffs. Hawks head coach Jim Mora said the decision on which kicker to keep could come down to the final day of cuts.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: TE John Carlson. The second-year player is becoming Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target. He finished with five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City in three quarters.

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Nick Reed has three sacks, an interception and a blocked punt, making it hard for the Seahawks to leave the seventh-round pick off the team's final roster.

--SS C.J. Wallace suffered from sore ribs and sat out the second half of Seattle's game against Kansas City. The special teams standout is expected to be ready for Thursday's game at home against Oakland.

--QB Seneca Wallace suffered a slight groin strain in the fourth quarter and gave way to third-string quarterback Mike Teel.

--RB Julius Jones injured his shin but should be OK to play in the team's regular season opener.

--OT Ray Willis bruised his thigh against Kansas City, but is expected to play this week.

--OT Walter Jones will be re-evaluated this week after having successful arthroscopic knee surgery on his surgically repaired left knee last week.

--FB Dan Curran was released by Seattle.

--TE John Tereshinski was released by Seattle.

--DT Kevin Brown was released by Seattle.

--LB Shane Simmons was released by Seattle.


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