The Brock and Danny Show on 710 ESPN Seattle
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 8:03am
By Danny O'Neil
The Washington Huskies are at a crossroads.
Saturday's game in Corvallis, Ore., is being cast as one more referendum on the coaching tenure of Steve Sarkisian, a chance for his Huskies to show the program is continuing to make progress with him at the helm.
Kind of like that road game at Stanford earlier this season. Or the home game against Oregon a week later or any of another half a dozen games over the past three seasons that were deemed an opportunity for the Huskies to make a statement and move up the Pac-12 pecking order.
The fact that we're two games from the end of Sarkisian's fifth year and still having this conversation says everything you need to know about this program's ability to take that next step: I don't think it can. Not under Sarkisian, which is why I'm hoping the Huskies have a new coach next season.
I'm not happy about that conclusion. I even hope that I'll be proven wrong over the remainder of this season, but I know that a victory at Oregon State for the Huskies' first conference road win in 2013 won't be enough to change my mind.
We have five years of history under Sarkisian, more than 60 games, and while his resuscitation of the program should be commended, the inability to get the Huskies beyond conference mediocrity is not only undeniable, but indicative of what the future holds under him.
This team's inability to develop across the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball and a dumbfounding insistence on committing penalty after penalty has left it high-centered in the Pac-12. Not only is it looking up at Oregon, but this season Arizona State and UCLA – two programs in their second season under new coaches – beat the Huskies decisively.
Washington's inability to keep quarterback Keith Price upright is an indictment of the coaching staff's failure to recruit and/or develop talent on the offensive line. (AP)
Sarkisian deserves a ton of credit for bringing a pulse back to this program that had flatlined before his arrival. He showed that it could again be a destination and that beautiful new stadium is due in part to the enthusiasm Sarkisian brought back to a program that had all the hope of a condemned building when Tyrone Willingham was fired.
Sarkisian brought Washington from a winless season in 2008 to a bowl game in 2010 and helped Jake Locker become a first-round pick and kept Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams from leaving the state, all of which were so incredibly important for this program.
But Sarkisian has had five years now, and while there have been memorable moments like that home upset of USC in 2009, the closest the Huskies have come to a win that would vault the program into an era of contention was that 2010 Holiday Bowl victory against a decidedly disinterested Nebraska team that had a less-than-healthy quarterback and had beaten Washington by 35 points in Seattle earlier that season.
More than anything, Washington's record has not improved even as its schedule has gotten easier. Not only is this program no longer playing at LSU or hosting Nebraska, it's facing lesser-division college football programs like Eastern Washington and Idaho State for the first time in the program's history.
The Huskies even changed the offense this season, going to an up-tempo approach despite the fact that Sarkisian is one of the better pro-style playcallers in the college game. But Washington wasn't able to keep pace with teams like Oregon and Arizona State – who already played at that place – and was decisively outmuscled at UCLA a week ago.
Which brings us back to this weekend's game, the Huskies sitting at 6-4 for the third successive season and everyone pointing to this game at Oregon State as a chance for Washington to show it is making progress.
Trouble is that I've been down this road too many times already. I'm ready to turn back.
Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 6:03pm
ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha no longer considers Russell Wilson a game manager, the term he used to describe Seattle's quarterback during a conversation with 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" back in June.
While he's seen more improvement from Wilson than the other NFL's other star quarterbacks who are in their second seasons as starters, Chadiha hasn't come around on Wilson so far as to consider him an MVP candidate.
Russell Wilson has garnered some MVP consideration for the job he's done leading the Seahawks to an NFL-best 10-1 record. (AP)
It's a discussion that only figures to pick up steam with Wilson and the Seahawks owning the NFL's best record and seemingly poised for a Super Bowl run. Wilson has thrown 19 touchdowns to six interceptions, he's completing 64 percent of his passes and has a 105.1 passer rating that is fifth best in the NFL.
That should be good enough to land Wilson on the shortlist of MVP candidates, though he'll face stiff competition. Quarterbacks Peyton Manning (especially), Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford are all putting up tremendous numbers for division-leading teams, and there's a case to be made that Wilson isn't even the MVP of his own team.
Chadiha said his vote would go to running back Marshawn Lynch if he was choosing between the two Seahawks. His reasoning is based on how much of Seattle's offense goes through Lynch, who's second in the NFL in rushing with 925 yards and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns with nine. Nearly 56 percent of Seattle's offensive plays have been rushes (though that total includes designed passing plays that resulted in Wilson scrambles).
While those who believe Wilson should be in the MVP discussion would note that he's played behind a makeshift offensive line for much of the season, Chadiha thinks Lynch's contributions lessen Wilson's MVP credentials.
"I don't think he'll ever get that kind of respect or that kind of adulation until he's doing it the way Tom Brady is or Drew Brees is or Peyton Manning is or even Aaron Rodgers has done it in recent seasons where you clearly don't have a dominant running back on your team and the offense is clearly built around your skillset," Chadiha said.
"That's not a knock on him; you've got to play the way they want you to play. That's not just my opinion, either. That's other coaches I've talked to around the league, quarterbacks coaches, who have said he's a really talented kid, but when you have a great defense and you have great special teams and you have a great running back, you can succeed a lot easier, you can call plays differently. He hasn't had to face that kind of pressure that those guys have faced."
While Chadiha may not be buying Wilson's MVP candidacy, he lauded the quarterback for what he did to avoid the second-year struggles that some of his peers have fallen victim to.
"I think he's just shown that he's ready to handle that challenge that comes with being a star in this league. I remember talking to Warren Moon ... earlier this year for a story that involves Russell and he talked about how he had told Russell, 'Look, just don't work on the things you're not doing well; work on the things you do well for this coming season,' because too many quarterbacks in this league, once you take away what they do well, they don't have a plan B or a plan C, and it seems that Russell was ready for that challenge. I don't know how ready Robert Griffin was for that, I don't know how ready Colin Kaepernick was for that, we're seeing how Andrew Luck is responding without Reggie Wayne.
"... I think it's very easy especially in these times with Twitter and Facebook and around-the-clock coverage to fall in love with yourself. And to me, the most impressive thing about Russell Wilson is that he's not caught up in who he is; he's still trying to get better as a player."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Thursday, November 21, 2013 @ 9:00am
By Brady Henderson
The 19-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin helped Seattle take an 11-point lead into halftime Sunday against Minnesota, and it's the subject of this week's edition of "Chalk Talk" with Brock Huard.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Less is more for Wilson, Seahawks||• Henderson: Harvin shines in Seahawks debut||• Wyman: The Percy Harvin Effect||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
The play: Harvin lined up on the right side in the slot, flanked by Zach Miller to his left and Doug Baldwin to his right. All three players ran go-routes, leaving Minnesota's free safety responsible for the area Harvin and Baldwin were running into. Wilson threw an impeccably accurate throw to Baldwin in the end zone before Minnesota's Andrew Sendejo could get there.
The statement: "He's got elite speed, so any time you look at him in the slot or maybe outside, the safety's got to cheat to his side in case he beats the guy off the line of scrimmage," Baldwin said of Harvin, "because if he doesn't get there, then there's nobody in this league that's going to catch up with Percy."
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 @ 8:13am
By Brady Henderson
The Seahawks are relatively healthy heading into their bye week, though one of the two injuriues they're dealing with is a big one.
Cornerback Brandon Browner missed Seattle's last game after hurting his groin in Week 10. The injury could be season ending, but the fact that Seattle has not placed Browner on injured reserve means there's at least some hope he could return at some point.
Cornerback Brandon Browner is out indefinitely with a groin injury that could cut his contract season short. (AP)
Browner is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, so the possibility that his contract season could be cut short is significant from his standpoint.
Browner's injury and future in Seattle were among the topics discussed in the latest edition of "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil. The full transcript can be read here. Highlights are below.
Beast, noting that Carroll mentioned this week a four-to-six-week recovery period for Browner, asked whether that timeframe is based on when the injury occurred or from now.
Danny O'Neil: I've had this question in several places, but let's stop and consider this. The Seahawks don't now about the specifics of the injury just yet. Carroll has said they hope to know more by the end of last week or the end of this week. It's a hazy estimate to begin with and the idea of narrowing it down to when it applies is getting overly analytical in that it won't give you a better idea of when (or even whether) he'll be back.
Chris Moody asked whether Browner or receiver Sidney Rice has a better chance of playing for Seattle next season. Rice is under contract, scheduled to count $9.7 million against Seattle's salary cap.
Danny O'Neil: Browner by a significant margin. My opinion -- without knowing the market or number of potential suitors for Browner -- is that it's more likely than not Browner is back next year. That's based on two things: 1) Less than half of the teams in the league would even consider Browner as a starter because the defense needs to play press man to have him be effective. 2) The free-agent market for cornerbacks last year was brutal.
Bootin Tuten asked whether the raise Seattle gave Browner before the season would factor into his decision on whether or not to return.
Danny O'Neil: Well, maybe it's a coincidence that the raise corresponded with the money he lost in salary due to suspension last year. But yes, that raise would make it more likely for Browner to return. Not to take less money necessarily, but certainly increase the likelihood that all thins being equal in terms of a contract, he would choose to stay.
Evil Penguin said Russell Wilson's flip to Marshawn Lynch that resulted in a Seahawks touchdown against Minnesota was reminiscent of Brett Favre.
Danny O'Neil: Totally agree. It was imaginative and almost impossible to defend. I don't often quote Jerome James in this space, but when I do, it's worth it. After Shaquille O'Neal had a great free-throw shooting night, James remarked that it wasn't fair. That poor free-throw shooting was the one thing that made Shaq relatively mortal. And if he made free throws, it was patently unfair. If you let a quarterback play with Brett Favre's flair and unorthodox effectiveness and eliminate the boneheaded gunslinger. It's not fair.
MikeH asked whether Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell or offensive-line coach Tom Cable will get a head-coaching job first.
Danny O'Neil: Bevell. I think with the crop of quarterbacks in the draft this year, as many as half a dozen head-coaching jobs opening up and Bevell's success in developing Russell Wilson that he's going to get a gig.
Tony (Hawaii) asked whether Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator who's now the head coach of the 1-9 Jaguars, is in danger of losing his job.
Danny O'Neil: I don't think so. And to be clear, he shouldn't be. It seems that team was prepping for a tank job in this year when the draft is rich with quarterbacks. That said, you have a new owner in Jacksonville so you never know.
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 4:38pm
Two weeks ago, Seattle's run defense was mired in yet another midseason slump in which the Seahawks allowed at least 200 rushing yards in consecutive games.
That's looking more like a thing of the past after Seattle followed up a strong performance in Atlanta by containing Adrian Peterson on Sunday.
After missing last week's game with a concussion, Red Bryant (79) played a leading role in Seattle containing Minnesota's Adrian Peterson Sunday. "Red played his best game since he's been here," coach Pete Carroll said. (AP)
"We've really improved," coach Pete Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" on Monday.
It was during the Monday night win over St. Louis when Seattle's run defense began to falter, allowing 200 yards to the Rams then 205 a week later to Tampa Bay. The Seahawks won those games despite their run defense being gashed both times for more than twice as many yards as it had previously averaged.
"We got rocked a little bit for a couple weeks," Carroll said.
It wasn't just the totals but who had amassed them that was alarming for the Seahawks. St. Louis entered that Week-8 game with the league's 29th-ranked rushing offense. A week later, Mike James accounted for 158 of Tampa Bay's rushing yards against Seattle, which was not only the highest total of his rookie season but more than he ever had in a game in college.
The turnaround began the following week when Seattle held Atlanta to 64 yards on the ground, though the fact that the Falcons had the league's worst rushing offense tempered any talk about the Seahawks' run defense being back to form.
Sunday's game provided some validation in that regard. Seattle held Peterson to 65 yards on 21 carries. And while Toby Gerhart added 67 yards to push Minnesota's rushing total to 132, 55 came late in the fourth quarter, at which point the Seahawks had built a comfortable enough lead to begin pulling some of their defensive starters.
Carroll singled out players from each level of Seattle's defense for a job well done.
"It was the intensity. It was the desire coming off blocks," he said. "Tony McDaniel played terrific football. Red (Bryant) played his best game since he's been here. Both the inside backers played great football. K.J. (Wright) and Bobby (Wagner) were talking and hitting. Kam (Chancellor) had a huge part in that as well."
While the performance in Atlanta could have been dismissed considering the opponent, there was no caveat to the job Seattle did against Peterson, the league's reigning MVP, the gold standard at running back and the guy who ran for 182 yards last year against the Seahawks.
"We needed that challenge," Carroll said. "We need these moments so that you can take a step ahead. We needed the best running back they could offer us, and we went after him in great fashion."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 3:39pm
By Danny O'Neil
RENTON – The Seahawks are taking a franchise-best record of 10-1 into their bye, assured of back-to-back seasons with 10 or more victories for the first time since Seattle entered the league in 1976.
But as many players headed on vacation for their week off, don't go thinking the Seahawks believe they've arrived at their final destination.
"We feel like we've accomplished a lot to get to this point in some regards," coach Pete Carroll said. "In other regards, we haven't done anything yet."
Receiver Jermaine Kearse is one of only two Seahawks who are injured, but coach Pete Carroll said the receiver is "not in bad shape at all" after leaving Sunday's game with a concussion. (AP)
But there we go getting ahead of ourselves. Monday was a chance to take stock of where Seattle is in this season and on its roster, and in both respects the answer is better than anyone had a right to hope for.
Seattle has won 10 of 11 games despite playing eight games without Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, seven games without the bookend on the other side of the line in Breno Giacomini and three games without Pro Bowl center Max Unger. Throw in the fact that receiver Percy Harvin – the team's most important offseason addition – just made his Seahawks debut, and it seems remarkable that Seattle was able to win as often as it did during a season in which six of its first 10 regular-season games were played on the road.
Then there's the matter of the roster. Since the regular season, the Seahawks have placed only two players from the active roster onto injured reserve: receiver Sidney Rice and running back Spencer Ware.
And of the 53 players on the roster, only two are currently injured. Receiver Jermaine Kearse left Sunday's game with a concussion while cornerback Brandon Browner has a severe groin strain that will have him out four to six weeks in a best-case scenario and potentially could keep him sidelined for longer than that.
"Hopefully by the end of this week, we'll know more," Carroll said. "He had a pretty good exam today, I know that. But he has a serious groin pull. It's legit. It's not just a pulled muscle. He had some tissue damage and stuff."
The fact that's the extent of the injuries Seattle is facing is nothing short of remarkable. In fact, Carroll was asked if he has ever had a team this healthy this late in the year.
"This is about as good as I can remember," Carroll said.
Harvin OK after debut
Harvin was sore after his debut for the Seahawks.
That's a good thing. It means he played a football game for the first time since Nov. 4 of last year, returning after undergoing hip surgery the first week of training camp. Harvin was on the field for 16 offensive plays from scrimmage and also returned one kickoff.
"He is a little sore," Carroll said. "Just normal. First time you get hit in a year and a half, he's going to feel it. But he'll benefit from the break as well. If we come back – if everything goes as we hope – then he'll be right back in the mix and be in the normal rotation, and returning kicks and the whole thing."
• Seattle is 1-2 coming off its bye under Carroll, having lost after its week off the past two seasons.
• Carroll said that Sunday's game was the best pass protection Seattle has had all season.
• Carroll said Kearse felt better Monday after a concussion forced him to leave Sunday's game. Kearse will benefit from having a week before the team practices again. "He's not in bad shape at all," Carroll said.
Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 11:56am
By Danny O'Neil
Examining the takeaways and unanswered questions from the Seahawks' 41-20 win over Minnesota at CenturyLink Field.
Three things we learned:
1. Doug Baldwin and Percy Harvin could be quite a pair.
There was plenty of speculation that Harvin's addition would cost Baldwin opportunities. Well, Harvin's debut showed just how much he may help Baldwin.
That was certainly the case on both of Baldwin's receptions as he lined up outside with Harvin in the slot. In each case, Baldwin had a go route. In each case, Harvin's presence in the slot demanded attention from the safety. The result? First, a 44-yard completion that was the longest play from scrimmage for either team in Sunday's game. The second was even better for Seattle, though: a 19-yard touchdown catch in which Baldwin outleapt defenders.
With Sidney Rice out for the season, Baldwin is making a case that he is much more than just a slot specialist.
2. That's why Cliff Avril was such a get in free agency.
Avril and Paul Kruger were considered the top pass-rushers available in free agency, and it was considered a coup when Seattle signed Avril to a two-year deal. But through 10 games, Michael Bennett had made the biggest impact along Seattle's defensive line.
Sunday was a showcase for Avril. He came roaring off the edge on Minnesota's third play from scrimmage, chopping the ball away from Christian Ponder to force a fumble that Seattle's Clinton McDonald recovered. While it was his only sack, Avril was flying off the edge all game as he was simply too fast for offensive tackle Phil Loadholt. It was promising sign for Seattle's pass rush.
3. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson make a great double-play combination.
Last week in Atlanta, it was Lynch throwing back to Wilson, who pivoted like a great second baseman and threw downfield to Jermaine Kearse for a 43-yard touchdown.
This time, it was Wilson on the move making like a shortstop and flipping the ball to Lynch for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
It's the fourth time Lynch has scored three touchdowns in a game since he was acquired by the Seahawks.
Three things we're still trying to figure out:
1. Will Russell Wilson become a viable MVP candidate?
Because he should. Peyton Manning is certainly the favorite, and Drew Brees will get consideration, but Wilson is emerging as a third candidate. He's not going to be put the next-generation passing numbers like Manning, Brees or a stat monster like Matthew Stafford.
He does exactly what his team needs, extending plays with his scrambling ability, being careful with the ball and excelling on third down and in the red zone.
Wilson completed better than two-thirds of his pass attempts against Minnesota, passed for two touchdowns and a had a passer rating of 151.4, the second-best single-game rating in franchise history. He is truly remarkable.
2. How did Mike James rush for 158 yards against this defense?
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: Less is more for Wilson, Seahawks||• Henderson: Harvin shines in Seahawks debut||• Wyman: The Percy Harvin Effect||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
It was the second consecutive game in which Seattle showed a sturdy run defense. Last week, that came with the caveat that it was against Atlanta, which had the league's worst rushing offense. This time, Seattle held Peterson to just over one-third the rushing total he had against the Seahawks last season. That's something to boast about.
3. Will Seattle be held to fewer than 30 points in December?
Sure looks like this offense has turned the corner, an improvement that began to take root in the second half of Seattle's comeback against Tampa Bay. The Seahawks may not reach 50 points in back-to-back games like they did last December, but with Seattle's starting offensive tackles back and Harvin now playing, this offense appears to have turned the corner.
Sunday, November 17, 2013 @ 6:42pm
By Danny O'Neil
Russell Wilson completed passes to eight different Seahawks on Sunday, threw for a pair of touchdowns and didn't have a single rushing yard in the first half.
Hard to tell which of those facts was most important in Seattle's 41-20 victory over Minnesota, which was a lesson that less can be more. At least that's true for the Seahawks and their quarterback. Specifically: the less the team relies upon Wilson to do everything in this offense, the more he can do for this offense.
That fact shouldn't be lost amid all the attention and praise sure to be heaped upon Percy Harvin's debut. Yes, Harvin is as fast as advertised. He showed that on the 58-yard kickoff return. He's physical, too, a very gifted athlete whose one-handed juggling act led to a 17-yard reception. And if there was any doubt about the attention he'd demand from a defense, look back at those two passes Doug Baldwin caught behind the Minnesota defense. Those catches came when Harvin was lined up in the slot, just inside of Baldwin.
But can we pause the applause over Harvin's unveiling? Because it's worth taking a good hard look at what is happening with the guy who will be getting him the ball.
Wilson's ability to distribute the ball efficiently, almost evenly, was the single most important achievement for this offense. Well, that and the fact that Wilson didn't have to spend the first 4 seconds of every play using evasive maneuvers to escape the opposing pass rush.
The Seahawks had 24 points at halftime – matching their season-high for points in the first half – scored a touchdown on each of their first four red-zone possessions, and they did all that without any single player gaining so much as 70 yards from scrimmage. That was a testament to Wilson's ability to distribute.
Eight different players caught a pass from Russell Wilson on Sunday, including Percy Harvin in his Seahawks debut. (AP)
But for the first eight games of this season, Wilson was also getting hit entirely too often and after that Week 8 comeback against Tampa Bay, it showed. Simply taking off his shirt was obviously painful, and his postgame interview was delayed.
Well, he has been sacked once in each of the past two games, and darned if that hasn't coincided with two of Seattle's more complete offensive performances.
The Seahawks scored 17 points in the final 6:30 of the first half at Atlanta and 14 in the final 6:26 against Minnesota, and Wilson is getting a chance to play quarterback like a point guard, setting up his playmakers.
"He is right where we want him," coach Pete Carroll said.
Which is to say that he's getting everyone involved. For all the hoopla over Harvin's debut, it was tight end Zach Miller that led Seattle with four catches for 69 yards. Baldwin's 44-yard reception in the first quarter was Seattle's longest completion of the game and his 19-yard touchdown catch may have been the most difficult.
That brings us back to Harvin, whose enthusiasm for his quarterback was equal to the anticipation being felt around town for what that combination can do.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | Postgame interviews||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• Henderson: Harvin shines in Seahawks debut||• Wyman: The Percy Harvin Effect||• Pete Carroll: 10-1 Seahawks only getting better|
This is coming from a player who a year ago felt stymied in Minnesota, that the Vikings' lack of a vertical passing game was holding the team back. Harvin was asked after the game how the offense he's in compared to the one he left.
"This offense does the exact opposite," Harvin said. "It allows you to stretch the field."
That's more than just the scheme, but the quarterback who's running it – a guy who spent the first eight weeks taking hit after hit and still spinning gold as he ran out of the pocket.
The protection was hardly perfect on Sunday. In fact, there were several times it wasn't all that good, but it's much better than it was even three weeks ago.
That's translated to less of a burden on Wilson and a chance to show how much he can do with this offense.
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