Monday, May 20, 2013 @ 7:23pm
RENTON – Cliff Avril was a spectator as the Seahawks held their first organized team activity Monday, but he says the plantar fascia foot injury that kept him on the sideline is nothing to be concerned about.
While painful, Avril's injury didn't require surgery, and coach Pete Carroll said he expects the defensive end to be back to full speed in a matter of weeks.
That qualifies as a bit of good news for the Seahawks, who have seen their pass rush take a hit in recent weeks with Avril's foot injury, Greg Scruggs' ACL tear and Bruce Irvin's suspension. When the Seahawks signed Avril and Michael Bennett during the first week of free agency, their additions were seen as a luxury for a team that already had Irvin and at some point would get Chris Clemons back from a knee injury.
The outlook changed Friday when the NFL announced that Irvin will be suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Irvin waived his right to appeal and acknowledged that he made a mistake by taking a substance that is prohibited without a medical-use exemption. He apologized publicly via a statement released by the team as well as a lengthy message posted on his Twitter account.
Irvin also apologized to his teammates during a team meeting. That impressed Avril, who saw plenty of teammates run afoul of the law and the NFL's policies during his five seasons with the Lions.
"Honestly, it was surprising for a young player like that to want to get in front of the team and apologize and what not. That was great, though, to see that maturity in him," Avril said. "I've only known him for a few weeks now, and to see a young player actually want to go out in front of 50, 60 guys and tell them what's going on and that he's going to miss the first four games of the season, much respect to him."
Irvin, eligible to participate in offseason activities despite his suspension, lined up at both Leo end and outside linebacker Monday. The Seahawks are considering using Irvin and Avril at outside linebacker in certain situations this season as a way of getting as many pass rushers on the field as possible, and Monday's OTA was an indication that they aren't scrapping that experiment because of Irvin's suspension.
Avril, 27, totaled 29 sacks over the last three seasons while mostly playing end in Detroit's 4-3 defense. While any new position requires a significant adjustment, starting in a two-point stance and dropping into coverage aren't completely foreign concepts for Avril, who began his career at Purdue as an outside linebacker. The Seahawks haven't offered many specifics about their plans for Avril and Irvin, but Avril said any action he sees in that role would include him lining up on the line of scrimmage.
"We talked about it during the process while I was signing. It's possible that there may be times where they need me to drop into coverage from time to time, and I do feel like I can do it. Whatever the team needs," he said. "But come passing downs, I truly believe I'll be one of the guys getting after the quarterbacks."
Friday, May 17, 2013 @ 10:49am
Can we call them the red-hot Mariners?
Normally, red-hot suggests 10 wins in a row or something along those lines, but when we're referring to the Mariners, doesn't 5-0-1 in the last six series qualify as red-hot? Especially when they came home from Houston at 8-15 last month after losing their second series of the season to the Astros.
I was starting to think they were the same old Mariners, but they've been a surprising bunch since, going 12-6, beating good teams and bad teams.
After their series win over the Yankees, the M's are now 12-6 since losing two of three to the Astros last month. (AP)
I also thought they wouldn't sniff .500 the rest of the year after losing 4-3 on Tuesday with Felix Hernandez starting the first game of the New York series. But here they are at 20-21 with a chance to hit .500 Friday night.
What they've done is pretty amazing. Even when fully healthy, they're an average team. Injuries sidelined Michael Saunders for two weeks, and Franklin Gutierrez and Stephen Pryor are still missing. Based on the fact that Gutie DH'd for the Rainiers Thursday night, he could return from his hamstring issues next week.
I figured they'd struggle without Saunders in the outfield and in the lineup, and they did, but the Mariners also hung in there with gritty veteran Endy Chavez taking over in center field.
ESPN.com's Keith Law told us that "Jason Bay stinks," yet the 34-year-old hasn't stunk. I know, he hasn't been terrific, but he hasn't been terrible either. He seems like a clubhouse glue guy, too.
And Raul Ibanez, I thought he might be finished, but what happens? He hits three home runs in two nights in the Yankees series. It's important that he remains moderately productive because of his strong presence in the clubhouse with younger players. I'm into that intangible stuff as much as seamheads like their numbers, and Ibanez has plus-plus stuff in that department.
Three-fifths of the rotation is loaded with question marks, and the Mariners have withstood those problems, too.
Things have turned in such a positive direction that the Mariners compared Thursday night's 3-2 win to a playoff game. Playoffs with this team this year? It's probably a pipedream, but as you know if you listen to the show, I'm into pipedreams, and sometimes pipedreams come true.
(Speaking of pipedreams, I've been roundly and justifiably criticized for predicting that the Mariners will hit 200 home runs this year. After Michael Morse clubbed his 10th of the season Thursday night, the Mariners are on a pace for 178 and still have a shot at the 200 milestone when you consider that Justin Smoak had 19 homers last year and has only one this year and is bound to heat up, isn't he? Ah, never mind, you might be right about Smoak.)
A fourth of the way through the season, the Mariners are four games back in the wild-card race. If they could win 85 games, they might have a shot. Does this team look like it could win 85 games? Right now it does. But when it came home from Houston last month? Not so much.
One more time, let me bring up what happened last year. Who among us thought the Orioles and A's would be in the playoffs? Why can't the Mariners be one of those teams this year?
I know, you've got plenty of plausible reasons why that won't happen. I'd counter that by saying: "You never know." Who would've thought the Angels would be 15-26 at this point with their lineup? I'll tell you what, I'm glad the Mariners have Morse instead of Josh Hamilton right now.
As I've mentioned before, imagine what it would be like if they can squeeze into the playoffs. Would you like their chances if Felix Hernandez pitched in a one-game wild-card playoff? Me too. Would you like their chances in a seven-game series with Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma pitching in four of the games? Me too.
Anything's possible. As evidence, Brendan Ryan went 2 for 4 Thursday, raising his average to .149.
The Mariners have a new ad campaign called "True to the Blue." As a longtime cynic, I'm not true to the blue as much as I'm true to the crimson, even if it doesn't rhyme.
But there's hope here, and hope is a heck of a lot better than we've had in the past.
Thursday, May 9, 2013 @ 4:14pm
Seahawks defensive end Greg Scruggs recently suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will threaten the backup pass rusher's availability for the upcoming season.
A source told 710Sports.com's Danny O'Neil that Scruggs underwent reconstructive surgery on his right knee Thursday morning, an operation performed by team surgeon Dr. Ed Khalfayan. General manager John Schneider told "Brock and Danny" Friday that Scruggs sustained the injury during a recent agility drill.
"One thing is guaranteed that I'm going to bust my butt to get back to full strength and contribute next year. Very disappointing...," Scruggs tweeted Thursday.
Scruggs, a seventh-round pick out of Louisville in 2012, finished his rookie season with two sacks and six tackles, playing in 11 regular-season games and both of Seattle's playoff games. He was projected to be a backup this season, a versatile defensive lineman with the size (6-foot-3, 284 pounds) to slide inside on passing downs.
His loss is one the Seahawks can absorb after bolstering their defensive line over the offseason. Seattle signed ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett as well as tackle Tony McDaniel before adding tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams in the draft.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 @ 9:18am
Not sure if you caught the Associated Press story from Yakima on Monday, the one in which Bill Moos made a lukewarm assessment of the 2013 football season, Mike Leach's second as head coach.
"I don't think I would forecast that we are assured of six wins this year," the Washington State athletic director said. "We've got a tough schedule. We've to open on the road at Auburn and then at USC, but we'll be better. I don't know if the scoreboard will show it. We're setting the foundation for what I believe will be a very strong program. Year 3 is when I believe it will show."
Washington State went 3-9 during Mike Leach's first season as head coach. (AP)
I know – it takes time to change the culture, time to get every player on board, time to rebuild the offensive line among other things. I also get that there weren't a lot of talented players for Leach to work with last year. As Moos pointed out in the AP story, "The guy is a great football coach, he's not the Wizard of Oz."
But we were 4-8 in 2011 and seemingly poised for a decent season at least, especially with a rock-star coach coming to town. Or so I thought. Didn't you?
Those games against Colorado, Utah and ASU were as bad as any games during the Paul Wulff era. I never saw 3-9 coming, and we were an eyelash from being 2-10 and going winless in the Pac-12 until the miraculous Apple Cup rally.
If you criticized Wulff during his tenure, it was more than acceptable – he had won at Eastern Washington, but there were questions about whether he could do it at a higher level.
But boy, if you criticize Leach you'll hear it from many alums who think you're not a true Coug. I was actually told by a prominent WSU booster that if I wasn't 100 percent supportive of Leach, I would lose my right to be a Coug and should no longer be able to say: "Go Cougs."
These fans basically feel that what happened last year – when the bad apples and slackers were weeded out – was a necessary step toward building a successful program. They also point to Leach's shiny record at Texas Tech and the fact that he led the Red Raiders to 10 consecutive bowl games.
And you know what? They're probably right. I'm guessing in 2014 when we're at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and in 2015 when we're at the Holiday Bowl and 2016 when we're in the Rose Bowl, they'll put it in my face and say I should've been more patient and should've understood the process.
But right now? Off of the season we just had? Then to be told not to expect much in 2013? With a schedule that features Southern Utah and Idaho?
(By the way, that Southern Utah game bothers me. We replaced BYU with Southern Utah because Moos said it gave our schedule more competitive balance or something like that. Personally, I'd rather see us play BYU in Pullman on Sept. 14 instead of Southern Utah, a team I'd never heard of. Sure, we'll beat the Thunderbirds, but I think it would've been more fun to play BYU. Our home schedule at Martin Stadium is the saddest home schedule we've ever had – Southern Utah, Idaho, Oregon State, ASU and Utah. BYU would've spiced it up.)
When you're a Coug, I understand that we're a loyal bunch that sticks with the team through the ups and the far-too-many downs. I've never been this conflicted about our football team before, and it troubles me when my allegiance to my alma mater is questioned. I should probably march in step with all of the Cougs who firmly believe that the Pirate of the Palouse is the answer to all of our football problems.
But from what I've seen so far, I'm on the fence with Leach.
Monday, April 29, 2013 @ 9:45pm
The Seahawks have a glut of pass rushers after adding Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency.
That's part of the reason why they're in no hurry to get Chris Clemons back on the field even though he's apparently progressing nicely in his recovery from a torn knee ligament.
The Seahawks are playing it safe with Chris Clemons as he recovers from a knee injury he sustained in January. (AP)
Clemons, the Seahawks' most productive pass rusher in each of the past three seasons, tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during the team's playoff game against the Redskins in early January.
The timing and nature of that injury make his availability for the start of next season a question mark. The good news for Seattle, though, is that the recovery timetable for ACL injuries has become increasingly shorter. Seahawks guard James Carpenter, for example, was back by Week 1 of last season after suffering a torn ACL in mid-November. Clemons also has a reputation as a quick healer, having returned from previous injuries earlier than expected.
"He's way ahead of schedule. He's in great shape," Carroll said. "These guys are recovering so fast now from the ACL surgeries, and he's one of those guys. So we're thrilled about what's going on. He looks great right now, but we'll take our time."
It isn't entirely clear how the Seahawks plan to use Avril, a pass rusher they feel has the versatility to play strong-side linebacker as well. Ditto for Bruce Irvin, whose role is expected to expand after being used mostly in a situational pass-rushing role as a rookie last season.
Either way, those two make the Seahawks better equipped than other teams to survive the loss of their best pass rusher, even for an extended period of time. Avril has 29 sacks over the past three seasons. Irvin had eight last year to lead all rookies. Carroll expects him to make significant strides in his second season, noting how much he's improved physically over the offseason and that the team plans to move him around more in order to create favorable pass-rushing matchups.
"Cliff Avril and Bruce will take the load on the edge for us rushing until he gets back. Getting Cliff really did help us take the pressure off Clem wanting to come back and help this football team," Carroll said. "So we're going to be able to do this really well and take our time with it. It should work out great. We just don't want to rush it. We don't need to."
Sunday, April 28, 2013 @ 11:24am
I'll be honest, until 5:35 p.m. on Friday when the Seahawks picked him, I'd never heard of Christine Michael.
During our broadcast from the team's headquarters in Renton, I looked at producer Jessamyn McIntyre and asked: "Are we sure it's not Michael Christine?"
And then, of course, I assumed that he pronounced his name like my ex-wife pronounces Christine, as in KRIS-TEEN. But then we were told it's KRIS-TIN, not KRIS-TEEN. And after that, we got official word from the Seahawks that it's actually KRISH-TIN, like Christian.
I haven't even mentioned the most confusing part yet – Michael's a running back. For weeks – maybe even months – before the draft, we never talked about a Seahawks' need at running back.
Seattle used its first pick on a running back, Christine Michael from Texas A&M, despite greater needs elsewhere. (AP)
There were greater needs elsewhere. Seemingly, the Seahawks would target a weak-side linebacker to replace free agent Leroy Hill. That's the only starting spot that appears up for grabs. With all of their picks, you would have expected the Seahawks to draft one, maybe two, perhaps three linebackers, and naturally they didn't take any.
Apparently they're comfortable with having last year's backup, Malcolm Smith, starting at that spot or moving K.J. Wright over from strong-side linebacker and trying Cliff Avril in his place.
We thought that Avril was primarily signed to be a pass-rushing defensive end, but the Seahawks are into hybrids and versatility, and the former Detroit Lion might occasionally play off the line of scrimmage. Or not. Who knows what the Seahawks are thinking about pretty much everything?
As for Michael, general manager John Schneider said he was the best player on the Seahawks' board when it was time to make their selection at No. 62. And it turned out just like Kip Earlywine of SeahawksDraftBlog.com said it would – he actually predicted the Seahawks would take Michael.
I don't know how Michael will turn out as a pro, but I know this: I'm taking Earlywine with me the next time I go to Emerald Downs.
Personally, I consider it a good sign for the Seahawks if I've never heard of their draft picks or understand why they would take a certain player when they did.
Such as LSU running back Spencer Ware in the sixth round. As in: Why would they take another running back after taking Michael? What does it mean? In 2016, Michael, Turbin and Ware will be a three-headed monster in the Seahawks' backfield.
My favorite Seahawks' pick was cornerback Tharold Simon, Ware's teammate at LSU, in the fifth round. Remember, the Seahawks selected Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the fifth round and look at them now.
But that's not why I like the Simon pick. I like it because it's controversial. Simon was arrested last Thursday in his hometown of Eunice, La., after being asked to move his car and getting into a verbal sparring match with a police officer.
There are two sides of the story – maybe Simon encountered a power-trippin' cop who went too far with the arrest; or maybe Simon deserved to be arrested. I have no idea how that will play out, but the Seahawks were comfortable enough with the situation to draft him, so I guess that says something.
It speaks to my sickness as a human being when I say that I was amused by the following news: They had planned a "Tharold Simon Day" the very next day in Eunice and had to cancel all of the ceremonies after the arrest. I don't know, I just find that little coincidence comical when other more well-adjusted human beings would find it troubling.
All will be forgotten if Simon becomes a cheaper replacement for Brandon Browner next year.
The worst Seahawks' pick was Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams in the fifth round. I say this because I've actually heard of him, which means he's destined to be a bust. He's the Aussie who has the YOLO (You Only Live Once) tattoo on his face.
I can't wait to talk to this kid, but if he was projected to go in the first or second round and fell to the fifth, how good can he be?
Friday, April 19, 2013 @ 10:13am
I took some justifiable criticism on the text toy Thursday from a listener who's sick of me and my outrageous predictions.
Such as thinking the Seahawks have a shot at going 19-0 when they have five 10 a.m. games and a stretch in which they play four games out of five on the road.
Such as thinking the Mariners will hit 200 home runs this year. After going homerless during the Tigers series, they're on a pace for 153 for the season.
I'm sure there are other examples, but let's just stop there and get to the point if I have one.
I went to Thursday's Mariners-Tigers game with my 8-year-olds. Yanked them out of their third-grade class at 11:30 to take them to Safeco Field. They were excited until the game started.
"Hey, dad, this looks like a crowd at a Cougar basketball game," Stevie said.
The Mariners are 5-10 in their last 15 games after losing two of three to the Tigers. (AP)
For me, it was a great game. The Mariners beat Justin Verlander, the Cy Young Award winner, 2-0. That's fantastic stuff. He struck out 12, but the Mariners still scratched out nine hits and cobbled three in a row in the seventh inning with two outs to score their two runs.
My kids were on their feet, clapping and cheering when Robert Andino, Kyle Seager and Endy Chavez went back-to-back-to-back with hits. But for the most part of the nearly three-hour game, they were bored. My kids – maybe other kids, too – need more action to keep their short attention spans engaged.
I don't know if attracting new fans will be a problem for baseball in the future, but it was pretty telling when my kids told me that night that they'd rather go to a lingerie football game than a Mariners game.
Regrettably, I get it. After opening the season with two wins over the A's, the Mariners have gone 5-10 since, going 4-6 on the just-completed homestand.
Injuries to Michael Saunders, Michael Morse and Steven Pryor haven't helped. But the Mariners still look like a feeble outfit in the batter's box. We were led to believe that they would be dramatically improved with the additions of Morse and Kendrys Morales.
The thinking went something like this: Not only would Morse and Morales deliver – and they have – but their presence in the lineup would help the Mariners' younger hitters – and it hasn't.
Just like last year when it was John Jaso, another backup catcher, Kelly Shoppach, is the Mariners' best hitter thus far with a .381 average.
Dustin Ackley looks like he might be snapping out of it with three hits in the past two games, raising his average to .154. But Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero are still sputtering around the Mendoza line.
Even the older newcomers – Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay – are struggling, hitting .195 and .194. ESPN's Keith Law might have been right after all when he told us that "Jason Bay stinks." If Casper Wells turns into a star in Toronto, you know this team is truly snakebit.
Manager Eric Wedge continues to tell us that he's confident his team will hit. But does anyone believe him? I want to believe him, but it's hard to forget three years of futility and expect it to magically happen this year.
Actually, let me take that back, I did expect it to magically happen with the prediction of 200 home runs and thinking the Mariners would go 85-77. Maybe both things will happen, but right now, skepticism has a healthy lead over optimism.
I want to believe that the Mariners are good enough to take two of three this weekend in Texas and sweep the three-gamer from Houston next week. They could go 5-1 on the trip, but 2-4 is more likely.
I don't want to think they're the same old Mariners. But ask my kids – so far, it's hard not to think that they are.
Friday, April 12, 2013 @ 9:59am
Remember when the Mariners started out 2-0 and Michael Morse hit two home runs in a 7-1 victory over the A's? Remember when the A's were 0-2 and looked pedestrian at best?
A week and a half later, the M's have lost seven of their last nine games, including two to the Astros. The A's haven't lost since Morse drilled those home runs – Oakland has won eight in a row and sits atop the AL West at 8-2.
I think we were OK with the Mariners coming back for their 10-game homestand at 3-4 after a season-opening road trip. We figured they'd be 6-4 after sweeping the Astros. But they not only lost two of three to the Astros, they were embarrassed. Houston out-hit the Mariners 46-21 in the series, and I forget how many home runs they belted, but it was a lot.
Michael Morse, the American League home run leader, could miss up to a week after he was hit in the hand by a pitch. (AP)
Brandon Maurer was terrible, lasting 2/3 of an inning, giving up six runs on seven hits. That's acceptable. He's a rookie. He had a 0.90 ERA in spring training. We expect him to bounce back, hopefully on Sunday against the Rangers.
Blake Beavan was terrible, too, and that's not acceptable. I understand that he's the fifth pitcher in the rotation, but I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I'd like to see a guy get batters out more than he does.
And while he's at it, maybe he could pick up the pace a little bit. Beavan was painful to watch in that 8-3 Mariners' loss Wednesday night.
Then, as you know, the Mariners lost two of their best players to injury. Michael Saunders sprained his right shoulder Wednesday night and is out at least two weeks, and Morse will be out for three days to a week with a broken pinky.
I thought the Mariners would be more fun and exciting this year, and they still figure to be, but not so much in the first four games at Safeco Field.
At least Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero showed signs of life in the 4-3 loss to the Rangers last night with two hits apiece. But Kyle Seager went 1-for-5 and is batting .154.
Dustin Ackley got the night off, which was surprising because Texas starter Justin Grimm's a right-hander. Ackley's replacement, Robert Andino, is a right-handed batter.
Made no sense until you consider that Ackley's batting .100 and needed the night off for whatever reason – maybe to spare us from watching him ground out to second base again.
As bad as it was against the Astros, you expected the Mariners to rebound last night against Texas with Felix Hernandez pitching, supported by all kinds of fans wearing yellow T-shirts and flashing K-cards. But Felix was un-Felix-like, allowing 10 hits and three runs, throwing 113 pitches in 6 2/3 innings.
The Mariners could have tied the game at 4-4 but couldn't score on a suicide squeeze in the eighth inning. I'm trying to remember the last time I've seen a team fail to score on a suicide squeeze when the bunt was laid down successfully, as it was by Brendan Ryan. I don't think I've ever seen it happen.
I've heard fans blaming Ryan for not laying down a better bunt, but I'm blaming Endy Chavez for not getting a better jump or simply crediting Texas pitcher Robbie Ross for making a terrific play.
Along with wondering about Ackley and suicide squeezes, I've got other questions about the Mariners, such as: "What's the deal with Dave Valle's hair?"
It's brutal when the highlight of the homestand so far is the fan who caught a foul ball in his beer and chugged it.
We thought the Mariners would have a more potent lineup, and in terms of home runs, we've seen it – they have 15 homers in 11 games, putting them on a pace for 220 for the season.
But they need to bounce back this weekend in the last three games against the Rangers and the last three games of the homestand against Detroit next week.
All they have to do to start the turnaround tonight is beat Yu Darvish, the same pitcher who came within one out of throwing a perfect game last week against the Astros, the same team that scorched the Mariners this week.