The Brock and Danny Show on 710 ESPN Seattle
Thursday, December 5, 2013 @ 8:58am
By Danny O'Neil
"Person of Interest" is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks' upcoming opponent. This week, it's San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick.
• Position: Multi-dimensional quarterback, potential cornerstone
• Height: 6-4
• Weight: 230
• Age: 26
• Experience: Third season
He began the season hailed as a cornerstone, one of four young quarterbacks who could be counted on to lead his team into the next generation.
Kaepernick was a second-round pick in 2011 who stepped in for Alex Smith halfway through last season and never looked back. He started seven games, led the 49ers to a pair of playoff victories and was one completion away from San Francisco winning a Super Bowl.
Things look a lot different one season later. Kaepernick is an undeniably explosive runner with a strong arm, but there are some rough edges in his game. He's got a hiccup in his delivery that results in a longer-than-ideal release and he has had three different games with a passer rating below 50.
Of course, he's also been piloting an offense that is noticeably devoid of receiving threats. Receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis are the only two players who have caught touchdown passes for the 49ers this season, though Michael Crabtree is now back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Whether Kaepernick will be a franchise cornerstone remains a question, but there is no doubt he is the wild card, an X-factor who can change the game.
Like Seattle, San Francisco seeks to establish the run game. Like the Seahawks, the 49ers then seek to run play-action passes off that run game. And like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick is a dual threat to both run and pass.
"He's shown a tremendous range of ability," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He can run it like crazy. He's a big, strong, fast guy who can run and get out and strike you dead. He's got a big arm."
Kaepernick has faced the Seahawks twice, both at CenturyLink Field, and he's 32-for-64 passing for a total of 371 yards, one touchdown and he has been intercepted four times. If the 49ers win Sunday, they're going to need a big performance from Kaepernick.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013 @ 1:51pm
By Brady Henderson
The blitz-heavy gameplan New Orleans employed Monday night didn't come as a surprise to the Seahawks or their quarterback.
"We knew that they were going to bring some pressure," Russell Wilson said after Seattle's 34-7 dismantling of the Saints. "We like the sense of pressure because there is a lot of green grass behind it."
There certainly was on one play, a 52-yard completion to Doug Baldwin that is the subject of this week's edition of "Chalk Talk" with Brock Huard.
The situation: The Saints had just scored what would be their only points of the game when the Seahawks began the ensuing drive on their own 16-yard line with a 17-7 lead midway through the second quarter. After a pair of Marshawn Lynch runs and a New Orleans timeout, Seattle faced a third-and-3 from its own 23.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
The statement: "He did a perfect job," coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson. "He saw it coming and he checked off to it. Then he changes the route and the protection and then makes the great throw and we get the great catch, too. All of that had to happen. It was exactly what we hoped would happen when they came after us, and he did it, and they slowed down and they didn't do it anymore.
"That's a real, real illustration of his maturity and where he's come, and he'll just continue to get better. But that was exactly what we would hope would happen. He saw it, executed it absolutely perfectly and we got a big play out of it."
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 3:53pm
By Danny O'Neil
Three things we learned and three things we're still trying to figure out after the Seahawks improved to 11-1 win a 34-7 win over New Orleans on Monday.
1. The Seahawks' linebackers aren't liabilities.
The criticism that Seattle's linebackers struggle in coverage has been a common refrain, but one that needs to be rethought after the way Bobby Wagner and especially K.J. Wright played Monday night.
The Saints presented two unique matchup challenges in running back Darren Sproles and tight end Jimmy Graham, but Seattle didn't have to deviate from its standard defense to account for the two. Wright found himself repeatedly matched up against Graham, who finished with three receptions for 42 yards. Wright also sniffed out multiple screen plays as Seattle kept the Saints from finding any sort of rhythm in the passing game even when they looked to go underneath.
2. The effectiveness of Seattle's running game isn't necessarily measured by yards.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks with 47 yards rushing and Marshawn Lynch averaged 2.8 yards on his 16 carries, his lowest in any game since the season opener at Carolina. But to call Seattle's running game ineffective would be to overlook the emphasis and resources the Saints dedicated to stopping Lynch, which created opportunities down the field for Seattle.
It's the reason tight end Zach Miller wound up wide open behind New Orleans' defense on third-and-1 in the first quarter, and it's the reason that Wilson was able to average more than 10 yards per passing attempt.
3. Percy Harvin's production is strictly a bonus this season.
The Seahawks' success does not depend on his participation in the offense, which is important.
Harvin sat out Monday's game because of soreness in his hip, the second time he has been slowed down in his recovery from hip surgery. It's clear Harvin's return isn't going to be a straight-line progression from one week to the next.
That doesn't mean Harvin won't contribute, and it doesn't mean he won't play more consistently, but if his hip was still too sore to play 15 days after he played his first game, well, that should be a sign that you can't pencil him in for 40 plays a week in the playoffs.
And as much as he would help, Harvin doesn't need to play 40 plays a week for this team to succeed. The Seahawks are 11-1 with him having been on the field for 16 offensive snaps and three kickoff returns, and on Monday against New Orleans, Seattle scored on five of its first six possessions.
Seattle's productivity is not contingent on Harvin's participation at this point.
1. Why do opponents think it's a good idea to blitz Russell Wilson?
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints' blitz||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
The result? An adjustment by Wilson at the line of scrimmage and a 52-yard completion to Doug Baldwin.
The biggest progression in Wilson's game this year is his ability not just to recognize the blitz, but to make the opponent pay for it, and that was certainly the case against the Saints.
2. Why did the absences of Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner inspire so much fear heading into the game?
The long-term concern is clear. Seattle has now faced (repeated) discipline from the league with regard to banned substances, specifically on defense. But in terms of on-field implications, the only impact last week was that Thurmond would be out four weeks in the regular season.
After all, Browner remains injured and potentially unable to play. And after Monday's game, it's fair to say that Seattle is deep enough that not every absence is the cause for emergency considering how Seattle has played eight games without starting left tackle Russell Okung, seven games without starting right tackle Breno Giacomini and has had Harvin for only one game yet is 11-1.
3. What is the Seahawks' weak spot?
The defense held the Saints without a first down on five of their first six possessions and limited New Orleans to 188 yards of total offense, its lowest total in 10 years. The Seahawks' offense scored on five of its first six possessions and Wilson's two most effective performances – as judged by quarterback rating – have come in his last two games.
The single most jaw-dropping stat for this team, however, it much less obvious: Seattle has allowed a total of 15 yards on punt returns this season. That's the total over 12 games, which is nothing short of shocking.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013 @ 12:41pm
Linebacker K.J. Wright was the first player Pete Carroll mentioned after Seattle's 34-7 rout of New Orleans Monday night, singled out for the role he played in one of team's most complete defensive performances in recent memory.
"A bunch of guys played well," Carroll said, "but he jumped out."
The praise kept coming when the Seahawks' coach joined 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" a day later and said that just like the rest of Seattle's defense, Wright didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
Linebacker K.J. Wright was a defensive standout in Seattle's 34-7 win over New Orleans. "A bunch of guys played well," coach Pete Carroll said, "but he jumped out." (AP)
Wright made six tackles, including one for loss, and helped contain Jimmy Graham, who was on pace for the most prolific season by a tight end in NFL history. While Graham scored New Orleans' only touchdown, he was targeted nine times and finished with three catches for 42 yards, marking one of his least productive games of the season.
Wright also swatted away what would have been a long touchdown reception, which Carroll said was an example of how his 6-foot-4 frame can be an asset in pass coverage.
"He's not as fast maybe as some of the guys that we have – although he can run really well – but he's so long that it just gives him an advantage," Carroll said. "It's kind of the same advantage that our corners have at times."
Bruce Irvin's move to strong-side linebacker pushed Wright to the weak side. It was a switch Wright embraced in part because he'd be playing off the line of scrimmage, taking on fewer blockers and thereby freed up to make more plays. Through 12 games he's third on the team in tackles with 77, which puts him on pace for the highest total of his three-year career.
Harvin update du jour
Carroll said wide receiver Percy Harvin was "feeling really good" Tuesday morning after missing Monday night's game because of discomfort in his surgically repaired hip.
Harvin missed Seattle's first 10 games before making his Seahawks debut in Week 11 against Minnesota, playing 16 offensive snaps and returning one kickoff in what was his first action in more than a year. Seattle had a bye the following week before hosting New Orleans, and Carroll reiterated that the reason Harvin didn't play was because of how his hip responded after his debut.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• O'Neil: Seahawks make a major statement||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints' blitz||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
That's been Carroll's refrain to what have been weekly questions about Harvin's ever-precarious status.
"Percy, there's nobody that wants to get out there more, and he'll do everything he can possibly do. He's done that," Carroll said. "He's done a marvelous job of rehabbing to get to this point. It's been frustrating, but he's going to pop out now. He's going to pop out of this thing. He's going to be ready here pretty quick, and we'll welcome him back when he gets in."
Wilson in the MVP discussion
Russell Wilson played one of his best games of the season Monday night, a three-touchdown, 310-yard and zero-turnover performance that added up to a 139.6 rating and also strengthened his MVP candidacy.
He's now thrown for 22 touchdowns to six interceptions, has a 108.5 rating that ranks third in the NFL and is as big a reason as any that the 11-1 Seahawks own the league's best record. Carroll said that while Wilson deserves to be in the discussion for the league's most prestigious annual award, it's not something he's worried about.
"I think what usually happens is the teams that have the most success really kind of attract that kind of attention. There's no question he's playing that kind of football and if we can continue to go then he'll be in the discussion," Carroll said.
"Really, it's fun and that's cool and all of that, but that don't matter. It really doesn't, and I think Russell would tell you the same thing. If it comes, it comes. But right now he's just trying to have fun playing football and keep leading this team."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Monday, December 2, 2013 @ 10:15pm
By Danny O'Neil
"We made them look normal," said safety Earl Thomas.
Such a simple sentence. Such a monumental statement.
It was as complete a defensive performance as the Seahawks have had under coach Pete Carroll. It was as complete a victory as they have had this season. It was Seattle 34, New Orleans 7, and if we're being truthful, the score didn't have to be that close.
The Seahawks had 17 points before New Orleans had a first down, Seattle's defense scored as many touchdowns as the vaunted Saints' offense, and when time finally ran out with the Seahawks taking a knee, it was clear the NFC playoffs will end up going through Seattle.
That's not official. At least not yet. But the Seahawks became the first team to clinch a postseason berth, they have a two-game lead on everyone in the conference with four games to play and a win at San Francisco on Sunday will wrap up the division.
But none of those postseason implications are nearly as important as what Seattle showed against New Orleans in front of the largest-ever crowd at CenturyLink Field.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees passed for 148 yards, his fewest in any game since the 2006 season, tight end Jimmy Graham – the human mismatch – caught three passes for 42 yards and New Orleans finished with 188 yards of total offense, its fewest in any game since the 2001 season.
And here's what's most telling about it: Seattle didn't do anything special. There was no custom-made coverage plan to contain Graham, no one following running back Darren Sproles wherever he lined up. This wasn't any sort of exotic concoction that had the Saints sputtering.
"We do what we always do," Thomas said. "Single safety high. Challenge the quarterback. Challenge with our corners. And we made them look normal."
Russell Wilson threw for three scores and no interceptions, completed passes to nine different players and topped the 300-yard mark for the second time this season. (AP)
The Saints' longest play of the game was a 20-yard pass to Graham in the second quarter. New Orleans' second-longest gain of the game was courtesy of a 15-yard penalty against Thomas for roughing the passer when he slapped Brees' helmet in the third quarter.
Compare that to the Seahawks, whose offense was plenty explosive even with Percy Harvin sidelined because of a sore hip.
The Saints contained Marshawn Lynch, holding him to fewer than 3 yards per carry, yet that came at a cost, which New Orleans paid for on the back end. Quarterback Russell Wilson completed two passes of more than 50 yards and threw for more than 300 yards for the second time in a regular-season game.
Any questions about this Seattle team now? Because there shouldn't be. You can't harp on the caliber of the Seahawks' opponents or the quality of the quarterbacks they've faced.
|• Recap | Stats | Photos | 'The Pete Carroll Show'||• O'Neil: What We Learned||• Huard: How Seahawks beat Saints' blitz||• Henderson: Carroll says K.J. Wright stood out||• Henderson: Avril, Bennett team up for TD||• Stecker: Saints' vaunted offense sputters|
"We're not like everybody else," Thomas said. "You're not about to have a highlight tape on us."
Or in this case, any highlights as Seattle turned what was supposed to be this week's top matchup into a complete and utter mismatch.
And for anyone who wonders whether Seattle is able to be that dominant on the road, the answer is that the Seahawks don't have to be. If they win their two remaining home games they are assured of home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, and Monday's game provided proof about just how valuable that is.
Monday, December 2, 2013 @ 7:44am
By Danny O'Neil
The two shortest quarterbacks in the league are starting in what might be the biggest regular-season game of 2013.
Expect to hear about that fact Monday night. Repeatedly. Seattle's Russell Wilson is 5 feet 11, Drew Brees is 6 feet tall and their shared (lack of) stature will be a focal point when Seattle hosts New Orleans on "Monday Night Football".
Drew Brees, the quarterback of the league's second-ranked passing offense, has been sacked just 23 times this season. (AP)
"Russell is more mobile," Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said. "Drew Brees kind of stands in there. He stands in there and gets on his tippy toes and tries to see over the top of the offensive line.
"He's more of a pocket presence."
The Seahawks know where to find Brees, but can they get there? That's a whole different question, and the answer will play a greater factor in Monday's game than either the suspension of cornerback Walter Thurmond or the expected absence of receiver Percy Harvin.
The Saints have given up 23 sacks, fourth-fewest in the league entering Week 13, and Seattle's ability to pressure the passer – or its lack thereof – will be the difference between Brees picking Seattle apart and the Seahawks picking Brees off.
"We have to get this guy off a spot and be able to move him," said Dan Quinn, Seattle's defensive coordinator.
New Orleans – like Seattle – has thrived in large part because of its quarterback, but for a very different reason. Wilson has shown the ability to do whatever is needed for the victory, whether it is throwing from the pocket like he did in Week 1 at Carolina or taking the game over as a runner in the Week 4 comeback at Houston. And in those times when Seattle didn't have the best pass protection – for instance, most of Seattle's first eight games – Wilson's mobility is like a get-out-of-jail-free card.
It's not Brees' improvisation that is the key to the Saints' success, but his expertise in Sean Payton's offense.
"The biggest thing is the chemistry between the head coach and the quarterback," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it is extraordinary."
The Saints average the most passing yards in the conference and they've thrown for the second-most touchdowns in the league, a fact that has only added to the handwringing over the four-game suspension handed down to Thurmond. Throw in the absence of Brandon Browner because of a groin injury and looming suspension of his own, and Seattle heads into this game without two of its top three cornerbacks on the depth chart.
That will put a premium on applying pressure to Brees, which makes this exactly the kind of game Seattle was thinking of when it upgraded its pass rush last March. It was the top priority of the Seahawks this offseason, the reason they signed first Cliff Avril and then Michael Bennett.
Through 11 games, Seattle has 33 sacks, which is tied for 12th most in the league and four more than the team had through 11 games last season.
This game will be a more accurate progress report, though. After weeks of playing also-rans and afterthoughts, the Seahawks are playing a bona fide Super Bowl contender led by one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
And while Brees is not someone who's a threat to run down the field, that doesn't mean he's stationary. Far from it. While the pocket can look like a crowded mess of bodies, Brees has a knack for taking a step or two to buy himself some time.
"He's more slip and slide inside and find a spot," Quinn said, "and then he can get the ball out of his hand fast. I think one of the things that set some of the really good quarterbacks apart is the mental quickness that they have."
That's one reason facing one of the league's shortest quarterbacks will be one of the biggest challenges the Seahawks' defense faces this year, and it's how quickly Seattle's pass rush can get to Brees that will determine the trajectory of Monday's game.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 @ 4:45pm
By Danny O'Neil
"Person of Interest" is a weekly feature in which we put the microscope on one player from the Seahawks' upcoming opponent. This week, it's New Orleans' Jimmy Graham.
With 946 receiving yards in 11 games, Jimmy Graham is on pace for the most prolific season by a tight end in NFL history. (AP)
• Position: Tight end, two-sport stud
• Height: 6-7
• Weight: 265
• Age: 27
• Experience: Fourth season
Graham has replaced Antonio Gates as the NFL's patron saint for converted basketball players, and he paved the way for a prospect like Julius Thomas, whom the Broncos drafted out of Portland State.
Graham played one season of college football at Miami before he was drafted in the third round by New Orleans, and halfway through his rookie season, quarterback Drew Brees could tell the Saints had something special.
"He was doing some freakishly athletic things," Brees said.
He was just getting started. Graham has led the Saints in receiving yards each of the past two years, and he has a chance to have one of the best receiving seasons for any tight end in NFL history.
Through 11 games, he has caught 65 passes for 946 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. That puts him on pace to break Rob Gronkowski's record for single-season receiving yardage by a tight end, which was 1,327 yards in 2011.
Graham has more touchdown catches this season than two different teams in the NFL, and he ranks ninth in the league in receiving yardage, the only player at his position in the top 20. He presents, quite simply, one of the most unique strategic challenges the Seahawks will face this season.
"He's a tremendous talent," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Graham. "He's a ball-control catcher and he's a downfield threat that causes problems. They use him in numerous ways. They use him inside and outside. He plays as a wide receiver."
Seattle has a similarly wide array of options for defending Graham.
Do the Seahawks stick with their standard defensive playbook and trust a linebacker like K.J. Wright or a safety like Kam Chancellor to be able to stay with Graham or do they utilize their rare size at cornerback to put Richard Sherman on Graham the same way he was assigned San Francisco's Anquan Boldin in Week 2?
Carroll – understandably – wasn't all that eager to provide the details of his defensive plans.
"We have to cover him in multiple ways," Carroll said. "It takes everything that we have to slow a guy down like this."
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 @ 8:22am
By Danny O'Neil
League rules prohibit the Seahawks from discussing the pending suspensions of their pair of cornerbacks.
That doesn't mean they can't respond, though. In fact, they must have an answer both in the short term without Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, and perhaps more importantly in the long term.
Brandon Browner (39) and Walter Thurmond (28), each facing NFL suspensions stemming from alleged substance abuse, are the latest Seahawks to run afoul of league policy. (AP)
This is not a call for the Seahawks to cut ties with either Thurmond and/or Browner. It's not a demand for a pound of flesh for two soon-to-be free agents who've already cost themselves millions of dollars. This is about spelling out the team's expectations for the players, which means this is one case where words will matter as much as actions. Seattle and its coach have to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not.
The NFL prohibits teams from talking about the details of the respective cases, but there's nothing to prevent Carroll from using words like "disappointed" and "responsibility" to spell out what is expected from his players.
These suspensions are not the franchise's fault. They are not Carroll's fault. They are not something that could have been prevented by another team meeting. These are grown men we're talking about, two professionals in their 20s who were in the league's substance-abuse program and therefore absolutely had to know both the scrutiny they would face with up to eight random tests per month and the stakes of another mistake.
Now that they're about to be suspended, the Seahawks are a punchline for the second consecutive year. That will fade with time, however. The bigger issue is about what this franchise will tolerate, and for the first time Seattle is dealing with repeat offenders, so to speak.
Thurmond had to test positive for what the league classifies as a substance of abuse at least twice to receive a four-game ban. Browner was previously suspended four games for PEDs, and now faces a year-long ban under the substance-abuse policy. He will be 30 by the time he's eligible to play in the NFL again, and already there are reports he won't be back with the Seahawks.
Thurmond is more than three years younger than Browner, and his suspension doesn't necessarily spell the end of his career with Seattle nor should it. That doesn't change the need for the Seahawks to make a clear statement regarding the incident.
In the past, Carroll has erred on the side of discretion when it comes to discussing the mistakes his players made, both on the field and off it. He needs to be more blunt this time to make the team's expectations of its employees clear.
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