Seattle Seahawks: No, It's Not Time for Charlie Whitehurst To Start

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIAugust 17, 2010

SEATTLE - AUGUST 14:  Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass during the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field on August 14, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Titans 20-18. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

People who don’t know anything about football are sure to start the call for Charlie Whitehurst to replace Matt Hasselbeck as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback. After one preseason game.

Let’s make this very clear: There is no quarterback controversy.

No, Hasselbeck and the first offense did not fare that well against Tennessee. Hasselbeck completed only 4 of 10 passes behind a reconfigured line that obviously has a lot of work to do.

Run blocking was pretty bad (3.1 yards per carry for the game) and pass protection was spotty, with Sean Locklear surrendering a sack and Max Unger not reacting to a stunt by his man that ended in Hasselbeck’s pass being batted down in the backfield.

Whitehurst fared better behind the first line against Tennessee’s No. 2 defense. Whitehurst looked nothing like the struggling QB he had been depicted as in most reports.  

One thing that stood out about Whitehurst: He throws the ball with great velocity.

He also made a great check on a blitz to hit Mike Williams, who turned a 7-yard completion into a 51-yard touchdown.

Whitehurst still needs to make sure not to stare down his receivers; that’s how he threw an interception on a pass intended for Williams.

Whitehurst played two quarters, completing 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards against the Titans’ backups.

It was a promising start, for sure, but anyone who thinks this performance means he is better than Hasselbeck is a fool.

The only way to properly judge Whitehurst as a potential starter is to let him play against a starting defense. The fact that he played quite well against backups is a good sign for the future. It’s simply no indication that he is better than Hasselbeck. 

So bench any talk of a quarterback controversy.

Hawks Target Branch And Williams

T.J. Houshmandzadeh did a lot of talking in the week leading up to the Seahawks’ first preseason game, telling anyone who asked that he should have gotten more passes last season and wondering why he wasn’t the “go-to guy” like he had been in Cincinnati.

Well, in the first preseason game, he still wasn’t the go-to guy. That was Deion Branch, who was the target on the first three plays (Hasselbeck hit him on two of them).

Last week, coach Pete Carroll told reporters, “I'm really, really in love with what Deion Branch is bringing us. He’s got a real style to him that’s unique and quick, and he can catch everything. He understands the game, and he and Matt are really hitting it off well.”

It would be great to see Branch stay healthy for a full season and actually contribute for once, but the odds are stacked sharply against it. If Carroll is in love with Branch, he almost certainly is going to have his heart broken when Branch gets hurt again. Anyone who has watched the Seahawks the last four years knows it will happen.

Housh got a little action, catching a couple of passes from Hasselbeck on later drives, but the receiver who stood out the most was Mike Williams, the feel-good comeback story who turned his first catch into a 51-yard touchdown.

One guy who has been forgotten in the talk about Williams and rookie Golden Tate is Deon Butler. But this guy is a no-brainer to be on the team and contribute in his second year.

It was quite obvious last preseason that Butler is a polished receiver who attacks the ball in the air and has the ability to run good routes, plus the speed to beat cornerbacks deep. To think people were talking about him not making the team this year was always silly, and he showed why against Tennessee with his 36-yard reception on 4th-and-2 in the third quarter.

Even once Branch gets hurt again, the Hawks’ receiving corps looks like it has some promise.

Add Line

You really have to wonder what it takes for a team to give up on a first-round pick after just two seasons and deal him within the division for only a sixth-round pick.

That’s what San Francisco did today when it sent defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer, a first-rounder in 2008, to Seattle. Balmer had been AWOL for unknown reasons.

According to Seahawks general manager John Schneider, “Kentwan is ready to play football and in need of a fresh start.”

It will be interesting to see whether Balmer shows up. If he does, it will be interesting to see whether Carroll and Gus Bradley can find a place for him on the D-line. And, if they can, will the underachieving former first-rounder be any good?

Against Tennessee, the Seahawks’ new-look D-line showed flashes of what it can be. Red Bryant, Kevin Vickerson and Chris Clemons were active, stopping backs for losses and pressuring the quarterbacks.

Clemons was around the quarterback most of the first half. He was chasing Vince Young when Young’s pass was picked off by Josh Wilson, and Clemons later sacked Chris Simms.

If Vickerson can stay healthy, he could be a nice force inside. And Bryant at end looks like an intriguing move.

Other Observations

**It’s nice to hear that Chester Pitts might be back during the preseason, but that doesn’t do much to help their depth at tackle, with Ray Willis out for several weeks after knee surgery. A healthy Pitts would provide excellent depth at both guard spots, and there’s some thought he could back up at right tackle, too. But the Hawks don’t have a decent backup behind LT Russell Okung. Is Brandon Frye healthy?

**The first offense did not use the tight end very much in the first quarter, with Hasselbeck focusing more on receivers. He threw one incomplete pass to John Carlson. But over two quarters, Whitehurst went to his tight ends seven times. He hit Chris Baker once, Cameron Morrah for two first downs, and rookie Anthony McCoy for a four-yard touchdown.

**Julius Jones tries hard, but Justin Forsett just seems to get better results. One thing is fairly obvious: Forsett is the better receiver. While Jones dropped a pass from Hasselbeck, Forsett turned a short pass over the middle from Whitehurst into a 30-yard gain. Neither back ran it well behind Seattle’s work-in-progress line, combining for 30 yards on 12 carries. Quinton Ganther got plenty of action in the second half, running 11 times, but for just 36 yards. Needless to say, the running game needs a lot of work.

**Forsett’s biggest shortcoming is not his 5-9 size; it’s his 4.6 speed. He knows it and has taken steps, so to speak, to fix it. Working with Michael Johnson could put Forsett on the fast track to starting for the Hawks this season.

**The linebackers seem to be right back where they were last year, with both Lofa Tatupu (hamstring) and Leroy Hill (sprained knee) out. The group of Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne and Will Herring was invisible on Tennessee’s first possession as the Titans drove for a touchdown. Curry is still not under control. He got a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness after Tennessee’s PAT.

**Special teams need some work. On Jon Ryan’s punt late in the first quarter, Babs and Herring had a great shot at downing the ball at the one-yard-line but couldn’t corral it. The Hawks also got burned on a fake punt early in second quarter. Tate and Walter Thurmond didn’t get many chances on punt returns, so we should see more of them as we go.


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