Seattle Seahawks Preseason: Lofa Tatupu and Co. Are About Big Plays

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Seattle Seahawks Preseason: Lofa Tatupu and Co. Are About Big Plays
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Lofa Tatupu

The Seahawk defense looks a lot better with Lofa Tatupu in the lineup, and Mansfield Wrotto didn’t seem to be the main reason the Seahawk offense was so bad, but the Seahawks got a good idea of where they stand after a 24-13 loss to Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.

The defense gave up some big plays against Favre, but Seattle made some big plays of its own—including an 86-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie safety Earl Thomas and a goal-line stand.

In his first game since a torn pectoral muscle ended his 2009 season after only five games and a hamstring injury cost him most of this preseason, Tatupu made an impact— even if his plays didn’t always count.

On the second drive, he tipped a pass the Hawks should have picked off (Thomas dropped it). Later, Tatupu blitzed Favre and caused a fumble on the sack (the Vikes recovered), but that play was offset by an illegal contact penalty against Will Herring.

The defense gave up some big pass plays and let Favre convert half his third downs, but Tatupu was a big reason they still managed to hassle Favre and stifle the running game on most plays.

“He’s the quarterback on the defense,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said in a TV interview. “He gets everybody in the right spot, and it’s good to have him back.”

It looks like the defense could be a big-play unit—both giving them up and getting them. They gave up a 34-yard pass on the first play, plus a 22-yarder on the second drive and a 29-yard screen play to Adrian Peterson on the third drive.

But Thomas, the first-round rookie, made up for the pick he dropped by grabbing one on the third drive. Josh Wilson knocked the ball out of Bernard Berrian’s hands, and Thomas caught it and flew 86 yards down the field for the Seahawks’ only touchdown.

Thomas also showed he can hit, laying some hefty lumber on Percy Harvin in the third quarter and dislodging the ball for an incompletion.

Trufant added an interception, too, continuing to show he is poised for a Pro Bowl season.

But, big plays aside, the Hawks too often couldn’t get off the field on third down. One notable exception occurred when they were backed up against their end zone and the Vikings ran it four straight times inside the 6-yard line. Seattle stopped them on fourth and goal at the 2. Tatupu made two tackles in the four-play stretch.

Other than a 24-yard touchdown run by Peterson, the Hawks did well against the run and look like they could be stout there, with Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, Kevin Vickerson and Red Bryant up front. Despite that 24-yard run, the Hawks held Peterson to 37 yards on 11 attempts.

Seattle’s own running game, however, still is a major work in progress. Leon Washington got the start at running back and gained just 16 yards on six carries, and the Hawks finished with 44 on 15 (2.9 average).

The passing game wasn’t consistent either, as Hasselbeck’s group went 0 for 7 on third downs and the Hawks were a miserable 2 for 15 overall.  

Hasselbeck completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards and was sacked twice. The Hawks did a good job against Jared Allen, with Wrotto and tight end John Carlson both handling the Pro Bowl pass rusher. Other than one false-start penalty, Wrotto did not embarrass himself. Of course, he also shares the blame for lack of a running attack.

Surprisingly, Carlson was matched one on one with Allen at least three times and got manhandled just once. But Carlson caught only one pass, and that was called back by a penalty. We’re starting to think all this talk about the Hawks using Carlson in a hundred ways is complete bunk.

The Hawks showed some signs, with Hasselbeck hitting Deion Branch for 42 yards and Mike Williams on a 51-yard play. But overall, the offense was far too inconsistent. No touchdowns is no good.

Other observations by unit:

OFFENSE

Coordinator Jeremy Bates was really conservative when the Seahawks took over after the fourth-down stand. Hasselbeck threw a pass to tight end Anthony McCoy in the flat for 1 yard and the Hawks then ran twice before punting. That looked more like Greg Knapp’s offense from last year.

Sean Locklear had some trouble with underrated rusher Ray Edwards. Locklear held Edwards on a third-down screen play to Carlson, and Edwards later timed his rush perfectly to beat Locklear for a sack.

The players are still adjusting to the zone scheme. Washington had a huge hole on the left side on Seattle’s second drive and failed to make the cut.

Mike Williams has certainly made the team. He has been playing with the first offense the last two games. In this one, he turned a 27-yard pass over the middle into a 42-yard gain.

Charlie Whitehurst struggled again. He hit a nice deep ball to Golden Tate in the fourth quarter, but a couple of plays later, he threw a pick. In addition to overthrowing at times, he also tends to stare down his receivers—always a recipe for disaster in the NFL.

Deon Butler started with the first unit in the second half, but Hasselbeck didn’t look his way. Instead, the receiver became Whitehurst’s top target. They connected on four of nine passes.  

The battle between young tight ends Anthony McCoy and Cam Morrah might be determined by the severity of the ankle injury McCoy suffered in the first half. Both played with the first unit and had a short catch.

DEFENSE

Aaron Curry started slow but actually had some moments in this game. He had a ridiculously dumb offside penalty on the second drive, but he turned in a great series late in the first half when he made a diving knockdown of Favre’s pass at the 5-yard line and then pressured Favre on the next play. He still doesn’t seem that instinctual, but you have to hope Tatupu can stay healthy and help this guy figure it out. Otherwise, we might be looking at the biggest Seattle bust since Brian Bosworth.

Chris Clemons had two sacks—the important one coming against Favre on the first drive and forcing a fumble. They need more of that from him.

Lawyer Milloy is still making plays at age 35. He put pressure on Favre on a blitz and made a great tackle in the flat, beating his blocker and holding on to Harvin for a loss.

The Hawks took a decent look at some bubble defenders as rookie linebacker Dexter Davis, linebacker Matt McCoy, and tackle Quinn Pitcock got time with the first unit. None of them did anything noteworthy.

Linebacker Tyjuan Hagler started the second half and came up with a big hit on the second play. He just seems to have a burst to the ball, but he might be too late to the party after not joining the team until Aug. 10.

Kelly Jennings played most of the game after Wilson started it. Are the Seahawks showcasing Jennings for a trade? The Baltimore Ravens have issues at corner and could be a possible partner. The Seahawks are pretty deep at the position and could afford to move Jennings.

SPECIAL TEAMS

A penalty against Max Unger for illegal formation wiped out Olindo Mare’s 38-yard field goal on the second drive. He missed right on the adjusted 43-yard try.

The Hawks gave up a 71-yard kick return (the touchdown was prevented by Cord Parks), setting up Peterson’s 24-yd TD run.

Parks has played well on special teams, but how can he make a secondary full of experienced guys? The second-year corner is stuck behind Trufant, Wilson, Jennings, rookie Walter Thurmond, and Roy Lewis.

The best option at kick returner seems to be Wilson. Golden Tate hasn’t shown much there in his chances, and Washington will probably be used on offense more. Wilson hits it hard and is very consistent—recall that he had eight returns of 40-plus yards in 2008.

Jon Ryan is on the verge of the Pro Bowl. This guy is such an amazing weapon, and he does it every week. Last week, he averaged 50 yards on five punts, with 65- and 63-yard boomers and three inside the 20. This week, he averaged 55.2 on six kicks, with a long of 67 and two inside the 20. Of course, to make the Pro Bowl, he needs to surpass the other punters in the NFC West, because those were the only three in the NFC who were better than him last season.

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