The Seattle Seahawks position grades will carry a little more swagger following the team's first win of the 2011 season. Despite only putting up 13 points on a shaky Arizona defense, Seattle did manage to score in the first half. They were shut out in the opening 30 minutes of their prior two games.
A win is a win, and this game was a must for the Seahawks. Their 1-2 record keeps them alive in the NFC West division race. The team is showing steady signs of small improvement as the new bodies begin to gel.
Almost no national analyst picked Seattle to win this game. Most thought Seattle would be battling for draft positioning to get Andrew Luck.
However, the Seahawks have other designs on their season, recognizing that their schedule at the end of the year will give them an opportunity to improve and make a late run at the playoffs.
It is clear the lack of an offseason hurt this team. The question is if the team can pull out a few more wins before midseason.
They have a defense that will keep them in games. Another question is if the offense can respond and give the defense enough time on the sidelines to stay fresh.
The Seahawks special teams unit is yet to put up a solid overall performance. They did well covering punts on Sunday, but still gave up a long kick return. Hauschka hit both of his field goal attempts, but Jon Ryan had two terrible punts.
Seattle already has one loss where poor special teams play took away their chance to win. There will likely be more opportunities for these units to have a say in a game's outcome.
Steven Hauschka, K: B+
While Hauschka hit both of his field goal attempts, including a 52-yard try, he continues to struggle with getting touchbacks. This has led to several big returns.
Jon Ryan, P: D+
Ryan came into the game averaging over 48 yards a kick in two of the most difficult stadiums for kickers in the NFL, San Francisco and Pittsburgh. He had several nice punts on Sunday too, including a 66-yard effort that pinned the Cardinals deep in their own territory.
However, Ryan also had two clunkers that gave the Cardinals the ball in good field position. The biggest issue came late in the game when Seattle took a delay of game to give Ryan a little room. The goal appeared to be punting the ball out of bounds near the corner of the end zone so Patrick Peterson wouldn't have an opportunity to hit a big return.
It would have given the Cardinals a big field to cover when down by three. Instead, Ryan's effort went out of bounds at the 31, just nine yards from the line of scrimmage.
Leon Washington, KR: D
Washington made a huge impact in the return game last season and earned himself a big new contract. He isn't living up to his payday so far this season.
He had one nice return on Sunday, but misjudged two other balls. He bobbled one of them at the goal line and had to fall on the fumble at the 10-yard line. He had another opportunity for a return on a short kick, but couldn't pull the ball in. He had to retreat and cover it for a touchback.
The defensive line is showing their ability to be the best position group on the Seahawks. They have depth that can rotate in to keep the entire unit fresh and healthy.
Chris Clemons: A+
While the official line gave Leroy Hill credit for the first-quarter sack, it was actually Clemons that disrupted the play and got the initial hit on Kevin Kolb. He disrupted the Cardinals passing game with constant pressure, a sack, and knocking down passes.
The Cardinals either put two blockers on him or Clemons was dictating what Kolb could do with the ball. If not for a few holds, Clemons likely would have had two more sacks. As it was, Clemons was responsible for several incomplete passes by forcing Kolb to throw before he was ready.
Clemons also got active in rush defense. He made several nice stops, including chasing down Alfonso Smith three yards deep in the backfield.
Raheem Brock: B+
Brock had another solid game. He applied pressure in the passing game, had a sack with a forced fumble, and made a few tackles in the ground game. He continues to be a solid piece of the Seahawks defensive line.
Anthony Hargrove: B
Hargrove continues to make an impact using his athleticism. He covers a lot of ground for a defensive tackle, and even when he isn't making a tackle he is disrupting plays. Following a rough first week in San Francisco, Hargrove is showing why Pete Carroll chose to add him to the roster.
Red Bryant: B+
Bryant still isn't making big or flashy plays, and missed the opportunity to log a big tackle for loss in the first half when he couldn't wrap up Chester Taylor. He later took on two blockers and chased down Taylor when he attempted to get outside, tackling him for a one-yard loss on a second-and-one play.
Bryant anchors the line in the ground game and takes away much of the opposing offense's playbook. Even when he isn't making plays he's taking up blockers to allow someone else to get into position.
Brandon Mebane: B-
Once again, Mebane was a quiet contributor in this game. He had a few key plays, including a nice tackle on Chester Taylor when the Cardinals were driving. He also made a key play on third and short, helping stop Alphonso Smith.
Mebane is making the middle of Seattle's defensive line a tough place to run. The interior of the Cardinals' offensive line is their strength, but they didn't have success opening many holes against the Seahawks.
Alan Branch: C
Branch was consistent but did not make an impact. He had an opportunity to make a stop on a fourth-down run in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get free to make the stop.
Leroy Hill made a big stop on third down with a little help from Chris Clemons.
Entering the season, the linebacker corps looked like it would be one of the stronger units on the team. At this point they appear to be the weakest unit on the defense.
Given the talent of this group it is surprising they aren't performing better overall. This should improve as the season progresses. The unit is still learning the system, new positions and each other.
Leroy Hill: A-
Watching the game live it was easy to miss just how many plays Hill actually made. Even the announcers missed it, giving David Hawthorne credit when Hill made a great defensive play while covering Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals certainly felt Hill's presence. He made a big stop when Kevin Kolb attempted to scramble on a third-down play, with a big hit square in the chest. He also forced his way through the offensive line for a key third-down stop near the end of the first half.
Hill made a big hit on the last play of the game, coming from almost nowhere to separate Andre Roberts from the ball and his senses. He is showing himself to be the class of the Seahawks' linebackers.
David Hawthorne: B-
Hawthorne played better than he did in Week 2. He made a few good stops in the ground game and offered help in pass coverage. He still isn't taking over the defense, though.
Aaron Curry: C-
Curry lost a lot of playing time to K.J. Wright but made the most of his plays. He was decent in pass coverage, but was an inch short of deflecting a pass that was completed to Larry Fitzgerald.
Matt McCoy: D+
Not much is expected of McCoy but he did contribute in limited duty.
K.J. Wright: F
I'm sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I didn't see Wright make a play in my live watch. I spent a lot of time watching the recording and still couldn't find a play made by Wright.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said they wanted competition at the position so they made the adjustment. I look at this experiment being the failure, not Wright. He seemed to play better in the middle of the defense, but the rookie needs time to develop.
What a difference a week makes. The Seahawks secondary was the center of attention following the loss in Pittsburgh last week. They are again a focal point after the game against the Cardinals, but for the opposite reason. They kept Larry Fitzgerald in check, shutting him out in the second half.
They also recorded three interceptions, even if one of them was nullified by a questionable illegal contact call on Brandon Browner.
Marcus Trufant: A-
Trufant held his own regardless of who he was matched up with. He helped with Fitzgerald and read a pass perfectly, setting up an interception. He did have one flag for pass interference, but Trufant is looking more like his Pro Bowl self than the version fans saw the last few seasons.
Kam Chancellor: A-
This grade would be an "A" but Chancellor was late providing Browner with deep help in the first quarter, giving Fitzgerald a long completion. He made up for this, though, with a devastating hit on Todd Heap, a nice play on special teams, and his interception.
Chancellor was also active in supporting the rush defense.
Earl Thomas: B
This grade would likely be better if Thomas' interception and subsequent return wasn't nullified by an illegal contact penalty on Brandon Browner. Thomas was also a little late and out of position to provide deep help on Fitzgerald's touchdown reception.
Thomas is making a solid contribution on the defense, though.
Brandon Browner: B-
Browner is still managing to be a flag magnet. That will likely continue this season for him as he has become a target. He also needs to learn to keep his hands to himself, as he will be flagged for even minor contact after five yards.
When matched up on Fitzgerald, Browner showed why he was targeted by Pete Carroll. He uses his size well at the line and can stay close to receivers.
Walter Thurmond: C
Thurmond made a few nice plays. He wasn't a big part of the game plan and was used more as a blitzer and tackler than in pass defense.
Atari Bigby: C
Bigby wasn't used enough in the game to make an impact.
While still struggling, the offensive line is showing solid improvement. There was more consistent blocking in the ground game and most of the line showed development in pass protection.
There is still a lot of work left with this group, though. The absence of Robert Gallery is also being felt; while he wasn't playing nearly to the expected level (in part due to injuries), he is a much better option than the backups.
Seattle could actually have a decent blocking group as soon as the game after the bye week. They need to get a body in at right guard and get better play from the fullback position. It seemed as though several assignments were missed there, impacting the effectiveness of the offensive line.
Russell Okung: B
There still seems to be some lingering issues with Okung's ankle, but he is playing much better than he did the first week. He did give up a sack, along with several QB pressures. This needs to improve if he is going to be the left tackle the Seahawks anticipated getting in the draft.
Okung is also showing improvement with run blocking. He pushed Calais Campbell and Joey Porter around on several plays, and demonstrated he can get out in front of a rusher.
James Carpenter: C+
While Carpenter did get flagged for a holding call, his pass blocking was improved this week. He is showing he can adjust to the right side of the line and could be a viable right tackle by the end of the season. His run blocking is looking closer to what the Seahawks expected.
Max Unger: C
Unger gets a "B" for his blocking along with a demerit for issues with snaps in the shotgun. There have been a few cases of missed connections this season, but the snap over Jackson's head was a drive-killer.
Unger is doing a decent job bringing the line together, but he also needs to be mindful of the "little" things...like snapping the ball so Jackson can catch it.
John Moffitt: C-
The run blocking on the right side was much better in Week 3. Carpenter and Moffitt gave the backs some running room on that side and are showing improvement as a blocking team the Seahawks hope to have in place for years to come.
Moffitt still needs to improve on pass blocking. He let several players come through cleanly, including Darnell Dockett who dove and tackled Tarvaris Jackson at the knees. It was curious that play did not draw a flag; Seahawks fans saw last week that "marquee" players will get that level of protection.
Paul McQuistan: D
McQuistan took over where Gallery left off. It is clear why he didn't stick with any of his former teams, and there is little reason to believe he should be starting in Seattle.
Mike Gibson may have lacked the size Tom Cable likes in his guards, but he is a much better blocker. I'd be surprised if something doesn't change at this position this week...either bringing a player in or at a minimum giving Tyler Polumbus some reps at the position to see if he can offer a better option for the Seahawks.
Sidney Rice: A-
Rice caught the ball on eight of 10 targets. He appeared to be interfered with on one incompletion, and the other was a jump-ball in the end zone. He was unable to get himself into proper position to go up and get the pass.
Rice showed why the Seahawks were so anxious to add him to the roster. He makes big catches and runs well with the ball after the catch. The concern with Rice was his health...as long as he can stay in the lineup expect more great things to come.
Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu, Doug Baldwin: C
These receivers all made timely plays on one of their two receptions. They weren't a big part of the game plan, though—at least not part of Jackson's plan.
Mike Williams: D
Williams appeared to be making lackluster moves last week in Pittsburgh. It cost him looks and didn't allow him to get into position on the sideline for a Jackson pass that was a little wide but still catchable.
It appeared as though Williams offered more of the same against the Cardinals. He was not being targeted so he didn't put forth the effort needed to make plays.
Zach Miller: Incomplete
Miller is being used more as a blocker than a pass-catching tight end. He has not been given an opportunity to contribute, which is unfortunate for the Seahawks.
Perhaps it isn't fair to expect too much from this unit when there doesn't appear to be much going on with run-blocking. The Seahawks' offensive line doesn't get a push at the line of scrimmage, and holes often aren't present.
I've been one of the first to acknowledge this in the past, pointing out that Marshawn Lynch often gets hit by two defenders before he even gets to the line of scrimmage. It is hard to expect much from a rusher under these circumstances.
However, at some point a running back has to make plays. There were a few occasions where opportunities were available, but Lynch was just late getting there. One of the big differences in elite runners is while two backs may see an opening, the elite back can get there. As of yet Lynch hasn't shown that he can with any consistency.
Eddie Williams: D
Fullback continues to be my biggest issue with the Seattle Seahawks. They had the opportunity to pursue several big-name blockers for this position in the offseason but did not value the position enough to make a move.
I was highly critical of the decision to bring back Michael Robinson as the starter. He is injured again this season, but even when playing he hasn't shown the ability to open holes.
Williams had a hard one-yard run to pick up a first down, but he continues to struggle with blocking. On one swing route, the Seahawks had several blockers in front of Lynch. However, Williams ran right by the one defender that wasn't blocked, allowing him to make the tackle.
On a key second down play in the red zone, Williams was not able to put a block on Adrian Wilson. Wilson actually knocked Williams backwards into Lynch, who was tackled for a three-yard loss on the play. There were numerous other plays where Williams missed blocking assignments.
Odd as it may sound, I'm grading Tarvaris Jackson lower this week than in the game against the Steelers. He had accuracy issues against a poor Cardinals defense and didn't establish much of a rapport with anyone outside of Sidney Rice.
Last week it was penalties and dropped passes that killed drives early and sacks that did him in late in the game.
This week, it was poorly-thrown balls. He had several opportunities to move the chains but couldn't deliver an accurate pass. Some of that was him and some was pressure, and one play was Rice not being ready for a pass.
Jackson still needs a little more help from his line. He's shown that when he has time he can deliver accurate passes and move the offense. At this point, Jackson is doing what he's being asked to deliver. Having Rice in the lineup seems to have opened up the ground game and should allow a few other receivers open looks.
Despite a better performance the week before, leading Seattle to a win should quiet the critics a little—at least for one week. His gutsy touchdown run shows part of the value he brings to the team.