In three games as Seattle’s starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson has thrown two touchdowns, rushed for one and has four turnovers. The team is averaging 10 points a game, 30th in the league.
Seattle is 1-2, ranked towards the bottom of many offensive categories and pundits are wondering why Charlie Whitehurst hasn't gotten his chance to compete for the starting job.
“I think they’re (pundits) scrutinizing very sharply at this point…He’s (Jackson) not wavered by it at all and I’m not either. But it’s going to take some time before everybody gets comfortable and sees what he’s all about…he’s got to do his part, and they need to give him a chance.”
There is no point in looking back, questioning whether a loss against Arizona would change Carroll's ton. I said before Week 3, barring disaster, Jackson should remain the starter for Week 4.
I don't consider leading the Seahawks to a 13-10 victory with one turnover, an interception on an end half Hail Mary attempt, a disaster.
Jackson has played one game with a full playbook and his safety valve, Sidney Rice. The offense finally flashed a rushing attack against Arizona. Heck, they got the win. As Jackson said post game, “if they keep booing and we keep winning…I don’t care.”
Carroll characterized Jackson's play on the radio Monday morning as “solid,” both at the beginning of his evaluation and to sum up; he again described Jackson's play as “solid” to the press Monday afternoon.
How did Jackson play in Week 3?
Personally, I find the consistency refreshing; he wasn't super positive, Carroll, but sounded more like a coach who understands improvement is needed.
Six of the topics Carroll spoke about:
Taking Too Many sacks
The biggest criticism of Jackson was that he got stuck in the pocket and on “three” occasions failed to get rid of the ball.
Carroll attributed this to Jackson's competitiveness, saying that Jackson doesn't want to give up on the play; but Carroll did describe the value behind knowing when to get rid of the ball and move onto the next play as an "important nature" for a quarterback to have.
Jackson needs to get better at understanding the rush, knowing when he can or cannot run and when to get rid of the football.
He has been sacked 14 times through three games, not to mention hit a multitude of others and will struggle to survive an entire season at this clip.
Jackson missed “one” opportunity to throw downfield; other times the receivers were covered, preventing more downfield attempts.
Another criticism was Jackson’s inability to find Mike Williams. Carroll said, “We need to get Mike involved more. It wasn't Mike's fault at all.”
As already described, the touchdown run was a missed opportunity by Jackson. Carroll admitted during his Monday presser that in terms of creating chemistry, Jackson and Williams are "behind" Matt Hasselbeck and Williams in 2010.
The struggles with Williams are a microcosm of Jackson's greater struggle to spread the ball around and create consistency on offense.
Mobility and Toughness
Jackson’s mobility was a positive factor against Arizona. On the third-quarter touchdown drive the Seahawks went no-huddle and featured Jackson in a mobile pocket, throwing on the run.
Carroll said the Seahawks called “five” naked bootlegs, the objective being to use Jackson’s athleticism and arm. This was a much needed addition to the play-calling.
Jackson looked comfortable enough, showing his ability to make plays with his feet and arm. The touchdown run showed incredible toughness, a play that won over center Max Unger. Middle linebacker David Hawthorne said the defense is willing to “ride or die” with Jackson.
The Seahawks went no huddle for the majority of their 14 play touchdown drive, a tempo Sidney Rice believes gives the offense an “extra edge.”
Is Carroll defending Jackson's play too much?
Per Carroll, the choice to hurry up is “something we want to make part of our game, whenever we feel like we need to… Jackson is very comfortable doing that. Jackson and Darrell (coordinator Bevell) communicate very well during those sequences.”
It allows the Seahawks to be aggressive and dictate the tempo. Carroll expects the package to grow, depending on how Seattle functions in future up-tempo situations.
He’s Protecting the Ball…to an Extent
One of the major concerns heading into the season was whether Jackson could take care of the football; so far Jackson has done a decent job.
He has not forced throws for interceptions such as the one in the fourth preseason game against Oakland, which was a forced throw in the red zone that drew the ire of fans. Both of his interceptions this season have been on Hail Mary attempts at the end of the first half.
One thing Carroll did not speak about was Jackson’s struggle with ball security. He lost two fumbles against the 49ers and has struggled with snaps in each of the first three games—including mishandling the high snap against Arizona that, if not for Anthony McCoy, could have cost Seattle the lead.
The Curt Carroll
Carroll was asked during the Monday presser; “Do you see some tentativeness from Tarvaris in going to some of his other targets, maybe having to double check and wait a little bit longer…?”
Carroll’s response? “No, not at all."
The Dilemma: Has Jackson Gotten a Fair Chance?
I’ll make this clear. While I’ve been supportive of giving Jackson a fair chance, I really want to see what Charlie Whitehurst can do—but not before Jackson has adequately shown he isn’t “the guy” or Whitehurst proves he’s ready to run the system.
Most fans, me included, have continually noticed Jackson’s tentativeness that Carroll apparently does not see as a problem. I'm not going to pretend to know more than Pete Carroll and the front office about how to run the Seahawks, but it's worth questioning where this major discrepancy is coming from.
After watching the game live at CLink and again at home, I thought Jackson still looked tentative and indecisive with some throws, such as the 2nd-and-4, third quarter throw to Golden Tate that was late and very high.
He also looked better on others, such as the 20 yard pass on 3rd-and-15 to Doug Baldwin two plays earlier; Jackson slid to the right, showed pocket presence and delivered a strike on the move to a crossing Baldwin.
But beyond the tentativeness, there is one glaring issue that Carroll failed to talk about. In the first half, Jackson threw a couple of balls that the Cardinals should have picked off.
On the first drive, 1st-and-10 at midfield, Jackson play-action rolled right and threw in the direction of Doug Baldwin, who had a defender nearby. Jackson never saw the second defender, safety Adrian Wilson, who dove and had the ball slip through his grasp, presumably because a downpour had just begun.
Who should start Week 4?
Side note; on the telecast, we learned that Jackson doesn't like to throw in the rain. Seattle averages about 11.5 inches of rain in November and December combined. Seattle plays six of their final 10 games at home; Jackson won’t have the not-so-stable Metrodome roof to keep him dry. Did Carroll know this?
Back to the second almost-interception. Inside of two minutes and Arizona territory Seattle had 2nd-and-20, Jackson in the shotgun with Williams and Baldwin lined up on the right. Baldwin ran a 5 yard out underneath Williams’ 7 yard out; Baldwin was covered underneath and could only make the catch given a perfectly placed, high throw.
Jackson threw high of Baldwin and well inside of Williams—it’s unclear who the pass was actually intended for. Williams’ defender, A.J. Jefferson, saw it the whole way; he had the ball bounce off of his hands with room to run.
So while Jackson may not be accumulating turnovers by the numbers, he is coming too close and covering the spectrum, mishandling snaps and making ill-advised throws in crucial situations—1st-and-10 at midfield and inside opponent territory with less than two minutes left in the half.
He’s holding the ball too long instead of forcing the throw, sometimes leading to sacks, and even when he scrambles, he doesn’t always look confident—not to mention questionable ball security, at times, when scrambling.
My interpretation of Carroll’s “solid?” Jackson didn’t lose us the game.
Carroll acknowledged the offense is far from being at full strength and rolling, but the formula of a strong running game and explosive passing attack showed against Arizona.
The question is: What happens if the offense plays like they have the first three weeks for the whole season, with the ceiling being the Week 3 performance against Arizona?
Easy answer: It will be a long season filled with frustration and close games, more losses than wins. For a team with the mindset of “owning the division,” not the ideal result.
Furthermore, how much longer is Carroll willing to wait for the offense to hit its stride? The current goal may be progress not perfection, but just because Jackson had Sidney Rice to lean on doesn’t mean progress was made in Week 3.
Yes, the offense moved the ball and was more balanced than in the first two weeks. But as noted, Jackson got away with some major mistakes.
If anything, Carroll’s quest for clarity and direction by naming Jackson the starter from day one has muddled the situation. While I agree it made sense in order to gain continuity given Jackson’s experience with Darrell Bevell, Jackson has created continuity good enough for two touchdown passes—a pleasant way of saying this offense has looked lost for the majority of Jackson’s tenure.
And what about the “always compete” mantra; nobody has forgotten that Charlie Whitehurst hasn’t gotten a fair chance to compete for the starting job.
While I don’t believe throwing Whitehurst into the fire simply because Jackson hasn’t gotten going quickly enough is the answer, Whitehurst was “functioning beautifully” during the preseason and has been in a competition with himself. My question is, how is he functioning now; well enough to compete with Jackson?
(Insert a resounding yes from a sizable portion of the 12th man).
This will be Jackson’s second game with an open play book and his favorite target; it will also be the end of a four-game stretch, two games away and then two at home. After hosting Atlanta in Week 4, the excuse of “Jackson needs a fair chance to perform” won’t fly.
It’s time for the Seahawks to drop the “Tarvaris is tough” moniker and focus on results. After next week, they’ll have a quarterly sample.
For now, Jackson is competing with himself. If he shows marked improvement this weekend, he buys himself more time; but if Jackson fails to progress, it’s time for the Seahawks to consider a quarterback competition.