Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

–Following an up-and-down 2017 season, head coach Pete Carroll felt it was time for a new voice to help push Seattle’s franchise quarterback to the next level. By focusing on fundamentals, his impact on Russell Wilson’s overall game has already been noticeable in the preseason and the 30-year old signal-caller applauded coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for doing a “tremendous job” coaching him over the past several months.

“Football is football, at the end of the day,” Wilson said. “I think that five steps are five steps, for the most part, and seven steps are seven but I think that more than anything, it’s just trying to be really balanced and just trying to go through all of the progressions and all of the reads and do everything that I need to do.”

Former coordinator Darrell Bevell did all he could during six seasons working with Wilson and helped him become the star quarterback he is today, but ultimately, sometimes a player needs a different perspective to take the next step in his progression. Seattle believes the energetic, details-driven Schottenheimer will do just that.

–After ranking 23rd in the NFL in rushing a season ago, Schottenheimer has been given the keys to the offense and intends to bring the run game back to its glory days when running back Marshawn Lynch and Wilson carved up defenses. While the rest of the league zigs towards being more pass-heavy, the Seahawks understand the value of a balanced offense and know the team must be more effective on the ground to return to the top of the NFC pecking order. Most important, Schottenheimer wants his squad to be much more effective running the ball in short-yardage situations.

Said Schottenheimer, “We have to be able to run versus eight-man fronts, and that’s not always with checks. It’s got to have runs that you believe in (and that) this groups believes in. ‘Hey Schotty, we can run this no matter what we do,’ and I think we’re finding that identity right now.”

Schottenheimer has never had an elite quarterback like Wilson, but he’s still coordinated several strong running games dating back to his tenure with the Jets. With New York, he presided over an offense that finished in the top five in rushing yards in 2009 and 2010, and both teams reached the AFC Championship Game with Mark Sanchez at quarterback.

Carroll wants to see the offense return to its roots, and given Schottenheimer’s track record establishing the run, he viewed him as the perfect alternative to Bevell.

–Speaking of new voices on the coaching staff, left tackle Duane Brown spoke candidly about line coach Mike Solari’s attention to detail earlier in the offseason when comparing him to former coach Tom Cable and how he’ll have a positive impact on young linemen such as Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, and George Fant.

Brown said, “Mike is a great football mind. He’s very big on attention to detail, very big on technique. I think he’s going to be very great for the younger guys. He coaches everyone the same. No one’s a favorite. If you mess up a rep, you’re doing it over. If you mess it up again, you’re doing it over. I’ve got a lot of respect for that. I think we’re going to be a very sharp o-line, very technically sound, and play with a lot of aggression.”

It’s still far too early to tell whether or not Solari will be able to transform Seattle’s offensive line from one of the worst in the league into a competent unit in just one season, but if he fails, it won’t be because he didn’t emphasize technique and the group seems to be moving in the right direction under his guidance.

–Even with the loses of Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and others defensively, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright still hold high expectations for the defense and football team in general. As two of the few remaining cogs from Seattle’s back-to-back Super Bowl teams, they’ve taken on expanded leadership roles in efforts to accelerate the development of their young teammates, such as rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin and safety Tedric Thompson.

And what about all of the pundits overlooking the Seahawks? According to Wagner, prior history shows the Seahawks will be hungry to silence critics this season.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had a lot of guys that had stuff to prove,” Wagner said. “Whether it’s myself, they said I was too small, I wasn’t going to be able to play. Russell (Wilson), they said he was going to be too short, wasn’t going to be able to see. We pride ourselves on proving people wrong and it’s no different. I think there always something you have to prove if you want to be great.”

There’s plenty of reasons to write off the Seahawks after losing such a wealth of talent along the defensive line and in the secondary, but with Wagner and Wright back in the saddle again, don’t expect too big of a dropoff defensively.

–With Sherman now in San Francisco, Kam Chancellor likely done playing football, and Earl Thomas holding out for a new contract, the onus will fall on Shaquill Griffin to emerge as a shutdown cornerback in his own right and fill the leadership vacuum in the secondary. Out of all of the 2017 rookies who played significant snaps last year, his growth will be most crucial to Seattle’s playoff chances.

After a highly successful rookie season, Griffin has shown more swagger on the practice field in year two, and the Seahawks will be counting on him to bring that attitude to the field on game days. So far, his adjustment to the left side as Sherman’s replacement has gone smoothly.

“I’m getting used to it, just got to get my feet wet and get comfortable. I wish I could have gotten one more series just to get a feel for it, but no,” Griffin said following Seattle’s preseason opener against the Colts. “It felt good. I felt comfortable, I felt natural, and that’s all that I wanted to feel while I was out there. It felt good being back.”

Consistently in great position in coverage, Griffin simply needs to show progress tracking the football and making a play, as he missed out on multiple interception opportunities last season. If he can improve his awareness and ball skills, there’s no question he could be one of the NFL’s breakout stars in 2018.

–Quarterback Russell Wilson: With the amount of talent that has walked out the door in Seattle in recent months, this Seahawks squad will go only as far as the dual-threat quarterback can take them, but he’s positioned well to compete for league MVP honors. He’s already responded favorably to new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and looked more fundamentally sound during preseason action, as he’s staying in the pocket longer and throwing from a wider base. A rejuvenated rushing attack spearheaded by Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny should help keep Wilson upright and he’ll benefit immensely from the additions of Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown at receiver. If Mike Solari’s line can play at close to the same level it did during the preseason, which will be a big if based on recent history, Wilson has a chance to post career numbers this season and keep the Seahawks in the playoff hunt.

–Defensive end Rasheem Green: Seattle lost two high-profile defensive ends when Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were traded and released, respectively. Following a productive five-game stint with the Seahawks last year, the team expected Dion Jordan to help fill the void left by their departures. However, he’s been unable to get healthy this summer, opening the door for the 21-year-old Green to be Seattle’s most impressive player in the preseason. Displaying improved hand technique as well as a consistent motor and the versatility to line up as a 3-technique defensive tackle during passing situations, he recorded 18 tackles and 3.0 sacks in four preseason games, suddenly emerging as a legitimate starting option across from Frank Clark. Even as Jordan returns to action after being activated from the PUP list, look for the ex-USC standout to find his way into the lineup and produce sooner rather than later.