The past four months have been a feeling-out process for the Seahawks

Published on May 9, 2009 by     Seahawk Fanatic

zone-blocking-systemThe past four months have been a feeling-out process for the Seahawks.

That will happen when you’ve got five new coaches and two others in new roles – including Jim Mora, who has stepped in for the longest-tenured head coach in franchise history, Mike Holmgren. That also will happen when half a dozen new starters could emerge from the almost two-dozen new players on the current 80-man roster.

This so-many-things-new environment has created a situation where coaches have been getting used to players and players to coaches, as well as returning players meshing with new players – and vice versa.

But the gaps between expectations and execution have narrowed in the past seven days, when the Seahawks held their first full-squad minicamp last weekend and a three-day OTA session that concluded Thursday with another spirited practice.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has noticed a subtle – but significant – difference while reviewing video of the practices.

“We’re all making the calls. That would be the difference,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is communicate at the line of scrimmage, communicate in meetings. Our meetings are very interactive right now.”

Too often the past two seasons, if Hasselbeck didn’t make a pre-snap call, it didn’t get made properly.

“You see on film, the center, the fullback, the tailback, the quarterback all making the call at the same time,” he said. “It’s good. I mean, it’s different, but it’s very good.”

Hasselbeck has gotten to this point, in part, by seeking out those teammates who played previously for new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp – fullbacks Justin Griffith and and running back T.J. Duckett.

While Duckett played for Knapp when both were with the Atlanta Falcons, Griffith played for the Falcons and Raiders when Knapp was their offensive coordinator.

“They probably know this offense as well as anybody, because they have an experience level with it with coach Knapp,” Hasselbeck said. “So they’re helping me, T.J. especially, with questions. They’ve run this stuff. They’ve run it in games.

“They know what’s going on. So it’s definitely good to have them.”

But the players aren’t the only ones who emerged from these practices and meetings with a better understanding of what they want to accomplish, how to do it and who to do it with.

What is the one thing Knapp and new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley know now that they didn’t know before last Friday?

Bradley: “We’re starting to see a little bit more out of our front. We’re seeing pressure from those guys, and that helps.”

Applying more pressure to the opposing quarterback is a cornerstone of Mora’s plan to improve on the defense ranking 30th in the league last season. Thursday, second-year defensive end Lawrence Jackson tipped a pass incomplete, fourth-year defensive end Darryl Tapp applied the pressure that forced an incompletion and cornerback Josh Wilson displayed his ability to blitz.

“That’s what we need from him,” Bradley said of Wilson. “He has a unique knack of blitzing and getting pressure on the quarterback.”

The defense also more than held its own in the red zone drill, after being scorched by the offense – and especially Hasselbeck passing to T.J. Houshmandzadeh – on Sunday. Wilson tipped away one pass. Safety Jordan Babineaux got a hand on another, allowing cornerback Marcus Trufant to intercept the carom.

“We just keep making progress,” Bradley said. “We have some times when we don’t play as well, like in the previous red zone drill. Today, we tightened things up. That’s what this is all about. You take two steps forward and maybe a step back, but we really like the progress we’re making.”

Knapp: “It’s starts with the O-line calls. We had a good emphasis this week of having a blitz period, with communication with the O-line and them communicating with the backfield. It was a good week for our players.”

That line is playing without two starters – left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Mike Wahle, who continue to rehab from knee and shoulder surgeries, respectively, that ended their 2008 seasons. Their inactivity has prompted the move of right tackle Sean Locklear to replace Jones, with Ray Willis stepping in on the right side for Locklear. At left guard, it has been Mansfield Wrotto. The interior trio also included center Chris Spencer and right guard Rob Sims.

“Collectively, as a group, there was a lot better communication going on this week,” Knapp said.

That all-important communication should only continue to improve as the players and coaches continue their feeling-out – and feeling better – process as they move toward the June minicamp.

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