As the Seahawks head into the second half of their first season under coach Pete Carroll, it might be wise to follow the lead of soon-to-be 37-year-old strong safety Lawyer Milloy.
It is fitting that the Seahawks have reached the midway point of their 35th season just days before Lawyer Milloy’s 37th birthday.
In the team’s uneven journey to its 4-4 record, and a share of first place in the NFC West, Milloy’s age-defying performance has been as impressive as anything that has happened in the first half of Pete Carroll’s first season as coach.
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE
The Seahawks have reached the halfway point of their first season under coach Pete Carroll. Here are Clare Farnsworth’s selections as the best from their 4-4 start:
Best player: SS Lawyer Milloy
Best offensive player: WR Mike Williams
Best defensive player: MLB Lofa Tatupu
Best special teams player: KOR Leon Washington
Best rookie: FS Earl Thomas
Best veteran newcomer: DE Chris Clemons
Best assistant coach: Brian Schneider
Click here for the rationale – or perhaps that should be irrational thoughts – behind these selections, and more.
For that reason, as well as the career milestones he has reached this season, Milloy has been selected as the best player of the first half by Seahawks.com.
“He’s a joy to coach,” said Carroll, who first coached Milloy when both were with the New England Patriots (1997-99). “He loves the game so much. He’s so tough. And he’s adding to the fire of what we’re all about, but he’s adding to it scheme-wise, too.”
And, making it all even more impressive, Milloy will turn 37 on Sunday – when the Seahawks kickoff the second half of their 2010 season by playing the Cardinals in Arizona.
On the statistical front, Milloy continues to add to his staggering career totals.
He is second on the team with 43 tackles, giving him 1,657 for his career – which ranks fourth among active players behind the Ravens’ Ray Lewis (2,414), Redskins’ London Fletcher (1,939) and Cowboys’ Keith Brooking (1,679), all linebackers. He’s also a member of the exclusive 1,000-solo-tackles cub.
In the Week 6 win at Chicago, Milloy collected two sacks, which allowed him to become the 11th player in NFL history to have 20 sacks and 20 interceptions during his career. And the sacks came from one of those scheme wrinkles Carroll mentioned – the “Bandit” defense, were Milloy steps up and plays as a linebacker.
“He’s a better rusher than most defensive backs would be,” Carroll said. “He understands principles because he’s had so many chances over the years and he’s really aggressive by nature and very, very physical. So he can do some things.”
Or as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley put it, “When Lawyer comes (as a rusher), it’s just a different tempo.”
In the Week 2 game at Denver, Milloy reached yet another milestone by starting the 200th game of his career.
Career achievements that set Milloy’s career apart, but nothing he will allow to interfere with the 15th season of his career.
“Believe me, when I look back, I’ll be proud of my legacy here and in the NFL,” Milloy said. “I think I’m doing my part.”
But as with every other player on the team, Milloy needs to find a way to do even more if the Seahawks are to shake off their two-game losing streak and do something they haven’t been able to since 2005 – beat the Cardinals in Arizona.
The Seahawks haven’t just reached midseason at 4-4, they’re at a crossroads. They began the season following a win with a loss for four weeks. Then came two hump-clearing performances – beating a team with a winning record on the road in a 10 a.m. West Coast time start, as they did in Chicago; and the win over the Cardinals at Qwest the following week, which snapped a four-game winning streak in the series by the two-time defending division champions. But that was followed by back-to-back losses to a pair of red-hot teams – the Raiders and Giants, by a combined score of 74-10.
The Seahawks have had season-long problems running the ball, which has put too much pressure on the quarterback to make plays – and an injury-depleted line to give the passer the time he needs. A defense that once ranked second in the league against the run has yielded 239 and 197 rushing yards the past two weeks.
They have compensated with big plays – 12 of their 14 turnovers and 14 of their 21 sacks, as well as four of the six kickoff returns of 40-plus yards by Leon Washington, have come in the four victories.
Will the real Seahawks please stand up? And remain standing for the second half of the season.
The Seahawks follow this week’s game against the Cardinals with a trip to New Orleans to play the defending Super Bowl champion Saints. Then they play four of the final six games at Qwest Field, including a season-finale matchup with the Rams.
“We have a huge opportunity. I don’t lose sight of that,” Carroll said. “The cool thing is to come out on the other end and do something really good with the second half.”
The rest of the players could do worse than to follow Milloy’s lead, as the team moves into that second half of its season and he moves closer to his 37th birthday.