(This is a CBS Fantasy Football post. None of the other managers sent in their charity of choice, and so this will have to suffice)
Seattle sets with four wide receivers. The 49ers blitz. Jones jumps into the pass rush lane and pops Patrick Willis. Matt Hasselbeck targets T.J. Houshmandzadeh sticking a post route and separating from outside linebacker Marque Harris. The reception achieves 13. Two execution failures are dug out by a talent mismatch.
Seattle ran a wide receiver screen on its next play. Seattle set in trips left, with Deon Butler, John Carlson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh forming the left, top and right angles of the triangle. This is the kind of designed play I love. Get the ball in a receiver's hands and attack the cornerback's cushion. Housh ran behind a couple determined blocks for six and the first. Say what you will about his long speed, Housh hasn't lost much quickness or agility.
Seahawks at Colts
5. 2-14-IND 47 (2:25) (Shotgun) 15-S.Wallace pass short right to 83-D.Branch to 50 for -3 yards (33-M.Bullitt)
Willis cut blocks Brock and succeeds. T.J. Houshmandzadeh cut blocks Tim Jennings and succeeds. Deion Branch missed that. He cuts across field and attempts a play Barry Sanders couldn't make in college and predictably is dropped behind the line of scrimmage. Had he trusted Housh, the too aggressive Jennings left a column of space up the right sideline.
Seattle's multi-millionaire possession receiver beats the press and gets a step on Jennings to the outside. Housh has six inches and twenty pounds on Jennings. Jennings is behind Houshmandzadeh on an outside route and has no help. This pass isn't a gimme, but it also is one of the easiest passes a professional quarterback can make. A possession receiver isn't going to get more open in the red zone, so you target his outside shoulder and throw a bullet. Wallace didn't mean to, but he threw it away.
Davis and Stockton didn't need to credit Housh, though they should have, they didn't need to discredit Jennings for having his press beat back, though they should have, but they have to identify when the quarterback screws up. They didn't. They sung Wallace's praises for smartly throwing the ball away. And too many NFL fans believed them.
Seahawks at Cowboys
Seattle converted the first on a screen pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Housh was grouped with John Carlson and John Owens in trips right and turned two good blocks, a little too much patience and a veteran spot into a first down.
Rams at Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck overthrew three passes before the penalty. Three passes skyed in six attempts. All three were deep passes. The first targeted T.J. Houshmandzadeh. It was out of his reach, but Housh isn't a burner. He hadn't separated. If he had a little more speed, he would have burned Ron Bartell and reached the pass.
Seahawks at 49ers
Greg Knapp runs designed plays. Sometimes he runs a wide receiver screen. Sometimes he runs some abhorrent play-action bootleg. Seattle started its drive with an abhorrent play-action bootleg. The Niners were in a four man front. Hasselbeck faked to Julius Jones and then rolled right. The unblocked left end was never fooled and immediately adjusted and pressured Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck found T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but so did Dre Bly. Bly was sitting on the route. Housh took a shot, but Bly wanted the ball. A few years back, Bly cuts the route and takes it to the house. Seattle was in luck. Instead, their $40 million dollar wide receiver with back spasms took a shot for an incomplete pass. That completion could have been big. Four yards big.
Bears at Seahawks
2-8-SEA 33 (4:30) (Shotgun) 15-S.Wallace pass incomplete short right to 84-T.Houshmandzadeh (33-C.Tillman).
He hit T.J. Houshmandzadeh right in the hands on a good read and accurate pass. Housh dropped it.
After T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped the aforementioned pass, a Bear linebacker collided with him and it looked like jammed his wrist. He shook it off, but went to the sideline and into the tunnel at the end of the first quarter.
Seahawks at Cowboys
Before he's blindsided and the ball pops from his grasp, let's rewind and look around. It's a shotgun snap and the handoff to Forsett is quick and definitive, so the wide receivers have to hustle to influence the play. They're not going to run off their guys, but they could put a body on them. Burleson inches up towards Newman and when it's clear he's beat, stops, stands and spectates. Houshmandzadeh starts quicker but slows and instead of engaging nickelback Orlando Scandrick, he jogs up and behind the referee. Newman forces the fumble and Scandrick recovers for 15 yards.
Outlook: Housh and John Carlson are Seattle's only two surefire fantasy targets. Houshmandzadeh should have decent value in points per receptions leagues, and his reputation might drop his perceived value might make him available late. Injuries are a concern, so monitor that throughout the preseason. Ok, fantasy talk done. Sponsorship satisfied? Sponsorship satisfied.
I like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, as a person and as a player. I think that those two aspects of Housh are linked. He is not the most talented player, but he is hard working and determined and his play at wide receiver reflects that. He is a precise route runner, fearless in traffic, always playing the angles and therefore always working at the limits of legal play, and where some people get distracted by the tumult of on- and off-field life in the NFL, T.J. seems to gain focus.
His character too often overshadows his play, and though Houshmandzadeh feeds that, he only feeds it by being himself. The shadow is cast by the media and their audience's fascination. His dad is Iranian, and I can't help but wonder if that is responsible for some of the cultural abrasion. Our fathers are our patterns for masculinity, and by American standards, Housh seems swaggering. I can't say I give a shit, honestly. He puts his foot in his mouth, yes. He mistakenly believes he can turn on a great performance, and sometimes looks foolish for the prediction, yes. Just look into his eyes and you see a proud man, and pride isn't very popular in modern America, no. But there is very little essential difference between Housh and Jared Allen, other than the culture through which they express their swagger.
As a player, T.J. was very good in 2009. He is a number one possession receiver, so to speak. He is more of a complementary downfield threat, but so be it. He earns tons of targets and maintains a high catch percentage, and if his stats declined in 2009, I saw no indication that his performance did.
That doesn't mean he will stay valuable for the life of his contract. 2009 was always the season we could count on, with each following season becoming riskier. Housh took a good bit of abuse last season, and is still recovering from offseason surgery. He may not depend on speed, but he does depend on quickness, and I am pretty sure both decline with age. Every year until his contract is out, we will wonder, will Housh lose a little something? Will he be a little worse?
Luckily, a couple things are working in his favor: An overall upgrade to Seattle's receiving talent and a huge chip on his shoulder that makes T.J. too damn proud to ever let his skills slip.