Housh ran a slant and Hasselbeck found him for 10 yards. A good play, but, unfortunately, the highlight of Matt's game.
There is good news and bad news for Matt Hasselbeck. I'll start with the good.
Jeremy Bates will tailor his offense to what Hasselbeck can do. Not entirely, but perhaps enough to help Hasselbeck have a rebound season. Bates ran a kind of play-action slant with both Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst. The line baits the defensive line and linebackers one direction by simulating a run block. The quarterback then turns and passes a slant to the opposite side of the field.
Hasselbeck squeezed ten yards out of well-timed slant to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The bad news is that may be the highlight of his game. He started with three straight targets directed at Branch. Hasselbeck missed his first attempt, but Branch had negligible separation. He then hit Branch for four on second and ten. That set up third and long. Branch came back aggressively on a hook route, a developing trend in Bates' offense, and converted.
Routes that come back aggressively for the ball will help Hasselbeck, because in his first game of 2010 and presumably fully healthy, Hasselbeck displayed much of the same deficient arm strength that has undermined him the past two seasons. Bates regularly employs five or six blockers to keep the quarterback clean, but the resulting deficit of open receivers means more crowded coverage and tighter windows. Hasselbeck was 0-3 on passes that included six blockers.
One was a botched tight end screen underneath. This is the other problem: Hasselbeck has never excelled at passing underneath. The screen did not fail because Hasselbeck misfired targeting Chris Baker. Baker started by blocking the defensive end and at the crucial moment where he had to drop the block and separate into a pattern, he couldn't and thus he was completely blanketed. Hasselbeck sent the ball turfward in frustration. However Justin Forsett was wide open in the left flat, and when the screen began to break down, Hasselbeck killed it rather than improvise.
It was a rotten showing for Matt. He didn't show significantly improved arm strength. Hasselbeck showed little willingness to pass down field, and one of his few "deep" attempts was tipped away by a reeling 5'11" linebacker with maybe 20 inches of air: Stephen Tulloch. He didn't show a better grasp of or ability to execute the offense. Bates worked in some short patterns, but it was a complementary piece of the offense rather than the foundation. It was 11 pass attempts mixed with a broken rush attack and thus nothing like conclusive, but it mirrored last season. Facing much of the same competition - the Titans started and stuck with a backup infused defense - Whitehurst was head and shoulders better than and better able to execute than Matt Hasselbeck. If this is a competition, Hasselbeck better break late.