Your Questions Answered: The Field Gulls Mailbag - Vol. 2

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 11: Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson #7 of the Seattle Seahawks gives the ball to teammate runningback Marshawn Lynch #24 against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL preseason game on August 11, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The Field Gulls Mailbag is a bi-weekly feature where you, the reader, can submit your questions about anything and everything Seahawks. To submit a question for the next edition of the "Mailbag" send it to fieldgullsmailbag@gmail.com

It's "Kickoff Weekend", it's Blue Friday and it's the return of the FG Mailbag! Once again you guys submitted some great questions, so without further ado:

Chase from Parts unknown writes: What are the 3 biggest keys to getting a W week one in San Francisco?

Right out of the gate, lets address what's on everyone's mind: the offensive line. 49ers coordinator Vic Fangio will test the Seahawks young line ALL DAY LONG. There is no question that how the o-line goes, the game will go. They need to show an improved ability to pass block effectively.

Key number 2 will be the running game. From the minute the offseason began, Pete Carroll was focused on improving Seattle's rushing attack. He hired Tom Cable, upgraded the OL via free agency and the draft and now it's time to see if that bears any fruit. Because pass protection is questionable, the run game is even more important. Seattle wants to show their toughness and they're going to need to do so to get the win in San Francisco.

The final key to the game is on the defensive side of the football, and it will be the play of the linebacking corps. Lofa Tatupu is gone, Leroy Hill is back, David Hawthorne is starting and Aaron Curry continues to be a work in progress. On top of that, Hawthorne and Hill have nagging knee injuries that could affect their availability for Sunday. No matter who ends up taking the field, the questions surrounding the position remain the same: are they a better unit this year? In 2010 that group didn't make many big plays, force many turnovers or do anything "spectacular". Jim Harbaugh will be aggressive on offense, and the young LB's will be tested, if they rise to the occasion, Seattle should come away victorious.

Mark from Vancouver, Wash. writes: Do you see our young bigs like  James Carpenter, John Moffitt and Max Unger being able to jell and be capable pass protectors so [Tarvaris Jackson] can have time to pick a D apart? And do you see Russell Okung staying healthy? 'Hawks desperately need him anchoring that left side. I will trade ankles with him if I must. Thanks. 

Much was made of the struggles of the offensive line during the preseason, and justifiably so. The lack of OTA's didn't help the situation, but it isn't the only reason for the group's insufficiencies. It is will documented that Carpenter came into camp out of shape, and there is little debate that his performance in the preseason was poorest of all the offensive linemen.

That being said, the Seahawks are trying to develop him, experimenting with him at LG and committed to their investment in him. It's far too early to call him a bust, but time will tell. I feel that the rest of the line will be ok, I liked Moffit and Unger, they got better each week, and I think as they continue to jell with Gallery and Okung the line will improve. I DO think Okung stays healthy, he proved during his college career his is durable, and I think these ankle injuries have been a combination of bad luck (last year) and an inability to rehab with team doctors this offseason due to the lockout.

They've been cautious with him, and I think he plays 14-16 games this year. All that being said, this offensive line will experience growing pains. They're being built for the long run, and in spite of what this year may look like, I think they'll ultimately be ok.

Bruce from Parts Unknown writes: In order to be prepared for an opposing team each week, practices must include knowing how an opponent is likely to line up and act.  Do the Seahawks employ a "prep team" or do they use specific players from their 53 person regular squad?

Bruce, in the NFL they use an eight member "practice squad". The practice squad members, generally speaking, are players who were cut by the team during training camp and that the team still think might develop. For further reading on how the practice squad works, check out this article from the National Football Post. 

Roger from SD (San Diego or South Dakota, it's is up to you to claim him) writes: OK, over or under, 4 starts for T-Jax before getting benched of injured and Whitehurst takes over at QB?

I don't think Tarvaris Jackson gets benched before the bye, if at all. Injury, however, is a different story. For now, Carroll has preached that Jackson''s familiarity with the playbook set him apart, so he is committed to Tarvaris. Beyond that, offenses need to develop chemistry, and so splitting reps throughout training camp and the preseason made little sense to the staff.

The reason I don't think he gets benched before the bye is because Carroll would use the bye week to prepare Whitehurst in the same fashion training camp prepared Jackson. It would allow him to get more reps with the first team and develop chemistry of his own before stepping under center as the starter. Certainly injuries could change that, and given the poor pass protection in the preseason, that it a legitimate concern. 

Wes from Parts Unknown writes: With all the roster moves lately, it would be great to have some insight as to what players earned a roster spot for their special teams play. Also, I'd like to know who has/who will be playing the all-important, yet under-appreciated, special teams for the Hawks. How many different players usually contribute, i.e. is there a different group for both sides of the ball on kickoffs and punts, which would make a total of four different groups?

(Scott Tags Danny Kelly into the match) DK: Tough to say with any certainty this early what the personnel packages will look like, especially now that cuts have been made, but the first guy I'd say 'special teamed' his way onto the roster that comes to mind is Byron Maxwell. Maxwell made some key plays on special teams in the preseason, especially as a gunner, and I have to think that this helped him to secure a spot on the roster. He's big and fast, and made some pretty impressive tackles in punt coverage situations. 

Michael Robinson and Leon Washington are the special teams captains and it's for a reason: they're probably the two best special teamers on the Seahawks. Robinson does it all, really, from leadership to making tackles, and Washington -- well, you know what Washington is capable of.

Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin will probably get some chances to return punts. Justin Forsett may as well.

Past that, in general, you'll see tight ends used on the second to last level on kickoffs because they're big and block well, but can also field pooch kicks with their dependable hands. Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd figure to get a lot of action on kickoffs. Richard Sherman, Atari Bigby and Jeron Johnson will get a lot of action on special teams because of their coverage and tackling abilities. Dexter Davis was a special teams monster last year because of his unique size/speed ratio. Matt McCoy figures to be in on the action, and I'd guess that Malcolm Smith's size and speed will make him an excellent special teams contributor as well. 

These are the main guys that I would guess will stand out. 
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