- Baby step Baraka Atkins, baby steps. Crucial baby steps. Here's how the preseason allows a blown play to be exciting: Second Minnesota drive of the second quarter, sixth play, 1st and 10 on the Seattle 24. Atkins explodes off the snap! Badly overpursuing and thereby vacating right containment! Maurice Hicks rides the seam for an easy eight! Um...well the movement off the snap is promising. It's not surprising that Atkins growth at anticipating snap counts comes with a corresponding hitch. In the regular season, this would be a straight up blown assignment, but in the preseason the growth as a pass rusher - even against a run - easily trumps the assignment lapse.
- In that vein: Jordan Kent had a track star moment. On the third play of Seattle's first drive of the second quarter, 3rd and 7 on the Seattle 23, Kent turned a good route and great separation into an incompletion. Running free, Kent turned his shoulder back towards Wallace very early, breaking stride and allowing the pass to drop ineffectually past his outstretched hands. Competent receivers know to trust their quarterback and run to the spot, having the experience and knowledge to find the ball late in the route and convert the reception. Kent, still very raw, doesn't.
- Next non-special teams play. 1st and 10, Minnesota on their own 34; 2 WR, 2 TE, Rb. Seattle in a base 4-3. At the snap, the Vikings left tackle passes Lawrence Jackson off, pull blocking out and into the second level. This is why I really like Jackson. Jackson, immediately understanding the tackle pass means run and explodes into pulling guard Mike Jones. Jackson is excellent at engaging a blocker without allowing him into his chest and thereby losing control. Instead, Jackson rides Jones like a sled to Maurice Hicks, tackling Hicks for a gain of one. Awareness, recognition, skills matched with good athleticism and great potential.
- And yes, on the next play Jackson sheds a blocker, cuts across the field, through trash, outpaces Hicks and tackles him midstride 29 yards downfield.
- David Hawthorne knifed through traffic to tackle Hicks for a loss of two. Speed in traffic defines a run stopping linebacker and Hawthorne has it in spades.
- Not a great quarter for Josh Wilson. He looked very much the bad employee. First, on the fifth play of Minnesota's second drive, taking his head out of the game after noticing Howard Green's penalty and subsequently blowing coverage. And later, on the sixth play of Minnesota's third drive, whiffing on a press against Aundrae Allison, using his speed to recover, but then getting turned around in coverage. Physically close to Allison, but nowhere near covering him. Embarrassingly careless play for a second year man.
- On his lone reception of the half, Carlson bounced off the first tackler, rolling for an additional three. Eight yards on 1 and 10 is boffo; five, a failed play.
- I liked what I saw from Julius Jones. His long rush, 12 yards, ran from an audibled into split backs (out of an "I"). It's always good to see success out of SBs. Jones made a couple quick cuts and displayed the kind of easy speed he needs to be effective. Lost man David Kirtman effectively sealed off the inside. First, putting the finishing touches on Erin Henderson, escorting the rook to the turf, and then moving out to lock up Charles Gordon.
- Jones' failed first down conversion was, well, unlikely to succeed. Seattle didn't do much wrong from an execution standpoint, getting good push, a very nice lead block by Kirtman, with only the two tight ends, Jeb Putzier and John Carlson, falling off their blocks and allowing each of their men to contribute to the tackle. No, it was mostly just conservative play calling and a numbers mismatch. To turn a cliché on its head, shouldn't we expect a defense to be able to protect one yard ? Minnesota stacked nine in the box and swarmed the center, having the fullback to guide and Jones five yard run up to arrive. It won't happen, but I'd love to see Mike Holmgren minimize all the telegraphed, circa 1932, one yard and a cloud of dust short yardage plays he so favors.
- I'm surprised to see Jamar Adams so tenacious in the box, but there he was ripping Naufahu Tahi from behind and forcing a turnover on 4th and 1.
- Seventh play, final drive of the half, Minnesota ball, 1st and 10 on Seattle's 12; Vikings employ a 3 WR, TE, Rb formation. Seattle's in a base 4-3. Generic play, Hicks rush right end, but interesting because I note Green shows good separation ability, coming off a block and making a good move to the ball carrier.
- Next play, now 2nd and 8. Identical formations from both units. Pass play. Seattle runs an unorthodox stunt, looks like this:
Green again separates from his blocker and again shows good closing ability to the ball carrier. This time it's a sack. Same skill, different result, but I wouldn't rate the flashier play as a better effort.
- Kevin Hobbs blew coverage on the next play - playing too soft and misreading the distance for a first down. Should Martin Nance have converted an easy reception and thus earned the first down, that would be more widely noted, but Nance's mistake let Hobbs off the hook.
The Tape: Seattle @ Minnesota 2nd Qtr
By John Morgan