Pete Carroll & Co. have two weeks to study Bears' tendencies
Matt Bowen Scouting the Bears 9:51 p.m. CDT, October 14, 2010
The Bears' game preparation didn't change this week. Coming off the win Sunday in Carolina, they went through their same routine — or script — that is followed by the entire league. Watch the game tape Monday, rest Tuesday and start their installation for the Seahawks on Wednesday. A normal week in the NFL.
Not so for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll's team is coming off an open date. Two weeks to craft a game plan. Time to self-scout personnel in the film room. An extra week to evaluate their own roster. A new locker for running back Marshawn Lynch.
Not a complete overall, but the week off in the NFL is the ideal time for the front office and the coaching staff to make changes. And we can include the players as well. In my career, the open date afforded time to get in the film room and evaluate my own play. What I am doing right? How is my technique? What are opposing offensive coordinators seeing in my game? A situation, a route that targets my weaknesses?
Carroll and his staff have had two weeks to study Mike Martz's offense and Lovie Smith's defense. They will go back to the preseason tape and start from the beginning. The Cover-2 defense will be broken down to a point where the Seahawks know the exact routes they want to run. Tips, presnap keys, tendencies. And personnel. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will know what Charles Tillman's alignment means and what coverage to expect. The blitz looks. Brian Urlacher's zone drops. In the NFL, the film tells a very detailed story — and every player becomes a target.
Defensively, the Seahawks will break down every pass protection — and seven-step drop — in Martz's playbook. They will throw in film from his time in San Francisco, Detroit and even back to his days as the head coach in St. Louis. Find an advantage. Even something as small as two key tips can win a game in this league. Maybe it's an alignment, a formation or an audible that is caught on tape. A hand signal given to a wide receiver vs. press coverage. That extra week gives you time as a player, and a coach, to completely break down an opponent.
In reality, the standard NFL game prep is limited. Wednesday to Saturday. That's it. The game plan is installed on Wednesday morning, shaped throughout the week and finalized in that Saturday night meeting in the hotel. Put together based on the opponent's four previous games. Not enough time to go back into the preseason. Maybe a gadget play such as a reverse or a halfback pass from August is thrown on the film cut-ups, but that is about all you can expect.
Does that give the Seahawks an added advantage? It should. If there is a certain route that gave the Bears issues — even going back to the 2009 season — expect to see it this Sunday. The same can be said for Martz. That staff in Seattle will find a way to install a certain personnel package specifically designed to beat his offense.
The Bears know it. Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Jay Cutler, etc. Martz and Smith. Even general manager Jerry Angelo. Playing a team coming off of that "free week" is tough from a preparation standpoint. The Seahawks will come into Soldier Field with their most complete and detailed game plan of the season. And the Bears should be on full alert.
After playing at Glenbard West and Iowa, Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety with the Rams, Packers, Redskins and Bills, including playing for Lovie Smith and Mike Martz in St. Louis. When he's not writing for the Tribune, you can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com
Seahawks certainly are new, and trying to be improved
Since GM Ruskell departed and joined Bears, only 19 players remain from his tenure
Dan Pompei On the NFL
When Bears personnel director Tim Ruskell looks at the Seahawks Sunday at Soldier Field, he might find himself adjusting his binoculars as he may not recognize the team he served as general manager for five years because it has changed so much since he resigned in December.
Only 19 players Ruskell acquired are still Seahawks. New GM John Schneider, together with coach Pete Carroll, have made a staggering 215 roster moves since taking over in January. Among those moves have been 13 trades, including the recent acquisition of running back Marshawn Lynch from the Bills and the recent dealing of Deion Branch to the Patriots.
Many of the Ruskell Seahawks who were shipped out are playing a significant role on other teams. These include Giants safety Deon Grant, Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp, Lions guard Rob Sims, Lions defensive end Lawrence Jackson, Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson, Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Saints running back Julius Jones.
The only surprise is there aren't any in a Bears uniform.
tried," Schneider said with a laugh.
"We're kind of treating it like training camp," holdover quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "It's like a big, long training camp. But we're bringing in good guys. … We're doing the best we can and trying to not make it an issue."
The roster shuffling seeks multiple objectives. The Seahawks wanted to bring in players who fit their new systems. They wanted to get bigger and faster. They wanted to change the culture.
Competition at every position has been a by-product.
"That's why Pete and I hit it off — we want the constant competition in everything we do," Schneider said. "It's evaluating the waiver wire every day, it's evaluating every other teams' needs, where they are heavy, comparing their players to ours, trying to figure out how we create the most competitive situation at every position."
Competition is such a priority for the Seahawks that on Wednesdays, traditionally the most important day of opponent preparation, the Seahawks don't even concern themselves with who they will be playing. There is no scout team work. It's starters against starters, with Carroll and his staff keeping score on who's winning and who's losing.
The Seahawks did not have a big war chest for free agency, so instead of signing someone like Julius Peppers, they have looked under every rock for a player who could help.
That's how they ended up trading for running back LenDale White, who had been buried on the Titans' depth chart, and signing wide receiver Mike Williams, who was out of football after being cut from the Lions, Raiders and Titans.
"We're going to take risks," Schneider said. "I don't think you can be successful without taking some risks. We did it with LenDale and it didn't work out."
White was cut a month after signing. Williams, on the other hand, resurrected his career and has become a starter.
"He got real serious about taking care of himself and applying himself," said Carroll, who was Williams' college coach at USC.
Acquiring a player like Lynch could help elevate the intensity of those around him.
"He's really a tempo setter," Schneider said. "He's football passionate. He's an attacker, an aggressive runner. He loves to practice. He loves the game. We think his toughness will rub off on people in our locker room."
Making moves at a breakneck pace has been a gas for the Seahawks front office. But they can't go on forever turning over the roster this way.
Schneider plans on making fewer moves going forward. Of course, that could change if the Seahawks aren't responding to Carroll and the competition.
RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks are ready to unleash "Beast Mode."
Marshawn Lynch and his self-given moniker will take to the field for the first time with his new team when the Seahawks travel to take on the Bears on Sunday.
"It's a real exciting time for me -- almost feel like a rookie all over again," Lynch said. "Everybody's excited to see what I'm going to do and I'm also excited to see what I'm going to do myself."
Lynch developed the nickname while he blossomed at California into an eventual first-round pick by the Bills. His hard-nosed running style became his trademark as he posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons with the Bills in his first two years in the league.
"It came about back in Pop Warner but it was called, 'Man-Child,"' Lynch said in describing his alias. "...As I got to college, it kind of transformed as I kind of took it to another level."
"It's just a state of mind that I follow, that basically I won't be denied and I'm just relentless at what I do and that's running that ball," he said.
Seattle acquired Lynch a week ago in a trade with the Bills that sent a pair of future picks to Buffalo for the former 12th-overall pick in the 2007 draft.
The Seahawks haven't had a running back with Lynch's combination of size and speed since Chris Warren in the mid-1990s. They have struggled to find consistency in the running game since the end of the Shaun Alexander era. This season, Seattle ranks 29th in the league in yards per game and 31st in yards per carry.
Through four games, the Seahawks have just two rushing touchdowns, both coming from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Pete Carroll is hoping Lynch can be the spark that helps the offense begin to find its rhythm.
"I think he really has the full range of ability to do whatever we want to do," Carroll said. "Now we're anxious to see how it fits together. And he's going to get a lot of work in this game; he's doing really well picking things up."
It helps having former college teammate Justin Forsett in the backfield with him. The two have been close friends since their days at California, and Lynch served as a groomsman in Forsett's wedding in June.
"They're great friends," Carroll said. "He (Lynch) is looking over his shoulder now and then for assignments or reminders and Justin is quick to help him. Those guys have been close friends for a long time."
Lynch is familiar with the zone blocking scheme the Seahawks employ, but is still learning the terminology and blocking assignments in pass protection.
"Justin has been a real big help," Lynch said. "Him along with Leon (Washington) and Mike (Robinson). They kind of catch me up on the fly as I go. I am feeling pretty comfortable of what they're going to ask of me."
Carroll wouldn't commit to Lynch starting on Sunday against the Bears, but there won't be any shortage of "Beast Mode" sightings.
"Right now Marshawn is going to play a lot in this game," Carroll said. "Justin will get a lot of work as well, but we'll see how the thing blends."