Holmgren Reads the Riot Act

Holmgren Reads the Riot Act

If there were any doubts regarding Mike Holmgren's feelings following his Seahawks' 48-13 demolition at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, the coach put everything in perspective when he spoke to the media after Monday's practices. And if his players had any doubts as to their coach's opinion of the results, they were put to rest very quickly after a short Sunday off.

As the dorm life at Northwest College ends (though camp doesn't break until August 24), Holmgren's intensity has only started to manifest itself.

"It will sink in a little bit after they see the film," he said. "They’re out of the dorms, so they’re home, but it’s still training camp. We still have two sessions a day and they have to get their minds right on that and still approach it the way they’ve approached it, which I think has been very good. I thought they were (practicing) okay today. I told them it was going to be quite a week. I prepared them for that after the game so I think they were waiting to see what I was going to do. We’re still doing our football and they were working hard. It was a little subdued, a little quieter than normal but they were working hard today.”

In a game where so much went wrong, it was difficult to put a finger on the most egregious example of poor gameplay. In Holmgren's mind, the pass protection that allowed his quarterbacks to be sacked seven times and pressured constantly was the primary concern. And to Holmgren, the absence of starting tackles Walter Jones and Sean Locklear did not constitute an acceptable excuse. For one of his quarterbacks, veteran Seneca Wallace, Holmgren seemed to take the pressure more into account than for third-year project David Greene.

"I think he’s a brave guy and a very tough guy," Holmgren said of Wallace, whose two fumbles were returned for Green Bay touchdowns. "He was hit like no one should get hit in that game and bounced right back up. Seneca’s a player. It wasn’t Seneca's fault. The walls collapsed on him a couple times.”

“Seneca’s fine, really. He can play. We know he can play. He is an exciting guy. He throws the ball. He’s thrown the ball better every year, in my opinion, every year. We’re lucky to have him. Not every team has a second quarterback as good as he is.”

Greene and his three interceptions didn't get the same free pass. Consistency and accuracy are the main concerns here, as they would be for any signal caller who completed only six passes in 17 attempts. Holmgren had alluded to the fact that Greene needed a good showing to allay any concerns about his future with the team.

"It’s a little bit of the same thing I've talked to him about, and he knows his accuracy is a big thing," Holmgren said. "(Greene) runs the team decently, he’s a hard worker, he moves well enough. The balls fly on him on occasion. That and judgment for a young guy is always being evaluated and he’s been around here now awhile. I felt bad for him the other night. It was too bad. I wanted to see him play better. He made some nice throws but really I was looking for a little bit more.”

“David’s been here, what, three years? He knows the program now. It’s not all of a sudden. He knows what’s going on.”

On the line, the main culprit was unquestionably left tackle Tom Ashworth. The former Patriot, acquired before the 2006 season, played very briefly at the position in his inaugural Seattle campaign. On the play following Walter Jones' ankle injury in the season opener against Detroit, Ashworth gave up a sack to Lions defensive end James Hall. He was cordoned off to right tackle when Locklear was hurt later in the year, and played decently in six starts. Why he was playing on the left side in this game - for a prolonged period of time - was the question on many minds.

“Most teams in the league have put their premiere pass rusher to the quarterback’s backside. Now, that’s not always the case. Michael Strahan plays this side, Leonard Little plays that side, (Patrick) Kerney, good for us, plays that side. There are guys that play over to the right side, so I think that’s a little bit of an old football saying. His body mechanics, if you’re right handed, and those types of things, some things are a little bit easier on the right side for him than others. The running game for a lot of teams and what you ask scheme to do changes right to left. I think he’s better on our right side. We put the tight end over there more than the left and now the defenses have to do some certain things. Tommy (Tom Ashworth) had a tough night the other night but he’s a good guy. In his role on our football team, he does a good job.”

Locklear might see time at left tackle from this point forward as Jones recovers from shoulder soreness.

Ray Willis, who has impressed in camp and might move to guard, saw action on the right side. “He’s working in both places. Now he played tackle the other night. Last year we had seven active linemen. In years past we have had eight, but last year, we went with seven to get another special teamer on the 45 man roster. If you have seven, you have your five (and) the other two have to be versatile in being able to play guard and tackle. My thought was that if he could show us he could play both those positions, young lineman, strong guy, then it gives us a little more flexibility in the (in)actives and that kind of stuff. You’ll see him play both positions. He’s played tackle before so we mainly played him at guard just to see if he could do that. Ray’s a battler. He has some things to work on but, again, he’s a young lineman that hasn’t played a lot. You never doubt the fact that you’re going to get everything he has. He’s a battler.”

Two linemen who will see nothing but action on the line this season are center Chris Spencer and left guard Rob Sims. Both players have big shoes to fill - Spencer replaces retired team leader Robbie Tobeck, and Sims could be the answer to the Seahawks' $49 Million Question: Who will replace Steve Hutchinson, who poison-pilled his way to the Minnesota Vikings in early 2006?

“Actually, to be honest, I don’t have deep concerns about those two. I think they’re going to be fine, I really do. Last year, going into games last year I did because this was their first shot at it and they battled and they went through their lumps. This year I would say I’m okay with those two. Chris Spencer has to continue to improve on his line calls and the speed at which he does it. He gets up there, recognizes, and bang. Get everyone so we have to see what’s going on and do it. That’s why the center has to do that. (Rob) Sims just has to keep seeing things, playing. They’re fine.

"I am a little bit more concerned about our tackle situation. I know that (with) Chris Spencer and Rob Sims, stuff will happen. They’ll zig when they should’ve zagged. I know that’s going to happen because they’re young guys. I said, ‘okay, it’s going to happen once in awhile. I hope it doesn’t happen too much but it’s going to happen.’ Most of the time they’ll be just fine. I feel good about them. They’re going to be really good linemen here for a long time.”

“It’s all experience. I can remember going way back, I’ve had lineman, if you want to gauge intellect, did very poorly on any sort of testing you might do with a pencil but because they played and learned they learned by playing and seeing. They became really great players without a lot of intellect but that’s not the case with Rob. He’s going to be fine.”

In the end, Holmgren can only hope that the loss to the Packers will be the kind of learning experience that the preseason generally brings. And that's only with the caveat that while the scores don't matter in exhibition contests, individual performances mean everything. For every Josh Wilson, Nate Burleson or Brandon Mebane who helped himself in the loss, there seemed to be two or three Seahawks unable to stand up straight. Some of those players will be wobbling right off the roster as final cuts draw closer.

“Next Tuesday we have to get down to 75," he said. Final cuts to 53 happen on September 1. "In the past it’s been 65. You have a little more wiggle room there. It’s never easy but it’s not quite as difficult as it has been in the past. In fact, after this meeting Tim (Ruskell) and I are going to go up and have a meeting upstairs to kind of bang that around just a little bit. I had a meeting with the coaches last night and we prioritized some things. We’ll know. Then, in the Minnesota game, if there are people in the first cut here that we’re not sure about, they have to play in that game.”

The Seahawks face off against the Vikings in the team's home opener this Saturday at Qwest Field.

“I’ve been involved in games like that before in preseason. Not quite like that because we handed them so many points … We’re going to address some things that happened.”

That process starts now.

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