While they certainly won't take Gus Bradley's rebuilding Jacksonville Jaguars lightly, this is the perfect week for the Seahawks to work some things out before they hit the road for two games against tougher AFC South teams.
What do the Hawks need to do?
**Give Paul McQuistan a good warmup in his first game replacing left tackle Walter Jones.
**Get the offense on track.
**Cut down the penalties.
**Give playing time to rookies Chris Michael, Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey.
Clemons and Browner debut
Neither has played yet this season, so this is a good way to get them back into the action.
“I’m really, really excited to tell you that Chris Clemons is ready to play this week," coach Pete Carroll told reporters Friday. "He had great preparation, he had a fantastic recovery process, the rehab, everything. … I’m really fired up that he gets to join us. We missed that.
"He’s in as good of shape as anybody we have on the football team right now to carry a big load. We will make sure that we get him in and out of there … But we’re thrilled that he’s back to play for us.”
Clemons returns from his ACL one week after Cliff Avril made his debut with a sack and forced fumble against the 49ers. Both bolster the pass rush, and Bruce Irvin will be back in Week 5 at Indianapolis.
Browner, meanwhile, returns to his starting spot in the Legion of Boom. Walter Thurmond will step back into a reserve role.
McQuistan at left tackle
McQuistan started the final four games of 2011 at left tackle in place of an injured Okung, and the veteran did not fare well. According to Pro Football Focus, he gave up three sacks, three QB knockdowns and six hurries.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows that is the area to focus on, telling reports this week, "The issue is going to come down to protection. (That) would be the biggest thing for me. All those guys can run-block well and Paul is no different. But just understanding what his strengths are, what his weaknesses are, and as long as we don’t stay in one protection, then we can change it up on the defense. We’re not going to give him help every play, we’re not going to leave him by himself every play, but there’s just different things you can continue to do to give them different looks so they can’t just tee off on your protections.”
With a dearth of talent up front, Bevell and Tom Cable are going to have to be creative the rest of the way.
The Hawks threw the ball well at Carolina and ran well vs. the 49ers, but they have yet to put together a complete game on offense.
With games in Houston and Indianapolis looming, this would be a good time to put it all together and get some confidence.
A fast start for Russell Wilson would be nice. He and the receivers have not been in sync early in games, and that could end up costing the Hawks the next couple of weeks.
Doug Baldwin, who turned 25 on Saturday, has been the best receiver. He was a huge part of the win at Carolina, with seven catches for 91 yards and big third-down conversions. He caught only one pass against the 49ers, but it was for 51 yards on third down.
Sidney Rice is out of sync after missing all of the preseason. He has three catches on eight targets and cost the Hawks field position with a taunting penalty after a catch against the 49ers. He really needs to get it in gear.
They also need to get Zach Miller and Golden Tate more involved. They each have five catches.
One way to help the offense is to reduce the number of penalties that are putting them in bad position.
The Hawks had 10 penalties for 84 yards against the 49ers, and eight were on the offense.
“We put ourselves in a hole just by setting ourselves back,” Baldwin told reporters. “It’s frustrating because we know how good we can be. We know how good we are. We’ve got to eliminate those penalties. Those self-detrimental things that keep coming up, we can’t have those.”
Carroll said: "We have addressed it consistently and we are not seeing the results that we want. We’ve got some new ideas that we're working out to see if we can get some cleaner execution and just get out of our own way right now.”
If this game plays out as expected (i.e., a blowout), the Hawks should get some playing time for their rookies.
Bowie and Bailey figure to see time in some combination. Bailey is listed behind McQuistan at left tackle (and behind Giacomini at right tackle), and Bowie is behind Carpenter at left guard.
“I think Bowie is definitely ready to play,’’ Cable told reporters this week. “I think Alvin is right there, so we’ll see if we can press him over the hump this week.’’
Carroll said: "If we can get the opportunity to get them in the games, we are going to do it and we’ll push that opportunity some because we know the value of that and we have to get our depth ready to handle the rigors of the season. So it’s more evident now.”
Michael, the second-round pick who has not played yet, might get a chance in this game. Fellow rookie Spencer Ware has gotten more playing time because he is on coverage teams, but he suffered a high ankle sprain last week.
“Well, with Spencer in doubt right now, it’s a great opportunity for Christine to get in there," Carroll said. "He’s practiced very well this week. He’s ready to participate in the game in a big way. So we’ll play him. If we get the chance, he’ll be in there.”