More On Pete Carroll And Arron Curry
After writing the article "Pete Wants The Ball And He's Going To Score", I Happened to listen to the Brock and Salk show on Kiro Radio from last Monday. They were broadcasting from the VMAC during the first of this week's OTA's and although they intended to talk about the Mariners (so said the schedule), they got going on Peter King's first power ranking of the season where the Seahawks were predicted to win the West and were the 11th ranked team going into the playoffs and never got to baseball. Both the first and second session ended up being about the Seahawks.
After Monday's OTA finished, Pete Carroll dropped by and talked for awhile and then later, Arron Curry showed up and talked about last season and how he intends to approach this season. If you're at all worried that Curry could be a bust being such a high draft choice, listening to this will probably put it all right again. I think Curry will be the great linebacker we all thought he would become on draft day 2009. With this new coaching staff and how they are approaching the game, Curry will once again be unleashed like the beast he was starting off the 2009 campaign under Mora.
It's a great listen if you're in need of a Seahawk fix (and who isn't). There are two segments around 45 minutes each and coach Carroll spans the two parts. If you want to listen for yourself, and you should if you have the time, the 1st segment is here and the 2nd segment is here. These are the links for downloading the MP3 recordings of the two sessions. You can download them by right clicking on the link and choosing "save as" from the menu and then specifying the location where you would like to store them. You can then put them on your MP3 player and listen at home, in your car, or anywhere you go or simply open them with Window's Media Player on your computer and listen. They are available from KIRO's website also.
Today is a rare day when I have no rehearsals or performance scheduled in any of my bands and my wife is still in school (she's a teacher) until Friday when summer vacation starts so I decided I could do one more article since I know how starved everyone is for Seahawk news. Here's a summary of what Carroll and Curry had to say for those of you who don't have time to listen along with some commentary. To keep reading, press read more.....
Talking about his career and how he's matured into the coach he is today, Carroll makes you realize just how good this organization might become from the front office on down through the coaching staff to the players themselves and how their work habits and the new philosophies Carroll is bringing to Seattle could change the face of the franchise forever. He did build a dynasty at USC that will contend in the record books as the best college football has ever seen. He's still young enough and energetic enough to do it again at the NFL level and the path he has taken to get to this point certainly seems to have wandered through the necessary aspects of the sport of football to get it done. He certainly has the confidence that he can do it. I'm certainly on board with what he's done so far and how he's set it all up to succeed.
Before Carroll showed up Brock and Salk noted some things about the just concluded OTA's. The biggest topic of discussion was over the fact that the Seahawks were working almost exclusively on team drills going 11 on 11 and simulating game play rather than the usual heavy dose of individual drills followed by a short team drill that most franchises employ. Brock explained that Pete Carroll doesn't have a full picture of what he has on the roster since there are few veterans and many newcomers on the team who he doesn't have any film on so he is using the OTA's to find out who has what talents and who can do the things he needs to have happen to play his style of football. Most other teams don't do nearly as many team drills instead focusing on teaching the finer points in individual drills. Although the risk of injury is higher by employing so many team drills, Carroll feels he needs to get to know his players strengths and weaknesses better and that is more important than teaching the fine points of football right now. More on that later from Carroll himself.
Mike Salk brought up the Peter King power poll and first ranking of the season and noted that Seattle was predicted to win the division and was slotted as the 11th best team in the league ahead of many franchises expected by most sports prognosticators to do much better than the Seahawks such as Minnesota, Pittsburgh, New England, and Philadelphia to name a few. King justifies his rankings by noting that 50% of playoff teams are different from year to year and there are always bottom dwellers from the previous season who creep into the playoffs the following year. He also noted that he's not very good at power ranking.
They noted the increased competition at most of the positions and how it is making for spirited confrontations in the 11 on 11 drills just as Carroll had wanted to happen. Brock said that in his estimation, the defensive front 7 is the weak spot on the team and if they can't generate a pass rush this year using primarily the front four, it will become the Seahawks Achilles Heel. Carrol later notes that he wished he could have got a pass rushing defensive end but he's got ways of getting around that deficiency.
Brock also noted that the pace of practice is on a whole other level even from last season when it was notably increased from the Holmgren days under Jim Mora. Also, there is a lot of chatter out there making it seem more like a college practice than a pro camp where it's generally pretty quiet as the players go through the drills. He said a lot of it was centered around Ken Norton Jr. who was known as Pete Carroll's mouthpiece at USC practices and was known for not being afraid to get in anyone's face. There is lots of shouting and screaming going on and he wondered how much of that sort of chatter is good for a professional organization. However, the Seahawks seem to be taking to it and with a lot of younger players and not many veterans on the roster, that style probably files better here than it would at most camps. The trick was to get the veterans that the whole team looks up to like Hasselbeck, Hamilton, Housh, and Tatupu to buy into the way Carroll wants to run practices including the noise and it trickles down to the other players and becomes accepted. Who says enthusiasm can't be a part of the NFL game and how you prepare for it? So far no one's complaining about the pace and tenor of the OTA's being set by Carroll, in fact, many players have said they find it refreshing and stimulating. Ken Norton Jr. is in his element.
Huard said from his observations that Whitehurst has skills and that his learning curve in learning the WCO terminology and philosophies were going to take a little time to assimilate and become automatic like they are with Hass but he throws a nice ball, is accurate with his throws, and has a strong arm. If he can master the nuances of the WCO and learns to make good decisions by picking up the mental aspects of the game, he certainly seems to have the skills to become a good NFL quarterback not unlike Hasselbeck when he first came to Seattle. Carroll's deal that brought him here is looking better all the time.
Brock also called Mike Williams the star of the camp so far with his acrobatic catches and impressive work ethic. He seems to be like a highly prized rookie out there (he's only 26 years old) who is just now finally developing his upside in the NFL. More on Williams later from Pete Carroll. You have to read what he said about Williams and how that compares to another highly respected reciever we all know and hate. I promise it will get your Seahawk juices flowing with anticipation.
Huard said Curry looks physically like a beast at linebacker and is now playing like he did at the first of last season playing to and through the whistle and going straight line hard and fast. That's music to the ears of us fans who were disappointed when Curry seemed to take a step back after Tatupu got hurt. That whole issue is covered in Pete Carroll's interview and the follow on with Curry himself so read on.
At that point in the show, the Seahawks new head coach dropped by and here's what Pete had to say. If you want to go directly to the Pete Carroll interview, it's at approximately 38:10 of the first segment and spans the rest of that segment and the first part of the second segment.
Carroll was asked first about the high amount of team activity with 11 on 11 drills that most teams run sparingly at OTA's. Pete said he needs to get a feel for the quarterbacks and receivers and how the pass routes are being executed to start with. He said there were lots of guys they wanted to see lots of looks from like Okung who is going to need lots of help from Ben Hamilton as well as other players he needed to make up his mind about. He noted that Okung has all the physical tools to be a very good left tackle in the league but lacks experience and the 11 on 11 drills give him a lot of different situations to learn from where individual drills only help with technique. He is more concerned about how the team executes the new schemes and how they play with one another than working on the finer points of their individual techniques at this point in the process which I find to be very astute thinking and probably the fastest way to get these guys on the same page. Lets make them into a football team first and then put the edge on it.
Carroll praised Hasselbeck and said he is very fortunate to have him to build around with the quarterback situation what it is around the league. He likes what he's seen of Whitehurst and said he's shown them everything in practice they saw on tape that made them think he could flourish in their system. He also stressed that Charlie's biggest hurdle is learning the WCO and getting game experience where he can see different defensive looks and start putting the mental aspect of the game in focus. He noted that Whitehurst and Hasselbeck had gotten along very well on a personal level too.
About Mike Williams, Carroll saId he's in the best shape he's even seen him in. He described him as strong, explosive, but a little rusty expecially on the downfield routes from being out of football for a time. He said he's been a real factor at practice and reiterated that he loves big receivers. Carroll called him a big dude who at 6' 5" and 240 lbs can make space with his body and noted that he has a real knack for making catches with people hanging all over him. Pete said they used to throw him the football and it didn't matter if there were people near him because he would go get the ball from anyone defending the pass. He said that Williams had done that very thing a couple of times at the OTA's earlier that day. Now, after hearing what Carroll had to say about Williams, I have to ask you guys if that sounds like anyone else we're all familiar with in the NFC West? If you said Fitzgerald from the Cards, you get an A+ for the day.
The Arizona club has bragged how they don't worry when Fitzgerald is covered and how many times they go ahead and throw the ball to him anyway because he has the ability to go up and take it away from just about anyone defending him. Now Fitzgerald stands 6' 3" and weighs 217 lbs. Remember, Williams is two inches taller and 23 lbs heavier and being in the best shape of his career is at his proper playing weight. Of course it's too early to anoint him as a bigger and better Fitzgerald especially when Fitzgerald has shown such awesome ability but I just can't resist the comparison and I just drool over the implication from Carroll that Williams can be that kind of receiver. How can you not almost pee your pants at the thought of Housh in the slot, Williams and Tate on the outside when we're in our 3 man receiver set, and then bringing on Branch or Butler to match up with the other teams worst defender when we flood the field with receivers? Who gets double teamed? Do they dare leave anyone unattended? Who would win a footrace between Branch, Tate, and Butler? Probably not the 2nd string back who has to cover them. Smirk! Sometimes I think the most exciting player to emerge from this year's training camp just might be Mike Williams. Carroll continued to say that Williams is still young and he looks at him as almost a rookie prospect coming out of college and he characterized him as very determined to prove he's back and can play football. Good for us and what a great find for Pete Carroll. It's about time Seattle got a break.
Pete said he brought in Charlie Whitehurst to push Matt Hasselbeck and then went through the ranks and set up that same kind of competition everywhere he could. He said that the battle between Willis and Locklear for the right tackle spot would be fierce once training camp begins.
Brock then asked Carroll what stood out defensively to him. Carroll replied that he had holes to fill especially at the defensive end position. He was glad to see that Bryant was successfully able to move over to the spot at least so far and was looking good there. Pete was particularly pumped up about having a big body opposite the Leo spot. When's the last time you heard of a 325 lb defensive end playing in a 4 - 3 defense? That at least makes up for some of the beef missing on the "Leo" side of the front 4.
Carroll then explained what is so different about his defensive scheme for the defensive backfield. He said they would be playing up at the line of scrimmage a lot more this season and the Seahawks would be a much more aggressive coverage team and opposing receivers would have to fight for their space. He said the defensive backfield players were working hard to make that change and singled out Kelly Jennings for having a good month and also noted that Lawyer Milloy looked like a rookie again jumping around. He said he had missed Milloy and that he was one of the toughest football players he had ever coached. He thought Milloy would help out the team a lot as a mentor as well as a savvy veteran player who can still bring it. Gotta go get another kool aid.
When asked if he had any insight into why Curry had such a strong start and then disappeared midway through the season, he offered this explanation. When Lofa was playing, Pete noticed that Curry played very well. He thought that after Tatupu went down with injury, Curry missed the bits and pieces Lofa threw his way. The heads ups, the alignments, cues, keys, and other things that Lofa was able to hand him on the field to bolster his game with was missing and when he got out on his own, he got caught up and mired down in how different the pro game was and started thinking too much. He wasn't as explosive or effective after than and that slowed his development. Carroll noted that he's an explosive athlete and plays tough and fast. He said he's probably been around the VMAC more than anyone else except the quarterbacks since he took over studying, paying attention, and learning from Ken Norton Jr. Carroll said that Curry has an upside that he's really excited about and they intend to use him in their 3rd down package to rush off the edge. Aaron and Chris would be his outside guys and bring speed off the edge. That was one of the ways he intended to get around not having a bona-fied pass rushing defensive end to work opposite Bryant and Jackson.
When told that Peter King had placed the Seahawks as NFC West division winners and the 11th ranked team in the league in his first power ranking of the season, he said jokingly that the had always thought Pete (King) was a real bright guy and had a lot of good things to say. He went on to say he had always admiried his writing over the years. After everyone picked themselves off the floor from laughing, Carroll said more seriously that he didn't care about any rankings and that it didn't mean a thing anyway. He noted that someone was paying King to say that and that as a team they had to start playing and fight to get to where they ended up. He finished by saying the Seahawks would do that. He sounded serious.
Asked about his staff, he said that Bates and Gibbs were brought in together by design to bring the ZBS and Denver's running game to Seattle for continuities sake. He brought them in as a package so they could teach and install the whole thing from the blocking to the running. Gus's background with Kiffin meshed well with his on the defensive side and they found themselves on the same page more often than not when comparing defensive philosophies. He said he feels really good about his staff and the experience they bring to the table. He knows that he needed to surround himself with NFL talent and knowledge if he wanted a chance to make it work. Later, Carroll talks about how he's a different person this time around and the way he went about putting this organization together and the expertise he has assembled speaks volumes for his personal growth and maturity as a football coach.
Brock asked him about how much tape he was watching and Carroll said he watched a lot of tape but it was almost all from practice. He noted that they not only taped all practices and reviewed them but had a lot of tape on each individual player which he spent a lot of time watching looking for things like work ethic and tempo. Once again, he's looking at individual players and trying to get a feel for each player and how he fits into the overall plan. The coaching staff is trying to find out as much as they can about each individual player and how they can put each player in position to succeed. That's a huge difference from what we saw last year when players who had played at a high level previously were playing much worse under Mora's coaching staff which pointed right back at them for not being able to put their players in a position to be successful. I think the players this year will be placed in position to play the best they can possibly play. To be all they can be. In a single word, refreshing.
When asked about coming back to the pros after being away for over a decade, Carroll said he feels different now than he did before. He noted that the game and players weren't much different but the way he looks at things, his vision, had changed in the 14 years since he'd been in the NFL at New England. Now, it's a challenge to put it all together with John Schneider and he welcomes that challenge. His expectations and the way he approaches the game as well as how he motivates his team are all different. He feels that he's a better observer and a much better listener than he used to be. He thinks that all of these things help him to get more information which he can then utilize and put into play. Other than that, he says his hair's a little whiter and he limps a little more than he used to. I love his sense of humor. It'll be interesting to see how well that carries into the regular season after a tough loss and getting hit with a bunch of stupid questions from reporters at the after game presser. If he can keep his sense of humor then, he can keep it anywhere.
Brock noted that today's game has a higher completion rate among quarterbacks and claimed that showed that the game is much more pass oriented than it was previously when Carroll coached. Asked if he would be emphisizing the passing game more than he used to, Carroll replied that it still all started up front with the ability to run the ball and everything else offensively grew out of that ability. He said the Seahawks would continue to emphasize the ground game even if the team had a higher compettion rate than his previous teams had. At that point, Carroll said good bye and shortly thereafter, Aaron Curry showed up about 10 minutes into the second session (for those of you who just want to hear from Curry).
Asked about having gone through a season already, then watching himself on film, and finally starting through his second set of OTA's with a new coaching staff all before his second season had been completed, Curry said he had learned a lot as far as looking at the opposing offense. He said everybody runs pretty much the same stuff and you can predict what they're going to run. He said that as a defensive player he has to play by his own standards and not play up to what everyone else expects him to be. What the team is building is having their own standards of enthusiasm, excitement, intensity, tenacity, and playing at their own level not at other people's level.
Asked about the team drills and 11 on 11 play, Curry said that way of practicing allows him as an individual to get a feel for the team he's playing with. He said they can learn accountability and dependability versus doing all individual drills and just 5 minutes of teamwork like many other clubs do. Now that they're doing pretty much the whole practice as a team, they get a feel for each other like the timing of things and how people on each side of you play and their tendencies and it also makes you compete with one another harder. All good things.
Curry was asked to give one word that described last season and what happened from his perspective. He immediately said "unacceptable". He said that means just plain and simply that he didn't play to the standards that he's played at all his life. He said he let a lot of people down including his friends, family, teammates, and especially the 12th man. Just let them down as far as not playing as exciting and enthusiastic through all 16 games as he did at the onset of the season. He said he started off with so much intensity and was having fun and then he fell off the cliff for some reason and he still doesn't know fully why. He wasn't playing as fast or with the same intensity as he did initially. He said he's a payer who always plays up to and through the whistle and he stopped doing that too.
When informed that Pete Carroll said that he was affected by Lofa going down, he agreed and expanded on that notion. He said that at first when Lofa Tatupu was playing, he was playing hard and fast but when Hawthorne came in after Lofa was hurt, it wasn't until he (Hawthorne) started playing better that Curry was able to start playing better again towards the end of the season. Lofa would tell him "you don't know what you're doing so just go and play hard and I'll make up for you". Lots of times he just played at full speed fast and hard through the whistle like he was used to playing and he knew Lofa had his back and would make up for all his mistakes. When Lofa went down, he said he really had to sit down and be a student of the game and he got caught up doing a lot of thinking instead of reacting as was his style. Also, when Hawthorne moved into the lineup, he wasn't getting the information Tatupu was feeding him or the support (as Carroll had commented on). He had to start thinking again about all his responsibilities and not just play. That slowed him down. He says in this new defensive scheme, he is being once again freed up from making a lot of decisions and is just allowed to play instinctively and can play fast and hard as is his forte. He also said that last year they expected him to rush the passer but didn't provide any training on technique or have him work on it a lot in practice. That pretty much was what many of us saw as poor coaching and this pretty much confirms what we thought we was was true. This season, he is being taught how to rush the passer and being given the technique and that is making all the difference in the world. He wasn't asked to be a pass rusher in college so it's a new skill to him. Curry expects to start showing why he was such a high draft choice last year and has the confidence of his new coach which is a powerful incentive for such a talented player with a chip on his shoulder to have and to feed off of this time around.
Talking about his position coach, he says Ken Norton Jr is loud, intense, and has a lot of fun. He said Ken stays in his ear and face and never lets him lose his focus. His role is much better defined this year and the individual instruction he is getting is helping him to master the techniques he needs to succeed. He calls the difference between this year and last year like the difference between night and day. He is going to play some at the Leo position and he's being asked to do a lot again this year but the big difference is that he's not being asked to evaluate everything and play in space with a lot of thinking to do. It's all downhill and he just has to go hard and fast at whatever his objective is. He'll be rushing, defending, dropping into coverage, and generally wreaking havoc but it's all been simplified. Last year he was required to do a lot of thinking but his year he just plays hard and fast going after the quarterback or after another guy. He's being let go to play instinctively like he's always done right up to and through the whistle. Asked if the fines he got last year slowed him down any, he said not at all. If they fine him a few thousand dollars again this year for playing aggressive, he'll just pay it and figure that's the cost of playing his style of football. Intimidating. You just gotta love it! Aaron Curry is back!
His own expectations this year are to give family, friends, and the 12th man a reason to hold their heads high about being an Aaron Curry fan. He says his thing is to go out there and really play lights out football because he represents something besides himself. He represents the organization, his family, his friends, and the Seahawk fans themselves so he says he's got to get back doing what he does best which is to play to and through the whistle. He finished by saying, "I play fast, I play hard, I'm intense, I'm enthusiastic, I'm having fun, and that's what I want to get back to doing this season". Man, are we with you Aaron! I just became a Curry fan all over again!
Brock wrapped it all up by saying that he was excited about hearing about how the secondary was going to get up on the line of scrimmage and play aggressive this year. Also, seeing Curry in so many different roles from defensive end to linebacker to pass rusher to dropping back in coverage would be great fun (except for opposing offenses of course). He noted that all the different looks were basically window dressing because Curry would be simply disguising where he was coming from but in all situations look for him to play in a straight line and at full speed this year and by his own admission, through the whistle. That will make him a feared and by necessity a planned for opponent for anyone the Seahawks play this year. That's what we drafted him for and that's what we should see. I love that one word that best describes what the Seahawks want Curry to become. Intimidation. Pure bottled un-diluted intimidation.
That's all folks. Enjoy the rest of the OTA's and get ready to watch the initial startup of the next version of our favorite team when training camp starts. All comments welcome. It might be a while before I can get back to you guys with another article but I will return sooner or later. Meanwhile, I'll be hanging around and making comments as usual. Someone spank that little snot who keeps raggin' on me. Thanks all for your support and the policing effort you've been doing on the blog. Later.