The Seahawks, 4-3 in their last seven season openers, unveil to the NFL world one of the preseason’s most intriguing characters: Rookie third-rounder Russell Wilson at QB.
GAME: Seattle Seahawks (7-9-0, 3rd, NFC West, 2011; 4-0 preseason) at Arizona Cardinals (8-8-0, 2nd, NFC West, 2011; 1-4 preseason). TYPE: Regular season. WEEK: 1. WHEN: Sunday, 1:25 p.m. PT, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ. MEETING: 27th (Cardinals lead 14-12). STREAKS: Seahawks W 4 (preseason); Cardinals L 2. HEAD COACHES: Pete Carroll, Seattle; Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona. LINE: Seattle by 2 1/2. TV: FOX. RADIO: ESPN 710 AM, KIRO 97.3 FM.
Firing up their 37th regular season Sunday at division rival Arizona, the Seahawks are favored on the basis of a 4-0 preseason and the Cardinals’ shaky situation at quarterback and tackle. Coach Kevin Whisenhunt waited until after Arizona’s final preseason game to name John Skelton as the starter over Kevin Kolb. Skelton didn’t so much win the job as he did less than Kolb to lose it. Skelton’s elevation to No. 1 comes one year after Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves dealt cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, plus a second-round draft pick, and forked over $12 million guaranteed (which has since become $20 million due to a roster bonus), to acquire Kolb. Skelton thus becomes the fourth opening-day starter for Arizona in four years.
“It just hasn’t worked out as efficiently as we would have liked,” Whisenhunt said this week. “It’s an on-going process, and it’s one that we’re continuing to try to develop and get stronger at that position. We feel good about John starting the season out for us, and we feel good about what Kevin brings to the table.”
Skelton posted a 5-2 record as a starting quarterback last year while subbing for the injured Kolb. He went 5-0 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“We have a lot of respect for him because of the way he played against us last season,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We do know who he is. You respect his way of managing the pocket. He’s very, very good at it.”
Arizona also has an offensive line that’s not very good and a couple of running backs — Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams — who are coming off injuries. Despite those issues, Carroll said this week that he expects “a dog fight” with the Cardinals, who are 5-1 against Seattle in the past six games played between the clubs at University of Phoenix Stadium, including a 23-20 OT win Jan. 1.
“Weve made a lot of progress and weve been hard at it for a long time,” said Carroll. “We go right into the division. This is a team (Arizona) that we had a couple of big battles with last year that we know well. They know us. There is a lot at stake for everyone in this opener.”
Whether the Seahawks will have RB Marshawn Lynch depends whether he still suffering back spasms. He practiced Friday for the second straight day. “He made it through all of the work,” Carroll said. “He looked good, but it’s still day to day. We’ve got to see how he responds (Saturday) so it takes us all the way to game time to make sure everything is all right.”
RIVALRY: Dates to Sept. 12, 1976, when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Seahawks 30-24 in the Kingdome — the first game in Seahawks history. Arizona won seven of the last 11 meetings, including the last one Jan. 1. Since division realignment in 2002, the Seahawks have won 11 of 20 meetings. Seahawks are 1-5 at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Seahawks have scored 626 points in the series (24.1) to Arizona’s 538 (20.7).
LAST MEETING (Jan. 1; Cardinals 23, Seahawks 20, OT): After a 10-point fourth quarter comeback that tied the game at 20, the Seahawks lost in overtime as Jay Feely hit the game-winning 28-yard field goal in the season finale. Leon Washington scored on a 48-yard run for the Seahawks and Tarvaris Jackson threw a 61-yard TD to Ricardo Lockette.
2011 Seahawks: 7-9-0, 3rd, NFC West; scored 321 points (20.1 per game), ranking 23rd; allowed 315 points (19.7 per game), seventh; differential of +6 points ranked 18th. 2011 Cardinals: 8-8-0, 2nd, NFC West; scored 312 points (19.5), ranked 24th; allowed 348 (21.8), 21st; differential of -13 points ranked 21st.
SEAHAWKS HEAD COACH: Pete Carroll (47-49-0 career, 14-18-0 Seattle) is in his third season as head coach of the Seahawks. In 2010, he directed Seattle to the NFC West title, the Seahawks becoming the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing (7-9) record. Prior to joining the Seahawks, Carroll served as head coach at Southern California, where his Trojans won seven Pac-10 titles.
SEAHAWKS QUARTERBACKS: In four preseason games, Russell Wilson completed 40 of 63 passes for 536 yards with five TDs and one interception for a 110.3 passer rating, ranked sixth in the NFC and seventh in the NFL. Also rushed 10 times for 150 yards and one TD . . . In three preseason games, Matt Flynn completed 28 of 39 for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception and a passer rating of 81.6.
SEAHAWKS STATS / NOTES
NFL OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (2011)
|Total Yards||4860||28||Total Yards||5192||19|
|Yards / Game||303.8||28||Yards / Game||324.5||19|
|Rush Yards||1756||21||Rush Yards||1625||24|
|Rush / Game||109.8||21||Rush / Game||101.6||24|
|Pass Yards||3105||22||Pass Yards||3567||17|
|Pass / Game||194.1||14||Pass / Game||222.9||17|
|Points / Game||20.1||23||Points / Game||19.5||24|
NFL DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (2011)
|Total Yards||5315||9||Total Yards||5682||T18|
|Yards / Game||332.2||9||Yards / Game||355.1||T18|
|Rush / Allw.||1797||15||Rush / Allw.||1986||21|
|Rush / Game||112.3||15||Rush / Game||124.1||21|
|Pass Allw.||3518||11||Pass Allw.||3696||17|
|Pass / Game||219.9||11||Pass / Game||231.0||17|
|Points Allw.||315||7||Points Allw.||348||17|
|Pass / Game||19.7||7||Points / Game||21.8||17|
SEAHAWKS OFFENSIVE LEADERS (Preseason)
SEAHAWKS DEFENSIVE LEADERS (Preseason)
|Tackles||Johnson 15, Wagner 11, Adams 10, Wright 10|
|Sacks||Scruggs 2.5, Morgan 2.0, Irvin 1.5|
|Interceptions||Sherman, Lane, Wright, Browner 1, Johnson 1|
|Passes Defensed||Sherman 2, Trufant 2, Bryant 2|
|Forced Fumbles||Sherman 1, Lane 1, Farwell 1, Johnson 1|
|Fumbles Recovered||Farwell 1, Hill 1, Johnson 1|
CARDINALS NOTES: Neither Arizona quarterback, John Skelton or Kevin Kolb, impressed in two preseason starts – Skelton had a 50.6 passer rating to Kolb’s 49.7 . . . Arizona is hoping to see plenty of carries from Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, who both return following knee surgeries. Wells ran for 1,047 yards and 10 TDs last season, while Williams missed his rookie year with a torn tendon in his right knee . . . Hardly anyone noticed, but the Cardinals won seven of their final nine games in 2011. They did so partly because their defense got comfortable with new coordinator Ray Hortons Pittsburgh-basd scheme. That defense, which features an active front seven and an emerging shutdown cornerback in Patrick Peterson, should only be better in 2012 . . . In 16 career games against Seattle, WR Larry Fitzgerald has caught 102 passes for 1,371 yards and 10 touchdowns . . . Since arriving in Arizona, Fitzgerald has worked with 12 different starting quarterbacks.
CARDINALS QUARTERBACKS: Skelton, in his third NFL season and with 11 starts to his credit, had seven last season. The 2010 fifth-round pick fashioned a 5-2 record (and piloted most of a sixth victory after Kevin Kolbs concussion early in the 49ers game). He had 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 68.9 passing rating, but came alive when the games were on the line. Kolb is the backup.
CARDINALS HEAD COACH Ken Whisenhunt (39-39-0): A native of Atlanta and a graduate of Georgia Tech, Whisenhunt was hired as the 34th head coach of the Arizona Cardinals Jan. 14, 2007. He led the Cardinals to the franchise’s first Super Bowl in 2008, where the team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before arriving in Arizona, Whisenhunt served as an assistant with the Steelers for six years, the first three as tight ends coach and the last three as offensive coordinator. He had previously coached at the pro level with the New York Jets (tight ends, 2000), Cleveland Browns (special teams, 1999) and Baltimore Ravens (tight ends, 1997-98). He began his coaching career in the collegiate ranks, spending two seasons with Vanderbilt (1995-96).
KEY DATES: Friday — Sept. 9 — Start of regular season; Nov. 18 — Seahawks bye week; Jan. 5-6, 2013 — Wild card weekend; Jan. 12-13 — Divisional playoffs; Jan. 19-20 — Conference championships; Jan. 27 — Pro Bowl (Honolulu); Feb. 3 — Super Bowl, New Orleans. Feb. 20-26 — NFL combine (Indianapolis); April 25-27 — NFL draft.
COMING UP: The Seahawks will play their first regular-season game at CenturyLink Field Sept. 16 against the Dallas Cowboys, who upset the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in their opener 24-17.
2012 Seahawks Preseason Schedule
|8/11/12||vs. Tennessee||7 p.m.||Q13||W||27-17||1-0|
|8/18/12||at Denver||6 p.m.||Q13||W||30-10||2-0|
|8/24/12||at Kansas City||5 p.m.||Q13||W||44-14||3-0|
|8/30/12||vs. Oakland||7 p.m.||Q13||W||21-3||4-0|
2012 Seahawks Regular-Season Schedule
|9/9/12||at Arizona||1:25 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|9/16/12||vs. Dallas||1:05 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|9/24/12||vs. Green Bay||5:30 p.m.||ESPN||—||—||—|
|9/30/12||at St. Louis||10 a.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|10/7/12||at Carolina||1:05 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|10/14/12||vs. N. England||1:05 p.m.||CBS||—||—||—|
|10/18/12||at S. Francisco||5:20 p.m.||NFLN||—||—||—|
|10/28/12||at Detroit||10 a.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|11/4/12||vs. Minnesota||1:05 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|11/11/11||vs. NY Jets||1:05 p.m.||CBS||—||—||—|
|11/25/12||at Miami||10 a.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|12/2/12||at Chicago||10 a.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|12/9/12||vs. Arizona||1:15 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|12/16/12||*at Buffalo||1:05 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|12/23/12||vs. San Francisco||1:15 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
|12/30/12||vs. St. Louis||1:15 p.m.||FOX||—||—||—|
* in Toronto
2012 Seahawks Capsules
Aug. 11 Seahawks 27, Titans 17 (at Seattle) — Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson ran for a touchdown and passed for one, leading the Seahawks over a Tennessee Titans team featuring two quarterbacks with strong local ties, ex-Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck and ex-Husky Jake Locker. Hasselbeck threw two interceptions while Locker completed 7 of 13 for 80 yards.
Aug. 18: Seahawks 30, Broncos 10 (at Denver) — Starting his second straight exhibition game, QB Matt Flynn failed to seize control of the quarterback job, finishing 6 of 13 for 31 yards with no TDs or INTs. But Wilson made a case for himself by completing 10 of 17 for 155 yards, two TDs and a passer rating of 28.5. The Seahawks finished with 228 yards rushing, led by Sutton’s 48 yards on three carries.
Aug. 24: Seahawks 44, Chiefs 14 (at Kansas City) — Wilson completed 10 of 17 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns. With Wilson playing into the second half, Seattle scored 21 points, overcoming a 10-9 halftime deficit. Earl Thomas made the big defensive play, returning an interception 75 yards for a touchdown. Flynn did not play due to injury.
Aug. 30: Seahawks 21, Raiders 3 (at Seattle): Flynn, getting most of the snaps, completed 11 of 13 passes for 102 yards. Seahawks outgained the Raiders 334 yards to 101.