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19 Jan 2006

Every Play Counts: Lofa Tatupu

by Michael David Smith

Ask just about any NFL analyst why the Seattle Seahawks are in this weekend's NFC Championship game, and you'll hear about league MVP Shaun Alexander, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and a great offensive line.

But the Seahawks had all of those elements in place last year, when they turned in a mediocre season that concluded with a loss in the first round of the playoffs. The real reason Seattle has gone from playoff also-ran to championship contender is the improvement of the run defense. Seattle allowed 4.5 yards per rushing attempt last year but has allowed only 3.6 this year.

The personnel department deserves credit for the improvement -- Seattle made wholesale changes to its front seven, a unit on which only tackle Rocky Bernard started both last year's playoff loss to the Rams and last week's playoff win against the Redskins.

The most important personnel upgrade was in the middle, where Seattle drafted linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the second round and he has quickly developed into the most important player on the defense. An examination of Tatupu on every play of the Seahawks' 20-10 victory on Saturday shows that he is one of the league's most versatile linebackers, able not only to stop running backs, but also to rush the quarterback and drop into coverage.

Tatupu lasted into the middle of the second round of last year's draft largely because teams thought he was too small to be a middle linebacker (he's listed at 5-foot-11, 238 pounds, and is probably a little smaller than that). Some projections had him moving to strong safety in the NFL. Seattle wisely saw that his intelligence and athleticism were exactly what it needed at middle linebacker. The Seattle front office knew that, like Zach Thomas a decade earlier, Tatupu would be a steal because teams look too much at the yardstick and not enough at the game film.

Despite his size, Tatupu often sheds the blocks of bigger players. On a second-and-5 run, Washington's 6-foot-4, 260-pound tight end Robert Royal tried to block him, but Tatupu got past him to assist on the tackle on Clinton Portis for no gain. Tatupu's best play of the game came on the next play. On third-and-5, Tatupu's assignment was to drop into coverage and take away the Redskins' slot receiver. He did that well enough that Brunell didn't have anything open and tried to tuck the ball under his arm to run. As soon as Brunell crossed the line of scrimmage, Tatupu flew toward him and nailed him for a gain of only two yards. Even though Brunell is slow, few linebackers are fast enough to go from pass coverage to tackling the quarterback that quickly.

Shedding the block of a tight end is different from shedding the block of a guard, though, and Tatupu needs to learn when to fight through a blocker and when to go around him. On a first-and-10 Portis run, Washington guard Derrick Dockery pulled to the left and buried Tatupu, and Portis ran past him for four yards.

When Tatupu doesn't have to fight off blocks he gets from his spot at middle linebacker to the backfield in an instant. On a second-and-17 in the third quarter, defensive end Bryce Fisher knocked Royal back, clearing the path for Tatupu, who, along with Grant Wistrom, converged on Ladell Betts for a loss of three. (Fisher, incidentally, was quietly one of the league's best free-agent acquisitions, registering nine sacks in the regular season and adding one against Washington. His battle with Carolina right tackle Jordan Gross will be great.)

That came one play after Tatupu showed how well he plays the pass. On first-and-20, Santana Moss lined up split to the left, with Washington using motion in the other direction to try to draw coverage away. When Brunell threw a screen to Moss, Tatupu recognized it immediately, evaded the blocks of Washington linemen Derrick Dockery and Chris Samuels, and brought Moss down for a gain of three. Moss is one of the best receivers in the league at getting past defenders, but Tatupu didn't have any trouble with him.

Tatupu stays on the field even when the Seahawks go to their nickel package, but in some obvious passing situations he lines up as deep as 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, playing a hybrid safety-linebacker position. On most passes he covers the running backs, and he's excellent at that. On a first-and-10 late in the first half, Brunell tried a short pass to running back Ladell Betts, but Tatupu was right on top of him in coverage and tackled him for a two-yard gain.

Aside from his size, the other knock on Tatupu coming out of USC was that he is so aggressive that he often takes himself out of plays. There's some truth in that. On a fourth-and-2, Tatupu looked like he was trying to make a highlight-reel play and took a bad angle to the inside. When Portis ran to the outside, Redskins receiver Jimmy Farris needed only a glancing block to keep Tatupu away. Tatupu also can be beaten on play-action passes. On Washington's first play, Tatupu bit on a play-fake and took four steps toward Portis before he realized that Portis didn't have the ball. Those are undisciplined plays, but any team will gladly live with a few undisciplined plays from a rookie who adds as much value to the team as Tatupu does.

Tatupu clearly has a mastery of the Seahawks' defense. On nearly every play he barks out signals and tells the linemen in front of him to shift before the snap. It's rare for a rookie to have those responsibilities, but Tatupu's football background far exceeds that of most rookies. Tatupu's father, Mosi Tatupu, played 14 years in the NFL and was also Lofa's coach in high school, where Lofa played quarterback in addition to linebacker. After high school he spent a year playing at the University of Maine before sitting out a year and then transferring to USC.

The only recent linebacker to come in as a rookie and make such an immediate impact as a defensive signal-caller is Jonathan Vilma with the Jets last season. But Tatupu seems even more involved with all the facets of the defense than Vilma -- with his barking and gesticulations, Tatupu is almost like a linebacker version of Peyton Manning.

As the Panthers formulate their game plan, they should consider snapping the ball quickly after they line up, not giving Tatupu time to examine the formation and instruct his teammates. (That would also give Jake Delhomme less time to survey Seattle's defense, but Steve Smith is generally Delhomme's first option no matter how the defense lines up.) Rookie linebackers don't ordinarily force opposing offenses to radically change their game plans, but if Tatupu has shown anything this year, it's that he's no ordinary rookie.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season. If you have a player or a unit you would like tracked in Every Play Counts, suggest it by emailing mike-at-footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 19 Jan 2006

44 comments, Last at 20 Apr 2006, 1:53pm by Dr. No

Comments

1
by Steve Sandvik (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 12:06pm

Aw, no mention of him drawing offensive pass interference on a deep pass down the middle? How many MLB's can do that?

Seriously, though, as a long-suffering Seattle fan, just the fact that the defensive drafting seems to have been particularly good the last two years has me really excited, and Tatupu seems to be the biggest piece of the puzzle. I think you're right about quick-snapping, and if they can work a silent quick-count it should also help Carolina deal with the noise. On the other hand, after about a series or so, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tatupu find a way to deal with it, even though he's just a rookie.

2
by MRH (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 12:22pm

On Hass' scramble for the TD, it looked to me like Shawn Springs was too slow to cacth him, as he's a cb. Although his groing injury may have contributed to that, not that the announcers bothered to mention it.

And now we have the "too small to play (fill in the blank) in the NFL" game: Tatupu and Steve Smith both having been tagged with that label.

3
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 12:34pm

Steve, good point on the offensive pass interference that went against Jimmy Farris when he pushed off Tatupu. That was one of those plays I was referring to when I said he sometimes lines up as much as 10 yards off the line. He was very good in downfield coverage there.

And I definitely think we're seeing that small guys can be big values in the draft, MRH. Steve Smith and Tatupu are the two best recent examples, but there are plenty.

4
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 12:56pm

MDS:
How much of that might be coaches in colleges and sometimes in the NFL just letting physically gifted tall guys get away with not being good football players and putting all the pressure on the little guys to actually learn the game. I wonder if littler guys would still have the same value if the big guys were kept more in line.

5
by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:00pm

Sounds like I was reading about Jonathan Vilma, another supposedly under-sized linebacker who has had a big impact in the NFL due to his intelligence and speed.
As far as the size goes, take a look at Steve Smith, Marvin Harrison and Santana Moss.. all are potentially top 5 receivers in the league, and they're all under 6'.

6
by Leeroy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:06pm

My personal opinion is that the barking of signals is overrated. Most teams use hand signals or gestures to make adjustments. The barking and moving guys around draws attention to the MLB and gets the media to call them 'leaders', but nearly every middle linebacker does the same thing just more subtly. Antonio Pierce does the same barking for the Giants.

That aside, Tatupu is a good player and one I'd take my team any day.

Question though, do all commentators call him by his full name everytime he does anything or was that just Stockton/Johnston thing on Saturday, it was driving me crazy.

7
by pawnking (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:31pm

It's quite amazing how much difference one great linebacker can make in a defense (Takeo Spikes!) As you put it in another article, the ripple effects of a great LBs play adds up to a profound difference. Glad to know these defensive QBs are getting some recognition again.

8
by Spike (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:32pm

As an expatriated Seahawks fan, the performance of the defense continues to be the devil on my shoulder. "Remeber those days WHEN..." it says. "Running backs WOULD love to play the Seahawks. 150 yards guaranteed! Into the secondary every time!" It sticks with me like a gnocchi dinner.

If they win the Super Bowl, wonder if that'll make me forget about the safeties leading the team in tackles? In the spirit of EPC, has the Outsiders staff run stats on relative DL / LB / DB tackle percentages for the recent Super Bowl champs? Maybe it's a no-brainer that winning teams have quality defense, but it'd be interesting to see if you can spread the action around the defense, or if you need to lean on the LBs to win a title.

9
by James Gibson (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:39pm

Does anybody remember how much flak the Seahawks caught for drafting Tatupu in the first place? It was pretty harsh. I'm mostly thinking it was national, but I lived in Seattle at the time, so maybe it was the local talk radio that was all over the Seahawks for the move.

10
by Michael David Smith :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 1:52pm

"coaches in colleges and sometimes in the NFL just letting physically gifted tall guys get away with not being good football players"

I think that's definitely true. The smaller guys are probably forced to learn to run their routes properly, or learn perfect form tackling, or spend more time in the film room. I've noticed it in basketball, too -- really tall, athletic players often have the worst fundamentals because they've been allowed to get away with relying on their natural abilities. You've got to love a guy like Ray Allen who has the natural ability but combines it with intelligence and taking the time to work on his free throws. (And, uh, now let's get back to football.)

James Gibson is right, the Seahawks took some criticism for trading up into the middle of the second round to grab Tatupu. It was definitely a good pick.

11
by JonL (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 2:49pm

Since the feeling around here is that the Seattle offensive line should get some credit for Shaun Alexander's success, then shouldn't their D-line get some for Tatupu's? As MDS indicates in the piece, Tatupu has trouble fighting off blockers (Dockery, etc.), and his solid play against the run seemed to come only when there was a D-lineman to clear a path for him (Fisher/Royal).

12
by dave crockett (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 3:18pm

Some of you may know that Seattle's defense under Ray Rhodes/John Marshall is essentially the same defensive scheme run by Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. So Tatupu's learning curve wasn't as steep as it might have been.

Hindsight is interesting because even as a Tatupu fan when he was at USC I thought he was a reach in the second round. Many of us have forgotten that one reason we all thought Tatupu was a reach was because of the promising 2004 rookie campaign of Niko Koutivides (5th round/Purdue). Interesting how he hasn't even seen the field at MLB in 2005.

As for JonL's comment about the defensive line shielding Tatupu, it has some truth to it but it would have been more true last year. This year brought a change in personnel but also a move away from the classic two-gap scheme. The Seahawks imported Chartric Darby and Bryce Fisher to penetrate gaps and get into the backfield. (Last year's tackles Rashaad Moore and Cedric Woodard were more the classic two-gap tackles who protect LBs from interior linemen.) So although I think Tatupu has benefited from improved DT play I wouldn't say it's by scheme.

13
by underthebus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 4:56pm

What a pepperpot!

14
by NF (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 5:11pm

"After high school he spent a year playing at the University of Maine before sitting out a year and then transferring to USC."

Bear Claw!

15
by J.S. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 5:21pm

BUt see that is the problem with both the college level and the NFL. I we continue to force "the Little" guy to learn perfect form and good tackling techniques and let the "taller" guys get away with poor form, then we are going to hit a very serious wall called mediocrity here very soon. I belive to this day that defenses would be 100 % better if they would teach tackling fundementals to all and force these guys to pay attetion to that. I know that there are a very select few who play on defense that thier talent will shine through and through, but fundementals are just that, the building blocks to a better form, and method of defense. I don't know how often I am screaming at my Tv because some one who is "gifted" makes a poor open filed tackle or tries to wrap a RB around the shoulders when they should be going for the legs to stop them.....

It is just so frustrating to me to see this when most of them make more than I will ever see in a liftime of work. so congrats to Seattle for getting a good, solid, and inteligent MLB. Perhaps he will be able to teach these "gifted" ones around the league a thing or two in his hopefull long and prospurus career

16
by putnamp (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 6:04pm

#15,

I think you're being a little narrow-sighted in this. This has been a problem everywhere, not just football, since time immemorial. People who get by on talent don't always have to focus as hard on fundamentals. It's not a simple matter of forcing the guys getting by on talent to learn. If it were, then I'm pretty sure this simple and time-honored dilemma would've been resolved long before you or I could even spell NFL.

17
by Christopher (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 6:14pm

This is another piece of evidence on the already huge pile of it that size is the most overrated determination of whether someone is good. It seems that nine times out of ten that a guy falls for being short or underweight, that he is actually better than they would have been rated without that problem. Now, of course, someone's size can get so absurdly small that they should fall, but that point is usually about 6" and 30-50lbs than the most of the NFL sees as acceptable.

18
by Luke (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 7:12pm

#12 partly true, but this year has seen the emergence of Marcus Tubbs as well, a 1st round draft choice from 2003 who is huge and does occupy blockers on running downs so that Tatupu can do his thing. Tubbs had a rough rookie year but has been playing solid this year. Craig Terrill has also played well this year. The injection of heart and leadership by the likes of Tatupu and Darby, plus the health of Wistrom, has been huge for the Hawks D this year.

The secondary has been disappointing though, but have had a knack of coming up with a key play when they need it most.

19
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 7:14pm

For more "size don't matter" evidence, see the 5'8" Darrent Williams... I think he even surprised the Broncos with his CB skills, being mainly drafted as a returner.

Re: #7, I agree completely. Look at how much better the 2004 Browns D-Line looks playing with Al Wilson et. al.

20
by gumbostu (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 7:19pm

re: the gifted guys not knowing fundamentals. To some degree this problem corrects itself. A lot of these guys can get by on pure talent alone until that talent starts to erode. Just like pitchers who get by on their fastball, once they get older if they can't spot the offspeed pitches, they won't succed because their fastball isn't what it used to be. Talented football players that have bad fundamentals won't last long because once they lose have a half step, their poor fundamentals won't allow them to make plays.

21
by J.S. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 8:34pm

# 16

Ok maybe I really went to a place i did not mean to go. All I was trying to get at is that these players are the elite of the elite. the top players of thier sport. I am saying that along with talent and proper "size" for that postion, Pro Scout and College Scouts should also watch for good technique. Just becasue he has the speed, ability, or proper "size" does not make them the best at that given postion. undoubtidly it does help, but for me a player that has a good grasp of the basics and fundementals of the game will be worth more to the TEAM in the long run.

shesh....
FREE ANGENCY HAS RUINED THE GAME

22
by the K (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 9:23pm

#8: This is an interesting point to make. I'd say it largely depends upon the individual defensive scheme, but two rules of thumb I think would apply: (Disclaimer: I do not base these off of any statistical analysis, just a bit of spitballing) If your CBs get a lot of tackles, that's probably not a good thing. Conversely, if your DLs make a lot of tackles, that probably is a good thing. Safeties and LBs tend to make the most tackles, and that's where the biggest variance would likely be. Coverage safeties who get a lot of tackles are probably a bad omen, whereas run-stuffing safeties making a lot of them are products of the defensive gameplans. Of course, there are a lot of things to consider: Defenses who play a nickel or dime probably get more tackles from their DBs, since there are more on the field, but since in a nickel/dime defense the ideal result would generally be a sack or an incompletion, that's still no indicator. My point? None, I'm just rambling, as I thought the idea was interesting.

23
by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 01/19/2006 - 10:33pm

I hope EPC sets a trend for recognizing talent instead of "Playmaykahs".

24
by Ruben (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 12:54am

Great article, as always.

Wow, let's see: attacks the run, can drop deeeeeep into coverage, recognizes and disrupts the screen, neutralizes slot receivers, and sheds blockers...I am shocked and sickened that Philly couldn't/didn't trade up for this guy...

where Lofa played quarterback in addition to linebacker

I assume as a situational QB, in 3rd-and-short, etc...otherwise, his 14-year-pro father is an idiot/genius for risking his starting QB to play in arguably the most violent and injury-prone position (that's off-the-cuff, so don't subject me to the pillory, Kibbles!).

really tall, athletic players often have the worst fundamentals because they’ve been allowed to get away with relying on their natural abilities

*cough*Cherokee Park*cough*

Basketball references aside, isn't this why highly talented players don't become successful coaches (Ditka outlier), and technically skilled coaches are usually former bench-warmers (Dungy) or didn't play in the NFL at all (BB, I think...)?

Also, IIRC, wasn't the biggest "upside" for Me-Shawn his abnormal height and muscle-mass? "Nevermind he was kicked out of school, and probably has an IQ in the mid-30s...he's freakishly huge!"

25
by john Schneck (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 3:55am

While Lofa has been outstanding as a rookie, two other rookie linebackers saw extensive playing time and make this draft one of the teams greatest ever... Leroy Hil, a 3rd round pick out of Clemson, was the #1 LB back-up for the first half of the season and now is the starter and plays outstanding, too. He got in after Jamie Sharper went down and was one sack off the league's rookie leader. Corneilius Worthem, a 7th round pick out of Alambama also saw extensive duty. At times, all 3 were on the field together.... I didn't see any letdown!

I credit Tim Ruskell for this year's draft and look forward to many year's of outstanding football in the great Northwest! Lord knows we deserve it..

26
by Brian B. (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 11:14am

Great article MDS! It's about time Seattle's defense got some recognition. People never take into consideration the overhaul of personnel in the off-season. Not only that, but the team had to overcome season ending injuries to Ken Hamlin and Jamie Sharper. They also had a 3rd string CB playing opposite of Trufant for parts of the season. A lot of the national media aren't impressed by this defense, but let's not forget that it's a very young defense and to see all the parts jel in a season is pretty amazing.

27
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 2:12pm

Wow, let’s see: attacks the run, can drop deeeeeep into coverage, recognizes and disrupts the screen, neutralizes slot receivers, and sheds blockers…I am shocked and sickened that Philly couldn’t/didn’t trade up for this guy…

Well, Tatupu was drafted in the second round, at which point Philly had picked Mike Patterson - who did have a very good first season - and Reggie Brown, who also had a very good first season. It's not that bad.

Tatupu was a great pickup for the Seahawks, because he was probably easily the best player available, and at a position of need, but I doubt that he would've had such a stellar first season with Philly. You'll have to wait a few more years before you can really grade a player - after all, at this point you don't really know Tatupu's durability.

28
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 2:16pm

At the same time, if proper form tackling were such a huge advantage, I think we would see more of it. In the open field, the ballcarrier has a huge advantage... proper form tackling or not!
I do remember seeing a couple of VERY nice tackles by Patriot CBs over the last couple of years; shoulders square, legs moving, good leverage, wrapping up, the ballcarrier goes nowhere... lets see what Mangini can do with the Jets, right?

In general my theory is that the ballcarrier has power and quickness... as a defender, you have to respect both. Too much aggression can result in being juked, and too little can result in being run over. But look at Sean Taylor, he comes in so fast and aggressively that he doesnt give the ballcarrier any time to react.

Also during Steelers and Ravens game, Ben dumped off to Heath Miller who seemed to have some room to run, but as soon as he turned his shoulders upfield Deion Sanders flew in and cut his legs out. 260, 23 yrs old vs 200, 38 yrs old in the open field. Here for example, form tackling would have been a terrible idea.

29
by Sara (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 3:36pm

"Talented football players that have bad fundamentals won’t last long because once they lose have a half step, their poor fundamentals won’t allow them to make plays."

Or, as I like to call it, the Michael Vick corrollary.

30
by Moses (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 5:42pm

Seems to me that the Seahawk improvement is a lot like the Bears defensive improvement. Play a lot of bad teams, play okay against the few strong teams, and suddenly the streaky peformance you can get in short NFL season can help hide your weaknesses and you too can look better than you really are.

It's like in baseball, a .250 hitter can sometimes hit .300 in May. But he's still, inherently, a .250 hitter over the long haul.

Until the Seahawks do it conistently well over time, I'm going to be skeptical and keep it classified as another flash-in-the-pan stat caused by natural variation and a bit of luck. Just like the Cowboy's and the 49% pass completion against their secondary two years ago. The Cowboy fans are going nuts about their pass defense, only to suffer from a lot of bad luck and give up 62% the next year.

The truth is that in 2003, they played a lot of bad QBs and the good QBs they played were almost uniformly mired in slumps when they happend to go up against the Cowboys. In 2004, the opposite tended to happen. This year, they were at 55% which was a very good number and close to their three-year average and is probably the most "truthful" of their numbers.

So, when it comes to the Seahawks, I'm not jumping on their rush defense wagon just yet. I think they're probably better this year, but I don't think the improvement should be accepted without some degree of skepticism.

It's one thing to improve when playing good rushing teams a lot. It's another to "improve" when you're playing a lot of teams with problems. And until I see sustained excellence, I'm not buying into it.

31
by putnamp (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 6:14pm

Isn't the whole point of weighted DVOA to account for this "strength of schedule" thing you're talking about? QBs playing in a slump is one thing, but overall team play doesn't tend to be as uniformly streaky as individual players, right?

32
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 7:52pm

Until the Seahawks do it conistently well over time

Wait, what? You mean over multiple seasons? That doesn't make sense - you don't judge a team by actions that different teams do. It seems silly to say "the 2004 Eagles offense sucked, because it wasn't good in 2003, or 2005, so if you average it over time, they suck."

Likewise, it seems silly to gauge the current Seahawks based on previous year's performances. They're not the same team. You only have the year to judge them by.

33
by hector (not verified) :: Fri, 01/20/2006 - 8:14pm

For more “size don’t matterâ€? evidence, see the 5′8″ Darrent Williams… I think he even surprised the Broncos with his CB skills, being mainly drafted as a returner.
I agree that Williams surpassed expectations this year, but I don't think the team drafted him mainly as a return guy, given that they used a second round pick on Williams.

Re: #7, I agree completely. Look at how much better the 2004 Browns D-Line looks playing with Al Wilson et. al.
Ahh, long live the Denver Browncos.

34
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 12:45pm

RE: 6

How can a MLB use a hand signal for the defensive line?

35
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 01/22/2006 - 12:51pm

RE: 9

It was pretty strange. No one expected him to go that high, and they gave up 2 4th rounders to move up for him (they traded with Carolina).

RE: 14

I didn't catch that reference.

36
by Jake Brake (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 1:33am

More evidence of Tatupu's greatness: in the game where his team won the right to play in the Super Bowl, he knocked the Panthers' running back out of the game in the first quarter and made the crucial first interception. The scary thing is, he's only a rookie.

37
by MarcLord (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 6:31pm

#30, Moses:

Point taken about schedule strength; point very much NOT taken about being skeptical of Seattle having a much-improved defense. Crummy defenses do not lead the league in sacks, and nobody gets to stuff quarterbacks into the turf for free in the NFL. Put an average defense against the Saints for 16 games, and it wouldn't get 50 sacks. And when is the last time you saw someone's tooth get knocked out in an NFL game? It happened yesterday to a Carolina Panther ballcarrier.

Tatupu has a football mind. You could cut one of his legs off from the knee down, and he'd still be a playmaker. I mean that quite literally. Some defensive players have the gift of seeing things before they happen, and Tatupu has The Gift. He can give ballcarriers nice "Going-away" presents, like when he knocked out at least one of Nick's teeth, which popped high up into the air and was visible on slow-motion replay as it spun and fell to the turf. Looked like a molar.

38
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 7:59pm

And the best part? Tatupu played the rest of the game with a concussion.

Hope he's okay.

39
by Keven (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2006 - 8:51pm

Seattle has a wimpy finesse defense. They just trick everyone into making stupid plays and falling down when they grab them. I think they use hypnosis. Rocky Barnard (sorry, but I have trouble spelling the names of wimps) used this twice to get to Delhomme. He put the hex on the Panther's offensive tackles and they just let him come by. The same with Tatufu's interception. He put the evil eye on Delhomme and tricked him into throwing right to him. And then there was the finesse concussion that knocked Goings out of the game, but there's no way that could physically happen because Seattle's defense is just not physical. In fact, Seattle's defense does not really exist- they are just a bunch of ghosts running around on the field. There is no way that this spiritual finesse defense can hold up against the big, bad Steelers- the Steelers won't fall for those Jedi tricks the way the panthers did. But the real reason the seahawks defense is wimpy is because the national media says so. So I hereby bow before the infinite wisdom of the press elites whose erudite prognostications and declarations have been the wonder of this post-season.

40
by putnamp (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2006 - 1:45am

The real problem for this wimpy Seahawks defense is that they don't play smashmouth football, and as a result they lack nastiness.

41
by eblack (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 8:57pm

Seattle fan here, and big time Tatupu fan. I saw him throughout pre-season and knew he would play great at MLB. I thought for fun I'd look up some archives of how some "experts" felt about the drafting of Tatupu and his fellow rookies. Sometimes it's easier just to ignore the analysts and just believe in your team's coaches and GM's that they know what they are doing.

Dr. Z - Sports Illustrated
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/dr_z/04/26/z.draft.grades/...

Overall “B-“

“But picking Tatupu, the Southern Cal MLB, in the second round, considerably higher than others had projected him, gets a gold star in my book. All the guy does is make great plays. I guarantee you he will have a long and honorable career in the NFL, just as his father, Mosi, did.�

Charles Robinson - Yahoo! Sports

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=cr-nfcgrades042405&prov=yhoo&type=...

Grade: “B-“

Low marks: They had to get some middle linebackers, but they took some major reaches with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. The slow-footed Tatupu in the second round made little sense. Some gave Hill a sixth-round grade, and yet Seattle grabbed him in the third. Also, Seattle could have addressed its cornerback need in the second round and failed to do it.

John Czarnecki - Fox Sports

http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/3566524

Grade: “Loser�

“Not too crazy about what the Seahawks did at the top of the draft… this was a mish-mash of a draft for a team wanting to go to the playoffs.�

The Football Genius

http://www.thefootballgenius.com/05draftgrades/sea.html

Overall grade: D

“… skeptical that Lofa will ever become a special LB in the NFL.�

42
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 01/25/2006 - 10:24pm

Thanks for posting that, eblack. Very interesting.

43
by Adam Madison (not verified) :: Tue, 01/31/2006 - 11:30pm

Dr. Z = Football God.

44
by Dr. No (not verified) :: Thu, 04/20/2006 - 1:53pm

Dr. Z= Football Snob

Sorry, no way I can let a comments section end with Dr. Z being falsely worshipped.