Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seahawks must 'be-Ware' of Dallas D

DeMarcus Ware — who tormented the Seahawks last year with 3 sacks— is ready to play with his new contract

By John Boyle
Herald Writer

RENTON — Matt Hasselbeck had to chuckle when he was asked the question.

What, a reporter wanted to know, does your team need to do to handle Dallas’ defense Sunday?

“Well,” Hasselbeck began, “we’ve got to protect the passer. That’s always first. No, I’m kidding.”

Hasselbeck might be able to joke now about the Cowboys’ pass rush, but there was nothing funny about the way the Dallas D treated the Seahawks quarterback last season. And he’s right, protecting the quarterback will go a long ways toward helping the Seahawks’ chances of upsetting the Cowboys.

Hasselbeck was sacked seven times in a Thanksgiving Day loss last season, including three times by DeMarcus Ware, one of the game’s top pass rushers. It was the last game Hasselbeck would play last season.

This year, Ware and the Dallas defense seem to be getting better as the season goes on, which makes this a less-than-opportune time for the Seahawks to be facing the Cowboys in Dallas. After recording zero sacks in the team’s first 10 quarters this season, the Cowboys defense has 14 in the past three-and-a-half games. Since starting 2-2, the Cowboys have won two in a row, including a 16-point win over Atlanta that might have been their best performance of the year.

“They’ve got guys that can just play,” Hasselbeck said. “DeMarcus Ware is arguably the best pass rusher in the game right now.”

Ware, who signed a huge contract extension this week, will be looking for a repeat of last year’s performance to show he is worth the millions the Cowboys just agreed to pay him. Heck, you could argue that at least some of that contract was earned against the Seahawks last season.

On paper this game looks like a golden opportunity for Ware, a linebacker in Dallas’ 3-4 scheme who frequently matches up against the opposing left tackle. The Seahawks are on their fourth starting left tackle of the season, Damion McIntosh, and could not protect Hasselbeck in their last game (he was sacked five times).

Still, Ware insists he isn’t licking his chops when he sees the Seahawks’ projected lineup.

“I think you approach it the same way,” said Ware, who had 20 sacks last season. “If a guy makes any NFL team, that means that he’s good at what he does. So you can’t really just take anything for granted. You just got to get ready.”

According to a fellow hunter of NFL quarterbacks, Ware’s stats have not come cheap.

“There are some guys who get big numbers who you aren’t impressed with, but that’s not him,” Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney said. “He’s a guy that puts up numbers because he’s beating guys. He’s got a whole bunch of different moves. You’ll see him power guys, run around them, counter well, use his hands well, he’s a very special player.”

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said the Seahawks will change protection schemes to try to keep the Dallas pass rush off balance, and the schemes move Hasselbeck around so it’s a little more difficult to get to him. Another key is to run the ball with at least some success, something the Seahawks have struggled to do for much of this season.

“We’ve got to stay balanced,” Knapp said. “It’s going to be important that we have a decent run game going to keep them off balance so they can’t just tee off.”

Tatupu to IR, Trufant in

In an expected move, the Seahawks moved linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who had surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle Thursday, to the injured reserve list. His roster spot was filled by cornerback Marcus Trufant, who spent the first six games on the physically unable to perform list with a back injury.

Trufant may not start against Dallas, but should see significant playing time. Linebacker Leroy Hill, who has been out since the season opener with a groin injury, is also expected to return and will likely start.

Also expected back is left guard Chris Spencer, who has been out with an ankle injury. Kerney (groin) and Hasselbeck (ribs) both participated fully in practice Friday and should be fine for Sunday’s game. Tackle Sean Locklear (ankle) did not practice this week and is listed as doubtful.

Cowboys Pro-Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff suffered a knee injury in practice Thursday and did not practice Friday. He is listed as questionable for the game.