Holmgren may make changes on the defensive line

  • Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Monday, October 27, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

KIRKLAND – In the least likely of venues for a visiting team to discuss a frustrating loss, Seattle Seahawks players stood and did just that two days ago.

Shortly after a surprising 27-24 loss to the host Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, they stood in front of temporary lockers and talked about the pain of defeat, but were quick to point out that all is not lost.

“Nobody’s panicking in here,” fullback Mack Strong said after Sunday’s game. “We feel bad because we lost, and we should, but nobody’s panicking.”

Maybe not panicking, but the Seahawks – now 5-2 and tied for first place in the NFC West – aren’t standing pat either.

Coach Mike Holmgren said changes on the defensive line could take place this week in an effort to fix a run defense that played “undisciplined” in Sunday’s loss.

“We have enough good players on the defensive line that they have to compete with each other on a weekly basis,” he said. “And now, hopefully, the more disciplined guys rise to the top.”

Holmgren praised young defensive tackles Rashad Moore and Cedric Woodard, who have played behind veterans John Randle and Norman Hand, respectively, for most of the season.

Hand did not play at all in Sunday’s game, but Holmgren said Monday that the decision had to do with a turf toe injury that has hampered the veteran since September. Hand did not miss any practice time last week, yet was held out of the game.

That opened the door for extra playing time for Moore, Woodard and Rocky Bernard, who had been inactive the previous two weeks. Defensive end Anton Palepoi played for the first time in five games.

“Everyone had their tryout,” Holmgren said, “so let’s settle in and decide who can play.”

Holmgren added that left defensive end Antonio Cochran could move over to the right side, where he would see more action in pass-rushing situations. Chike Okeafor has started on the right side in the first seven games.

“Whatever it takes for us to win. Wherever they need me,” Cochran said Monday. “… It’d be nice to get some rushes on third down; I can say that much.”

The changes won’t stop there. The defensive line is also expected to add end Lamar King, who should be activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list sometime this week.

Other defensive changes could also be on the horizon, as injured starters start to heal up. Cornerback Ken Lucas (ankle), outside linebacker Chad Brown (foot) and middle linebacker Randall Godfrey (neck) could return this Sunday against Pittsburgh after missing all or most of the Cincinnati game because of injuries.

The return of Lucas would be especially helpful after veteran Willie Williams got manhandled by Bengals receivers. Pittsburgh has one of the top receiving duos in all of football with Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward, so Seattle’s corners should get tested this week.

Brown would also give the team a boost, but Holmgren said Monday that his backup, D.D. Lewis, will see increased playing time in a reserve role.

Seattle’s defense still ranks 11th in the NFL, which is a huge improvement over the 28th-ranked unit in 2002. But defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes wasn’t content following Cincinnati’s 412 yards of total offense Sunday.

“We’re off to a good start, and we have to keep it going,” Holmgren said. “With the numbers we have, we have a fair amount to choose from.

“We don’t have to settle for someone who’s not doing it exactly the way you have to have it done. That’s not easy, and Ray and I talked about it (Monday) morning at great length. But we’re going to do what we have to do.”

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he does not need to make any adjustments to avoid tipped passes. “You are going to get maybe 10 batted balls like that in a season,” he said, “and we got two during the fourth quarter that both ended up as interceptions. It’s really disappointing, but I don’t know what you can do about it.”… This Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh is sold out. Unlike previous games this year, it will be shown on CBS because the visitors are an AFC team.

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