Preseason opener leaves roommates with plenty to talk about

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, August 14, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

CHENEY – When talking to friends and relatives during the 48 hours that followed the Seattle Seahawks’ preseason opener, rookie running back Marquis Weeks couldn’t stop talking about one play.

He had plenty to brag about, what with his eight carries for a game-high 59 yards – all but 2 yards of which came in the fourth quarter. Yet it was the 40-yard touchdown scamper by 251-pound fullback Leonard Weaver that left Weeks gushing like a proud parent.

“Every time I’d call anyone in my family, I ended up telling them about his run because it was such a good play,” Weeks said. “I blocked on that play.”

You can’t blame Weeks for displaying a little roommate pride. He and Weaver have been sharing a dorm room at Eastern Washington University all month, and on Friday they single-handedly carried the Seahawks on a touchdown drive in the 34-15 win over New Orleans.

“We talked about it a lot: the things we were going to do, making big plays,” Weeks said of his dorm-room conversations with Weaver. “It came true for us.”

During the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, Weeks and Weaver combined for 97 yards – three more than the Seahawks’ entire offense (quarterback David Greene lost 3 yards on two kneel-downs in the final minute). For the game, the duo combined for 29 percent of Seattle’s offense for the game, 112 yards.

Not bad for a couple of undrafted rookie longshots who are adjusting to new positions.

Weeks was a reserve running back at the University of Virginia before moving to safety during his senior season. The Seahawks moved him back to running back and are hoping he can push for a roster spot as a kickoff return specialist.

Weaver is a product of Carson-Newman, an NCAA Division II school. He is a converted tight end who has been so impressive at camp that he has a realistic shot at winning the No. 2 fullback job behind Mack Strong. His chief competition should come from Tony Jackson, a fellow rookie who also is being converted from the tight end position.

Weaver pulled into an early lead with his impressive 40-yard touchdown, which included a cutback and stiff-arm to spring himself free.

“I really don’t remember a whole lot about that,” he said. “… I never had (a touchdown) in my mind. The only thing I kept thinking was: run, run, run. Then when I got to the (New Orleans secondary), that’s when I started thinking I could get there.”

Both players still have a lot of work to do just to make the roster, but their NFL preseason debuts couldn’t have been more memorable.

“To experience a run like that in a debut,” Weaver said, “that was awesome.”

Out of the box: Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes made a minor adjustment before Friday’s game, working from the sideline rather than his typical place in the press box.

Coach Mike Holmgren called it “an experiment” that Rhodes asked to try during the preseason. The benefits include easier communication with all the players, while the main impediment is a more difficult angle in which to see the field.

No determination has been made as to whether Rhodes will work from the press box or the sideline on regular-season Sundays.

“Knowing Ray the way I know him, I’m not sure that this is an experiment that’s going to last,” Holmgren said. “He gets kind of excited down there. He bumped into me way too much during the game.”

Imperfect start: The way Bob Casullo’s career as special-teams coach started, things can only get better.

On the first extra-point of the Casullo era, he sent 12 players onto the field.

“I botched that,” Casullo said of a mistake the Seahawks made in the win over New Orleans. “The players were fine. That was the coach’s fault. But after that, we were perfect.”

Well, almost perfect. There was the fourth-quarter gaffe in which rookie long snapper Tim Galloway, a University of Washington product, sent the ball over punter Chris Kluwe’s head and into the end zone.

Casullo was quick to point out that Seattle’s special teams, particularly in kick coverage, were strong when the No. 1 unit was on the field.

“The first kickoff, we tackled them on the 19; the second kickoff we tackled them on the 24; and the third kickoff was a touchback,” Casullo said. “We were pretty good.

“Overall, you’d like to see a better performance by all the players.”

One area where Casullo is concerned is on kickoff returns, where Weeks and Jerome Pathon got a look while Maurice Morris nursed a sore hamstring. In a perfect world, the Seahawks would like to find a replacement for Morris, who ranked 18th in the NFC with a 21.1-yards-per-return average last season.

“We’re struggling in that area,” Casullo said of the training camp kickoff returns. “We’re looking to see if somebody can assume that role. So far, we’re average.”

Quick slants: The Seahawks released rookie quarterback Brian Wrobel, who wasn’t getting any snaps behind Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, David Greene and Gibran Hamdan. … Training camp officially runs through Saturday morning, after which time the team heads back to Seattle. After Monday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Seahawks will begin practicing at their Kirkland facility.

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