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Maiocco: NFC West co-op -- Scouting the Seahawks

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Maiocco: NFC West co-op -- Scouting the Seahawks

July 21, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
Editor's Note: The NFL lockout appears to be drawing to a close, and teams will have limited time to enact their offseason plans. This week, experts from around the NFC West will provide status reports on the teams they cover. This is the final part in a four-day cooperative series looking at the NFC West. Beat reporters Kent Somers (The Arizona Republic), Danny O'Neil (The Seattle Times) and Jim Thomas (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) share their NFC West thoughts on their respective blogs.Today, a look at the Seattle Seahawks. First, my thoughts . . ."What's your deal?""What's your deal?"Those were the words spoken between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll at midfield following a Stanford-USC game a couple years ago. But that dialogue might also take place between Carroll and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck when the lockout lifts.Hasselbeck has been the Seahawks's starting quarterback since 2001, during which time he was the trigger man while leading Seattle to six playoff appearances. But he turns 36 in September, and his past three seasons have not been good. He's a pending free agent, and the Seahawks must make a decision on what to do at the all-important position.So are the Seahawks determined to offer Hasselbeck a deal to retain him? And will Hasselbeck look for a better opportunity elsewhere in the league?The 49ers have even been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Hasselbeck, who is well-versed in the West Coast system. But that doesn't seem likely to happen, as Harbaugh seems committed to Alex Smith as his starter, while grooming rookie Colin Kaepernick.If the Seahawks go with Charlie Whitehurst, it's difficult to envision them improving in Carroll's second season. Seattle compiled a 7-9 record, becaming the first team in the history of the NFL to win a division with a losing record.The 49ers opened last season with a 31-6 loss in Seattle, and bounced back later in the season with a 40-21 victory at Candlestick. Now, let's check in with O'Neil for a look at the Seahawks:Seahawks offseason storyline
Who's going to be the QB? Matt Hasselbeck, the starter the past 10 years in Seattle, is unsigned and struggled so badly in December that he was actually booed at home. Then in January, he had the signature performance of his career in a playoff upset of the defending-champion Saints. Are the Seahawks really ready to turn the team over to Charlie Whitehurst, who was acquired from San Diego last season despite never attempting a regular-season pass in the NFL? Whitehurst started two games last season, and while he won the Seahawks' division-clinching finale over the Rams, his season was sufficiently spotty that there are questions whether he's ready to be a starting quarterback on a winning NFL team. Throw in the fact that should Hasselbeck leave as a free agent, San Francisco and Arizona are both considered potential destinations and what Seattle decides to do at quarterback may end up shaping the division.To-do list for when lockout lifts:
1. Flesh out the quarterback competition. The big question is whether Matt Hasselbeck will be re-signed or Seattle will attempt to acquire Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb in a trade. Expect Seattle to sign Josh Portis, an undrafted free agent, and perhaps a second rookie in addition to a veteran like Matt Leinart, a free agent who would make a great deal of sense.2. Re-sign Brandon Mebane. Seattle has nearly two dozen of its own free agents prepared to hit the market. Brandon Mebane will draw the most interest around the league, and he is the most important for Seattle. He's a four-year starter on a defensive line that needs to get deeper.3. Improve the offensive line. Tom Cable will be Seattle's fourth different offensive line coach in four seasons, and with rookies James Carpenter and John Moffitt added to left tackle Russell Okung - last year's first-round pick - the Seahawks have set about rebuilding the line instead of just patching it up.
REWIND: Seahawks add Tom Cable to coaching staff
4. Get Golden Tate involved in the offense. There was no bigger disappointment for Seattle last season than the fact Golden Tate never emerged as a consistent receiving threat. Coaches pointed to consistency and precision of his routes. He caught 21 passes, only two gained more than 15 yards. Placing him in a more prominent role will be an emphasis.5. Sort out the secondary. Seattle has ranked in the bottom six teams in pass yards allowed for three successive seasons. The Seahawks drafted two cornerbacks and a safety, but all were chosen in the latter half of the draft. Does Seattle have the personnel to effectively implement the bump-and-run coverage Carroll wants to play? For O'Neil's full report on the Seahawks, click here to visit his blog.

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

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AP

Montana, Clark scheduled to address crowd at Levi's Stadium

SANTA CLARA -- Dwight Clark and Joe Montana are scheduled to address the crowd Sunday at Levi’s Stadium at halftime of the 49ers’ game against the Dallas Cowboys.

It should be an emotional day, as 36 members from the team that defeated Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and went on to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title are expected to attend.

Montana is scheduled to be surrounded by his former teammates and speak from the field at halftime. Clark is likely to be situated in a suite, where he is expected to make some remarks. Clark, 60, announced in March he was diagnosed with ALS.

Former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, appearing on the 49ers Insider Podcast, said he is looking forward to seeing so many of his teammates from the squad that served as a springboard for five Super Bowl titles under the ownership of Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo.

“I can’t wait to see (Clark),” Cross said. “I can’t wait to see Eddie. I can’t wait to see Joe. There is a core group of guys I’ve gotten to see a few times a year since we all went our separate ways. There are guys I’ll get a chance to see, in some cases, (for the first time) since almost around the time we parted ways in the early-‘80s.”

The NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982, is best-remembered for “The Catch” – Clark’s leaping, finger-tip grab of a Montana pass for a 6-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.

The 49ers defeated the Cowboys 28-27 at Candlestick Park. Coach Bill Walsh’s team went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI.

“For those of us who played on the Niners charity basketball team with both Joe and Dwight, and knowing their hoop skills and the way they could jump, we weren’t terribly surprised at: A, how high he threw it; and, B, how high Dwight got,” said Cross, who was blocking from his right guard position near the sideline and had an unobstructed view of the play.

“If Dwight got his fingers on it, it was going to be a catch. That was the thing about D.C., you won’t find too many instances in which he had a ball on him or near him that he dropped. There wasn’t much doubt.”

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Shanahan showed patience with Beathard; Will now have to show more

Kyle Shanahan is, self admittedly, not a patient person. As he watched quarterback C.J. Beathard run the scout team over the last couple of weeks -- how he visualized an unfamiliar play, went through his progressions and handled the defensive coverages -- the head coach saw rapid improvement every day. But he suppressed any urge to play the rookie before he was ready.

“I tried to wait for the right time for him and the right time for the team,” Shanahan explained.

Down 14-0 to Washington halfway through the second quarter with starter Brian Hoyer struggling, Shanahan knew Beathard’s time had come.

“I felt the team needed it right then,” Shanahan said. “It also made me more confident to do it because I thought he was ready for it, also.”

Moments after the game was over, Shanahan named Beathard the starter. Watching the game tape on the flight home only bolstered his decision.

“By no means was he perfect, missed a couple of things, but that always happens,” Shanahan said. “I thought he came in there, didn’t hesitate, competed. The moment was not too big for him. Made a few plays in rhythm, made a few off schedule plays and was a big reason we got back in that game.”

Beathard led the 49ers on two scoring drives and finished 19-of-36 with 245 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it came on fourth-and-20 on his final pass attempt of the game. On his 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson, Beathard extended the play when the fifth year receiver wasn’t where he expected him to be.

“He was supposed to go to the post for a certain coverage, and they had a busted coverage, so he just hung out there which is why C.J. didn’t see it right away,” Shanahan explained. “We had enough protection where he could take a couple more hitches. He drove the pocket and saw where Aldrick was, and he didn’t hesitate. Made that throw with that arm strength.”

Shanahan smirked at his not-so-subtle dig at those who questioned Beathard’s arm strength during the draft process. He sees a quarterback who can make all the throws, and make them from the pocket, and scramble when he needs to. All he needs now, Shanahan contends, is experience.

“It’s about playing in the game and reacting to defenses, reacting to coverages, reacting to adjustments. He’s going to see a lot of things he hasn’t seen before, and that will change each week. It will probably change each quarter.”

Helping Beathard continue to grow through those experiences will require patience, but in this situation, it’s the kind the head coach can handle.

“You’re never going to get a quick answer. You see over time, but he’s got the ability to do it. He’s got the mental toughness to do it. I think he will get better the more he plays.”