The Seahawks spent a lot of practice time this week preparing to defend the option offense they'll see Sunday when they face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
RENTON — Carolina runs the option, which means the Seahawks don’t have a choice.
They have to defend it, which has been one of the biggest points of emphasis this week.
“It’s just unique,” said Gus Bradley, Seattle’s defensive coordinator.
Well, that might be true in the NFL, but the read-option rushing offense that Carolina employs is a staple of many college offenses. Professional teams usually prefer to keep their quarterback out of harm’s way. Then again, pro teams don’t usually have a quarterback who is 6 feet 5 and 250 pounds, like Carolina’s Cam Newton.
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“He has such marvelous speed and size and ability to make you miss,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “They have been able to hold up. He runs hard when he runs the football, particularly down in close.”
Newton rushed for 14 touchdowns his rookie season, so defenses must account for him as a potential rusher. But you can’t focus solely on Newton because there’s a trio of talented backs he also might hand the ball to — Deangelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and bruising new addition Mike Tolbert.
Seattle’s defense has spent this week going back to school when it comes to learning to defend the option, emphasizing assignments, whether it’s filling a specific gap or being assigned a specific player.
“It kind of brings you back to college,” said free safety Earl Thomas. “It just calls for the defense to be very technically sound and everyone on their assignment. If somebody messes up on an assignment, then something can break. It calls for us to be very disciplined.”
This is actually an area where the youth of Seattle’s defense is an asset, especially for rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, just one year removed from defending this type of rushing attack at Utah State.
“He had no problem with this preparation,” Carroll said. “He knows the offense. He knows where the ball is going.”
Wagner has come off the field in passing situations the first four weeks, but this week Carroll indicated Wagner is ready to play a role in Seattle’s nickel defense, too. First things first, though, and that’s stopping the run.
“You’ve got to be on your reads,” Wagner said. “You’ve got to know what gap you have. You have to know whether the quarterback hands the ball off or not. But I feel like the scheme we’ve got is going to take care of all that.”
It’s not all of Carolina’s offense, but it is enough to make the Seahawks spend the majority of the week preparing for it.
“Maybe it is 30 percent of their package,” Bradley said, “but for us, we might have to spend 70 percent of our time dealing with it to make sure that we’re on it because so many explosive plays come out of it.”
• CB Marcus Trufant was back at practice Friday after missing two days with a sore back. Trufant was limited, though, and his availability for Sunday’s game is still uncertain. He is listed as questionable.
• DT Brandon Mebane returned to practice after sitting out Thursday with a calf injury. He is listed as probable, which means he is virtually certain to be available for normal duty.
• Carolina LB Jon Beason (knee) and CB Chris Gamble (shoulder) are listed as doubtful after sitting out practice this week.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @dannyoneil