The 3-4 defensive front has become a chore for Seahawks
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
Expect few surprises when Seattle’s offense faces Arizona’s defense this afternoon.
Arizona defensive coordinator and Tacoma native Ray Horton cut his teeth under the tutelage of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, working seven years as the team’s secondary coach.
The Seahawks will basically be encountering the same defense they faced in Pittsburgh last week when they take on the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field in the team’s home opener.
For a third straight week, Seattle matches up against a 3-4 defensive front.
“They have something to look at, because they just played the same defense two weeks in a row,” said Horton. “And I have a little bit because I’ve seen them playing the same defense two weeks before me.
“They might have a few new wrinkles. But we won’t surprise them, and they won’t surprise us by anything that they do.”
Horton, 51, was hired by Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt in February, the team’s third defensive coordinator in four years. A Mount Tahoma High and University of Washington standout defensive back, Horton played 10 seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl with Dallas in 1993.
Horton and Whisenhunt worked on the same staff when the Arizona head signal caller served as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator for three seasons.
“His strengths are understanding his scheme and communicating that to the players,” Whisenhunt said about Horton. “I think he does a good job with that and I think as we continue to get through this season, we’ll get better because you just need more reps.”
Seahawks defensive back Roy Lewis, who played his first year for Horton in Pittsburgh, agrees: “Coach Ray tells it like it is. And as far as helping his players grow, he’s definitely involved – talking or meeting with you on the side. He does anything it takes to get his players on board, communicating with him as if he’s one of the players. So that way there’s no ambiguity with what’s going on throughout the room.”
Horton was tasked with turning around a defense that ranked No. 29 overall in total defense last season. But so far Arizona is off to a slow start, giving up an average of 466 yards a game, 29th overall
“The lockout did hurt us, but I expected that,” Horton said. “Obviously I wish we were playing much better ball, but that will come. I’m just being patient. I have seen a lot in the NFL – from playing on a 1-15 team to playing on a 15-1 team, to playing in Super Bowls – so the main thing is just patient.”
Because the Seahawks did not establish a franchise until Horton was in high school, he grew up watching the AFC West and became a Chiefs fan.
But while playing defensive back at the University of Washington, Horton got an opportunity to cover Seahawks’ great Steve Largent when he ran routes at Husky Stadium.
“Seattle is not my home anymore, it’s just where I grew up,” he said. “But the biggest thrill for me (as a coach) was playing against them in Super Bowl XL. No Super Bowl meant more to me than playing against my hometown team.”
It’s only the third time Horton’s competed in Seattle in his 25-year professional career, twice at CenturyLink Field as a coach, and once in the Kingdome as a player.
“I’m excited to be up there,” Horton said. “It’s a place I probably will retire to, so I’m excited. It’s nice to go home.”
While the lockout hampered his team’s development, it did offer a chance to take up a new hobby – flying.
Horton’s younger brother Brian is an Air Force veteran and pilot for Alaska Airlines. And Brian’s son Eric is a freshman at Arizona State University, and also has his pilot’s license. So Horton has learned a thing or two flying with his nephew. He’s five flight hours away from earning his pilot license.
“It’s something I wanted to do since I was a little kid, and never had the opportunity to do it,” Horton said. “I just want to be an occasional flyer. If I want to hop in a plane and go to San Diego or the Grand Canyon, I can do it.”
Another family member, Horton’s older brother Buddy, is an NFL official, and cannot work games his brother coaches in.
Horton achieved brief notoriety for a selfless act he made before leaving Pittsburgh. Horton sold his red 1999 Mercedes Benz SL500 convertible to Steelers cafeteria worker Maurice Matthews, an ardent follower of the team – for $20 bucks.
On the day before he left Pittsburgh, Horton stopped by the team’s facility to say goodbye to the cooking staff. He asked Matthews how much money he had in his pocket. When he said $20, Horton took the money, handed him the keys and told him the car was his.
“He would always ask me when he could borrow my car,” Horton said. “I was going to trade it in, but then I thought why not give it to somebody who would appreciate it.
“All he had was $20 dollars in pocket. If he had a $1,000, I would have sold it for $1,000. But unfortunately for me he only had $20.
“I was just taking care of someone that took care of me, and that’s kind of my philosophy.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks
ARIZONA (1-1) AT SEATTLE (0-2)
Kickoff: 1:15 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 1240-AM, 1030-AM.
The series: This is the 25th meeting between the teams, with the Cardinals holding a 13-11 advantage. However, Seattle won both contests last season – 22-10 in Seattle and 36-18 at Arizona. The Cardinals have won six of the past nine meetings between the two teams.
What to watch: Wide receiver Sidney Rice (shoulder) will start and play his first regular-season game with Seattle today. Offensive guard Robert Gallery is out four to six weeks with a groin injury, so Paul McQuistan will start in his place. Linebacker Aaron Curry, the No. 4 overall draft pick in the 2009 draft, will be replaced in the starting lineup by rookie K.J. Right.
Defensive end Chris Clemons is looking forward to facing the Cardinals. Seattle’s sacks leader a year ago doesn’t have one in two games this year. But in his past two starts against the Cardinals, Clemons has three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The Seahawks have won their past eight home openers.
Arizona running back Beanie Wells, questionable with a hamstring injury, is expected to play.
The pick: Seahawks, 23-20.
No. Name (position) Ht.Wt.Year
18 Sidney Rice (WR) 6-4202fifth Seahawks need big-play receiver to spark offense.
24 Marshawn Lynch (RB)5-11215fifth Even if there’s little running room, Lynch needs to make something happen.
99 Alan Branch (DT)6-6325fifth Playing against his old team, Branch should be motivated.
39 Brandon Browner (CB)6-4221first He’s got a target on his back after last week’s performance vs. Pittsburgh.
No. Name (position)Ht.Wt.Year
4 Kevin Kolb (QB)6-3218fifth Playing like he’s the best quarterback in the NFC West.
11 Larry Fitzgerald (WR)6-3218eighth One of the best in the game, he always plays well against Seattle.
90 Darnell Dockett (DE)6-4290eighth Arizona’s best player on defense, he’ll give Seahawks’ young offensive line problems.
21 Patrick Peterson (CB)6-1219first Seahawks will target the rookie out of LSU.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer