By José Miguel Romero and Greg Bishop
Seattle Times staff reporters

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KIRKLAND — This wasn't quite the first half they expected.

Special teams sagged, the offense lagged and a preseason full of Super Bowl expectations dissolved during a three-game losing streak. But by virtue of a weak schedule and possibly the weakest division in the NFL, the Seahawks enter the season's halfway point with a 5-3 record and a one-game lead in the NFC West.

They escaped detention with two wins in the last two weeks. Remedial work awaits in the following classes: kickoff coverage, kickoff returns, field position, allowing deep passes and staying healthy. Midterm grades are in, complete with a player's evaluation if they were willing to offer it.

Here are the grades. But remember: there's half a season left.

Offense

QUARTERBACK: Matt Hasselbeck has shown yin (285 yards passing, 3 TDs last week against San Francisco) and yang (4 INTs, 18.1 rating at Arizona). More yin: his 1,885 passing yards rank 12th in the NFL. More yang: his 77.7 passer rating ranks 22nd. The Seahawks won't find a better backup than Trent Dilfer.

Times' grade: C.

Quotable: "The thing that we are getting to now is that we are making plays." — Hasselbeck.

RUNNING BACK: Shaun Alexander is on pace for a 1,758-yard season and ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards. And don't forget about Mack Strong, the fullback Alexander shadows through the hole.

Grading themselves: A-.




Times' grade: A.

Quotable: "Look at Shaun Alexander, look at what he's done. We need to do better as far as protecting the quarterback in passing situations. But we're playing pretty good so far." — Strong

WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Hasselbeck completed passes to 13 different receivers. Darrell Jackson ranks sixth in the NFL with 670 receiving yards. But drops persist — roughly 25. As does the impending Koren Robinson suspension.

Grading themselves: B.

Times' grade: B-.

Quotable: "We dropped a couple early, but we haven't dropped many lately. Things are moving in the right direction." — Jackson.

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Seahawks have four more sacks (19 to 15) than opponents. Throw in Alexander's rushing yards and backups playing well through injury.

Times' grade: A-

Quotable: "It gives you a sense of pride." — center Robbie Tobeck on Alexander leading the NFC in rushing.

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE: Missed DE Grant Wistrom the last three games, so pass rush suffered. Run defense is this unit's strength, but QBs get too much time to throw.

Grading themselves: A.

Times' grade: B-.

Quotable: "We do what we do. We go out and get the job done." — DT Rashad Moore

LINEBACKERS : The projected starters played just one game together (OLBs Chad Brown and Anthony Simmons; MLB Orlando Huff) because of injuries. Backups held it together, though unit has been exposed at times in pass coverage.

Grading themselves: B

Times' grade: B.

Quotable: "We've been solid all around. I didn't see anything spectacular. Whoa, I guess there was something spectacular on Sunday." — Simmons, referring to his INT return for a TD last week.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: This group makes plays. CB Ken Lucas has four interceptions, and rookie SS Michael Boulware and CB Marcus Trufant have three apiece. Seattle leads the NFL in interceptions with 12. The deep pass continues to burn this unit.

Grading themselves: C.

Times' grade: C+.

Quotable: "We've been spectacular at times, and then we've been real bad at times. We have so much room for improvement. We play so well for so long, and then we give up a deep ball at a crucial point of a game. You don't want to be that guy who allows that to happen." — Lucas

Other

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kickoff coverage is an issue, as opponents have had long returns and set up their offenses with short fields to drive week after week. Kickoffs need to be deeper, as do punts. Punter Tom Rouen and special-teams ace Alex Bannister will be hard to replace while on injured reserve. Kicker Josh Brown's field goals (13 for 14) have been a bright spot.

Grading themselves: C-.

Times' grade: C.

Quotable: "I'm excited about where my field goals are going. But I'm trying to be more consistent with my kickoffs. I'm getting some good deep balls, but then there's still some stragglers where I'm kicking off to the 10 (yard line)." — Brown

COACHING: Mike Holmgren didn't help himself in the fourth quarter against the Rams, and, at times, the offensive has been both conservative and complicated. But it took some gumption to admit his offensive complications and simplify.

Times' grade: B.

Quotable: "I've been fairly pleased with the last two weeks, with our execution and how we've done things." — Holmgren.

OVERALL: Great expectations have yet to be met or failed. The Seahawks beat four teams with losing records. They should have beaten St. Louis, and they played New England close. The loss at Arizona hurts the most, but the season appears to be moving in the right direction.

Times' grade: B.

Overall self grade-point average: 2.9.

Overall Times GPA: 2.84.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com.


Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com