As is sometimes the case with those suffering trauma or surviving accidents, J. R. Sweezy has only vague recollections of the details of the afternoon of Sept. 9, 2012.
Sadly, he still suffers from Darnell Dockett Syndrome, a specific strain of selective amnesia.
“I’ve blocked most of it out,” Sweezy said when asked of the ordeal.
As it turned out, he’s blocked the memories better than he blocked Dockett that day in the Seahawks’ 20-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Expecting much more out of Sweezy would have been unreasonable, as he was a rookie guard converted from the defensive line, thrust into a starting role in his first game against beastly multiple-Pro Bowl defensive end Dockett.
Not only will Sweezy be faced with the same challenge on the NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football game in Arizona, but he’ll have a fellow seventh-rounder at his side – rookie Michael Bowie.
How well these two protect quarterback Russell Wilson will play a role in the Seahawks (5-1) holding their lead in the NFC West Division.
A look at the stat sheet from last year’s game shows that Dockett ended up with no sacks and just one quarterback hit. The three sacks on Wilson were picked up by linebackers Paris Lenon (2) and Daryl Washington (1).
The Cardinals’ defense at the time, under coordinator Ray Horton, was noted for being aggressive with complex blitz packages. Sweezy, at the time, was still learning about snap counts and 3-point stances.
“I think he had 11 missed assignments in that game or something like that,” coach Pete Carroll recalled. “He had a tough game, and Darnell Dockett is a challenging guy to go against, particularly when you’ve never played before.”
Sweezy went on to start five games last season (playoffs included) while splitting time with John Moffitt. He’s started all six this season.
“He’s a lot further down the road now,” Carroll said of Sweezy. “It will be interesting to watch. Hopefully we’ll block the right guys a little more than we did that time and give us a little better shot at it because they tore us up in that game.”
Sweezy this week has been genial and patient with the trip down that potholed memory lane, and now views it as valuable experience.
“It was a whole different speed than I was ready for; they were moving around in ways I had no clue how to pick up,” he said. “I got as prepared as I thought I could. I don’t want to say I’m happy it happened, but I’d say it was a big part of growing because of it.”
When right tackle Breno Giacomini went out with a knee injury in Week 3, the rookie Bowie was thrust into the starting lineup – thrown into deep water just as Sweezy had been the previous year.
Sweezy has been there with some simple advice. “Play fast, just make your calls and don’t over-think stuff,” Sweezy said. “And he’s been getting better every week.”
A year ago, Bowie was playing for Division II Northeastern State in Oklahoma. He turned 22 on Sept. 25, and as a present a few days later got the opportunity to try to block Houston’s All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
Bowie, the youngest player on the active roster, got a few kudos from Carroll for his improvement in Sunday’s win over Tennessee. The coach also cited better play by tackle Paul McQuistan, who is filling in for starter Russell Okung (toe-IR) on the left side.
“Those are still issues for us, you know, those guys coming on and filling in,” Carroll said. “They have to get better because they’re going to be there for a while.”
Bowie said he’s grown more comfortable, in part, because he’s learning to better prepare, getting an early start on the week’s game plan and studying films through the week.
“I’m starting to get the offense a lot better,” Bowie said. “It’s running a lot smoother – still not perfect, but I’m making big strides.”
Bowie said he frequently looks to his left for advice from Sweezy. But with Darnell Dockett on that side again, he’ll be a little busy dealing with his own challenges.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (5-1) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-3)
5:25 p.m., University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: NFL Network, JoeTV (cable Ch. 10). Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: Tied at 14. The last time the teams met, the Seahawks won, 58-0, at CenturyLink Field on Dec. 9, 2012.
What to watch: If the Seahawks can run on the stout Arizona run defense. In large part because of Russell Wilson’s scrambling success the past three weeks, the Seahawks are second in the league in rushing. The Cardinals’ rush defense is fifth in the league. Arizona has allowed just one rusher to run for more than 100 yards this season, and that was San Francisco’s Frank Gore, who ran for 101 yards last week in the 49ers’ win.
The pick: Seahawks, 24-10.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
24 Marshawn Lynch, RB, 5-11, 215, seventh
He is good to go despite missing a bit of practice again this week.
50 K.J. Wright, LB, 6-4, 246, third
This will be his second consecutive week running everything at middle linebacker.
60 Max Unger, C, 6-5, 305, fifth
Pro Bowl center returned last week from triceps injury, has to go again on short week.
72 Michael Bennett, DT, 6-4, 274, fifth
Arizona QB Carson Palmer is very sackable. Bennett should get to him.
86 Zach Miller, TE, 6-5, 255, seventh
Miller is back after missing the past two weeks because of a hamstring injury.
No. Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Year
3 Carson Palmer, QB, 6-5, 235, 11th
Has turned the ball over often this season (11 interceptions, one lost fumble).
38 Andre Ellington, RB, 5-9, 199, first
Averaging 7.0 yards per carry as backup running back.
56 Karlos Dansby, LB, 6-4, 250, 10th
In second stint with Arizona, leads the NFL with 55 solo tackles.
90 Darnell Dockett, DE, 6-4, 290, 10th
The veteran leads the Cardinals with four sacks.
93 Calais Campbell, DE, 6-8, 300, sixth
Cardinals hoping their best defensive end can play after he suffered a neck injury against 49ers.