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Originally published October 26, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 26, 2008 at 4:25 PM

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Mike Holmgren trying to find a spark for Seahawks

Seahawks backups and rookies are getting more playing time to find the right combination to win.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Defensive end Darryl Tapp, a former starter, regained his spot last week in place of rookie Lawrence Jackson.

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JIM BATES / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Defensive end Darryl Tapp, a former starter, regained his spot last week in place of rookie Lawrence Jackson.

Seahawks OL Ray Willis is getting a longer look.

 

Seahawks OL Ray Willis is getting a longer look.

The Seahawks aren't there yet.

They haven't reached the point in the season where they start giving more playing time to the younger backups and other reserves for a look at the future. But coach Mike Holmgren, in his effort to find a spark, is getting a look at what some of these guys can do.

"Everybody does it at the end of the year if they're not going into the playoffs and things like that," Holmgren said. "Right now, any substitutions we make are based on trying to make the team better right now, not for the future."

Darryl Tapp, a former starter, regained his spot last week in place of rookie Lawrence Jackson. Ray Willis is getting a longer look at right tackle and will likely see some time there for Sean Locklear today. Rookie Red Bryant, who played in Week 1, was inactive for the next four games before a solid effort in the defensive-tackle rotation last week.

D.D. Lewis played almost three quarters and had 11 tackles in place of injured Lofa Tatupu. Josh Wilson, besides being the kickoff returner, is now the starting right cornerback in place of Kelly Jennings, and Justin Forsett, a rookie, will continue as punt returner this week, one of five different players to be used at that spot.

All to try to make the Seahawks better as they face the San Francisco 49ers today.

Did the moves last week translate into success? Not in the form of a win, but the Seahawks weren't blown out. Willis is a behemoth who started the season's first three games at right tackle for Locklear and has held his own. Wilson had a 61-yard kickoff return and Forsett a 24-yard punt return.

Bryant hadn't been in the four-man rotation at defensive tackle, but might have earned more of a look. The Seahawks had to make backup Howard Green inactive last week to allow Bryant to play.

"Howard Green sat down and he said, 'Hey, I understand. Let the rookie get out there and I'll help him in the game,' " defensive coordinator John Marshall said. "He put a lick on [Tampa Bay's] Warrick Dunn down the field."

Bryant, 6 feet 4 and 318 pounds, said he's still learning and trying to make the transition to the NFL. A knee injury in training camp slowed his progress.

"He's a big body in there, he's disruptive," Holmgren said. "He's just, as they say, green as grass."

Said Bryant, "I don't have the burden of feeling like I have to be the guy. I have to learn from Rocky [Bernard] and [Brandon] Mebane and Howard and Craig [Terrill]. I have the luxury of watching them and seeing how to conduct myself."

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Moving Tapp over Jackson, who hasn't had a sack the past four games, was made to try to get more production out of the defensive-end spot opposite Patrick Kerney. Tapp had been getting snaps but wasn't starting. He'd made 16 starts the two previous seasons.

Tapp finished the Tampa Bay game with nine tackles.

"He not only played physical but he played like I expected him to play — quick, fast, strong," Marshall said.

Holmgren said that position will be evaluated on a weekly basis.

"Sometimes, for a young guy, it takes stepping back, watching, kind of getting a little upset or whatever happens, or learning a little bit more about himself or the system," Holmgren said. "And then when he's reinserted in the lineup, he's a better player for going through the experience."

Tapp, admitting it hurt to lose his starting position at the start of the season, is glad to be back in the lineup.

"It was a good feeling," he said. "I still prepare like I'm the starter. That's the way everybody on this team prepares, like they're going to be the guy."

Holmgren said he hopes Wilson and Forsett will remain the kickoff and punt returners for the rest of the season. But first and foremost is winning with whoever is on the field.

"We must play better, we must execute better, we must study harder, coaches must put the players in a better position to succeed," Holmgren said.

"All those things. That's where our focus has to be. It's an important game, clearly. It always is when we play San Francisco."

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

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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