Thursday, September 6, 2007

Breakdown of the Seahwaks from Seattle Sports Report

This is a follow up of the Breakdown article which was written yesterday. This article is from our friends over at Seattle Sports Report . They broke down the Seahawks for us and will give you an insight into the Bucs opponent for this week. Enjoy!!

The Seahawks dominated the NFC on the way to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2005, only to watch injuries sabotage their defense campaign last year. They enter the 2007 season with designs on putting last year behind them and reasserting their supremacy in the NFC West. Like any team trying to extend its championship window, the Hawks are basically the same team they've been for the past few years, with a couple of notable tweaks designed to put the team over the top. Gone are oft-injured wide receiver Darrell Jackson, unreliable safeties Ken Hamlin and Michael Boulware, and over-the-hill defensive end Grant Wistrom. In are free agent defensive end Patrick Kerney (Falcons) and safeties Deon Grant (Jaguars) and Brian Russell (Cleveland). No wide receivers were brought in to replace Jackson, but the Hawks are hoping for addition by subtraction.


On any Mike Holmgren-coached team, this always will be the hallmark, and that will be the case this year if the Seahawks are going to go anywhere significant. Matt Hasselbeck is still at the helm and Shaun Alexander is still in the backfield, so there's no shortage of talent there. Both missed significant time last year and didn't play all that well when they were healthy, due in no small part to the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. Cohesion was a huge problem, and for the first time, this team appears ready to move past the loss of left guard Steve Hutchinson. The line that begins the year is essentially the line that finished out the year and actually played pretty well down the stretch. The team is hoping that another year of playing together will produce the consistency that powered the offense to the Super Bowl.

Hasselbeck looked especially sharp during the preseason, playing in just two games after offseason shoulder surgery. He'll be throwing to the same corps of receivers, with the notable exception of Jackson. The team is counting on existing receivers to step up, including Deion Branch, whom the team traded away a first round pick a year ago to get; D.J. Hackett, a former project who appears ready to bust out after a strong second half last year; Nate Burleson, one of the team's big signings last year who suffered from a thumb injury on the way to a disappointing first season; and Bobby Engram, Hasselbeck's third down security blanket.

In short, it's virtually the same offense you saw beat up on the Bucs in week 17 last year. They'll try to do the same things they did then, because if there's one thing you know about Mike Holmgren, just like Jon Gruden, it's that he has absolute faith in the system to beat any defense.


This is where you'll notice the biggest differences, in personnel if not in scheme.

For two of the last three years, the Seahawks have had a penchant for giving up big plays. The common denominators were Hamlin and Boulware, who were the starting safeties in 2004 and 2006. Guess which year the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl? So, team president Tim Ruskell, no stranger to Tampa Bay fans, remade the secondary by replacing both safeties and drafting cornerbacks with his first pick each of the last two years. Both Grant and Russell are supposed to be disciplined safeties who will help eliminate plays over the top. Additionally, both are considered to be more reliable tacklers than their predecessors, who seemed more interested in delivering big shoulder hits (Hamlin) or intercepting the ball (Boulware).

Ruskell also hoped to shore up the secondary by adding to the defensive line's ability to pressure the quarterback when he signed Kerney. He probably overpaid in free agency for a 30-year-old player who is likely to decline in skills from here on out, but Kerney represents a significant upgrade over Wistrom.

One area Ruskell did not significantly address was the defensive line's ability to stop the run, a major achilles heel last season. The linchpin has been former first round pick Marcus Tubbs, who, when he plays, literally makes the rushing defense about 20 yards per game better. The Seahawks hoped Tubbs would recover sufficiently from microfracture knee surgery; he did, but blew out his other knee in the final preseason game and is lost for the year. The team now pins its hopes on the same undersized guys who gave up a lot of yards last year to powerful backs, save for third round pick Brandon Mebane. He's not as big as Tubbs, but he has shown a penchant to hold his ground inside -- a real key for the Seahawks, who need their tackles to keep offensive linemen off their speedy, but undersized, linebackers.


On special teams, one guy to keep a big eye on is Burleson. While disappointing as a receiver last year, his explosiveness as a returner helped the Hawks win at least one game. And Josh Brown proved himself to be the most clutch kicker in the NFL not named Vinatieri with four game-winning kicks, earning himself a "franchise" contract in the offseason.

All in all, this is still a very good team -- one that expects to make a run at a second Super Bowl in three years. Anything less than a deep playoff run will be considered a colossal failure by fans, who will be fired up and ready to rattle Qwest Field on Sunday

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