Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, September 08, 2006

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS

Colin: Once more into the breach, as we discuss the "other" side of the 2006 Seattle Seahawks. The interesting thing about most previews of Seattle is that everyone focuses on a non-weakness (our offensive line) instead of on our true weakness (a below-average secondary). We'll discuss possible reasons for that, as well as cycle through some of what we deem are the main storylines to take notice of as the Hawks begin the 2006 season.

Speaking of the beginning of the 2006 season, it does my heart good to see that the Pittsburgh Steelers still have the refs in their pocket even after the offseason. It did my heart better since I had Heath Miller on my fantasy team. Again, though, you couldn't blame the loss on the refs, as with the Super Bowl. Both the Hawks and the Dolphins didn't play well enough to win. In fact, the Dolphins looked distinctly ordinary, and their secondary looked atrocious. Actually, the run defense was abysmal as well, allowing Willie Parker to fake being a power back. I counted at least five times that Zach Thomas was run over. He must be aging just a tad, eh?

OK, time to dive in. Let's start by looking at the biggest upgrade of the offseason...... Ryan Plackemeier, who will help us immensely simply because Tom Rouen no longer is booting balls into the end zone. That guy cost us SO many yards in field position during the Super Bowl. Good night. No, I don't really have anymore to comment on that, just thought I would mention it. The TRUE biggest upgrade is one Julian Peterson. Gavin, discuss the awesomeness of our linebacking corps, will you?

Gavin: And now I am the Italics master!!

I have to agree on that game last night. To all those who picked the Dolphins to reach the Super Bowl... they have some serious work to do, especially defensively. Offenses struggle the first few weeks, but the Dolphins have some bad holes, and tackled like weak little men.

On to the linebacking corps, which is basically the best one in Seahawks history. Anyone remember two years ago when we could pinpoint every gaping run the moment when Isaiah Kaczyvenski took himself out of the play? Good times. Now? They are the biggest reason why OUR defense is ranked #2 in the preseason DVOA rankings, only behind the Bears. You have three insane playmakers. Lofa Tatupu is already a top five middle linebacker in the NFL. Watching him blow up two Oakland blockers last week to allow Julian Peterson to make the tackle was sheer poetry. I got used to seeing him subtly adjust the linemen on every play to make sure they were always set up correctly. I firmly believe there are no teams in this league who will be able to run a sweep on us with any semblance of consistent success. We just have too much speed.

Tatupu and Peterson especially are not just great run stoppers but cover extremely well. When El Jefe and I rewatch the NFC Championship game tomorrow (which IS going to happen) we will get to see yet again Tatupu's amazing jump on Delhomme's forced pass to Steve Smith. He covers ground like Troy Polamalu. Against Oakland, Aaron Brooks forced a ball downfield to Randy Moss. The pass fell incomplete as Moss was well covered by Marcus Trufant... and Tatupu. 50 yards down the field. As good as he is, Peterson might be even better. We finally may have someone with the speed to stay with a Jeremy Shockey or a Jason Witten.

The strength of the New England Patriot dynasty on defense were the linebackers, Bruschi/Vrabel/Johnson. We are continuing to emulate their blueprint.

Of course I've gone this far and haven't even mentioned Leroy Hill. Peterson's pass rushing abilities have gotten a lot of press, but I think Hill's better at closing the deal. He hits a hole hard and his speed is deceptive. Although he's a bit banged up, he's a great example of Ruskell's ability to find studs in later draft rounds.

Frankly, I love our depth, namely DD Lewis. Lewis might have lost his starting job, but that shouldn't be taken as an indictment of his talent or his understanding of the defense. Both he and Kevin Bentley played large roles in our manhandling of the Panthers. It is an embarrassing wealth of riches, and with such youth, we can keep it around for a while.

That's some praise... now for some criticism. Since Colin has been going on about our secondary since the moment we let Andre Dyson go, I should give him the chance to complain about it. So go for it, pal.

Colin: Let me repeat something I have been saying for two years. I love Tim Ruskell. He is the single best Seattle sports executive we have ever had in my lifetime. The moves he made to take the Seahawks to the Super Bowl last year were stunning.

So.... I'm not a hater.

HOWEVER.......

WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS RUSKELL THINKING BY LETTING DYSON GO??? I saw Ruskell being interviewed on the NFL Network and one personality asked him about rookie Kelly Jennings and the need for Jennings to make a difference in our thin secondary. Ruskell agreed, saying that it was hard because Dyson left to go sign with the Jets. My jaw dropped, because that was plain dissembling on Ruskell's part. Dyson didn't leave. Dyson was CUT. Dyson was DROPPED, BY RUSKELL, FROM THE ROSTER. Dyson was a SALARY CAP CASUALTY. Here's the thing. The Hawks biggest overall weakness last year was their secondary. See: every big play the Steelers got in the Super Bowl. We weren't that deep, and we were trusting large amounts of plays to stiffs like Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams. Ruskell then chooses to address this problem by refusing to keep paying perhaps the most consistent of our cornerbacks (when he was healthy) in Andre Dyson? How does this make sense? We had the cap room. We weren't paying him an exorbitant salary. Ruskell just plain whiffed on this one, and the Seahawks have a real weakness because of it.

By the way, it's Friday before Week 1. It's very hard for me to focus on anything but football right now. If it isn't hard for you as well.......

Gavin, thanks for letting me vent about the stupid move to dump Dyson. Inform us as to the state of our secondary. Is Trufant truly a shutdown corner? Is Boulware ready to become more consistent? The big question..... do we have a healthy free safety in Ken Hamlin?

Gavin: Well, the answer to the big question you present is a big question mark. Who really knows if Hamlin, who prides himself on his physicality, will be able to come back near the same strength. On paper the combination of Hamlin and Boulware (who I especially think might be ready to become an All-Pro contributor) is solid. Both provide solid run-stopping capabilities, the fact that our defense ranked 10th in the NFL last year in percentage of runs gievn up longer than 10 yards is due to how good our safeties are at preventing the big play. Boulware especially has a flair for the dramatic interception, such as the one where he took the ball off the receiver on the ground. That was nuts.

This is Michael Boulware's third year in the league, all in the same system. If he's not ready to take it to the next level he never will. I think it would be foolish not to expect some improvement... he is still learning the position. To answer your question about Marcus Trufant... no.

Marcus Trufant is not and will never be a true top shut down corner. For proof, we only have to look at how well we did against the top receivers we faced.

Against #1 receivers, we were 20th in the league, allowing a 12.9% DVOA. Against #2 receivers (if Trufant was playing the other side of the ball... he tends to favor it) we were 20th in the league, allowing a 1.7% DVOA.

Going back to the linebackers for a second, we were 10th against RBs out of the backfield... so that team speed strikes again.

The secondary numbers are another indictment of Kelly Herndon, who is just not a great cornerback and shouldn't be a starter on a team like ours. Can Kelly Jennings, our #1 pick, provide the help? We can't count on it in the first year. Antrell Rolle is a better corner and did jack for Arizona last season.

Overall, we have to depend on a consistent pass rush to help compensate for our problems in the secondary. Colin, how does it look?


Colin: Ah yes, back to a bright spot. You might not have heard this from one of fifty other sources, but the Hawks had the most sacks of any team last year. This was a tremendous improvement from past years, where I would watch in horror as Isaiah K. would madly dash towards the O-Line and get munched by a guard, or fullback, or the green grass.

We have one, two, three, four, five, six, yes, seven guys all capable of posting at least five sacks. Grant Wistrom, after a slow start last year, is healthy and ready to prove why we are massively overpaying him instead of paying people like Hutch and Dyson (still bitter). Bryce Fisher reminded us why Chike Okeafor was such a rip-off, as he is one of those high-motor guys who lifts an entire defense up around him. Rookie d-end Darryl Tapp is the real deal. A couple of plays he made against the Oakland starters were awesome, including one where he pursued the ball-carrier the entire width of the football field to make the tackle. We actually resigned Rocky Bernard, who somehow has a knack to get to the quarterback, one he has shown since his rookie year. LeRoy Hill, as Gavin mentioned, is perhaps our best blitzing linebacker. He has excellent timing and speed, as does Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu. It was a rare moment when I saw Tatupu not make the most out of the called blitz, even if it was just pressuring the quarterback without the sack. That doesn't even mention people like Ken Hamlin, who could rush the passer before his injury, Marcus Tubbs, Chuck Darby, and DD Lewis, all of whom should pick up a sack or two before the year is out. Solid, absolutely solid here, which will hopefully bail out our secondary from having to guard top-notch wide receivers for long periods of time: See Cardinals, Arizona.

By the way, today marks the 40th anniversary of Star Trek. Let us all live long and prosper.

Gavin, the pass rush rocks. Doesn't, per chance, the run defense also rock?

Gavin: This might be the easiest question to answer about our entire defense. I cannot see a way our run defense doesn't seriously rock. Outside of the aforementioned abilities of our linebackers and safeties, Trufant is a great tackler himself, and our defensive line does their job to clog up the lanes.

One thing I LOVE about Darryl Tapp, and I like a lot about him, is his speed coming around from the weak side on a running play. He made a few tackles against the Raiders when they didn't account for him and he tackled Lamont Jordan in the backfield.

Want some stats? Well, we ranked #1 in the NFL last season in Adjusted Line Yards (for a good explanation of this... as always... check out Football Outsiders). We "won" the battle on short yardage situations an absurd 54% of the time, good for 4th in the league. We Stuffed the opponent 27% of the time, and if we'd been up to 28% we would have ranked 5th in the league (as it was we were 8th). Marcus Tubbs especially took a big step forward last year. He might not have become the pass rusher we were hoping for, but he sure is doing well against the run. The worst games our defense had in stopping penetration was when he was hurt.

The Hawks don't allow you to go up the middle, they have too much speed to allow you around the edge, and they are good enough tacklers to prevent big plays. You cannot ask for a better combination. I am too friggin' excited to see how it turns out.

Colin, I think that just leaves the special teams. I know there isn't a lot to write about (Josh Brown is good, Ryan Plackemeier looks good, Jimmy Williams is awful) but at least you can take us home!

Colin: Yep, that's pretty much it. We just hope and pray that our special teams don't cost us games. Just fair catch the ball, Jimmy. That'll be good enough.

Bill Simmons and Petey Prisco both pick us to lose against Detroit. I love these guys.

Time to watch some NFL Network!!

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:37 PM  0 comments

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

 


We Wrote These...