Behind Enemy Lines: The Seahawks Part 3

Bert Berry vs. Walter Jones? Deion Branch for a first round pick? Are the Seahawks suffering from a post Super Bowl hangover? These questions and more are answered in hostile territory as goes Behind Enemy Lines.

James Renwick:  In recent years, there has been a tradition of the Super Bowl runner up missing the playoffs entirely the next season.  Is that something that the coaching staff has directly addressed to this team?

Doug Farrar: Mike Holmgren has discussed it with his players, but more as a point of motivation than a warning that the big bad boogeyman is coming to get them. The "Super Bowl Losers' Curse" is one of the goofier notions I've ever encountered – especially given the fact that so many seemingly reputable journalists actually seem to think it holds weight. Teams miss the playoffs for all sorts of reasons, and in the salary cap era, the roster turnover and murderous competition brought about by the constant march to parity says more about why it happens than anything "supernatural".

James Renwick:  Seattle looked, for lack of a better word, soft against the Lions last week.  Was that a matter of 'looking ahead' to stronger opponents, preseason jitters, or a hangover from being back in Detroit? 

Doug Farrar: None of the above. The Seahawks were scuttled by a few things – an offensive line that is still trying to coalesce, the best games that Detroit defensive linemen Shaun Rogers and James Hall have probably ever played (especially Rogers), and the injured hip of long-snapper J.P. Darche, which kept him from blocking with full strength on the two blocked Josh Brown field goals. Darche is now on the Seahawks' injured reserve list. Holmgren has made it pretty clear this week that any offensive lineman who performed at a sub-par level in Week One had best step it up if he doesn't want to slide down the depth chart.

James Renwick:  Is Deion Branch really worth a first-round pick?

Doug Farrar: I think you have to look at two things beyond the obvious when answering "Yes", as I will. The obvious point is that Branch has been New England's best receiver for the last three years, according to Football Outsiders head man Aaron Schatz. Schatz explains on the FOX Football Outsiders blog that Branch's value in comparison with the team's other wideouts has been significant – except for the 2003 season, it's been positively definitive. A Super Bowl MVP and the best receiver on the team that has dominated the new millennium is worth Seattle's 2007 first-round pick. Note that I didn't say ANY first-round pick.

Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell is among the most skilled executives in the league when it comes to picking great players in later rounds. In 2005, Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill were selected in the second and third rounds, respectively, and that draft was the culmination of Ruskell's history as a brilliant talent evaluator. Given Seattle's almost certain low first-round status as a playoff team, and the high possibility that Ruskell's draft acumen will continue, this particular first round pick seems to be in line with what Branch could bring to the team.

The other factor you have to consider is the effect that Branch's departure had on the Patriots – to a man, his former teammates expressed great sorrow that he was gone. The Seahawks are paying for Branch's potential as much as his past.

Now…is he worth $39 million over six years with a front-loaded deal, including a $6 million roster bonus in 2007? That remains to be seen. Based on what he's done, the answer is no.

James Renwick:  Considering the amount of concussions that went around last week, after the off-field injuries he suffered last October, is Ken Hamlin more at risk than anybody else?

Doug Farrar: It's really hard to say that he's more at risk – a fractured skull, blood clot near the brain and bruised brain tissue…well, that's an entirely different story than even the most serious concussion. Hamlin has been cleared by both his and the team's doctors, and he laid some big hits on the Lions last week. From all accounts, he's same Hamlin he always was. We can but wait and hope.

James Renwick:  We're assuming he'll play, but how will Walter Jones' injury affect him matched up against Bertrand Berry?

Doug Farrar: Jones was taken out for a brief time in the Detroit game when a defender inadvertently rolled up on the back of his legs. He was able to return and played up to his usual level. He has practiced this week and has not been listed on any injury reports. That is bad news for Berry – in the two games he played against the Seahawks last year, he wound up with 4 tackles, 2 assists and no sacks. Expect more of the same from the NFL's best offensive lineman.

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