Behind Enemy Lines: Arizona/Seattle, Part III

All week,'s Seattle and Cardinals experts have been settling rumors, debunking theories and kicking up dust. It's's Doug Farrar's turn to answer's Amberly Richardson's questions in Part III of an exclusive four-part series. Which Seahawks player's divorce papers are finally finalized? Who will step-in for Marcus Tubbs? Will Seattle make it to the big show?

Click here for Part II

Amberly Richardson: What was the mood concerning the release of eight-year vet Shaun Alexander? Was it time or were players/fans pretty upset?

Doug Farrar: I would liken the situation between Alexander and the Seahawks to a couple who have been separated for a while, and the divorce papers finally come through. Alexander's release was a surprise to no one -- the only reason he was on the roster as ling as he had been was that he had a wrist injury that doctors needed to sign off on. Teams can incur serious financial penalties for releasing injured players.

After gaining 1,880 yards on the ground and being named the NFL MVP in 2005, Alexander gained a total of 1,612 yards on the ground in the next two seasons combined. The depletion of Seattle's offensive line was one reason for the decline in productivity, but Alexander's physical tools are not what they once were -- where he used to glide to a hole and shoot through it, he now hesitates and goes nowhere. His second-level burst is completely gone, and he's going to be one of the more stark reminders in recent times when you talk about just how fungible running backs can be. This is a position where you can go from the penthouse to the outsouse in a big hurry.

Alexander's future is uncertain. He's visited the Bengals and Saints, but there have been no takers yet. I believe the general sense is that he's done.

AR: What's the status on DT Marcus Tubbs, will he be ready for the regular season?

DF: Tubbs' last two seasons have been exercises in frustration. He has had surgery on both knees, and the torn right ACL he suffered in the 2007 preseason recently saw some additional cleanup surgery, which will keep the big man out of action through training camp. Tubbs is still young -- he just turned 27 in mid-May -- but it's about time to start wondering about his future. The fact that his first knee injury led to microfracture surgery has to be a serious concern. It's a procedure that is more effective for power forwards and running backs, not 320-pound defensive tackles who spend all their time pushing and getting pushed. Tubbs may be ready for the regular season, but I think the Seahawks would be foolish to count on him for anything approaching regular reps.

It's a real shame, because Tubbs may have been the NFL's best run-stopping tackle when he was healthy. The extensive breakdown can be found here, but suffice to say that he was desperately missed in 2006.

AR: How are the Seahawks preparing for his absence just in case?

DF: In 2007, rookie Brandon Mebane was a very pleasant surprise. He really solidified the middle and gave the Seahawks mush more consistency against the run. The Seahawks selected Texas A & M tackle Red Bryant in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, and that should give them a great rotation of nose or one-tech tackles to keep that interior strong.

AR: What's the biggest area of improvement Seattle needs to work on before the first snap of 2008?

DF: Special teams, probably. There's a lot of uncertainty there. Veteran kicker Josh Brown signed with the Rams, and long-snapper Jeff Robinson, who saved the day down the stretch after the horrid efforts of Derek Rackley and Boone Stutz, has basically called it a career. To replace Brown, the Seahawks signed Olindo Mare and drafted Georgia's Branson Coutu. Coutu probably has the inside track on the kicking position; that Mare missed five of 13 indoor field goals for the Saints last year doesn't inspire confidence in the open vents and strange winds of Qwest Field. The Seahawks also drafted Tyler Schmitt of San Diego State, regarded as the best at his position in this draft class. There are other question marks, especially with the receivers and the offensive line, but the special teams need to get shored up as quickly as possible.

AR: Do you think the Seahawks have another year of NFC West Champions in them? Will Mike Holmgren get sent out on a high note?

DF: Most likely. Another division win is entirely possible. The Seahawks are still the class of the NFC West, though I think the Cardinals are very strong at many positions, and the 49ers are improving in certain areas. At this point, the Rams are better left out of the equation as a competitive entity. I think the Cards have too many defensive issues, and San Francisco simply won't challenge for a playoff spot until they get a new quarterback.

When Mike Martz becomes the fourth offensive coordinator to strike out with Alex Smith, they may finally learn that. I'm less convinced of Matt Leinart's maturity than I would like to be, but I like what I've seen on the field for the most part. In the end, Seattle will win the division again, but I don't see Holmgren leaving with another Super Bowl berth. Various aspects of their offense will undermine the Seahawks just enough to keep them out of the elite. Still, there are worse things than leaving the game with the memory of a home playoff win, and Holmgren will leave Seattle with the gratitude of Seahawks Nation after a decade of service.

Click here for Part II

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