Behind Enemy Lines: Lions/Seahawks, Part 3

In Part Three of a four-part series, keeps you behind enemy lines with the insider's perspective. Nate Caminata asks Seahawks.NET Publisher Doug Farrar the second five of ten questions that Lions fans should know the answers to as their team gets ready for Sunday's kickoff in Detroit!

Nate Caminata (Q): Seattle was recognized last year as an offensive-minded football team with an average defense. How has the acquisition of former Michigan State standout and 49er Julian Peterson improved the Seahawks defensive front seven? Are the Seahawks more well-rounded because of Peterson's addition?

Doug Farrar (A): Because of the team's offensive firepower – finishing first in points scored in 2005 – Seattle's defense was given short shrift in a couple of categories. Even before Peterson's signing, the defensive tackle rotation was possibly the best in the NFL, the ends were solid, rookie linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill played far beyond their years, and the Seahawks led the NFL in sacks. D.D. Lewis, the man Peterson replaces, could start for most NFL teams. Since Hill is a gametime decision with a shoulder injury, Lewis may indeed start.

What Peterson brings is an almost inhuman versatility – he can put his hand down at the line, perform just about any linebacker task possible and roll back into coverage as well as any ‘backer – and these attributes will take this defense from respectable to outstanding.

Is it now a more well-rounded defense with Peterson? Certainly, because of his freakish talent. But this was an underrated defense before.

Q: As a follow-up to that last question, can the Lions expect to see an attacking Seahawks defense? What defensive strategy will Seattle likely employ during the regular season with a rather young defense?

A: The Seahawks are a 4-3 squad that lives on base variations of the Cover 2 and Tampa 2 defenses. They can run the Tampa set because Tatupu is so adept in coverage. John Marshall, the team's former linebackers coach and interim coordinator last year, now has the top spot. Marshall is very adept at bringing stunts and twists at the line, disguising blitzes, and setting slightly different formations to confuse defenses. It's more of a subtle approach that the Hall of Mirrors you might get with New England or Pittsburgh, but it's proven effective.

What Seahawks fans should find captivating is that we really haven't seen what Marshall will do with Peterson – he lined him up as a rushing end pretty frequently in the preseason, but Seattle didn't show anything but "Defense 101" until the win over Oakland last week.

Q: And with first-round pick Kelly Jennings listed as a reserve, does that speak volumes about the talent in Seattle's defensive backfield?

A: Not really – what it says is that while Jennings has estimable talent and maturity (he became a long-time starter and leader at Miami, which is more a Triple-A team for the NFL than it is a college program), he is being brought along slowly so that he isn't overcoming too much failure right off the bat. Kelly Herndon will most likely start at least the first few games at left corner opposite Marcus Trufant. Seattle plays enough nickel coverage that the third corner, which Jennings will most likely be, still gets a lot of the action.

Herndon is more of a natural nickel corner – decent cover skills, good size, good tackling ability. Jennings reminds me of Andre Dyson – slightly undersized, great recovery speed, not an elite tackler by any means.

Seattle has decent depth at corner, and iffy depth at safety. But Herndon's slow going has nothing to do with the talent of the guys above him on the depth chart. He's expected to be a starter pretty soon

Q: Has the deadly combination of Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander shown any signs of slowing down heading into 2006? What do the Lions have to do defensively to at least contain the Seahawks offense?

A: Slowing down? Uhhh…no. How do you stop them? Well, you don't load the box to contain Shaun, or Matt will rip you to shreds. Conversely, backing off to counter the pass is an open invitation for Shaun to move the chains all day. This is the real strength of Seattle's offense – they don't have 10 All-Pros, but they do have 11 players who work in (mostly) perfect synchronization. The offense is based on a quick tempo – this is Mike Holmgren's mantra – and you can't get behind that. It will be interesting to see what Marinelli, one of the more highly-regarded defensive minds in the game, will bring to counter this juggernaut.

We just hope that your defensive line coach will not try to distract the Seahawks with any "sideline displays" (sorry…I had to get one in there…)

Q: After a 13-3 record and Super Bowl appearance, what does Seattle have to do to make another run to an NFC championship title? Who is viewed as their biggest stumbling block? And regardless of how the season ends up, is this likely to be Mike Holmgren's final year in Seattle?

Last question first – Holmgren signed a two-year extension in the offseason, and he may have the best team in football this year, at least on paper. I can't see him leaving after this season because so many of the stars are wrapped up. The Seahawks have many factors required for a good 3-4 year run at the top.

In my opinion, the biggest stumbling block for any championship team is the loss of depth players. Super Bowls are just as often won by the names you don't know as the Tom Bradys and Joe Montanas. Losing running back Leonard Weaver and safety Mike Green for the year to injury concerns me. Losing Joe Jurevicius to Cleveland and Marquand Manuel to Green Bay concerns me. I believe that losing too many of the guys in the middle of the depth chart is the biggest unregarded factor when looking at teams that can't repeat stellar seasons.

Having said that, if the Seahawks stay predominantly healthy and do what they did last year, it will be tough for any team to stop them in the NFC. Carolina is very strong, Chicago has a wonderful defense, we will have to respect whoever survives the NFC East bloodbath and I think Tampa Bay will be this year's Cinderella story…but there isn't a team in the conference as good from top to bottom as this one.

If the Seahawks don't beat themselves (there's a nice closing cliché…), very few opponents will get the chance.

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