Behind Enemy Lines: Packers-Seahawks, Part 1

In Part One of our preseason preview of the Seattle-Green Bay game, Doug Farrar of answers five questions from managing editor Todd Korth. Farrar touches on the 2007 expectations for the Seahawks, Mike Holmgren, Seattle's biggest concerns on offense and defense, and camp standouts.

1. Are the Seahawks expected to defend their division title this season?
Doug Farrar:
Barring a horrific set of injuries, I don't think there's any question that the NFC West, as weak a division as it has been over the last few years, is still Seattle's to lose. There are those (like me) who believe that the 49ers may have finally caught up to the Seahawks and could challenge for the division under the right circumstances, but I think the "new kids" in San Francisco have a slight disadvantage due to the fact that the Seahawks are a slightly older team, with key players who have played together longer. There will be a time when that age is a disadvantage, but we're not there just yet.

So, while the Seahawks will have to do some serious roster turnover at the elite positions over the next two to three years to stay competitive, they're still the top dogs.

2. Is Mike Holmgren content in Seattle? Some here feel he would be the perfect fit for next team president.
Holmgren's content. He knows that he's got a team with a good chance to make a deep playoff run, and I think he'll coach through his current contract, which takes him through the 2998 season.

I've heard those opinions (I don't know if they've ever reached "rumor" status), and quite frankly, I don't understand them. Mike Holmgren as a team president? Holmgren had five years – from 1999 through 2003 – to build a team in Seattle with the dual positions of head coach and general manager. While he did bring in some very talented players – the nucleus of the offense that went to Super Bowl XL was his to an impressive degree – there were some major issues, as well. Like most geniuses, Holmgren can appear bored with the minutiae that is critical to great team-building. I always thought that he assumed his coaching brilliance would automatically lend itself to personnel acumen. That's just not the way it works.

At his heart, Mike Holmgren is a coach. That's as true when he's on the sidelines in the Super Bowl as it would be if he was back at Sacred Heart High in San Francisco in 1973, trying to get a winless team off the ground. You'll remember that Vince Lombardi made the move to the executive suite following the 1967 season, and it really didn't work out. He couldn't wait to get back to coaching. I think Holmgren's the same way – the man is many things, but he's not an executive in that sense.

3. What are the biggest areas of concern for the Seahawks on offense and defense?
The offensive line was a major question last year. I think there's been some improvement, but I'm not 100 percent sure that the Seahawks have a Super Bowl-caliber line just yet. The maturation of left guard Rob Sims and center Chris Spencer will be critical. Neither starting tackle will play against the Packers – both Walter Jones and Sean Locklear are nursing injuries and the coaches want to see what kind of depth is available.

On defense, the concerns are two – the defensive tackle rotation from a run-stopping perspective (it's basically: Marcus Tubbs recovers from microfracture surgery = good, Marcus Tubbs does not recover from microfracture surgery = bad), and the secondary.

The Seahawks brought in veteran safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell in the offseason, and they'll be directed by former Falcons head coach Jim Mora, the team's new secondary coach. However, that defensive backfield got lit up a lot last season, and I'm still a little nervous about its ability to contend with elite receivers.

4. Who is the surprise of the Seahawks' training camp thus far?
I'm going to make the mistake of answering your next question here, because the biggest surprise and the best draft pick in camp have been the same player – third-round pick Brandon Mebane.

The defensive tackle from Cal has impressed from the word go, showing elite ability to rush the passer and the potential for joining Marcus Tubbs as the team's only consistent run-stoppers on the interior line. Mebane has great technique and the perfect low center of gravity. This gives him a burst and initial hit you'd expect from a man 30 pounds heavier.

The Packers ran well against the Steelers in their preseason opener (as did the Chargers against the Seahawks), but Mebane will do everything in his power to insure that there isn't a repeat performance on either end.

5. Which Seahawks draft pick has performed the best thus far in camp?
Next to Mebane, the guy I'll be watching most through the preseason is linebacker Will Herring, a fifth-round pick from Auburn. Herring is a bit undersized for his position (though he's filling out to pass-defending linebacker dimensions), and he converted from free safety to outside linebacker before his senior year. He was under my radar despite some solid camp moments until the opener against San Diego, when he led the team in tackles and seemed to be all over the place.

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