Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots-Seahawks II

Longtime Seahawks writer Doug Farrar continues to share his insights into this week's Patriots opponent. In part 2 of this series we find out more about Seattle's offense: The Deion Branch trade, How Matt Hasselbeck is doing, How personnel losses are affecting the Seahawks and more...

We catch up with Seahawks beat writer Doug Farrar for part 2 of this three part series. Here are Doug's insights into the Seahawks offense. If you missed Part 1, you can read it (here)

Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks Part 2 (Offense)

JS: Since the Patriots let WR Deion Branch leave via a trade that Branch's agent orchestrated (read forced), the Patriots have done wonders with their passing game. Despite Brady's protests, New England thrived after unloading Branch. How has the former Patriots receiver done in Seattle, and has he lived up to the value the Seahawks thought they were getting when they gave up a first round pick for him?

DF: Has he lived up to the value? Absolutely not. It wasn't just the first-round draft pick they gave up for him; it was the six-year, $39 million contract they subsequently signed him to. That was close enough to Marvin Harrison/T.O. money that fans were right to expect serious production right off the bat, but it didn't happen. It took Branch time to adjust to the West Coast offense, he's suffered some injuries, and aside from the occasional highlight game, he hasn't come close to fulfilling what was basically a stupid deal from Seattle's standpoint when it happened.

The thought process behind it, from team president Tim Ruskell's side, was that the draft is a crapshoot, and anytime you can get someone like Branch who is a guaranteed front-line starter for a first-round pick, you should do so. A few issues with that philosophy: First, Branch had never proven himself to be a front-line, All-Pro-level starter. Second, they basically gave him high first-round quarterback money from a salary cap perspective. Third, that first round pick was desperately needed when the Seahawks had to address size and power issues on their offensive and defensive lines. I hated the trade from the moment it went down, and it was my first inkling that Ruskell may not be the personnel genius he was cracked up to be. Other indications were quick in coming.

JS: The Seahawks offense seems a bit stagnant. What is the biggest factor holding the team back?

DF: Injuries, and the Ruskell personnel decisions that have prevented an aging offense from re-tooling and developing new young talent. In 2008, an ungodly number of receivers hit the I.R. list early, Matt Hasselbeck is hurt and may not play on Sunday, and the Patriots will miss the center and left side of Seattle's starting offensive line.

In the long term, there just seems to be a directionlessness to the way this front office acquires offensive talent. The 2008 draft was the most stocked it had ever been at two positions: halfbacks and offensive tackles. That almost guarantees a bargain, pick-wise, because guys are going to drop. Yet Ruskell didn't draft anyone at either position.

Deion Branch, hasn't lived up to his contract in Seattle according to Farrar.

JS: Who was more important to the Seahawks offense, Koren Robinson (When healthy), Steve Hutchinson or Shaun Alexander? Who is filling those shoes now and how have they done?

DF: Hutchinson. No question. The offense has never been the same since his departure. It had been a hodge-podge of players trying to replace him through the 2006 and 2007 seasons. The Seahawks brought in veteran guard Mike Wahle before the 2008 season, and aside from the occasional penalty at the worst possible time, he did pretty well before landing on injured reserve a few days ago. He will be 32 next season, and the Seahawks are going to have to change their thought process on the importance of the offensive line pretty soon here. When Mike Holmgren had more authority, it was a priority. Now, it's an afterthought, and wining teams don't generally have afterthought offensive lines.

JS: Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is a New England native who has family roots with the Patriots (His dad Don played for New England), so some people here think he's used to bad weather. How has Hasselbeck's season gone this year, and has anything in particular affected his performance, weather, injury or other?

DF: He's not a quarterback who's especially affected by weather; most of what he throws is short enough that the elements won't really make a difference. This year, he's been struggling with injuries all season, the depleted receiver corps hasn't helped, and Seattle's pass blocking has been a problem for quite a while. Hasselbeck probably still has a few good years left ahead of him at age 33, but he'll need a better offense around him. Ruskell hasn't done him any favors in that regard, and with Mike Holmgren leaving after this season, the man who made him an NFL quarterback - his sounding board and confidante - won't be there anymore.

If You missed Part 1 (click here), Look for 3 Sunday

For more of Doug Farrar's analysis check out his work at Doug Farrar is a staff writer for Football Outsiders, a panelist for the Washington Post, and a contributor to the Seattle Times.

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