Doug Farrar (Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET): It can’t get much easier – the Seahawks were the first team to win their division by seven games since the 1975 Los Angeles Rams. Between the St Louis Rams’ 2005 faceplant, the Cardinals’ retooling and San Francisco’s bottoming out, Seattle went though the season virtually unopposed in the division. Personally, I see the Niners as a team that will surprise and pull out a couple upsets, and the Arizona squad is stacked enough at several skill positions to make some noise. I see St. Louis with a better defense, but their first-team offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in 22 pre- and regular-season quarters in 2006. Given a slightly scrappier division and what I see as Seattle’s regression in a couple key areas - the offensive line and the running game - I don’t think it will be quite the same cakewalk. 2006 will be the last year the Seahawks have an easy time with the rest of the field – the odds should dictate that one division opponent will pull something together in a three-year period.
James Renwick: You've signed Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, and Julian Peterson, nice players all, but it doesn't seem like there was a concerted effort to bring anyone in to 'put you over the top.' How much have the Seahawks really improved since last year?
Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, right, and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck rest Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, during Seahawks NFL football practice in Kirkland, Wash. Though Jones is the best lineman in the game, Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren has challenged a few other offensive linemen with their jobs if they fail to protect Hasselbeck better than they did last Sunday in Detroit when the Lions sacked Hasselbeck five times and knocked him around more than that. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Doug Farrar: I would dispute the notion that Peterson’s signing wasn’t an impact move. He brings his ridiculous athleticism and stunning versatility to a linebacker corps that already featured second-year dynamos Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Peterson fills the biggest hole in Seattle’s defense in 2005 – the team’s inability to cover the new breed of bigger, faster tight ends. Since Seattle faces nearly all of those players (Gonzales, Shockey, Gates, Vernon Davis) in 2006, Peterson’s addition was crucial in the finishing work of a defense that could be top five in the league if the secondary can get some things sorted out.
James Renwick: How much does Edgerrin James change the way the Seahawks’ defense gameplan for the Cardinals?
Doug Farrar: It doesn’t, really – if there’s one thing this defense can do in its sleep, it’s stopping the run. I’d be more concerned with how James plans to get more than the 2.8 yards per carry he wound up with against San Francisco, and the 1 yard on seven carries he amassed in the preseason.
James Renwick: Shaun Alexander signed a new contract, he's got the Madden cover jinx, and he's 30, is his head about to explode from all the bad karma?
Doug Farrar: He turned 29 two weeks ago, but I get your point. The new contract won’t be any more of a problem for Shaun that it would be for Edge, no? I’m not a believer in Madden cover jinxes…at least I won’t be until Football Outsiders or somebody else figures out a way to prove their existence. Makes about as much sense as the Super Bowl Loser’s Curse. Shaun is running behind a line that doesn’t appear, at first glance, to match the league-best unit that dominated the NFL in 2005, but there’s enough afterburn to give him a good 1,500 yards or so this year. Alexander knows how to get yards without taking major punishment, and his great vision and cutback ability will make the difference in the end.
James Renwick: Does Mike Holmgren intend to match Marcus Trufant up against Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald specifically, or will he simply play a side and take whoever is over there?
Doug Farrar: Seattle plays a pretty straight series of Cover Two or Tampa Two sets – from a coverage standpoint it’s “pick a side and go”. They can't shade to one side because Arizona has two #1 receivers, and there’s no question they'll get their catches – especially the supernatural Fitzgerald. Seattle’s secondary, with Trufant, Kelly Herndon and rookie Kelly Jennings at corner, Ken Hamlin at free safety and Michael Boulware at strong safety, is still putting it together. This is an Arizona advantage, and I expect Dennis Green to exploit it. Seattle will most likely counter by running more nickel coverage, and relying on their great front four to checkmate the Cardinals’ offensive line. Making Kurt Warner get his throws off before he wants to will be key.