Scott Eklund, Seahawks.NET: Well, to be honest, I have never understood the whole “respect thing” that any team’s fans go through. “Why does so-and-so hate us so much?” or “I hate so-and-so because they dared to disrespect our team in the national press”. Win and it doesn’t matter. Ok…off my soapbox.
I think, until the Seahawks are knocked off by someone, you have to consider them the class of the NFC. Carolina was everyone’s darlings, including yours truly, heading into the season and they have really fallen on their face early this year. Seattle’s defense is better and their offense, while it isn’t clicking 100% right now, is always dangerous. Also, they have the best game-planner and play-caller at the helm. I will never doubt a team led by Matt Hasselbeck. He’s one tough S.O.B.
So you have Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and probably the Giants as the only other real contenders at this point. I think Seattle can beat any of those teams – yes they could lose to any of them as well – but until those teams knock them off, Seattle has to be considered the best in the NFC.
Ken Palmer: How much of an impact can Deion Branch have in his Seattle debut? Will they use him full-time?
Scott Eklund: Since he’s never been in a “West Coast” system, I doubt Branch will be used full-time right away, but we’ve heard that they will have some specific plans for using him in the offense for the first few weeks. I expect him to be the fourth wideout this week and to be given more and more chances throughout the rest of the season. You have to remember, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson are already here and the first two have been in the system for seven seasons. Burleson is struggling right now, but he’s Seattle’s most explosive wide receiver and Hasselbeck has already said he’s still trying to get a feel for what he can do. When they figure it all out…look out.
Branch’s full contributions may not be seen until next year when he’s had time in the system and when, I believe, Jackson won’t be with Seattle anymore.
Ken Palmer: Which back would you rather have – Shaun Alexander or Tiki Barber – and why?
Scott Eklund: That’s a tough one because I really like the way that Barber runs and his explosiveness. However, how can you not like the way that Alexander has run the past few seasons? He’s running tougher, stronger and with more purpose and he’s absolute “money in the bank” when he’s in the “red zone”.
Barber’s abilities in the passing game far exceed Alexander’s, but I just think that when Alexander gets on a roll, there isn’t a better back – including LaDanian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson – in the league.
Ken Palmer: Matt Hasselbeck is definitely a guy that flies under the national radar. Where would you rank him among the league’s top QBs?
Scott Eklund: From a cerebral standpoint, only Peyton Manning is ahead of Hasselbeck. A local legend in Seattle, former University of Washington QB Hugh Millen, who also played with several teams in the NFL, has analyzed Hasselbeck’s ability to eliminate options in the passing game because of his understanding of the offense and his ability to read defenses. He said that Hasselbeck is able to be on his fourth read by the time he hits his back foot on a five-step drop. That is amazing.
From a leadership standpoint, only Tom Brady and Steve McNair can compare to Hasselbeck with Brady probably holding a slight edge. Brady wills his teams to wins and Hasselbeck did that in last year’s playoff run, especially in the game against Washington when Alexander went down with a concussion.
Hasselbeck won’t wow you with his physical skills – he isn’t fast and he has a very average arm – but he’s smart in the way he moves around in the pocket and he has enough speed to make teams pay if the drop their linebackers too far. He’s also very accurate and, like I said earlier he knows the offense and can read defenses well. That’s a deadly combination at quarterback.
So I would have to say that I think Hasselbeck is in the top two or three in the league…depending on your qualifications.
Ken Palmer: The Giants' organization, especially GM Ernie Accorsi, has always been enamored with Julian Peterson. What are your thoughts on him so far?
Scott Eklund: “Good God, how the heck did we get this guy?” I could end it right there, but I will continue because that isn’t exactly what you were looking for.
Peterson is a freak of an athlete (4.4-speed, super-strong) and he’s a football player plain and simple. He’s also much more of a “team-guy” than I thought he was when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. I thought he was selfish, but it turns out his frustrations with his teammates and the schemes really had an impact on him.
Here in Seattle he has been nothing but a positive locker room guy and he’s backed his big payday up with his play so far – he’s also been a real threat in the pass-rush.