Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Bears, Part 4

In the final installment of this four-part series, Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar and's John Crist conclude their back-and-forth with five final questions from John to Doug. Where is Marcus Trufant on the list of elite cornerbacks, how does Seattle's defense work, and what has Julian Peterson done to improve it?

John Crist, Editor-in-Chief, Marcus Trufant got a lot of hype in the 2003 NFL Draft, and although he is certainly a quality player right now, what is holding him back from being the proverbial shutdown cornerback in this league?

Doug Farrar, Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET: What I’ve observed is that while he’s a superlative tackler, Trufant seems to lack the kind of straight-line or recovery speed that the finest cornerbacks possess. He’s struggled with shoulder injuries throughout his short career, and he’s played through pain, but I think he’s going to have to turn himself into an elite corner by way of study and experience – it’s going to come more from knowing the tendencies and weaknesses of the receivers he covers than the ability to physically overwhelm anyone. Trufant is a well-rounded player who does a lot of things at an above-average level, but you can’t isolate his coverage ability and say he’s in the top percentile.

John Crist: The Seattle defense isn't exactly loaded with household names, so is it their scheme that is producing so many sacks and turnovers, or are these players simply not being given the credit they deserve?

Doug Farrar: It’s about a large number of very talented players put together in a scheme that works best for everyone. When John Marshall took over the role of defensive coordinator at the beginning of last season, he added some spice to Ray Rhodes’ vanilla formations. Last year, you saw more creative blitzing and more stunts at the line – Seattle proved able to generate pressure with the front four as well as any team in the NFL. Of their league-leading 50 sacks, 32.5 came from that front four.

In the 2005 draft, the Seahawks struck gold with middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and outside ‘backer Leroy Hill. Tatupu made the defense his own – calling plays from his first minicamp and showing an unusual ability to read and exploit offensive weaknesses. Hill came up with 7.5 sacks in a highly effective rookie season. Personnel and scheme combined to provide the kind of defense that could help the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl. With the addition of linebacker Julian Peterson, there may be a little more name recognition, but many of the best defenses toil in anonymity. Great defense is a team enterprise.

John Crist: Michael Boulware was a linebacker at Florida State, a school that has produced its fair share of quality LBs, but what is it about him that allowed for such a smooth transition to safety?

Doug Farrar: Before his shoulder injury changed their plans, Florida State coaches were actually going to move Boulware to safety in his senior season. He’s a natural in the defensive backfield, with his coverage ability, 4.5 speed and 223-pound frame. The level at which he performed during the 2004 NFL Combine allayed any fears that he couldn’t pull off the switch. Four of his five rookie interceptions either saved or held games for the Seahawks, and it’s his athleticism plus his ability and willingness to learn that combine to make it all possible.

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Julian Peterson #59 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts on the field during the game against the Arizona Cardinals on September 17, 2006 at Qwest Field in Seattle Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

John Crist: What has the addition of Julian Peterson done not only for the linebackers, but for the entire defense?

Doug Farrar: Remember the old episode of “Home Improvement” when Tim Taylor put a lawnmower engine in his dishwasher, and the thing blew right through the kitchen island? That’s what Peterson’s addition did to this defense. Speed to a ridiculous degree, unparalleled agility at the linebacker position – he’s probably the most versatile defender in the league – and surprising power (he lines up as a rushing end more than you’d expect)…Seattle’s defense needed a “tiebreaker”, and Peterson provided it.

He fits so well into the system because Seattle’s scheme is predicated on speed and pursuit as opposed to incredible complex formations. Peterson is able to do many things within the shell. Positionally, he combines with Tatupu and Hill to form quite possibly the best linebacker corps in the NFL over the next few years.

John Crist: Seattle flew under the radar for a while last season before emerging as the best team in the NFC. Although we are only three weeks into the schedule, the same could be happening to Chicago this season. Do you see any similarities between the `05 Seahawks and the `06 Bears that might mean a Super Bowl run for the Monsters of the Midway?

Doug Farrar: On Tuesday, I wrote the following as a lead-in to a story: “They’re one of the NFC’s three remaining undefeated teams, and they’ve done it with an effective passing attack disguising a subpar running game, and a killer young defense. Oh…you thought we were talking about the Seahawks? Nope – these are the 2006 Chicago Bears.” Seattle has a great defense, except for a few deficits in the secondary. Sound familiar? Hasselbeck is far further along in his development than Grossman, and Chicago’s interior line is better than Seattle’s because Harris is such a monster, but the similarities are very interesting.

If the Bears are able to beat the Seahawks and set themselves apart as the NFC’s best over the next few weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes completely under the radar. Why? Because there isn’t an obvious star upon which to lavish praise. The Bears get it done as a unit, and that’s what makes them dangerous.

The Giants have shown the vulnerability of the focus on the individual in football – they’re the most frustrating combination of talent and lack of discipline you’ve ever seen. But they have the Manning kid, they have Shockey’s mouth, they have Strahan’s camera time. The Bears have the power of the collective, and Seahawks fans know exactly how far that can propel a team…whether it’s “newsworthy” or not. Top Stories