Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks-Vikings, Part 1

In Part One of this four-part series detailing the inner workings of the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, VikingUpdate.com Publisher Tim Yotter asks Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar five questions about Steve Hutchinson, the front office, and Seattle's expanded set of receivers. Mandatory reading before Sunday's game!

Tim Yotter, Publisher, VikingUpdate.com: The return of Steve Hutchinson is easily the biggest storyline within the game. Did Seahawks fans generally place more blame on him, his agent, the Vikings or the Seahawks for losing him?

Doug Farrar, Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET: It’s taken a rather circuitous path, but I think the blame most Seattle fans now hold for this unfortunate transaction lies on the shoulders of #76 himself. The perception is that the Seahawks valued Steve, he would have received relatively equivalent money had he continued to negotiate, and his opportunity to be a vital cog in the league’s finest offensive line was just beginning. Of course, fans have also talked about Hutchinson’s agent Tom Condon and the Vikings organization, and factored them all in as loophole-loving so-and-so’s.

Fewer people will step back and blame the Seahawks’ front office, but I’m one of them.

When the value (both perceived and actual) of offensive linemen is shooting further and further through the roof on an annual basis (this was the primary subject of “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis’ recent and excellent book, “The Blind Side”), allowing the best guard in the game to hit the free market and determine his own value was an unconscionably short-sighted decision. I admire Seahawks Team President Tim Ruskell and most of the moves he has made, and that admiration leaves me all the more shocked at the cavalier attitude displayed toward this incredibly valuable player. You expect Matt Millen to pull stuff like that, not the architect of the NFC Champions.


Tim Yotter: What kind of a reception do you expect he’ll get?

Doug Farrar: It won’t be pretty, but outside of the boos he’ll get when he shoots out of the tunnel at Qwest Field, it won’t really be personal. The Seahawks’ home crowd – the “12th Man”, as it is known - is an infamously loud mob when opposing offenses are on the field. I’ll be more interested to see if any Seahawks seek him out in a friendly manner, and what might be said there. His loss is felt on the line, and I have always wondered if any of his teammates hold a grudge.


Tim Yotter:
Considering Nate Burleson hasn’t put up big numbers so far this year, do you feel like his acquisition was a case of Seattle management letting their emotions/revenge get in the way of solid financial cap management?

Doug Farrar: On the surface, it may seem that way … but as I’m sure you know, the “reverse poison pill” the Seahawks threw at the Vikings when putting together Burleson’s offer sheet was so full of loopholes and backdoor clauses, the actual deal is more of a 4-year, $15 million-ish number with very reasonable guaranteed money. Having said that, Burleson has been a disappointment. He’s dropped almost as many balls as he’s caught, and Seattle’s decision to give up their 2007 first-round draft pick for New England’s Deion Branch certainly might not have been considered so eagerly had Burleson played to the potential the Seahawks’ coaching staff saw in him.

Mike Holmgren said that he saw Burleson as a starter from the word go, but he lost that position to Branch very easily. He now finds himself in competition for table scraps with third-year receiver D.J. Hackett, who has done everything asked of him and then some. If Nate’s not careful, he could find himself in the other side of the moon in a big hurry.


Tim Yotter: What is the status of Bobby Engram’s injury, is he expected to play on Sunday and, if so, how effective do you think he can be?

Doug Farrar: According to Holmgren, who spoke about it today, Engram might have viral thyroiditis, though the diagnosis is not yet conclusive. I don’t think he’ll on the field until at least next week, when the team travels to Kansas City. The Seahawks are obviously monitoring the situation closely, and I’d expect them to be very cautious about this. He was listed as out on Wednesday’s injury report. Burleson would be the obvious choice to replace Engram in the slot, especially against his old team … but as we have discussed, there are other options being considered. Engram is a vital part of the offense, especially on third down, when short catches need to be made to extend drives.


Tim Yotter:
Has the offense changed at all with the addition of Deion Branch, and has he become the go-to receiver there in the last few weeks?

Doug Farrar: Branch does a lot of things for the Seahawks, especially with Shaun Alexander out indefinitely with a broken fourth metatarsal bone in his left foot. Unlike last year, the running game is now a secondary concern. His addition spread the field as much as it stretched the field – Branch is a deep threat who also runs great routes and doesn’t fear traffic at all. With Branch and Darrell Jackson split wide, you can’t shade one over the other, or you’re leaving short coverage on a top-level receiver. You can run the Tampa 2 that Minnesota defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin likes, but Matt Hasselbeck will use those guys to shred the seams.

Basically, he gives opposing defenses option anxiety as the final piece of the puzzle. He really became the go-to guy last Sunday against the Rams, when he caught two touchdown passes and proved to be nearly uncoverable one-on-one. He will be even better down the road as he learns the rhythms of his new offense.


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