Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Raiders, Pt. 2

In Part Two of our four-part game preview series, Denis Savage of Silver & Black Illustrated asks Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar the first five of ten questions. Doug discusses the fundamental differences between Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace, why this just might be Andrew Walter's breakout game, and why the Seahawks' offensive line is even worse than you think it is.

Denis Savage, Publisher, Silver & Black Illustrated: Talk about the differences between Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace and perhaps the reduced gameplan that has to be implemented as a result.

Doug Farrar, Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET: Hasselbeck: Great pocket presence, superlative ability to read through his progressions, great decision-making when he has time, great touch in the short- and mid-range throws. Has a deep ball that can sail on him, but this is a yards-after-catch offense, so that doesn’t really matter. This season, Hasselbeck has been under siege due to a sub-par offensive line that has already allowed almost as many sacks as it did in the entire 2005 season. That line has also bunched up the running game (as has Shaun Alexander’s injury), and his stats should be viewed in that context.

Wallace: Decent pocket presence but absolutely frightening mobility. He might be faster than Vick in getting out of the pocket - although Vick is more agile, Seneca probably has the best straight-line speed of any NFL quarterback. More traditional tools – doesn’t have a great deal of touch in the short game (not surprising given his lack of starting reps) – he will jet balls in at top velocity that don’t need to be. Great pump fake, which fooled the Chiefs on several occasions.

The gameplan with Wallace is different, but I’d say it’s not been different enough. The Seahawks have had so much trouble running the ball this year that I’d think they’d want to use Wallace more as an option possibility – Mike Holmgren has reportedly told Seneca to open that part of his game up a little on Monday, so we’ll see what happens..


Denis Savage: Seattle’s defense is allowing quite a few yards through the air this year and the Oakland offense isn’t clicking in the passing game – who wins this battle and why?

Doug Farrar: If Moss and Porter AND Ronald Curry are playing, and Seattle’s pass rush is as inefficient as it’s been over the last few weeks … I mean, this defense made the version of Damon Huard with a groin injury look like Tom Brady. Andrew Walter has a pretty good shot. No Seattle cornerback has an interception this season, the defense has amassed only five sacks in the last two games, and the tackling technique against the Chiefs was abysmal. Those who think that Oakland’s low-powered offense will be a breeze for a Seattle defense that has played pretty horribly over the last two weeks may be in for a rude awakening.


Denis Savage: With Shaun Alexander out and perhaps the loss of Steve Hutchinson to free agency, the rushing game for Seattle hasn’t quite inspired the normal amount of fear. Are we seeing more runs up the middle of the field to keep things simple?

Doug Farrar: Football Outsiders gives us some interesting stats about where the Seahawks are running the ball, and how successfully – through seven games, Seattle is running it up the gut 32% of the time. They’re running to the left a bit more than to the right, but the trend sees the running backs going to the guards and inside. Keep in mind that this data comes from official play-by-play and doesn’t account for cutbacks, but with this line, backs haven’t had a chance to cut back before they’re set upon.

The Seahawks’ Adjusted Line Yards-per carry average of 3.03 in the Mid-Guard area is more than a full yard below the league average of 4.22, and is by far the worst in the league. The Seahawks are below league average when running the ball to all five points tracked by the official play-by-play, and the line’s ALY rating is 32nd.

Translation: It’s worse than you think.


Denis Savage: How have your rookies progressed from training camp until now? Is anyone making a big contribution, ala Lofa Tatupu of last season?

Doug Farrar: Defensive end Darryl Tapp has made an impact with two sacks in rotation (the Raiders may remember him as the guy who blew up their entire line in the preseason with six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble), and guard Rob Sims has displayed great potential. Rookie punter Ryan Plackemeier has made an impact as well, by forcing vet-happy special teams coach Bob Casullo to actually keep a player based on productivity, not familiarity.

Expecting another rookie to make the difference that Tatupu did last year is a bit much – as you have seen with great young Oakland linebacker Kirk Morrison, getting that interior defensive presence sewn up with a rookie is the exception, not the rule.


Denis Savage: Julian Peterson has seven sacks this year from his 4-3 ROLB position – how are they using him to rush the passer? Is he lining up all over the field?

Doug Farrar: He is now – earlier in the season they were using him a lot as a rushing end at the line in simple blitzes, and many of the sacks have come from there. He was getting to the quarterback very well with his blinding speed at the snap, but my concern was that the Seahawks were underutilizing his ability to tackle in space and cover tight ends. Linebacker Leroy Hill had 7.5 sacks in his rookie year, due to his ability to shoot gaps and get to the passer, and I felt that they were putting Peterson in a role that Hill could have filled more efficiently, because Hill can’t really cover.

Defensive coordinator John Marshall seems to be using Peterson in different places more of late. Peterson did cover Tony Gonzalez situationally, and I would expect that he’ll cover Antonio Gates when the Seahawks play the Chargers later in the season. Against the Raiders, they might bring him to the line more often because the pass rush against Kansas City was negligible.


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