Behind Enemy Lines: Seattle/Tampa Bay, Part 2

In Part Two of our four-part preview of the Seahawks' regular season opener against Tampa Bay, Seahawks.NET's Doug Farrar answers the first five of ten questions from Matthew Postins of How will Jerramy Stevens be received in his return to Seattle, will Shaun Alexander rebound in 2007, how much has Rob Sims answered the O-line questions, and will the Seahawks miss Darrell Jackson?

Matthew Postins: How do you think Jerramy Stevens will be received in Seattle this weekend?

Doug Farrar: Honestly, I think Stevens might be surprised at the mixed response he’ll get. While I’m sure he expects an extremely loud chorus of boos (he’s intimately familiar with the sheer volume of Qwest Field), he will probably find that for those fans who are still annoyed with him for essentially wasting his potential over five seasons, there are also those who are still on his side due to:

a.) His apparently endless athletic potential;
b.) The hope that he’ll somehow redeem himself after a decade of jackassery; and
c.) The fact that to some Washington Huskies alumni, Stevens’ past is set aside in favor of the standard “Boola-boola” thing.

These are the same people who believe that if Tank Johnson came back to the Emerald City, he’d instantly become some combination of Marcus Tubbs and Pat Boone. In the end, people are a generally forgiving lot, and I think most Seahawks fans are hoping for a solid Stevens performance in a Tampa Bay loss.

MP: How much will the departure of Darrell Jackson impact the receiving corps?

DF: Not terribly. As the relationship between the Seahawks and Jackson declined over the last three seasons, several contingency plans were set in motion. There was the acquisition of current #1 flanker Deion Branch, who will take Jackson’s place in 2007 as the lead dog. D.J. Hackett and Nate Burleson give the Seahawks one of the strongest split end rotations in the NFL. The always reliable Bobby Engram comes back for another season in the slot. Along with their linebackers, Seattle’s receiver corps is the team’s strongest group. Matt Hasselbeck misses the intuitive communication that he established with Jackson over several seasons, but Jackson’s injury history and his penchant for dropping passes contradicted the positive aspects of his talent.

MP: By his standards, Shaun Alexander had a down year. Will this be a bounce-back year for him, or are we beginning to see the beginning a downward trend in his numbers?

DF: I think that Alexander will rebound to something between his MVP season of 2005 and his disastrous 2006, when he missed six games due to injury and ran behind an offensive line for which the word “patchwork” would have been a compliment. I’d expect about 1,200-1,300 yards, maybe 15 touchdowns tops. He can’t really catch the ball well, and the Seahawks have expressed a desire to throw to their backs more often this season. This will cut down on his reps, because every other back can catch the ball, and the Seahawks recently acquired third-down back Alvin Pearman from Jacksonville for that very reason.

Alexander just turned 30, and while he may believe that “it’s the new 20”, the history of running backs who even survive to his age isn’t terribly hopeful, especially when there are still line questions and Shaun himself has become a bit of a one-trick pony. Is it the beginning of the end? I’d say so. However, he was good enough in his prime to make the downhill slide fairly productive under the right circumstances.

MP: A year after Steve Hutchinson’s departure, are the Seahawks more or less comfortable at left guard?

DF: After a very difficult early transitional period, the Seahawks discovered what turned out to be a whale of a pick in Ohio State rookie guard Rob Sims, Acquired in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, Sims wasn’t expected to do anything more than learn the plays and mop up in garbage time. But when “garbage time” began to signify pretty much every time that line was on the field, Sims stepped in and really impressed. Seattle’s rushing attack was never so good as when he shoved his way into the rotation, and he started the final five games of Seattle’s season at left guard – three in the regular season, and two close playoff games.

Sims isn’t on Hutchinson’s level – nobody but Alan Faneca could realistically make that claim – but he is what Seattle needs now in that he’s a mauling run-blocker with a mean streak and the ability to learn more advanced pass-blocking concepts. Considering his anonymous pre-draft status, Sims has a very bright future.

MP: Can you update the status of Patrick Kerney and how’s he fit into the scheme in Seattle at defensive end?

DF: It’s tough to say just yet. We haven’t seen the exact stunts and blitzes that the Seahawks have been practicing and will presumably unleash in their regular season opener, so Kerney’s attributes – his relentless motor and ability to explode through blockers on the way to the quarterback – haven’t really been on display through the preseason schemes. Second-year end Darryl Tapp, who will see a lot of time opposite Kerney, was the most impressive pass rusher through the preseason.

Kerney will fit in the scheme just fine. He’s coming from one fairly simple 4-3 defense in which he just teed off on the quarterback to another. I don’t think he’ll find the Atlanta-Seattle transition too difficult.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a contributing author to Pro Top Stories