Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Cardinals Pt 2

In Part Two of our preseason back-and-forth on the Seahawks and Cardinals, Amberly Dressler of AZRedReport asks NorthwestFootball.net's Doug Farrar five questions about Jim Mora's Seattle team. How will the veterans rebound from injury, what's wrong with the defense, and how much can Aaron Curry fix it?

Amberly Dressler: The Seahawks were hit hard with injuries last year. What's the likelihood of QB Matt Hasselbeck, LT Walter Jones and DE Patrick Kerney all staying healthy for the duration of the season?

Doug Farrar: It's always dodgy when you're talking about NFL players in their early- to mid-thirties coming back from injury. All three players, so integral to any hope the Seahawks have of a division title, have serious question marks going forward. Kerney, who missed nine games in 2008 with a recurring shoulder injury, may miss all offseason activities while he recovers, and he may even start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The team would like to hope that he'll recover, but he's 32 and one must start to wonder. One thing for sure -- the pass rush isn't the same without him and that needs to change.

Jones underwent microfracture surgery in December, and that particular procedure is always risky for linemen. Most don't continue their careers for too long. The surgery reportedly was done on a non-weight-bearing part of his knee, and Jones has always been one of the strongest players in the game, but he's 35 and his effectiveness has been in question over the last two seasons.

Hasselbeck is overcoming a back injury, and everything points to a full recovery, but we'll have to wait and see. Backs are unpredictable, and Seattle's quarterbacks have taken a lot of hits behind a porous offensive line over the last few seasons.

AD: Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren displayed a picture perfect quarterback-coach relationship, how is Hasselbeck's chemistry with Jim Mora coming along? Will Hasselbeck be the same signal caller under Mora?

DF: New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has said that the system will be pretty much the same, but the terminology will change. Knapp has run variants of the same West Coast Offense that Mike Holmgren always swore by, though Knapp's is more run-heavy behind zone-blocking -- the ideal comparison would be the system run by the Super Bowl champion Broncos of the late 1990s.

Knapp and Hasselbeck have already spent extensive time together, and Knapp has said that he's incredibly impressed by Hasselbeck's ability to pick up the new twists. He's one of the smartest players in the league, and he's worked very well in an offense more complex than the one he's going into now. I think he'll be pretty much the same as long as he can stay healthy.

AD: Holmgren's final season with the Seahawks was disappointing to say the least. Mora appears to have an uphill battle before him, what are some of the biggest changes he has or will implement as head coach?

DF: First of all, disappointing 2008 or not, Holmgren left Seattle a legend. No Seahawks coach was more successful, and Mora has a great deal to live up to. He's been on staff for a few seasons already, and the perception seems to be that current team president Tim Ruskell had this succession plan in place from the time Mora was fired by the Falcons after the 2006 season. There's pressure on both Mora and Ruskell to get this right sooner than later.

In addition, this team is either old or ineffective at several key positions -- left tackle, both guard spots, center, cornerback, safety, defensive line. Though he had an offseason to remember in 2009, Ruskell has made several questionable personnel decisions in the last few years, and the Seahawks are still paying (literally and figuratively) paying for them. My sense is that while the Seahawks have a shot at a winning record and a title in a weak division, too many holes remain for true greatness at this time.

When Holmgren came to Seattle in 1999, he was a revered Super Bowl-winning coach trying to turn around years of malaise, and he had more breathing room in which to get things wrong. Mora doesn't have that luxury. People are looking at the way Holmgren was sort of cast aside and thinking, "Okay, guys -- this is how you wanted it; it had better work!"

AD: Hands down Seattle upgraded its defense with first-round selection LB Aaron Curry out of Wake Forest, how does he fit in with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill? How worried should Arizona be about this trio?

DF: Between the Combine and the draft, I interviewed about 20 different prospects for Scout.com and the Washington Post. Curry was the most impressive from a personal standpoint, and I talked to some outstanding kids. He's overcome a lot in his life, and it's just made him stronger. From a football perspective, the most impressive thing about Curry is the number of things he can do well. He's the rare linebacker who's as effective dropping back as he is rushing the passer or holding the point. And his speed for his size is astonishing.

The Curry/Tatupu/Hill Combo is the best 4-3 linebacker corps in the NFL, and I'd put it up there with the units that the Ravens and Steelers have assembled in recent years. The question is how well they'll all do with questionable support around them, but from a pure talent perspective, that's a trio that nobody wants to face.

AD: Seattle's defense was dismal last season, finishing 30th in the league in yards allowed per game. The linebackers' corps aside, how will the Seahawks climb out of that hole?

DF: I'm not entirely convinced that they will, though several moves have been made. Former Packers nose tackle Colin Cole will team with Brandon Mebane to form an estimable interior line, but the ends seem to be a bunch of hybrid guys who stop the run decently and rush the passer decently and don't do any specific thing especially well. The pass rush was woefully inconsistent last season, which led to some really scary pass coverage.

The Seahawks brought cornerback Ken Lucas back from Carolina, and he brings some much-needed height to the position, but there are major question marks at safety -- the team insists that Brian Russell is a viable starter, but the tape tells a different story. In the past, pursuit and tackling have been major problems for the defense. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will implement elements of the Tampa-2 he learned from Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. However, scheme isn't a cure-all, and several players need to step up.


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