Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Cardinals Pt 4

In the final episode of our preseason preview, Doug Farrar of NorthwestFootball.net answers five final questions from Amberly Dressler of AZRedReport.com. How will Greg Knapp's new offense translate, where does T.J. Houshmandzadeh fit in, and how should the NFC West shake out this year?

Amberly Dressler: On the other side of the ball, will new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp truly establish a run-first culture in Seattle? How plausible is his goal?

Doug Farrar: He'll start with the zone-blocking he learned from o-line guru Alex Gibbs in Atlanta, and that should help. Knapp's Falcons offenses paced the league in rushing and he gets a pass for having his duties taken away from him last season in the circus that was Oakland. Knapp prefers multiple backs who perform different roles -- he wants the one-cut speedster (Julius Jones), and the inside pounder (T.J. Duckett). I'd estimate that Jones will get 250-300 carries, while Duckett should be in line for over 100. Justin Forsett will likely get any overspill. Knapp's goal is to register 500 carries, but to do that, the Seahawks will have to be playing with the lead. Most of the time. Let's hope that happens, but I think it'll wind up being more of an even percentage of run and pass.

AD: Matt Hasselbeck finally has a deep threat in WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. What should the Cardinals' secondary expect out of that duo?

DF: I wouldn't really call Houshmandzadeh a deep threat -- think of him more like Anquan Boldin without quite as much after-catch physicality. You'll see him in the slot quite often, and outside occasionally. He's a very solid after-catch guy and an excellent downfield blocker. What Houshmandzadeh provides above all is consistency -- he's caught at least 73 passes every season since 2004, increasing his value as Chad Johnson has declined and the Cincinnati offense has fallen into disrepair.

The deep threat you're looking for is third-round pick Deon Butler, Penn State's all-time leading receiver. He's the guy who ran a 4.38-40 at the Combine and averaged over 15 yards per catch at the collegiate level. The coaching staff is very high on Butler, and he could have the kind of impact that Steve Breaston has had for the Cardinals.

AD: Besides Aaron Curry, are there any rookies who should make an immediate impact?

DF: Butler's a shoo-in to do some damage. The other guy to watch out for is second-round pick Max Unger, the center from Oregon. He's a very athletic lineman with the ability to play all along the line -- he played left guard in his first minicamp and looked very solid -- and with Seattle's line issued, Unger has a very good chance of making an impact sooner than later.

AD: The Cardinals went 8-8 in Ken Whisenhunt's first year up to bat. In his sophomore campaign he took Arizona to the Super Bowl. What do you expect for Mora's first two years?

DF: There could be a similar ride if the front office makes the same kinds of smart moves that Rod Graves has in Arizona over the last few seasons. I see the Seahawks as an 8-8 team at root, with a 10-11 win upside if everything goes just right. If there's one thing the Cardinals reinforced last season, it's that it doesn't matter how you get to and through the playoffs -- just how you do when you get there. The 2007 Giants would agree.

Sooner than later, they're going to have to deal with the quarterback issue, which they can do next season with two first-round draft picks and a very deep pool of talent. A marquee running back will be a necessity if the Seahawks are to take the next step -- unlike the Cards, the Seahawks aren't set up to run three-step-drop, no-huddle stuff all season. There's major work to be done in the short and long term, but things appear to be in the right track.

AD: From where you are sitting, how will the NFC West pan out?

DF: The Rams are … well, the Rams. When you allow 233 more points than you score, the rebuild is major. The 49ers went 7-9 last year without a quarterback, which would be encouraging if they had a quarterback now. I think that Mike Singletary will make a real difference with that team over time, but they're not in the playoff zone just yet.

I think the division will come down to the Cardinals and Seahawks. There's no way the Seahawks won't be better than their 4-12 record in 2008 -- sheer injury luck regression should be worth 2-3 games. The Cardinals seem to be morphing into a power running team over time, and though there's more pure talent on Ken Whisenhunt's staff, the Seahawks could catch them sleeping and return to the top of the division. In any case, I don't see the best NFC West team finishing better than 10-6 -- this could be the worst division outside of the AFC West in 2009.


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