Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks-Broncos, Pt. 2

In Part 2 of our preseason preview, NorthwestFootball.net's Doug Farrar answers five questions from Michael John Schon of Broncos Update. How will Big Walt's injury affect Seattle's offense, what will that offense look like in the preseason, and can the iffy Seahawks pass defense keep Kyle Orton from bouncing back?

MJS: As the last of two-a-days winds up what's been the biggest surprise so far in camp and what's the latest word on Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones, who I understand had a second surgery and his status for the season may be in question.
 
DF: Jones had his left knee scoped on Thursday, just to go in and clean out whatever they found in there – that was the word. The initial news was "good", but you don't really want to have to go back in there after a radical procedure under any circumstances, especially with a guy weighing over 300 pounds and in his mid-thirties. You can expect him to be out at least 4-6 weeks, but between the back issues and the ongoing knee problems, I just don't know. Microfracture is something that works better on basketball players and wide receivers than it does on interior linemen – in fact the success rate with it on big guys is just about zero with Bruce Smith being the obvious exception. I can't be 100 percent sure that we'll ever see him suit up again, which means that we may have to adjust to the idea of right tackle Sean Locklear moving to the left side.

MJS: I've heard that Matt Hasselbeck's looked pretty good in camp so far and hasn't shown any lingering effects from last season's injuries. How much time can we expect to see from the first team this Saturday and how expansive a game plan do you expect Jim Mora will throw out against the Broncos somewhat questionable defense?

DF: I would expect Hasselbeck to play maybe a couple of series, maybe the entire first quarter, and that's it. As far as the game plan, Hasselbeck is still getting the fine points of a new scheme installed by new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. You'll see variants of the West Coast Offense we're familiar with – short timing passes and such – combined with the one-cut running and zone blocking Knapp brings to the team. In the preseason opener against the Chargers, Knapp showed some different formations – tight four-wides and H-back looks – that we really didn't see under Mike Holmgren. So, I'd expect the formation diversity to continue on offense.

MJS: Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett both got banged up in last week's win over the Chargers, opening the way for second-year vet Justin Forsett to step into the spotlight. Is this kid the future for Seattle's rushing attack and does he have what it takes, despite his size, to make an offensive impact this weekend and even possibly into the season?

DF: Well, I think he's part of the future – when you look at Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew, you see the potential of short backs with durability to make a difference in power running games. The Seahawks expect Jones to be the feature back to a greater of lesser degree, believing that his running style fits the zone blocking system to a "T", but Forsett's the wild card there.

MJS: After watching game film of Kyle Orton's debacle in San Francisco last week I imagine defensive coordinator Casey Bradley will be bringing the heat to try and force the turnovers in the secondary. Who poses the biggest threat for Seattle's defensively?

DF: Here's the problem with Seattle licking their chops in anticipation of Orton's follow-up performance – against San Diego, backup cornerbacks Kelly Jennings and Kevin Hobbs gave up several long plays against the Chargers' receivers. This goes back to the 2008 season, then the Seahawks gave up as many big plays in the secondary as any team in the NFL. I'm not a big fan of Josh McDaniels and the way he's handled things in Denver, but if you give him and Orton a week to work out the kinks against a pass defense that's weaker than San Francisco's, Orton may have a better game that people anticipate. The Seahawks get a break in that Brandon Marshall probably won't be playing, and Orton's deep arm isn't that good, but I'm not so sure this pass defense is going to mess up any opposing offense. As far of any specific threat, look for Nick Reed to impress and end, and first-round linebacker Aaron Curry to do some good things as he gets the hang of the defense after a small contract impasse.

MJS: Jim Mora's got a nice track record of being able to turn teams around in a remarkably short amount of time, and now entering his second season I imagine expectations in are pretty high right now. Realistically where do you see this team headed in 2009, barring any major injuries?

DF: Problem is, the injuries are already here. The Walter Jones thing leaves a great deal of uncertainty in a line that has underperformed for years, and Marcus Trufant, their best cornerback, could be out for several weeks with a back injury. Last year, I thought they were an 8-8 team beset by injuries that prevented them from winning any more than half of those. In a weak division, I'll give them 8-8, but there are long-term issues with this team. After years of iffy personnel decisions at several positions, the Seahawks have to hope that certain things shake out – they're not really in control of their own destiny from a talent perspective as they were a few years ago.


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