DF: The first thing new head coach Jim Mora said after the win was that he didn't want the Seahawks letting down at all -- that he expects more. And while it's an expected soundbite, one thing Mora is very good at is keeping the intensity level up. The offense is confident because Matt Hasselbeck is back and injury-free, and the defense has benefitted from a simplified scheme that allows players to fly to the ball. Still, they know that they're facing the team that took the NFC West away from them last year, so I don't believe there will be any letup.
AD: Matt Hasselbeck made his return last week against the Jaguars. Will he be able to stay healthy, and is the entire season riding on his ability to suit up?
DF: Not the entire season -- I think Seneca Wallace got a bit of a bad rap in Hasselbeck's absence -- but there's no doubt that this offense perks up considerably when he's in there. Hasselbeck knows the offense inside and out, and his ability to make reads under pressure and connect with multiple receivers means that the offense can really flourish.
AD: What were Seneca Wallace's biggest struggles during the Hasselbeck's two-week absence? Did he excel in any areas?
DF: As I intimated in the previous answer, Wallace tends to balk a bit under pressure and will fail to progress through his reads. He's a shorter quarterback, so he needs time and clear lanes to throw, and his mobility is generally an advantage. My impression is that he sometimes fails to use his incredible running speed because he's so intent on being a pocket passer. I don't know if that's in his head, or a coaching point he's trying to stick to, but there are enough times I've seen his pass up an open rushing lane that I wonder what's going on.
Wallace does have a better deep ball than Hasselbeck does, and he's learned that not every deep throw has to, or should, zoom upfield at 500 miles per hour. He's varied his velocity, and that makes him better with downfield stuff.
AD: Edgerrin James received the hero's welcome when the Seahawks visited the Colts. He was never able to re-live his glory days in the desert but was a big part of the Cardinals organization as well. How is he adjusting in Seattle? And what situations will we see him in on Sunday?
DF: James seems to be adjusting fine to life in a rotation -- he knows he's never going to be the Edge of old. The Seahawks featured him more often when they played the Colts, so I wonder is he won't see more reps against the Cards as well. That said, the Seahawks are aware that the Arizona pass defense is as bad as the run defense is good, so the gameplan should reflect that.
AD: Both the Seahawks and the Cardinals have to play catch up to the 49ers in the NFC West. The 49ers are 3-0 in the vision, while the Cardinals suffered one division loss at the hands of the 49ers. The Seahawks are 1-1 with a loss to the 49ers and a win over the Rams. That said, Sunday's game is very important for both teams. What will be the Seahawks keys to success on Sunday and what could be their downfall?
DF: They need to get the screen game going, to make Arizona's new focus on defensive gap control work against them. Short passes with yards after catch will be very important. On the other side of the ball, it will be the usual struggle -- how can Seattle's smaller cornerbacks deal with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? The Seahawks must keep Arizona's currently muted running game under wraps, and most importantly, they must pressure Kurt Warner ceaselessly. That's the real key to the game. For whatever reason, Warner is not the same quarterback he was last year, and the Seahawks must take advantage of that to win.
AD: First-round pick OLB Aaron Curry seems to have hit the ground running for Seattle. What areas has he shined in and what does he still need to improve on?
DF: First of all, Curry's speed in pursuit is almost frightening. Frankly, it's not fair that a guy with his size to have his speed -- he looks like a defensive end and runs like a safety. And when he gets to the ballcarrier, that's pretty much it -- play's over. Whatever he hits, goes down. He did not rush the passer very much in college, but he's become very good at it in the NFL -- not terrible surprising given his skill set. If there's one thing Curry needs to develop, it's something that plagued him at Wake Forest -- the ability to discern playfakes and eye fanes from quarterbacks and stay in position. He's getting better at it. He might take a step or two out of position where he may have taken three last year, and he's so quick, he can recover from any mistakes. Overall, he's been a tremendous addition to Seattle's defense, and people who have been watching this team for decades wonder if he might wind up as the defemsive equivalent of Walter Jones -- the defensive player who defines the franchise.
AD: Besides Curry, which rookies have stepped up to the plate and hit it out of the park so far this year?
DF: Lineman Max Unger has played well, and receiver Deon Butler has shown good speed when he's in there, but Curry's been the real standout. If Deion Branch keeps disappointing at his spot in the receiver rotation, you might see more of Butler down the stretch. And you might see him in four-receiver sets if the Seahawks go that way against the Cardinals.
AD: The Seahawks have a bye following their game with the Cardinals. Is this a good time for the bye? What areas will the Seahawks need to address during the break?
DF: Injuries, first and foremost. If the Seahawks can get Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill back for the stretch run, it will greatly help the defense. And getting some king of practice continuity along the offensive line will help. Mainly, it'll be just about the balance between keeping the players fresh and healthy, and making sure no intensity is lost.
AD: What's the deal with the Seahawks' at offensive tackle? Who should the Cardinals expect to suit up at that position?
DF: The Seahawks recently signed veteran Damion McIntosh as a stopgap, but we're expectiung Kyle Williams to start at left tackle. Walter Jones is out with knee and back issues, Sean Locklear has a high ankle sprain, and third-stringer Brandon Frye, who had been playing well, was put on injured reserve this week. Williams has been bouncing up and down the practice squad, and he's been that level of player, so I'd expect the Cards to take advantage with a few side blitzes or overloads on Sunday.
AD: If you were a betting man, who would you take for Sunday's game and why?
DF: Right now, I'd say these two teams are pretty evenly matched -- slightly disappointed with their records and very much in need of their wins last Sunday. I tend to side with the Seahawks in this one for three reasons -- the defense's increased capacity for quarterback pressure, the fact that the Seahawks don't have to play a run-heavy scheme against Arizona's defense, and the impact of home-field advantage. I think it'll be a tight game, with the Seahawks squeaking out a win with a score in the low 20s.