Behind Enemy Lines: Questioning the Seahawks

In the conclusion of their Vikings-Seahawks game preview, NorthwestFootball.net's Doug Farrar answers five Seahawks questions from Viking Update's Tim Yotter. Were the Vikings better off when T.J. Houshmandzadeh snubbed them, how is Seattle's offensive line holding up, and what do the Seahawks need to do this offseason to get back to the top?

Tim Yotter: In retrospect, the Vikings are probably glad they didn't get T.J. Houshmandzadeh because they might not have had the salary-cap room for Brett Favre and then not selected Percy Harvin in the draft. Housh seems to come off pretty sure of himself. How has he fit in with the team, both on the field and off?

Doug Farrar: Houshmandzadeh has been Matt Hasselbeck's most frequent and reliable target, earning his salary in a way that fellow big-ticket receiver Deion Branch never has. He's got good hands, decent after-catch speed, and he doesn't fear the tough catch over the middle. While he's been seen and heard singing the most popular receiver song – "I Don't Get the Ball Enough" – and he's displayed unhappiness on the field when he and Hasselbeck haven't connected in the way that Housh would like. If the production matches the attitude, most people will accept it. What it's hard to know is how good he could be in an offense that wasn't sputtering and inconsistent. And you have to wonder if Housh would make the same decision in picking Seattle over Minnesota, knowing what he knows now. When he made that call, Tarvaris Jackson was Minnesota's quarterback, and they didn't look like an 8-1 team on paper.

TY: Is it possible that the Seahawks could be better with Justin Forsett as their featured running back instead of Julius Jones?

DF: Quite possibly – Forsett has good inside quickness and excellent toughness for his size. The problem, as it has been since a certain left guard poison-pilled his way to the Twin Cities, is that the Seahawks haven't come close to replacing Steve Hutchinson, and their run blocking has been a disaster over the last few years. That line finds it difficult to extend drives and convert in short-yardage situations. In the last three seasons, the Seahawks have gone from straight man-blocking, to a hybrid zone look, to straight zone, and at some point, they're going to have to admit that they're putting different shades of lipstick on the same pig and go get some better linemen. Until that happens, it really doesn't matter who's running the ball.

TY: Without Walter Jones, how has the offensive line done in protecting what appears to be a fragile Matt Hasselbeck?

DF: Pass-blocking is a problem as well – the Seahawks currently rank 21st in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Sack Rate statistic, and even when Hasselbeck isn't getting sacked, he's getting hit – a lot. That doesn't look to change with left tackle Sean Locklear, still rounding into form after missing several weeks with an ankle injury, going up against Jared Allen this Sunday. Hasselbeck has been fighting injuries all year, and with the Seahawks going pass-happy by necessity, he's going to have more and more chances to get beaten up.

TY: Two of the three Seattle wins have come against putrid teams (St. Louis and Detroit). What do the Seahawks have to do against quality opponents that they haven't done to this point in order to consistently win?

DF: Primarily, they need to stop good teams from putting up rapid-fire point totals on them. The first time they faced the division-leading Cardinals this season, Kurt Warner and friends had 17 points on the board before the Seahawks could even blink. That decides your offensive game plan to a stifling degree, and the lack of a running game is also about being in holes like this. In the second Cards game, Seattle actually started with a 14-point lead, but were outscored 31-6 down the stretch. I think this has to do with many things common to mediocre teams – problems with schematic consistency and performance, a lack of mental toughness, and personnel holes that show up against teams that are better roster-builders. The simple answer to your question is that to beat quality opponents, the Seahawks are going to have to be better than they really are.

TY: What are some of the things that can give give Seahawks fans hope for a decent future?

DF: Right now, it's tough. Current team president Tim Ruskell is under considerable scrutiny from the fans and media (and hopefully from the people above him in the organization) after years of questionable decisions that have put this franchise is a pretty big tailspin. Going back to the Hutchinson fiasco, and the overpayment for Deion Branch, and the misbegotten high draft picks spent on undersized cornerbacks, and the small matter of running a future Hall-of-Fame coach in Mike Holmgren out of town in an unprofessional fashion, it's safe to say that few people believe the team is in good hands with Ruskell in charge anymore.

The Seahawks are out of playoff contention, but that doesn't mean their last seven games aren't important – quite the opposite. If the team closes 2009 with another 4-12 debacle, it's safe to say that Ruskell, who's in the last year of his current contract, won't have a good shot at an extension. If that happens, Holmgren has said that he'd be open to a reunion with the Seahawks – probably in a personnel administration capacity. Most fans would tell you that the best hope for the future is tied to Ruskell leaving town. That's pretty harsh, but Ruskell's earned the unfavorable reviews of his tenure. I believe that the Seahawks need to go in a different direction -- they can go as the Falcons did, with a talented but unknown staff, or get a franchise czar as the Dolphins did with Bill Parcells. Anyone looking at this team with an objective eye would have to agree that major changes must be made.


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