Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fun With Rosters Part 2

by: Michael Steffes

Yesterday, you may remember, that I began a comparison between the current Seahawks squad and the 2005 Superbowl team. I am borrowing this idea from a writer whose Instant 49ers Blog I read often, Matt Miaocco. Times are a bit tough by the bay, Matt is looking to see how much the Niners have really improved since the 2-14 season on 2004. The outlook is a touch brighter up in the great Northwest, so we are looking at how this team compares to our best showing ever.

The offensive comparison stirred a good debate yesterday. Some of you agreed, others had differing opinions. That is what makes pieces like this fun. So today, we get the defense. This should be fun too. Ever since the moment the special master rubber stamped the poison pill, Tim Ruskell has started building a monster defense. To look at how it compares to 2005'.....


2005: Bryce Fisher, Rocky Bernard, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, Chuck Darby, Craig Terrill, Joe Tafoya, Rodney Bailey

2008: Patrick Kerney, Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane, Darrell Tapp, Craig Terrill, Howard Green, Marcus Tubbs, Baraka Atkins, Chris Cooper

Lets begin by separating the two types of defensive linemen. If we look at the tackles, a lot of the names remain the same. Rocky Bernard had his best season in 05', probably because Tubbs was healthy and taking on blockers. The team led the league in sacks in 05'. However, Brandon Mebane was outstanding at the end of last year and should help Bernard to have a great contract year. The starters at tackle are a push. Now in the rotation, Terrill is still there, and Tubbs in now a back up, if he is healthy. He is supposed to be healthy by training camp. Will it stay that way? If he does, I say the current team is deeper, if he doesn't I say it is a push. Darby played very well that year. Howard Green is not capable of taking his game to the level Chuck played at in 05', at least I don't think. Maybe a draft pick is.

As for the Ends... well its a totally different story. I think they have been significantly upgraded. While Fisher had a very nice year in 2005. He totaled 9.0 sacks. However, he just wasn't even close to the threat that Patrick Kerney is. While often being schemed against and double teamed, something Fisher wasn't, Kerney amassed 14.5 sacks from the same position. On the other side, Wistrom was a team leader, and one of the bigger name free agents to have signed with Hawks, but at that point he had declined. He had 4 sacks that season. While inconsistent, Tapp had 4 sacks in one game. Now heading into his third year, he projects to be far better than Wistrom was in 05' As for the backups, neither team has any impact backups at END, so hopefully, like the 05' team they make it through the season without any significant injuries. They may add to this position in the draft as well.

The ends go to the current team, and with the tackles being a push, with the possibility of being better if Tubbs contributes, I give the nod to 2008'


2005: Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, DD Lewis, Jamie Sharper, Kevin Bentley, Isiah Kacyvenski

2008: Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, Julian Peterson, DD Lewis, Will Heller, Lance Laury

No contest in my opinion, the edge goes to the current team. Lofa and Leroy were both rookies and have improved on their stellar rookie campaigns. Julian Peterson trumps anybody on the 05' team. He is a playmaker, which the 05' team just didn't have, not of the same caliber at least. Sharper was injured. Bentley was undiscovered at the time, and the current team has re-acquired DD Lewis to help with depth. 2008' for sure, with my hope that they will finally get the recognition they deserve as the BEST linebacking unit in the league.


2005: Marcus Trufant, Kelly Herndon, Andre Dyson, Jordan Babineaux, Jimmy Williams

2008: Marcus Trufant, Kelly Jennings, Josh Wilson, Jordan Babineaux, Kevin Hobbs

This analysis is a bit difficult. The current team is definitely younger at the right and nickel spots. However both of those players are highly picked guys. The 05' team had more of a veteran feel to it. While those were the last good years out of Dyson and Herndon, it still seems the nod should go to the current team. Marcus is now a pro bowler, Jennings was solid and could be looking at a breakout year. Wilson, well we just don't know, but if he struggles the team has a much improved Jordan Babineaux, who was an undrafted rookie in 05', and now has some veteran savvy. Still, we will never forget him making a name for himself in the Dallas game in 05'. Mora as DB coach has to play a part in this too, right? Nod goes to 08', but I could be convinced it is a push with a solid argument.


2005: Kenny Hamlin, Marquand Manuel, Michael Boulware, Eric Pruitt, John Howell

2008: Deon Grant, Brian Russell, Mike Green, CJ Wallace, Omare Lowe or Draftpick

This one is kind of tougher than I expected too. Hamlin exited stage right after week 6 not to return. That hurts the 05' group a bit, but Manuel played very well that year, as did Boulware. His incompetence really didn't start until 06'. However depth was a big question mark, partially because of the Hamlin injury. The 08' team has two veteran guys who improved the position dramatically in 07', but were they really better than 05' I find safety to be one of the hardest positions to evaluate. By looking at stats, in 05' the team got 2 sacks and 4 picks from the safeties. Last year the Hawks got 4 picks and 1 sack, but 2 fumble recoveries. I am going to call it a push. I think an argument could be made for the current squad's depth, but the simple fact that nobody noticed the safeties at all until Manuel went down in the Superbowl tells me they were pretty darn good.


2005: Tom Rouen, Josh Brown, Josh Scobey, Peter Warrick

2008: Ryan Plackemeier, Olindo Mare, Nate Burelson, Josh Wilson

I think that when you include the return game it makes this debate fairly easy to disect. Brown hadn't hit 4 game winners in a season at this point, but he was better than Mare projects to be, at least from distance. While the place kicker may be worse, Nate and Josh provide such a dynamic return threat that the 05' team just simply didn't have back then. Warrick was done. His best return may have been in the Superbowl, and it was called back on a phantom hold. Josh Scobey was a returner that year, who fumbled the first kickoff of the season. He was better suited as a gunner. Plackemeier and Rouen are comparable. Plack probably has a bigger upside if he can find his monster leg again. As long as the 08' team finds someone who can make a kick or two they get the nod, big time. 08' for the specialists.

I think i expected to see a dominant overtaking on the defense, but the simple fact was that the 05' defense was darn good. They led the league in sacks. This was partially because the offense was so good that people were always passing to catch up, but none the same, they were solid. Despite their excellent play in 05', the 08' projects to be better, unit by unit. A solid contribution form another D tackle, either Tubbs or a draft pick, combined with a little health and this could easily be a top 5 D. With Nate Burleson manning the return game, and I am assuming he will until they show me someone better, the return game is a consistent threat to score.

All and all, it really does project, RIGHT NOW, to be a very good team. Really what it comes down to is focus. From week 4 on, the 2005 team displayed a focus and determination that no Seahawk team since has matched. Being that it is Coach Holmgren's last year, we could see something similar this year. If we do, expect them to make some noise as they make a move through the NFC and hopefully find themselves in Tampa.