Thursday, May 15, 2008

Seahawks Ahead of the Curve?

by: Michael Steffes

There was a very interesting article today at SI.Com. Mike Lombardi takes a look as some of the "myths" of the pro game that exist, and more to the point, annoy him.

The first of these strongly relates to the Hawks, and in fact they make an appearance in the article. Lombardi argues that running the ball, isn't as important in the first half as announcers would have you believe. The teams that used the run as their primary weapon last year were not playing in January. The teams that passed the ball first, and ran later were the big winners. Seattle was first on this list. The Hawks ranked 31st in first half rushing attempts, but 13th in second half rushing attempts. Green Bay, Dallas, Indy, and New England followed this pattern as well.

So what can this tell us about the Hawks offseason...

First off, maybe a lot of us have been looking at the Hawks offseason all wrong. Maybe this team was never after a "feature" back. It makes sense. If Julius Jones is really the asset in the passing game we are lead to believe, then the Hawks may be looking to continue with last years system. By the way, Lombardi calls the this the basic principle of the West Coast Philosophy. Something the Hawks got away from in Shaun's heyday.

Think of it this way. Why did the Cowboys use JJ in the first half of most of their games? Because they too, like the Hawks, were passing to build a lead(27th in the 1st, 11th in the 2nd). Then Marion Barber III, the closer, would rack up carries and dish out punishment once the lead was established. Can TJ Duckett be our closer? Maybe that is why Holmgren is shooting down the idea that he is strictly a third down back. Maybe Duckett is the fourth quarter back?

When you start to think back the Seahawks season, there weren't many games the team wasn't in till the end. Pittsburgh and NO are the only two games I can think of where the Seahawks needed to truly come from behind. Almost all the other losses could be directly linked to an inability to close a team out on the ground. This was because the team couldn't convert those short yardage downs. However, if we take a more macro view, what if they problem could be solved by simply not getting in those situations by using a bruising set of rotating runners once the passing game has put the Hawks ahead. Seems like they could be setting up that scenario. Bruising lead blocking and bigger backs are great, but that makes Jones and Weaver even more important. They are the first half crew who are in there to make the offense hum, and to put points up. Schmitt and Duckett should be an intimidating closing crew. It will be interesting to see if this is how the coaching staff approaches things.

The other side of this, Lombardi states, is that a defense on these teams should be set up to rush the passer and force the chasing team to make mistakes. Whose defense does that sound like? The Hawks are a team built to follow this model. It makes sense. It is based around the teachings of Bill Walsh. In fact, I would argue that he Hawks and Cowboys are the two teams that will could do this the best. The both have aggressive sack happy defenses, featuring multiple pass rushers, with playmakers in the secondary. Both teams are also built to score early, and run late. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for turkey day or what?

Also in this article, Lombardi talks about the myth of the shutdown corner. Lombardi talks about the pass rush making the secondary. This is something else that is clearly being noticed by the Seahawks. In fact, they may have invested TOO much in their secondary. The pass rush made Marcus a lot of money, I hope he takes the big boys out to dinner once and a while. He notes teams like San Francisco, that made a big mistake by paying Clements all that money. Teams like San Fran have bumped up the market for corners by not understanding what makes them good. Now they have invested huge money in an end, however they paid Justin Smith. He had 2 sacks last year. Obviously, they don't get it and will probably by trying to figure out what when wrong again next year.

Finally, this article brings up the idea that a missed field goal is actually a turnover. Huh. Never thought of it that way, but it is true. No points, and the other team actually gains yardage from the last spot. This is going to be something important to watch this year. Why? Well, the Seahawks actually missed a lot of field goals recently. If we count those as turnovers, then the Hawks have a great chance to improve through better special teams. Brown actually had a below average percentage last year. Of course Mare's was worse, but... The moral here is that if the Hawks shore up the kicking game, even if just a bit, they would essentially be eliminating turnovers. If you don't buy it, think back to Superbowl XL, as painful as it is. How did those missed field goals effect the game? There was bad officiating to be sure, but the Hawks could have overcome. It would of helped had they converted those points in the first half though, right.