Saturday, May 24, 2008

Touchdown City

by: Michael Steffes

Yesterday seemed to spark a bit of a debate on the poll that has been running on the right side of the page; Who will lead the Seahawks in touchdowns? It is an interesting question and worthy of some debate.

I have compiled a chart documenting the Touchdown leaders of the Holmgren era. Lets take a look and then breakdown the case for each of this years players.

To Continue....

The first thing that we see is that in two thirds of the Holmgren years the team was led in touchdowns by a running back. That is odd considering Coaches reputation as a passing game genius. Several of those years though the back caught touchdown passes as well, with the tops being four by Alexander in 04'.

However, with the running game struggling the last two years, and with the feature back spending time injured, a wide receiver has led the team. DJack in 06', and Nate last year, both had double digit touchdowns. That hadn't happened since Holmgren's first year, when Derrick Mayes led the team with 10 TD catches.

So I guess an exercise in predicting this years TD leader comes down to choosing one of two theories....

1) Holmgren prefers to finish the drives off on the ground. It is, in essence, easier to run it in, once in close, than pass, due to the condensed space near the goal line. Or...

2) Holmgren is going back to his roots. He now has backs who can catch and pass protect, and thus we will see an offense again in which the back is featured as a receiver more, and thus a WR should grab double digit catches while the running backs share the wealth.

Only once in the Holmgren era, in 2005, when the Seahawks led the league in offense did the team have both a double digit TD running back, and receiver (Joe Jurevicius,10). However, in 2005, Shaun set the record (at the time) for touchdowns. Clearly the team could spread the wealth a bit more and have again have a both a double digit TD runner and wide out, despite possibly not being as proficient as the 05' squad.

Back to 2008. In the poll on the right, right now Julius Jones is leading. Nate Burleson is second. Lets take a look at the case of each player and see if we can't narrow down the one with a better chance to lead the team.

Julius Jones:

Reasons for... The running game figures to be much improved. With a new, pro bowl guard and new line coach, all of us expect the team to be able to run more effectively. Jones figures to be one of the recipients of this improvement. He defintely has the speed to take it to the house if he breaks free. Also, he figures to be involved in the passing game, which will give him an opportunity to be on the field even on third down situations; A bonus when the team is in red zone.

Reasons against... Not known as a tough goal line runner. The team has TJ Duckett who could be used as a goal line back despite Holmgren saying he isn't sure how to use him. Regardless, it appears to be a running back by committee and both Duckett and Morris will vulture TD's away from Jones. Also, Jones has been known to get banged up and miss games from time to time. Also, Seahawks look to be returning to their passing roots, which will keep the overall touchdown numbers of the backs down.

Nate Burleson:

Reasons for.... Nate lead the team last year. Also, this the third year in the system for him, which has been known as a magic number. He easily is the biggest threat in the open field amongst the wide receiver core. No questions about playing time this year. Still possible he could be used in return game, all though questions surround that. Seems to be improving every year, if that continues he should build on lasts years total.

Reasons against... The team was forced to throw the ball more than they wanted last year. An improved running game means less opportunity. Plus, the young guys are better suited to take away catches this year. Bobby will be playing for a contract, he will surely be in fine form. Also, an improved defense may mean more leads, and thus the running game takes priority. New tight ends could vulture some red zone scores Losing return duties will shrink his total.

Overall, I think that both of these players have equal chance to lead the team. Holmgren has a history, in Seattle, of using his running game when it works. It could also be said that TJ Duckett or Mo Morris has an opportunity too. While the running backs should be scoring more than last year, that doesn't necessarily mean less touchdowns from the passing game. I expect this team to score more. The West Coast Offense spreads the ball around. This year the team has added a position to spread the ball to, in the tight end. I think even if Nate improves, it would be hard for him to score more than 10 or 11 touchdowns. If one running back proves to be better than the rest, they could top that. Either way, having so many people who we expect to score is a good dilemma. Now...what do you think?