Friday, November 7, 2008

Hawks Don't Match Up Well with Dolphins

by: Michael Steffes

The Seahawks officially start the second half of their season on Sunday. Their opponent, the Miami Dolphins, present a difficult test for the Hawks. Here are some of the things the Hawks will need to do if they hope to pull off an upset:

Shake off the East Coast Road Woes. Another East Coast trip, and another week wondering if the Hawks will ever show up at 10am Pacific. Them playing well in that time slot has been a rarity over the last few years. However, with the Hawks trouble on offense, they can ill afford a slow start from which they will have to recover. The defense will need to be in top form from the opening kick, and the offense can't afford to start the game with a series of 3-and-outs. That would be too much to overcome.

Throw the ball effectively. The Dolphins are a physical team, and they do an excellent job of stopping the run, even against teams who have effective passing attacks. The Denver game last week is a good example. The Hawks have yet to prove they have a threatening passing attack, so the Dolphins will likely challenge the Hawks to beat them through the air. This has been the downfall of the Hawks in recent weeks. Wallace can get the ball out of his hands, but can the receivers get separation and make plays? If they can, they should be able to move the ball against the Dolphins' fairly inexperienced secondary. However, they also have a good pass rush, so the Hawks need to stay out of obvious passing downs.

Get to the QB. Another thing that doesn't bode well for the Seahawks is that their pass rush has been almost no existent on the road, especially in the Eastern Time Zone. The problem is that Chad Pennington is one of the more accurate passers in the game, and given enough time he will pick apart the Hawks' struggling secondary. The Seahawks will likely try to create pressure by bringing blitzers, but if they don't begin to disguise them better and have players get home, we are likely to see more of the same with the Dolphins exploiting one-on-one matchups in the passing game. One positive here is that the Dolphins have struggled to convert third-and-long situations this year, so forcing them into obvious third down passing situations puts them in a spot of weakness. So far, the Hawks have allowed a lot of offenses to improve their stats on third downs--if they want to win, they can't let that happen this week.

Utilize the Short Passing Game. In San Francisco, the Hawks excelled by using the short passing game and then getting some yards after the catch. They will need to do this again to keep the chains moving. Fans were led to believe that part of the change in running backs was to help bring back a more traditional WCO where the backs caught a lot of passes. However, with the exception of the San Francisco game, the backs have been under-utilized in the passing game. Last week Seneca continually flipped the ball underhand to Owen Schmitt, and he was lucky he didn't get burned. Hopefully, he doesn't take those same chances while on the road. The Hawks cannot afford to turn the ball over.