Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Housh vs. NFC

by: Chris Sullivan

I was looking at Houshmandzadeh's 2008 stats yesterday and something jumped out at me -- more than 40% of his yards came against the four NFC opponents he faced (NFC East). Check out this little box o' stats showing Housh vs. the NFC compared to his season as a whole (note the festive colors? Oooooooh):
As you can see, Housh played in 4 of his 13 games against the NFC (about 31%), so one might expect him to be grabbing about 30% of his stats in those games (though the Giants and Eagles represent a slightly bigger challenge than the Browns, so perhaps even less heh). That was not the case. Pretty exciting huh (since, y'know, we're in the NFC and junk)? Well, yes and no. To get a better picture, lets look at Ocho Cinco's stats for the same four games:

Now, admittedly, both of these WRs had bad years, especially Sloucho Stinko. Looking at these games though, it would appear that the secondaries focused on stopping the big play via Chad Johnson and were willing to just play contain on Houshmandzadeh. You might recall in the 2007 game against Seattle, this is precisely what we tried to do to Housh and 8-5 (with, uh, limited success -- they both had over 130 recieving yards. Oops).

What does this mean as we approach 2008? Well, it's hard to say. As pretty much everyone knows intuitively, the play of the quarterback greatly affects the stats of every other player on the field, most obviously the WRs. So, check that box, how Matt plays matters. Got it. The other key will be to see how Knapp is willing to us our WRs. Look for Butler to play the deep threat (though he'll need to be able to stretch the field AND prove he can catch, not just run real fast real far). Branch, Burleson and Housh will probably be the 1-3, but will Knapp be rigid in their alignment? Mora has made it sound like that won't be the case.

The Seahawks are paying Houshmandzadeh #1 WR money. That means he had better put up #1 WR stats (or at least, performance, stats aren't everything). When you think #1 you think L-Fitz, Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, T.O., and so on -- guys who are physical, can stretch the field, and can make the big catch in the corner of the endzone when the team needs it. I don't see Housh being used quite that way. I think he can put up #1 numbers from any of the WR positions, and I think he will move around. He'll get some time at flanker, split and slot depending on how the opponents defense has game planned. Are you going to leave your LB (or nickelback) to cover Housh in the slot? I think not. If we are willing and able to switch up our offensive looks, it should neutralize some of the attacking nature of the opponent.

I'm optimistic, of course (that's what July is all about). Still, in the past we have seen and heard of Greg Knapp refusing to bend, sticking to the same old run run pass, and so forth. The Seahawks will not thrive if they run the offense that the Raiders ran the last two years or the Falcons ran before that. Is Knapp up to the task of using his players properly, now that he actually has some players to use? We'll be finding out very soon.