Thursday, July 16, 2009

Speculation on T. Jones for D. Branch

by: Mike Parker

By now, the Seahawks' unproven backfield is no secret.

Julius Jones got off to an impressive start last year, but saw both a sharp drop in production and an increase in benchwarming as the year progressed. Holmgren stuck to a very one-dimensional approach with Mo Morris being the primary back, with TJ Duckett being brought out only to shoulder his way into short-yardage gains. Justin Forsett was sadly all but forgotten after being re-acquired from the Colts.

Evan Silva over at Rotoworld posted an NFC West minicamp review today, and, as predicted, makes some gloomy predictions about the Seahawks' 2009 season. Among them? The inefficiency of the passing game, due to Greg Knapp's infamous run-first approach (something he's already said he's not sold on doing again), which Silva says will particularly affect TJ Houshmandzadeh's numbers. He projects 88/940/5 for Housh at season's end, which I think is ridiculously low for a player like Housh, and also for what Ruskell is paying him. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think five touchdowns a year for $40 million really pays out. I'd say the team wants to realistically see something like 90/1,100/10.

But even though Silva underestimates Housh, he points out that Deion Branch could be in trouble. Remember those trade rumors we heard about Branch for Thomas Jones? Well...

Deion Branch still has his roster spot, even though he lost his position to Houshmandzadeh and didn't practice all spring while recovering from knee surgery. If GM Tim Ruskell gets serious about Thomas Jones, a straight-up swap sending Branch to the Jets makes too much sense...
I can't see this happening. Branch may have been a disappointment for the exchange of a first-round pick, but when he's actually healthy, he shows up. He didn't break 100 yards last season, much to everyone's chagrin, but he did put up decent numbers against his former team, the Patriots -- four catches, 88 yards and 2 TDs. Plus, he had another two-touchdown game at Arizona in the final game of the season. What I'm still hesitant to believe is if he can continue this streak.

Even still, would Ruskell really risk subtracting from what could be an elite receiving unit to add a running back who would have an uncertain role? Would adding Thomas Jones mean letting him fight it out in camp with his brother and TJ Duckett? Or does the team simply have too much invested in Branch to trade him away, even after a spell of injuries?