The Jim Mora-led Seahawks could be a very different proposition from the Mike Holmgren era. Here are some of the changes you should expect to see when the 2009 season kicks off.
In the Zone
Seattle began to develop their zone-blocking scheme when they appointed Mike Solari last year to coach the offensive line. However, expect to see this cranked up a notch with Greg Knapp controlling the offense.
In a zone system, lineman are expected to block an area (or zone) as opposed to an individual (man scheme). The running back is given the freedom to find a hole and make a cut to get down field, something that should suit Julius Jones in particular.
Emphasis is placed on athletic, agile lineman who progress to the second level instead of the big, dominant maulers preferred in a man scheme.
Cover Two Back on the Menu
The Seahawks have used a lot of cover-two in the past but seemed to move away from the defensive scheme last year. It’ll be back on the agenda in 2009 with most of Seattle’s defensive staff schooled in the system.
New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is a former protégée of Monte Kiffin, who mastered the system with the Buccaneers. In a cover-two, the safeties will split the deep half of the field with the linebackers taking the short zone.
They could mix in some Tampa-Two also, which would see Lofa Tatupu as the Mike linebacker occasionally drop into the deep to take pressure off the safeties.
Down field threat
Greg Knapp has shown a greater tendency to go down field with his receivers than Mike Holmgren did in Seattle. We’ll have to see how the Seahawks approach this one with Matt Hasselbeck lacking the kind of arm Michael Vick and JaMarcus Russell own.
Deon Butler was drafted in the third round to add some field-stretching speed (he ran a 4.38 at the scouting combine).
Expect to see a few more deep routes inserted into the playbook, even if only to keep the offense honest. Knapp’s history as a play caller has also seen the running backs and tight end feature with greater regularity in the passing game, which could be good news for John Carlson and Julius Jones’ fantasy value.
Having said that, the fundamentals of Knapp’s offense will remain fairly similar to Holmgren’s with most changes coming merely in terminology.
Blitz back on the shelf
Last year, the Seahawks were blitz heavy. This was largely a reactionary measure to the team’s inability to create pressure when they lost Patrick Kerney to injured reserve after Week Seven.
Don’t expect to see Aaron Curry putting his hand down on the field as regularly as Julian Peterson, although the first-round pick may get some bigger pass rush duties on third down. Greater responsibility will be placed on the defensive line to create pressure from the front, freeing up the linebackers to make plays.
Duckett’s role enhanced
In the last three years, T.J. Duckett has made 165 rushing attempts. In Atlanta, including two years under Knapp’s stewardship, Duckett averaged 138 carries a year. Last year, Mike Holmgren used the 254-pounder in short yardage situations and the red zone. Expect to see a bigger role on offense next season for the 2002 first-round pick.
With Mo Morris signing for the Lions and only Julius Jones and Justin Forsett for company, Duckett will get his share of the work load. Full back Justin Griffith was signed shortly after the draft and also figures to earn a key role in the running game. He’s a solid blocker and knows Knapp’s system.