Much has been made about the Seattle Seahawks off-season improvements in many different areas, but the biggest improvement you could be seeing is in an area where many have been disappointed that Seattle did not sign any new talent, sort of.
Last season, the Seahawks (4-12) much maligned running game was an on-again, off-again sort of affair that left most Seahawks fans wondering how they had won any games at all.
The less than adequate triumvirate of Morris, Jones, and Duckett, combined for 1444 yards and ten touchdowns. Take out Duckett and Morris and Jones (supposedly the Hawk’s one-two punch) combined for 1,272 yards (admittedly a respectable 4.4 yards per carry but only 18.1 carries per game) and only two touchdowns.
After the season, the media, coaching staff, and fans blamed everyone but Obama for the unimpressive running performance. It was all the injuries. It was the poor quality of the offensive line or the runners themselves. It was Mike Holmgren in a lame duck season.
Running Back quickly became a key acquisition in the off season. And the Hawks got their man.
No, Greg Knapp, is not going to wow anyone with his “jukes” (thank goodness). But the new Offensive Coordinator does come in with some pretty impressive statistics of his own.
Over the last eight years, Greg Knapp has made a business of running all over everyone. So how has Knapp been so successful? Zone Blocking.
For those of you unfamiliar with Zone blocking, the basic idea is to make the defensive tackles (which have been growing in girth over the years in the NFL) run instead of penetrate.
The offensive line is looking for the defensive line to penetrate because the offensive linemen are looking to cut off the “backside pursuit” which consists of linebackers and defensive ends coming from their positions to stop a would be runner from reaching the second level.
“[The defensive tackles] are probably the most essential position as far as going against a zone-blocking scheme,” recent DT signee Colin Cole said in a recent interview, “Against zone blocking, you’ve got to keep up with them, rather than penetrate.”
Coach Knapp, who led the league in rushing three seasons in a row with new Seattle head coach Jim Mora in Atlanta says there are two things to look for in a zone blocking scheme:
Lineman will be working together more effectively
“Guards and tackles working together. Tackles and tight end working together, and guards and center,” Knapp said.
With the two blockers working together at the point of attack, it allows an easier job for the linemen involved and it makes the defense guess who they are going to be up against on every down.
Running Backs are going to hit the hole quicker and more efficiently
“We’re going to emphasize, ‘You’re taking this path, and you’ve got one cut to do downhill; one cut, bounce outside,” Knapp said.
No more handing the ball to Julius Jones and hoping that he makes something out of nothing.
“A little less dance, a little more decisiveness.”
The point being that to reach the point of attack quickly and cut down on those wonderful third-and-longs that Seahawks fans got so used to last year—The Hawks were 30th in the league on 3rd down% (31.3%).
The only question with Knapp is how he will handle the passing offense. The last five QB’s he has worked with were JaMarcus Russell, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, Jeff Garcia, and (as a QB’s coach) Steve Young—all of whom make Matt Hasselback look like a 50 year-old man.
But Matt is obviously a much better pocket passer than Coach Knapp has worked with before. Will he be able to adapt to Matt and vice-versa? Seattle may have to wait until August to find out.
While Knapp’s passing scheme will be a front page story, his running game will be old news.
Old, proven, wonderful news.