The 2009 Seattle Seahawks have new coaches around every corner.
Seattle mainstays Mike Holmgren (head coach from 1999-2008), Gil Haskell (offensive coordinator from 2000-08), and John Marshall (defensive coordinator from 2003-08) are gone, and the Seahawks now feature new faces at the three most prominent coaching positions in football—head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator.
Following the retirement of Mike Holmgren, the Seattle Seahawks named former Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora as the team’s new head coach. In turn, Mora hired one of his former Falcons colleagues Greg Knapp as offensive coordinator and former Tampa Bay defensive coach Casey Bradley as defensive coordinator.
While the Seahawks will feature several new coaches, it is inaccurate to say that they are in a rebuilding phase. Despite new playcallers, the Seahawks still have the majority of established talent from previous winning seasons on their roster, and expect a return to prominence sooner rather than later.
The most pivotal question for 2009 is how much, if at all, the new Seahawks coaching staff will overhaul Seattle’s offensive and defensive playbooks.
Offensively, the 2009 Seattle Seahawks will feature similar weapons to their 2008 campaign, had injuries not depleted the depth chart.
Matt Hasselbeck will be under center and have wide receivers Deion Branch, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson, and Deon Butler as well as emerging tight end John Carlson as receiving options.
The Seahawks offensive line and running game will also feature familiar faces in 2009. Running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett are in the backfield, while Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones returns to anchor the Seahawks offensive line.
The question on offense is not how much talent remains, but how the new coaching staff‘s playcalling will utilize it.
New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp might be one of the most unheralded coaching talents in football. While his overall offensive production has been average, he has coached a top 10rushing offense in each of his last five seasons.
His first three (2004-06) were aided by a Michael Vick led Falcons rushing attack, but in 2007-08 he coached a talent-starved Oakland Raiders offense to consecutive top 10 finishes in rushing yards per game.
This year, Knapp inherits a Seattle Seahawks running game which is in desperate need of a makeover.
In an effort to improve Seattle's ground game, Knapp is implementing a zone blocking scheme which, when effective, can produce a top-tier rushing attack.
Knapp’s zone blocking scheme hinges on an athletic and versatile offensive line. Luckily for Knapp, the Seahawks feature a number of athletic offensive linemen, such as Chris Spencer and Max Unger, who can potentially execute a successful zone blocking scheme.
Unlike man blocking schemes, zone blocking linemen aren’t required to identify individual blocks pre-snap. Instead, they locate their blocks as the play develops, allowing runners to let the play unfold at its own pace.
The result is a one-cut running style which, when read correctly by the running backs, could be much more effective than the Seattle Seahawks' efforts in 2008.
As previously mentioned, Greg Knapp’s offensive units haven’t produced eye-popping numbers, but his rushing offenses have been stellar.
If Knapp can revitalize the Seahawks rushing attack through the use of a zone blocking scheme, it could complement Hasselbeck’s supreme air attack to lead an offensive explosion in the Pacific Northwest.
New defensive coordinator Casey Bradley is a former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker coach who worked under highly-acclaimed defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Bradley came highly recommended from Kiffin himself, and in Seattle he will find the tools necessary to build an efficient defense.
Bradley intends to implement a version of the 4-3 defense known as the Tampa Bay Cover Two, which he learned while coaching under Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay. The Tampa Two relies on team speed and individual efficiency to operate successfully.
The most notable difference between the Tampa Bay Cover Two and a standard Cover Two defense is the use of the middle linebacker. One of the greatest necessities for a successful Tampa Two defense is an incredibly talented and versatile middle linebacker (e.g. Brian Urlacher with the Chicago Bears). The Seahawks have that in Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
The Seattle Seahawks also made several defensive additions this offseason that complement the arrival of Casey Bradley.
The Seahawks acquired defensive tackles Cory Redding (via Detroit) and Collin Cole (via Green Bay) to start at defensive tackles, linebacker Aaron Curry (via draft) to replace the departed Julian Peterson, and cornerback Ken Lucas (via Carolina) to add depth at secondary.
Redding and Cole are an ideal combination to play defensive tackles in the Tampa Two. Cole is a run-stopper who can occupy multiple blockers on the line of scrimmage while Redding is a converted defensive end who can provide pass rushing from the interior line. Curry and Lucas will also contribute by adding speed and athleticism to a defensive scheme that requires it.
Despite having all the tools necessary to run the Tampa Bay Cover Two, the biggest question for the Seattle Seahawks defense is, if Bradley institutes the Tampa Two, will it work?
In recent years, several teams have moved the Tampa Two out of their defensive playbooks. As the Tampa Two defense became more popular, offenses countered and developed ways to beat it, making a once-dominant force seemingly lackluster to certain NFL franchises.
It now seems that the most efficient defensive schemes emphasize complex coverage packages and pressuring the quarterback, two things which the Tampa Two do not emphasize.
Regardless of its success, the Seattle Seahawks offseason personnel and coaching changes have clearly indicated that Seattle will use a 4-3 base defense, and it's likely that Casey Bradley will implement the Tampa Bay variation this year.
The Seattle Seahawks recent personnel and coaching changes will result in a number of significant changes this season.
New offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking scheme should improve Seattle’s floundering ground game, while new defensive coordinator Casey Bradley hopes to transform the Seahawks 4-3 defense into a high-octane unit.
Regardless of how successful either coach is, it will be interesting to see how these coaching changes affect the Seattle Seahawks' playcalling in 2009.