To say the Seattle Seahawks’ offense will hit the ground running under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp may be more of a literal statement than figuratively describing the way they will adapt.
Knapp’s track record is more than established after calling plays for the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders over the last eight seasons. And Knapp’s past reads that the Hawks will be much more run oriented this year than any time under Mike Holmgren.
Even when Shaun Alexander was breaking record, including setting the season touchdown record in 2005, the Seahawks were widely regarded as a pass first team. Holmgren used quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to soften up the underbelly of a team’s defense with quick drops and slants across the middle that chewed up yardage, opening up running lanes for Alexander.
This year, Seattle may be doing the opposite under Knapp. In three seasons as the coordinator for the Falcons, Atlanta led the league in rushing and did it with multiple running backs.
The stable is equally full in Seattle this year with Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett getting the bulk of the carries and Justin Forsett picking up those vacated by Maurice Morris.
Duckett played a similar role in his days with Knapp in Atlanta alongside Warrick Dunn, taking the ball in short yardage situations and on the goal line. Jones is used to sharing the load as well, doing so with the Dallas Cowboys and Marion Barber III.
The change in strategy should not hinder the play of Hasselbeck in any way, and may keep him from taking as many hits. When Holmgren all but abandoned the running game with Alexander in 2007, Hasselbeck averaged 35.1 attempts per game and as a result was sacked 33 times. Last season, he averaged 28.6 attempts and in seven games was dropped 19 times.
With so much of the season riding on his health, getting the ground game up and running will aid in keeping Hasselbeck on the field and off injured reserve.
The wholesale coaching change could also benefit the defense, which loses the ultra conservative John Marshall and instills former Tampa Bay assistant Casey Bradley. Bradley perfectly fits the mold of head coach Jim Mora as an aggressive defensive mind.
Only 42 years of age, Bradley’s star rose quickly in Tampa Bay and he quickly became the linebacker coach under coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Bradley now will be running a defense that was a sore disappointment in 2008 in Seattle.
The Seahawks did not address the personnel of that defense as much as the defense itself, with the majority of the starting lineup still intact. The biggest impact may come in the form of Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney, who missed nine games and tallied 9.5 fewer sacks than the 14.5 he recorded in 2007.
Cory Redding came over to Seattle in a trade for linebacker Julian Peterson and will help fill the void left by Rocky Bernard on the interior of the line and Brandon Mebane will get his first chance to begin the season starting on the defensive line.
If the line can get constant pressure like it did in 2007, the linebackers may not have to rush the passer as much, but Bradley will almost certainly press the issue often with Lofa Tatupu and rookie Aaron Curry adept in the blitzing game.
If not left alone on an island the secondary could rebound as well. Ken Lucas’ return to Seattle should spell some relief for Marcus Trufant, who needs a bounce back year of his own after recording just one interception in 2008.
Tim Lewis was brought in to replace Mora as the secondary coach and spent the last two years of his 14-year career in Carolina. He is charged with improving a unit that was last in the NFL in defending the pass.