26 minutes, 38 seconds.
Per game, that was the NFL's lowest time of possession statistic in 2008.
It belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.
The reasons why Seattle's offense failed to function last season are well publicized.
Injuries to key veterans, a lack of punch and an outgoing Head Coach whose legendary system had, with all respect, become a little predictable.Training camp begins at the end of July and the task in hand must be to get that offense working again.Sure, there are improvements to be made on defense too.
When Patrick Kerney went on I.R. after week seven, the team failed to generate sufficient pressure up front.The secondary struggled in general whilst even Seattle's coveted linebacker corps failed to impress.
But surely this is to be expected when your defense is over worked?
Seattle's defense ranked 15th overall in 2007.
The team's 15 passing touchdowns conceded was a league low, they ranked fourth in total sacks (45) and only three teams registered more interceptions (20).It's not just a coincidence that a team retaining every defensive starter the following season saw a dramatic reversal in fortunes.
Simply put—it was an over worked unit.
Key additions have been made to the defense during the off season.Aaron Curry, Cory Redding and Ken Lucas are all expected to make an impact as high profile arrivals.But the true key to Seattle's success in 2009 won't be their ability to stop Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Jackson or Kurt Warner.
It'll be whether they can threaten teams on offense.
The Seahawks three highest earners in 2009 are Walter Jones ($9.8m), Matt Hasselbeck ($9.5m) and Deion Branch ($7.5m).Combined, the veteran trio missed a total of 19 games in 2008.
Hasselbeck and Jones in particular remain integral if the Seahawks are to bounce back from 4-12.Early reports suggest that both have put back and knee problems behind them respectively.
But at 33 and 35 years of age, there will be a few crossed fingers when training camp begins.
Branch's time in Seattle has been blighted by health issues.Starting just 22 games in three years with the team, Branch only occasionally flashed the kind of quality that tempted GM Tim Ruskell to spend a first round pick on the former Patriot in 2006.The Seahawks need value for money from these three in 2009.
Better luck with injuries
Seattle's issues at receiver last year became so critical that at one point, they were pulling guys off the street.Deion Branch, Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Ben Obomanu and Logan Payne all missed time.
Step forward Billy McMullen and Koren Robinson.Not exactly the platform from which to emulate the 8th ranked passing offense from 2007.
It wasn't much better at quarter back.
With Hasselbeck struggling from training camp onwards, Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye both had time behind center.By the end of the season every starter on the offensive line had been placed on injured reserve.Seattle's passing game was decimated, allowing teams to blitz freely, stack the box and play a lot of run defense.
The end product was a passing game that troubled nobody and a running game that was completely shut down.No team could survive losing that vast quantity of starters.
Whether it's a different approach or simply better luck in 2009, the Seahawks needs their starters fit and healthy.
Fresh faces, fresh ideas
Greg Knapp is the man entrusted with the keys to Seattle's offense post-Holmgren.The West Coast philosophy remains, but Knapp is determined to strike a greater balance.The running game will get a new emphasis with a two—back system of Julius Jones and TJ Duckett and a new zone blocking scheme.
We should see more 2WR sets to keep team's guessing, with John Carlson retaining a prominent pass catching role.Mike Holmgren placed eternal trust in his system and refused to game plan for the opposition.
The new Seahawks will likely evolve each week of the regular season.
There won't be any seismic shifts, Knapp hasn't revolutionized the playbook—mainly simplified it.On paper this should help the team pick up the new offense quickly.
It may just keep opposition defenses guessing.