On January 4th, 2009 a regime ended for the Seattle Seahawks. After 10 years of rebuilding the Seahawks franchise into a consistent winner and major player around the league, Mike Holmgren stepped down as Head Coach to take a year off.
Stepping into the massive shoes left behind is a hand-picked predecessor in Jim Mora who worked as Secondary Coach and Assistant Head Coach to Holmgren over the past two seasons. With Mora's ascension and changes in the coaching staff, inevitably come changes on the field.
Holmgren, a disciple of the legendary Bill Walsh, was known for his West Coast offense. He operated under a philosophy of utilizing the passing game to set up the running game —operating at an almost 60-40 clip of passes to runs per game.
While Mora will certainly incorporate some West Coast schemes, the 60-40 percentage will undoubtedly disappear.
The most noticeable difference for fans watching the 2009 Seahawks versus that of the version on the field for 10 years prior will be a more prevalent running game. Under Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp and Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari, the Seahawks will be turning to a zone blocking scheme with a much higher emphasis placed on running the football down the throats of its opposition.
Last year the Seahawks ranked 25th in total offense and 19th in rushing. Not terrible for a team that finished 4-12, but certainly not where it wanted to be. In 2009, a 19th ranking and an average of 110 yards a game on the ground just isn't going to cut it for Knapp and company.
The biggest beneficiaries from this change in philosophy—besides the entire offense in general—will be running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett.
The two should see the biggest share of carries in Seattle's backfield and be called upon to revive a running game that has been stagnant for Seattle the past couple of seasons.
In fact, the change should revitalize Jones who left Dallas as a free agent in 2008 to join the Seahawks as the featured runner. Now he will have that chance under a new coach whose zone blocking scheme is very well suited to the fast and elusive Jones.
In a zone blocking scheme, a runner wants to make "one cut and go" as Jones told reporters during Seattle's first minicamp two weeks ago. As Jones continued, he explained how his game is best suited for that same approach.
And it is. Anytime you have an elusive runner with good speed, a zone blocking system usually suits them the best. It allows them to dictate where they attack and hit a hole harder than in a normal blocking scheme where often times a runner has to patiently wait while his blocks develop.
The new scheme will create a more consistent running game for the Seahawks in '09. And with a more consistent running game will come more success.