Knapp on Seahawks: "We Want More Consistency"

Rob StatonCorrespondent IJune 1, 2009

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 26:  Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp of the Oakland Raiders watches the action during the game against the Baltimore Raven at M&T Bank Stadium on October 26, 2008 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

For Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, the key to success is simple.

Find greater balance.

It's something that has troubled Seattle since its solitary visit to the Super Bowl three years ago.

Back then, a dominant running game led by MVP Shaun Alexander was complimented with a productive year from Matt Hasselbeck—not to mention healthy receivers and one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.

In 2006, Hasselbeck and Alexander missed a combined ten games through injury.

A year later, with Alexander again injured the Seahawks were forced to lean on the passing game—becoming one dimensional and struggling on the road.

Finally in 2008, it was the passing game that suffered. An injury crisis at receiver accompanied problems on the offensive line and more time missed by Hasselbeck.

It hasn't taken Knapp long to identify the major issue the Seahawks face on offense.

"We want more consistency and the biggest issue I think with this organisation a year ago was the injury factor, from Matt's standpoint to the O-line standpoint to the receiver standpoint.

"As much as you want to say, 'hey, injuries, everybody gets them,' it was a huge factor here."

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"So hopefully with our health we'll get better consistency and production in keeping the defense off the field and scoring some more points."

Unquestionably, the Seahawks will be hoping for greater fortune in the injury department.

Although not the only reason for an unexpected 4-12 season in 2008, the loss of key receivers allowed teams to second guess the Seahawks offense.

It was common place to witness an opposition defense blitzing with reckless abandon—the Thanksgiving Day 34-9 thumping in Dallas a good example.

Teams concentrated on shutting down the running game, almost daring the Seahawks to pass the ball with their lack of receiving talent.

Technical changes to the playbook and schemes, alongside improved health, will be the key to keeping teams honest in future.

One well publicized introduction is a greater emphasis on the zone blocking scheme.

"It (ZBS) allows for parts that change whether it's the position player, the running back, O-line or even the coaches for that matter—yet still keep some kind of consistency in the running game.

It's combination blocks that hit faster to the hole."

Hitting faster to the hole is something that Julius Jones specialises in.

After a bright start to his Seattle career, including 312 yards in his first three games, the former Notre Dame running back lost his starting role to Maurice Morris.

With Morris now a Detroit Lion, Jones has another chance to prove himself in the North West.

Knapp believes the early indications are good for Jones and the new running system.

"He (Jones) really enjoyed the first 10-12 days of practise we've had. He feels very comfortable with what we've done."

Another off season departure saw versatile full back Leonard Weaver join the Philadelphia Eagles, a move which Knapp justifies for the new look Seahawks.

"With what we've going to do offensively the full back isn't used as much.

"We will use probably a little more two TE, one RB (sets) and that's part of the zone philosophy to balance out a defense."

Often used in FB draw plays by Mike Holmgren, Weaver was also a target out of the backfield and it wasn't uncommon to see him used in short yardage situations.

In order to strike that balance on offense, Seattle will use different sets to keep a defense on it's toes.

"Because the defensive schemes have gotten really complex and the defensive talent has gotten faster and stronger, the mind set of the offense has been let's spread out the defense a little more so we can identify those blitzes when they're coming and eliminate the blitz scenario from happening.

"If you stand in a traditional two running back offense, a defense can tend to hide their scheme and then bring a blitz from a surprise stand point."

Knapp likes to feature his running back and tight ends in the passing game with great regularity.

The design for 2009 will keep fans and players guessing right up until the snap - avoiding the predictability witnessed in the later stages of the Holmgren era.

"We'll use some three WR (sets) with one of our half backs in there and being balanced run/pass with that personnel group on the field."

That doesn't mean to say we won't see much of the Seahawks' full backs.

Owen Schmitt, a fifth round pick in the 2008 draft, is joined by a Knapp favorite - Justin Griffith who worked with the coordinator in both Atlanta and Oakland.

"I believe you need to have five backs—three running backs and two full backs, so it really gave us good depth by adding Justin and allowing Owen to grow a little bit in this system."

One of the few highlights last season was the performance of rookie tight end John Carlson.

Leading the team with 627 receiving yards and five touchdowns, big things are expected for his second year in the NFL.

His production might take a hit with greater health at receiver and the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but expect to see Carlson's importance to the team remain on par.

"John Carlson is an exciting guy to work with because he provides a good tool inside the numbers.

"He came into this level with good pass skills but he's really worked on his lower body strength and run game skills and we're seeing some good progress there on the field."

The team will likely keep Carlson on the field most of the time, which adds that level of importance to act as a solid run blocker in the ZBS.

If he can achieve that, it'll be another development as Seattle aims to keep teams guessing throughout, not knowing when the team intends to pass or run.

Expect both Carlson and Jones to have expanded roles in both pass and run scenarios—leading to potential value for fantasy addicts.

The Seahawks have the tools to become an effective offense again.

They might not recapture the glory of 2005, but Knapp has correctly identified the teams' key areas of weakness.

The injury issue is out of his hands, he simply has to hope for better luck this year.

But the scheme changes he has installed will breathe new life into the team's offense.

That can only be good for a franchise hoping to prove 2008 was a one off.

Quotes used in this article taken from a live radio interview with Greg Knapp conducted by John Clayton