June 9th, 2009


Seahawks' Weakness: Running Backs?

So, this is what's going to drive me absolutely mad this season. There's always something you can hang your hat on that will be a major weakness in your team. If you're fortunate enough to have that weakness be the punting game - as Mark says was the case of the Steelers last year - then you're pretty much cleared for a Super Bowl victory (unless you're the Seahawks, still clinging to the final productive years of Warren Moon's career, in which case punting was indeed such a weakness that it prevented us from surpassing 8 wins, but that's neither here nor there).

Now, if you talk to me, I'll tell you that the major weakness for the Seahawks going into the 2009 campaign is STILL the defensive line, and specifically the pass rush. Kerney is effective when he's healthy, but he's not the White Reggie White by any means. Opposite him, what have you got? Tapp, who seemingly only excels against the Rams and 49ers (aka, the weaker offensive lines in the league), and Lawrence Jackson who severely underperformed last year as a rookie. Then who? Baraka Atkins?

The only hope for the line this year - aside from the health factor - is if our Defensive Tackles step up and carry the load. That means creating favorable matchups for our speedier ends by wreaking havoc in the middle. Take on those double teams and occasionally beat them. Force their tight end to try to block Tapp or Jackson. I have a better feeling about this after seeing our personnel, with Mebane on the cusp of Pro Bowl status, Red Bryant being a machine, and that new 330 pounder we got from Green Bay being a supreme widebody.

If you talk to Matt Williamson from ESPN, he'll tell you that Running Backs are our biggest weakness.

In fact, if you talk to just about anyone outside of the Pacific Northwest, they'll tell you the same thing.

There's an odd little rumor going around the NFL that Julius Jones isn't a good running back. Now, I'm going to go ahead and take OFF the homer jacket for a minute here and tell you that I've always honestly liked Julius Jones. He kinda got screwed over in Dallas (which, I'll readily admit was the smarter play, going with Marion Barber III). After his most successful season, he was pretty much supplanted in any pressure situation. Then, he signs with the Seahawks, in Holmgren's final season here, and Holmgren opts to go with His Guy, Morris. We never got to see what Jones could do in a Seahawks uniform (though, with the way we played, it's probably for the best).

And for some reason, everyone questions Jones' durability, when really, how much has this guy been injured?

I'm not saying he's the greatest running back in the world, or even in the top 15 in the NFL, but I just can't understand why he gets the flak he gets.

T.J. Duckett, I'll grant you, is a completely different animal. I've never understood this guy and why he's managed to underachieve his entire career. Give him the ball on the 1 yard line and he's golden, but give it to him between the 1's and, I dunno. I've always chocked it up to a lack of effort and a lack of heart, but that's impossible for me to actually determine.

The thing about NFL analysis that's gotten considerably harder over the years is differentiating between NFL Analysis and Fantasy NFL Analysis. Fantasy Football has ruined most fans (indeed, most people not actually getting a paycheck from the NFL), because all anyone looks for are yards, touchdowns, and catches out of the backfield.

No one ever really considers offensive line, zone blocking, the offensive coordinator, and the rest of the personnel on the offense. You have an awesome o-line - like the Broncos back in the late 90s - and you could get Carlton Banks over 1,000 yards rushing. And indeed, with zone blocking, it's been a proven winner in the running games around the league.

I'm not saying we're the Broncos of the late 90s, but our line is fairly solid up and down. Walter Jones, while past his prime, is still wily enough to hold down the fort. Wahle had some mental breakdowns, but is still our best option at guard. Spencer, when healthy, has the tools. He just needs the smarts, and with his experience in the league, he should have that down by now. At other guard, you've got a battle between Sims and Unger that should force both to mature very quickly. Then, you've got Heather Locklear at right tackle; and if you're ready to implant him as Walter's successor, then he must be good enough to hold down the right side. Couple that with a couple of solid blocking tight ends, and an experienced fullback in Justin Griffith, and that's a beefy line any way you slice it.

We're now in our second full year of the zone blocking scheme that Mike Solari has set up. That's the year where it all clicks for a line. Our coordinator has never had a running game lower than the top 10 in the league. And the rest of our offense consists of stud receivers and an all-star quarterback. Teams are going to fear our passing game, and rightly so. That will determine how well our running game is able to flourish. If we can catch teams with six in the box enough times, it shouldn't be a problem to average 4+ yards per carry.

No, Julius Jones isn't A.P. No, T.J. Duckett isn't Brandon Jacobs. But they may just be what this team needs: an overlooked-by-opponents pair of competent, veteran running backs who still have another season's worth of miles on their legs.

Obviously, next year we'll have to look into getting an offensive tackle and a running back in the first couple rounds (if not a quarterback if Hasselbeck proves to be unreliable health-wise), but for now I'm confident that our running backs - barring repeated trips to the infirmary - will be the least of our worries.