Originally Posted by Tuna Helper
I can understand all the hype surrounding New England, but why all the sudden hype around Seattle?
Here's a report from TSN that might shed some light. I think Seattle is ready to make some BIG noise myself, tho this piece seems to maintain their biggest offseason addition was subtracting Shawn Springs.
Seahawks Support Group
By Clare Farnsworth
Will the Seahawks win a playoff game for the first time since 1984?
Yes. They made historic strides last season, when they won 10 games for the first time since 1986 and advanced to the playoffs for just the second time in 15 years. This year, they have the potential for a deep postseason run because the offense will be more consistent and the defense vastly improved. They might even host a playoff game.
The definitive statement about the 2004 Seahawks actually is a question: Which team will show up? The one that ran the table at home last season for the first time in franchise history by finding ways to win close games? Or the one that went 2-6 on the road, losing six in a row by giving away winnable games?
The answer: Neither.
The Seahawks need to be more consistent -- and better -- in their sixth season under coach Mike Holmgren. A schedule that included six opponents that lost at least 10 games last season has been replaced by one that features five teams that won 10 or more, including the Super Bowl champion Patriots on the road and the defending NFC champion Panthers at home.
It's a daunting task, but one the Seahawks are up to after an offseason of making the right moves. They hardened the edges of their still-under-construction defense by signing defensive end Grant Wistrom and cornerback Bobby Taylor as free agents. They also kept their productive offense intact by re-signing leading receiver Darrell Jackson. They then strengthened the middle of their defense by drafting tackle Marcus Tubbs and strong safety Michael Boulware.
"I don't think it's a question of being close; we're there," says Wistrom, who knows a little about success after playing the past six seasons with the Rams. "This team is definitely headed in the right direction."
Which would be: Challenging for the NFC West title and winning a playoff game -- imposing, but not impossible.
Some things never change. Such as Holmgren's offensive philosophy, which he learned working under LaVell Edwards at BYU, refined as an assistant with the 49ers in the '80s, sharpened to a Super Bowl-winning level in seven seasons as coach of the Packers and brought with him to the Seahawks in 1999. Simply put: It's easier to complete a 6-yard pass than it is to break a 6-yard run.
Holmgren refers to his version of the West Coast offense as being "quarterback friendly." But Matt Hasselbeck has learned in Seattle, just as Brett Favre had to learn in Green Bay, that it takes two or three seasons at the controls to shove it into high gear.
Holmgren considers teaching the most important aspect of his job. You can see it in the way he agonizes over the smallest mistake in practice. In his offense, there is a place for everyone on every play, and everyone must be in their place.
On defense, second-year coordinator Ray Rhodes is just as detail-oriented as Holmgren. If a player is lined up one foot in the wrong direction, it can lead to extra yards yielded on any given play. While Holmgren has showed a willingness to stick with players who are struggling, the more volatile Rhodes is quick to give the next guy in line a chance.
Rhodes prefers to keep things simple, which means letting players react and run to the ball. He might not ask them to do much, but Rhodes demands they do it right.
QB Matt Hasselbeck: The offense can be only as good as the person playing this position, and it takes more than one capable quarterback to allow this position to be played properly in Holmgren's offense. Unfortunately for Holmgren, after having the Hall of Fame duo of Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco and the indestructible Favre in Green Bay, he didn't learn this difficult lesson until he came to Seattle.
That's why obtaining Hasselbeck in a 2001 trade with the Packers, signing Trent Dilfer as a free agent later that year and re-signing Brock Huard this offseason have been so important to the continuing development of the offense. Having three quarterbacks who understand the offense -- and more important, what their coach wants them to do in it -- allows Holmgren to call the game more aggressively.
Hasselbeck is not your prototypical passer, nor is he as elusive as most quarterbacks who have reached a Pro Bowl level in the West Coast offense. But he has the arm strength, tenacity and aforementioned grasp of the offense to consistently produce the type of numbers he did last season: a rating of 88.8 that tied for third in the NFC; 3,841 passing yards to rank second in the NFC; and a 26-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio that tied for third in the conference.
Hasselbeck still needs to work on getting rid of the ball more quickly when no one is open and becoming more accurate with his deep throws, an important ingredient because it will help open up the medium-range routes that are the key to Holmgren's passing game.
Dilfer is a veteran who understands his role. His knowledge and experience make him a valuable sounding board for Hasselbeck. Dilfer also is a buffer between Holmgren and Hasselbeck.
RB Shaun Alexander: The coaches have been both fascinated and frustrated Alexander since he took over for Ricky Watters in 2001. To his credit, Alexander has altered his glide-and-slide style to accommodate the coaches, who want him to hit the hole quickly and get as much as he can regardless of the quality of the running lane. He also has developed into a viable option in the passing game.
But Alexander still causes the coaches to grumble because he doesn't always run as hard as he should and needs to improve at picking up the blitz. Despite all this, Alexander produces yards and touchdowns. He has averaged 1,300 rushing yards, almost 17 touchdowns and 48 receptions the past three seasons.
The secondary: The Seahawks ranked 27th against the pass last season, when they were especially vulnerable to deep balls. That's why the club did not attempt to re-sign cornerback Shawn Springs (now with the Redskins) and strong safety Reggie Tongue (Jets). That's also why Taylor was signed as a free agent and Boulware was selected in the draft.
What Taylor does best is make plays on the ball when it's in the air, something first-round draft choice Marcus Trufant struggled with during his rookie season but can glean from his new teammate. Trufant, Taylor and Ken Lucas will provide a solid set of cover corners to match against the growing number of teams that use a three-receiver set as their base offense.
Boulware played linebacker at Florida State and has the speed, coverage skills and closing ability that this defense was missing. He teams with hard-hitting free safety Ken Hamlin, who must be more consistent and play more under control.
Depth, however, remains a problem. Kris Richard, the fourth corner, has not played to his potential, and injuries have prevented safety Terreal Bierria from reaching his. Safety Damien Robinson was signed as a free agent last year, only to have the club seek upgrades with the selections of Hamlin and Boulware in the second round of the past two drafts.
DAN POMPEI'S TAKE
Defensive improvements should make the Seahawks a better team, and they were pretty good a year ago. Projected record: 10-6.
FANTASY SOURCE SPIN
Stud: Alexander. He has plenty of reasons to make this his best season. He's in a contract year, the Seahawks have the talent to win the NFC West, and Maurice Morris will be nipping at his heels.
Sleeper: WR Koren Robinson. His dropsies were well documented. But if he can increase his concentration, he'll improve. Plus, he'll be a steal because many owners will be down on him.
Stumbler: TE Itula Mili. Mili surprised people last season with career highs in receptions and touchdowns. But someday, Jerramy Stevens might wake up and send Mili to the bench.
Heightened expectations start with the players and coaches. That happens when your offense has averaged 385 yards and almost 25 points over the past 22 games, and the offseason efforts focused on improving the defense. But this franchise has not handled prosperity well in the past, with last year's 4-4 second half and the 1-5 slide in '99 that almost wasted an 8-2 start the most recent examples.
But despite a tougher schedule and league-wide awareness of the numbers this offense is capable of generating, the Seahawks can win 10 or 11 games, earn a playoff spot and challenge for a berth in the Super Bowl.
Clare Farnsworth covers the Seahawks for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.