|Jones shared the load in Big D and will do the same in Seattle|
|Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images|
7 at Buffalo
14 SAN FRANCISCO
21 ST. LOUIS
6 at N.Y. Giants
12 GREEN BAY
19 at Tampa Bay
26 at San Francisco
9 at Miami
27 at Dallas (T)
7 NEW ENGLAND
14 at St. Louis
21 N.Y. JETS
28 at Arizona
John Carlson, Tight End: The Seahawks got little production out of the tight end position last year, so they were thrilled when Carlson (87 catches in his final two seasons at Notre Dame) fell to them in the second round of the draft in April. At 6' 5"and 251 pounds, he has the size to be an effective blocker and the speed and hands to be productive in the passing game.
A ground game that ran out of gas last year is overhauled from the top down. New plan, new backs -- old dominance?
For the first time in eight years, Shaun Alexander's toothy smile won't be
the public face of the running game. Seattle's career rushing leader, who
averaged 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns from 2001 through '05, was released
in April after injuries, age and inconsistent line play prevented him from
cracking even 900 yards in either of the past two seasons.
Instead, a committee of backs -- free-agent signees Julius Jones and
holdover Maurice Morris and two late-round draft choices -- will be called on to
restore the ground game to prominence. "We're kind of killing a mosquito with a
sledgehammer in the sense that we've got all kinds of guys who can play,"
quarterback Matt Hasselbeck says.
The changes don't stop with the ballcarriers. The Seahawks hired three new
assistant coaches to get the ground game rolling again; Mike Solari and Mike
DeBord will direct the offensive line, and Kasey Dunn the backs. And they
upgraded the line, which had appeared ill-prepared and uncertain at times, by
signing feisty free-agent guard Mike Wahle, a one-time Pro Bowl pick with
When Seattle went to the Super Bowl after the 2005 season, it ranked
third in the league with 153.6 rushing yards per game and tied for first in
third-and-one conversions (90.9%). But the Seahawks' average slipped to
120.2 yards the following year and 101.2 last season. More telling,
the short-yardage game that had been their staple was suddenly a liability: The
offense failed on 13 of 24 third-and-one rushes in 2007 for a league-low 45.8%
conversion rate. (The league average was 71.6%.)
Addressing the ground game was the priority because Seattle appears to have
the personnel everywhere else to make a run at a fifth consecutive division
title -- and possibly a second trip to the Super Bowl. The defense has 10
starters back, and the special teams are solid, although a choice still had to
be made between 13-year vet Olindo Mare and rookie Brandon Coutu at kicker.
Solari, who has overall responsibility for the new running attack, is a
stickler for blocking fundamentals and technique -- areas in which the Seahawks
lapsed in '07. In Kansas City he was instrumental in the Chiefs' finishing
among the top 10 teams in rushing in five of the past seven seasons.
DeBord, another running game specialist, oversaw Michigan's power attack. Pair
those two with Jones, Duckett and Wahle, and it's understandable why a current
of optimism is running through the locker room.
Jones and Morris are similar backs in that they're speedy, perimeter runners;
Duckett has the bigger body for short-yardage calls. Wahle is 31 but is still an
upgrade on the line. Fifth-round pick Owen Schmitt of West Virginia provides
depth at fullback.
Even the wide receivers were getting into the act, devoting extra time to
downfield-blocking drills early on. "I've never seen a commitment to the run
like this before," says Jones, who spent the past four seasons in Dallas and
split time with Marion Barber the past three. "The running game is what took
them deep in the playoffs in the past, and they're trying to get back to
But first the backs have to check their egos at the locker-room door. There
will be no bell cow, as Alexander was -- at least not initially. Holmgren says he
plans to use all of them and views Jones and Morris as co-No. 1s. The coach
has experience juggling ballcarriers; he did it often during his coaching tenure
in Green Bay, most notably in the Super Bowl-winning 1996 season with Dorsey
Levens and Edgar Bennett.
Members of the committee say they have no qualms about splitting time. Says
Morris, who is entering his seventh season with Seattle, "This is really going
to get the offense back in a groove where it should be." -- Jim Trotter