Doug Farrar, Editor-in-Chief, Seahawks.NET: I think the team realizes that the time for excuses, or any more lax play, is over. They don’t have to run the table, but they do need to bring everything to a different level in a big hurry if they want to even get to the playoffs, never mind making any sort of postseason impact. The Seahawks were able to do so last year after a 2-2 start, but that was a different unit, with many more fundamental strengths. A few rabbits will need to be pulled out of a few hats for this to work. And thanks to the (somewhat) resurgent Rams, the NFC West won’t be the cakewalk it was in 2005.
As for the reaction I’ve seen on our message boards, it’s pretty standard for the fanbase of a team that is underachieving to be split between “Stay The Course”, and “Blow It All Up!” That’s about what I’m seeing.
Denis Savage: The Raiders knocked off Pittsburgh last week with a defense that was simply nasty. Did that inspire some fear into Seattle this week, especially when most people thought the Raiders would roll over and some even had the audacity to believe they would go 0-16?
Doug Farrar: I would hope that nobody is underestimating Oakland’s defense. The Seahawks are not playing up to their talent right now – even with Hasselbeck and Alexander out – and as a result, looking past a team they really should beat is a recipe for disaster. Last season, a much better Seattle team traveled to San Francisco in Week Eleven and barely escaped with a 27-25 win after they gave up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and Ken Dorsey’s two-point conversion pass fell incomplete with 28 seconds remaining. Those 49ers were not the threat these Raiders are, because the defense they will face on Monday night is already known to be very effective.
If Seattle goes into this game with any misplaced confidence, they could very well walk out of Qwest Field with a 4-4 record, a season in jeopardy, and a great many lingering questions.
Denis Savage: What are teams running effectively against your defense through the first half of the year? Is it short passes or are teams hitting the deep routes?
Doug Farrar: Every team gives up short passes – especially teams that run Cover-2 and Tampa-2 scheme derivations like the Seahawks do. Problem is, such defenses, with safeties backed up into the next county at times, are designed to prevent the big play. Seattle has given up 19 plays of 25 yards or more through seven games. Players are missing assignments and tackling poorly. The lack of pass rush is giving opposing quarterbacks far too much time to find the inevitably open man.
Straight vertical routes are especially effective – just use your speed off the line, beat the cornerback, and get the ball easily in your hands before the safety (who is almost certainly late to the party) arrives.
Denis Savage: Is your team in survive mode now – win what you can and then make the run and peak when Hasselbeck and Alexander return to the field?
Doug Farrar: Honestly, I think the “survive mode” goes all the way back to the beginning of the season. This is not a team that has looked dominant for any stretch of time – unless you count the first three quarters of the New York Giants game, when Seattle had the G-men in a death grip with a 42-3 lead, Of course, you’d also have to include the 4th quarter of that game, when the Seahawks gave up 27 points (no, that is not a typo) in less than 15 minutes. Even in victory, this team hasn’t really been running full throttle. There are intermittent slivers of greatness, and corresponding falls into mediocrity.
“Peaking” isn’t the issue. What this team needs is consistency.
Denis Savage: For the fantasy football fan in all of us, how is Jerramy Stevens progressing since returning from injury? Can we expect the numbers to go up?
Doug Farrar: Stevens missed the first five games of the regular season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, which he suffered in August. Last week’s loss to the Chiefs was the first time all season we saw him catch any passes. Certainly, he has all the tools to be one of the NFL’s elite tight ends – he’s 6’7”, 265 pounds, with the speed and agility of a wide receiver. Through his pro career, it has taken him longer than it should have to get his head on straight. More than ever, the Seahawks need him as a safety valve for their quarterbacks, a red zone threat in claustrophobic situations, and a willing blocker in certain schemes.
He’s not a guy I’d ever draft until he put up serious numbers through an entire season, just because there are so many options at the position these days, and I’ve been waiting so long for him to live up to his potential. In 2006, I really want him to prove me wrong.