Brown will eventually be a good one, but this really does favor Seattle. Maybe
if Kerney was going up against Oliver “Can’t block now – I’m
busy looking for UFOs!” Ross. Brown could be in big trouble against Kerney,
who had 1.5 sacks in his Seattle debut. The only matchup with similar potential
hilarity might be Seattle’s Mighty Mite corners on Anquan
Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but that’s
only if Matt Leinart has time to throw the
ball. From a pass-blocking perspective, this will be a far tougher test for
the Arizona offensive line than San Francisco’s 3-4 was, especially with
Al Johnson out at center and Chukky Okobi as
the alleged “replacement”.
BK: Nate Clements stayed on Larry Fitzgerald in Monday night's game and shut him down. Does Trufant shadow Fitzgerald, or is it as simple as where the guy lines up on the field?
DF: Well, I served with Nate Clements; I knew Nate Clements; Nate Clements was a friend of mine. And you, Mr. Trufant, are no Nate Clements. Lloyd Bentsen jokes notwithstanding, this is a critical step in Trufant’s move back to the left side. He’s more comfortable there, but there isn’t a cornerback – Clements included – in the NFL who’s happy covering Fitzgerald. You could argue that the player who did the best job of shutting Fitzgerald down was Leinart himself, with that horrible performance. We really don’t know how instrumental Clements was in that. For the Seahawks, who are still finding their way in the secondary, your previous question about Seattle’s pass rush is the key to this answer – if the Seahawks allow Leinart enough time to find the open man (and men will be open, make no mistake), they’ll get cooked pretty good.
Kelly Jennings will have
an equal challenge on the right side, facing off against Anquan Boldin. And
who covers Bryant Johnson, the third receiver who averaged 18.5 yards per catch
in 2006? This is why it is so crucial all season for the Seahawks to get consistent
pressure up front. They simply don’t have the secondary to compete with
the NFL’s elite receiver combos.
BK: LeRoy Hill is often seen as the "other guy" in Seattle's linebacker corps, but he's quite talented and has been very productive. Tell us a little more about him.
DF: Hill has been laid up with a foot injury, though it’s hoped that he’ll play on Sunday. Basically, Hill is an excellent run-stopper and pass-rusher who should not be asked to cover, as he was quite often in 2006. Often lost in the brilliance of Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson, he’s this defense’s Hunter Hillenmeyer – a guy who does a solid job with what he’s got and is very effective in the right situations. They need Hill to shore up against the run and free up the other linebackers (especially Peterson) to cover ground.
In 2006, it seemed that
each of the Seahawks’ three talented starting linebackers were asked to
play against type or in a limiting role - Peterson as s rush end early on and
a sort of undefined hybrid later, Tatupu as more of a “read-and-react”
player than the Tasmanian Devil he was against the Buccaneers, and Hill in coverage,
which is where he never should be. In his rookie season of 2005, Hill racked
up 7.5 sacks, but he was lost, along with Oakland’s Kirk Morrison, in
the love extended to Tatupu and Shawne Merriman. As long as he’s moving
forward, he’s a real weapon, and he’s the finishing touch to what
may very well the NFL’s best group of 4-3 linebackers.
BK: Do the Seahawks focus on the run given Whisenhunt's dedication to it? Or, do they focus on Arizona's talented wideouts?
DF: Put it this way – if the Seahawks are forced to focus on the run to the exclusion of the pass, they’d better be prepared to either:
a.) Score 45 points on offense; or
They can’t stack the
box against the Cardinals, and no self-respecting front seven should have to.
Edgerrin James may have found a bit of a new lease on life behind a better line,
but all the votes aren’t in on that. The Seahawks have to be able to control
tempo and stop the run without planting extra guys at the line.
BK: How will Seattle gameplan around the Cardinals switching between the 3-4 and the 4-3? Is there one that you'd prefer they run?
DF: I’d prefer that they didn’t run that damned 3-3-5 with Adrian Wilson as a linebacker and Karlos Dansby as a defensive end. Seattle didn’t seem to like that too much last year. It’s more of a “mushroom” than an “umbrella” - but it’s very effective.
The Cardinals can be expected to use a lot of creativity with their defensive sets. I think it will be mostly a 3-4, perhaps a few blitzes, maybe the odd zone blitz. Dansby and Wilson are the guys to watch out for, along with a slightly improved secondary, and Darnell Dockett’s propensity for horse-collar tackles. We’re just glad that Antrel Rolle will be in the sidelines where he belongs – best not to have our franchise running backs mugged in broad daylight as they were last year.
The encouraging thing for the Seahawks is hat teams that have the 3-4 forced upon them overnight, as the Cardinals did, often struggle for a time as the personnel adjusts to the new scheme and other players are brought in to fill in the blanks. The Jets’ defense fell off the face of the earth last year; the uncomfortable and immediate 3-4 transition was the primary reason why.