Through all the front-office transitions, from Bob Whitsitt to Bob Ferguson to the current era under Tim Ruskell, the Seattle Seahawks have long been Mike Holmgren’s team. The offense-minded coach might not have always had final say in personnel decisions, but his philosophy dictated how the Seahawks approached the past 10 drafts.
As of this weekend, someone else’s fingerprints will be all over this team.
Holmgren’s semi-retirement, the promotion of Jim Mora to head coach, and Mora’s decision to hire new coordinators on both sides of the ball mean the Seahawks will approach this year’s draft a tad bit differently than they did the past 10.
The most obvious change in philosophy is on offense, where the Seahawks’ mano-a-mano blocking scheme has been replaced by one that features zone blocking. Ruskell said that Seattle is looking for a different kind of lineman than in years past.
“You want a little more athletic guy, a guy who’s a little flexible and nimble to be able to contact players in space,” he said. “You’re going to pull more and be on the second level more. If you’re just a big, refrigerator guy who’s a power guy, you’re not going to be as successful.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones fits into any blocking scheme, while guard Mike Wahle and center Chris Spencer are the type of lineman who might actually be a better fit for the zone-blocking system than the previous one.
The blocking scheme could also affect how Seattle approaches the running back position. Ruskell said the Seahawks are looking for backs who hit the hole hard without dancing around in the backfield.
Ruskell added that projected starter Julius Jones fits into that mold, while second-year player Justin Forsett is having to learn a different style.
Seattle’s defensive scheme is less clear. Coaches have said that the system could include elements of Mora’s philosophy (a more aggressive approach than the one used under former coordinator John Marshall), the so-called Tampa-2 that new coordinator Gus Bradley learned while coaching with the Buccaneers (featuring zone-like coverages by the corners and safeties on either side of the field) and some influence from new defensive assistants Dan Quinn and Tim Lewis.
The Cover-2 system that Bradley brings from Tampa Bay might put less pressure on undersized corners Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings but could also create the need for a younger, faster cover safety.
One area where the Seattle defense could be looking to improve is size. Wilson and Jennings got out-reached and overpowered at times last season, while the linebackers and defensive ends are also relatively small.
Finding a 6-foot-2 cornerback or speedy, 300-pound defensive end is easier said than done, so Seattle might have to get creative when attempting to bulk up on D.
Seattle addressed its need at defensive tackle by signing veteran free agent Colin Cole and acquiring Cory Redding in a trade with the Detroit Lions. Mora has expressed confidence in the safeties, Wilson developed into a playmaking starter at corner, and Seattle added a defensive end with its first-round pick in 2008 (Lawrence Jackson). So the Seahawks’ most glaring need on defense might be at outside linebacker, where Julian Peterson left a glaring hole after being traded to the Lions in the Redding deal.
As Ruskell himself pointed out last week, the Seahawks have plenty of “needs, but no priorities.” How they draft could be more a matter of who’s available than any draft-day strategies.
But one thing is clear: the Seahawks are in a transition period. And if they’re going to build this team in Mora’s image, this weekend affords an opportunity to set down some cornerstones.
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