Hooray! Thursday holds a special place on my calendar. It's the day I get to do Statapalooza, the easiest article on my schedule. Why is it so easy? Well, because I get to use other people's work and add commentary, of course. It's so bloggy, or bloglike, just like silly neologisms. I get to listen to music, sit back and be done in time to do other things, so again I say, hooray!
Now, before we dive into all that, let's handle shaun's imminent return. Here's a quote from Luke that Alexander may appreciate: "...thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found." But since I'm not a religious man, Lenny Bruce better sums up my opinions: "The 'what should be' never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no 'what should be,' there is only what is." And so shaun returns, and will likely be given the rock until the offensive line mutinies on this whole doddering coaching staff. I don't like to simplify stuff too much. I think beauty is in the complexity of all things. But Alexander's expected play is a pretty binary thing: Either, A) Alexander's decline manifests in a greater vulnerability to injuries that each, blow by blow, undermine his talent. In this case it is possible that Alexander will be able to play well until he is injured again - however many plays or weeks that takes, he won't hold up through the season. There is almost no evidence to support this theory. Or B) Injuries and age have already caused Alexander to decline so much that he's no longer an NFL caliber running back. We are now nearing two years of consistent and brutal evidence that this is the case. Gird thy loins folks, things are about to get a lot more precarious in Seahawks Land.
Now onto the battle of birds.
Strength Versus Strength
Westbrook: Receiving running backs are wildly undervalued. Why is that? Because receiving backs stats are compared one-to-one to all other receivers and then again one-to-one to all other rushers. But players who can run and receive well are among the rarest of commodities. It's their versatility that raises their value into another stratosphere above one dimensional rushers or receivers. They save their quarterback from sacks, they derail blitzes and punish aggressive defensive play calling, allow unpredictability in offensive play calling and are generally the center piece in the very best offenses. Seattle faces the best running back of any kind, Brian Westbrook, this week. What might save the Hawks' butts in what is otherwise shaping up to be a daunting contest against the Eagles is that Seattle is third in the league at defending passes to running backs. How important is that? Westbrook is second in overall receiving value and first in overall rushing value among backs. This season he has missed one contest, in that contest the Eagles scored just 3 points and Donovan McNabb was sacked 65 billion times. Osi Umenyiora flew into such frenzy, in fact, that McNabb was juggled for multiple sacks on each snap in a display reminiscent of Killer Instinct. Remember Tony Siragusa's credo: "That you cannot beat, injure."
Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before: Not as funny as a forkstab but just as painful, Alexander returns in time to be shut down by another mediocre rush D (15). Can someone lure this guy into a closet, coo soothingly "When you were young you were the king of carrot flowers", and inject the freakin' Secobarbital already?
Urge To Kill Rising: If Alexander should play extensively this Sunday, it will effectively remove Seattle's greatest mismatch: The Hawks receiving backs versus the Eagles' inability to stop receiving backs. Morris' receiving DVOA is 41.2%, Weaver's, 27.9%. shaun's -41.6%! The Eagles are ranked 30th at defending receiving backs, 14.4%. This, my friends, is the stat that makes Alexander's return feel a bit like a dog shittin' peach seeds. That and the running. And the pass blocking. And the way every time he touches the ball it degrades the cell wall in my cerebral capillaries, presaging a massive stroke in 3...2...1...
Brown Out: Reggie Brown continues to disappoint after enjoying 3 years of preseason predictions that this is the year he breaks out. Brown's DVOA is positively Burleson-esque, -18.1%. The Hawks D owns #1 receivers, -14.7% or 8th in the league. The conventional wisdom is that Kevin Curtis should play well against Kelly Jennings. Curtis sports a nifty 11.7% DVOA and the Hawks are just 21st at defending #2 receivers, 13.4%. Except, I don't buy that. Curtis is a perfect matchup for the slight but fast and technically sound Jennings. And that poor DVOA against #2 receivers is not a fair depiction of Jennings' play, particularly because Jennings does not always cover the other team's #2. I do not expect either Eagle to be much of a factor this Sunday.
Numbers Lie Like A Persian Hooker: Football Outsiders ranks the Eagles pass blocking as bad, rather the awful. Awful is the correct answer. Westbrook's ability to bail Eagles quarterbacks out of pressure keeps that number artificially low, just like Holmgren telegraphing his gameplan and the Hawks many slot receivers inability to shed coverage keeps Seattle's number artificially high. The Hits keep coming with the Hawks D.