A lot of bleeding going on in the sports blogosphere. Hey! That's the first time I've ever used that goofy little noun. Anyway, this week Matchupalooza is in the shop for some retooling. It needs some tweaks for the impending playoff run, methinks. So, instead, I exchanged 5 questions with Jason. Here's his questions and my answers. We'll post my questions and his answers whenever they arrive.
1) The Seahawks are 5-1 at home, yet only 2-3 on the road. What seems to be the problem away from home and are you worried that the Hawks finish up with 4 of their last 6 on the road?
To answer the second question first, no. Regarding the former, I don't think the Hawks have any particular problem playing on the road. To be clear, those three losses also account for the three best teams Seattle has faced: Cleveland, Pitt and Arizona. Seattle, like every NFL team gets a certain boost from playing at home. Qwest Field specifically seems to increase the number of opponent false starts, but otherwise I don't think there is anything relevant to be read into the Hawks' respective home and road records.
2) I've always seen the backbone of the Seattle offense as Shaun Alexander and the running game. But this year you guys rank 21st in the league in rushing and Alexander just hasn't looked like himself. What has happened to the ground game in Seattle?
21st only by conventional stats, stats that don't account for number of attempts, quality of opponent or game situation. The reality is actually much worse. The biggest weaknesses, in order, are Shaun Alexander, Right Guard Chris Gray and Center Chris Spencer. Alexander is for all intents and purposes cooked. Given his style, recent injuries, usage and age, it was expected by most keen Seahawks observers that he'd be a shadow of his former self. Instead, he's been roughly the worst rusher I've ever seen. He's slow to the hole. Slow into and out of his cuts to the point of stopping. Horrific as a receiver. No horrific is wrong. More like buffoonish. Even his decision making has deteriorated, as he'll frequently make cuts, or attempt to bounce outside, thinking he still possesses the acceleration of his younger self and not the stumbling shell that clogs his own offenses rush lanes and tackles himself.
Gray is 37 and barely holding on thanks to superlative technique. What's worse, he seems to be wearing down.
Spencer has lost power on his blocks thanks to some unresolved shoulder injuries, gets too high off the snap and has suspect footwork that sometimes leads him to trip.
3) I suppose this isn't exactly a Seahawks question, but I have to ask what happened to the NFC West this year? Arizona & San Fran were both very popular pre-season picks to get to the playoffs or win the division and Seattle has been a pretty consistent playoff team for a quite a while, so it looked like the West was shaping up to be a real fight and instead the Niners have been downright awful and the Cardinals mediocre. Is this a surprise to you?
The Niners no. I never understood the immense love they received preseason. Alex Smith has never shown even the threat of competence. The offensive line was old at key positions and the defensive line sub-standard - especially for a 3-4. I did not feel strongly that they would be this bad, but the potential was always there.
I never thought the Cards were much above a 7-9 team, but really, they've been a pretty big surprise and now have the look of an up and comer. They were ravaged by injuries preseason, lost their young franchise QB, and, really, had an iffy draft, but Whisenhunt has coached them up. They are a team on the rise.
I would say the Rams surprised me, but I actually said preseason that they were very top heavy talentwise, and couldn't sustain injuries to a few key players. Going so far as to say that they could be thinking top five pick if few key players went down. So I'm surprised that they are this bad, but only in the sense that I'm surprised that they were so ravaged by injuries.
4) Although Seattle has been a solid defensive team over the years, they're more known nationally for their offense under Holmgren. However, this year is changing that. Seattle's defense has been in impressive form so far giving up less than 17 points a game and forcing a ton of turnovers. Who have been your big playmakers so far and is it safe to say that the defense is carrying the team?
Not carrying, Hasselbeck has played very well in adverse circumstances and the special teams is among the league's elite, but, yes, the defense has played very well. The Hawks D follows the Patriot model: wide not tall. In other words, the team has some top talent, but the hallmark is the depth. Playmakers wise, the Hawks top performers are Marcus Trufant, who is having a Pro Bowl season and has finally added some ballhawking instincts to his mad cover skills. Patrick Kerney has never had a better supporting cast. Brandon Mebane, who is an excellent run clogger that can bring heat if single covered. The ever underappreciated Rocky Bernard, who, healthy, is a top tier three technique tackle. The three headed linebacker corps, of course. Really, though, with the exception of free safety Brian Russell, who's some kind of awful, and sometimes nickelback Jordan Babineaux, the Hawks are above average at every position.
5) Finally, if you could pluck any one player off the Eagles roster and add him to your own who would it be?
Easy, the NFL's best running back: Brian Westbrook. With Westbrook, the Hawks could run with the Cowboys, he's that good and the Hawks that desperate for a running back. That's too easy though, so delving a little deeper, Shawn Andrews is a great young right guard, but expensive. I like Kolb as a developmental QB. And Brian Dawkins is among the best free safeties of our generation, he may be slowing down, but I'd take him over Brian Russell every day Monday through Saturday, and 16 times on Sunday.