Seahawks 2008 Season Preview Part II: Defense, Division Outlook & Predicted Record

Defense – A look back at 2007

The defense arguably outplayed the offense last year. For the first time in recent memory, the Hawks put a defense on the field that did not have a glaring weakness. They played the run and the pass about equally. Their ability to rush the passer made it easier for the secondary to cover and force turnovers, and their ability to cover made it easier for their pass rush to get home. Perhaps the biggest difference was the big play going over a confused Michael Boulware’s head was a thing of the past. The one place there was not balance was how they played in home vs. road games. The place this really mattered was in rushing defense. We actually allowed fewer passing yards/game on the road last season, but 46 more yards rushing/game. That meant more 3rd down conversions, longer drives and less rest. We also had a huge disparity in sacks. The defenses ability to address these problems on the road will go a long ways toward setting this team’s ceiling. Improving numbers on the road by even 30% could be the difference between home field advantage throughout the playoffs and not even having a bye week.

Defense – Starters

Patrick Kerney** – RDE

Rocky Bernard – DT

Brandon Mebane* – DT

Lawrence Jackson* – LDE

Julian Peterson** – OLB

Lofa Tatupu** – MLB

LeRoy Hill – OLB

Marcus Trufant* – RCB

Deon Grant – SS

Brian Russell – FS

Kelly Jennings – LCB

* New starter
** Pro Bowl

Defense – Running Game

The Seahawks are 23-2 over the past three seasons, including the playoffs, when holding an opponent under 100 yards rushing. They were 5-1 in such games last season. We allowed an average of 83.43 YPG at home, and 118.57 on the road. This led to short 3rd downs for opponents on their home fields and limited ability to rush the passer. People got many of these yards up the gut. Most teams cannot run around our linebackers and are more inclined to try and run through them. We have not seen anyone other than Marcus Tubbs be able to clog up the middle of the defensive line for a few years.

The addition of 320 lb. Red Bryant brings reason for renewed hope, along with the emerging 320 lb. HOG (Howard Green). Brandon Mebane enters his second season with raised expectations. That is where the difference must come from. Our linebackers are great, and will make plays when the d-line occupies the opponents o-line. Kerney will be Kerney. Perhaps, Lawrence Jackson will be an upgrade over Daryll Tapp, but the key is the interior line. I wish I was as optimistic about improvement here as I am about our rushing offense, but I’m not. I think we will be better, but this is a “show me” area entering the season.

Defense – Passing Game

We are in good shape defending the pass. We were solid last season, and already have demonstrated more improvement than our rushing defense. Josh Wilson is a different player. He looks ready to drive Jordan Babineaux out of the rotation. Kelly Jennings exited the season playing wonderfully. He has greater closing speed than local favorite Marcus Trufant, and Tru’s a Pro Bowler. He may be the breakout player this year if he can build on what we saw. Even behind Tru, Jennings, Babs, and Wilson, we have another great looking DB in Kevin Hobbs. The guy is tall enough (6’0″) to defend the bigger receivers and makes great plays on the ball.

Defense – Defensive Line

We have already discussed the interior line. Kerney, Jackson, Tapp, and Jason Babin make up a formidable rotation at DE. Babin was arguably the best player on the field in the preseason. He had a sack in every game he played, and demonstrated ability to play the run as well. Tapp needs to perform as a pass rush specialist, or may yield his roster spot down the road.

Defense – Linebackers

Our linebackers are legitimately in the conversation of best starting trios in the NFL. This is likely the last season we will see these three play together as LeRoy Hill becomes an unrestricted free agent next year. For all the strength of the starters, we are a little thin in the backup department. DD Lewis can be a decent fill in at any of the spots and David Hawthorne looks like a capable Mike, but any of these guys are major dropoffs from the starters. We need to stay healthy here.

Defense – Secondary

Depth at the safety spot is a little concerning as well. Jordan Babineaux is not a great safety, and there is not much beyond him. CJ Wallace is a great special teamer, but our better safety prospect, Jamar Adams, is on the practice squad.

Defense – Overall 2008 Outlook

This defense is best when it attacking with blitzes and stuffing the run. We need to see fire in their eyes on the road and resiliency when momentum builds for the opposing offense. There is no reason to expect a decline in play at home, and they were the best defense in the NFL when they played at home. It is not realistic to expect parity on the road, but modest improvement are definitely within reach. This should be a Top 10 defense. Anything less would be a disappointment.

Special Teams – Overall 2008 Outlook

The kicking game is a question mark. We have had the luxury of knowing our kicker would win the game if given the chance. Either Mare or Coutu will need to prove that this season. Getting confidence in our kicking game is critically important. Good teams have had their seasons ruined by a bad kicking game. Jeff Robinson returns as our longsnapper at the age of 38. Losing him to injury would be another cause for concern. On the plus side, we might have a new weapon with Mare kicking more touchbacks and also being an ace onsides kicker. That could be fun.

Ryan Plackemeier regressed as a punter last season. He improved at downing kicks inside the 20, but lost 10-15 yards off his long punts. We need better from a guy that has Pro Bowl potential.

Scouting the NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco adds Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator. Martz plus a questionable offensive line is usually a recipe for dead quarterbacks. The 49ers have a legit defense, with possibly the best defender in the division in Patrick Willis. Their offense is full of questions. A fast start could make them more of a problem than they should be. Beating them in week two is key.

St. Louis Rams

Marc Bulger either returns to form this year as a top 5 NFC QB, or the Rams officially start looking for a new answer there. This is a limited defense with a limited coordinator. The Rams offense needs to be fantastic for this team to even toy with .500.

Arizona Cardinals

I predicted the Cards resurgence last season based on their strengthening offensive line. This year we see how they deal with relative prosperity. They earned respect with a prolific offense and a defense that hung tough despite crippling injuries. Nobody considers them a legitimate threat to the Hawks in the division. I do. I would not be shocked if the Cards sneak into the playoffs as a wild card this season. The Anquan Boldin situation could be a major issue.

Scouting The Opponents

1 Sun, Sep 7 @ Buffalo

Outcome: Win

2 Sun, Sep 14 San Francisco

Outcome: Win

3 Sun, Sep 21 St. Louis

Outcome: Win


5 Sun, Oct 5 @ NY Giants

Outcome: Win

6 Sun, Oct 12 Green Bay

Outcome: Win

7 Sun, Oct 19 @ Tampa Bay

Outcome: Loss

8 Sun, Oct 26 @ San Francisco

Outcome: Win

9 Sun, Nov 2 Philadelphia

Outcome: Win

10 Sun, Nov 9 @ Miami

Outcome: Win

11 Sun, Nov 16 Arizona

Outcome: Win

12 Sun, Nov 23 Washington

Outcome: Win

13 Thu, Nov 27 @ Dallas

Outcome: Loss

14 Sun, Dec 7 New England

Outcome: Loss

15 Sun, Dec 14 @ St. Louis

Outcome: Win

16 Sun, Dec 21 NY Jets

Outcome: Win

17 Sun, Dec 28 @ Arizona

Outcome: Loss


Prediction: This team can get back to the Super Bowl. Their chances are better than most people nationally realize. The preseason was impressive. The offense looks reinvigorated and the defense only needs to show modest improvement. We could see a range of 10-14 wins, and a shot at home field advantage throughout. All bets are off with a coaching change next year, so enjoy it while we have it.