Impact Analysis: Seattle Seahawks' backfield
by Francis Duffy
on June 25, 2009 @ 00:00:00
The Seattle Seahawks (4-12) have always been known as a pass-first team under former head coach Mike Holmgren. Since his departure, Jim Mora has stepped into his place, and this Seattle offense should have a whole new look than from years past.
Even when running back Shaun Alexander was leading the league in rushing, the Seahawks and Holmgren always set up the run with the pass, something that is often a staple of the West Coast offense. However, Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will definitely be taking a different approach with this 2009 squad.
Over the course of both of their careers, Mora and Knapp have proven to be run-first coaches, particularly Knapp. During their time together with the Atlanta Falcons, they bred the top rushing attack in the NFL (featuring quarterback Michael Vick, running back Warrick Dunn and running back T.J. Duckett). They have made a career out of producing solid running games out of seemingly aging or mediocre personnel.
Over the past two seasons in Oakland, Knapp coached production from the oft-overlooked Justin Fargas. Fargas produced very little in the four years preceding his time under Knapp but enjoyed solid numbers over the past two years with his tutelage.
In Atlanta, Knapp took a back seemingly on his last legs (Dunn) and another that had never lived up to potential (Duckett) and made them one of the more feared tandems in the league. He did the same during his first coordinator gig, with the San Francisco 49ers, except he made Kevan Barlow a noteworthy fantasy football option in 2003. Now, Knapp and Mora will look to give a unit that ranked in the bottom half in rushing last year a much-needed boost.
Table: No. 1 rushers under Greg Knapp (2001-08)
During the offseason, there were definite changes made on the offensive side of the ball, with a number of players being sent packing while some new faces will appear in the media guide.
The biggest name was that of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who comes to Seattle via the Cincinnati Bengals. Houshmandzadeh gives the Seahawks the receiver that they've needed in that offense for a couple of years, and should fit in nicely with that receiving corps.
In the draft, the Seahawks made a deal with the Chicago Bears to nab offensive lineman Max Unger and selected Penn State wideout Deon Butler in Round 3. Running back Maurice Morris left the nest for the Detroit Lions, where he will spell Kevin Smith. Fullback Leonard Weaver also departed and went cross-country to take a spot in the Philadelphia Eagles' starting lineup. The only notable departure along the offensive line is Floyd Womack (Cleveland Browns).
While the addition of Houshmandzadeh may point more toward a thriving passing attack, don't let it fool you. With Mora and Knapp at the helm, this team is planning to pound the rock.
Who gets the touches?
The primary beneficiary from this change in scheme will be veteran Julius Jones, who didn't wow anyone in the Emerald City a year ago. In his first year with the team, the former second-round pick managed just 698 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, hardly what you would expect from your leading rusher. This regime change may be exactly what the doctor ordered for Jones though, and you may see him return to his 2006 form with the Dallas Cowboys.
That season (his third in the league), Jones rushed for 1,084 yards, a career high. If he can stay healthy, we expect Jones to match that and even possibly eclipse that production. Don't be surprised if he rushes for close to 1,200 yards and four to six touchdowns in 2009.
Another player that will surely benefit from the current situation is Duckett, who is looking to revive his career after being taken as a first-round draft choice in 2002. Duckett signed a free-agent contract with the Seahawks heading into last season, responding with eight touchdowns as the goal line and short-yardage back. We expect a similar role for Duckett with nearly 500 yards and seven or eight scores this year (barring an injury to Jones).
Justin Forsett is currently slated to be the No. 3 back. The second-year pro didn't see any action in 2008 during his time with the Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts but could have an impact if Jones goes down. He showed flashes of big-play ability during his college career and could be an option on third downs as the season progresses.
Fantasy football outlook
If Jones can experience the type of season he is capable of having, he could be a solid option on your fantasy team. At this point, however, look at him as low-end No. 3 or a very strong No. 4 fantasy back. We consider him a sleeper candidate, but beware of his injury history.
Duckett is a low No. 4 or No. 5 running back, with his value obviously higher in scoring-only leagues. Right now, Forsett shouldn't be drafted and is, at best, a No. 6 back in very deep leagues.
About Francis Duffy
"Fran Duffy has been involved in sports since he was a child. A Philadelphia native, Fran is obviously a die-hard fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and Sixers. Fran is desperately waiting to see his first major championship from one of his hometown teams. He is a Broadcasting major at Temple University and has experience on the radio as well as in television production. Fran also currently works with Temple football's video-operation's team and is an avid fantasy sports player. Looking for more experience in writing, Fran joined KFFL in the spring of 2005."
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