Welcome to "Seahawks Week", Rumblers! In an effort to learn all that we can about the Buffalo Bills' season opening opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, we'll be joined once per day by John Morgan of Field Gulls throughout this week. John is a superbly knowledgeable blogger when it comes to the X's and O's of the game, and he'll give us some excellent perspective on the Seahawks as a team heading into Sunday's tilt. To see today's reciprocal installment, click here; to see all posts related to Seahawks Week, click here.
Our first topic of conversation for Seahawks Week: Seattle's situation at running back. With former NFL MVP Shaun Alexander now out of the picture, the Seahawks have made some pretty substantial changes in their rushing department, now relying on a deep stable of runners to shoulder the load. How effective can they be? John Morgan doesn't believe the drop-off will be a steep one...
Buffalo Rumblings: We're all assuming that Julius Jones is the Seahawks' starting running back. Are there any serious competitors for Jones' supposed starting job? Are the Seahawks looking at working with a RB by committee? Will it help shore up a poor rushing attack?
John Morgan, Field Gulls: Julius Jones is the starter and should see the most carries, but I think Mike Holmgren is serious about Jones being the 1a and Maurice Morris the 1b. Jones is a complete running back. He's a competent rusher and receiver, a good blocking back, and an excellent fit for Holmgren's pull block/cutback system. Morris is the better overall offensive weapon. I wouldn't have said that a season ago, but Morris has been reborn in 2008. Already among the best receiving running backs in the NFL, Morris has embraced starting; he's bulked up and is shiftier in the open field, less a single cut rusher and more a complete rusher: fast to the hole but able to break or miss a tackle in space.
The two should combine for ~85% of the touches. Initially, Jones will get the slight majority, but that could change. The remaining 15% will go to T.J. Duckett and Justin Forsett. Duckett, perhaps misguidedly, is once again pigeonholed as a short yardage back. He's strong in short yardage; tough to tackle at the spot of contact. Last season, Duckett gained a first down on 25% of all rushes and was 5 for 6 in "power" situations. But he can be picky choosing a hole and probably would make a better fulltime rusher rather than merely a short yardage back. Forsett is a tiny power-back with an excellent second gear. He excels at breaking the first tackle and exploding for another 10. For now, Forsett is strictly a punt returner and occasional change of pace back, but after an at-times spectacular preseason, he could earn himself more touches.
I've always been a big proponent of a RB-by-committee, and the Seahawks' talent pool at the position - coupled with the fact that Mike Holmgren's offenses are generally above average - quite frankly scares me. I am confident that Buffalo's revamped rushing defense, led by DT acquisition Marcus Stroud, can keep these guys in check. But unless the Bills can build a quick lead and make the Seahawks chase, this group has the ability to wear down Buffalo's front seven.
It's also important to keep in mind that each of these guys - yes, even Duckett - can make you pay as receivers. Morris has long been a Kevin Faulk type, but has toiled in anonymity behind Alexander. With injury issues at wide receiver, you can bet that Holmgren will be using both Jones and Morris as receivers in the passing game - and that's not a bad thing for the Seahawks' offense.
No, they're not Shaun Alexander (in his prime). But they're talented, and they're versatile. Buffalo's defense has a task ahead of them this Sunday, folks.