ESPN's Mike Sando featured the Seahawks today in his "Camp Confidential" series of stories, documenting each team in the division during training camp. Naturally, the focus of the story revolves around how the Seahawks have changed from last year to now, and asks some important questions centering around whether or not the team can bounce back from a 4-12 record.
First, Sando compares the Holmgren regime to Mora's stint so far.
The Holmgren school emphasized mastering the offensive system, with less regard for what the opponent might do. Holmgren figured the opposing defense would come up with some surprises from time to time, but practice reps were too scarce to dwell on them in training camp.
"Let's make them perfect, let's be fast, let's get off the field," Hasselbeck said in summarizing the old way.
Whereas Holmgren was a perfectionist with the way he wanted plays to be executed, Mora & co. focus more on game situations and worst-case scenarios. This should translate more naturally from the practice field to the intense pressure of a regular-season game, which will also help rookies like Aaron Curry who face a steep learning curve.
"We practiced fourth-and-20 the other day," Hasselbeck said. "Fourth-and-20? What do we got for fourth-and-20? The funny thing is, I think we converted it."
Then, the important questions come up. I'll summarize Sando's thoughts first, then follow up briefly with my own.
1. Will this team get -- and stay -- healthy enough to compete?
Sando: The team expects Jones back this week, with Trufant perhaps needing a little more time. But the unpredictable nature of back injuries adds drama where the Seahawks would prefer none.
MP: I haven't heard about Jones coming back this week, but if that's the case, that sound you're hearing is the 12th Man breathing a huge sigh of relief. Jones was on the field Saturday when I was at training camp, but he didn't participate in much. It was just good to see him moving around on the field, however. Hopefully Trufant is next to get healthy again and take some reps before the end of preseason.
2. How much does Patrick Kerney have left?
Sando: His 14.5-sack season two years ago stands as evidence of what Kerney can accomplish when healthy. The pressure he can put on opposing quarterbacks would dramatically upgrade a pass defense that ranked 32nd last season ... He recently failed to get pressure during three consecutive rushes against a backup tackle during one practice. Kerney did not appear to be rushing with his usual abandon. Expect him to cut loose when the games start counting.
MP: I still have faith that Kerney can pack the same wallop he did in 2007. He might not have been pushing 100 percent in camp as of late, but he still appeared to be stronger and more relentless than most of the guys on the field. He hasn't lost his swagger, and Cory Redding's intensity should provide the perfect complement to Kerney's pass-rushing on the opposite edge. Having a dual-sack threat on both ends is something the Seahawks have been missing for far too long, and if both can produce, one thing will be certain: we won't be seeing a last-place pass defense at the end of 2009.
3. How badly will the Seahawks miss Holmgren?
Sando: Holmgren's strengths were as a teacher and playcaller. He wasn't as interested in leading offensive meetings or even attending them in some cases. He kept distance between himself and his quarterbacks, operating through his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The new staff has bridged the gap, with Knapp and Hasselbeck communicating directly and frequently. Hasselbeck enjoys more input into the plays Seattle runs.
MP: The more open line of communication with the new staff seems to be making everyone happy. Hasselbeck loves it, Housh loves it, and most players seem a lot happier than they were at this time last year. The fact that Holmgren announced both his retirement and successor in the same year was a bad move, in hindsight. It was later revealed to have created a rather large rift in the locker room, and it's no surprise that some of "Holmgren's guys," i.e. Maurice Morris and Rocky Bernard, chose to sign elsewhere.With a much more dynamic and cohesive unit working in Renton this year, Mora seems to have the characteristics of a great leader and a dedicated coach. The real test will be in the months to come.