As is the custom each week, in addition to the "Ask ROTB" and "Ask (opposing team blog)" FanPosts we do in preparation for each week's game, we do so again this week. The Arizona Cardinals head up to the dreary state of Washington and will battle the Seattle Seahawks for their (Arizona's) first divisional game of the season.
I got together with Danny Kelly, who plays the part I do here over at Field Gulls and asked him five questions. Hit the jump for his responses.
I wouldn't say that many people were super excited about the prospect of Tarvaris Jackson being brought in and anointed the starter for the Seahawks this past offseason. Some people bemoaned it as a sign, taken together with the acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst last season, that the Seahawks' front office doesn't have a clue when it comes to quarterback evaluation.
Others, like myself, just took it as the decision to go with the lesser of a multitude of evils when it came to the options the Seahawks had at QB. WIth Jackson, Seattle gets a guy that knows the offense, costs nothing, especially in draft picks, provides some toughness and mobility behind a very young and inexperienced line, and buys them some time to develop the rest of the team while they search for the right fit under center.
Naturally, with Kevin Kolb playing well, people have questioned why the Seahawks didn't pursue that more fervently, but he's still a bit of an unknown quantity, is 27 years old, and would have cost the Seahawks, most likely, more than what the Cardinals gave up for him (assuming a bidding war), which is quite a lot. Like it or not, it looks like the Cardinals are betting the house on Kolb working out, and I guess the Hawks weren't ready to do that. With that in mind, I think most people are glad to hold on to the draft capital we'll need for the next few years of building.
The Matt Hasselbeck question is one that just makes me want to curl up into a fetal position and weep, because I'm so completely and utterly burnt out on talking and/or thinking about it. The fans are mostly divided into two camps - 1) the people that think the Seahawks cut him loose when they should have given him a big, multi-year deal to keep him around. A lot of these people probably realize that Hass would have a tough time behind this line, but some probably also believe he'd be throwing for 400 yards and winning games like he did for the Titans against the Ravens last week.
The other camp - 2) people that look at the on field product he's provided the last 3 seasons (near league-worst in most categories for starting QBs in that time period) and realize that the Seahawks needed to move on. I'd say most of the people in camp 2 were probably hoping for something better (read, so completely underwhelming) than Tarvaris Jackson, but probably wouldn't take Matt back if given the chance.
That said, yes, people miss Matt, but for me, I only really miss his personality and clever interviews. He's a class guy and was the face of the franchise for the last 10 years, but I can live without seeing him on the field in a Seahawks uniform.
What were expectations for the team coming into the season and how have they changed with the 0-2 start?
I'd say the expectations have been up and down. Early in the offseason, there were extremely tempered expectations. This is a young team, a near total rebuild, and it would be hard to repeat the luck we had in 2010 by getting into the playoffs with a losing record (thanks to the Cards, 49ers, and Rams concurrent ineptness). The draft didn't really do much to change this thinking. No marquee names, no big playmakers. Basically, we're in the doldrums of a rebuild.
Training camp changed all that when the Seahawks signed Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, and Robert Gallery. Suddenly people began to think the Hawks could really challenge this year and everything was great. Well, I think things have leveled out after the 0-2 start. People realize that this isn't a great team yet. There's a lot of room for growth and at least it's a young team with a lot of potential. It may take a year or three for things to start looking good. That said, it is the NFC West and no one team has really looked like the 'team to beat' just yet. (Though I'll admit the Seahawks are coming in last at challenging for that distinction).
How does Alan Branch look so far?
Alan Branch has been a pleasant surprise. It's kind of funny, because before free agency kicked in I was actually lobbying a bit on Field Gulls for the Seahawks to look at Branch as a 5-tech defensive end backup behind Red Bryant. But, strangely, the Seahawks loved him as their starting 3-tech defensive tackle. So far, he's impressed the coaches, from what I understand, and has been good in run support.
The main obvious downside is that he's not your prototypical, slicing, dicing and pass rushing style defensive tackle that's going to get a lot of pressure on the QB and get sacks, even though in this defense, I thought that was the main goal for the 3-tech. It seems the Seahawks are content to let their base package stop the run and get the opposing offenses into longer third down situations. This week will be a good test of that theory, as we face off against Kevin Kolb and a good Cardinals passing attack.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the team this year and what will the the likely game plan for the game against Arizona?
The obvious (and so far, only) strength for the Seahawks is their run defense. The game will be fun to watch this weekend because the Cards have been running the ball well. If the Seahawks can stop Beanie Wells in his tracks, it could get interesting.
The main weakness the Seahawks have is moving the football. At all. Their offense is the worst in the NFL right now. So ... yeah. I'd say the gameplan will involve trying to get the rushing attack going. That's been Pete Carroll's number one offensive goal since he took over, and that simple idea has been "the gameplan" for their past 18 games going into last season's opener, but they've pretty much failed at that, mostly. 31st in rushing last season, 32nd this season, so far.
With that in mind, and assuming it won't all just 'click' this weekend and all of a sudden they're eating up chunks of yardage on the ground, I would guess it will be up to Tarvaris Jackson to make some things happen on offense. This is pretty much what we've seen happen this season thus far, and this is pretty much why the Seahawks have looked so terrible thus far. My impression is that he's the kind of guy that can make a 'good' offense continue to look 'good', but he's not the kind of guy that can make a bad offense look better. He's not going to carry the team, -- or at least, in fairness, he hasn't shown that ability yet in his career.
The good news though, for Seahawks fans, is that if there's one team in the NFL that the Seahawks have had success against in the past year or so, it's the Cardinals. So, really, anything is possible this week.
Your prediction for Sunday and why?
Seahawks 20, Cardinals 17 - why? Because the Seahawks are at home, and they've shown they're INFINITELY better at home than on the road. The Cards pass defense is shaky at the moment, and that could mean the Seahawks offense behind Jackson finally gets clicking. It will be a close game, with several momentum shifts, but the home-field advantage will prove to be the clincher. That's my guess. I'm sure I'll take some heat for it from you guys!
Danny thinks the Chickens will win...Hahaha! Seriously, if the Cards lose this game, wait, what am I saying. There's no way the Cardinals lose this game!
Thanks to Danny for answering the questions. Visit Field Gulls and get to know the enemy!