Week 17 Q&A with HawkBlogger

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Hawkblogger, one of the most thoughtful independent Seahawks blogs out there, for taking the time to answer my questions. Be sure to follow @HawkBlogger on Twitter for some gameday intelligence from the opposite sideline. You can read Part II of our Q&A, featuring my answers to the Seahawks’ questions, here

Pete Carroll talks to his pet reclamation project, Mike Williams

The Seahawks had a really aggressive approach to the offseason and the draft. Which move (or non-move) has made the biggest impact on your season?

That’s a great question, and far tougher to answer than you might expect. Three moves had significant impact, and are so different, they do a nice job of demonstrating why some Seahawks fans are so bullish on Pete Carrol even with the horrible play of late.

First, they picked up the team’s best offensive player for nothing. Mike Williams earned his way onto the team, and has been a major difference maker when healthy. He will be a free agent after the season, but is still only 26, and will be a Pro Bowler if he can stay healthy.

Second, Red Bryant was a seldom-used defensive tackle that Carroll inherited. In order to better take advantage of the type of players he had, Carroll switched to an old 49er defense he ran that is basically a hybrid 4-3/3-4 with a big defensive end on the strong-side. Bryant was tried at the position, and at 320 lbs, dominated almost every right tackle he faced. While he was healthy, the Seahawks ranked 2nd in the NFL in rush defense at less than 75 yards/game and less than 3 YPC.

Bryant was a key to the whole defense, and when he got injured against Oakland in Week 8, the defense fell apart. Again, this guy was just sitting on the sidelines last year.

Third, Carroll watched tape of Lawyer Milloy and decided he was being underutilized. He gave him a chance to compete for the starting spot, and Milloy won going away. His leadership and toughness has been a great ingredient. He appears to be wearing down as the season winds down, but it was another example of maximizing the talent you have.

It appears as though Charlie Whitehurst will get the start this week; do you hold out hope that he can become the QB of the future? Or does his debut so far have you thinking in another direction?

Matt Hasselbeck will play. Whitehurst will never be the answer.

He has three fatal flaws. First, he is habitually inaccurate. The interception along the sidelines in the Giants game, and almost every pass he threw las week were below NFL standards for accuracy. Throwing behind a guy is one thing, missing people by 3-5 yards gets you a QB rating below 50, like the one he has.

The second fatal flaw is his decision making. He makes mistakes like a rookie. He is not a rookie. He’s been in the NFL for several seasons and is now 29 years-old. Throwing late to the outside can’t happen, and he’s done it multiple times. Moving through your progressions must be automatic by this stage in his career. It is not. That is a multi-year process to fix, and something only worth doing if the player is young enough to still be your future franchise QB when it is done. Whitehurst is not young enough, and does not have the upside to warrant such an investment.

His final fatal flaw is his pocket presence. I noticed since the pre-season that he has the courage of a kitten in there. At the first sign of pass rush, he drops the ball and runs around, often into a sack or a rushed throw off his back foot. When you combine inaccuracy, bad decision making and heartless pocket presence, you have a dog that just won’t hunt. There is value in having learned that this year. Nobody wants to imagine spending next season with this guy at the helm.

Seattle’s pass defense has allowed an NFL-high 15 passing TDs in the last five weeks, five to Josh Freeman alone last week. This same defense allowed only 6 passing TDs in their first 5 games. What happened?

General lack of cornerback talent and a fading pass rush. The Seahawks like to blitz a lot, and leave themselves vulnerable as a result. Pick up the blitz, and you have a great chance of getting easy chunks of yardage. Also, when you are giving up rushing yards like they have been since Bryant went down, the passing comes much easier. QBs feel much more confident throwing on 3rd and 3 than 3rd and 8 or 9.

Regardless of records, Qwest field has been a house of horrors for the Rams, with a 35-0 season-opening atrocity from 2009 still fresh in our minds. Do you expect a “playoff” atmosphere from the home crowd?

I wish I could say, “absolutely,” but Seahawks fans are more split about this team than any I can remember. Some are even hoping the team loses to get a higher draft position. I spent some time explaining their reasoning on my site, but I don’t fall in their camp. Things will start loud, and could get a boost from Hasselbeck taking the field a la Willis Reed, but it won’t take all that much for them to turn on the team. We get a little grumpy in the long Winter months up here!

5. What’s your game prediction?

I predict Matt Hasselbeck will play, and I will satisfied with the result when I wake up Monday morning. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Congrats on a stellar season either way.