3 Seattle Seahawks A defense that got run over last season has been revived by the hiring of Ray Rhodes

August 31, 2003

Last December, as the Seahawks completed their third consecutive
season without a playoff appearance, Mike Holmgren's fate seemed
sealed. Despite a strong finish to salvage a 7-9 record, Seattle
remained mired in the mediocrity that is the hallmark of the
franchise's 26-year-history. Holmgren, the team's executive vice
president/general manager/head coach--or, to his players, the Big
Show--was paid handsomely to change all that, but at the
conclusion of his fourth choppy season, his record stood at
31-33. Conventional wisdom had owner Paul Allen firing Holmgren,
or at least asking him to surrender his general manager's role,
though the notion that Holmgren would agree to the latter
scenario was about as likely as Starbucks restricting its menu to
regular coffee.

Yet Holmgren did agree to give up the G.M. title, and he has
returned for another season. Whether the Big Show is back in 2004
will be up to Allen, who brought in Bob Ferguson as his new
general manager. But Holmgren's fate may well lie with the
players on his defensive unit and with his new defensive
coordinator, Ray Rhodes.

"The way we look at it, everybody's on a one-year contract," says
cornerback Shawn Springs, a former All-Pro who has been beset by
injuries and inconsistency during Holmgren's tenure and who,
coincidentally, is in the final year of his contract. "We need to
produce this season or we're probably gone."

Holmgren's impressive run of success as the Packers' coach from
1992 to '98, which included a Super Bowl win and a title-game
appearance in back-to-back seasons, began with Rhodes calling the
shots on defense. Rhodes's successor in Green Bay, Fritz Shurmur,
made the move to Seattle with Holmgren in '99, and the defense,
which was loaded with talented players, seemed poised to become a
dominant unit. But Shurmur died in late August '99 after a short
bout with cancer, and neither his replacement, Jim Lind, nor
Steve Sidwell, who was hired in 2000, had much success.

Meanwhile, Rhodes, who originally left Green Bay to become the
head coach in Philadelphia and later returned to the Packers as
Holmgren's successor--going 8-8 in his lone season--had since
moved on to Denver as the Broncos' defensive coordinator. When he
resigned there last January after two seasons, Holmgren quickly
lured him to the Pacific Northwest. Rhodes made an immediate
impact by persuading Springs to rescind his request to be traded.
He then set about instilling a more aggressive approach in a unit
that last year allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL. On the
personnel side, the trade with the Saints for defensive tackle
Norman Hand and the free-agent signing of middle linebacker
Randall Godfrey, along with the selection of cornerback Marcus
Trufant and safety Ken Hamlin in the first two rounds of the
draft, have given the Seahawks even more cause for optimism.

"Last year we'd wait to see how the offense was attacking us
before figuring out what we were going to do," says outside
linebacker Anthony Simmons, a fast, rangy defender who missed
nine games in 2002 with an ankle injury. "Now, we don't care what
you're doing--we're coming after you whether we're up by 30 or
down by 30."

No one has felt the pain of the defense's failures more than
Springs. "He came in with such fanfare and had such success early
on, it was like people thought a defensive back was going to save
the franchise," says outside linebacker Chad Brown. "Then he
started having problems with his hamstring, and that's the worst
injury a defensive back can have. It's hard to cover receivers
when your turbo button is broken."

If Springs can finally escape injury--last year, he was slowed by
a sore right foot--Seattle's secondary could again have a bona
fide star. "When I'm healthy, I think I'm by far the Number 1
cornerback in the league, and believe me, I watch everybody,"
says Springs. "I've got a good coach now, and I think I'm going
to dominate."

For Holmgren & Co., that can't happen a moment too soon. --M.S.

COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES ON THE REBOUND Healthy at last, the ever-confident Springs has his sights set on returning to his old Pro Bowl form. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS ENGRAM COLOR PHOTO

UNDER THE GUN

MATT HASSELBECK was smoking hot over the final six games last
season, directing an offense that averaged an NFL-high 476 yards
a game during that span. But most of those games were against
nonplayoff teams with poor defenses. If Hasselbeck is going to
become a top quarterback, he'll have to be productive when it
counts.

ENEMY LINES
An opposing scout's view

"The offense was so hot at the end of last season, but I'm still
not a big believer in Matt Hasselbeck when the game is on the
line.... I've never been a huge Shaun Alexander fan, either. He's
fast, but he's a straight-line runner who's not very elusive....
Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson are excellent, and Bobby
Engram is an ideal third receiver--not flashy, but productive....
Assuming the Seahawks work out their contract problems with
Walter Jones, the offensive line could be very, very good. Chris
Terry was a hell of a pickup last year, and Steve Hutchinson is a
punishing inside player.... Defensively, I think they'll be
better, largely because of [coordinator] Ray Rhodes. They're
strong at corner, with Shawn Springs and Marcus Trufant, who has
a chance to be as good a corner as there is in the league....
Rhodes will set up a defense where Norman Hand and Chad Eaton
clog the middle and allow those linebackers to run.... I like all
the guys they picked up--Hand, Randall Godfrey, who was still
productive last year, and especially Chike Okeafor. He'll
surprise you with his ability to play the run, and he'll get
after you as a pass rusher."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 7 NEW ORLEANS
14 at Arizona
21 ST. LOUIS
28 Open date

Oct. 5 at Green Bay
12 SAN FRANCISCO
19 CHICAGO
26 at Cincinnati

Nov. 2 PITTSBURGH
9 at Washington
16 DETROIT
23 at Baltimore
30 CLEVELAND

Dec. 7 at Minnesota
14 at St. Louis
21 ARIZONA
27 at San Francisco (Sat.)

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: 31
Opponents' 2002 winning percentage: .443
Games against playoff teams: 5

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP with 2002 statistics

2002 RECORD: 7-9
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total):
OFFENSE 20/3/7
DEFENSE 32/18/28

COACH: Mike Holmgren; fifth season with Seattle (106-70 in NFL)

SHAUN ALEXANDER

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
RB 14 295 1,175 4.0

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
59 460 7.8 18

MATT HASSELBECK

POS. PVR ATT. COMP. %
QB 64 419 267 63.7

YARDS TDs INT. RATING
3,075 15 10 87.8

MACK STRONG

POS. PVR ATT. YARDS AVG.
FB 275 23 94 4.1

REC. YARDS AVG. TDs
22 120 5.5 2

KOREN ROBINSON

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 65 78 1,240 5

ITULA MILI

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
TE 137 43 508 2

WALTER JONES

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LT 6'5" 308 lbs. 14 14

STEVE HUTCHINSON

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
LG 6'5" 313 lbs. 4 4

ROBBIE TOBECK

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
C 6'4" 297 lbs. 16 16

CHRIS GRAY

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RG 6'4" 308 lbs. 16 16

CHRIS TERRY

POS. HEIGHT WEIGHT GMS. STARTS
RT 6'5" 295 lbs. 15 15

DARRELL JACKSON

POS. PVR REC. YARDS TDs
WR 100 62 877 4

DEFENSE

RE CHIKE OKEAFOR[1] 43 tackles 6 sacks
RT CHAD EATON 73 tackles 1 sack
LT NORMAN HAND[1] 39 tackles 2 1/2 sacks
LE ANTONIO COCHRAN 52 tackles 3 sacks
OLB ANTHONY SIMMONS 46 tackles 1 sack
MLB RANDALL GODFREY[1] 32 tackles 1 sack
OLB CHAD BROWN 50 tackles 6 sacks
CB SHAWN SPRINGS 59 tackles 3 int.
SS REGGIE TONGUE 93 tackles 5 int.
FS DAMIEN ROBINSON 73 tackles 2 int.
CB KEN LUCAS 82 tackles 3 int.

SPECIAL TEAMS PVR

K JOSH BROWN (R)[1] 250 46/46 XPS 14/18 FGS 88 PTS.
PR BOBBY ENGRAM 240 21 RET. 10.7 AVG. 1 TD
KR MAURICE MORRIS 284 34 RET. 24.1 AVG. 1 TD
P RODNEY WILLIAMS*[1] 91 PUNTS 42.9 AVG.

[1] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 89)
*2001 stats

"Marcus Trufant has a chance to be as good a corner as there is
in the league."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)