As to the Hawks run game, I think we hope for a big improvement in defending it because of the addition of safety James Butler, replacing Chavous, and a new MLB in rookie James Laurinaitis which allows Witherspoon to move to WLB in replacing Pisa Tinoisamoa.Draft will probably start at SLB .
I'd say about half of Jones' rush yardage in our first game was on Pisa and Chavous failing to wrap up or failing to fill the right gap. Remember those plays where JJ was seemingly stopped at the LOS & then wriggled through for big gainers?
We also got a bit younger & bigger at DT with the additions of rookie Darell Scott and fatboy Hollis Thomas.Along with Clifton Ryan, I like their chances of penetrating and disrupting the inside run game against an untried interior line. Unger will be a good player but Spencer's back and the loss of Wahle and Porkchop has to be a concern.
Overall, our DL seems to have gained depth;even if the first string aren't marquee caliber.Should help protect against the late game wear down that we had vs The Hawks and many other teams last year.
If I were The Hawks OC, I'd try to work the screens and draws,etc, trying to get players like Forsett(I'm a big Cal fan; you got a good 'un there,trust me) into space. Ditto for reverses and WildCat stuff with the equally electric Deon Butler to confuse the rookie MLB and our DEs who tend to speedrush outside too much & expose the outside backers.
We are hopeful for a big jump in production from Chris Long & Walt being down may be a chance for him to have a good start to the year. Locklear hasn't impressed me. Little is the key,though. If he isn't dinged up-he's been resting a sprained knee for a couple weeks- he has been a terror.
Fortunately,we also have some better depth in Hall,Adeyanju,and possibly Ah You than in years past. None are new but all are healthy and shown flashes this pre.
And then there's Spags. Expect a lot of confusing looks that,unlike his predecessor Haslett, are still schematically sound.We started to see some interesting stunts,loops,etc in late pre-season & he drops DEs into coverage(Long) and brings LBs,nickels,and safeties with good disguise. Hard for even the always formidable Hass to make use of all those WRs without time....we hope...Also look for DEs like Hall & Adeyanju being used inside a la Justin Tuck for additional pass pressure.Could be a long day for young Unger.
Our secondary is much more questionable.The safeties are solid & may even become a deadly combo for turnovers especially. Bartell is solid at CB but the rest of the CBs are very green.Not that we're likely to miss Tye Hill and Fakhir Brown in the long run who were repeatedly shredded by both Wallace and Hass last year with less WR firepower. I think moving Witherspoon to the outside will help with that; he is much more consistent in coverage than Pisa was.
Expect much more challenging of the WRs at the LOS as well. Justin King and and Bradley Fletcher have better size than their predecessors and will hopefully try to disrupt the passing game there. Again, that's Spags' style. I expect to see lots of motion by The Hawks to try and confuse these young guys/negate that LOS physicality.Carlson scares the snot out of me but we at least match up better this year than last.
On offense, other than SJ here,there, and everywhere behind the blocking of new FB Karney and much bigger new center Jason Brown, I think you'll see a more diversified pass attack. Three good TEs in McMichael,Fells, and Bajema will help reclaim the middle of the field. Should be a good battle in the short passing game vs your excellent LB crew.
There is much more WCO in this offense than either Saunders or Limpehan used. Again, a test of the horizontal game of the LBs vs dink/dunk to the outside to SJ and others. We have deep speed in Avery and Robinson-a pick up from the Falcons who may well have been the surprise find of the pre-season. Beyond them, there is some talent that has been limited by injury/durability questions; Burton is good at making the tough catch in traffic but it remains to be seen whether he can take the punishment you take for doing it over a season. Stanley is fast & elusive but a smurf.
In short, I think you are really going to miss Trufant and neither Fisher nor Milloy will compensate if the pass rush isn't much better than it was in pre-season.
And that brings us to the O-line. Major overhaul that is still in progress. Can the 12th man get in Barron's head as he starts at LT? Dunno, he's been ok in pre-season...we'll see. Bell and Cogs have had niggling injuries that have prevented them from playing as much as we'd have liked to develop cohesion.Jason Brown should be a huge upgrade over the diminuitive Leckey at center so expect Mebane and Cole to need good support from the LBs to keep SJ in check.
Our top pick Jason Smith looks to start at RT but it's not certain. He has had trouble as most rookies do & I expect both OTs to need help with Redding and Kerney. Blitz pick up by TEs and RBs has been spotty. we'll see.
We don't even know how effective Bulger will be because of a broken pinkie on his throwing hand. Boller has greater mobility but his accuracy is suspect at times.
We don't really have a KR so you'd think the Hawks have an advantage there. Coverage has been better on STs but there are a lot of newbies so I'd give the Hawks an advantage there. Would be bigger if not for a great punter in Donnie Jones. Josh Brown you know about..lol.
All in all, it's as mysterious a match-up as we've had in a while. Both teams have some exciting additions but new schemes inadequately understood/performed have a way of making good players look bad. I'd say we are in for a classic nailbiter with the team whose new guys make the last big gaffe ending up on the losing side.
Welcome to all the Hawks fans that have visited and posted. You're always welcomed to come on in and chat about the upcoming game, and the members here hope you enjoy this site and return often.
About the game on Sunday.
Being a long-time Rams fan, of course I'm hoping the Rams finally put a stop to the Hawks dominance of our Rams at the Quest, and I'll be rooting them on in my local sports bar as I always do. There's nothing better than opening Sunday in the NFL.
I can see the Rams sqeaking out a win on the road.
...but I don't think it will happen. Why?
The Rams are a young, inexperienced team, and the Hawks will use that to their advantage. And don't forget that they'll be playing the Hawks in their house, which has been tough on the Rams in recent years. Too many people are not taking into account that the Hawks had more injuries to their team last year than any team in NFL history (according to a ESPN radio report I heard this morning), and that's the Hawks team some fans are thinking of when comparing to the Rams. Seattle still appears to be a better team from top to bottom than this young Rams team.
The Rams "kids" on defense will give up big plays because they'll be overly excited and over pursuing plays, so I see some cut-backs and reverses or trick plays catching the Rams off-guard and out of position with big gains here and there. If the Hawks have any semblance of a running game, and I believe they do, they will get their yards because the Rams run D is still their biggesst weakness. I also do not expect the Rams offense to do much of anything against the Hawks D. Both Bulger and Jackson played very limited in the pre-season (one to injury and the other to...?) and I can't believe either of them will be sharp in this game. I believe the Rams will put up a good fight, but I'm afraid it's not going to go the Rams way, unless they get some major breaks in the game, like turnovers that bounce their way, or (I don't hope for this) an injury to a key Hawks player that can make the difference. And you never know, the Rams could play out of their minds as they did last year against the Cowboys. Who saw that coming? You never know. But the Hawks are a TD or more favorite in this game for a reason. It's not impossible for the Rams to overcome everything and win, but it will take a solid performance on offense AND defense on their part, and poor play from their Seattle's counterparts.
Good stuff you guys. Usually this time of year I'm completely up to speed on all the teams in the division because there wasn't much new to learn from Holmgren's teams so I had all the time in the world to snoop around Rams, Cards and Niners land. This year has been a completely different and refreshing experience. You know as much about our game plan as I do at this point.
Good luck next Sunday. I'll be around here all week to give my two cents.
I just joined yesterday as I needed to talk football! Anyway this is a good conversation going here and I agree with alot of what's being said. I will add that our run game will not be up to par as we switched to a Zone blocking so it won't be till around week 6 when we actually get it down. We have very good lineman (trust me we really do), they just need time to get the ZBS down and they need more real gametime to gel. I can't wait till sunday as I will be there to help root on my Hawks. Good luck sunday, but not too much ;)