Offensive Evolution

KIRKLAND – To hear Matt Hasselbeck explain it, the Seattle Seahawks’ offense had become somewhat predictable.

On the heels of a memorable run to Super Bowl XL, everyone and his mother had seen the system over and over, and almost as many people had a theory for how to stop it.

And so, the Seahawks’ offense went into the 2006 season without much mystery. Combine that with injuries that sidelined Hasselbeck and reigning MVP Shaun Alexander for multiple games, and the offense didn’t have near the success it had the previous year.

Now Hasselbeck and Alexander are back, but that doesn’t mean the coaching staff is relying on past accomplishments to get them through the 2007 season.

Coach Mike Holmgren and his assistants spent a good part of the offseason trying to add wrinkles to the offense. There’s more movement before each snap, more diversity in the formations and even a few more plays.

“We’re trying a lot of new things for this season; stuff we haven’t done in years past,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s keeping it fresh for us. Even the older guys, the veteran guys that have been around, we’re in our playbook every night trying to get real crisp and sharp on stuff.”

Hasselbeck admitted that the offense, while still one of the most innovative in the league, had become pretty familiar to opposing defenses since that 2005 season.

“They had a lot more knowledge of what we liked to do, when we liked to do it, how we liked to do it,” Hasselbeck said. “So, yeah, I think it’s probably time to change up a little bit and do some exciting stuff which I know our coaches are excited about. We have very creative coaches, and they’ve done a good job.”

If the preseason was any indication, the most obvious change will be the use of pre-snap movement. Past Seahawks teams have sent only one player in motion, while this year’s team could have multiple players moving before each snap at least what’s within the rules.

“You self-scout during the offseason, and the coaches probably found some things that other teams were doing that were successful,” said wide receiver Bobby Engram, who will be one of the most active offensive players in pre-snap shifts. “And we’ve got a couple new guys, so we’re trying to take advantage of the things they do well.”

Holmgren, whose career as an NFL assistant started under West Coast offense guru Bill Walsh, has continued to tweak his offense over the years. Former assistants like Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden, who will face the Seahawks on Sunday, have taken the offense in other directions while Holmgren has simply expanded his original concept.

“I think you’re obligated, as a coach, to do that,” Holmgren said of his offense’s evolution. “You have to be careful, though, because you have things that are core things that you want to do that are good and should be good.”

Holmgren said his focus this offseason was to add different looks to Seattle’s offensive set. The coaching staff wanted to give opposing defenses something to think about.

The new-look offense was unveiled at training camp and in preseason games.

“Some of it I liked,” Holmgren said, “some of it I didn’t.

“How much we actually wind up doing remains to be seen.”

The first real test will come Sunday against Gruden’s Buccaneers.

“They have key components in place to be outstanding on offense,” Gruden said. “I’m sure (offensive coordinator Gil) Haskell and Mike Holmgren will have a good plan.”

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