Seahawks Adapting to New Blocking Scheme

SportsFootballWalter JonesMichael VickNFLAtlanta FalconsGrey Ruegamer

Quicker, leaner and more explosive.

Those were the goals Seahawks guard Mansfield Wrotto set forhimself this offseason when informed the offense would be switchingto a zone-blocking scheme.

Gone are the complicated playbooks from Mike Holmgren's WestCoast offense, with its hard-to-master blocking assignments thatkept linemen up late at night studying. Zone-blocking fronts aresimpler but require athletic linemen who can create confusion andseal off backside pursuit from defenders, leaving a gap for therunning back to burst through.

"It's better for our O-line," Wrotto said. "We have a lot ofyoung, quick O-linemen. It suits us."

Wrotto dove into offseason conditioning drills, heavy on thesprinting, and by organized team activities this spring his weighthad dipped to 323. When training camp started last month, Wrottochecked in at a relatively svelte 312.

So far, he has spent time with the No. 1 unit - which has beenbeset by injuries this camp - at both guard slots. One of thebenefits of the zone-blocking scheme is that it suits linemen whocan play more than one position. Something that has been a theme ofWrotto's career.

The Georgia Tech product played three seasons at defensive endbefore moving to tackle his senior year. The Seahawks drafted himto play guard in 2007, and he made his first start last seasonagainst the New England Patriots.

The coaching staff already likes what they're seeing from theirnew running game.

"There were some creases that we hadn't had previously," coachJim Mora said. "So I think they're getting a good feel for that.And I think they like it. I think they enjoy what we're doing."

The Seahawks' zone scheme has been installed by offensivecoordinator Gregg Knapp, who has had success with it during hisvarious stops in the NFL. From 2004-06, the Atlanta Falcons tookadvantage of quarterback Michael Vick's running skills to lead theleague in rushing yards for three consecutive seasons. In his stintwith the Raiders in 2007-08, Knapp also coached top-10 runninggames.

The Seahawks are hoping to see similar success after ranking19th last season.

In the zone scheme, the linemen block specific areas, as opposedto other defenders, and the running backs are presented with acouple of options. They are then expected to make one cut and hitthe hole hard. If executed properly, the system yields yardage inchunks because defenses are unable to pursue the ball carrier.Perfect for one-cut-and-go backs like Julius Jones.

"The quickness of it all creates confusion on the D-line,because they don't have time to actually read what's going on,"Wrotto said. "Everything is very fast-paced."

NOTES: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu was absent from practice onSunday, with the Seahawks saying he was receiving a rest day. ...Also sitting were center Chris Spencer (ankle), tackle Walter Jones(back), guard Grey Ruegamer (elbow), defensive end Michael Bennett(shoulder), D.D. Lewis (knee), CB Marcus Trufant (back) and LB WillHerring (groin). ... WR Jordan Kent drew cheers for severalspectacular catches during 11-on-11 drills. Late in practice, the6-foot-4 Kent made an impressive, leaping reception of anoverthrown pass from Seneca Wallace. Kent is trying to wedgehimself into a crowded receiver rotation.

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