Through the Seattle Seahawks' 2010 training camp and preseason, we're following running back Justin Forsett(notes) as he tries to take that next step from offensive cog to feature back in his third NFL season. In this fourth installment (you can read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here), Forsett sees the competition ramp up -- on both sides of the line.
After finding a few holes in the Tennessee Titans' defense in the Seattle Seahawks' preseason-opening win, running back Justin Forsett found it to be tougher sledding against the 3-4 defense of the Green Bay Packers. Forsett got some early reps before the backups took over last Saturday at Qwest Field, and it seemed as if every time he took the ball, several Green Bay linemen were already zeroing in from the backfield. No matter how quickly you cut inside or outside to get to the second level, being surrounded before you can turn on the jets tends to slow things up. This was the case with each of Seattle's backs -- Forsett gained 13 yards on five carries, Julius Jones(notes) got 14 yards on five carries, and Leon Washington(notes) "led" all comers with 19 yards on four carries.
"Definitely against a 3-4, you have to press the holes a little bit longer," Forsett told me after Tuesday's practice. "Those outside backers will play that outside zone. You have to press it as long as you can, get them upfield and make your cuts."
In 2009, the first year they ran a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers ranked third in Football Outsiders' Defensive Adjusted Line Yards rankings, allowing just 3.56 yards per running back carry and stuffing opposing backs at or behind the line of scrimmage a league-leading 25 percent of the time. I asked Forsett how it is different from a schematic and blocking perspective when he's looking at an extra front defender all the time.
"It is a little bit, but the goal is always to get [the defenders] moving horizontally, and getting pressure upfield. We just have to make sure that we're pressing it, staying on our blocks and our reads longer. Running backs have to be more patient against a 3-4. We did [more outside zone] this past game, but it might switch up.
"They're just a good defense, and we knew that going in. They did a good job of getting pressure on us, and we just have to do a better job of cutting guys down, and the running backs just have to make the right reads."
Getting that together should be job one for the Seahawks -- this Saturday, they follow up the Packers game by taking on the Vikings in Minnesota. And Forsett isn't at all concerned about Brett Favre(notes); he's more focused on a Vikings front seven that has put up the NFL's best run-defense numbers on a frighteningly consistent basis over the last few seasons.
"It should be exciting -- we'll have a little more time in the game," he said. "We'll try to get a little rhythm in the game with the guys. We have got get the running game going against this team, and just make plays."
There's also more going on in the Seahawks' depth chart -- less than a year after a broken leg resulting in major surgery, Leon Washington's return to the game (and the former Jet's debut with his new team) means that an already crowded backfield just got busier. Forsett said that it hasn't changed the way the Seahawks practice -- Washington had been getting his reps through training camp -- but on the field is another matter. Especially, when Washington makes plays like the block on Green Bay safety Nick Collins(notes) shown below.
"Oh, man -- that just lights everybody up," Forsett told me, when I asked him if the replay got a reaction in the film room at team headquarters. "Not just in the room, but on the field. It just gets everybody pumped up and motivated -- just changes the momentum of the game."
Has Forsett ever turned a guy's lights out like that? "Wow ... I'd have to go back to college where I flatbacked a guy in practice. I haven't had a chance to flatback anybody yet [in the NFL], but it definitely feels good."
Running with the ones against Minnesota, and meeting that challenge with production, will also make Forsett feel good. From a defensive perspective, he won't see a bigger challenge all season.