Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Seattle Seahawks Season Preview

By Kshell

The Seattle Seahawks head into the 2010 season after coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons.

The Seahawks had sustained consistency when they were led by head coach Mike Holmgren. Holmgren coached the franchise from 1999-2008 and in that span led the team to five division titles, six playoff appearances,seven winning seasons and one Superbowl appearance. The franchise had experienced its greatest success under Holmgren. He was then forced out in favor of hand-picked coach, Jim Mora Jr.

After a 5-11 season, which saw Tim Ruskell resign, Paul Allen stunned everyone after he fired Mora after just one failed season. He then brought in USC head coach Pete Carroll, who had posted a 97-19 record (with sanctions the record is 83-19) and won seven straight Pac-10 championships along with two national championships.

The Seahawks gave Carroll, who is only 33-31 in the NFL with a 1-2 playoff record, a 5-year/35 million dollar deal. The deal not only made Carroll the head coach, but also the team president. Allen is hoping Carroll is the next Jimmy Johnson and not the next Dennis Erickson. The hope is that Carroll's enthusiasm and college success will transfer over to the NFL and rescue the Seahawks from the 9-23 rut in which they currently find themselves. The Seahawks had a good draft, but when you go 9-23 and sign nobody in free agency there will still be plenty of growing pains. I'll proceed to break down each position of the team.

Quarterback: For the first time since Trent Dilfer was the backup, Matt Hasselbeck has someone who will be challenging him for his starting job. Hasselbeck will be entering his 10th season with the Seattle Seahawks this upcoming year. Hasselbeck, the franchise's best quarterback, has led them to more playoff wins than any other quarterback in the team's history. Although Hasselbeck has made three appearances at the Pro Bowl, he is coming off his worst season ever in Seattle. Hasselbeck threw for a career high 17 interceptions last season. In fact, in his last 21 starts he has thrown for 22 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Hasselbeck will also turn 35 this September. He is definitely past his prime years.

The question still remains if Hasselbeck still has game. He, at times, has shown he can still move the offense and when he does have protection, can still be a top ten quarterback in the NFL. Carroll, knowing that Hasselbeck has missed nine games the last two years, traded a 2011 third round pick and swapped second round picks with the San Diego Chargers for third string quarterback, Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst is a 6-foot, 5-inch strong arm quarterback who is mobile. However, Whitehurst has never thrown a pass in four NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Whitehurst, at times this preseason, has looked great and at other times, when things aren't going so well, he tends to sulk his shoulders. The Seahawks also brought in former Buffalo Bills first round bust J.P.Losman. The Seahawks, with Hasselbeck, still have the NFC West's best quarterback, and with that, will have a shot in games.

Runningback: Carroll and general manager, John Schneider, made some draft day moves to bolster this rushing attack which has been lacking since Shaun Alexander's MVP season in 2005.

The Seahawks traded for Leon Washington(2008 Probowl kick returner) and Lendale White. White was then released at mini camp, despite Carroll being his former head coach. The Seahawks also return Julius Jones for his third season. Jones has been the starter, off and on, the past two seasons. Jones led the team in rushing last year with 663 yards(3.8 YPC) but with only two touchdowns. In fact, Jones has had just two touchdowns, rushing, the past three seasons. Jones, in his Seahawk career, has just three career 100-yard rushing performances with two against the St. Louis Rams (3-29 last two years) at home. Jones is obviously not the answer at runningback.

Justin Forsett is a former seventh round draft pick out of Cal back in 2008 and emerged for fantasy football owners last year in 2009. Forsett ran for 619 yards(5.4 YPC) with five rushing touchdowns and 41 receptions for 350 yards and a TD. Forsett is very fast and versatile. Despite limited playing time he still had 41 receptions. Forsett is the favorite to win the starting runningback job.

Leon Washington is the other option at runningback for the Seahawks. Washington, many believed, would start the year injured and miss some games, but he has played in two preseason games so far. Washington, when he was healthy in 2008, ran for 448 yards with six touchdowns, while catching 47 passes for 355 yards with two touchdowns and he also had 1,534 return yards and one touchdown. The Seahawks hope that with three running backs especially Washington and Forsett that somehow they can finally have a running game. No Seahawk has ever ran for over 1,000 yards since Shaun Alexander accomplished this in 2005.

Wide Receiver: This is the strength of the Seahawks team and given the amount of money and draft picks on this particular unit it should be. The Seahawks brought in former pro bowl and Oregon State wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2009 to shore up a weakness from 2008 when all the receivers were injured. Houshmandzadeh had a pretty disappointing season but still managed 79 receptions for 911 yards but only 3 TD's. Houshmandzadeh appears to be a great over the middle receiver who can catch those key 3rd down passes but isn't the #1 Wide Receiver that the Seahawks paid him to be. In a shocking move that I couldn't have guessed at the time of writing this T.J. Houshmandzadh will not be playing for the Seahawks this season

Houshmandzadeh at least produced something unlike the Seahawks other high priced Wide Receiver Deion Branch. Branch had just 45 receptions last year for 437 yards and just 2 TD's. The former Superbowl MVP is in year 5 of a 6 year deal he signed with Seahawks back in 2006 which cost the Seahawks their 2007 1st round draft pick. Branch has yet to produce a 1,000 yard season and has decline in each season with the Seahawks. He is slated to start this year. He is still quick on those slants and can still be a productive receiver. Branch just needs to stay healthy for the Seahawks. Asking Branch to stay healthy is like asking Seattle Mariners fans to ask for Erik Bedards health.

The next two receivers are 3rd round draft pick Deon Butler and 2nd round draft pick Golden Tate. Butler the Penn State Standout Tim Ruskell felt was so valuable traded a 2010 3rd round draft pick to jump into the 3rd round of the 2009 draft to grab him. Butler last year was disappointing having just 15 receptions and no TD's. He did haul in a catch in week 13 to set up a win vs the 49ers. The other young receiver is Golden Tate. Tate was a standout at Notre Dame posting 9 100+ receiving performances and 3 200+ yard performances. Golden Tate will also help out on the punt return game as well.

The Seahawks took a gamble on former first round bust Mike Williams. Williams played under Carroll and gives the team much needed size. He has performed as the best receiver this preseason. Will this translate to the regular season? The Seahawks have a great talent in Williams for practically nothing. With the Seahawks getting rid of Houshmandzadeh it appears Mike Williams will be the #1 receiver. It was questionable he would even make the team. Now he will be the #1 receiver on the team. He is favorite for NFL comeback player of the year.This could be the steal move of the off season. For the Seahawks to have a chance this year the passing game has to be moving the ball.

Tight End: John Carlson is heading into his 3rd year with the Seattle Seahawks this year. He is also learning his 3rd different offense in his 3 years. Carlson the 2nd round pick who Tim Ruskell traded the 2nd and 3rd round draft choices to move up to snag the Tight End from Notre Dame.

In Carlsons rookie year he was the lone bright spot in a disappointing 2008 season catching 55 passes for 627 yards and 5 TD's. His 2nd year there was a bit of a drop off with 51 receptions for 574 yards with 7 TD's.

The Seahawks this year brought in Tight End Chris Baker who has 159 career receptions in 115 games. The hope is with Baker he can stay in and block and Carlson can move around and be used as an H back.The Seahawks decided to keep four tight ends on the roster. The Seahawks plan to use a two tight end set this year. .Last season with the offensive live issues Carlson was often stuck blocking. Carlson is the sleeper pick this year in fantasy football to have a big season.

Offensive Line: The Seahawks lost future pro football hall of famer Walter Jones to retirement in offseason. From 1997-2008 the Seahawks could always count on one thing and that was big #71 taking out the opposing teams best DE and making him completely useless.

The Seahawks offensive line will be coached by legendary coach Alex Gibbs(the former Broncos O-line coach). Gibbs likes to use zone blocking schemes and typically improves teams offensive lines. Gibbs has also let the team a week before the regular season.

The man asked to fill the void of Walter Jones is 6th pick overall in the draft Russell Okung from Oklahoma State. Okung will be wearing former probowler Steve Hutchinson old number #76. The rest of the offensive line will be Ben Hamilton the former Denver Bronco who will be in his 10th NFL season. The hope is he can teach Okung along the way. Chris Spencer is back for his 5th straight season of starting at center. Max Unger the center of the future again will be starting at right guard and Sean Locklear for the 6th straight season will be starting. Locklear is currently being shopped around. Locklear was promised by Ruskell he'd be the new left tackle when Walter Jones retired. With Okung being drafted with the 6th pick overall its obvious Locklear will not be the left tackle.

The offensive line needs to improve alot. Since the loss of Hutchinson and other veterans like Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray the offensive line has been downhill. The offensive line needs to keep Matt Hasselbeck healthy for this team to have any chance at making the postseason.

Defensive Line: The Seahawks have rid themselves of every defensive end on last years roster. Pete Carroll completely overhauled the defense with Kearney retiring and ridding themselves of Tapp, Redding and the first round bust of 2008 Lawrence Jackson.

The Seahawks return Defensive Tackles Brandon Mebane and Collin Cole. Carroll moved 320lb Red Bryant(former Seahawks great Jacob Green's son in law) to defensive end. The Seahawks are hoping to stuff the run this year and with basically three defensive tackles on the front four the Hawks will be a tough team to run on.

The other defensive end is Chris Clemons. He is expected to generate the most pass rush for the Seahawks this upcoming year. Clemons has 20 sacks in his career, including 8 back in Oakland in 2007. The Seahawks must find a way to get some pressure on the quarterback this year. In 2007 the defense was so successful because of the past rush of the front four but the pass rush has been lacking the last two years.

Linebacker: On paper this unit looks incredible yet the production the last two years has been lacking. The Seahawks with the 4th pick overall in the 2009 NFL draft selected Aaron Curry from Wake Forest University. Curry after some initial success had an underwhelming rookie season.

Curry is expected to bounce back this year and with Ken Norton Jr as the Linebackers coach there is hope Curry can live up to the hype. Curry is expected to rush the quarterback more and give the team something they lacked since Julian Peterson was on top of his game back in 2006 and in 2007. If Curry can be that enforcer on defense and provide a pass rush this defense could be solid.

The other outside linebacker spot is held by Will Herring and then Leroy Hill when he returns from his problems. Hill in the playoff win over the Redskins during the 2007 season led the team in tackles with 13 and had a sack. Hill was the best linebacker that day which is saying something since Tatupu and Peterson both made the probowl that year. The Seahawks are hoping Leroy Hill can show more consistency on a game to game basis but give the fact that he is starting this year injured and suspended that appears doubtful.

The Seahawks middle linebacker is considered the heart and soul of the defense. Lofa Tatupu in his first 3 seasons became the first player since Dan Marino to win the division title and make the probowl in his first 3 years in the NFL. Tatupu when he is healthy is one of the top linebackers in the NFL. In 2007 he started the probowl for the NFC. The last two seasons Tatupu has been hurt and missed 11 games last season. A defense will always struggle when they lose their probowl MLB for 11 games. If Tatupu is healthy and Hill and Curry play to their potential the Seahawks could have one of the better linebacking cores in the NFL.

Secondary: The Seahawks pass defense has ranked in the bottom of the NFL the past two seasons. The Seahawks will have two new starters at safety. One of the starters is 14th pick overall Earl Thomas of Texas.

Thomas left after his sophmore year in college and is just 21 years old. He is also the all-time interception leader in Texas Longhorns history. The other safety will be 3 time probowler and superbowl champion Lawyer Milloy. Milloy in his 2nd year with his hometown team is expected to prevent big plays and lay big hits. He is also expected to teach Thomas the ropes and show him in the NFL. The Seahawks are gambling on an aging safety and a rookie safety.

The corners will be Marcus Trufant and the other spot is up for grabs. Trufant a former probowler in 2007 had 7 interceptions that season. He has had just 3 Interceptions the last 2 years. Trufant missed 6 games last season. Whenever you lose a probowl calibar corner it hurts you alot. The other corners will be first round disapointment Kelly Jennings(just 1 INT in 4 seasons) and Josh Wilson Wilson has since been dealt to the Ravens for a 5th round pick. The Seahawks also selected Walter Thurmond from Oregon in the 4th round of the NFL draft. The secondary must find ways to make stops on 3rd downs and get the defense off the field. The front 7 should be good this year against the run so the secondary has to prevent teams from marching up and down the field on them at will.

Kicking: The Seahawks must feel pretty confident in their kickers this year. Olindo Mare has found a home in Seattle last year going 24 of 26 from FG's. Mare is also known for his deep kickoffs which helps with field position. The Seahawks punter Jon Ryan averaged 46.2 yard a punt last year in 88 punts. The Seahawks kicking game should give the defense plenty of good field positions.

Overall, this team is building towards the future. The team had a great draft in 2010 and with some luck on staying healthy the Seahawks could capture a weak NFC West where the favorite in the division is quarterback by Alex Smith. The Seahawks have to find a way to make the 12th man matter again.

Pete Carroll was brought to fix this mess that Tim Ruskell left this franchise in. The Seahawks ownership and fanbase will have to be patient with Pete Carroll and John Schneider and give them more than just a single season to turn this around. This rebuilding process will take time but with another year or two of good drafting like Schneider did with the Green Bay Packers the Seahawks should be back and competing for multiple division titles in no time.

Hopefully Caroll can translate his USC success to the NFL which will result in the Seahawks someday winning a Superbowl.

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