Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Seattle Seahawks 2011 season preview
The Seattle Seahawks begin year two of the Pete Carroll era much like last season. Last season the Seahawks made plenty of changes and had low expectations. Well despite making several key acquisitions and coming off a season in which they won the division title the Seahawks are picked by many to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks will begin this for the first time since 2000 without Matt Hasselbeck who was let go. Carroll is reshaping this roster with plenty of activity and remember last season he made a few midseason trades. I don't expect this year to be any different as Carroll inherited a mess and is trying to turn the roster as fast as possible.
Last season the Seahawks became the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a 7-9 record as they won the NFC Western Division championship for the fifth time in seven seasons. Then after everyone ragged on the Seahawks all season long they shocked everyone in the playoffs beating the defending super bowl champions New Orleans Saints 41-36. In that upset win the star of the game was departed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who would throw for a playoff career high four touchdowns. Marshawn Lynch also busted a game clinching touchdown that went 67 yards where he broke eight different tackles. The Seahawks season would ultimately end the following week in a 35-24 loss to the Chicago Bears which nobody knew at the time would be the final game for Matt Hasselbeck in a Seahawks uniform. Hasselbeck would throw seven touchdown passes in two playoff games for the Seahawks.
Now that the Seahawks decided to get rid of Matt Hasselbeck the franchise is in the rebuilding process. The Seahawks did make plenty of offseason moves which shows they are committed to winning this year and beyond. Last year everyone thought the Seahawks were tanking and when they had a chance to tank they won that key game against the St.Louis Rams. By winning that game the Seahawks would have had the 8th pick in the NFL draft but instead had the 25th pick. The Seahawks did win their division and a playoff game which had a great moment for the Seahawks franchise. This season is about turning the page as the Seahawks don't really have a face of the franchise anymore. The Seahawks let go Matt Hasselbeck on offense and Lofa Tatupu on defense which shows there is a changing of the guard. In this following season preview I'll break down each position of the Seahawks team.
Despite being outplayed all preseason by Charlie Whitehurst the Seahawks are sticking with Tarvaris Jackson all preseason as their starting quarterback. If Jackson keeps playing poorly he will be pulled in favor of Whitehurst. Jackson with the Minnesota Vikings is 10-10 as a starting quarterback while completing 58.7% of his passes for 3,984 yards. He has thrown for 24 touchdowns to 22 interceptions in his career. Jackson some feel doesn't receive a fair chance with the whole Brett Favre saga well here in Seattle this is most likely his last chance to be a regular starting quarterback. Jackson is familiar with the offense as his top receiver Sidney Rice and offensive coordinator come from Minnesota. This is a make or break season for Jackson or else Whitehurst will take advantage.
Last season the Seahawks traded quite a bit to acquire Charlie Whitehurst even though he had never thrown a pass. Last season Whitehurst made two starts where he completed 57.6% of his passes for 507 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Whitehurst did start the final game of the year where the Seahawks won the NFC West title 16-6 over the St.Louis Rams in which Whitehurst played poised. Whitehurst completed 22 of 36 passes and most importantly didn't turn the ball over. Whitehurst did all that he could do to win the job in preseason and by doing so if Jackson struggles out of the gate look for Whitehurst to take over. You sure can tell Matt Hasselbeck isn't in Seattle anymore as the Seahawks have a quarterback controversy.
The Seahawks have three running backs that they feel very comfortable with. First I'll start off with Marshawn Lynch who the Seahawks acquired during the season. In 12 games with the Seahawks Lynch led the team in rushing with 573 yards(3.5 YPC) and six touchdowns. Lynch also caught 21 passes for 138 yards. In the playoffs many remember Lynch having that memorable run against the Saints but he was also having his best game as a Seahawk to that point. Lynch would finish that playoff win rushing for 131 yards on 19 carries(6.9 YPC) with a memorable touchdown run. This year with an offensive line still trying to find themselves Lynch's hard rushing style will be crucial for the Seahawks. Whenever you are having problems in the passing game you tend to lean on the run. Lynch will have to receive most of the carries this season as he is the big physical type of back that Carroll wants in his offense.
The other two running backs for the Seahawks are smaller quicker backs. First I'll start with Justin Forsett who last season ran for 523 yards(4.4 YPC) and two touchdowns. Forsett also caught 33 passes for 252 yards last season. In 2009 Forsett ran for 619 yards(5.4 YPC) and four touchdowns. He also caught 41 passes for 350 yards with a touchdown. The other back who should help out on third downs is return specialist Leon Washington. Washington last year ran for 100 yards(3.7 YPC) and a touchdown. He also caught nine passes for 79 yards last season. With the new kickoff rules look for Washington to be involved in the offense more. Washington last season was second team all-pro returner behind Devin Hester as he had 1,461 kickoff return yards with three touchdowns and 249 punt return yards including an 84 yard return. The Seahawks will also go with fullback Michael Robinson who last season ran for 77 yards(6.4 YPC), caught eight passes for 43 yards and completed a 28 yard pass. The Seahawks running game hasn't produced a 1,000 yard rusher since 2005 when Shaun Alexander won the NFL MVP award.
Last season Carroll found his former USC standout Mike Williams who had been out of the NFL for two seasons. The former first round bust was huge for the Seahawks. Without Williams last season the Seahawks don't make the playoffs. Last year Williams caught 65 passes for 751 yards with two touchdowns. Last year Williams had three games where he had double digit receptions including two against division rival Arizona Cardinals. Williams combined to catch 22 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown as the Seahawks swept the two-time defending division champions. In the playoffs Williams was on fire against the Saints with five receptions for 68 yards with a touchdown. Against the Bears he caught four passes for 15 yards and two touchdowns. Williams at times last year showed he wasn't ready for the long haul of an NFL season which was to be expected. Williams went from a guy out of the NFL for two seasons hoping to make the roster to the teams #1 receiver. Now this year Williams will have another tall target standing opposite of him. That will help Williams slide over the #2 receiver on the team which should help Williams become more consistent.
This offseason the Seahawks signed former pro bowl wide receiver Sidney Rice of the Vikings as first reported by our very own Insider Steve and later confirmed by Jay Glazer. Rice comes to the Seahawks signing a five year 41 million dollar contract. Rice is only 24 years old and showed in 2009 he can be the #1 receiver the Seahawks are lacking. The Seahawks haven't sent a wide receiver to the pro bowl as a receiver since 1989 with Brian Blades. With Rice the Seahawks land a receiver who has 146 career receptions for 2,129 yards and 18 touchdowns. His pro bowl season of 2009 he had 83 receptions for 1,312 yards with 8 touchdowns. Rice is a big receiver at 6'4" 200 lbs which will make life difficult on opposing defenses in the red zone. With Rice and Mike Williams the Seahawks now have two big targets they can lob the ball up to for a touchdown. The Seahawks are hoping with a new and improved offensive line they can finally put some points on the board.
The other Seahawks receivers will be second year wide receiver Golden Tate. Last year Tate had a dissapointing season with just 21 receptions for 227 yards. Tate also did some returning with 202 punt return yards including a 63 yarder. The Seahawks will have special teams standout Ben Obomanu(just like that has the third most experience on the team) who last year had a breakout season. Obomanu had 30 receptions for 494 yards with four touchdowns. In the two playoff games he had nine receptions for 111 yards. The Seahawks also kept rookie wide receivers Doug Baldwin(5'11" , 190 lbs) from Stanford and Kris Durham(6'5", 209 lbs) from Georgia. The Seahawks will also later in the year gain back Deon Butler who caught 36 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Overall this is probably the strength of the Seahawks team with the two giants in Williams and Rice. Just a matter of finding a quarterback who can get the ball to these guys.
The Seahawks this past offseason went out and signed former Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller. It was a good thing the Seahawks signed Miller as they lost their own starting tight end for the past three seasons John Carlson for the season. Miller is a pass catching machine who is actually younger than Carlson. In his four year career he has caught 226 passes for 2,712 yards with 12 touchdowns. Last season for the Raiders he caught 60 passes for 685 yards with five touchdowns. In 2009 he caught 66 passes for 805 yards with three touchdowns. Miller is an athletic tight end and for a team who will most likely have some quarterback issues this season having Miller will be much needed. Miller will help the team in the passing game this season and beyond.
The other tight ends on the roster are second year tight end Anthony McCoy who Carroll coached at USC. Last year he was a sixth round pick of the Seahawks but did not play in any games. The other tight end will be Dominique Byrd who was a third round pick back in 2006 who is also out of USC. Like with Mike Williams, Carroll will try and work his magic on Byrd who has just six career receptions for 83 yards with a touchdown in his brief career. Byrd hasn't played in the NFL since 2007 when he played for the St.Louis Rams. The Seahawks tight end situation definitly doesn't look as solid as a few weeks when Carlson factored into the equation. As is the Seahawks still feature Miller who is one of the better tight ends in the NFC which will be nice.
When the Seahawks reach their first and only Super Bowl back in 2005 that team featured two first-team all-pro offensive lineman plus a probowl center. The Seahawks that offseason let Steve Hutchinson walk and the offensive line hasn't been the same since. Walter Jones retired after the 2009 season even though he last played a game in the 2008 season. Now the Seahawks offensive line features some talent led by 6th pick overall Russell Okung. The Seahawks are also a young offensive line featuring basically a second year player in Max Unger(missed all of last season), Okung and rookies in James Carpenter and John Moffitt. The only veteran is newcomer Robert Gallery. The Seahawks offensive line is the one unit most hurt by the NFL lockout as they have no continuity playing together.
The Seahawks offensive line will be coached by former Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable(went 8-8 last season). Cable will whip his boys in shape but the problem is like I said four of the players haven't played many games. The Seahawks have some veterans in Tyler Polumbus who started some games last year all over the offensive line and brought in Breno Giacomini to compete with the struggling Carpenter. I think this unit in 2012 should be a good unit. Unfortunately this year is 2011 and I think you'll see some growing pains with this offensive line due to the youth.
The Seahawks other pass rusher was veteran Raheem Brock who record nine sacks last season. Brock had 2.5 sacks in the win over the Rams for the NFC West title. In the playoffs Brock recorded a sack against the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears. With Brock and Clemons the Seahawks received 20 sacks. The Seahawks also return defensive end Red Bryant from injury. Bryant is a run stuffer and when he was on the Seahawks for the first six weeks the Seahawks were 4-2 and second in the entire NFL in rush defense. His impact was missed greatly once he went down. Then at the defensive tackle positions the Seahawks return Brandon Mebane who is 6'1" 311 lbs and has the ability to create a pass rush but is mainly a run stuffer up the middle. He'll be joined with former Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Alan Branch who is 6'6" 338 lbs who is also a run stuffer. The Seahawks due to this defensive line will be a hard team to run the ball on. The Seahawks will also be tough as they have two defensive ends who can create a pass rush.
The Seahawks do gain back Leroy Hill who is one of two players left on the roster from the Super Bowl team in 2005. Hill is probably the Seahawks best linebacker and will finally have a chance to be the "man" after being in Tatupu's shadows and Julian Peterson's. Hill as a rookie had 7.5 sacks then from 2006-2008 he was a tackle machine. In 2006 Hill recorded 92 tackles, in 2007 he recorded 81 and then 84 in just 12 games in 2008. He was a monster in the 2007 playoffs recording 13 tackles and a sack in the win over the Washington Redskins and he followed that up with 11 tackles and a sack in the loss to the Green Bay Packers. The man filling in for Tatupu is David Hawthorne who has been the starting middle linebacker when Tatupu was hurt in 2009 and outside linebacker for the injured Hill. Hawthorne had 117 tackles in 2009 and 106 last season. In 2009 he had four sacks and three interceptions. Hawthorne is more than capable of starting in the NFL as he has proven to be an NFL linebacker despite not being drafted in the 2008 NFL draft out of TCU. The Seahawks linebackers have plenty of potential to be a successful unit just a matter of playing to their potential.
The man with the most experience as a Seahawk is Marcus Trufant. Trufant entering his ninth season in Seattle will have to play like he did in 2007 where he had 85 tackles and seven interceptions plus an interception that went for a touchdown in the playoff win over the Redskins. Since that year though Trufant has had just four interceptions with plenty of pass interference penalty's. Like Curry the Seahawks restructered Trufant's contract so this is most likely his final season in Seattle. Starting opposite of Trufant will be second year Walter Thurmond who was a fourth round pick from the Oregon Ducks last season. Thurmond will be competing with CFL star Brandon Browner who is from the Oregon State Beavers. The other starting safety besides Thomas is second year safety Kam Chancellor from Virginia Tech. Other than Trufant the Seahawks will be starting three second year players which shows the 2010 draft was pretty good but this year could be a long year for the secondary.
Now this is Carroll's second season with the team as head coach and president. Carroll is putting his stamp on his team. Very few players remain from the Holmgren era or even the one year Mora era. Carroll has blown up this roster and for the most part every player on the roster is a Pete Carroll player. Of the active 53 man roster only 10 players were on the roster in 2009 under Jim Mora. The Seahawks have brought in 43 players since 2009 so there has been a major lift in the Seahawks roster under Carroll. This year might be a trying year for Carroll but I do believe he is a good coach even though he is the second oldest head coach in the NFL.
I see the Seahawks not having history repeat itself this year. I don't see the Seahawks surprising everyone like they did a year ago. The Seahawks early schedule is brutal and with so much turnover on the roster that could be rough. The Seahawks have four road games in the first six games including three back east. The Seahawks also face three 10+ wins in the first six as well. With the quarterback situation being so much up in the air look for the Seahawks to be 5-11 this year if not worse. I was going to say 6-10 but after what I saw in preseason I'm not so optimistic anymore.
I do think the Seahawks will be in pretty good shape next year when they draft that franchise quarterback. Next year in the draft you should have Andrew Luck, Landry Jones and Matt Barkley. The Seahawks have a young talented offensive line that should be pretty good once they have played together. The receivers are both tall and young which should help along with Miller the tight end. The Seahawks have just two players from ages 31-34 so they are in full rebuilding mode right now. In the NFL it doesn't pay to be average so I don't mind that approach. That just means this year is going to be tough to watch at times especially when Jackson is the quarterback.
All in all, I hope you liked my season preview of the Seahawks. I know I didn't say what the 12's wanted me to say but I had to be honest with this team. There is way too much turnover for a team who had no offseason to practice together. The Seahawks are one of the teams hurt most by the lockout as they have a brand new offensive line and offense in general. Max Unger only starter on offense from the Tim Ruskell era which was just two seasons ago. Now the Seahawks will be rebuilding and hopefully the fans give Carroll an one season free pass. The Seahawks will be drafting a quarterback in the first round next season as they currently don't have their franchise quarterback on their current roster. The 2011 season looks to be a rough one for the Seahawks but hopefully like last year they prove me wrong.