Thursday, September 6, 2012
Seattle Seahawks 2012 season preview
The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2012 season with new uniforms and high expectations under third year head coach Pete Carroll. The first two seasons under Carroll the Seahawks have experienced quite a bit of change on the roster as they finished 7-9 the past two seasons. After being shutout of the pro bowl in back to back seasons the Seahawks sent five guys to the pro bowl last season. All five of those guys were acquired by Pete Carroll. The Seahawks franchise appears on the verge of big things and that could start this season. The Seahawks return the bulk of their roster and coaching staff from last season. For the first time since the Holmgren era there appears to be some continuity on this roster. The Seahawks have a top 10 defense for the first time since the 1997 season while having a pro bowl running back in Marshawn Lynch the first time since 2005. The Seahawks for the third straight season appeared to have drafted well as they'll have three rookie starters plus several rookie contributors off the bench. There is plenty of reason to be excited for this upcoming Seahawks season.
Wilson earned the job with his terrific preseason where he was 40-63(63.5%) passing for 536 yards(8.5 YPA) with five touchdowns to just one interception. He had a quarterback rating of 110.3. He also ran for 150 yards on just 10 carries with a touchdown during the preseason. In college Wilson was terrific first at NC State he threw for 8,545 yards with 76 touchdowns to just 26 interceptions. Then he transferred to Wisconsin where all he did there was lead the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Last year Wilson completed 72.8% of his passes for 3,175 yards(10.3 YPA) with 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Wilson has proven in college at two different programs and so far with the Seahawks in the preseason he is accurate while taking care of the ball. He can also make plays which this offense desperately needs.
Wilson's, backup will be Matt Flynn. For his career Flynn has completed 82 of 132(62.1%) passes for 1,015 yards(7.7 YPA) with nine touchdowns to just five interceptions. He has a quarterback rating of 92.8 for his career. He had one big breakout game last season against the Detroit Lions where he was 31-44(70.5%) passing for 480 yards(10.9 YPA) with six touchdowns to just one interception. Flynn's rating for the game was 136.4 as he beat out Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for most passing yards and touchdowns in a single game for Packers history.
During this preseason Flynn was 28-39(71.8%) passing for 204 yards(5.2 YPA) with one touchdown and one interception. His rating was 81.6 and he was hurt by a costly Terrell Owens dropped touchdown against Denver. For Flynn many expected him to be the starting quarterback this year but instead he'll be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL which was his status the last few years in Green Bay.
In the NFL you can't win without good quarterback play. Last year Tarvaris Jackson was average with 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. The offense had 12 games out of 16 where they scored a negative on the expected points chart which mostly falls on the quarterbacks shoulders. The offense averaged only 20.1 PPG which was good for 23 out of 32 teams last year. In half of their games the offense scored 17 points or fewer yet still won seven games last year. If the quarterback position can improve significantly which I think Wilson will do then the Seahawks will make the playoffs.
Lynch was rewarded this offseason with a new contract as he was a free agent. To celebrate that contract extension he was arrested this offseason with a DUI. Now he is experiencing some back spasms which caused him to miss last years Cleveland Browns game. I would say Lynch is still the face of the offense and when he gets going nobody can tackle him. As you can see with this touchdown run vs the Eagles on thursday night football or his memorable 67 yard touchdown run against the bountygate Saints . This is why the Seahawks fans love Lynch as he eats skittles after every touchdown.
The Seahawks also drafted a running back in this draft in the fourth round Robert Turbin out of Utah State. In college Turbin ran for 3,315 yards(5.9 YPC) with 40 touchdowns. He also caught 67 passes for 845 yards(12.6 YPC) with 11 touchdowns. Turbin wasn't a starter until his medical redshirt sophomore season where he ran for 1,296 yards(6.3 YPC) with 13 touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for 418 yards(13.9 YPC) with five touchdowns. Then this past season Turbin ran for 1,517 yards(6.1 YPC) with 19 touchdowns. He caught 17 passes for 171(10.1 YPC) yards with four touchdowns.
In the preseason Turbin ran for 165 yards(4.3 YPC) with a touchdown. He also had six receptions for 19 yards. Turbin runs hard and is big at 5'10" 222 pounds. If Lynch has to miss a game look for Turbin to step it up. Another power back the Seahawks like is Kregg Lumpkin who played for Tampa Bay last season. He ran for 105 yards(3.4 YPC) while catching 41 passes for 291 yards(7.1 YPC). In the preseason for the Seahawks he ran well as he rushed for 160 yards(4.0 YPC) with a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 32 yards.
The third down back will be special teams returner Leon Washington. Washington has done a little bit of everything for this franchise. Last year Washington ran for 248 yards(4.7 YPC) with a touchdown. He also caught 10 passes for 48 yards. He added 464 punt return yards and 1,084 yards in kick return yardage. Washington can bring some versatility to the table and will help with the special teams. The Seahawks also have pro bowl fullback Michael Robinson. Besides opening holes for his runners he also caught nine passes for 74 yards with a touchdown.
The Seahawks are keeping five running backs which appears to be a lot. When you factor in the Seahawks identity is to run the ball down the other teams throat and the fact Lynch is a little banged up this makes sense. When Lynch is healthy pounding the ball on the defense all game long with Turbin who is fresh doing the same defenses are going to be worn out when they play the Seahawks. The Seahawks have a power running game as they look to abuse other teams defenses much like their defense looks to abuse the other teams offense. The Seahawks are no longer a soft team like the Ruskell era, the running game cements that change in the culture headlined by Lynch.
This appears to be the weak spot for the Seahawks on paper is the wide receiver position. The Seahawks are hoping that Sidney Rice can stay healthy this season and be that #1 wide receiver that he was back in 2009. Back in 2009 when Rice made the pro bowl he caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards with eight touchdowns. After an injury riddled 2010 season he left the Minnesota Vikings to join the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. In 2011 playing in only nine games he caught 32 passes for 484 yards(15.1 YPC) with two touchdowns. He did complete a 55 yard bomb during the season to Mike Williams. Rice is the only guy on the team who can be a #1 receiver. He is fast and at 6'4" he presents a big target. He is also only 26 years old so he is still in his prime unlike previous failed receivers in Seattle.
The surprise of last season on offense was undrafted rookie wide receiver Doug Baldwin who appears to be the Seahawks slot receiver. Baldwin last year caught 51 passes for 788 yards(15.5 YPC) with four touchdowns. His breakout game came against the eventual super bowl champions New York Giants when he caught eight passes for 136(17.0 YPC) yards with a touchdown. On monday night football against the Rams he caught seven passes for 93 yards(13.3 YPC) with a touchdown. He also blocked a punt that game that went for a touchdown. With Baldwin in the slot and Rice on one of the outside spots the Seahawks need someone to step up on the other outside.
That someone could be Braylon Edwards or Golden Tate. First I'll start with Edwards who the Seahawks are hoping can be that surprise wide out that they had in 2010 with Mike Williams or last year with Baldwin. Edwards back in 2007 caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards(16.1 YPC) for 16 touchdowns at the age of 24 years old. He has since been cut by the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. This preseason he has caught three passes for 83 yards with a touchdown. Edwards made two terrific catches during this preseason and is only 29 years old while still being 6'3".
The other option is Golden Tate the former 2nd round pick out of Notre Dame in the 2010 draft. So far he has been the only mistake for the Carroll/Schneider regime in the draft. As a rookie he caught only 21 passes for 227 yards while having 202 punt return yards. Last year he caught 35 passes for 382 yards with three touchdowns. In the last five games of the season he appeared to have turned things around catching 19 passes(3.8 per game) for 209 yards(41.8 YPG) with a touchdown. Tate had a terrific camp but that didn't translate to the preseason as he only had three receptions for 27 yards. This is a make or break year for Tate he is either going to establish himself on this roster or he won't be back next season.
The other two receivers are special teams contributors Ben Obomanu and Charly Martin. First on Obomanu who is now entering his seventh season with the team. Under Carroll his role as a receiver has increased quite a bit. In 2010 he caught 30 passes for 494 yards(16.5 YPC) with four touchdowns. Last season he caught 37 passes for 436 yards(11.8 YPC) with two touchdowns. Last year in a loss to Cincinnati he caught four passes for 107 yards.
While Martin had one career catch for six yards with Panthers he had a great preseason. Martin caught five passes for 40 yards with a touchdown. He also made a key block on the Russell Wilson touchdown in the first preseason game, made a key block on the Golden Tate 93 yard punt return for a touchdown as well. Carroll plans on playing close games with running the ball and defense. Which means a big emphasis on special teams as well.
For a weak part of the team I don't feel so bad about this unit. The Seahawks have some guys who have proven to make plays in the past. They have height in the red zone and if Tate can have that break out year or if Rice can stay healthy the Seahawks receiving group looks to be pretty good. Just remember the Seahawks are going to running the ball quite a bit so as long as the receivers aren't dropping the ball the passing game should be fine.
With more stability at the quarterback position and a better offensive line I do think Miller will be a bigger factor this season. Miller is young and a pass catching machine from his days in Oakland. Look for the Seahawks to run a lot of two tight end sets as Anthony McCoy stepped up this preseason. They also signed pass catching tight end Evan Moore from Cleveland.
Moore, in 2010 in only 12 games caught 16 passes for 322 yards with a touchdown. Last season in 16 games caught 34 passes for 324 yards with four touchdowns. The Seahawks recently cut Kellen Winslow who wouldn't take a pay cut and are hoping Moore can fill that pass catching void.
Another reason for Winslow being cut was the play of McCoy. During this preseason McCoy caught six passes for 106 yards(17.7 YPC) which cemented his spot on the roster. McCoy was a sixth round pick out of USC in 2010 saw some action last season. He caught 13 passes for 146 yards(11.2 YPC) last year.
The Seahawks will run quite a bit of two tight end sets to run the ball more effectively plus it allows for more play action passing. Like I said with better offensive line play and quarterback play look for the tight end group to be more productive something they haven't been in the last couple of seasons.
Starting right next to Okung at left guard is Paul McQuistan. McQuistan the former Raider who started six games in both 2006 and 2007 wasn't really seen much after that. Last year due to injury he started the final 10 games at guard and tackle. His backup will be last years first round pick James Carpenter who started the first nine games last year at right tackle. Now that he is guard I think that is more comfortable as he is an elite run blocker but not athletic enough to play tackle. I wouldn't be surprised if Carpenter eventually takes McQuistan's job on this line.
At center the Seahawks have a rock in Max Unger. Unger the second round pick out of Oregon started all 16 games at right guard in 2009. In 2010 after starting the first game at center got hurt during that game and had to miss the remaining season. Unger last year started 15 games at center for the Seahawks. With him and Okung the Seahawks have two lineman who can be part of this franchise for a while.
The Seahawks will be starting at right guard rookie J.R. Sweezy. Sweezy was a 7th round pick out of North Carolina State played defense in college but was moved to offense by Carroll. That draft pick was acquired in the Aaron Curry trade as the Seahawks once again turn a bust into a contributor. Sweezy for now is starting over 2011 third round draft pick John Moffitt who started nine games last year. Moffitt still recovering from him injury probably isn't 100%.
For right tackle the Seahawks will start Breno Giacomini who they acquired off the garbage dumpster. Giacomini last year played in 15 games making eight starts. He showed at times he can hold his own, his only problem is he can commit bad personal foul penalties so he must cut back on that.
I think with the coaching of Cable plus a big year out of Okung this offensive line is going to be pretty good this year. Probably the weakest part of the team since Steve Hutchinson left after the Super Bowl year this line looks pretty good. Lynch ran for some tough yards last year but the line also opened up some holes. I think Jackson held onto the ball too long making them look bad as well. I think the offensive line is going to be a bright spot for this Seahawks team.
When the Seahawks face a third down they'll have Irvin come in at defensive end for Bryant. Irvin is the first round pick out of West Virginia. He is a player who many didn't like the draft pick but I loved the pick. Here is the piece I wrote about the Irvin selection which as you can read I liked the pick. Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two years with the Mountaineers including 14 as a junior. With Bryant stopping the run on first and second down with Irvin creating a pass rush for a unit who only ranked tied for 19th in sacks with 33 that should be a huge plus.
The other starting defensive end will be the Seahawks leading sack master the last two seasons in Chris Clemons. In another savvy trade by the Carroll/Schneider regime where they traded Daryl Tapp for Clemons plus got a fourth round pick. In 2010 Clemons started all 16 games while recording 49 tackles with 11 sacks with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. In 2011 he started all 16 games while recording 51 tackles with another 11 sacks with three forced fumbles. Clemons has been a great pass rusher for the Seahawks over the years but will be 31 during this season so he is getting up there in age.
The other defensive ends for the Seahawks is Jason Jones from the Tennessee Titans. Jones has recorded 15.5 sacks in his four year career. He has also forced seven fumbles and can play both defensive end and defensive tackle positions. The other defensive end is Greg Scruggs who is a seventh round pick from Louisville. Scruggs had a terrific preseason and has earned a spot on this roster.
The defensive tackle position is very strong as well starring Brandon Mebane. Mebane who was a third round draft pick back in 2007 and has started 69 games since then. He recorded a career high 56 tackles last season as he was once again stuffing the run which is what he does best. The other starting defensive tackle is former Arizona Cardinal Alan Branch who started 15 games last year. He 34 tackles with three sacks as he and Mebane plugged up the middle so their opponents couldn't run on them.
Backing up both guys will be Clinton McDonald acquired in the Kelly Jennings trade and Jaye Howard. McDonald last year had 35 tackles as he forced a fumble while recovering one. While Howard is a fourth round selection out of Florida. Both will rotate in to keep Mebane/Branch fresh while both had good preseasons as the Seahawks went 4-0.
This defensive line can go with multiple looks which is nice. They can go big to stop the run or they can go with their speed to rush the quarterback. Due to this dynamic the Seahawks will force their opponent in a lot of third and longs which their new pash rush should create pressure so expect more sacks out of this unit this season.
Hill after missing all but one game of the 2010 season returned last year and had a good season. He started all 16 games recording 89 tackles and being second on the team with four sacks. Hill the lone veteran of this group and will be leaned on for leadership as these youngsters look to make a name for themselves. Malcolm Smith from USC who was drafted in the 7th round in the 2011 draft will be his backup. Last year Smith had 18 tackles including a sack.
In the middle the Seahawks will have rookie second round draft selection Bobby Wagner. Here was my reaction to the draft pick which I liked quite a bit. Wagner was a four-year starter and a tackling machine at Utah State. He also a two-time captain which shows he is a great leader something this unit could use and hasn't had since Tatupu. His backup will be veteran Heath Farwell who will contribute mostly on special teams.
The other outside linebacker will be K.J. Wright who was a fourth round selection in the 2011 draft. Wright played in 16 games while starting 13 as he was the reason the Seahawks traded away Curry. Wright had 61 tackles with two sacks. He also forced a fumble while recovering one as well. His backup will be undrafted linebacker Mike Morgan from USC. The Seahawks signed him in 2011 and he had a good preseason so he made the roster.
As you can see Hill is so valuable as the Seahawks feature a ton of youth in this unit. This group is talented as Carroll has a knack for developing defensive talent. I think this no name unit should play well like they did last year. Wright and Hill were a big part of that top 10 defensive ranking that the Seahawks produced. This team was top 10 in points allowed and total yardage proving they were a legit defense.
The Seahawks secondary is anchored by third year safety Earl Thomas. As a rookie Thomas was an alternate to the pro bowl as he recorded 71 tackles with five inteceptions. This past season teams picked on him less but he still racked up 96 tackles with two interceptions while forcing a fumble. He also recovered a fumble as well. Thomas was the 14th pick overall in the 2010 draft and is a play maker as he has already taken an interception for a touchdown in the preseason.
The other safety beside Thomas is 2010 fifth round selection Kam Chancellor. Chancellor, as a rookie played mostly special teams. Then in his first season as a starter in 2011 made the pro bowl as he recorded 95 tackles with a sack. He also had four interceptions, forced two fumbles while recovering one. To land one pro bowl safety in the NFL draft is pretty good but to land two in one draft just two years ago is incredible. With him and Thomas it makes life easy for the Seahawks corners knowing they have two great safeties who are there for help and can make plays themselves.
The former CFL defensive player of the year was a rookie last year in the NFL for the Seahawks in Brandon Browner. Browner also made the pro bowl as he learned early from his mistakes and become a ball hawking corner. Browner finished the year with 54 tackles and six interceptions for a league leading 220 yards including two touchdowns. He had a game clinching 94 yard touchdown against the eventual Super Bowl champions New York Giants. Browner also had 23 pass deflections as he is a big physical corner at 6'4".
The other corner is second year player Richard Sherman who was a fifth round draft pick in the 2011 draft. He played all 16 games starting the final 10. He recorded 54 tackles while intercepting four passes. He had 17 pass deflections while forcing a fumble. The nickel corner will be 10 year NFL veteran Marcus Trufant. Trufant is the longest standing member on this team has he has been here since 2003.
The other backups will be Jeremy Lane who will be a rookie as he was a 6th round draft choice in this years draft at corner. Byron Maxwell is another backup corner who was a 6th round draft choice in the 2011 draft. At safety you have Jeron Johnson out of Boise State who went undrafted but made the Seahawks roster last year. Another safety is Winston Guy another 6th round draft selection in this years draft. The last safety is Chris Maragos who was on the Seahawks roster last year.
The Seahawks have 10 guys in the secondary as they like to run nickel quite a bit. This is the strength of the team as they held their opponents to 11th fewest passing yards in the NFL. Heading into last year these names were unproven as the entire secondary wasn't in the NFL as far back as 2009. Both corners weren't in the NFL as of 2010. The Seahawks young secondary is light years ahead of where they should be. The scary thing is they can only get better too. Look for this unit to be one of the premiere secondaries in the entire NFL.
That also means you need good field position as Ryan enters his fifth season in Seattle. Last season he had 95 punts for 4,431 yards which was good for an average of 46.6. The number of punts, yards and average were all career highs for Ryan.
The kicking game last year and this preseason appears to be in good hands with Hauschka and Ryan. Ball control teams who rely on defense need a good kicking game as well. I think both guys will have another rock solid season for the Seahawks.
The talent level has improved a lot since Carroll has became head coach/team president. He took over an aging talent less roster who produced zero pro bowlers in 2009 and 2010. He had to handle replacing a team legend in Matt Hasselbeck gracefully which I felt he did a good job of that. More importantly he has changed the culture of this team. No longer the soft little Ruskell's this team is a hard nosed physical team who will punch you in the mouth. On offense their identity is ground and pound while on defense their identity is attacking while being tough. This is a tough team and that is because of Carroll. Carroll the only man in Seahawks history to win a division title and playoff game in his first season with the team looks to reach the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
Anything short of a disaster and I think Carroll will be given another season in 2013. This team isn't built for now yet is talented enough to win now. This roster is shaped up to win in the future as well. This team will be a force to be reckon with pretty soon. Carroll has the Seahawks on the verge of big things. Carroll was a risky hire but I love the way he operates business. I love his cut throat attitude of every player has to earn a spot on this roster. He doesn't care where you were drafted or what your contract is he has the best player plays which is something the Mariners should try to copy. Carroll is going to win in Seattle very soon and once he starts winning the team will be winning consistently for years to come.
I think this is the year the Seahawks have their first winning season since 2007. Going into this season I thought this team would go 9-7 but after seeing them go 4-0 in the preseason and more importantly the play of Russell Wilson I have this team going 10-6. I think the San Francisco 49ers come back to earth a little bit and our Seahawks win the division title.
Last year the offense was terrible and specifically the quarterback position. The team still won seven games despite major turnover once again on their roster with no training camp or OTA's. I think the offense is improved with another year of Tom Cable on the offensive line coaching his guys up. I do think the combination of Lynch and Turbin running on opponents is going to wear down opposing defenses. I think Wilson will make just enough plays with his legs and his is an accurate quarterback the Seahawks offense will be very solid.
A solid offense with this defense is going to win some games. This defense was a top 10 defense without really a pass rusher besides Chris Clemons. Now with Bruce Irvin and some other key guys either drafted or brought in look for the Seahawks to have more pressure on defense. The defense particularly the strong secondary will get tested some this year as they face Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady. All those guys are in the first half of the season as well.
If the Seahawks can survive the first half of their schedule especially a four week stretch of at Carolina, New England at home, at San Francisco on a Thursday night and at Detroit the schedule eases up. If the Seahawks can manage to be 4-4 at the halfway point they can do big things in the second half as the schedule is a bit back loaded with cream puffs like Arizona, St.Louis, Minnesota and the Jets at home. Play at the Dolphins and the Bills in Toronto. If the Seahawks get off to a 6-2 start then start planning your super bowl vacation because the second half of the schedule much easier than the first half.
This franchise is on the rise from when Carroll took over in 2010. This team has plenty of young talent as they continue to draft well. Almost every player who is a key contributor is still in his 20's which means this team is going to be good for a while. This team has plenty of depth which is evidence by their 4-0 preseason record as they had to cut some good players. This team is ready to make some noise this year as the 12th man is ready to let loose on their opponents. The Seahawks are going to be a fun team to watch this season especially on defense. The year 2012 the year of the 12th man started off with our Cortez Kennedy being selected for the hall of fame and will end with our Seahawks clinching a division title for the sixth time since 2004. Carroll has this team going in the right direction now it's just time to sit back and enjoy this young team do work on the rest of the NFL.