State of the Franchise: Seattle Seahawks
April 21, 2011 Leave a comment
In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks became the first team in the history of the NFL to win their division with a losing record. First year head coach Pete Carroll was the first to point out that the Seahawks making the playoffs doesn’t mean the team’s rebuilding plans are finished. In fact, they still may be in the infancy stages.
Looking at this team diagnostically from top to bottom, you’ll find a mixed bag of future talent and veteran leadership that might be crowning over that hill. 35-year old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had an up-and-down season, throwing for 3,001 yards, 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 72.3 passer rating. Towards the end of the year, Hasselbeck featured some injury problems, opening the door for the Seahawks’ quarterback in training, 28-year old Charlie Whitehurst. In his three starts last year, Whitehurst didn’t distinguish himself as a player, posting a passer rating of 65.5 with 507 yards passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Receiver wise, the team got a resurgent season from former Southern Cal standout Mike Williams. After bombing out of the league with the Detroit Lions, Williams was reunited with his college coach Pete Carroll when Carroll took the Seattle job, and was given a second chance that he capitalized on. After accumulating 539 yards in three years with three different teams and not playing an NFL game since 2007, Williams posted a team-high 751 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly than his numbers, Williams proved to defensive coordinators around the league that he can still be a force as a number-one receiver. Behind Williams, the Seahawks used a mixed bag of receivers and tight ends to put together a decent passing threat. Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions each, while Brandon Stokley provided veteran leadership to the young group with 354 yards receiving.
The problem for the Seahawks all season was their rushing attack and offensive line. The team finished 31st out of 32 teams in the league in rushing. No player rushed for more than 600 yards, with former Buffalo Bills leading rusher Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett leading the feeble attack. Lynch ran for 573 yards on 165 carries for a 3.5 average, but was effective along the goal line, scoring six touchdowns. Forsett struggled all year long to get a consistent rhythm going for Carroll’s offense. He ran for 523 yards and a 4.4 average, but couldn’t find a big play all season long, only having five rushes of 20 yards or more and scoring two touchdowns. Though some of the blame is put on the running backs, the team ran out an inexperienced offensive line that is still in development. Rookie tackle Russell Okung was trying to grow into a full-time NFL starter on the fly, and at times, that inexperience cost the team.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Seahawks still have some holes to fill to improve their defense. The team ranked 27th in the league in pass defense and 21st in rush defense. The Seahawks start two former first round picks at each corner position, Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings. Trufant was once the head of the class as far as one-on-one corners went in the NFL. Now 30, Trufant has lost a step against the younger, bigger receivers taking ranks in the league. His 80 tackles and one interception isn’t a great sign, as it signals that teams a no longer afraid of throwing in his direction. Jennings had a team-high 13 pass deflections along the other wing, and provided solid defense for the Seahawks. However, it is doubtful that Jennings could match up with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Crabtree, assignments a number-one cornerback would be expected to take.
At the safety positions, the team started a rookie and an experienced vet. The 14th overall pick in last year’s draft, Earl Thomas was a pleasant surprise for coach Carroll on draft day to fall that far, then proved to the league that he should’ve been taken before that. 76 tackles and five interceptions later, Thomas stepped up to prove that he is a legitimate force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. Even at 37-years old, Lawyer Milloy proved to still be a valuable piece in a defensive backfield. Milloy tied for second on the defense with his 88 tackles and provided valuable leadership to his 21-year old counterpart lined up next to him.
Up the middle and against the run, the team was slightly better. Linebacker David Hawthorne provided an unexpected boost with his team-high 106 tackles, while Lofa Tatupu continued to proved his Pro Bowl-style play with 88 tackles and one sack. The Seahawks are still waiting on second-year linebacker Aaron Curry to break out and be the star they thought they were draft fourth overall in 2009. Curry accumulated 73 tackles and 3.5 sacks, but the team is hoping he adds onto those numbers and takes over to lead the defense when Tatupu is ready to move on.
Along the defensive line, the team got decent pressure from their end rushers. Chris Clemons recorded a team high 11.0 sacks to go along with his 49 tackles. On the other end, Raheem Brock added another 9.0 sacks and 32 tackles. Sandwiched between the two, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane did an adequate job against the rush, pushing the hole closed and recording five tackles for a loss.
Going into the draft, the team has some needed areas of improvement. The could use later round draft picks to take a high-upside cornerback to prime for a starting role in place of Trufant. Be it this year or the next, the team will also have to draft a future quarterback to start in place of Matt Hasselbeck. Charlie Whitehurst wasn’t impressive when he was given the opportunities last year, and though the team may give him another chance, they should have a contingency plan in place in case he fails.
More of an immediate need, the Seahawks may look to add to their offensive line or draft a top-flight running back. Neither Forsett or Lynch are “game-changers”, and the team could desperately use lightning quick running back to add punch to their lackluster running game.
The Seahawks will open the 2011 season as the defending NFC West champs. But, that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready to compete with the other big dogs throughout the conference just yet. Maybe they will be able to surprise people again like they were against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs last year. Or, maybe they’ll play like the team projected to finish towards the bottom of the division. Only time will tell the whole story.