Thursday, August 13, 2009

North by Northwest: Seattle Seahawks Season Preview

2008 Record: 4-12
Was there a more disappointing team in 2008 than Seattle? Seattle's 5-year playoff streak came to a crashing end. Seattle posted their worst season since 1992 when Tom Flores was their head coach. Flores wasn't canned after his 2-14 inaugural season, and followed that up with two 6-10 seasons before being replaced by Dennis Erikson.

Now it's Jim Mora's turn. Mora's staff has started off on the right foot, drafting Aaron Curry (LB-Wake Forest) with the 4th overall pick in the draft. The Seahawks were plagued by injury woes last season, particularly at wide receiver where they had somewhere around 8 wide receivers suffer injuries. In the offseason, they brought in TJ Houshmandzadeh from Cincinnati, who should help the production of the receiving unit. Deon Branch has been mostly a disappointment since coming to the team from New England. Nate Burleson, who had a fantastic year as a kick returner/wide receiver two years ago, but suffered and ACL tear last year.

According to team sources, Burleson is running like he used to once again, and should produce as a possession receiver. The Seahawks also drafted Deon Butler (WR-Penn State) who turned in one of the best 40 times at the combine. Butler's speed will provide a good compliment to what Seattle already has, and he should see time in 4-receiver sets.

One of the most impressive rookie campaigns last year was tight end John Carlson's. Carlson led the team in all 3 major receiving categories last season with 55 receptions, 627 yards, and 5 TDs. Carlson's production obviously suffered from having to work through Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye behind center for 9 games last season. At 33, Matt Hasselbeck's injury problems have been well-documented, including his back problems last season. Seattle may need to start looking to the future at quarterback, and drafted Mike Teel (Rutgers) in the 6th round. Is Teel the long-term answer? Probably not, but as a 6th round pick, it was worth a shot for Seattle to see if he can develop into anything.

Seattle's O-line has struggled since the departure of Steve Hutchinson, but they may have found their answer in 2nd round draft pick Max Unger from Oregon. Walter Jones has been a mainstay at left tackle, but he is gettin up there in years and has had some injury issues the last few years. In turn, the running game has suffered since the departure of Shaun Alexander. Julius Jones led the team with a mere 698 yards in 15 games. Bruiser T.J. Duckett led the team in touchdowns with 8.

On defense, Patrick Kerney's health is of the utmost importance. They need him to return to his sack-producing form if the defense is going to have success. The pass defense was gutted for over 300 yards 5 times last season. With Marcus Trufant and Ken Lucas (acquired from Carolina in Free Agency) at the corners, Seattle has talent there. However, they can't be left out on an island. The front 4 need to get pressure. Seattle has a solid linebacking unit with Lofa Tatupu, Curry, and Leroy Hill (who finished 4th on the team in tackles last season). Julian Peterson's departure will be aided by Curry's insertion into the lineup, and Curry will fit Seattle's defensive scheme perfectly. Seattle's defense also failed miserably at creating turnovers, finishing 26th in turnovers and 29th in interceptions, with only 9 on the season.

Seattle managed to out-rush their opponents 7 times last season, and had a 3-4 mark in those games. As unbelievable as it is, Seattle only out-passed their opponents once, in Week 16 against the New York Jets. To get back to their winning ways, Seattle needs to control the ball more. They were 28th in Offensive Plays from Scrimage (they had the 4th fewest number of offensive snaps) and 31st in Defensive Plays from Scrimage (they had the 2nd most defensive snaps). Additionally, they were 25th in Total Offense and 25th in Total Defense.

Ian's Prediction: 6-10

It all depends on Hasselbeck's health. I think the receivers will be better this year, but the running game is still a big question mark. The offensive line is aging, and the schedule is not favorable. Seattle must travel to Indy, Dallas, and Houston throughout the year, and has to face the NFC North and AFC South. If Hasselbeck stays healthy and the defense can return to 2007 form, then Seattle could make a run at this division. However, with a new coach and a questionable running game, I really don't see this team making a big run towards the post-season. They will be better than last year, and they have some winnable games on their schedule, but Seattle will be golfing in January once again and looking for a running back in the offseason.

John's Prediction:

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