Saturday, May 2, 2009

How Much Better Have the Seahawks Gotten?

by: Michael Steffes

I think it is now fair to say that the majority of the Seahawks major moves have been made. They have added and subtracted several players. Now they have the draft choices coming along. But how much better have the Seahawks really gotten? This is the question at the heart of a major turnaround in 2009. There is an upside and a downside to each change, and the production will probably fall somewhere in the middle.

To See the major changes....

Coaching Staff~

It is hard to replace a legend, but if anybody has the energy to work at it day and night it appears to be Jim Mora. Both coordinators are are new as well. The Seahawks will rely on new coaches to get more from old players at key positions.

UPSIDE: The offense functions with more balance and is able to sustain drives, while the defense finally lives up to the expectation of its talent level.

DOWNSIDE: The offense struggles under a new system. They don't have the pieces in place to execute the zone blocking like they want to. Matt and Walt get a year older with nothing to show for it. The defense gets similar production out of guys like Jackson, Russell, and Tapp. The back ups still aren't ready to take over.


Matt is healthy, Wallace is even more experienced now. And healthy again. The team has got to see a rise in play at this position.

UPSIDE: Matt is good to go and plays at minimum 13 or 14 games. He plays with a chip on his shoulder after last season, and all the talk in the media about the Hawks needing to find his replacement.

DOWNSIDE: Matt has back problems again. Wallace is the clear cut starter for most of the season. While efficient, he is not spectacular, and this team thus needs to rely on defense and special teams to win

Running Back~

Morris is gone. Jones will be the featured guy, and Duckett's role will expand. There will be a third guy in the mix for carries as well.

UPSIDE: Jones and Duckett form a perfect tandem, "Thunder and Lightning" if you will. Because of the time share, they both remain healthy and help lead a top 10 rushing attack. Jones shows that the begining of last season was not a fluke.

DOWNSIDE: Jones is just not a bell cow back. His inconsistency becomes a problem again. Duckett can move the chains, but struggles when given too many carries, as his past production indicates. Forsett is a preseason wonder, and the Hawks have to put the offense on the QBs shoulders again.

Wide Receiver~

After being totally decimated by injuries last year, the Hawks added the top available WR in free agency, and complemented him with a speed guy to help open up the middle for him. Everyone will be healthy heading into training camp this year. In fact, some decent players won't make the cut.

UPSIDE; This group has the possibility of being one of the leagues best, in my opinion. Houshmanzadeh will make throwing in the red zone easier. Burleson, who appears to be close already, is a big play guy, even if inconsistent. Branch can be a reliable target assuming he is on the field, and he is kinda due to have a year with no problems. Even Marcus Tubbs has one. Add Butler into the mix of young guys, who hopefully spent all offseason working their tails off after finding out they weren't NFL ready last year, and this group is deep top to bottom.

DOWNSIDE: With no true #1 threat and Matt's security blanket in Bobby Engram gone, the passing game just isn't the same. It becomes inconsistent, especially against better defenses. As the year goes on, the vets like Housh, Branch, and Burleson start to get banged up. No real threat emerges from the young guys, again.

Offensive Line~

The Seahawks really only made one change to the offensive line, and that is Max Unger. They let Pork Chop go, who was really probably their best linemen last year. Walter Jones had microfracture, and Mike Wahle is said to have a bone on bone situation in his shoulder.

UPSIDE: The upside is huge. Walter recovers enough to be a top teir tackle, if not totally dominant force on the left side, and Locklear shakes of a bad first year after getting paid to show that he is the linemen the Hawks inked to that long term deal. Willis slides down to right guard to play, and stays there for the year without being moved. This because Wahle holds off Unger, allowing him a year to get stronger and learn the league, while Spencer stays healthy and builds off some of the promise he showed when in the lineup last year. Rob Sims never sees the field.

DOWNSIDE: Injuries strike again. Walt continues to have trouble with his knee. Locklear at left tackle gets its first run. Willis plays right tackle, but that leaves the interior of the line fairly week. Unger plays as rookie, at both center and guard because Spencer is inconsistent. Vallos, Sims, and Wrotto all get time on the interior as well. The line never gains an continuity and thus the offense sputters overall.

So, we can do this for the defensive changes later in the day, or tomorrow. I tried to present the two extreme positions of what could happen with some of the positions the Seahawks have addressed. My guess, is that the reality falls somewhere in-between on each of them. It is hard to assume drastic change until we see it, but also, it seems as if the Hawks didn't get any breaks last year, and a few are going to go our way this year. But maybe not.

How do you see each of these situations shaping up? We expected big changes last year in the line and running game, some came through, and others didn't. What ACTUALLY improves this year, and what will Tim Ruskell be addressing again next year? Have at it.....END