Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Top 15 Seahawks for 2009

by: Chris Sullivan

Danny O'Neil had the great idea to rank the Seahawks by level of importance -- a sort of intra-squad Power Rankings. He's working on his, but I figured I'd toss one together because I love the idea. Here's a top 15 for you guys, I encourage you to do the same!

1) Matt Hasselbeck - Hate to be so cliche and name the QB the most important player on the team, but uh, who else would it be? Hass is the leader of the team and must be the pointman for this to be a wining team. Unquestionably the top pick. Also, he is bald.

2) Lofa Tatupu - From QB to QB of the Defense, Tatupu must play well for the defense to perform. He is the spiritual and, typically, tackle leader of the defense and his instinct for the game drives the rest of the defense.

3) Walter Jones -- Wow, it's like a list of "Top Fan Jerseys," isn't it? Well, Jones is important and will continue to be important. The left tackle position is key and Jones' health is another pivot point of 2009. If he is healthy, we are good to go.

4) To-be-determined Left Guard -- As important and skilled as Walter Jones is, he isn't half as good without a solid left guard as we learned in 2006 and 2007. When Wahle lined up next to him last year, he was his old self again. When Wahle was injured, Jones dropped off markedly and eventually succumbed to an injury of his own (likely unrelated, but hey, whatever). Be it Wahle or his replacement -- Wrotto? Willis? the Left Guard will be almost as important as the left tackle this year.

5) Brandon Mebane - The Defensive Line will be the absolute key to the defense this year. Mebane is shifting to 3-tech and will be expected to routinely get pressure on the quarterback. His ability to adapt to his new position is key. I'm not worried about Colin Cole's ability to fill space and take up two blockers because he is absolutely gigantic. I believe Mebane is the anchor of the defense for years to come and should see his first pro-bowl berth this year.

6) Patrick Kerney - The Seahawks have not added a second star edge-rusher yet, so on Kerney's shoulders it rests. Jackson, Redding, Tapp and Atkins will all be relied upon but the expectations are somewhat low. Kerney and Mebane will be relied upon to get our pass rush going and failure to do so will likely result in another awful season.

7) Julius Jones - Again, this is ranking based on importance, not skill. Jones absolutely must step up and become what he has yet to in his career (think Thomas Jones last year). The Seahawks are relying on Jones to get, at minimum, 1,000 yards next year and probably more like 1,400. He was not given a chance next year, but he also did not really shine when put in the spotlight. This is make or break for him. Failure to meet expectations and he will be out on his booty in 2010.

8) TJ Houshmandzadeh - This is, of course, in conjunction with Matt Hasselbeck, but Housh is slotted to be the go-to offensive threat. If Housh can't put up numbers similar to Engram's in 2007, he will be viewed as an expensive disappointment. We're not calling for 15 TDs and 2,000 yards, but he must impress. I think he will, but time will tell.

9) Aaron Curry -- Is he the 9th most important guy on the team? Not necessarily, but the future of this defense is tied to Curry's ability to be a jack of all trades and a master of all. He is an every down player and will be asked to get pressure on the quarterback from time to time, drop into coverage quite frequently, and smash the facemask off many-a-tailback.

10) Brian Russell -- Why is Russell more important than the rest of the secondary? He's not. But you guys think he is more responsible (perhaps he is), so he is the most important in the sense that he must improve the most. Russell has to learn the scheme and play it perfect technically. He is in charge of watching personnel and adjusting the defense accordingly, but don't believe for a second that he is not instantly disposable if the Hawks are getting pressure and still failing to contain the pass. 2010 is the year of the safety draft with the top two safeties in at least 5 years coming out -- Eric Berry and Taylor Mays.

11) Chris Spencer -- The center is key and actually will be taking on more responsibilities in the zone blocking scheme that Knapp is using for the Hawks. Spencer has been a mediocre center with some upside remaining, but he's being followed by Max Unger and Steve Vallos who both have a ton of upside and smaller paychecks. This is make or break for Spencer in a contract year. Look for him to be pulled in favor of Unger by Week 4 if he has not stepped up fully. The linecalls will be essential in the ZBS and that is where Spencer has always suffered.

12) Ken Lucas -- If this were by skill, Trufant would be in the top 5 or 6, but it's not, its by importance. Trufant is a known quantity, Lucas, less so. We need Ken Lucas to come in and prevent the big play against the big recievers -- here's lookin' at you, L-Fitz. Josh Wilson will be breathing down Lucas' neck all season and in 2008 made great strides technically. Can Lucas stave him off? This competition should be excellent for the defense.

13) Cory Redding -- The Hybrid D-lineman, Redding has every reason in the world to have the best season of his career. He is on a one-year contract with the Seahawks after spurning the last four (or three?) years of his Lions contract for less money on a better team. He will be a free agent in 2010. Anyway, Redding plays heavily into the D-Line's plans as a hybrid DE/DT who will be expected to pressure the quarterback whenever he's on the field. Are you getting any sense that pressure will be important in 2009? Just checking.

14) Jim Mora -- Oops, almost forgot the coach. Okay, okay, he's not a player, but its impossible to overlook him in year one. Mora must come in and lead the team with authority, set the tone for the team in both wins and losses, and continue to imbue the players with energy from week 1 to 17 (and beyond). Don Wakamatsu is doing a good job of this right now, but hopefully a little less micromanaging from Mora and more awesome press conferences like his Pa.

15) John Carlson -- What can I say, no Seahawks list is complete without John Carlson anymore. Think Houshmandzadeh's role but trickier and with more blocking. Carlson has the ability to get open against the best players in the league, and should demand a lot moer attention than your typical TE. If he can bolster his blocking to the next level, he's en route to a Pro Bowl in 2009 or 10.