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Seattle Seahawks 2011 Preview

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It’s been said that building a team is like painting by numbers. If that’s true then the Pete Carroll and John Schneider kit looks like it was designed by Jackson Pollack with the paints mixed by a drunken monkey.

The pairing of Carroll and Schneider has led to a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” type of philosophy. It’s a philosophy that makes me nervous. I’m not a fan of holding on to the status quo, but the current management has me almost yearning for a return of Mike Holmgren.

It’s been a necessary pruning though as the Seahawks have suffered from terrible personnel moves since reaching the Super Bowl in 2005. After trading away former first rounder Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati, the Tim Ruskell era is finally crumbling to a close and not a moment too soon.

Ruskell’s drafts have left the Seahawks with very little in the way of starters, depth, continuity, the future, basically anything. It does my heart good, though, to know he found a job in Chicago though because I would hate not to share the desolation.

In 2010, the Seahawks started strong but ended up near the bottom of the ladder in the offensive and defensive statistics. Special teams ended up third, thanks to Leon Washington’s returns and Olindo Mare’s booming kickoffs.

It hasn’t been all bad. When we last left the NFL, the Seahawks had taken first place in the NFC Western Conference with a 7-9 record. Despite a chorus of whining whiners, Seattle earned the right to host the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.

Thanks to a 4 touchdown game from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and an earthquake inspiring 67 yard run from The Beast, Marshawn Lynch, they upset the former champs and sent the 12th Man home in a drunken delusion that Seattle really was a better team than the record indicated.

With the lockout looming, I was in the camp to resign Hasselbeck. I’m not one of the Hasselbeck apologists, I know he has his problems and his best years are behind him, but in this situation, I couldn’t think of a better quarterback fit for the Seahawks. He knows the team, the plays, and he’s a well respected leader of the team.

Team Schneider-Carroll didn’t agree with my assessment, barely offering Hasselbeck much of a contract before removing it from the table completely. Hasselbeck left for the Tennessee Titans who were very happy to get a veteran influence for rookie QB Jake Locker. How long Matt stays upright is still a question but I’m rooting for him to make it the whole season. Yeah, I know, I’m a dreamer.

Matt Hasselbeck and Tavaris JacksonIf Matt Hasselbeck is done, as Carroll and Schneider obviously believe, what’s the harm in throwing him out there to compete? My personal opinion is that Hasselbeck would show just how badly Carroll and Schneider missed with the Charlie Whitehurst trade.

I’m not sold on Hasselbeck’s replacement either. Tarvaris Jackson has never looked that good to me. Like Whitehurst, Jackson has all the tools and mobility to be a good, maybe even great, quarterback. Like Whitehurst, Jackson hasn’t had those things translate to the field during a real game. Both players can easily out throw and out run Hasselbeck, but they have never outplayed him and that, to me, is where the mistake has been made this season.

Some big names in Seattle Seahawks recent history are gone now. Among the purged, along with Hasselbeck, are kicker Olindo Mare, defensive back Jordan Babineaux, offensive linemen Chris Spenser, Sean Locklear, and Stacy Andrews as well as linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Will Herring.

The offensive line has been remade as new o-line coach Tom Cable brought left guard Robert Gallery with him from the Raiders. Added to center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung, top draft pick right tackle James Carpenter signed right away and has not missed a practice yet. Mix in rookie right guard John Moffitt and this line has never played together. Unger is in his third season in Seattle, Okung in his second. All together they have played 27 games but never once in the same game. The line has looked bad over the preseason, maybe another good reason not to bring Hasselbeck back, but did show improvement against the Raiders in the final preseason game.

The offensive backfield is unchanged as RB/FB Mike Robinson has returned for another year with Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and Leon Washington.

Along with the waves of free agents, Seattle hit the lottery by landing highly coveted free agents, wide receiver Sidney Rice from Minnesota and tight end Zach Miller from Oakland. Rice passed a physical after missing part of last season with a hip injury. His arrival should allow Jackson to have a familiar target. Miller’s arrival is fortunate as John Carlson has gone down for the season with a shoulder injury.

Brandon MebaneRice joins big Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, and Golden Tate as the wide receiving starters. Rookies Kris Durham and Doug Baldwin lit up the preseason and earned their roster spots.

The other top priority, in my mind, was defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Here we agreed and Mebane returned to Seattle. Putting him with Chris Clemons, Raheem Brock, Alan Branch, and Red Bryant goes a long ways towards making the defensive front fearsome again.

Lofa TatupuRed Bryant is a major cog in the defense. Before losing him against Oakland in the eighth game of the season, Seattle ranked second in the league against the run. After losing him the Seahawks dropped down the rankings like a rock off a cliff.

The linebacking corps has changed too. Surprised? Leroy Hill returns to rejoin Aaron Curry while fan favorite Lofa Tatupu was released after refusing to take a pay cut. The fact that Tatupu hasn’t been picked up by another team shows that maybe the fans don’t always know best. Personally I’m pissed I have to buy a new jersey. Big hitter David Hawthorne moves inside to take Tatupu’s spot but I haven’t seen his jersey for sale anywhere. That’s okay; I can fall back to my Kenny Easley.

The defensive backfield has Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Marcus Trufant coming back. With the Jennings trade, Seattle has placed last year’s draft choice Walter Thurmond into a starting role although he’s competing with one and two. Lawyer Milloy has not returned and his spot was filled by signing former Packer Atari Bigby.

Special teams have changed as well as Olindo Mare signed with Carolina. He was replaced with former Steeler Jeff Reed. Reed lasted up until the last cuts, beating out former Ruskell draftee Brandon Coutu before being cut himself and replaced Steve Hauschka, formerly of the Broncos. Golden locked punter Jon Ryan has returned and looks to be stable.

All the moves could pan out and Seattle could, since this is the NFC West, look to defend their title. A lot will depend on a very raw offensive line that has not looked good in the preseason, the defense staying healthy, and Tarvaris Jackson not being the QB that had Minnesota speed dialing Mississippi.

Every prediction I’ve seen has Seattle in the cellar and rightfully so because this could get very ugly very quickly. As a fan though, I’m always looking for that silver lining and this could be it. A lot will depend on the offensive line. It will look bad early but the other side to that is that it will get better. The players are all young and, apart from Okung, healthy. Getting them to gel will be on Tom Cable’s shoulders. Looking at what he did in Oakland, I think he can handle it.

Essentially a very young team already got younger and in the process lost its three big leaders in Hasselbeck, Tatupu, and Milloy. While I like the willingness to take chances and keep fresh, that’s a lot of factors to depend on, maybe a few too many. I’m hopeful, as all fans are for their teams, I’m not optimistic. That would be a bridge too far.

For my bold prediction, I’m going to say that Pete Carroll and company surprise me and go 8-8, one better than last season, but finish second in the West.

Okay, maybe I am being optimistic. I won’t say who comes in first. That would be even more painful to contemplate.

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.