Seahawks
Seahawks

2010 NFL Preview: Seattle Seahawks

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Between now and the September 9th season kick-off, Hank Koebler, IV will be previewing all the NFL teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, division): 5-11, 3-3
Division finish: 3rd NFC West
Offensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 25th, 21st, 15th, 26th
Defensive rank (Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards): 25th, 24th, 30th, 15th

2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Julius Jones, 663 yards, 2 TD; Justin Forsett, 619 yards, 4 TD
Passing: Matt Hasselbeck, 3,029 yards, 17 TD, 17 INT
Receiving:
Tackles:
Sacks: Patrick Kerney, 5.0 sacks; Lawrence Jackson, 4.5 sacks
Interceptions: David Hawthorne and Deon Grant, 3 interceptions

2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes division game)

seahawksschedule

Key Matchups

September 12 vs. San Francisco 49ers: In order to set tone for the divisional race, the Seahawks are going to have to start off strong and bring their best. Their defensive line is going to get pushed off the ball, so their linebackers are going to have to have a phenomenal day to contain Frank Gore, because if he gets into the secondary, he’ll be nearly impossible to catch.

November 21 at New Orleans: This game is going to be an enormous test for Seattle’s passing game. With their lack of speed in the defensive backfield, the Seahawks are going to get picked apart by the Saints’ multiple-receiver sets and will have to abandon the run early. If Golden Tate has a breakout performance in this game, it will definitely give the Seahawks a better chance of upsetting the defending Super Bowl Champions.

November 28 vs. Kansas City: The Chiefs are another team who the Seahawks can only stop with a great game from the linebacking corps. Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster will go crazy in the secondary if they are able to get past the second level of the defense, and the Seahawks are going to have to hope Matt Hasselbeck can air it out in order to catch back up if the Chiefs establish an early lead.

Key Losses

Seneca Wallace, QB; Nate Burleson, WR; Patrick Kerney, DE

Key Returning Players

Lofa Tatupu; MLB; Matt Hasselbeck, QB; T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR; Aaron Curry, OLB

Key Draft Picks

Russel Okung, OT; Earl Thomas, FS; Golden Tate, WR

Key Free Agent Signings

Ben Hamilton, OG

Key Acquisitions via Trade

Charlie Whitehurst, QB; Kentwan Balmer, DT; Leon Washington, RB

Offensive Overview

The most important question mark on the Seahawks’ offense is whether or not Matt Hasselbeck can stay healthy. He’s missed 11 games in the past two seasons, and even when he’s been able to play, he’s still been hurting and therefore has played less effectively. However, he’s shown this preseason that when fully healthy, he can pick apart a defense as he throws with both zip and accuracy, especially on short passes. Therefore, the offensive line absolutely has to keep Hasselbeck upright. The selection of left tackle Russel Okung sends Sean Locklear back to right tackle, where he is most comfortable. Left guard Ben Hamilton, signed in free agency this offseason, is a veteran of offensive line coach Alex Gibbs’s zone-blocking system, so he should be a good fit in Seattle. Right guard Max Unger, last year’s first-round selection, gets pushed back into the pocket by stronger defensive linemen. Center Chris Spencer is both strong and agile, and he plays with good technique.

The Seahawks’ offensive line is good at creating the first hole when run-blocking, but they open up gaps in the next level of the defense. For this reason, an explosive running back like Leon Washington is best-suited for the Seahawks’ run game, and he could be very successful this year. Julius Jones will likely be the backup, which is OK but not ideal. Jones isn’t a punishing runner at all, and he can sometimes be seen ducking out of bounds to avoid contact.

The Seahawks’ receiving corps offers Hasselbeck some decent options. First and foremost is 2009 free-agency prize T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Houshmanzadeh has pretty good speed and OK jumping ability, but his biggest strength is his excellent hands; he drops very few balls and catches almost everything that comes his way. Tight end John Carlson caught 7 touchdown passes last season and is looked upon by many experts as an under-the-radar candidate to have an enormous 2010 season. Deoin Branch is their wideout starting on the opposite side, and rookie Golden Tate and draft bust resurrection project Mike Williams offer quite a bit of depth coming off the bench. While the Seahawks won’t be an offensive juggernaut, they should be able to move the ball with consistency.

Outside of the linebacking corps, this defense is really lacking speed and the ability to create and maintain containment. Defensive end Cory Redding wasn't a great fit in Seattle, as he was more comfortable back when he played defensive tackle in Detroit, but his bulk and starting experience will be missed as the Seahawks look to the inexperienced Chris Clemons to make significant contributions. Clemons has speed to be a good edge rusher, but he is still raw. In run defense, he is too easily pushed off the ball, as well. Patrick Kerney, their best pass-rusher, retired last year, and Lawrence Jackson, who was drafted in 2008 and has started 24 games since then, was traded to Detroit for a 2011 draft pick, so depth at end is definitely an issue. 323-pound defensive tackle Red Bryant is moving from tackle to end, helping to make up for the loss of Redding. Defensive tackle Colin Cole shows promise when he plays, occasionally bulling his way straight into the backfield no matter who tries to stop him. However, he doesn't play this well all the time, which means he has the talent to be dominant, but his sloppy technique allows him to be beaten by offensive linemen who aren't anywhere near as physically gifted as he is. In training camp, the Seahawks traded for 49ers defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer. Balmer played defensive tackle in Carolina, but was never a good fit in San Francisco's 3-4 defense, and he should look to bounce back now that he is back in a 4-3, which is where he feels more comfortable.

Defensive Overview

Outside of the linebacking corps, this defense is really lacking speed and the ability to create and maintain containment. Defensive end Cory Redding wasn't a great fit in Seattle, as he was more comfortable back when he played defensive tackle in Detroit, but his bulk and starting experience will be missed as the Seahawks look to the inexperienced Chris Clemons to make significant contributions. Clemons has speed to be a good edge rusher, but he is still raw. In run defense, he is too easily pushed off the ball, as well. Patrick Kerney, their best pass-rusher, retired last year, and Lawrence Jackson, who was drafted in 2008 and has started 24 games since then, was traded to Detroit for a 2011 draft pick, so depth at end is definitely an issue. 323-pound defensive tackle Red Bryant is moving from tackle to end, helping to make up for the loss of Redding. Defensive tackle Colin Cole shows promise when he plays, occasionally bulling his way straight into the backfield no matter who tries to stop him. However, he doesn't play this well all the time, which means he has the talent to be dominant, but his sloppy technique allows him to be beaten by offensive linemen who aren't anywhere near as physically gifted as he is. In training camp, the Seahawks traded for 49ers defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer. Balmer played defensive tackle in Carolina, but was never a good fit in San Francisco's 3-4 defense, and he should look to bounce back now that he is back in a 4-3, which is where he feels more comfortable.

The Seahawks’ offensive line is good at creating the first hole when run-blocking, but they open up gaps in the next level of the defense. For this reason, an explosive running back like Leon Washington is best-suited for the Seahawks’ run game, and he could be very successful this year. Julius Jones will likely be the backup, which is OK but not ideal. Jones isn’t a punishing runner at all, and he can sometimes be seen ducking out of bounds to avoid contact.

The Seahawks’ receiving corps offers Hasselbeck some decent options. First and foremost is 2009 free-agency prize T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Houshmanzadeh has pretty good speed and OK jumping ability, but his biggest strength is his excellent hands; he drops very few balls and catches almost everything that comes his way. Tight end John Carlson caught 7 touchdown passes last season and is looked upon by many experts as an under-the-radar candidate to have an enormous 2010 season. Deoin Branch is their wideout starting on the opposite side, and rookie Golden Tate and draft bust resurrection project Mike Williams offer quite a bit of depth coming off the bench. While the Seahawks won’t be an offensive juggernaut, they should be able to move the ball with consistency.

Special Teams Overview

Despite having the 3rd-highest average kickoff distance in the league, the Seahawks ranked 19th in kickoff return distance allowed. Similarly, though they were 7th in average punt distance, they had the league’s 3rd-worst punt return average allowed.

Placekicker Olindo Mare had an astounding 2009 season, successfully making 24 of his 26 field goal attempts. Over his career, he’s been a pretty average kicker, with a career field-goal conversion of 81.2 percent.

Nate Burleson had a decent punt return average of 8.5 yards per return, but he is now a Detroit Lion, and the only other player to return punts last year was Justin Forsett, who averaged 5.8 yards per return, so the Seahawks will look to rookie Golden Tate to be their primary punt returner. Forsett averaged 24 yards per kickoff return last year, and so far, the best kick returner in the preseason, Deon Butler, has averaged the exact same amount of yards per return.

The defensive backfield was Seattle’s biggest weakness last year, and likely will continue to be so in 2010. Strong safety Jordan Babineaux was a huge liability in pass coverage, and so he wasn’t able to provide help to the cornerbacks. Corner Marcus Trufant used to be good, but after some knee injuries, he appears to have lost some speed. Opposite him, Kelly Jennings looks likely to start after Josh Wilson was traded to the Ravens, but neither Jennings nor Wilson should be considered a starting-caliber cornerback by any means. However, this does mean their depth at corner is now even worse than it already was. Free safety Earl Thomas, a rookie from the University of Texas, has great range and will help solidify the defensive backfield a little bit, but he alone can’t make up for weaknesses at the other three defensive back positions.

Head Coach: Pete Carroll

Much has been made of Carroll’s “failure” in his previous NFL head-coaching stints, but he actually compiled a winning record of 33-31 and went to the playoffs in two of his four seasons. However, that’s been ignored for the sake of having an easy talking point about Carroll being part of the trend of college coaches faring poorly in the NFL. Carroll has shown he can be at least a decent head coach in the National Football League, but he re-entered the league with a target on his back after being so successful at USC. The size of that target increased exponentially after USC was slapped with sanctions because of Reggie Bush receiving improper benefits from agents during Carroll’s tenure. The perceived arrogance of Carroll’s refusal to thoroughly address or take responsibility for the sanctions infuriated some NFL fans, so the pressure is high for Carroll to be successful with the Seahawks.

Top 2011 Free Agents

Matt Hasselbeck, QB; Leon Washington, RB; Kelly Washington, CB

Season Prediction

2nd NFC West

The first year of the Pete Carroll era will be a good building block, but in the weak NFC West it will likely be enough to win second in the division. On offense, they‘ll be OK, but on defense, Pete Carroll’s creativity with the “Elephant” package isn’t going to be enough to overcome their talent shortcomings. - Hank Koebler, IV

Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.

 

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