Training camp has started and we’re only a little over a month away from the kickoff to the 2011 NFL season. It’s time to take a look at what the Seahawks have done this offseason to try to improve from their 7 win 9 loss season last year.
Today, I went to the Seahawks website on ESPN to look for any recent news and noticed something that was a bit of a reality check. Near the top of every team page, ESPN shows team rankings for passing yards, rushing yards, as well as opponent passing yards and rushing yards. Out of 32 teams, the Seahawks finished 19th in passing yards, 31st in rushing yards, 27th in passing yards allowed, and 21st in rushing yards allowed.
Summarized, that essentially means that the Seahawks had an anemic offense that found it almost impossible to ever run the ball, and the defense was considerably below average.
Here are the four areas that the Seahawks needed to address most over the offseason:
- Quarterback – Matt Hasselbeck had a great playoff run last year, but he is seemingly always injured, turns 36 in September, and is now in the twilight of his career. The team did not choose to re-sign him. Charlie Whitehurst was very up and down last year, and though he is still young, it was clear that the team needed to make additions at this position to provide leadership and depth.
- Offensive Line – Ever wonder why Hasselbeck was seemingly always injured? The Seahawks actually have pretty good running backs in Justin Forsett, Leon Washington, and former Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch. How does a team with those running backs finish 31st of 32 teams in rushing? The answer to these questions is that the Seahawks didn’t even have (by NFL standards) one GOOD offensive lineman except for maybe often-injured rookie Russell Okung.
- Defensive Tackle/Inside Linebacker/Anyone who can help the run defense – Last season, the Seahawks won four of their first six games. In those first six games, they allowed only 77.5 rushing yards per game. Over the course of the remaining ten games, the Seahawks only won three games, and allowed an average of 155.6 yards rushing per game. There was a definite correlation there between winning and stopping the run for the Hawks.
- Safety – Last season, Lawyer Milloy started for the Seahawks. While I think Milloy was a great mentor for young Seahawk Earl Thomas who started at the other safety position, Milloy has never had much speed, and at age 37, is well past his prime. The team did not choose to retain his services.
Here are my grades for how well the Hawks have done over the offseason to address their needs:
1. Quarterback – This is the position that remains the biggest question mark for the team. The team brought in Tarvaris Jackson from Minnesota, and Pete Carroll has said that he expects Jackson to start. This is largely because of his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s system from their days together in Minnesota. Jackson brings mobility and an explosive arm, but he lacks experience, and can be quite erratic at times. I like the move of adding Jackson, but I wish the team had added at least one more veteran to compete for the starting job.
Grade: C-. Until I’m proven otherwise, I think Jackson is at best an average NFL QB.
2. Offensive Line – The team has made three major additions to the O-line. The team signed Robert Gallery from Oakland, and though Gallery has not lived up to the expectations that went with being the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, he is a solid addition. Gallery brings some much-needed experience to what will be an extremely young line, and has widely been considered the best offensive lineman on the Raiders (who finished second in the league in rushing last year) during his seven years in the league. The Hawks also spent their first two draft picks on 643 pounds of offensive linemen. Both are projected to play to get significant playing time on the right side of the line where they should excel as run-blockers. While some draft analysts believed that the value of the players was a little lower than the picks at which they were selected, I don’t like judging rookies before they get a chance to play.
Grade: B+. It is encouraging that the team recognized an area of need and addressed it.
3. Run game help – The team recently cut Lofa Tatupu, and hasn’t made any major moves at linebacker. Tatupu, an iconic figure for the Seahawks, is a small middle linebacker who can sometimes get bullied around in run defense, and clearly the team felt that it had better (and much less expensive) options on the roster. However, they did add Ryan Sims and Alan Branch to the defensive line. Sims and Branch were both early draft picks that didn’t live up to expectations, but will provide exactly what the Seahawks need: Branch (338 pounds) and Sims (315 pounds) will help shore up the run defense and provide quality depth. The Seahawks also re-signed Brandon Mebane, whose injury last season was also a factor in the decline of the run-defense in the second half of the season.
Grade: B. The added D-line depth should greatly improve the run defense, though the team could have used another linebacker.
4. Safety – As of August 3rd, 2011, the Seahawks had seven safeties on their roster, and NONE have played more than one season in the NFL. This remains the greatest area of need and I expect the Seahawks to make at least one veteran addition in the weeks before the regular season starts.
Grade: F. This grade will change once the Seahawks make a move for a safety (which I’m 99% sure will happen in the next few weeks).
Other major offseason additions: Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. Both are expensive, but winning in the NFL doesn’t happen often without elite players, and both of these guys are elite. Rice, 24-years-old, is an explosive, physical receiver who is at his best winning jump balls in the end zone. Miller, 25-years-old, is a 6’5, 260 pounder who made the Pro Bowl last year at tight end. Investment in young Pro Bowlers is about all Seahawks fans can ask of their management. These moves sort of came out of left field and didn’t address areas of need, but they’re the best two moves of the offseason.
Overall, I think the Seahawks have done pretty well in personnel management since the end of last year. They signed several of the most sought-after free agents, and have definitely improved the team while getting much younger. The average age of the players cut by the Seahawks was a little under 31 years old, while the average age of the free agents brought in by the Seahawks is about 25 years old. The team added size, youth, and addressed depth issues. If they can find solutions at safety and the quarterback play isn’t atrocious, I’d consider this the best offseason the team has had in recent memory.
All that’s left now is to see how the players can fit into coach Carroll’s system. We’ll see soon enough. Go Hawks!
The photo of Sidney Rice above comes from this play:
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.