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2011 Seahawks Team Preview: Mediocrity, Thy Name is Seahawks

Jason Thornbury

Jason Thornbury

Thornbury is a senior editor at RotoWire. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he has also worked in sports television and radio, including co-hosting RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

The Seahawks' 2010 season was highlighted by Marshawn Lynch's improbable, electrifying, eight-tackles-breaking, 67-yard playoff run that literally made the earth move. Other than that lasting memory, there wasn't much to remember.

Seattle became the first NFL team to win a division with a losing record (7-9) thanks to last year's NFC West being perhaps the worst division in North American team sports history. That the Seahawks even won seven games was an achievement in itself. Seattle suffered from offensive line problems all season, a unimaginative offense and a lack of playmakers.

To transform his second season into something better than his smoke-and-mirrors first season in Seattle, coach Pete Carroll hired former Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to invigorate the offense and former Raiders head coach Tom Cable to mold the offensive line into his snarling image as its new position coach. Carroll then drafted offensive line reinforcements James Carpenter (first round) and John Moffitt (third round) and signed free-agent left guard Robert Gallery.

The biggest move, though, came at quarterback where Carroll apparently decided neither of his signal-callers were good enough to lead the team in 2011. The Seahawks dumped long-time quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who fled to Tennessee, and benched his heir apparent, Charlie Whitehurst, who was acquired at great cost and geat fanfare just one year ago, to sign Tarvaris Jackson from Minnesota. Jackson has excellent running ability but doesn't offer much of an upgrade over Whitehurst, though he'll be reunited with his Vikings offensive coordinator and wide receiver Sidney Rice, whom the Seahawks also signed. Rice is a bonafide playmaker, but will he enough as perhaps the only legitimate gamechanger in the Seattle offense?

The Seahawks will again benefit from a weak division, though an improving Rams team might prove too much for Seattle to repeat as NFC West champs. Perhaps most important, though, the Seahawks young offensive line must stay healthy and mature quickly. Otherwise, Jackson will be running for his life all season, and Marshawn Lynch will be faced with repeating his thrilling run every time he touches the ball.

OFFSEASON MOVES

2011 Draft

Round, Overall, Player

1. (25) James Carpenter
, OL, Alabama
Seahawks admittedly overdrafted Carpenter to start at right tackle

3. (75) John Moffitt
, OG, Wisconsin
Another starting rookie offensive lineman

4. (99) K.J. Wright
, LB, Mississippi State
Versatile linebacker could be used in the middle or as a pass rusher

4. (107) Kris Durham
, WR, Georgia
Competition won't be fierce for the No. 3 WR spot

5. (154) Richard Sherman
, DB, Stanford
First of three consecutive DB picks

5. (156) Mark LeGree, FS, Appalachian State
Not enough roster space for a trio of rookie DBs

6. (173) Byron Maxwell, DB, Clemson
Physical cornerback started only eight games at Clemson

7. (205) Lazarius Levingston, DE, LSU
Likely headed for practice squad

7. (242) Malcolm Smith, LB, USC
Younger brother of Eagles receiver Steve Smith

Key Acquisitions

Tarvaris Jackson
, QB (Vikings)
New era in Seattle, but Charlie Whitehurst looms

Sidney Rice
, WR (Vikings)
Offense finally boasts a legit playmaker

Robert Gallery
, LG (Raiders)
Veteran lineman will be tasked with leading an otherwise inexperienced unit

Key Losses

Matt Hasselbeck
, QB (Titans)
Time for franchise's best quarterback to move on

Lofa Tatupu
, LB (free agent)
Seahawks said take a pay cut; Tatupu said stick it

Jordan Babineaux
, DB (Titans)
Big-play Babs is replaceable, but his dependability in a young secondary might be missed

QUARTERBACK

Tarvaris Jackson
Charlie Whitehurst
Josh Portis

RUNNING BACK

Marshawn Lynch
Justin Forsett
Leon Washington

Fullback

Michael Robinson

WIDE RECEIVER

Sidney Rice
Mike Williams
Ben Obomanu
Kris Durham
Golden Tate
Doug Baldwin
Deon Butler

TIGHT END

Zach Miller
Anthony McCoy
Dominique Byrd

KICKER

Steve Hauschka

RETURNER

Leon Washington
Golden Tate
Justin Forsett

TEAM NOTES

1. WILL THE OFFENSE HAVE MORE FIREPOWER THIS SEASON?

It's possible that a more aggressive gameplan ratchets up the offense, but the Seahawks still lack game-changers on that side of the ball. Sidney Rice, who was limited to just six games last year due to a hip injury, is an upgrade, free-agent tight end Zach Miller is a wash and Tarvaris Jackson, despite his athleticism, is not a better quarterback than the departed Matt Hasselbeck, worts and all. In the backfield, Marshawn Lynch is better than decent, provided the offensive line can open holes. Robert Gallery is an excellent addition at left guard, but two rookies (one of which, James Carpenter, was a significant first-round reach) and an injury-plagued, second-year left tackle in Russell Okung, suggest growing pains at minimum. The Seahawks don't look much better than last year's offense that ranked 29th in the league with 4.94 yards per play.

2. WHERRE'S LOFA?

Not in Seattle. The Seahawks asked three-time Pro Bowler Lofa Tatupu to take a pay cut. He said no. They said see ya. It was a surprising development considering Tatupu was the heart and soul of the defense. Tackle-machine David Hawthorne is a capable replacement at middle linebacker, but the defense is leaderless at this point with veteran Lawyer Milloy also not returning. Linebacking should continue to be the strongest part of the unit, though if Hawthorne, who's been injured most of training camp, isn't ready for the season, the Seahawks will be forced to go with rookie K.J. Wright in the middle. Overall, it's a middling defense that didn't significantly upgrade at any position this offseason after ranking 31st in the league last year when it allowed 76 plays of 20-plus yards.

3. DO THE SEAHAWKS HAVE A PLAN?

Maybe, but it appears to be a year-to-year prescription rather than a long-term vision. Last season, the front office made an astonishing 284 roster moves, far away tops in the league. With this offseason's labor dispute, the Seahawks opted for a sort of stability, bringing in a trio of Raiders (Tom Cable, Robert Gallery, Zach Miller) to shore up the offensive line and a trio of Vikings (Darrell Bevell, Tarvaris Jackson, Sidney Rice) to propel the offense. That's fine, but evidence of long-term strategic thinking would be comforting. Not re-signing the aging and expensive Matt Hasselbeck was reasonable, but not then handing the keys to Charlie Whitehurst was an embarrassing admission that the team misjudged when it gave up a third-round pick and a $10 million contract to acquire the career backup. The Jackson signing is equally perplexing. If the team thinks Jackson is the long-term answer, then it knows something the rest of the league doesn't. If he's merely a Band-Aid, in which case 2011 is a complete rebuilding year, why not just let Whitehurst fend for himself behind an inexperienced offensive line until a the line matures and the next franchise quarterback is found? What's more, Seattle all but ignored defense this offseason. Surely, the front office gameplan is not as capricious as it seems. Let's hope, at least.

VALUE METER

Rising:
Sidney Rice is Seattle's best offensive player and has an established rapport with both quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. In an otherwise poor offense, the ball has to go somewhere.

Declining:
Marshawn Lynch is still in a timeshare and running behind an inexperienced, injury-prone and pourous offensive line. That's not good.

Sleeper:
Mike Williams was a little overvalued last season, but opposite Sidney Rice this season, he won't be the focal point of opposing secondaries.

Supesleeper:
Kris Durham was Seattle's fourth-round pick out of Georgia and won't face tremendous competition for third WR job. The odds are against him as a rookie, but he might have an opportunity to carve out a role.

IDP Watch

David Hawthorne
, LB
223 tackles the last two years. What will he do with MLB all to himself this season?

Earl Thomas
, FS
75 tackles and five interceptions as a rookie.

Chris Clemons
, DE
Led the team with 11 sacks last season.

Team Defense:

RotoWire Rank: 26