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2012 Seattle Seahawks Team Preview: Will a New QB give the Seahawks a different result?

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.

STATE OF THE FRANCHISE

The Seahawks took a different offseason approach this year after yet another mediocre campaign. Instead of acquiring one quarterback, they acquired two. After signing forming Green Bay backup Matt Flynn to compete with Tarvaris Jackson, the Seahawks used their only offensive draft pick of note on yet another quarterback, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. But whoever wins the three-way training camp battle will face the same problems Jackson faced last season and Charlie Whitehurst before him and Matt Hasselbeck before him - too few big-play threats and a leaky offensive line - for Seattle's maladies go far beyond quarterback.

That an undrafted rookie free agent could lead the team in receptions and receiving yards, the first to do so since 1960, speaks well of Doug Baldwin, but it also says a great deal about the lack of quality options in the Seattle passing game. Sidney Rice has skills, but injury trumps skill, as he found out for the fourth time in his five-year career last season. Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu scare no one, and though Golden Tate teases, he has yet to make himself a factor.

The lone elite fantasy contributor last season was Marshawn Lynch, who gamely overcame an often overmatched and injured offensive line to set a franchise record with a touchdown in 11 consecutive contests and post six 100-yard games in the season's second half.

As unrelenting as Lynch was, he needs help. Perhaps some will come from newly acquired tight end Kellen Winslow. But that will require a gameplan adjustment as, for the second year in a row, the Seahawks all but ignored the tight end in the passing game. Even with John Carlson lost for the season to injury, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller was targeted only 44 times, too often kept in to block in order to help an underachieving offensive line that saw left tackle Russell Okung go down to injury yet again, as well as last year's top two draft picks, guard/tackle James Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt.

Perhaps Flynn, the likely starter, can pull it all together. Hopefully his record-setting Week 17 in place of Aaron Rodgers last year wasn't a case of the receivers making the quarterback. Otherwise, he might take the Whitehurst path of heir apparent to overpaid backup. That would leave Jackson, who despite his flaws - namely, he holds the ball too long - performed admirably last season, given the circumstances, including playing through a torn pectoral suffered in Week 5. As for Wilson, well, he's a 5-11 rookie.

Coach Pete Carroll loves camp competition, and at least the quarterback derby figures to be fun to watch. But until that translates to a higher level of competition in actual games, where it counts, the Seahawks will fare no better than their last few pedestrian efforts.

KEY ACQUISITIONS

Matt Flynn, QB (Packers)
The Seahawks landed the hot free-agent QB, but there are major questions, including will he even start?

Kellen Winslow, TE (Buccaneers)
Good pickup for next to nothing, but the team doesn't use its TE. Does this signal a change? Or will Winslow wither?

Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (Round 3, 75th overall)
Undersized QB will make it a three-way competition to start; expect more watching than playing, at least for now.

Bruce Irvin, DE, West Virginia (Round 1, 15th overall)
First-round pick is a speed rusher too small to play vs. the run, but should pay dividends on third downs where Seattle struggled last year.

Jason Jones, DT (Titans)
Inside pass rusher fills an immediate need on a defensive line that had trouble getting to the quarterback last season.

Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State (Round 2, 47th overall)
Will likely be asked to fill the big shoes of David Hawthorne at MLB. If he's not up for it, the team will turn to free agent signee Barrett Ruud.

KEY LOSSES
David Hawthorne, LB (Saints)
The team's leading tackler the last three seasons was allowed to walk in free agency. Let's hope the Seahawks don't end up regretting that decision.

John Carlson, TE (Vikings)
His upside was the victim of a bad offense in 2010 and a season-ending injury last year. He's better off with the Vikings.

TEAM NOTES

LET THE THREE-WAY QB BATTLE BEGIN
Training camp is billed as a three-way battle for quarterback, but the Seahawks won't be quick to bench hot free-agent grab Matt Flynn, whom they gave a guaranteed $10 million. Then again, that's exactly what happened to Charlie Whitehurst, who returned to San Diego this season after a two-year sabbatical in Seattle. But Flynn flashed major upside in Week 17 when he passed for a franchise-record 480 yards and six touchdowns for the Packers, and Seattle will give him every chance to win the job. Tarvaris Jackson has the benefit of incumbency and will begin camp with the first-team snaps. According to OTA reports, Jackson had the stronger arm, while Flynn was more accurate. Unless Flynn totally bombs, expect him to get the job. Third-round pick Russell Wilson worked his way into the competition after impressing coaches at OTAs. However, if the 5-11 rookie gets the nod, the Seahawks are in real trouble. The biggest loser is Josh Portis, who flashed real promise in training camp last season but now is on the bubble.

IS "UNTAPPED POTENTIAL" THE POLITE WAY OF SAYING THE WIDEOUTS AREN'T VERY GOOD?
It's not hard to make the case that Seattle's receivers have solid upside. But with all that upside comes mountains of risk. Sidney Rice is a walking infirmary coming off concussion issues and surgeries to both shoulders. Despite his ideal size, Mike Williams has two red-zone touchdowns in two injury-filled seasons in Seattle. Golden Tate still has to prove he's more than a great athlete. Quality receiving tight ends Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow are locked into a system that doesn't target the position. Only Doug Baldwin, who posted the most receiving yards by an undrafted rookie since the merger, looks like a dependable weapon. Unless the receivers reverse course and finally stay healthy enough to live up to their potential, Seattle's offense will continue to struggle (20.1 points per game last season, 23rd) despite a possible upgrade at quarterback and a 1,000-yard rusher in the backfield.

WILL THE DEFENSE HAVE TO CARRY THE TEAM? CAN IT?
Yes and maybe. Seattle's defense is a legit playmaking unit that finished seventh in points per game (19.7), fourth in interceptions (22) and fourth in yards per rush (3.8) last season. The area to improve is quarterback pressure (33 sacks, 19th). To that end, the Seahawks signed DT Jason Jones, who should provide an inside rush that was missing last year. And, controversially, they used their top pick on Bruce Irvin, a speedy edge rusher who is viewed as too small to play the run. Criticizing Seattle for a first-round reach is conjecture, but one could argue that taking a player who will be on the field for one, maybe two, snaps each defensive series is not a good value. A bigger issue might be losing leading tackler David Hawthorne. Rookie Bobby Wagner will be given the chance of replacing Hawthorne at MLB, though that's a tall order.

Value Meter

RISING: Doug Baldwin doesn't just want to prove his stellar rookie season wasn't a fluke, he aims to move to an outside receiver position after playing last year in the slot.

DECLINING: Zach Miller made the Pro Bowl in 2010, but now he's behind Kellen Winslow in an offense that doesn't feature the tight end.

SLEEPER: Sidney Rice's draft-day price is depressed because of his injury history, giving him the chance to be a good value if he stays healthy.

SUPERSLEEPER: Robert Turbin, Seattle's fourth-round pick, is only a Marshawn Lynch injury away from seeing heavy action.

IDP Watch

Kam Chancellor, S
Proved to be one of the league's best fantasy DB's last year with nearly 100 tackles and four INTs.

Earl Thomas, S
Improved tackling vaulted him up the DB IDP rankings last year.

Bobby Wagner, LB
If he wins the job, he'll be in position to post big IDP numbers.

TEAM DEFENSE:
RotoWire Rank: 12