Hello Seahawks Nation!
I won’t try to make an argument that the preseason is necessarily a great barometer of how a team will fare in the regular season, but I will say that I was pretty impressed with the Seahawks’ depth on Saturday in San Diego. I thought Mike Teel, the sixth-round pick from Rutgers, looked confident—maybe even more confident than he has in practice, which is a good sign!—the wide receivers ran their routes hard and were for the most part in the right spots, and the defensive line, from the first string all the way into the end of the fourth quarter, looked fantastic.
There are certainly some things that the team needs to improve upon, but all in all, I think it was a promising start.
I chose a question for today that I think is something that a lot of you are wondering. I’m honestly wondering it myself, but I’ll put all my thoughts on the table for you and give you the most educated answer I possibly can.
Keep those questions coming!
I want the truth: do the Hawks have a chance at the NFC West, or is this a season for building? How do the players and coaches feel about it, and how about the schedule?
Let’s look at this from a bunch of angles.
First, let’s examine the weak spots from last season:
Injuries. The injury-plagued season last year hurt the Seahawks in so many ways. Losing your starting quarterback for practically the whole year is a devastating blow. The injury pandemic at wide receiver was a freak thing…I’ll leave it at that. Then, the Hawks ended the season with five offensive linemen starting who weren’t there at the beginning of the season (and that included losing LT Walter Jones after Thanksgiving). Then there was Patrick Kerney, the Seahawks’ sack leader, who went down and didn’t return after Week 8 of last season.
Defensive backs. Too many long passes were completed against the Seahawks’ undersized secondary last season. Marcus Trufant saw very little action because of his Pro Bowl-caliber reputation, so the corners on the other side of the field were put up against the Larry Fitzgeralds and Anquan Boldins one-on-one.
Defensive line. The Seahawks’ defensive line, as hard as it tried, simply gave up too many rushing yards and didn’t put enough pressure on the quarterback.
Running backs. The inconsistency of personnel on the offensive line made it incredibly difficult to get anything going in the running game, and the whole idea of splitting time evenly between Mo Morris and Julius Jones didn’t serve to benefit either one.
Linebackers. Lofa Tatupu had a season that he’d probably like to forget pretty soon. Leroy Hill missed a few games with a minor neck injury toward the end of the season.
Now let’s look at the changes that have been made this offseason:
The draft. No one ever likes to pick at the No. 4 spot, but Aaron Curry was a heck of a pickup for the Seahawks. It was a miracle that he dropped to No. 4, because he was good enough to go at No. 1. He’s going to make a huge difference on this team. Max Unger is another great addition because of his versatility on the offensive line. He’s practiced at guard and center with the Seahawks so far, and will be an outstanding substitute this year if he doesn’t end up cracking the starting lineup (which is certainly a possibility). Deon Butler may be small, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and instinct. His hands are magnetized to the ball, and he can beat just about any corner you put him up against in a foot race. Nick Reed, as I’m sure you noticed on Saturday night, is one explosive little player! As I mentioned before, Teel looks to be taking to the playbook, as do Courtney Greene and Cameron Morrah at their respective positions. It’s possible that every player the Seahawks drafted will make the team, and it’s a very good sign that GM Tim Ruskell and his personnel crew selected players who both fit into and are subscribing to the Seahawks’ system.
Free agency/trades. Cory Redding and Colin Cole are really great additions to the defensive line. Redding is tall and agile, but is unbelievably strong and experienced in the NFL. He’s already been a fantastic influence in the locker room and on the field, with his personality and lead-by-example attitude. Cole is one of the biggest men I have ever seen. The man is a wall. If he plays consistently, which I believe he will, opposing teams are going to have to take to the air or get outside, because they won’t be going anywhere on the ground up the middle. Ken Lucas is also a smart addition. He’s 6’ tall, which means that he can tango with those big wide receivers who abused the Seahawks last season. Justin Griffith is a good veteran fullback who has played in Coach Knapp’s system before, and so is a big help not only on the field, but also as a mentor for other players who are still adjusting to the zone blocking scheme. And how can we forget TJ Houshmandzadeh? This guy is leading the NFL in receptions over the last three years and is as reliable a route-runner as any player in the league. He’s quick, he’s sharp, and he brings a veteran quality to a corps that seemed to have been lacking that last year.
Coaching changes. Jim Mora is not fooling around here. When he says that he wants relentless effort from his players on the field, they listen because he’s giving them the same thing in his coaching style. He runs through plays with the team, he sprints from drill to drill, and he’s encouraging and demanding at the same time. He’s assembled a staff that demonstrates many of those same qualities. The new staff is young, dogged, ambitious, energetic; everything you would ask a player to be, that’s what these new coaches are. Sometimes when I watch practice, I don’t know whether to watch the play, or Gus Bradley’s reaction to it—he, and the rest of the coaches, are that exciting to see out there.
Regarding the schedule, I can’t say that it’s an easy one. The Seahawks have the Titans in Week 17, the Packers in Green Bay in Week 16, and are at Dallas in Week 8. Those are three very, very tough games. Also (obviously), they’ve got the defending NFC champions twice. But what I will say about the schedule is that, pound for pound, man for man, I don’t think there’s a team on the schedule that the Seahawks aren’t capable of beating if everyone shows up and they play consistently. The Titans had the best record in the NFL last season, but I can think of a few teams that I’d say were probably better.
To further address your question, the coaches and players are not viewing this year as a rebuilding one. They believe that the pieces are in place to take back the NFC West immediately—and perhaps go further. They’re optimistic about the new schemes and systems, the additions of player personnel, and the new coaching staff. They’re confident in the health of players like Nate Burleson, Patrick Kerney and Walter Jones, all of whom are key components to the squad.
We’ll all have to wait and see how things pan out, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this season. It appears as though all of the major holes from last season have been filled, and then some. So, to answer your question: Yes, I do believe that the Seahawks are capable of reclaiming the NFC West. All the pieces are there. Let’s see what they do with them!