12th Man Blog Seattle Seahawks Inside Slant

The biggest thing the Seattle Seahawks have to guard against when they are formulating their offseason plan is fooling themselves into thinking that their problems this season are strictly related to injuries.

Certainly that is where the problems started in their worst season since 1992. They lost their first six wide receivers. They lost every one of their starting offensive linemen. They lost their leading pass rusher. It’s a good reason for their 4-12 finish.

But they also have other issues that were masked in the past by the fact that they could dominate the NFC West and usually get a home playoff game, where they were so strong because of the energy provided by the home crowd.

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Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell always said the Seahawks were going to be good because they had a very good quarterback, a very good left tackle and a very good defensive end. All three were lost this season, and all three have age and injury issues that could — and likely will — affect the future of the franchise.

First and foremost is the need to determine if Matt Hasselbeck‘s bad back is a chronic situation or a one-time misfortune.

Hasselbeck missed nine games this year due to what the team says is a bulging disc. The team and Hasselbeck made light of the issue earlier in the season, but when he took several big hits in a game against the New York Giants, it threw his back out of whack.

He attempted to come back, but he got hit a few more times against Dallas and never returned. Hasselbeck said he does not need surgery, and he said a few months of rehab and stretching should cure the issue.

But there seems to be no guarantees with backs, and the Seahawks cannot afford another season — or more, considering Hasselbeck said he would like to play five more years — of Hasselbeck jumping in and out of the lineup.

A big part of his protection, of course, is future Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones, who underwent microfracture surgery on his knee a few weeks ago and whose future, at age 33, is uncertain.

He said his knee felt almost immediately better after the surgery, but his relatively advanced age and weight (340 pounds) do not help matters. Teammate Marcus Tubbs had the same surgery and never recovered.

If Jones is not going to properly heal, the Seahawks need to think about his replacement with the fourth pick in the upcoming draft because that person is not currently on Seattle’s roster.

Defensive end Patrick Kerney attracts so much attention from defenses that his teammates tend to flourish. But when Kerney went out with a shoulder injury and had to have his second surgery on it in two years, Seattle’s pass rush seemed almost non-existent.

Kerney’s absence affected rookie Lawrence Jackson the most. Jackson had two sacks in the team’s second game, then did not get a sack the remainder of the year. Darryl Tapp got a few more sacks than Jackson, but he certainly did not replace Kerney’s effectiveness, a big reason Seattle’s secondary was last in the league.

Like Hasselbeck and Jones, the Seahawks must determine if Kerney — to whom they gave a six-year, $39 million contract — is going to be chronically injured or if he can again be a full-time contributor.

They are the cornerstones around which the Seahawks are basing their assumption that they can return to the top of their division.

But if those players are not going to be able to perform at a high level on a consistent basis, the Seahawks have more questions to address than they thought.