Look around the NFC West: Seattle Seahawks

The NFC West co-op continues its offseason summary of the division with a look inside the turnover-laden offseason in Seattle.

Storyline of the offseason

The hiring of coach Pete Carroll began the franchise’s most significant overhaul since 1999 when Mike Holmgren was hired out of Green Bay.

The Seahawks changed coaches in 2009 as well, but Jim Mora was the hand-picked successor for Tim Ruskell, who remained the president. There was no change at the top.

This year, the turnover was more than just the sidelines. John Schneider became the team’s general manager, where he will work closely with Carroll.

Seattle completed five trades this offseason, drafted eight rookies and acquired a total of more than 60 different players since Carroll became coach in January. More than a dozen of those players were cut before they made it to training camp. Will Seattle improve after going 9-27 the previous two seasons? That remains to be seen, but one thing that is certain is that this season will be different.

Offseason emphasis
It’s rare for Carroll to make it through a press conference without invoking the term competition. It has become his central theme. Competition everywhere, and competition in everything. So what does that mean? No one is safe, every position potentially up for grabs. Seattle’s first significant acquisition of the offseason was to trade for Charlie Whitehurst, a backup with San Diego who has not attempted a regular-season pass in the four years since he was drafted. The message was clear: While Seattle wasn’t adamant about making a change with Matt Hasselbeck, the team’s most important player the past decade, not even his spot is safe going forward.

Starting lineup changes
Hasselbeck enters training camp established as the starter, but there are plenty of changes on offense. Seattle has a new left side of the offensive line with rookie tackle Russell Okung, the No. 6 choice in the draft, and guard Ben Hamilton, who was signed as a free agent from Denver. The running back job is still an open question with the competition between Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and perhaps Leon Washington if he has recovered sufficiently from a broken leg suffered last year with the Jets. The starting wide receiver is also a question. Deion Branch underwent his third knee surgery in a little more than two years over the offseason, former first-round pick Mike Williams had a great offseason and Golden Tate could be one of the league’s impact rookies.

On defense, first-round pick Earl Thomas is expected to step in at free safety while the starting defensive ends could be completely new. Chris Clemons was acquired from Philadelphia, and he will start at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position Seattle’s coaches are calling the “Leo.” On the left side of the line, Red Bryant has moved over from defensive tackle and moved past former first-round pick Lawrence Jackson on the depth chart.

Three questions for 2010
1, Where will the Seahawks get a pass rush? They totaled two sacks over the final five games last season, and lost the top three defensive ends from that team.

2, Who will lead the pack at running back? Seattle has a trio of Justin Forsett, Julius Jones and Leon Washington, and Carroll likes to keep his backs hungry for opportunities. Who does Seattle use as a go-to ball carrier?

3, Can wide receiver Mike Williams resuscitate his NFL career? It has been two years since he played a meaningful football, but he looked great this offseason.

Coaching staff changes
The coaching staff was overhauled for the second consecutive offseason, the resulting turnover meaning that no coach on staff has been with the team prior to 2009. Carroll returns to the NFL after a 10-year absence. He retained Gus Bradley, Seattle’s defensive coordinator who was a favorite of Monte Kiffin — the longtime Tampa Bay coordinator and a seminal influence on Pete Carroll. The wildcard is offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, considered a whiz-kid. He was in charge of Denver’s passing game in 2008 when the Broncos ranked No. 3 in the league in passing yards.

Local expectations
The Seahawks’ run of five consecutive playoff berths from 2003 through 2007 is a far-off memory at this point. The team had three different head coaches in its first 18 seasons; it is now on its third head coach in three seasons. For the first time in four years there is no wait to buy season tickets, and while fans aren’t expecting an immediate rebound to the playoffs, they are expecting improvement. That should happen so long as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck can stay both healthy and effective.

Key veterans added Key losses Impact rookies
LG Ben Hamilton
UFA Denver (starter)
WR Nate Burleson
UFA Detroit (starting WR)
LT Russell Okung
1st-round pick
RB Leon Washington
Trade-New York Jets
DE Cory Redding
UFA Baltimore (starting DE)
FS Earl Thomas
1st-round pick
QB Charlie Whitehurst
Trade-Chargers (backup)
DE Darryl Tapp
Trade-Philadelphia (backup DE)
WR Golden Tate
2nd-round pick
WR Mike Williams
UFA (competing for starting spot)
LG Rob Sims
Trade-Detroit (starter)
TE Anthony McCoy
6th-round pick
DE/LB Chris Clemons
Trade-Philadelphia (starting DE)
DE Patrick Kerney
Retired (starter)
S Kam Chancellor
5th-round pick
TE Chris Baker
UFA New England (No. 2 tight end)
S Deon Grant
Released, subsequently signed with Giants (starter)

Seahawks Training Camp
Seahawks headquarters: Virginia Mason Athletic Center Renton, Wash.
Rookies report July 29
Veterans report July 30
First practice July 31