Seahawks hope new leaders will translate into stability

Published on July 15, 2010 by     

The Seattle Seahawks won’t be the same in 2010. That doesn’t mean they’ll be any better than last season, when they were a 5-11 afterthought. But they will be different, as the franchise begins its most severe overhaul in a decade with a new coach in Pete Carroll and new general manager in John Schneider.

Starting over looks to be a good thing for Seattle, which let a once-potent offense age, atrophy and erode to the point that the team finished with just 280 points in 2009 — the franchise’s fewest since 1993. Meanwhile, the defense has not performed up to the investment the Seahawks have made in terms of draft picks and free agents.

Enter Carroll, twice fired in the NFL but epically successful at Southern Cal. He was hired to remake the franchise around one philosophy: his. “A new time for us,” Carroll said after conducting his first minicamp. “It is a new day for the Seahawks we hope.”

What’s new
Offense: Coordinator Jeremy Bates’ NFL indoctrination came under Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, but Seattle’s offense will look more like what Mike Shanahan ran in Denver in everything from terminology to the ground game. The passing game will contain the quick rollouts and quarter bootlegs that used to be a Broncos trademark while the running game will feature the one-cut-and-go discipline that once allowed Denver to swap out 1,000-yard rushers as if it were changing tires.

Seattle has spent millions on veteran receivers, signing Nate Burleson, Deion Branch and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to large contracts over the past four years. And for all that money, it has yet to find a true No. 1 wideout. Now, the top receiver in yards per catch last season is gone after Burleson left for Detroit in free agency. Mike Williams, a former first-round pick of the Lions who ate his way out of the league, has looked good in workouts and is in the picture for playing time.

The performance of Matt Hasselbeck and the passing game will depend a lot on the development of rookie left tackle Russell Okung. The Seahawks need Okung to be effective immediately so that Hasselbeck can recapture his passing rhythm after absorbing too many hits the past two seasons. The team hopes free-agent pickup Leon Washington can provide big plays to complement the running of Julius Jones and Justin Forsett.

Defense: Defensive coordinator is among the few positions that didn’t change in Seattle’s coaching staff. Casey Bradley is a Monte Kiffin disciple and was retained by Carroll, who is showing flexibility in his approach. The Seahawks will use what looks like a 3-4 scheme at times, employing what is being called the “elephant” pass rusher. That’s essentially a hybrid linebacker/end who lines up in a two-point stance and comes from different angles and gaps along the line.

Seattle will deploy Chris Clemons in the hybrid position initially. Clemons is a pass-rushing specialist acquired from the Eagles in March who had seven sacks over the previous two seasons. The question is whether he’ll be enough to stimulate a pass rush that was dormant at the end of the 2009 season.

Carroll is a known for the play of his safeties. In Seattle, he’s starting nearly from scratch, and Earl Thomas — the 14th overall pick — has a chance to be the starting free safety. Free-agent pickup Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux are competing for the strong safety job, and the loser of the battle might not make the roster.

Breakout player
Aaron Curry, LB
Carroll requested film of Curry before he was even introduced at his first press conference. Curry (6-2, 254) is too big, fast and destructive to be the nonfactor he was when he went without a sack in his final nine games before missing the last two (hip) as a rookie. Expect that to change as Carroll assigns Curry a healthy dose of pass-rushing responsibilities.

“This year, I’m really focusing my job at the highest level of effort, the highest level of intensity. And just the highest level so it gets to the point where I’m making plays on the regular, (and) it’s no longer to the point where I’m chasing ’em.” — Curry

Opponent’s view
(An anonymous opponent breaks down the Seahawks)
“Matt Hasselbeck can play two more years definitely, and you kind of feel for him because his whole career, he was in one offense. He had it down cold, and now Seattle has changed that offense on him twice in two years. …

“For years, Seattle didn’t give the offense much of anything in the draft. The tight end, John Carlson, is the only playmaker the Seahawks have chosen over the past couple of years. …

“Among the receivers, you could say the best guy got away in Nate Burleson, but he hasn’t always been able to be trusted for precise routes.”

Bottom line
The Seahawks took a swan dive off the cliff of relevancy in 2008, and two years later they haven’t resurfaced. The decision to eschew free-agency fixes might play dividends down the road, but right now the Seahawks have too much work on both lines to imagine the team will bounce back this season.

With Carroll, though, Seattle has a coach who’s intimately familiar with college players, which should give the Seahawks an edge in restocking what is a fairly barren roster.

Depth chart
OFFENSE
QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst FB: Owen Schmitt, Ryan Powdrell
RB: Julius Jones, Justin Forsett
WR: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Mike Williams
WR: Deion Branch, Golden Tate
TE: John Carlson, Chris Baker
LT: Russell Okung, Joe Toledo
LG: Ben Hamilton, Mike Gibson
C: Chris Spencer, Steve Vallos
RG: Max Unger, Mansfield Wrotto
RT: Sean Locklear, Ray Willis

DEFENSE
DE: Red Bryant, Lawrence Jackson, E.J. Wilson
DT: Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill
DT: Colin Cole, Kevin Vickerson
DE: Chris Clemons, Nick Reed
OLB: Leroy Hill, David Hawthorne
MLB: Lofa Tatupu, David Hawthorne
OLB: Aaron Curry, Will Herring
LCB: Marcus Trufant, Josh Wilson
SS: Jordan Babineaux, Lawyer Milloy, Kam Chancellor
FS: Earl Thomas, Jamar Adams
RCB: Kelly Jennings, Walter Thurmond

SPECIAL TEAMS
K: Olindo Mare
P: Jon Ryan
KR: Leon Washington
PR: Golden Tate
LS: Matt Overton

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