The reality is, that the Seattle Seahawks have won nine games the past two seasons. That unacceptable situation launched what has been an offseason of unprecedented change – from the general manager, to the head coach and most of his staff, to the long snapper. The lower end of the 80-man roster has been a revolving door.
While the obvious goal is returning to the playoffs after a two-season absence and again being a factor in the NFC West – a division the Seahawks dominated from 2004-07 – the first step is becoming competitive. That was not the case last season. So that’s where this one-step-at-a-time process must begin.
As for the positions, the club addressed its problematic left tackle position by making Russell Okung the sixth pick in April’s NFL draft – and also signed veteran guard Ben Hamilton to start next to him, and mentor him. Adding Okung also allows Sean Locklear to move back to his natural spot at right tackle after starting on the left side last season. Ray Willis, a 16-game starter at right tackle last year, returns to his role as the primary backup – and is an upgrade over the players who were forced to start at left tackle last season because of injuries.
At defensive end, the move of tackle Red Bryant to the left side and the acquisition of Chris Clemons to play the Leo spot on the right side have helped what was a season-long problem last year. But improving a pass rush that generated 28 sacks in 2009 will involve more than Bryant, who will play mostly on mixed downs, and Clemons. That’s where linebacker Aaron Curry, last year’s first-round draft choice, comes into play. The plan is to unleash his athletic ability more as a pass rusher and he was able to hone those skills by getting some work with the defensive ends in the spring minicamps and OTA practices. The coaches will mix-and-match their linemen to come up with the best combinations according to down and distance.
At running back, the by-committee approach again will be the key to improving a running game that averaged 97.7 yards per game and 4 yards per carry last season. Julius Jones continues to head the group, but Justin Forsett will have an increased role and everyone is awaiting the return of Leon Washington, who was obtained in a draft day trade with the New York Jets after missing most of last season with a broken leg.
The situation at quarterback has been misrepresented since the club made the trade to acquire Whitehurst. Hasselbeck remains the starter, and his performance this spring has only cemented that status. He is healthier than he has been in two years and the improvements on the O-line should help insure that remains the case.
The team’s other first-round draft choice definitely has the speed and athletic ability to excel on special teams. But Thomas’ priority is learning the free safety position at this level so he can be the playmaking centerfielder that coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider envisioned when they selected him with the 14th pick. To this point, second-round pick Golden Tate and Forsett have been getting most of the work returning kickoffs, and Washington went to the Pro Bowl as the AFC kick returner in 2008.
Let’s hope you’re right about Bryant and that date with the Pro Bowl. That might be asking a bit too much, but if he can use his size and quickness to be a run-stuffing, disruptive presence that would be a needed step in the right direction.