There is no team that has turned over their roster nearly as much over the last three seasons as the Seattle Seahawks, and they have done it pretty seamlessly.
After finishing 7-9 under the direction of Pete Carroll, including a division championship in 2010 and first round win over reigning Super Bowl champs the New Orleans Saints, the Seahawks finished in third place in the division in 2011.
Although the Seahawks have had some mild success in their first two seasons of the Carroll era, it is coming to the point that they need to make a move.
I am not saying Carroll is on the hot seat, in fact I think he has this season to continue to build, get a QB he is comfortable with, but next year will most likely be the defining year if he goes 7-9 again.
That being said, let’s get to the Seattle Seahawks 2012 Season Preview with five things I will be looking for going into this season.
1) Matt Flynn, Tavaris Jackson or… Russell Wilson?
I will say I don’t see anyway that Wilson breaks camp as the starter, and if anything I think he ends up as the number three behind Flynn and Jackson. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Wilson see time, or in the even take over in the even that Flynn struggles and Jackson continues to be, well Jackson.
The interesting part of this whole quarterback dynamic is simply that FLynn has collected most of his money already, so if he struggles this year, it wouldn’t be out of the realm that he is relegated to the bench or even gone, but that is a discussion for during the season or after depending on how Flynn plays.
The way I have viewed the alleged “competition” at quarterback for the Seahawks is simply, if Flynn is even remotely competent he will be the starter. You don’t invest a ton of money in a guy then not play him, but the question is can he fit into the Seahawks system after coming from a program in Green Bay overflowing with weapons at the WR position when Seattle isn’t exactly offering up those type of weapons?
The thing I believe in with this team is Carroll’s ability to adjust his schemes to fit the QB. Flynn’s strengths are simply his accuracy on short routes and in exploitable one on one match ups.
He can struggle at times getting the ball out accurately on the deep throws, where he tends to sling it, leading to him over throwing his intended target.
Going back and rewatching his starts, thank God for NFL Rewind, I have some concerns about how much Seattle is going to adjust their playbook though.
Flynn is at his absolute best working out of the shot gun, with a spread formation allowing him to pick out the match up he is most comfortable with and exploiting it.
It allows him to survey the defense pre snap and make have an initial idea where he is going with the ball based on the defense versus from coming under center and diagnosing the play as it develops.
Will Carroll bend from his traditionally run based offense to a more spread oriented game? Well there may be an issue with that.
2) These are your receivers? Really?
I am not trying to disrespect the Seahawks personnel in any way shape or form so if it comes off that way I apologize, but the WR core that Flynn has to work with is less than appealing.
Sidney Rice is still the best option, quickly being caught up to by Twitter superstar Doug Baldwin, but he has not been able to stay healthy, well at all.
Rice and Baldwin will go into the season as the number one and two wide receivers, but I am not sure they are the first option, with the signing of TE Kellen Winslow Jr, and incumbent TE Zach Miller still in place, we could see a lot of two TE sets, with neither of them lined up at the traditional TE slot.
Throw in underachieving slot man Golden Tate, one of the worst draft misses of my career thus far, that’s what I get for trusting in a Notre Dame guy, and Ben Obomanu you have a good group of receivers that, all have question marks.
Can Rice, Tate, and Obomanu stay healthy? Will Baldwin continue to progress off his fantastic 2011 season?
Rice and Baldwin though have to be productive, and force defenses to help over the top on them in order to open up the shorter routes, again Matt Flynn’s specialty, for the TE’s, because if the WR’s are unable to consistently get open, it could potentially be a long season.
3) Can this offensive line stay healthy?
Honestly it has been a MASH unit of sorts up in the northwest for some time now and I for one, even as an opposing fan, would love to see this team stay healthy for a season and see what they can do.
Russell Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt all ended their 2011 season on the injured reserve, with Carpenter being placed on the physically unable to perform list.
If Carpenter comes back this season, and there are some who don’t think he will, he is moving to the left guard slot next to perennially injured left tackle Russell Okung.
Okung is coming off pectoral surgery in December of 2011, and while there is typically a six month recovery period for the procedure, the Seahawks and their fans have to be concerned with Okung’s laundry list of ailments.
There is no doubt the offensive line as a whole is a tremendously talented unit, but when any team loses three starters to injuries, there is going to be issues.
The other concern I have with this unit goes back to what I talked about earlier with Flynn, and that is they are built to be a road grading type unit that wears you down.
Can they be a finesse offensive line if that is the way they move their offense too?
Note: As much as I have talked about it, I don’t see them making a ton of whole sale changes to their offensive philosophy based off personnel and just the coaches tendencies.
4) Who helps Clemons get pressure?
The resigning of Chris Clemons was a fantastic move, even if he is 30 years old already he doesn’t have a ton of wear on his body, and he should be able to hold up and transition to more of a pass rush specialist in the latter stages of his career.
Problem is he was the only players able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and the Seahawks as a whole were only able to produce 33 sacks.
Insert rookie pass rush specialist Bruce Irvin into the equation.
While many castigated the selection of Irvin at 15, after the impactful season Aldon Smith had for the 49ers, and the direction the NFL has taken overall, Irvin can not only be used, but used effectively.
Irvin will play opposite Clemons in passing situations with the only his lone assignment being “Get to the quarterback,” and that is something that, physically speaking, there is no question Irvin can do.
He needs to work on his move set, learn to read blockers better, and diagnose plays, but that will come with time and experience, and it is not as though he will be thrust into the “Leo” position, the one currently occupied by Clemons, any time within the next season or two barring injury.
If Irvin can produce half as well as Smith did, 7 sacks 7 QB hits and 22 QB pressures, then I think we can count his rookie season as a success.
5) When does the jump come?
As I opened with, the Seahawks are coming off back to back 7-9 seasons, and boast one of the most exciting defenses in the NFL.
The problem is simply the offense hasn’t matched the outstanding defensive work that Carroll and GM John Schneider have built up.
There is no question they have the talent to be a good offense, but with the pending Marshawn Lynch saga, a rookie in Robert Turbin could be the main back for the Seahawks to begin the season, and the health issues on most of the top offensive talent, you have to wonder if they will be able to stay healthy and put a run together.
I have no doubt in my mind in the coaching and the players they have a very talented, be on the lookout for my Robert Turbin preview coming up, but I just don’t know how you look at this team and feel comfortable saying, “Yes, they’ll stay healthy.”
Appreciate your read and look forward to your comments, but in the mean time Seattle fans check out my Cardinals and 49ers season previews as well, and be on the lookout for my 2012 NFC West preview and predictions.