Predicting 7 Problem Spots for the Seahawks in 2012
This past offseason, the Seahawks appeared to address all, if not most, of the major concerns following last season's 7-9 finish.
Matt Flynn was signed as quarterback; Bruce Irvin was drafted to crush quarterbacks. Key players like Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant were re-signed, and so far, only linebacker David Hawthorne has left town.
The 2012 'Hawks should be good to go, right?
Not so fast. Like every team in the league, there are questions and issues that the 'Hawks need to be mindful of. Following the team's schedule release for 2012, I predicted a 10-6 finish provided things generally bounce in their favor over the course of the season.
What could possibly trip up the 'Hawks?
Here are seven potential problem spots the team needs to be careful of heading into this season.
Will the Quarterback Situation Ever Be Solved?
When the 'Hawks signed Matt Flynn in March, it seemed like the team had a potential long-term solution.
But will Tarvaris Jackson fade into the background without a fight?
Last week, Don Banks at Sports Illustrated discussed the potential battle between T-Jack and rookie Russell Wilson turning out to be the real competition this summer in 'Hawks camp.
Jackson has seen this movie before, in Minnesota, and he knows the advantage always goes with the new option, because there's no taint or stain of defeat on the quarterback who just walked through the door. The sense is that Pete Carroll and Co. are intrigued with Wilson's skill set and will find ways to get him on the field, perhaps even using him in a Wildcat role. Jackson clearly enters with the edge in experience, and his knowledge of the offense should give him a healthy advantage. But if Wilson proves himself a quick study, don't be surprised if he's only relegated to the team's No. 3 quarterback role for a little while this season.
Turns out Wilson might be a quick study after all.
Seattle Times writer Danny O'Neil reported Pete Carroll's thoughts on Wilson following this weekend's workouts, "He's shown us enough," coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. "We need to see where he fits in."
Are Carroll and GM John Schneider serious? Don Banks' colleague Peter King seems to think so...
Is it dumb? No, it's not dumb. As GM John Schneider told me after the draft, Wilson was the third-best player he studied in all of college football last year, and Schneider doesn't care what anybody on any other team or on TV thinks of his draft-weekend decisions. Against a big-time schedule with Wisconsin last year, Wilson put up some phenomenal numbers -- 73 percent passing, 10.3 yards per attempt, 33 touchdowns and four interceptions -- and his leadership is similar to Drew Brees.
So is his size, come to think of it...a little more than an inch shorter, actually. But Flynn and Jackson are on notice: The best man will win this summer.
In a 24-day span beginning May 22, the Seahawks will have 13 full-squad OTAs and mini-camp practices. By the time that's over on June 14, we're going to have a good idea whether Wilson will belong in the fray with the two veterans in training camp this summer.
Always compete. It's not just an empty slogan for the 'Hawks braintrust. Whether this carousel ride ever ends may determine how far the team goes this year and next.
Right now, a move like this has the potential to either help separate the men from the boys or be a complete disaster. Obviously, we're all rooting for the best man to win, but it's hard to say whether this is a healthy way of getting answers at the team's most important position.
Is There Enough Quality Talent at Wide Receiver?
Regardless of who is starting at quarterback come September, will he have enough quality targets to throw towards?
Depending on your point of view, either the 'Hawks have little to worry about or have plenty to worry about at wide receiver.
Currently, the team boasts an endless list of players to choose from who can play the position, yet is anyone certain who will be in the lineup opening day?
The only relatively sure thing going into this season is Doug Baldwin. Can last year's feel-good story of the season duplicate and possibly build upon his rookie performance?
What about Golden Tate? We saw flashes of talent late in the season against Philadelphia, but nothing sustainable. Is he poised to finally have a breakthrough?
What about the two players who, going into last season, should have been starting?
Will Mike Williams rebound after a disappointing 2011?
Will Sidney Rice stay healthy for the better part of the season? If so, can he play at a Pro Bowl level?
What's funny is that we're only halfway through the potential options, including Ben Obomanu, Ricardo Lockette, Deon Butler, Kris Durham, Charly Martin and free-agent rookies Jermaine Kearse, Lavasier Tuinei and Phil Bates.
Am I forgetting anyone? Probably...
Once again, you can see this as either a positive or negative. Pete Carroll is going to have everyone on edge here trying to make the roster, hence making camp entertaining. At the same times, does quantity equate to quality?
One would hope the 'Hawks can fill out the lineup with top notch receivers, but I'm not 100 percent sold on this crew given either their lack of experience, injury history or, in some cases, both.
Marshawn Lynch And...???
I'll admit, Robert Turbin looks good in pads, but is he ready to spell Marshawn Lynch even in small doses?
What happens if he can't? What happens if Beast breaks down for any more than a quarter's worth of football this season?
Leon Washington? Kregg Lumpkin?
Tell me you didn't just shudder. Not even a little?
Lynch was the team's plow-horse last season. For the team to even sniff the playoffs in 2012, much will be expected of him.
At the same time, he can't be expected to carry the ball every single time the 'Hawks opt to run. In a day and age where running backs are seen as interchangeable pawns, Plan B for the team is for the moment lacking.
Could Turbin become Beast 2.0?
If the 'Hawks have any hopes for next year, let's hope so.
Will the Offensive Line Be Healthy and Productive for a Full Season?
OK, so we've gone through all of the skill positions on offense, but what about the guys protecting everyone?
Are they ready to play a full season?
Or will we wonder if they are really just a bunch of delicate flowers?
This year, there should be no excuses. No abbreviated offseason, contract disputes or any other issues of note.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable needs this group to hit the ground running from game one and keep them firing on all cylinders for as long as it takes. Last year, we saw flashes of what this unit could do as they morphed from a cover your eyes ugly group to downright decent, but this year, a sustained effort is critical for the team's success.
Bruce Irvin, perhaps more than any other non-quarterback draft pick this season, has a bulls eye on his back.
Reach or not, Irvin is coming in with huge expectations. In a way, it's almost unfair, yet I can see this as being a huge motivator for the rookie.
Whether he can live up to the challenge, though, remains to be seen. For now, Chris Clemons will be the primary pass-rusher, but will free-agent signee Jason Jones be able to contribute?
Is rookie Jaye Howard going to be this year's Richard Sherman? Another mid-round pick that exceeds expectations with a big season.
The possibilities are endless for this unit, but we can only hope the team finds a solution somewhere in the mix. Going up against the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton, just to name a few, could spell big trouble if the 'Hawks don't have someone to instill some fear when they step back to pass.
Will the Linebacking Situation Work?
Compared to this time last season, you could look at the situation as the glass either being half empty or full depending on perspective.
Last year, the 'Hawks had Leroy Hill, David Hawthorne and Aaron Curry at linebacker early on. This year, only Hill is still with the team and probably on a short leash.
Beyond Hill, the 'Hawks linebacking corps has returning starter and second-year man K.J. Wright.
Of all the positions on the 'Hawks roster, linebacker perhaps more than any other has too many holes with too few options right now.
Is Bobby Wagner really going to contribute right away? Does Barrett Ruud have anything left in the tank?
Could rookie Korey Toomer be another one of Pete Carroll and John Schneider's big finds?
Some way, somehow, the 'Hawks will fill out the roster, but this unit might be patchwork at best and a huge problem if several pieces don't work out as planned/hoped for.
Are We Finally Done Rebuilding?
Building a team in any sport is forever a work in progress.
But for 2012, do Pete Carroll and John Schneider finally have the team in place for them to push forward towards something greater?
To their credit, both have done a solid job turning this roster around in the short time since their arrival. They've also done this without complaint while marching to their own drummer and have moved on from any significant mistakes.
Their draft picks and free-agent signings have been unconventional at times, but it's hard not to have faith in what they are building.
With all of this, though, there are expectations. You get the sense that the braintrust is trying to manage that while knowing people aren't going to settle for another 7-9 campaign.
The time is now. Playoffs or bust, and deep down, everyone knows it.
I do believe that most of the pieces are in place, but it's time to put all of that planning and practice to the test. With a little bit of luck, I can see the 'Hawks making the playoffs; still, it's not going to be easy.
If they can work on or at least hold up their end of the bargain on the aforementioned points, it should be great season in Seattle.
If not, things could get ugly fast.
In addition to key veterans, players you may have never heard of just a few weeks ago will be critical to this effort. What makes good teams great isn't whether someone like Marshawn Lynch can gain 2,000 all-purpose yards in a season, it's whether the guys that help him get there can do the same for the likes of Robert Turbin in small doses if and when the time comes.
Let's hope everyone works together and gets these issues solved quickly and thoroughly. It may be good to always compete, but at some point, problems need solutions.