Grading the Strength of Every Positional Unit Heading into Seahawks Camp
With training camp just around the corner, it would appear that the Seahawks have all of the key pieces in place to get started for the 2012 season.
For fun, I figured I'd quickly break down each unit for the team as they head into camp, and even assign letter grades when compared to the rest of the league as a whole.
Keep in mind that when I assign grades, I'm basing them upon what we know going into camp and for each unit as a whole. Therefore, one star player may help provide a boost, but if there is no depth behind him, it may ultimately bring down the overall grade.
Naturally, things will change over the next few weeks and months. Consider the fact that this time last year, the 'Hawks secondary looked young and inexperienced...
So if a particular grade isn't up to the standard now, let's hope the team steps up before the games actually count.
Let's just cut to the chase.
If Matt Flynn is the real deal, that's great, as it will ideally help the team get off to a faster start for what looks to be a tough schedule.
For today, though, I'm in the "Let the Best Man Win" camp, as I'm still unsure if Flynn is a star in the making.
Regardless, when you hold this unit up to those across the league, it's hard to give them a high grade.
Not so sure?
Take a step back for a second and ponder the following:
The starting quarterback from the year before, who happened to put together a mediocre season while playing hurt, is facing stiff competition from a career backup with limited in-game experience signed in free agency and an undersized rookie drafted in the third round.
Also factor in a head coach that, in two-plus years, has yet to settle on a long-term solution at quarterback.
Can the 'Hawks get this sorted? Let's hope so if the team has any chance of playing in the postseason.
Running Back: B-
If Robert Turbin can spell Marshawn Lynch for meaningful stretches, this grade can change quite a bit.
Until then, I'm a little skeptical of what the 'Hawks have here. Right now, it looks like the 'Hawks are going to be feeding the "Beast" the ball quite a bit this season.
Yet is Marshawn Lynch capable of taking the beating for 16 weeks? Fact is, when Lynch wasn't firing on all cylinders early last season, this team had a hard time moving the football.
Beyond Lynch and Turbin, the 'Hawks have newly signed Kregg Lumpkin and veteran Leon Washington. Both are capable of carrying the ball from time to time, but neither have proven capable of carrying the load required of a feature back.
If anything happens to Lynch, the 'Hawks offense is either toast or Turbin ends up getting Rookie of the Year votes.
Right now, I don't see any middle ground here.
Wide Receiver: C
On paper, this unit looks great with players like Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Doug Baldwin that should serve as starters, not to mention some depth with players like Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu, Ricardo Lockette and Deon Butler available if necessary.
In reality, though, it's a whole other story.
Three of the team's best options, Rice, Williams and Tate, are all hurting at the moment. Rice and Williams both had surgery during the offseason and haven't participated in the team's OTAs so far.
If and when they are healthy, will they contribute consistently?
Is Doug Baldwin capable of carrying the load and improving upon last year?
Can someone from the reserves step up?
Sorry, but there are way too many IFs here right now.
Tight End: B
On the other side of the coin...
Call me crazy, but I actually think this unit has a chance to be something special with the addition of Kellen Winslow, Jr.
While the combo of Winslow and Zach Miller may not rival New England's duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez, they should certainly contribute more than what the 'Hawks got from Miller last year.
Sadly for the team, Zach Miller was a lost cause given he couldn't get free from blocking duties, and months ago, I advocated the 'Hawks consider signing John Carlson to help.
With the departure of John Carlson to the Minnesota Vikings this offseason during free agency, I figured Miller was doomed to another year of playing offensive line.
Instead, if Winslow can stay healthy, the team's quarterback could have not one, but two solid options underneath in the passing attack. This could prove especially helpful if the wide receiver situation needs time to sort itself.
Offensive Line: C+
Compared to this time last year, a passing grade is a huge improvement.
Still, I feel this unit has a long way to go before getting major praise around the league.
While guys like Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini came through when the going got tough over the course of the season, rookies like James Carpenter and John Moffitt remain big question marks.
Can veterans like recent signee Deuce Lutui and long-time starter Max Unger make sizeable contributions?
Meanwhile, Russell Okung, arguably the cornerstone of the line, is probably the biggest mystery of all. Can he stay healthy a full season, and if so, will he evolve into the stud this line needs to get to the next level?
Protection for whoever is playing quarterback and support for the run game is crucial. This unit in some ways can be considered underrated, but right now, I still have them sitting on the cusp of respectability. A solid season could however change perceptions in a hurry.
Special Teams: B
Before we get to the defensive side of the ball, let's take a look at the special teams.
In short, the kicking game is solid, Jon Ryan is one of the league's best punters and Steven Hauschka has quietly done his job scoring for the 'Hawks as their kicker.
When you add a punt coverage team that manages to create blocks and a speedy return man in Leon Washington, it's hard to argue against this unit as a whole.
Defensive Line: B-
No doubt the 'Hawks can stop the run, but can they shut down the passing game?
Veterans like Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, and Chris Clemons can create havoc when given the chance, but can the newcomers like Jason Jones and Bruce Irvin make a difference as well?
Today, I'm giving Bruce Irvin the benefit of the doubt. He may not register double-digit sacks this year, but with Jones and Clemons, I'm hopeful they can put just enough pressure to make opposing quarterbacks at least hurry up a bit when they drop back to pass.
Of all the Seahawks units, this is the weakest link by far.
Veterans like Barrett Ruud and Leroy Hill were signed to help provide experience; however, it's the youngsters who will need to step in order for this crew to improve, especially one particular rookie from Utah State.
If he can really step up, this unit can go from being a major question mark to perhaps respectable with KJ Wright working alongside him.
After all, you never know; this time last year, another 'Hawks unit looked to have similar issues heading into training camp...
Today, the 'Hawks secondary is arguably one of the league's best, which is a major improvement upon where they stood this time last year.
With Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner and fellow starter Richard Sherman, the Seahawks have what could be the nucleus of something truly special.
But what takes this unit up a notch is the depth of having veteran Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis to fill in the gaps.
They are a brilliant combination of size and speed that mixes in a little bit of fire when it comes to getting physical.
They may be the last line of defense for the 'Hawks, but they are second to none as far as I'm concerned.