7 Encouraging Signs Heading into Seattle Seahawks' 2012 Season
It's not easy being a sports fan in Seattle this summer with the Mariners in last place and the Zombie Sonics in the NBA Finals.
Even the Seahawks have their issues.
A few weeks ago I focused on some potential problems the 'Hawks may encounter this upcoming season, yet it can't all be bad news...right?
In some instances, the 'Hawks have quite a bit going for them.
This year this team seems to have an energy surrounding them that is hard to put into words. It's not that people are anticipating a trip to the Super Bowl, but people are looking for the next step for a team that seems to be on the cusp of more or something greater than a 7-9 record.
We can only wonder what the end result will be, but that's still months away.
For now, though, in order to get everyone pumped up, here are seven encouraging signs to look forward to as we head into the 2012 season.
What's not to love?
Not to mention one specific player who, before it's all said and done, could be one of the best 'Hawks of all time...Earl Thomas.
You could just as easily toss the entire defense into the mix, but it's the secondary that has look of something special.
In less than one season, they managed to go from being a potential liability even before the injuries to starters Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond III, to sending three starters to the Pro Bowl. (Funny thing is that you could make the argument that rookie corner Richard Sherman was snubbed.)
To me, what makes this unit so exciting is that they came together under circumstances that should have crushed them, yet instead thrived.
Meanwhile they still have plenty of room to grow.
With a schedule this season that features the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Tom Brady, it's comforting to know that the 'Hawks last line of defense can match up quite nicely against the league's elite.
The Beast Is Back
Early on last season, it was hard to tell what the 'Hawks were getting with Marshawn Lynch.
The year before, we saw potential hints after his trade from the Buffalo Bills, especially with the now legendary 67-yard run against the Saints in the Wild Card game at C-Link, but through the first few weeks of 2011, Lynch couldn't quite get in gear.
Then slowly but surely, the "Beast" came to life. By season's end, it was raining Skittles, and the biggest thing 'Hawks fans were left to fear was whether or not Lynch would return to Seattle in 2012.
Fortunately, Lynch and the 'Hawks reached an agreement that should keep the Beast in Seattle for at least the prime of his career.
With that not so small detail settled, we can now start to plan ahead by asking some real questions...
Can he piece together a full-season on par with what we saw last year?
Perhaps 2,000 all purpose yards this season?
If so the 'Hawks could make a serious run this season, especially if Beast can help ease in whoever is playing quarterback early on in the season.
Speaking of staying put...
For two straight years the 'Hawks seemed to have a revolving door in place, especially for veterans who didn't quite fit what Pete Carroll was looking for.
Anyone over 30 or leftover from the Ruskell era seemed likely candidates to be shown the door sooner or later. Names like Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Kelly Jennings, John Carlson, Aaron Curry, etc. are all gone now.
This year, though, it was nice to see some continuity.
With veterans like Marcus Trufant, Red Bryant and Marshawn Lynch back under contract, the 'Hawks roster might finally be settling down as the team moves past the rebuilding phase.
In some ways, it's important as an up-and-coming team to use that stability in helping find leaders while also having players of all ages feel they are part of something bigger, not caught in the process of house-cleaning.
Youth Be Served
While it's great to see veterans back in Seattle and the leadership they can bring both on and off the field, what's even more exciting is taking stock of all the players who could be with this team for a long time to come.
All across the field, but especially on defense, the 'Hawks have some serious young talent.
Right now, the team can claim Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, KJ Wright, and Earl Thomas on the defensive side of the ball, while Doug Baldwin and Russell Okung have also showed potential staying power on offense.
What's amazing about all of them is that they are all under the age of 25.
If this core group of players can stick together, the 'Hawks could have a decent window in which to compete over the next 5-6 years, similar to what the team had under Mike Holmgren a decade earlier.
Right behind the youngsters are the rookies who we can only hope will turn heads this season.
To some, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson, and Robert Turbin are not the over-hyped selections analysts and writers usually drool over, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider always have a knack of taking the more obscure talents available in the college ranks and making them into solid contributors.
Feel free to have your doubts, but also be ready to find yourself proven wrong.
The Hawks Should Find a Solution at Quarterback
Okay, this isn't an easy one to sell.
Either you like the competition and the competitors, or you don't.
Really no middle ground, is there?
Compared to the two-horse race of Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson last season that never did get very far in training camp, this year Matt Flynn enters the fray as someone that has played in actual games to compete against T-Jack over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, Russell Wilson as a rookie could potentially keep everyone on their toes for the early stages of the competition.
Hard to say, but ideally, by the end of camp we should have an answer that will allow all of us to move on with our lives.
The Hawks Are Buzz-Worthy
Pete Carroll's arrival helped bring some attention to the team with his positive attitude and success in the college ranks, but for the first time since his arrival, Pete might actually take a back seat to what he has going on around him.
Frankly speaking, that's not necessarily a bad thing as it serves as another sign we are shifting gears towards greater things.
At the same time, that's not to say Pete won't milk the QB battle until the very last minute.
Yet with all the young talent, a star running back in Marshawn Lynch, a possibly elite defense, the potential Brian Banks story and the new Nike uniforms, the Seahawks are simply more than coach Carroll and his rebuilding job far, far away in the Pacific Northwest.
As I've stated more than once here, this is a team on the rise. Therefore, don't be too surprised to see more than a few national sports writers either making their way to camp this summer or sharing their thoughts from afar on how things have progressed since Super Bowl XL.
For Hawks fans this might seem ridiculous and perhaps a bit insulting, but for fans of the game at large, there finally seems to be a story in Seattle.
Sadly, the 'Hawks, in a day and age when a backup quarterback like Tim Tebow's every move is considered a story in and of itself, have had trouble catching the eye of the media.
This year things not only could, but should change. It's more than having games on Monday night or in primetime; this is a team and organization that is ready to take the next step.
Seattle fans have been wishing, hoping, and waiting for that moment for some time now. The pieces may not all fit perfectly just yet, but another 7-9 finish simply won't cut it.
Are the 'Hawks ready to make the leap?
Let's hope so. Until then...Go 'Hawks!