Predicting Award Winners for the Seattle Seahawks' 2012 Season
Williams, who starred with the team in 2010, struggled last season. Now before the start of training camp, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider decided the current log-jam at wide receiver needed one less body in the mix.
While it's disappointing to see Williams let go, expectations are high this year in the Pacific Northwest.
They're so high that it's hard not to get ahead of ourselves, especially as the summer drags on and the Mariners continue to flounder. Thoughts on a summer afternoon sometimes drift to thinking...
Who will be the 'Hawks MVP this season?
What about the Rookie of the Year on offense?
Who will be the best rookie on defense?
Which player will be the most improved?
Of course it's early, but for today if anyone else wants to dream about the upcoming season, feel free to read more...
Offensive Player of the Year: Marshawn Lynch
So where to begin?
You'll have to forgive me that this one is a bit obvious...
Last year Lynch made believers of fans in Seattle and this year the legend of the "Beast" looks like it has a good chance to grow.
Statistically one would hope that Lynch over the course of a full season firing on all cylinders can easily duplicate his stats from last year.
However I don't think it's that simple as the 'Hawks' reliance upon Lynch towards to end of last season became both a blessing and curse.
While it was a blessing to have Lynch churning up yards at a ridiculous pace, the wear and tear, not to mention the one dimensionality of the 'Hawks' offense presented issues of their own.
So while it might be nice to pencil Lynch in for 2,000 all-purpose yards and a dozen touchdowns, the reality is that the 'Hawks will need to incorporate the Beast more within the larger scheme of things in order to have a successful season.
Understand though that Lynch should still be the offensive player of the year, so while 1,500 all-purpose yards might not seem like a big improvement upon last year, it could actually have greater value within the total offense.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Robert Turbin
Assuming that Marshawn Lynch is going to be a part of the big picture rather than the sole focal point of the Seahawks' offense, he's certainly going to need some help.
Enter Robert Turbin as Lynch's sidekick and by extension the Seahawks' offensive rookie of the year.
Once again it's early, but for this year I'm putting my money on Turbin to be the team's standout rookie while assuming that quarterback Russell Wilson sits and waits.
Granted beyond Turbin and Wilson there aren't a ton of options to choose from at the moment, but then again this time last year Doug Baldwin seemed like a long-shot to make the team.
Yet, given the chance to spell Lynch this season, I believe (or at least hope) that Turbin will step up. If he's agile enough to keep pace within the NFL, he could prove to be a steal while plowing through defenders for years to come.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Bobby Wagner
Bruce Irvin might be the biggest name amongst the rookies as the team's first round draft choice, but at the end of the day I still believe that Wagner is the team's most important rookie in 2012.
Wagner, Turbin's teammate at Utah State, will help complete the sweep for the rookie awards with a season that may not translate to monster numbers on paper, but will hopefully amount to something special in regards to leadership.
It's a lot of pressure to put on a rookie, but Wagner's development in the middle of the defense is critical. Right now linebacker is arguably the team's biggest weakness on either side of the ball and his play could make the difference when it comes to how well the entire unit performs.
Yes, Bruce Irvin is certainly an important rookie and will play a big role, but Wagner will be the man the 'Hawks need to perform each and every down on the field.
Defensive Player of the Year: Earl Thomas
Speaking of leadership, last year Red Bryant stepped up as the heart and soul of the defense, but this year I believe Earl Thomas is poised for greatness.
In two seasons Thomas has done just about everything one could have hoped for in a first round pick since arriving from the University of Texas Austin in the 2010 draft.
Blessed with a mix of size, speed, and strength, Thomas could be an All-Pro / Pro-Bowl player for the next decade with the way he plays the game.
For this year an All-Pro nod might not seem too far-fetched; meanwhile he might have to settle for the title of 'Hawks defensive player of the year while leading what could be the league's best secondary.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Flynn
For someone who has yet to throw a regular season pass in a 'Hawks uniform, this might seem a bit forward, but let's cut to the chase.
If we're going to dream big, the discussion about the quarterback situation begins and ends here. Some day Russell Wilson might be the Seahawks' starting quarterback, but for this season, I'm putting my money on Flynn.
Why is Flynn the MVP, beyond being the team's supposed starting quarterback?
Because the 'Hawks aren't going to fool anyone giving Marshawn Lynch the ball first, second, and third down all season.
Because the 'Hawks have receiving options that might actually scare people with players like Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller, and Kellen Winslow Jr—provided enough of them stay healthy.
Because the team needs someone who can finally keep everyone in balance and distribute the ball across numerous targets.
Because there's this crazy hope that Flynn is capable of putting together a season filled with performances akin to his season finale against Detroit last season.
Yes, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid here, but if Flynn isn't the team's MVP we're going to have a long winter in Seattle. One that will leave us to question whether or not we have something special in the 'Hawks.
Of course he can't do it alone...
Most Improved Player: Golden Tate
In two seasons since arriving in Seattle from Notre Dame, Golden Tate has shown flashes of brillance, but not quite enough to be seen as a fixture.
At the end of last season I had hoped the 'Hawks would open things up a bit with Tate, and while they managed to get him the ball at least a few times a game, it was hard to gauge how Tate would figure into the 'Hawks' plans for 2012.
This year things should change. With Mike Williams gone and Sidney Rice always a question mark in regards to his health, Tate should now have as good a shot as any to earn his keep in his third season.
Paired with Doug Baldwin, I can see the two forming a solid tandem capable of finding room underneath while generating quite a few yards after the catch for whoever is starting at quarterback.
Stats of 600+ yards, 60+ catches, and half a dozen touchdowns shouldn't be out of the question if the 'Hawks intend to expand the offense past Marshawn Lynch and a cloud of dust.
Breakout / Out Of Nowhere Player : Kris Durham
Last year it was Doug Baldwin signed as an undrafted rookie out of Stanford.
This year I'm going with Kris Durham.
Of all the predictions here this one is obviously the hardest to gauge, but with all of the options/question marks at wide receiver one would figure that someone has to breakout.
Right now I'm not 100 percent sold on Sidney Rice staying healthy for more than 12+ games this season.
Meanwhile Mike Williams is gone, Doug Baldwin won't sneak up on anyone, and while I think Golden Tate will improve, there are no guarantees.
Beyond that there are even more question marks on the 'Hawks' roster.
Much like Matt Flynn, it's the unknown that makes Durham such an intriguing prospect.
At 6'6" Durham certainly is tall and with a nice mix of moves could be the kind of target that a new quarterback can find appealing in training camp. If he can develop a rapport with whoever becomes the team's starter early on, he could be a difference maker once the season starts.
Look, you never know?
Yet if you had to bet whether Sidney Rice would play a full schedule or if Durham would catch 50 passes and score five TDs, which one would you choose?
I'm going with Durham.