The Seattle Seahawks start their summer training camp on July 28 in suburban Seattle. Head coach Pete Carroll will welcome veterans, free agents and rookies to improve on last year's 7-9 record.
The ex-USC coach faces a number of challenges in 2012 to ensure another year in Seattle. They include a quarterback situation that favors a four-year backup, a 1,000-yard running back with a large contract, expectations and off-the-field baggage. If that weren't enough, Carroll must also overcome a daunting regular-season schedule.
With those factors in mind, it's also the time for some fearless prognostications for the upcoming NFL season.
Matt Flynn and Matt Hasselbeck have more in common than a first name. They served as understudies for two successful Green Bay quarterbacks, and both moved to Seattle with large contracts and higher expectations.
Seattle paid handsomely for Flynn in the offseason despite his minimal playing minutes in four years. He did get to watch Aaron Rogers from the bench.
Last January, Flynn set Green Bay franchise records by passing for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Detroit Lions. His three-year contract with the Seahawks is estimated to be $26 million with $10 million guaranteed.
Hasselbeck watched Brett Favre work his magic for two years at Lambeau Field. Mike Holmgren, his former coach in Green Bay, traded for Hasselbeck in 2001. He became a starter two years later and led Seattle to Super Bowl XL in the 2005 season. Hasselbeck signed a deal in early 2005 for $49.4 million over six years.
Expect Flynn to relegate Tarvaris Jackson to the bench and to take over as the team's starting quarterback. He's the future signal-caller for the Seahawks, but it’s unlikely you’ll see results in the short-term.
Seattle opened the coffers for Lynch after the 2011 season with a four-year contract ($18 million guaranteed). He gained over 1,200 yards last year and scored 12 touchdowns.
Lynch's off-the-field issues continued to haunt him this past week. Have the big dollars distracted him already?
Remember Shaun Alexander? He signed an eight-year, $62 million contract and gained 896 yards in 2006. The following season Alexander suffered a wrist injury in Week 1. The Seahawks released him in April 2008. Many fans and pundits blamed the large, multi-year deal for Alexander's complacency and lack of motivation.
Lynch's latest brush with the law could earn him a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Will all these distractions, it's doubtful Lynch will gain more than 1,000 yards in 2012.
NFL schedule-makers were not kind to the Seahawks. They face four playoffs returnees (New England, Green Bay, Detroit and San Francisco) and three tough matchups (Dallas, Chicago and New York Jets) that will make reaching .500 a daunting task.
Game-by-game predictions are listed below:
Cardinals (A) W
Cowboys (H) L
Packers (H) L
Rams (A) W
Panthers (A) L
Patriots (H) L
49ers (A) L
Lions (A) L
Vikings (H) W
Jets (H) W
Dolphins (A) W
Bears (A) L
Cardinals (H) W
Bills (A) L
49ers (H) L
Rams (H) W
Final Record 7-9
Carroll will not survive the year with the Seahawks. The ex-USC head coach faces too many hurdles to be successful in Seattle.
Jackson, the 2011 quarterback of choice, ranked No. 21 compared to his NFL counterparts. Flynn has the capability to step in, but the learning curve will be too high to make much of a difference this year.
Carroll must be concerned about Lynch, his most productive offensive weapon. Lynch needs to stay focused despite his legal problems, potential suspension and large contract expectations. Seattle may have to rely on rookie running back Robert Turbin to step in for Lynch.
Owner Paul Allen won’t tolerate another mediocre season. It’s a third consecutive 7-9 record that ends Carroll’s NFL career with the Seahawks.