Pete Carroll is back for his third season as Seattle's head coach.
The Seattle Seahawks finished the 2011 season at 7-9 for the second straight year. The difference is that in 2010, that 7-9 record was good enough to win the division. Seattle has four straight losing seasons, but the signing of former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn has created some excitement in the SeaTac area.
Add in the fact that the Seahawks have a top-10 defense and then drafted heavy on that side of the ball, one NFL.com pundit thinks Seattle can knock off the San Francisco 49ers from atop the NFC West perch.
Seattle does have some pieces in place with Flynn, running back Marshawn Lynch, receivers Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin and a solid offensive line bolstered by the signing of guard Deuce Lutui. Will an improved offense to go with a top-tier defense be enough to win the division? The Hawks open camp on Friday.
Matt Flynn was excellent is his two career starts in Green Bay.
Matt Flynn; Tarvaris Jackson; Josh Portis; Russell Wilson (R).
Flynn was one of the more sought-after quarterbacks in the offseason. Although he has just two starts under his belt, they were two very good starts.
He filled in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in 2010 on a huge stage for his first NFL start. On Sunday Night Football on the road in New England, Flynn had a passer rating of 100.2 after he threw for 251 yards by completing 24 of 37 pass attempts with three touchdowns. He nearly led the Packers to a come-from-behind victory, but threw his lone interception late in the game.
His second start came in last year’s season finale when he lit up the Detroit Lions for 480 yards and a Packers team-record six touchdown passes. Flynn’s career passer rating is 124.8, albeit in a limited role.
That could leave Jackson out, although coach Pete Carroll said it is an open competition between Flynn, Jackson and Russell Wilson, a rookie from Wisconsin who the team selected in the third round of the draft. Wilson took the Badgers to the Rose Bowl after transferring from North Carolina State, where he ranks near the top of most school passing records.
Jackson started 14 games last year after coming over from Minnesota, where he had 20 starts over five seasons. Jackson can never seem to win over a coaching staff. He was supposed to get the Vikings’ starting job before they went after Brett Favre. Now he’s in a similar situation with Flynn. If Wilson can play up to expectations, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks shop Jackson.
Portis holds the single-season passing record at California (Pa.) University and was an undrafted rookie last year. He was Jackson’s backup last year, but it will be difficult for him to find a roster spot this season.
Could Marshawn Lynch be facing a suspension in 2012?
Kregg Lumpkin; Marshawn Lynch; Tyrell Sutton; Robert Turbin (R); Leon Washington.
When Lynch goes into “Beast Mode," it is a sight to see. Lynch famously ran through the New Orleans Saints in a 2010 playoff victory.
Lynch is coming off his second Pro Bowl season, but he could also face a possible suspension for a DUI charge stemming from an incident on July 14. If he misses significant time, it could be a huge blow to Seattle’s playoff chances. That will mean Seattle’s other backs will have to pick up more of the load.
Lumpkin comes over from Tampa Bay and will compete for the backup job. Originally signed by the Packers as an undrafted rookie in 2008, Lumpkin has 124 career rushing yards and 325 receiving yards.
Washington enters his third season with the Hawks as Lynch’s primary backup and should continue to be a dynamic kick returner. He returned three kicks for scores in 2010 and had four returns of more than 40 yards last year.
Sutton was with the Panthers in 2009 and 2010, but did not make the 2011 squad. He was out of football last year before signing with the Seahawks on Jan. 4. The former Northwestern star has 139 career rushing yards on 25 carries.
Turbin is a fourth-round draft pick from Utah State who had a very productive college career. His 6.1-yards-per-carry average last year was among the best in the nation and he has good speed and decent size. He’s even already got a cool nickname—Seahulk.
Robinson is the only player listed at fullback on the roster, but that doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t use other two-back sets or even move a tight end back there as an H-back.
Robinson is a seven-year veteran who should make the roster. The guy’s coming off his first Pro Bowl berth as he replaced Green Bay’s John Kuhn in Hawaii. Robinson knows the division well after getting selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. He spent five years in San Francisco before coming to Seattle in 2010.
Can Doug Baldwin improve on an impressive rookie season?
Doug Baldwin; Phil Bates (R); Deon Butler; Kris Durham; Jermaine Kearse (R); Cameron Kenney; Ricardo Lockette; Charly Martin; Ben Obomanu; Sidney Rice; Golden Tate; Lavasier Tuinei (R).
Baldwin was the star of the NFL’s undrafted rookie class in 2011. He led Seattle with 51 catches for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Those were the best marks by an undrafted rookie receiver since 1960.
Rice battled concussions, knee injury and a shoulder injury last season after signing a five-year, $41 million free-agent contract. If he can stay healthy, he and Baldwin could comprise a decent duo.
Butler was a third-round pick in 2009 and could be in the mix if he’s fully healed from a broken leg. Obomanu has started six games each of the last two seasons and has been with the Seahawks ever since they took him in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. He had a career-best 37 receptions last season and has 83 catches for 1,151 yards and seven touchdowns over his career.
Seattle selected Tate in the second round of the 2010 draft, and he had an inconsistent rookie season. He rebounded well to start five games last year and finish with 35 catches for 382 yards and three scores. Tate’s career appears to be on the upswing, so it will be interesting to see how well he progresses in his third year.
The Seahawks did not draft a single receiver, but signed three free-agent rookies in Bates, Kearse and Tuinei. Bates, from Ohio University, has some versatility to play any of the receiver positions. Kearse (6’2”, 208) is a Washington native and went to college in Seattle at UW. He should be a local favorite following a pretty good college career.
Aside from having a really cool—and hard to spell— name, Tuinei has a lot of talent. He capped his college career at Oregon by being named the offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl. He’s 6’4” and 220 pounds and was one of Oregon’s primary red-zone targets, resulting in 10 touchdowns last season.
Durham was a fourth-round pick last year from Georgia and had three catches for 30 yards. Kenney, an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma last year, has decent size (6’1”, 199) and speed (4.5), but could just be a filling a camp roster spot. Martin is on his fourth team since going undrafted out of West Texas A&M in 2009. He has one career catch for six yards.
Lockette, undrafted from Fort Valley State in 2011, had just two catches last season, but wow, were they great grabs. He had a 44-yard catch on Christmas Eve last year before scoring on a 61-yard reception on New Year’s Day.
Cameron Morrah seemed to always make a big catch last season.
Anthony McCoy; Zach Miller; Cameron Morrah; Kellen Winslow.
This is a pretty solid group despite the departure of John Carlson after four years to Minnesota. The addition of Winslow, who had three productive, yet uneasy seasons in Tampa Bay, will help offset the loss of Carlson.
Winslow fell out of favor with management in Cleveland despite a Pro Bowl year in 200, and then had issues in Tampa. What never faltered, though, was his production on the field. If Seattle can keep him happy, the Seahawks could have a great pickup.
Miller came over from the Raiders last year following a Pro Bowl season in 2010. Used primarily as a blocking tight end, Miller had 25 catches for 233 yards. Those numbers and his blocking skills should be enough to complement Winslow.
Morrah is a guy some teams forget about until he makes his one catch of the game for 20 yards and a key first down. He has just 16 receptions for 194 yards over three seasons, but each catch seems to come in a key situation.
McCoy played for head coach Pete Carroll at USC and was a sixth-round draft choice in 2010. He has 13 career receptions for 146 yards and zero touchdowns. If the Seahawks keep only four tight ends, McCoy could be in trouble.
Seahawks fans hope Russell Okung will have a healthy 2012 season.
Edawn Coughman; Allen Barbre; Alex Barron; James Carpenter; Breno Giacomini; Paul McQuistan; Russell Okung.
McQuistan started 10 games last year at both guard and tackle, but the Seahawks would rather use him in a backup role. Ideally, Okung will be fully healed from a torn pectoral muscle and can return to his left tackle spot. Okung was the sixth overall pick in 2010 and started 22 straight games before he was injured in practice.
Carpenter, a first-round pick in 2011, was supposed to be Okung’s booked partner last year, but suffered a torn ACL after nine games. The injuries to both starting tackles were part of the season for Seattle’s offensive struggles last year. The Seahawks had the fifth-worst offense in the NFL in 2011.
Giacomini could again be Carpenter’s replacement on the right side to start the season with Barbre as the third backup. Giacomini and Barbre were teammates in Green Bay from 2008 to 2010 before coming to Seattle. Barbre didn’t last and finished the year in Miami before returning to Seattle last year.
Barron is out to prove that he can make a roster. The former first-round pick was a colossal disappointment for the Rams before washing out after five penalty-plagued seasons. His key holding penalty with Dallas cost the Cowboys a win in 2010 and he was subsequently cut. He was in camp with the Saints last year and will try to re-boot his career back in the NFC West this season.
Coughman was undrafted in 2011 out of Shaw University and played for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. He was released by Toronto following gun possession charges. Coughman has good explosiveness off the ball and is solid technique-wise. He’ll just have to be sure he learns the gun laws in Vancouver.
What kind of impact will the acquistion of Deuce Lutui have?
Paul Fanaika; Rishaw Johnson (R); Deuce Lutui; John Moffitt; Frank Omiyale; J.R. Sweezy (R).
Lutui comes over from Arizona and should improve the unit. Another former USC Trojan on Seattle’s roster—there are five—Lutui has 72 NFL starts in six years and was part of Arizona’s NFC champion team in 2008.
Moffitt, a third-round draft choice from Wisconsin last year, could be the other starter. That depends on whether his knees have fully recovered from some ligament damage. Once healthy, expect Moffitt to be with the ones full-time.
Fanaika could fill in if Moffitt has to miss any time. He played in three games last year and is listed as the primary backup on the depth chart.
Omiyale gives the Seahawks some versatility with his ability to play either guard or tackle. Johnson went undrafted from NCAA Division II powerhouse, California, Pa. He’s got good size and was a D-II All-American. The question will be whether he has the agility and explosiveness needed in the NFL.
Sweezy is an interesting study. The 6’4”, 298-pounder from North Carolina State will switch from defensive tackle to guard. Seattle’s seventh-round pick had a couple of run-ins with the law, too. One was for marijuana possession, and the other involved a scuffle with a 65-year-old bus driver.
Max Unger got his long-term deal.
Max Unger; Lemuel Jeanpierre
Unger is the starter, while Jeanpierre is listed as a player who can play either guard or center. The Seahawks made Unger one of the league’s highest-paid centers earlier this week. He has started 29 games over the last three seasons. He started all 16 games as a rookie in 2009 before a toe injury limited him to just one game in 2010.
Jeanpierre has five starts—one at center, four at guard— since going undrafted out of South Carolina in 2010. He gives Seattle some versatility at all three interior positions—something invaluable in today’s NFL.
Brandon Mebane, right, rips down St. Louis running back Steven Jackson.
Alan Branch; Pep Levingston; Clinton McDonald; Brandon Mebane.
Mebane is the best player of this group and started all 16 games last year. He has 10 career sacks, but did not record a single sack last season. The Seahawks had just 33 sacks as a team, so that’s a number that must improve.
McDonald is entering his third season and is still looking for his first career sack. He was a seventh-round pick by the Bengals in 2009, but didn’t see any game action until 2010. He joined the Seahawks last year.
Branch is huge (6’6”, 325) and has the ability to eat double teams and collapse the pocket. He has seven career sacks and will try to improve off his three-sack total from last season—his first in Seattle after spending four years in Arizona.
Levingston was a seventh-round pick last season and was promoted to the active roster in November.
How will Jason Jones' first season in Seattle go and will he get a long-term deal he wants?
Pierre Allen; Red Bryant; Chris Clemons; Dexter Davis; Jaye Howard (R); Bruce Irvin (R); Cordarro Law (R); Jason Jones; Greg Scruggs (R).
Seattle made perhaps its most significant move of the offseason when the team agreed to a long-term deal with Clemons, who was entering a contract year. Clemons recorded 11 sacks for the second straight year to give him 42 over his eight-year career.
The Seahawks raised some eyebrows with the first-round selection of West Virginia’s Irvin, who could be another formidable pass rusher. Let’s just hope, for the sake of Seattle fans, that Irvin’s football IQ is higher than his perceived intelligence off the field.
Jones, a free-agent acquisition formerly of Tennessee, spurned former coach Jeff Fisher by passing on St. Louis’ offer to sign with Seattle. Jones would like to work out a long-term deal with the Seahawks at some point. While he's listed as a defensive end, it's more likely he'll end up inside at tackle.
Irvin will try to take Bryant’s starting job opposite Clemons. That’s a spot Jones wants also. At 6’4”, 323 pounds, Bryant could be best suited inside. He has just two career sacks in four years and doesn’t have pass-rushing speed. Stopping the run is one of his strong suits, and a move to tackle could be for the best.
Howard, a fourth-round pick from Florida, played tackle for the Gators but possesses good pass-rushing skills. With just 33 sacks last season, this was obviously an area of emphasis in the offseason.
Law had 28 career sacks in three seasons as an outside linebacker at Southern Miss. He also recorded 14 forced fumbles and six passes defensed. Allen, undrafted from Nebraska, spent part of last season injured before getting assigned to the practice squad. Scruggs is a lean (6’4”, 285), athletic rookie who played tackle at Louisville.
K.J. Wright hopes to improve on a stellar rookie year.
Allen Bradford; Heath Farwell; Kyle Knox (R); Jameson Konz; Matt McCoy; Mike Morgan; Barrett Ruud; Malcolm Smith; Bobby Wagner (R); Korey Toomer (R); K.J. Wright; Leroy Hill.
Hill and Wright are the returning starters, and Farwell saw some significant playing time in his first season with the Seahawks. Farwell previously played for the Minnesota Vikings for five seasons.
Ruud should take another starting spot. He has been a regular starter for the last five years, although he played in just nine games last year because of multiple nagging injuries.
Wright was a fourth-round pick last year and started 12 games as a rookie. He had a solid rookie season with 65 tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble.
Hill has 18.5 career sacks in his seven seasons with the Seahawks. He’s the dean of Seattle linebackers, but has had three separate arrests since 2009. His latest was a February marijuana charge, which was later dropped.
McCoy was a second-round pick in 2005 by Philadelphia and is on his fourth team. He joined the Seahawks in 2010 after two seasons in Tampa Bay. He has 136 tackles with two sacks.
The rest of the group is very green. Konz was a seventh-round Seattle draft pick in 2010 and has played in just one game. Knox is an undrafted rookie from Fresno State. Morgan went undrafted last year and played in five games as a rookie without recording a tackle. Toomer was a fifth-round draft selection this year after being named Idaho’s team MVP as a senior. Smith, a seventh-round pick from USC last year, saw limited action in 12 games as a rookie and recorded 16 tackles and a sack. Bradford was a sixth-round pick by Tampa Bay last year, but spent 2011 on Seattle’s practice squad.
The most promising youngster is Wagner, an underrated and undersized player from Utah State with an excellent reputation. He is six feet tall and 241 pounds, but was the WAC defensive player of the year after recording 147 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions as a senior. He capped that off with an excellent combine workout, and the Seahawks rewarded him with a second-round draft selection.
Can Marcus Trufant, left, become an elite corner again?
Brandon Browner; Coye Francies; Jeremy Lane (R); Roy Lewis; Donny Lisowski (R); Byron Maxwell; Ron Parker; Richard Sherman; Walter Thurmond; Marcus Trufant.
Trufant ended last season on injured reserve with a torn sacrum and is in a contract year. That means double the pressure for the Tacoma native. He wants to prove himself healthy and play well enough to get rewarded with a contract that will allow him to finish his career in Seattle. Entering his 11th season, long-term security is the most important thing right now.
When Trufant went down, the starting job fell to Sherman, who led all rookies last year with four interceptions and 21 passes defensed. The former fifth-round pick from Stanford shattered all expectations and could be one of the steals of the 2011 draft.
Browner came to Seattle after five seasons with Calgary of the CFL and had a very good debut season. He went to the Pro Bowl after recording six interceptions, one of which he returned for a team-record, 94-yard touchdown. At 6’4”, he’s one of the league’s biggest corners.
Lisowski is only 5’11”, but has great speed. The undrafted Montana rookie will have to use that quickness to earn a roster spot.
Lewis has been a regular contributor over the last three years and is in the final year of his four-year deal. He has yet to record an interception as the Seahawks failed to generate enough turnovers last year. Thurmond, a fourth-round pick in 2010, also has zero picks in four career starts. Parker has five career appearances with Oakland and Seattle and is also searching for his first air theft. Francies is entering his fourth NFL season and has seven career tackles without a pick.
With that many zeroes in the INT column of the stat sheet, there could be a lot of firsts this year for the Seattle corners that do make the team.
Maxwell was a sixth-round pick last year and recorded one tackle while playing primarily on special teams in nine games. Lane was a sixth-round pick this year from Northwestern State in Louisiana. He did record an interception to go with nine tackles and a sack in a loss against LSU.
Earl Thomas has seven interceptions in two seasons.
Earl Thomas; Kam Chancellor; Winston Guy (R); Jeron Johnson; Chris Maragos.
Thomas is the team’s lone free safety, but they have three listed as strong safeties. Those distinctions really don’t matter much anymore in today’s NFL, but it tells you that Thomas will be the team’s main safety used in coverage. He has been one of the league’s better ballhawks with seven interceptions and two forced fumbles since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2010.
Chancellor is the other starter and had his breakout season last year after getting selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft. He had just 23 tackles in 16 appearances as a rookie before starting 15 games last year when he put up 97 tackles to go with four interceptions, a sack and two forced fumbles. Those numbers earned him a Pro Bowl berth.
Maragos was a tenacious tackler at Wisconsin before he signed with San Francisco as an undrafted free in 2010. He came to Seattle a year later and has 13 career tackles. Johnson was undrafted out of Boise State last year and had six tackles as a rookie.
Guy doesn’t have great cover skills, but could contribute on special teams as a rookie. He was a sixth-round pick this year from Kentucky.
Jon Ryan has developed into one of the league's better punters.
K Steven Hauschka; K Carson Wiggs (R); LS Clint Gresham; LS Sean McGrath (R); P Jon Ryan.
Ryan has developed into one of the league’s more reliable punters. He had an impressive 46.6-yard gross average last year with a 39.3-yard net. His career averages over six years are 45 gross and 38 net.
McGrath, an undrafted rookie from Henderson State, will get a fair look, but it’s unlikely he’ll beat out Gresham for the starting job. Gresham has been the team’s long snapper since 2009.
Wiggs has a big leg and will challenge Hauschka for a roster spot. Hauschka missed five of his 30 field goal attempts last year and has a career percentage of 78.8 with a long of 54 yards. Wiggs booted a 67-yarder in Purdue’s spring game last year and then was 15 of 19 during the regular season. That included going five of six from beyond 40 yards with a 52-yarder.