The mood in Seattle is unusually high for a team that finished a disappointing 4-12 last season.
But what can we realistically expect from a team hoping to make 2008 a distant memory? What do the Seahawks need to do to bounce back?
- Stay Healthy
- Improved performances on the road
- Greater balance on offense
- Effective pressure from the defensive line
- Master new schemes
1. Stay healthy
Matt Hasselbeck managed seven games in 2008, but never looked 100 percent whilst suffering from persistent back trouble. Patrick Kerney also started seven times before landing on injured reserve.
Seattle rattled through wide receivers like no tomorrow and lost every starter on the offensive line to injured reserve.
Previously ever present Lofa Tatupu even missed the first game of his career during a week nine loss to the Eagles.
It's as simple as this: stay healthy, or stay out of contention.
If (and it remains a big ‘if’) Seattle can keep their key components on the field, there’s no reason why they cannot compete for another NFC West title.
2. Improved performances on the road
Since Super Bowl XL, the Seahawks have a 9-15 record on the road.
During the more successful 10-6 campaign of 2007, the Seahawks still only managed three road wins—again at San Francisco and St Louis whilst also in Philadelphia.
It’s not just a recent problem either.
Seattle’s history in the playoffs is blighted by poor performances away from the Northwest. The Seahawks haven't won a playoff game outside of Seattle since Dec. 31, 1983.
That’s over 25 years ago.
The east coast time zone issue is often used as an excuse, but it’s something the team will have to learn to deal with. Jim Mora and the new coaching staff have to make the Seahawks a tougher road team.
3. Greater balance on offense
In 2008, Seattle ranked 29th in passing, averaging just 163.6 yards per game. They gave up 36 sacks in total, scoring just 18 passing touchdowns.
It’s hard to produce an effective rushing offense when your passing game is this poor.
It allowed opposing defense to stack the box and blitz regularly. This put incredible pressure on the offensive line and virtually shut down the running game.
The signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh provides a big boost.
One of the few teams who had a worse passing offense than Seattle in 2008 were the Cincinnati Bengals - scoring a league worst 11 touchdowns and averaging just over 150 passing yards per game.
Despite that, Houshmandzadeh still managed an impressive 92 catches, 904 yards and four touchdowns.
Alongside the returning Deion Branch and Nate Burleson, the Seahawks could turn a 2008 weakness into a relative strength.
Improved offensive performance is also important to keep the defense fresh.
Seattle ranked dead last in time of possession last season, averaging just 26:38 minutes per game.
4. Effective pressure from the defensive line
The Seahawks finished a creditable 10th in sacks (notching 35 in total) last season.
It's a deceiving statistic. Seattle regularly struggled to get to the quarterback and resorted to heavy blitzing to compensate.
Reduce the eight sacks they gained in a blowout victory over a poor Rams team in Week Two and they’d be at the other end of the table.
With Jim Mora leading the defense, a greater reliance will be placed on the front four to create pressure.
Patrick Kerney will be 33 this year and has suffered two serious injuries in three seasons. Much more is needed from younger ends Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp if the team cannot rely on Kerney’s health in the latter stages of his fine career.
Another recent acquisition, Cory Redding from Detroit, also needs to find form after disappointing in his two final years with the Detroit Lions.
The appointment of Dan Quinn as defensive line coach could be crucial here.
Quinn previously spent two years with the New York Jets, helping resurrect the career of Kris Jenkins and turning the Jets’ defensive line into a productive force.
For Seattle to maximize their potential and bounce back in 2009, he’ll have to work the magic again this offseason.
5. Master new schemes
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will be using a playbook not too dissimilar to the one used by Mike Holmgren, but terminology will be different.
The zone blocking scheme will take on a more prominent role on offense, with Cover-Two the defensive focus.
There will also be certain role changes.
Knapp has traditionally used the running back a lot in passing situations. Lofa Tatupu as the Mike linebacker will have different coverage looks in the Cover-Two and a greater duty to support the safeties.
Even Matt Hasselbeck will have a few extra plays to consider. Knapp likes to go downfield more than Mike Holmgren and the drafting of speedy Deon Butler suggests this could be a possibility.
With a veteran rich roster, the Seahawks might not suffer too many teething problems. They’ve also made wise additions to their coaching staff.
Mike Solari began to install ZBS ideologies when he arrived as offensive line coach in 2008 and Seattle has retained all but one of its lineman from last season. They replaced the departing Floyd Womack with versatile second-round pick Max Unger.
On defense, the appointment of Gus Bradley was inspired. Having worked alongside Monte Kiffin in Tampa Bay, Bradley has first hand experience of the Cover-Two.
Greg Knapp has talked of simplifying things initially in order for players to learn and understand the new schemes.
For the Seahawks to work as a cohesive unit in 2009, they’ll have to master these changes quickly.