Jim Mora is in prime position to capitalize on Mike Holmgren's nightmare of a season in 2008. Will he be able to capitalize all the way to NFL Coach of the Year honors? I think so, and here's why.
You remember last season; no need to recap the weekly revolving door at wide receiver, the Pro Bowl quarterback who was sidelined with a career-threatening chronic back issue, an offensive line decimated by a variety of injuries, or a solid defense that was just too tired at the end of every game to be effective.
This year, the Seahawks are returning with a healthy core players—many of whom took this team to the playoffs in 2007. There are a few key additions and upgrades, however.
The offensive line has never been the glamour position on any football team, but these big guys are often the prime reason for success or failure of any offensive scheme.
Walter Jones is still one of the premier left tackles in the NFL. This year, he and a healthy Mike Wahle will team up to reinvigorate the left side that made the blind side of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck vulnerable and did little to help the running game last season.
Jones will return to the Pro Bowl, and Wahle will play at an equal level, but probably won't make it to Hawaii.
Rookie Max Unger should push either right guard Rob Sims or center Chris Spencer for a spot on the line, and right tackle Sean Locklear is solid.
With the change to a zone-blocking scheme, the 'Hawks will be able to take advantage of their versatility along the line.
Hasselbeck should see a return to the Pro Bowl with a healthy back and a stable of quality receivers. Running back Julius Jones is primed for his best season ever, and T.J. Duckett is a reliable short-yardage man.
Second-year back Justin Forsett will see considerable playing time, and his quickness at hitting holes should work well with the zone-blocking scheme.
Big-name receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will be a reliable option for Hasselbeck, and will put up big numbers this year—maybe Pro Bowl numbers. Deion Branch should do well with some of the attention being shifted to "Housh," and Nate Burleson will finally live up to the expectations that everyone had when he came from the Vikings.
Tight end John Carlson should really have a breakout season this year, although most Seahawks fans already know that Carlson is the real deal. Can you say Pro Bowl?
The defense should be improved with the addition of big bodies in Cory Redding and Colin Cole, along with the development of Brandon Mebane. Mebane showed last year that he is ready for the spotlight. Defensive end Patrick Kerney should see his sack numbers return to normal form with the additional bulk and talent at tackle.
The linebacker corps will create opportunities for every other part of the 'Hawks defense. The trio of Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, and rookie Aaron Curry is fast, versatile and simply put, on paper, the best linebacker trio in the NFL.
Tatupu is the leader of the crew, but Hill may be the one who does most of the heavy work. Curry is an amazing athlete, and it will be interesting to watch his development in the NFL.
The addition of Ken Lucas gives Seattle the size it needs at cornerback to team with Pro Bowler Marcus Trufant. Josh Wilson and Kelly Jennings will do well in nickel and dime packages.
The safety position is one area that the Seahawks have been vulnerable, but this year, with additional pressure on the quarterback, free safety Brian Russell shouldn't be left on an island to defend receivers indefinitely. Strong safety Deon Grant should continue to be a solid contributor.
The Seahawks had a solid team last year that was ripped apart by injuries; that core team returns and looks to be better with a few key additions.
Jim Mora had the fortune of stepping into a talented Atlanta Falcon team and was rewarded with a deep playoff run. Mora will have the same situation in Seattle this season with the added benefit of a division that is still open for the taking—a ready-made playoff team that is poised for a run at the Super Bowl.
This all spells NFL Coach of the Year for Jim Mora and a return to happy days and sunny skies in Seattle.