Matt Hasselbeck Ready To Prove He's Still the Man
Matt Hasselbeck has come to that time.
You know what I'm talking about.
By the end of September, he'll be 34 years old.
He's missed 13 games in the last three years, spending almost the entire 2008 season struggling with a back injury.
His contract expires at the end of 2010.
People are starting to talk about him in the past tense.
They're asking whether GM Tim Ruskell will choose to draft a quarterback with one of his two first round picks next year.
Some are even pondering whether rookie Mike Teel can follow in Hasselbeck's foot steps and become a sixth-round starter.
It's perhaps understandable.
This is a quarterback driven league. The draft is a 52 weeks-a-year event these days.
It's not any detriment to Hasselbeck if the team is keeping an eye on the future at a position that will be critical to any future success of new head coach Jim Mora.
But nobody seems to want to talk about the present and what the three-time pro-bowler can do this year.
Let's look at the facts.
Hasselbeck has shown during the preseason that he's healthy.
He's taken a few hits, four sacks in fact.
But more importantly, he's looked sharp despite those hits.
Four hundred fourteen yards, four touchdowns and just a single interception on a tipped pass.
Seventy-two percent completed passes.
It's no surprise considering the weapons making up Seattle's offense. This could be the best receiving corps he's ever had in his arsenal.
New arrival T.J. Houshmandzadeh has struck an early rapport and the pair look destined to hook up with the same regularity experienced between Hasselbeck and his previous No. 1 target—the now departed Bobby Engram.
Second-year tight end John Carlson led the team in receptions last year and appears on the road to a long and productive career.
Nate Burleson and Deion Branch are back from injury to add some experienced depth, whilst rookie Deon Butler provides deep speed and explosion.
Even fifth receiver Ben Obomanu has flashed talent in a stop and start career. He missed the entire 2008 season due to injury but is poised to contribute in 2009.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp knows that balance will help his quarterback and that means a functioning running game.
Not resting on their laurels, the signing of Edgerrin James and surprise cut of T.J. Duckett was a statement of intent that Seattle will do whatever it takes to make things tick.
Critics are quick to lament the offensive line and admittedly, injuries to starters like Walter Jones will leave a big hole.
Center Chris Spencer will also miss time while rookie Max Unger will be thrust into action at guard.
But here's something not advertised nearly as much.
Most of the guys working the offensive line this year were there in 2007.
The relevance of that? It was only Hasselbeck's most productive season since entering the league in 1999.
Rob Sims features at left guard.
Chris Spencer will start at center when he returns.
Max Unger would appear to be an upgrade over now retired Chris Gray whilst the stable of tackles—Jones, Sean Locklear and Ray Willis—remain on the roster.
Will it be an elite line? Probably not.
But there's no reason why it can't be productive, especially under the coaching of Mike Solari.
Again we come back to the question of balance.
Last year, teams blitzed the Seahawks freely. Not fearing a passing game decimated by injury, opposition defenses loaded the box and dared Seattle to pass.
The offensive line couldn't cope under the strain and the running game was completely shut down.
If Seattle can make teams respect the pass this year, that helps the run.
It also helps Matt Hasselbeck.
So what can he achieve, all being well?
He faces the 19th and 20th ranked passing defenses from 2008 in Weeks One and Two (St. Louis and San Francisco).
The 30th ranked passing defense from last year, Chicago, visits Qwest Field on Week Three.
We'll find out quickly what Matt Hasselbeck is capable of doing this year.
But here's a bold prediction.
Don't rule out a fourth Pro Bowl.
The Seahawks might be 'in the zone' for a long term future at quarterback.
But right here, right now—Hasselbeck is the man.
He's ready to prove that.
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