The standout play of linebacker David Hawthorne in his first three starts has a lot of people wondering and/or planning what to do with him next year when Lofa Tatupu is healthy again.
Some people think the Seahawks might consider moving to a 3-4 scheme so as to get both Tatupu and Hawthorne on the field with Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry.
Other what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys have even suggested that Hawthorne replace Tatupu as the starter. And others have said the Hawks should trade one of the middle linebackers.
So what should the Seahawks do? Change schemes? Bench one ’backer? Trade one?
The answer: None of the above. The Hawks should just keep what they have, with no changes in 2010.
The 3-4 is not an option. Jim Mora has always been a 4-3 coach, and the Seahawks will remain such. Plus, the Seahawks have spent too much time putting together 4-3 personnel. They have undersized ends and linebackers and no tackle who could play the nose and take on double teams.
The 3-4 requires 300-pound ends and a 330-pound nose man, and the Hawks have only three linemen who fit that mold—Cory Redding (6'4", 295), Craig Terrill (6'2", 295), and Colin Cole (6'1", 330).
Redding will be a free agent, while Cole does not command double-teams consistently. The Seahawks would have to revamp their entire D-line.
As for benching Tatupu, that’s the same silly talk that came from people who thought Seneca Wallace should replace Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.
Like Hasselbeck, Tatupu is a three-time Pro Bowl player, and he’s the proven quarterback of the defense. He has just had a bad run of injuries the past two seasons and will have to prove he can stay healthy in 2010, just as Hasselbeck has had to prove it this year.
Meanwhile, Hawthorne has only three starts to his credit. Granted, he has done some amazing things in each of those starts. In the first one, against Chicago, he tallied 16 tackles—15 of them solo—and intercepted a pass. In the second one, two weeks ago in Dallas, he had eight tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble.
Last week against Detroit, he had nine tackles (eight solo) and two interceptions. That’s some impact play.
People are rightfully excited by the quick development of the man who was undrafted out of TCU last year. But even Hawthorne acknowledges that Tatupu is partly responsible for his play.
“With a guy like that in your corner, you’ve got to succeed,” Hawthorne told reporters after his two-pick performance last Sunday. “Lofa is like a quarterback out there, and teams know that. You can’t out-think him. And I’m trying to get to that level.”
If Hawthorne performs at his current level the rest of the way, his value will be sky high after the season, and the Hawks could possibly get something for him.
But he has so little experience, it’s hard to imagine many teams willing to give up much more than a third-round pick for a guy who once was undrafted and who has barely played.
Unless they could pull a first-round pick for him, the Seahawks should just hold on to Hawthorne for another season. The Seahawks own his rights for at least the next two years, as an exclusive free agent in 2010 and a restricted free agent in 2011.
Given that Tatupu has not been healthy the past two seasons, the Seahawks really need to see him return to health in 2010 before they consider possibly moving Hawthorne.
If Tatupu doesn’t make it through 2010 and Hawthorne plays well again, the Hawks will have a ready replacement for a guy they will then have to jettison for being too injury prone.
In the meantime, the Hawks can enjoy his emergence in 2009 and have great insurance in the middle for 2010 and possibly 2011. And Mora and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would love to have the problem of figuring out how to use both Tatupu and Hawthorne.
They just won’t be making a permanent move to the 3-4 or benching Tatupu.
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