Seattle Seahawks Questions Going into 2010: Linebacker Edition
It’s interesting to think that the one position the Seahawks have the most depth at is also the position that raises the most questions.
When Lofa Tatupu comes back healthy, will he come back playing like he did his first three years? Is David Hawthorne better than Lofa? Did Lofa make Aaron Curry better? Did the play call make Curry worse?
What could we get for Lofa? What could we get for Hawthorne? Will Leroy Hill finally live up to his potential? Should we make Curry the elephant?
I don’t have the answers. In fact, writing them all out has made me even more confused, but I have some unqualified opinions.
If only Pete Carroll ran a 3-4 we wouldn’t have to think so hard, but alas we don’t have the NT who can take two people on and still cause havoc, and Carroll’s got his system that’s worked. He won’t change it now. He will just need to find where they all fit.
The most prominent name in the linebacker corps is Lofa Tatupu. Tatupu led his defense to the Super Bowl his rookie season, being named to the Pro Bowl and following that up with two more consecutive Pro Bowls. He has quickly become one of the main faces of the Seattle Seahawks but has recently started slipping.
In 2008 he played in all but one game, recording no sacks for the first time in his career while recording career lows in every other statistical category except forced fumbles (one). In 2009 Tatupu played in five games, recording one sack and 32 tackles before being claimed by injury and opening the door for David Hawthorne.
Hawthorne, four years younger than Tatupu, had his breakout season in 2009. The kid was a beast. While only starting 11 games Hawthorne was able to lead the team in interceptions (three) and tackles (117) and record four sacks and two forced fumbles. The only debatable negative that came from Hawthorne is the possibility that Lofa’s absence contributed to Aaron Curry’s decline in play.
The biggest questions on fans’ minds deals with these two players. On one hand, you have a team leader who makes players around him better and has been great in previous seasons. On the other hand, you have a very young breakout star who’s playing like Tatupu used to play, but you have only one middle linebacker position to fill.
Do you keep both in case one goes down? If so, who starts? If you don’t keep both, who do you trade? Hawthorne’s playing like the better player and is four years younger than Tatupu, so he’d probably have more trade value. However, Tatupu’s no old man. He may have just as much trade value being proven.
I’ll be honest—in my opinion, it’s not worth having two potential starters at one position when you have so many needs like Seattle. That’s pretty much as far as my opinion goes since I’m completely stuck on which one I would trade. I guess if you held a gun to my head and made me choose, I would trade Hawthorne. If you asked me if we did trade one, who would it be? Again, I’d pick Hawthorne.
I’m not saying that specifically because Carroll’s coached Tatupu in the same scheme but because Carroll himself said in his scheme the identity of the Mike backer needs to be one of instinct, making calls, and leadership. Those words describe Lofa perfectly.
The next big question about the linebackers is what’s up with this kid Curry? You can’t deny two things.
1. He came out strong.
2. If he gets to the quarterback, he’s going to force a fumble.
The problem last season was getting him to the quarterback. Since it’s just a matter of opinion, I won’t even get into the effects Tatupu had on Curry’s downward spiral. To me there are two reasons for his decline.
First, he's sensitive. We all saw him on draft day crying and hugging his mom. The guy’s obviously sensitive. That first game against St. Louis wasn’t even close to his best statistical game, but he was playing with fire. Bouncing Steven Jackson off the turf and getting in Marc Bulger’s face...how else is a linebacker supposed to play? Our defense couldn’t help but feed off his fire.
If he brought that every game (notice his other big game with fire against Jacksonville was also a shutout), we’d have finished much better than 5-11.
Unfortunately, sensitive people sometimes take things too much to heart. When Jim Mora started trying to hold him back without putting out the fire, he at the very least dulled it. Slap on a couple fines, and Curry’s fire was gone before the halfway mark.
The second reason has nothing to do with Curry’s play. I think it’s ridiculous that Mora had the nerve to complain about Curry’s lack of production AFTER sitting him on third down. Every third down (okay, not every third, but close) the Seahawks sent in Lawyer Milloy as an extra defensive back.
I know there's the argument that Curry sat because of his lack of production, but even if that's true, sitting him won't help. Put him in there to give him confidence to get out of his funk.
This for one shows the lack of a blitz mindset of the Seahawks last season, and two, takes Curry out of the game on the one down you KNOW they’re going to be passing. Yes, we know he can’t cover very well yet, but if you lack a pass rush, MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY SENDING SOMEONE EVERY NOW AND THEN!
Fortunately, I can’t picture this staff being so conservative with pressure. I think this will definitely be a breakout season for Curry, especially under new coach Ken Norton Jr. No defensive end talk—he’ll be fine.
Finally we come to Leroy Hill, and the only real question is, will he play a full season this year? Probably not.
That wasn’t very exciting. I don’t know why I finished this article writing about him.
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