There are a lot of big question marks going into the 2010 season for the Seattle Seahawks.
One question recently addressed on Bleacher Report was something to the extent of whether the Seahawks' lack of a pass rush will keep them from the playoffs yet again in 2010.
It got me thinking about some of the big question marks on both sides of the ball and which ones could possibly keep us from contending.
I'll start out by saying there are question marks here, but in my opinion, if the Seahawks don't make the playoffs this year, it won't be because of a lack of a pass rush or lack of a defense.
Will we see the same lack of pass rush or even a similar lack of pass rush that defined the Seahawk defense in 2009?
Nope. Aaron Curry can thank Jim Mora for a wasted season of what WILL BE a Hall of Fame career. If I'm wrong, eh, you'll forget by tomorrow. The point is with that speed, strength, and ability to cause fumbles when he gets to the QB, it is a crime punishable by banishment to use him as a frickin' cover linebacker.
Curry was brought in to get to the QB, and Mora wanted to drop him back in coverage on first and second and then take him out on third...THE DOWN YOU KNOW THEY'RE GOING TO THROW ON IF THEY NEED MORE THAN THREE YARDS...because he isn't that good at covering people.
Pete Carroll is going to unleash hell with Curry. No more thinking and reading for Aaron Curry—just a bunch of blitzes. He alone will be a big enough factor in the pass rush this season that he'll make guys like Lawrence Jackson better.
Curry is the independent variable here. If Curry blitzes and becomes the force he would have been under any other coach last season, then guys have to focus more manpower on Curry, leaving the door open for Jackson to excel.
Another big factor to consider is the pass coverage. It goes both ways. If guys aren't getting pressure on the QB, it's going to make it harder for the secondary to stay with their men. BUT if our secondary steps up and covers their guys, it gives more time for the front to get in and cause some havoc.
With Marcus Trufant healthy and not needing to learn as he goes like he did last season, along with Josh Wilson, who's an underrated corner in this league, Jordan Babineaux headhunting, and Earl Thomas covering, expect QBs to have to hold on to the ball much longer this season than they had to last season, giving Curry and the other guys up front more time to make a play.
Basically, this year it's like we got two rookie top-10 draft picks that we didn't have last season in Thomas and Curry since he was a non-factor under Mora. It'll definitely be fun to watch this season.
What about Leroy Hill?
Hill will likely be suspended, and this could turn out a positive or a negative. Hill hasn't lived up to his beast-like potential, but he's still a solid LB. The guy plays the run very well and can cover. He can do everything yet doesn't really stand out stats-wise. Plus the guy usually misses a couple games with injuries anyway.
With the play of David Hawthorne last season, when Hill gets suspended, the 12th man will be calling for Hawthorne to take his place. Wouldn't mind seeing it. Hawthorne is almost the exact opposite of Hill in that Hawthorne is a stats guy who will make big plays and make tackles, but he can also cost you in coverage.
It's hard to forget what happened in San Fran when Lofa Tatupu got injured, leaving Hawthorne at the reins. Plus it's the only scenario I could see where Tatupu and Hawthorne are on the field at the same time. Kinda scary.
What will happen with the run defense?
The biggest upside of the defense in 2009 had to be the run D. Other than the game where Lofa got injured and Frank Gore ran all over us, we didn't get embarrassed. With the departure of a few key players on the line and with a suspension looming for Hill, who is very solid at playing the run, you can't help but worry a bit about this aspect of the Seahawk D.
To me this is the biggest question mark on the defensive side of the ball, which sounds crazy since it was the complete opposite last season, but hey, that's just how I see it. You add the best cover safety in the draft and unleash Curry on the QB, and all of a sudden your pass D looks pretty promising.
Carroll is a defensive guru, and I'm sure it'll work out the way he has it now. If not, there's always Albert Haynesworth....yeah, probably not.
To me this is where the big question marks come in that might have an impact on whether Seattle makes the playoffs this season or not.
Which Hasselbeck will show up?
I feel sick to my stomach when I hear people talk about Matt Hasselbeck like he randomly one day became a bad player. Football is the ultimate team sport, and when you take a guy like Steve Hutchinson out of the picture and then lose Walter Jones like Seattle did, what do you expect to happen?
A lot of people are acting like Charlie Whitehurst would have had Pro Bowl seasons under the same conditions Matt's been working with for the past couple seasons. That's a joke. If this line can hold it together (which I'll address next) and Hasselbeck stays healthy (pretty big if), this team is playoff bound. I'll crown 'em now.
QBs get worse with age when they're QBs who rely on speed and a powerful arm. When you're in a West Coast-style offense, all you need is to be able to read coverage and accuracy...something that doesn't usually go in your early 30s.
Hasselbeck is no Kurt Warner, but age isn't everything. Warner was amazing, but he seemed to always be in a good system with good blocking and some of the best WRs. With T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Mike Williams, John Carlson, Justin Forsett on the screen, and Golden Tate, Matt has some pretty explosive weapons. Couple that with blocking and even just a decent run game, and Hass will have a good year.
What if Hasselbeck gets injured?
I know I could ask this about every player at every position and it would have an impact, but with consecutive seasons with injuries, you have to wonder. Basically if Matt decides not to slide again against an ILB and injures himself, we are a sub-.500 team.
Maybe J.P. Losman could come in and surprise us, but I don't see it happening with Whitehurst. The guy's had an amazing chance to become the starter this season, having to learn the same system as Hass, plus his youth, and he hasn't made the most of it. He's not competing for the starting job; he's competing with Losman for the backup spot.
If Matt goes down, I see Whitehurst coming in, lasting a solid half, and then being replaced by J.P.
How will the running game look?
For some reason, doesn't it just seem like Julius Jones hangs on every season by his work ethic alone? Obviously the guy works hard and shows good stuff in practice because he's been the starter for the most part, but when he gets into the game, three-whatever yards per carry doesn't cut it. I don't think his work ethic will keep him at the starting spot this season.
Unless Seattle brings in another HB, Forsett has to be the guy this season. With that crap-happy line of 2009, Forsett still averaged 5.4 YPC and had more TDs than Jones. When he gets the rock this season and behind a much improved line, he'll be looking at a Pro Bowl—if not this season, then next season.
Will the O-line step up?
This is the question that I think is on everybody's mind. It was completely dreadful last season, but this season we have hope. In this ZBS under Alex Gibbs, you can't help but get at least a little excited despite the poor performance in 2009.
Russell Okung may not fit the scheme perfectly, but he was a dominant pass blocker in college, and even if he doesn't come out dominant this season, even a good performance from him would be an upgrade from 2009. I also think with Sean Locklear moving back to the right side of the line, he'll help make that side solid.
Okung will get help along the way, making the pro transition a lot easier with a LG that's run the system before whose major role in all of this is helping Okung at the line and in the huddle.
Also, I haven't heard...anything new on Chester Pitts? That'd be a perfect situation to land him too.
Will Mike Williams play like the USC Williams or the unemployed Williams?
T.J. Houshmandzadeh has recently been saying he thinks he'll get 100 catches in '10. Not if Mike Williams has returned to his old form. It's a big if, but this guy was drafted in the first round for a reason. He's fast, quick, tall, strong, young, and for the first time probably in his life he's taking his career seriously. He could emerge as a huge asset to the Seahawks, and if he does, expect Hass to look his way.
If he doesn't live up to his USC potential, then the Seahawks could be in trouble. T.J. and Golden Tate might be a great combination if that falls through, but Tate's size definitely scares Carroll a little bit. Should it? Probably not. Steve Smith isn't 6'2", but he's always on my fantasy team even with a crummy QB.
So there you have it. The optimistic person says Seattle wins 12 in 2010, while the pessimist says four, but I think if the big ifs go in our favor, we can realistically look at a nine-win season with the schedule we have.