As the 2010 season creeps towards us, training camps have begun and all eyes are focused on the forthcoming preseason.
It occurred to me that many coaches approach a rebuilding season by hiding behind it. They use the excuse of roster gaps and "lack of talent" to allow them to lose games. In fact, in many cases the entire organization ducks beneath the moniker of "the rebuilding season".
If anything, the Seahawks will be unique this season, for Pete Carroll's mantra is "Always Compete". It doesn't matter who suits up for the 16 regular season games, Pete is going to find a way to help the Seahawks win each and every one of those games. Of course, he also accepts the metaphysical and character driven victories, even if the scoreboard doesn't match. However, when it comes down to it, he's looking for the "dubya".
That being said, what can we expect from the Seattle frontliners this year?
If not by omen, or by history, Hasselbeck has certainly entered training camp looking like he's got the starting job locked up. Of course, I don't think anyone questions the fact that Whitehurst is going to see the field this season.
If Hasselbeck remains healthy, and succeeds in Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates' new system, we can expect to see him manning the ship all season. Even then, I would expect to see Whitehurst seeing the field in garbage time. If Hasselbeck falters, it's anyone's guess how long he remains in before Whitehurst gets a reach at the torch.
Some people argue that J.P. Losman might challenge Whitehurst for the back up spot. Folks, I really like J.P. Losman, and I would love to see him do well. Unfortunately, he has one big hurdle to overcome to get another shot at being an NFL starting quarterback: his size.
Losman is fairly small as QB's go. He's got a great arm, and good mobility, but the fact is, he's simply too small to see over the offensive line. His visibility will always remain in question.
I really don't think that Carroll is going to keep both Schmitt and Powdrell on the roster. Schmitt has big time aggressiveness, however Powdrell has a longer history with Carroll at USC. The real question here is: what does Carroll want from his Fullback?
Schmitt also has the ability to be a standout special teams player, and his fire is a great pace setter for a team that has found itself losing steam easily the past two seasons. His work ethic is certainly something that is hard to question.
I don't think anyone can really say they have any honest insight on the outcome of the Battle of the Tailbacks.
Julius Jones brings the most experience and esteem to the backfield, however he simply hasn't managed to get it done the past two seasons. He struggled with the one-cut style of running under Solari and Knapp.
Some argue that he will flourish under Gibbs' despite the scheme being similar. Others suggest that Jones is going to find himself falling on the depth chart, if he remains on it at all.
Washington was a very skilled role-player on the Jets last season before his brutal injury. Keep in mind, Washington was part of the best backfield in the NFL last year. Can you imagine what might have happened had he not been injured?
I think a lot of people are really looking to see Washington return and suddenly come out as a 1400+ yard rusher, with potential pro bowl caliber performances. That may very well be the case, but I wouldn't expect it in 2010. Like anyone coming back from injury, he's going to have to shake off the cobwebs.
Justin Forsett has always been something special in the backfield, and fantasy pundits are predicting this to be his break out year. However, everyone is predicting this to happen sometime in the middle of the season. Mr. Forsett has come a long way from the kid who was tossed, picked up by the Colts, and then stolen back to Seattle.
Quinton Ganther has been labeled already as Seattle's short yardage specialist, however there are a lot of other sports writers that expect to see Carroll watching the waiver wire throughout the preseason. If that's the case, then there is a chance that Ganther might not be in Seattle blue come week 1 of the regular season if that is the case.
Carlson and Baker are both proven Tight Ends that make up the top of Seattle's deepest position right now.
However, I think it's entirely possible that if Anthony McCoy is as advertised, he might push Baker for the #2 spot on the roster. McCoy could be a very pleasant surprise for Seattle, creating a lot of depth at the inside/short passing game, as well as a lot of options for a creative coaching staff.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh is considered "the only wide receiver" on the Seattle Seahawks by any of the sports writers right now, however I beg to differ.
Deion Branch once had a very promising career that has been injury plagued in Seattle. However, when Branch is healthy has proven sure fire hands, as well as shown good route running and mobility.
All eyes are on Golden Tate, who despite being a second round selection, has been predicted by many to be an electrifying playmaker.
However, there are two receivers that have largely been written off: Deon Butler and Mike Williams.
Right now, Butler is my favorite to win the starting job opposite Housh. Keep in mind he topped Engram's records at Penn State.
If we consider the offensive woes of last season related to the lack of the players' confidence in the coordination of the offense, as well as the offensive line injuries, the wide outs didn't have a fighting chance.
Mike Williams is a physical specimen at wide out that we haven't had in Seattle for a very long time. Putting a big man on the field like this creates a lot of options for the play writers as well as the play caller.
I think that Williams is going to suck the marrow out of this opportunity, and we very well may see the legacy predicted for him five years ago, unfold in 2010.
Given last year's patchwork offensive line, this is definitely going to be something to watch this season.
There are more stories on this offensive line than there are in a skyscraper.
Everyone will be looking at Russell Okung, the last first rounder to sign. Aside from the slight drama over his contract signing, there is also something to consider regarding his performance.
Okung was drafted into a non-zone blocking scheme. He was touted as the best athlete at the position, however under the circumstances, he may also need to be the smartest.
Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts are past proteges of new offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Hamilton comes to the team as a field marshal to assist Okung's development as well as help smooth over the transition to a new style of play for the other players.
Pitts was an interesting signing that came much later than I expected. Pitts was arguably the anchor of the Texans line before injuring his knee last season. This is a risky signing, however even if Pitts can contribute from the bench with his experience in this system, it may prove very valuable.
Max Unger, the passionate overachiever from Oregon finds himself in his sophomore season after being a part of what was probably one of the worst offensive line debacles Seattle has seen in a very long time.
Despite being a center in college, he's been moved to guard, where he feels more comfortable in the NFL.
Chris Spencer was Seattle's hopeful replacement of Robbie Tobeck several years back, however he hasn't really ever elevated himself to that level of play. Given the new regime in place, and a contract quickly coming to term, I don't think that Spencer has long to prove that he can reach that level.
Sean Locklear has been a mainstay on the offensive line since the fabled "left side" of Big Walt, Hutch and Tobeck. He is a solid tackle, with a great work ethic, and I think that he is an important link in the chain.
The past two seasons created a sense of urgency and disappointment amongst the younger players. Locklear is the only link on that line to the success Seattle experienced in the past decade.
Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole are the established starters at tackle. I expect to see Terrill return as the dutiful situational replacement, however I am very interested in looking at Kevin Vickerson. Vickerson did fairly well in Tennessee last year, but never found a way to break into the starting lineup. I expect to see Vickerson push Cole very hard.
Defensive end is perhaps the most interesting position on the Seahawks this season.
On one side, Red Bryant has pushed past Lawrence Jackson as the starter. Last season, Bryant was buried on the depth chart as a tackle. Is it pure coincidence, or perhaps the magic of the NFL, that Bryant's father-in-law is former Seattle defensive end Jacob Green.
On the other side, we have the "Leo" position. Chris Clemons was brought over from Philadelphia to fill this role. He was used primarily as a situational pass rusher prior to playing for Andy Reid in Philly, where his role was diminished. Now in Seattle, he's marked as the starter. Behind him is Nick Reed, who's proved to have the heart of a lion on the field.
Dexter Davis also appears to be still slated to see some possible time at the "Leo" position. However, despite being drafted as an end, he's been primarily moved to linebacker.
Three years ago, the trio of Tatupu, Hill and Peterson was touted as the best linebacker crew in the league.
Peterson whined a little bit about his contract, and he was shipped off to Detroit. Seattle quickly replaced him with the "surest bet" in the draft: Aaron Curry. Unfortunately, Curry experienced a difficult rookie season as he seemed somewhat confused at times about his role.
Carroll aimed to use Curry more effectively, by putting him back in a pass rushing role, where he feels more natural. Unfortunately, Curry was concussed on the first day of training camp, so it will be interesting to see if he can calm down that passionate attitude for his own health.
Tatupu is back, however he seems to be experiencing some nagging injuries as well which are a little alarming for a MLB who's been labelled a durability risk the past few seasons.
Leroy Hill has been perhaps the most dramatic offseason story in Seattle. His off-the-field issues have been national news. He's only been suspended for a single game, however it's possible this could be extended.
Currently he's buried on the depth chart behind David Hawthorne and Will Herring.
Hawthorne is the real sleeper here. He had a great season last year playing in lieu of Tatupu, and it appears he's given a shot at an encore this season whilst Leroy Hill attempts to deal with his non-Football issues.
Hawthorne, Curry and Tatupu all have one thing in common. They are fierce competitors that stand out above the average competitor. Would you want your linebackers any other way?
At cornerback, Trufant, Wilson and Jennings is very much the same story we have seen for the past few seasons. Trufant is coming back healthy after spending much of last season shaking of the rust from his injury the previous season. Training camp notes show that he appears to be ready to return to his old form.
Despite some of the other interesting stories in Seattle this season, I personally think that Walter Thurmond's may very well be the most unexpected. Thurmond was arguably lowered in value on draft day due to his knee injury. However, many sports writers considered him to be a first round talent.
If those sports writers were right, it's possible that Thurmond could push for the starting job by the end of the season, and even give Trufant a run for his money. Perhaps the best competition two starting corners can enter, is one between themselves.
Earl Thomas is expected to be the answer to Seattle's safety problems of the past several years. He is a play maker who likes to break hearts and make noise. There is very little I can say that hasn't already been said.
At strong safety, there are a myriad of players trying to compete for a starting position, although currently that appears to be owned by journeyman Lawyer Milloy. Kevin Ellison and Kam Chancellor could both vie for playing time. As Milloy is quickly encroaching upon retirement, he'll need to groom his replacement.
If anything, we know this season is going to be interesting.
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