The Seattle Seahawks are ready this season, now more then ever to go all the way again, but this time win it all. They've got all of the tools to make that run this season, and they have a special passion this season; it's Mike Holmgren's last season as head coach, and they want to send him off the best they can. I'm going to go over my reasoning for this bold prediction:
THE RUNNING GAME:
Watching Shaun Alexander leave this off-season was tough to see, but it cleared the way for the signings of Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett, draft pick (fullback) Owen Schmitt, and draft pick Justin Forsett. No longer does the running game look like an issue, and returning running backs Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver will be even more dangerous. Morris will back up Julius Jones but they will often use his speed as an outside runner while Duckett will share time up the middle with Jones. With this three halfback system, none of the halfbacks will be dealing with much fatigue and that will energize this offense. However, a great backfield doens't always matter if you don't have good blockers up front. But, with the signing of Mike Wahle as the new Left Guard, the dangerous left side will be back to similar strength of the Hutchinson/Walter Jones era. The rest of the line will be solid as well but the left side will definitely be the strength for the running game.
THE PASSING GAME:
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has become one of the best and most consistent in the league. In his 10th NFL season, Hasselbeck is ready to take this newly improved offense and make it one of the best in the league. The only thing that could hold him back is inexperience amongst his receivers and rookie tight end John Carlson. Nate Burleson is going to have to step up his game this season and make the key catches he used to miss. Bobby Engram will be a huge part of the passing game as the veteran leader, he will have to keep making those catches across the middle. The young receivers: Ben Obamanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, and other unproven receivers will have to come in and perform in the roles they earn. Finally at Tight End, the Seahawks seem to have a young stud who will become a deep threat from the start. John Carlson will be the number one tight end with Will Heller as most likely the backup. Carlson is out of Notre Dame and has extreme athleticism, good size, smarts, and a team-first attitude. Hopefully knee ailments from college won't come back to Carlson, who will be a big target for Hasselbeck if he stays healthy.
The Seahawks defense has been one of the best in the NFC in the past seasons and will only continue to get stronger this season. Up front at defense ends the Hawks have Patrick Kerney, Daryl Tapp, and rookie Lawrence Jackson is listed as a tackle but size wise is more of an end. Those three players will be rotated (especially Tapp and Jackson) and will be a threat to sack the QB every time. Kerney had 14.5 sacks last season, while Tapp had seven, and Jackson had 10.5 sacks his senior year at USC. Moving over at defense tackle the Hawks have many run stoppers and big guys to wreak havoc up front. Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs will be two key guys to keep healthy this season at the tackle position. Also rookie Red Bryant could turn out to be a good late pick if he stays healthy (injuries were a problem for him in college), and Larry Tripplett, Brandon Mebane, Craig Terrill, and Howard Green will contribute as well. The linebackers for the Seahawks are arguably the best in the NFL and will continue to be the heart of this defense. Lofa Tatupu has become the best inside linebacker in the division and second to Brian Urlacher in the whole league at the age of 25. As the captain of the defense, Tatupu will continue to get faster, stronger, and gain more and more leadership. Julian Peterson will continue to pressure the quarterbacks and be one of the top tackle leaders. While LeRoy Hill will continue to get better at the age of 25 and be one of the top tackle leaders as well. Secondary coach Jim Mora is looking to take over as head coach next season and will make or break this mostly inexperienced secondary. Cornerback Marcus Trufant will continue to be one of the best in the league, but Kelly Jennings will also be a good number two on the other side. However, the rest of the corners aren't too strong but hopefully they will be able to handle the third and fourth string receivers of other teams. Safeties Deion Grant and Brian Russell have experience and will try to control the secondary but I've seen weaknesses in both last season. Grant seems to bite a little bit too much on receiver fakes and Russell is a weak tackler. Hopefully those weaknesses were addressed this off-season so they aren't keyed on by teams such as Green Bay did last season in the playoffs.
With all the plus sides to the Seahawks this season I expect great things from every part of the squad. Hopefully kicker Olindo Mare will be able to fill in for Josh Brown or rookie kicker Brandon Coutu could need to step in as starter. The special teams should continue to be good but I don't know if I'd use Nate Burleson as the kick returner. He is the number one receiver with Deion Branch injured and I would want him as healthy as possible. The Hawks will be a force out west this season, and in Holmgren's last season they are ready to go all the way, and win it all.
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