As the Seahawks’ extended 2011 preseason gets set to resume after a week off, it looks like the offense finally has settled on the pieces it is going to evaluate in this season-long evaluation period. So, now it’s time to see where all of the players fit.
With the recent acquisition of Marshawn Lynch and the trade of Deion Branch, the offense looks like it is finally, at long last, set for the rest of this low-expectations season. It only took the first quarter of the season to get to this point.
Remember, this season is purely an evaluation year for Pete Carroll. Yeah, he wants to win, but no one can expect a team with this much turnover to come together so quickly and make the playoffs. Of course, the Seahawks are lucky enough to be in the "NFC Worst," where they are only a half-game out of first place and can stay in the hunt if the offense improves quickly.
They obviously think they are better with Lynch in the backfield. He’s a hard runner who might be the most complete back—running, receiving, blocking—they have had since Ricky Watters in the early 2000s.
Of course, Lynch will not be very effective if the Seahawks don’t get their line together.
They are averaging only 79.5 rushing yards per game (29th in the league) and 3.6 yards per carry.
According to Football Outsiders, their backs have been stuffed behind the line 28 percent of the time, third most in the league.
Their best results have come behind massive right guard Stacy Andrews and right tackle Sean Locklear, with backs averaging 4.68 yards per carry based on Football Outsiders’ weighted grading for offensive linemen.
It’s looking more and more like Chester Pitts will not see the field this season. Micro-fracture surgery ended Walter Jones’ career and might have finished Pitts, too.
But first-round pick Russell Okung is back, playing next to his personal tutor, Ben Hamilton, and the Seahawks need those two to work well together from here on out.
With Okung in, they hopefully will improve their measly 2.5-yard average off the left side.
Coach Pete Carroll understands the importance of building chemistry along the line and knows the offense will not function well until that happens.
“It’s still a work in progress obviously for us and we’re not at all pleased with where we are. There still is some feeling out,” Carroll told reporters before the bye. “Until we really settle up front, I think it’s going to continue to feel like that.”
With any luck, they will be able to build some chemistry with Okung, Hamilton, Spencer, Andrews and Locklear.
“We’re just going to keep battling it until it comes around,” Carroll said. “We know that we’re going to get better. We have that in us because we’re going to start playing the same guys, hopefully.”
The same applies to the passing game. With Branch gone, the Seahawks are finally moving Deon Butler into the starting lineup—something that should have happened a year ago.
With the receivers hopefully settled into defined roles – Butler at flanker, Mike Williams at split end, Brandon Stokley in the slot, Golden Tate used in spots and Ben Obomanu in reserve—perhaps the passing game will start to improve.
Any offense is a machine, and any machine relies on all of its parts to function properly and in sync. The Hawks have to build synergy, and it’s going to take some time. If they’re lucky, the line will come together over the next couple of months, Lynch will spark the running game and the passing game will start to click for the first time since 2007.
If none of that happens, well, this season is really only an elongated preseason after all, and Carroll and his staff will know which players to get rid of and how much more work they have to do to compete in 2011.
THREE AND OUT: Pregame Q&A for Chicago
Which offensive line is in worse condition, Seattle’s or Chicago’s?
The Seahawks aren’t the only team to struggle up front this year. Line play is actually down across the league, and the Bears have struggled as badly as anyone. They gave up nine sacks to the Giants in the first half two weeks ago, and quarterback Jay “Crybaby” Cutler sat out last week’s game with a concussion from that beating.
Like the Seahawks, the Bears are still juggling their linemen.
We can only hope the Seahawks can administer the same kind of whoop-ass to Crybaby. Cutler folds under pressure, so the Hawks need to apply it in every way possible—lots of blitzes from Lofa Tatupu, Lawyer Milloy and company. If they can pull in two or three picks from Cutler, they should be able to win.
Cutler is the biggest brat in the league, and the Seahawks need to give him a reason to cry some more.
Will Marshawn Lynch make any difference for the Hawks?
He should provide a more physical presence, somewhat complementing the jitterbug style of Justin Forsett. The Seahawks should run the powerful Lynch right at stud Chicago end Julius Peppers to wear Peppers down and alleviate some of his dangerous pass rush.
The Bears are right behind the second-ranked Seahawks in run defense, giving up 78.6 rushing yards per game, but the Hawks have to try to pound the pigskin.
Maybe Lynch will be so ticked off that his Cal Bears got blown out by Carroll’s USC Trojans that he will take it out on the Chicago Bears.
Can the Seahawks win a 10 a.m. game for once?
The Seahawks have been trying for years to figure out how to prepare for 10 a.m. kickoffs. In the last two years alone, they are a miserable 2-11 in 10 a.m. PT starts.
Here’s a novel concept: How about practicing at 10 a.m. during the week? It would seem to be a no-brainer to practice at the time of day you will be playing the game, yet the Seahawks invariably practice in the afternoon, even during weeks they are going to be playing morning games.
The NFL is not going to start scheduling West Coast road teams for 4 p.m. ET games, so the Hawks are going to have to become morning people.
At this point, it would be nice if they simply didn’t get blown out on the road.