Seattle has definitely had better runs. The beginning of the season marked a group of misfits that could hardly be called a team, that was learning a new system, a new regime and even each other. That group of misfits managed to run up a 4-2 record, despite a series of mishaps that were "fixable."
Unfortunately, what was fixable, got more broken. One after another, Seattle's keystone players went down with injuries (Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, Red Bryant, Mike Williams, Ben Obomanu, Deon Butler, Ben Hamilton, Max Unger, etc.)
Looking ahead, what does Seattle need to wish for in 2011 (aside from a new agreement that lets them play).
First and foremost, this team needs better conditioning. Watching the Seahawks this season is like watching Wile E. Coyote try to stop the Roadrunner. They are getting blown to bits by Acme this and Acme that, while getting run over by the opposition.
It might also be a good idea if Jeremy Bates took a long hard look at some of his plays. Deon Butler got lit up on the play that broke his leg, and I've been watching them throw that route all year long. I cringe every time they do it.
If this offense is designed so that the QB is the "point guard" dishing the ball out to the "playmakers," then we need to protect that investment a little better. There is not a single WR on the roster right now who has been healthy for all 16 games. (We could argue that Ruvell Martin was, but he was just recently activated.)
Most people are calling for Hasselbeck's head. However, after watching Whitehurst play, are we so sure we want that to happen so soon? Whitehurst isn't the answer, and it's blatantly obvious that the team became aware of this when they brought J.P. Losman back to the team.
It looks like Seattle is going to be able to take the second or third QB available in the draft next season (after the Panthers take or trade for the first pick which is undoubtedly going to be Andrew Luck). They might get hometown hero Jake Locker, Heisman winner and scandal-ridden Cam Newton, or possibly the Michigan refugee giant Ryan Mallett.
Despite last year's predictions that Locker would be the first overall pick, his senior year was a difficult one. His play may have pushed him down into the second or even third round on some draft boards, but we've yet to see his pro-day.
He is the perfect candidate for Seattle right now. He is a local boy, who went to a local college, and he is also a Pac-10 prospect, so Pete Carroll will have plenty of info on him.
This raises a lot of questions, however. If Seattle opts for a QB in the draft next year, they need to decide whether or not this kid is going to lead them right away (like Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford), or if he's going to take some time behind another starter (like Aaron Rodgers, Josh Freeman).
Given Hasselbeck's propensity to push plays lately, I'd almost argue that we don't want him to learn bad habits. However, when it comes down to it, I think that Hasselbeck needs to be around for at least another year or two. I suppose it all depends on what happens with the draft.
One final note about Matt Hasselbeck is to consider what he is done despite the injuries to receivers and offensive linemen. He managed to dish 73 yards of offense to Ruvell Martin without Williams and Obomanu.
Even Obomanu was a no-name player before Mike Williams went down, and Hasselbeck was hitting Benny O for big gains. Most of the pieces are there folks, it's just about protecting the investments a little better than the team has been.
The offensive line has been a cause for concern this season; however, in all honesty, it was in shambles before the season really began. Proper conditioning and depth have to be the wish list for the offensive line.
Max Unger, Russell Okung, Ben Hamilton and Chester Pitts have all been injury cases for most of the season. All four of these players are of starter caliber, which easily demonstrates the impact to the offense.
Russell Okung played well early in the season, however his play since then has been average at best. He certainly hasn't been the lights out left tackle that was advertised. He needs to come back healthy and focused in his sophmore effort to prevent Seattle from two consecutive Round 1 busts.
The right tackle position is one of interest. Sean Locklear is still holding that position; however, I'm interested to see if Tyler Polumbus and Stacey Andrews can challenge for that role next season. Andrews had wanted to move back to tackle after leaving Philadelphia, but injury to Max Unger prevented that.
Both guard positions are in a state of flux. I think that Max Unger is a solid player, who needs more time to develop. He definitely has a constant motor and a passion for the game. Left guard was a fight between Ben Hamilton and Mike Gibson.
I firmly believe that the intent was to put Chester Pitts here if he could get healthy, but that plan eroded due to other injury and the question of his own return. It will be interesting if the team can approach the guard position with more health and stability next season.
A free agent signing at guard might be an important item for next season.
Chris Spencer has been the mainstay at center for several seasons, and for the time being he remains the most durable of their linemen. An upgrade at this position is in the cards, but it might not be a priority in 2011 unless a deal falls into the team's lap.
Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett could make a very powerful tandem. Unfortunately, they need a consistent line in order to pull it off. They also have Leon Washington in the backfield, which does give the team a substantial amount of fire power to avoid having to make any changes in 2011.
This is a strong stable of backs, and in order to maximize their production, the offensive line needs to be fortified.
Seattle's WR situation is somewhat interesting.
Mike Williams is making a strong campaign for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He has had a career season, so I doubt we'll see him going anywhere next season. He's definitely their priority receiver.
However, things get murky once we get to the No. 2 slot. The thinking was initially that Branch would fill this position, however he was traded away and these responsibilities fell to Deon Butler.
Butler has done well, but not quite as impressive as I had personally hoped.
The slot position was originally planned to be Golden Tate, but his route running ability has yet to improve to the point where we would consider him reliable. In fact, he is turning out to be another bust receiver from what was touted as a solid WR draft class.
If his play continues like this into next season, I think you might see him have a tough time vying for a roster spot the way Carroll likes to sign receivers.
Stokley has been a very reliable signing for Seattle, and I think that he is someone who definitely should return. He is the most experienced receiver on the team, and with the possibility of a change at QB, the team is going to need experience in the passing game.
This is an interesting position for Seattle going forward. For the most part, the team has held four TEs on the roster for the season (John Carlson, Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy, and Cameron Morrah).
McCoy was touted as a draft day steal, but had a tough time breaking in to the lineup based on his inexperience and the talent in front of him. He ended up being one of the many Seattle casualties, and now sits on IR awaiting 2011.
Morrah had a shining performance when John Carlson went down with a hip injury, giving Seattle one of the best young trios of TEs in the league right now. In the Bates-run offense, three athletic TEs is a godsend.
However, the performance of the TEs has been lackluster for most of the season, because the coaches have been using those ends to assist the battered offensive line.
Once again, we see how the stability of the offensive line generates options and harnesses talent for the Seahawks offense. This has to be their No. 1 priority in the offseason.
Seattle's defensive line started out the season quite well. Red Bryant was perhaps the most shocking and prominent surprise for the team, as his presence was critical to Seattle's dominance against the run.
Unfortunately, losses of Mebane, Cole and Bryant left the line decimated and unable to perform, which was one of the main reasons Seattle's defense found itself in a consistent hole.
Chris Clemons has mustered almost 10 sacks this season, so it is hard to make an argument to upgrade the Leo. However, it would be great to be able to insure the position with a backup.
Mebane and Cole have been solid on the inside, and Cole's play has been much better this year than last, despite injuries.
It would be great to see Seattle perhaps pick up another flex option between tackle and the five-technique defensive end.
They also need to work on conditioning the defensive line and protecting their investment. Just like the offensive line, once the defensive line was down, the rest of the team was exposed and vulnerable.
This is a position that has found itself in immediate decline in Seattle.
Aaron Curry has started to make plays here and there, but he is still having a tough time translating his amazing raw athleticism to the football field. Seattle has definitely not seen the rewards for their investment in him.
Lofa Tatupu has made some plays, but he largely remains inconsistent on the defense. His pass coverage hasn't been what it was in his previous seasons, and he still over pursues too often in the run game, leading to big gains by opposing offenses.
David Hawthorne has really continued to show a lot of improvement and consistency. I almost think that Hawthorne has earned a shot at the starting MLB job.
The return of Leroy Hill will make this an interesting squad next season. If Leroy Hill can stay clean, and Carroll is willing to give him another shot, then Hill there could be a lot of competition amongst the starters.
This position is starting to become an area of concern, and I'd be surprised if a free agent or mid-level draft pick wasn't targeting to improve the LB squad.
This is a major area of concern for Seattle, and I think you will probably see them target a CB in the second round or as a major free agent signing.
Marcus Trufant's career appears to be in decline. He struggles with some of the bigger, faster receivers and has a pension for pass interference penalties.
Kelly Jennings is the worst starting corner that I've seen in Seattle since the mid 90's. When I watch big plays, I consistently see his No. 21 chasing down receivers rather than making plays for the ball or at the point of reception.
Walter Thurmond had a great game against Larry Fitzgerald, so I'm surprised he hasn't seen more action.
The bottom line is that in order for Seattle's pass defense to improve they need better play from their corners. There is a definite and immediate need for improvement here.
Safety was a special position for Seattle this season after suffering through Deon Grant and Brian Russell for several years.
Earl Thomas had a great early campaign, although his play has dropped off a little. This is somewhat common with rookies who have to adjust to the 16-game schedule. I'd still like him to pick it up and break, rather than tie, the Seattle rookie record for interceptions.
Either way, Thomas has definitely been a playmaker at Free Safety, despite the fact that he has been targeting by opposing teams due to his inexperience. I think the team needs to look to hardening his skills and decision making abilities going in to 2011.
Lawyer Milloy was one of the most pleasant surprises. He was leading the team in tackles at one point, he's managed to make plays on the ball, on the quarterback, and when it counts. It looks as though he is tutoring Kam Chancellor, who is a big, fast headhunter that looks to take over in 2011 or 2012 if Milloy can muster another season.
Olindo Mare has missed far too many field goals after quite a streak of consecutive successes early on in the season. His play definitely needs to improve in order for him to keep his job. I doubt you'll see Mare back next season. It's entirely possible that Brandon Coutu will get a call, considering he hasn't landed anywhere else.
Jon Ryan has been a Jekyll and Hyde performer this season. He's hit a lot of strong punts, but also a substantial amount of bad ones. Consistency needs to be his Christmas Wish.
All in all, Seattle has a solid team, but they need to focus on staying healthy, better conditioning and depth.
Had Seattle not faced the injury maelstrom that quickly struck the team, I doubt that they would be in the situation they are in today.