Before the season, we posited 10 questions about the Seahawks—asking, among other things, whether Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu would make it through the season and whether the Hawks would be able to build an offensive line and develop a pass rush.
Now we know most of the answers. We’ll throw out the two roster-related queries and see what the answers were to eight that were pertinent to the entire season.
The answer then: The odds don’t look good.
The answer now: We were right.
As we predicted, the porous offensive line did not help Hasselbeck stay upright. He was sacked eight times by the Raiders and missed the Giants game the next week with a concussion. He also broke his wrist on a busted fourth-down QB sneak in Week 10 but played through the injury until Week 16, when he tweaked his backside while running for a touchdown. It looks like he might miss the “big showdown” against the Rams.
Hasselbeck has played behind nine line combinations—none of them good—and has been sacked 29 times, which is right about the same as last year (32).
Hasselbeck got off to a rough start, with six interceptions in the first four games, then played pretty well at midseason. But, like last December, Hasselbeck resorted to forcing the ball—with 10 interceptions in a four-game span before the hip injury last week.
He can still play, but he needs a lot more help than he has gotten this year.
The answer then: This unit will not resemble an NFL offensive line until the Hawks add a couple more pieces next year.
The answer now: Make it three pieces and two years.
With nine lineups, the Hawks have had no more continuity this year than they have for the last three or four seasons. And it certainly didn’t help that Alex Gibbs retired just before the season.
Rookie left tackle Russell Okung has had trouble with bad ankles, missing six games and has not been 100 percent all season. Tyler Polumbus and Chester Pitts also have started there.
Left guard Ben Hamilton, brought in by Gibbs to tutor Okung, was put on IR in November and waived a week ago. Pitts and Mike Gibson also have started at left guard.
Right guard Max Unger was lost for the season in Week 1. Stacy Andrews stepped in for Unger and started 12 games until being deactivated for Gibson earlier this month.
Pitts took forever to get into the lineup, and he obviously doesn’t have much left. Chris Spencer and Sean Locklear have started every game, but they just aren’t very good. Top reserve Ray Willis was lost before the season.
Before the season, we said this unit would not resemble an NFL offensive line until the Hawks add a couple more pieces next year. We were wrong; they need more than a couple pieces and more than a year to fix this group. But it should be the absolute priority.
The answer then: You wouldn’t have known it in the preseason.
The answer now: Definitely not.
After all of the hoopla in the preseason about the double-tight look Jeremy Bates supposedly loves so much, the Seahawks have done nothing with it. In fact, Bates has used two or more tight ends just 42 percent of the time and has almost completely ignored No. 1 tight end John Carlson.
After catching 106 passes his first two years, Carlson has disappeared in Bates’ offense. He has just 30 catches and has played less and less over the last month. A hip injury might be partly to blame, but there’s no question Bates has not used him to full effect in 2010.
With Carlson, Chris Baker and Cameron Morrah, the tight ends are perhaps the most talented part of Seattle’s offense, and Bates has completely misused them. The trio has combined for just 46 catches as they have often been used to help the line. Carlson has spent plenty of time in the backfield at fullback.
Bates is going to have to get Carlson involved next year, or Pete Carroll is going to have to find a new play caller.
The answer then: He could be the NFL’s comeback player of the year.
The answer now: He’s not the league’s comeback player, but he showed enough for the Hawks to probably want to invite him back in 2011.
Williams was pretty good in his return from a two-year layoff. He leads the Seahawks with 62 catches for 735 yards.
However, he was hounded by injuries for much of the season, so the Hawks couldn’t really count on consistent production from him. And he scored only one touchdown.
The Seahawks had plenty of problems with their receiving corps this year, with rookie Golden Tate struggling mightily and Williams, Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler all getting hurt at various points.
But, hey, at least they finally got rid of Deion Branch.
The answer then: Maybe Justin Forsett.
The answer now: Maybe Marshawn Lynch.
Forsett entered the season as the starter, although Julius Jones was for some reason still on the roster.
That changed in October, when the Seahawks traded for Lynch and cut Jones.
Lynch was acquired to be the tough-nosed banger, but he has yet to run for 100 yards for Seattle. His best game came in Week 13 against Carolina, when he ran for 83 yards and three scores. Otherwise, the Seahawks have been behind by too much in most games, and he hasn’t gotten many carries (eclipsing 20 only twice).
He’s signed through 2011, so the Hawks can spend another season evaluating him and see how he does behind a hopefully improved line.
Forsett proved that he is better with fewer carries, but he has gotten too few over the second half of the season. He hasn’t reached 10 totes since Week 6.
Leon Washington was a forgotten man in the offense as he was used almost exclusively as a returner. Another misuse of personnel.
The answer then: It should be.
The answer now: It was, but not by much.
The Seahawks had only 28 sacks in 2009, tied for fifth fewest in the league. That led to the departure of their top five defensive ends—through retirement, free agency, trade or release.
Using Chris Clemons and the DB-heavy Bandit blitz package, the Seahawks have recorded 34 sacks this year, which still ranks in the bottom half of the league.
With 10.5 sacks, Clemons is the first Seahawk to record double digits since Patrick Kerney had 14.5 in 2007. He has been one of the very few bright spots on the entire team.
Raheem Brock, signed just before the season, has 6.5 sacks, and Lawyer Milloy has four. But Aaron Curry has only 3.5, and Lofa Tatupu was surprisingly not used as a blitzer very much; he recorded his first sack last week.
The rush simply has been too inconsistent, and the secondary has been exposed because of it. After getting only 13 interceptions last season, the defense has just 11 this year. After giving up 27 touchdown passes in 2009, the unit has surrendered 31 this year (third most in the league). They have given up the NFL’s most passing plays of 20 yards or more (54) and will probably surpass 4,000 passing yards allowed for the second time in three years.
Many think the Hawks’ top need in 2011, along with a quarterback, is a defensive end who can rush the passer.
We think the top needs are linemen of any kind—along with a defensive scheme that makes better use of the personnel.
Either way, the Hawks have to find a way to get to the quarterback in 2011.
The answer then: Don’t know, but he needs to.
The answer now: Kind of, but it didn’t matter since he was misused.
Tatupu has played every game despite a preseason hamstring injury and a nagging knee injury, and Carroll has said his former USC star has done everything asked of him in helping Seattle’s defenders transition to Carroll’s scheme.
But the simple fact is: The Seahawks did not get nearly enough out of Tatupu this season because they used him wrong.
You could count his big plays in the first 15 games on fewer than five fingers. Although he is a good blitzer, he was held back in coverage on most passing downs—and he still ended up with only one interception (granted, it was for a touchdown). His only sack came last week.
Sure, you can laud him for his selfless efforts—he was doing only what he was asked. And you can blame the limitations of fellow linebackers Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne, who are not good in coverage. But the Hawks need to use Tatupu to better effect.
After making the Pro Bowl in his first three years, Tatupu earned an early extension from the Seahawks in 2008. But he has yet to live up to the $42 million deal.
In 2008, he was hindered by a litany of injuries. And then last year, a torn pectoral muscle forced him to miss the final 10 games.
This year, he made it through every game, but Carroll is going to have to take better advantage of Tatupu’s instincts and playmaking ability in 2011.
The answer then: We’ll have a much better idea after this season.
The answer now: One more year like this and the answer will be no.
When Carroll was hired, it was hard for an objective fan (i.e., not a Trojan-hating SeaDawg) to know what to think.
Well, we still don’t know what to think, other than this: Carroll and his staff were barely any better than Jim Mora’s crew in 2009. Of course, that figures on defense, where Gus Bradley was retained.
The Hawks were much better on special teams and started the season strong on run defense. But even those units have faded in the second half, and the Hawks look no better now than they were a year ago.
Bradley and Bates seemed to get outcoached on a weekly basis, and Carroll really needs to review the schemes with them in the offseason and figure out what they need to change—other than some personnel—in order for the Seahawks to be more competitive.
When a team is getting blown out in nearly every road game and finishes the season on a lopsided losing streak, it’s not just because the players weren’t good enough. It’s also because the coaches weren’t good enough.
Mora was fired for having this kind of season last year. Another one like it, and Carroll probably should be on his way out, too.